7 Excellent Backpacking Hatchets For 2022
There are few things I find quite as magical as a campfire. The crackles and snaps of the wood as the flames jump and dance about, looking to feed the flames and grow even more. My dad always said, “that wood is not going to cut itself”, and with that, I would grab my backpacking hatchet from my pack and start making quick work of the sticks, branches, and logs to get the fire ready. Before long the wisps of smoke rise from the fire, as the heat starts to generate outward, warming the chilled air.
When you head out for a backpacking trip, having a good quality hatchet is a necessity. Carrying a great backpacking lighter will also make your life easier.
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Choosing the best backpacking hatchet takes a little consideration to determine exactly what your needs are and the type of backpacking trip you are on.
Best Backpacking Hatchet Overall
Winner: Estwing 14 Inch
So let us get right to it. The reason you came here in the first place was to find the best choice, so we want to deliver.
The winner of the best backpacking hatchet is the Estwing 14-inch.
When it comes time to start your fire you need a well-rounded hatchet that makes cutting kindling easy to get things going.
You also need to be able to cut branches and split logs into smaller pieces to feed your fire. This tool is the perfect balance of size and function. The Estwing hatchet fits easily in your backpack at 14-inches.
The extra length over some of the other models adds power to chopping and splitting your wood. But it is not too long either. It is still very comfortable to handle using one hand to hold it.
Another winning feature is the one-piece 440 steel design, making it very durable. It will handle anything you throw at it, or throw it at as the case may be!
The weight of the head and the curve of the handle make this very comfortable to use. The cutting edge is easy to sharpen, given the tempered steel construction. The wedge of the splitting head is just right and the butt end is perfect for driving tent stakes or hammering other objects.
The Best Backpacking Hatchets Reviewed
When you go backpacking some gear is optional and some gear is essential. We believe a hatchet falls into the essential gear category.
When you are setting up camp, need to make a shelter unexpectedly, you cannot beat having the hammer end of the blade for the job.
Of course, you cannot dismiss the fact that you are hiking and hauling this gear around. That is why we specifically only included hatchets as part of our review and not camping or hiking axes. Those are great tools as well, but we are here to specifically look at items that fit easily into your pack.
Not all hatchets are created equal. Although they all fall into the general category, there is still a variety.
The important thing that defines a hatchet is that it is smaller than an ax, and primarily intended to be swung with one hand easily. Different designs have different advantages and disadvantages, so you have to decide what tradeoffs work best for you. Here is the final list.
Best Backpacking Hatchet: Estwing 14 Inch Sportsman
Best Survival Hatchet: Off Grid Tools Survival Axe
Best Premium Quality Hatchet: Gransfors Bruks
Best Compact Hatchet: Gerber 9-Inch
Best Composite Backpacking Hatchet: Friskars X7
Best Survival Hatchet: Gerber Pack Hatchet Camping Axe
Best Large Size Hatchet: SOG Tactical Tomahawk
Best Backpacking Hatchet Comparison Tables
Of the top 7 backpacking hatchets we chose, be break them down into two separate categories. The first group we consider to be standard. They are exactly as you would expect, which is a standard build and configuration.
The second group we would consider to be specialty hatchets. As you would expect, there are certain characteristics about them, that makes them a little different.
Overall they all fall into the general category of hatchets and not axes, which are much longer and intended for two-hand use.
Backpacking Hatchet Comparision Table
Top 7 Backpacking Hatchets Reviewed
Best Backpacking Hatchet: Estwing 14 Inch Sportsman
The Estwing 14-inch Sportsman is easy to fall in love with. We appreciate that it is being made right here in America, and the quality shows. The single piece of steel construction makes it practically indestructible while on your outdoor adventure.
A hatchet is a simple tool. The added length, coming in at 14 inches, helps with the force generated when using it. As a result, you will be able to make quick work cutting, chopping, and splitting wood for your campfire.
The lacquered leather grip really makes this stand out. It gives you a smooth feeling grip for ease of work while helping you keep control. The overall cutting edge is just under 3 inches. This makes it big enough to chop what you need to, without taking up too much space.
- Slightly longer to generate more force when splitting
- Durable, single piece of steel design
- Well balanced with ergonomic curved handle
- Made In The USA
- Tempered steel blade for easy sharpening
- Lacquered handle can feel slippery when wet
- FORGED IN ONE PIECE – The most durable, longest lasting striking tools available
- OUTDOOR VERSITILITY – Perfect for chopping logs, small trees & branches or splitting firewood & kindling
- HEAVY DUTY SHEATH – Includes ballistic nylon sheath to protect hand sharpened cutting edge. 2.75 or 3.25 inches edge
- GENUINE LEATHER GRIP – Hand sanded and lacquered for a durable yet comfortable finish
- MADE IN THE USA – Our tools are proudly crafted in Rockford, IL using the finest American steel
Best Backpacking Survival Hatchet: Off Grid Tools
We have to admit, this is a pretty spectacular survival hatchet. It definitely looks like a tool that a Klingon from Star Trek would carry if they were going backpacking. It falls into our specialty category.
In addition to your ability to chop and split wood, it comes with a handy saw blade as well. This is great for removing branches that may be in the way.
Need to remove a nail, this tool can do that. Need to break glass or have a quick cut seatbelt? This hatchet has options for that as well as 4 common hex wrench slots.
One thing you will notice is the blade dulls quicker than some of our other choices.
- Multiple tools
- Still maintains decent pack weight
- Lock for saw blade
- Lanyard loop
- Blade requires more frequent sharpening
- Slightly awkward handle
- SURVIVAL AXE MULTITOOL: The OGT Survival Axe is the ultimate outdoor multitool. With 31 features, the tool is ready for any situation, from chopping, clearing debris, demolition, pounding in and removing tent stakes, or repairing your deer stand.
- ALL STEEL DESIGN: The build incorporates an all-steel full tang and axe head with an ultra-strong, lightweight glass filled nylon handle, a hatchet blade that can be resharpened, and a hammer head and claw.
- REPLACEABLE SAW BLADE: The inner changeable 6” bi-metal saw blade folds out of the handle, locks into place, and will saw through just about anything you need it to. The gas valve shut off wrench with integrated bottle opener saves the day in multiple ways.
- COMPACT TOOL KIT: Only 11 inches long and weighs just over 1.5 pounds, the survival axe is large enough to do damage yet compact to fit in the glove box or small bag. The car escape tool at the base of the handle includes a seat belt cutter and window punch.
- HIGH QUALITY PRODUCTS: Off Grid Tools brings the latest and greatest outdoor multipurpose tools that are functional, versatile, high quality, and innovative. Put survival in the palm of your hand during long adventures hiking, hunting, fishing, and camping.
Best Premium Quality Backpacking Hatchet: Gransfors Bruks
This super high-quality hatchet feels amazing as soon as you grab the wooden handle. I am not 100% positive, but I almost think you might hear a choir of Angles singing as it chops through wood.
It is not your average backpacking hatchet and the price shows it. This hand-crafted specimen hails all the way from Sweden.
When you get this, the blade is razor-sharp. The handle is crafted from high-quality, and durable hardwood that is surprisingly light.
I have seen factories in China that mass produce goods where the quality is not always up to par. That is not the case with this Viking inspired hatchet.
A master craftsman pours his heart and soul into forging the premium quality steel. Only once the blacksmith has perfectly ground, hardened, and annealed the head does it move on to tumbling and sharpening.
Finally, the blade is attached to a beautiful hickory handle. Hickory wood is known for its superior strength and density. The long straight fibers of the wood make it perfect for shaping handles.
After passing a strict quality control process, the blacksmith marks his work of art with his initials.
Graansfors Bruk has been hand-forging axes and hatches since 1902.
- Superior Quality
- Razor Sharp Blade
- Hand-forged by master blacksmith
- Incredibly durable
- Coolest hatchet on the planet
- Very high price compared to others
- Wildlife Hatchets now no-longer come with a metal wedge.
- Wildlife Hatchet is a traditional scouting and camping axe, with the same head as the Hand Hatchet but on a longer handle. This longer handle lends the axe more power, not least when felling trees.
- Cutting edge 3" (75 mm) Length with handle: 13.5” (34 cm) Weight: 1.3 lb (0.6 kg)
- Comes sharp with a protective leather sheath and a copy of "The Axe Book"
- Includes 20 Year Product Warranty
Best Compact Backpacking Hatchet: Gerber 9-Inch
If space is limited, but you still need to bring a hatchet when you go backpacking, this is definitely the choice for you. The sleek design and small profile is a mere 9 inches long. The Gerber 9-inch weighs only 1.2 pounds.
Don’t let the small size of this fool you though. It still works like a charm for making kindling, cutting branches, and splitting small logs for firewood. The butt of the steel blade works great for pounding tent pegs.
The ax head is made of forged steel. It stays surprisingly sharp through heavy use. A quick stroke with a sharpening stone or sharpening puck puts a nice edge back on the blade quickly.
The smaller size makes it very easy to handle, especially for smaller people or kids under supervision. It fits very comfortably in your hand.
With the shorter length, you do lose some power and force. We were surprised at how well the nylon handle absorbs shock when striking larger logs. On any backpacking trip where space is limited, this is definitely the hatchet to grab.
- Shortest option at only 9 inches
- Easy to pack and light-weight
- Easy to handle for smaller people
- Requires harder swing to generate the same force as longer options
- PTFE coated blade reduces friction, chops clean.
- Forged steel head construction is durable for long term use.
- Composite handle is shock absorbent, reducing hand strain.
- Slim sheath ensures safe storage + transport.
- Chop deeper with control + efficiency.
- Forged Steel Head
- Composite Handle is Extremely Durable and Lightweight
- Soft Touch Handle Over-mold for Comfort and Ease of Use
- Made in Finland
- Overall Length: 9
Best Composite Backpacking Hatchet: Friskars X7
The Friskars X7 14-Inch hatchet is a great all-around choice. The composite material of the nylon handle is very strong without adding a lot of weight.
The 14-inch length provides more force with your swing, making the work of chopping a little easier. I prefer a handle that has a curve for the grip, but that may just be a personal preference.
For me, it doesn’t matter as much with an ax, but for the purpose of a hatchet, I like the feel of the curve on my palm. Although the X7 is well balanced and feels very comfortable. The composite material is very strong. I can’t imagine what you would need to do to break this handle.
The wedge is a little narrow, making the butt end a little narrow, but this is hardly noticeable. It will take up a little more room than some of the other options in our review, but this is a great general purpose hatchet for backpacking.
- Composite material make lightweight
- 14-inch length generates more force than shorter options
- Weight is well distributed and evenly balanced
- The blade is sharp with good quality steel
- Slightly narrow butt end for driving tent stakes
- Lack of handle curve
- Ideal for chopping kindling and small- to medium-sized logs
- Chops deeper with each swing to get more done faster
- Perfected balance and power-to-weight ratio increases swing speed to multiply power, much like an aluminum baseball bat
- Proprietary blade-grinding technique provides a sharper edge for better contact and cleaner cuts
- Lifetime warranty. Low-friction blade coating powers through wood and prevents head from getting stuck
Best Survival Hatchet: Gerber Bear Brylls Survival Hatchet
This item is a mere 9 inches which makes it very easy to stow in your backpack when hitting the trails. I like the design of the blade which is 3.5 inches. I would not classify this as heavy, but considering it is only 9 inches long, 20.8 ounces is a bit heavy.
In proportion to the length of the handle, it has a good sized blade. This can be beneficial when chopping and cutting.
One thing that we like about this hatchet is the full tang, meaning it is made from a single piece of steel. This makes it very strong and nearly indestructible.
The ruggedized rubber handle of the full steel tang makes it very easy to grip. No need to worry about slips with this. It also helps absorb some of the shock when chopping into logs.
The blade is sharp out of the package and it keeps its edge pretty well during use. While not meant for larger logs, it is a nice compact option.
- Compact size fits easily into a backpack
- Larger blade in proportion to the length
- Easy to grip rubberized handle absorbs shock
- Full, forged steel tang for strength
- Slightly heavy for size
- Shorter length reduces force when chopping
Best Large Size Backpacking Hatchet: SOG Tactical Tomahawk
The last backpacking hatchet in our review is also the largest of all at over 15 inches in length. The design is very different from the others. As the name implies this is a tactical tomahawk.
It comes with a nice cover for stowing it away in your pack. With the longer length, it gives you the option of using it with two hands easier than the other ones reviewed.
Instead of the traditional butt, or back-side of the blade, it instead has a breaching spike. You always have the option of turning it sideways to use for hammering. To be honest we found this to be a bit cumbersome when trying to pound things like tent stakes in. We definitely preferred a more traditional butt.
Another thing that makes this backpacking hatchet standout is the added tools and features included. In addition to the blade, there is also a nail puller, and a rod-shaped fire started metal.
This is mid-priced compared to some of the other models. You expect this with the versatility and extra tools that are included. There is also the cool factor of the unique tomahawk design
- Very lightweight given the length
- Easier two-handed use
- Additional tools including fire-starter, nail puller, and breacher
- Hardcased 420 steel construction for strength
- Hammer tool is awkward for tent pegs
- SOG AXE WITH BITE: At 15.75 inches, these hatchets and hawks are built to swing fast and true; these hawk axes feature a razor-sharp 420 stainless steel hatchet blade
- 24 OUNCE AXE: Light yet heavy-duty, hatchet is a superb survival axe and fire rescue tool; hawk boasts a sleek black blade finish for added durability
- EMERGENCY AXE WITH SOG TOMAHAWK SHEATH: This woodsmen-meets-urban tactical tomahawk snaps securely in its ballistic nylon sheath; includes belt loop for 1.5-inch belts
- HAMMER AXE EDGE AND PIERCING SPIKE: FastHawk tactical survival axe features a flat edge for hammering and a spike for chipping; an emergency kit tool first, but versatile to handle small wood chopping tasks.
- SOG FOR LIFE: Take care of your SOG tomahawk throwing axe and we’ll take care of you; we gladly consider repairs and replacements for your properly maintained SOG FastHawk hatchet
How to Choose A Backpacking Hatchet
We tried to be clear as we reviewed the backpacking hatchets above, as to why we chose the ones we did. For clarity’s sake, let us cover the things to look for a little just a bit more.
Our hope is to give you a good understanding of the components and features when it comes to buying to help save you time.
Is It Just a Small Axe?
Some people think a hatchet is really just a small ax, and as a result, it would just be used the same way. In some regards this is true. After all the parts and structure are very similar between the two.
The important thing to remember is that it is intended for one-hand use. This is why you sometimes see a hatchet referred to as a hand ax. As we dig a little deeper into things like length, weight, and grip, the fact that a hatchet is intended for one-hand use comes into play.
Types of Hatchets
We like to break the different types into three categories, general use camping, survival, and specialty.
The first type, general use camping, are exactly as they sound. They are a standard hatchet that has one job, the cutting, chopping, and splitting of wood. They are typically in the 12 inches to 14-inch range for the handles. They fit easily in a backpack and have a decent amount of force when using.
Survival hatchets, our second category, tend to be shorter and more compact. They are easy to stow away in your backpack and tend to be the lightest. They are a great choice when space or total weight of your backpack is a factor.
Specialty hatchets sometimes called survival or tactical, have additional tools. The one we included in our review had a built-in saw blade, a nail remover, hex wrenches, and more. You get the picture.
Size & Weight
The size and weight are going to boil down to a matter of personal preference and tradeoffs.
For some, having the smallest and most compact hatchet means there is more room to pack additional gear. It may take a little more effort with a smaller one, but the other equipment is worth it.
Other hikers prefer to have a hatchet that weighs a little more and takes up a bit more space. The larger size makes the job of cutting and splitting wood easier for them. At the end of a long day, they don’t want to have to struggle with a hatchet that lacks power because it is too small.
There are a couple of things to consider when it comes to the head of the hatchet. The first is the total thickness of the wedge. The thicker the wedge, the more mechanical advantage you will have when splitting larger logs.
The weight of the head will affect the overall balance as you use it. If the hatchet head looks oversized as a whole, know that the balance may feel off when holding it. The weight of the head helps with the force in splitting, so don’t go too small either.
Full Tang Construction
We prefer a full tang construction. This means that it is one solid piece of metal. The end result if a very strong, almost indestructible design. A handle is then put around the tang as opposed to being attached to the blade separately.
For the most part, pricing will not play a big factor in your decision, as the price range is pretty small between the different hatchets. If you are a hard bargain hunter, chances are you are just going to go with the cheapest option anyway. That being said, there are sales so you can keep your eye out for a deal on the specific model you are looking for.
If you choose a premium quality, hand-forged hatchet, the cost is going to be considerably higher. And we do mean considerably. Instead of paying in the $30 to $40 dollar range, you will be looking at more than 4 times the cost.
Deciding On The Best Backpacking Hatchet For You
Most people do not buy camping or hiking gear a lot. Usually, when you buy a piece of gear, you intend to have it for a considerable amount of time. It is not like a cell phone that you change out every year or two.
When you buy outdoor gear, you expect to have it for may years. You may even have the same gear for a decade or more.
Our extensive guide is designed to help you make the right purchasing decision, considering you will probably have it for a long time. You will be able to create many memories for years to come with this gear.
Why A Hatchet And Not An Ax For Backpacking
So why not an ax when you are backpacking? The answer is simple, the size and weight of a hatchet in smaller and lighter than a camping ax. This is important as you pack your gear.
Every ounce counts as you load items into your backpack. Not only does the total weight matter, but you have a limited amount of total space in your pack as well.
Sometimes selecting a larger item comes at the cost of not being able to pack something else for the trip.
How To Use A Backpacking Hatchet Safely
A hatchet is an incredibly helpful tool when backpacking and camping. Don’t forget that is can be dangerous as well if not handled with care and respect, similar to a knife.
- Make sure you have stable footing and you are not off-balanced when using.
- Be aware of your surroundings and make sure others are not in danger of being hit.
- Watch your hands and fingers. It’s a good idea to try and keep all of them!
- Don’t use a dull blade. Take the time to sharpen your hatchet before using it.
- Be careful of an over-swing or deflection that might cause the blade to hit your foot or leg
- Always put the sheath back on when not in use