There a great deal of emphasis put on survival knives these days, and they are featured prominently on survival-related TV shows, often as the primary tool given to a survivalist abandoned somewhere off the beaten track.
We like a good survival knife, and we sell plenty of blades that fit into that category. But we also like the simple hatchet, which has many outdoor and survival uses and is often a better choice than a knife. For example, you may be able to chop down a small tree to make a ridge pole using your knife, but the job will go faster with a hatchet. You may be able to use the butt of your knife as a hammer, but that’s another job for which your hatchet is better suited.
The simple, old-fashioned hatchet, sometimes known as a camp axe, excels at chopping, splitting, and hammering jobs, but when properly sharpened, it can also be used for a wide variety of cutting tasks. While different from a tomahawk, a hatchet can be also used as a weapon in a pinch.
Hatchets are available with wood, metal and fiberglass handles. We prefer wood because it can be replaced in the field and do not like metal because of the extra weight. (A basic hatchet weighs about two pounds, more than half of that being the weight of the axe head.) Fiberglass is an excellent alternative to wood but may be more expensive.
Well before reality TV, the novel Hatchet was a favorite survival tale for young adults. Used correctly, a hatchet will quickly become a favorite tool for outdoor survival, right up there with your knife.
- By choking up on the handle or holding it by the head, a hatchet can be used for more delicate tasks such as carving, as a scraper, or to prepare food like you would with an ulu.
- If you are required to defend yourself with a hatchet, throwing it is a last resort and not recommended. Swing with controlled strokes, catch your opponent’s blade with the head of your hatchet, and remember that you can bash them with the back of the head or the bottom of the handle, as the situation allows.
- Like a survival knife, using a hatchet improperly or carelessly may result in an injury. Always be careful when you are chopping or splitting wood to avoid chopping your leg or foot if you slip or miss the intended target.
- Hatchets can be worn on your belt or strapped to your pack. Holsters can be made from kydex, leather or canvas, but a simple twist of paracord can also keep one in place.
- Keep a hatchet in your vehicle and with your bug out bag. If you find yourself in the wilderness, a hatchet can help you construct a shelter, start a fire, and build other tools.