So, you want a hatchet.
When backpacking, you’re expected to bring a lot of different tools and instruments with you to ensure your safety. You’ve probably got your trusty knife, but another great bladed instrument worth investing in is a hatchet.
Even with the more experienced backpackers and hikers, we think it can safely be said that most people know more about knives than hatchets, so we wouldn’t blame anyone for needing some help in deciding which one to get.
You’ll find four hatchet options below, along with an analysis of each and a pros and cons list. Between all of these, you should have enough information to feel comfortable accepting or denying the hatchets put forward.
If none of them are to your standards, check out our buyers’ guide where you can find information that you can use to judge other hatchets you get across.
If you need a hatchet in a hurry, maybe our top option will do it for you. That’d be the Cold Steel Trench Hawk Survival Hatchet, a tactical variant of a sturdy drop-forged hatchet that’s versatile and durable. See why we like it in more detail below:
If you’re itching to get out there and get some hogs in your sights, you may be satisfied with our number one broadhead suggestion from the list below. That’d be the RAGE Hypodermic Standard 100-Grain Broadhead, a mechanical broadhead option that brings great stopping power and cutting action. See why we liked these below:
- It’s a larger 19” long hatchet that weighs 29 ounces but isn’t too heavy on the wallet.
- It’s drop forged from durable 1055 carbon steel, which is fashioned into a 3.5” cutting face and a wedge-shaped piercing face at the back.
- The handle is shock-resistant and can be replaced if any problems arise. When the hatchet is in use, it slots seamlessly into a patented Secure-Ex sheath.
Top 4 Best Backpacking Hatchets
OUR TOP PICK
From Cold Steel, the first hatchet we recommend is the Cold Steel Survival Hatchet, but preferably the Trench Hawk variant.
It comes in many different styles, and maybe the more classic wooden-handled designs were just what you were looking for, in which case you can get them, but we prefer the Trench Hawk variant for backpacking because of the piercing head at its back.
So, what is the Cold Steel Trench Hawk? It’s a larger hatchet at 19” long, with 3.5” of that being the blade edge, and it weighs in at approximately 29 ounces. Despite how much more hatchet you get with this purchase, it’s not the most expensive product on this list.
As we’ve mentioned, its sharp cutting edge is only half the use you’ll get out of the product. There’s also a piercing spike that’s shaped like a wedge, making it great for piercing or prying at objects in survival scenarios.
All of this is made from drop forged 1055 carbon steel, so you can rest assured that it’s tough and can survive the trauma it’ll be put through. The weakest points of most hatchets are the handles, though Cold Steel has taken precautions with a shock-resistant handle that, even if it does break, can easily be replaced.
When not in use, a Secure-Ex sheath comes with the hatchet to store it safely and keep the blade, as well as any curious people or pets who may try touching it, safe. If you’re in the tinkering mood, we’d also suggest applying some extra grip since the smooth handle can give you trouble.
- Waterproof nylon material
- Breathable PV back pads
- Interchangeable, adjustable straps
- Wide color range
- Straps loosen easily
The second backpacking hatchet we have is the Estwing Sportsman’s Axe Camping Hatchet, a model that looks the part and delivers in terms of performance, too.
It’s a 12” survival axe that weighs 1.38 pounds, and it has a simple but effective construction that’s smoothed over with rustic leather and a polished steel style. This is the option for those who want a hatchet that doesn’t have an overly modern tactical design to it but can go toe to toe with them when in use.
The Estwing Sportsman’s Camping Hatchet uses a tried and true construction technique that many tools use, which is simply fashioning the hatchet out of one piece of forged steel. Any breakages that happen on high-impact implements are likely to happen at structural weak points where one part is bound to another, so the fact that it’s one piece means there isn’t a weak point that can break.
At the bottom of the hatchet is a hand sanded and lacquered genuine leather grip that not only adds to the rustic aesthetic of this hatchet but also improves the grasp you have when holding this product. The last thing you want when swinging or throwing a hatchet is for it to fly out of your hand in an undesired direction.
The varnish on that leather grip gets slippery when wet, so you should keep that in mind. If your trail is expected to be wet, we’d suggest filing the varnish away to avoid this problem, though you’ll then want to treat the leather so that it doesn’t absorb moisture. This is a long way to go for some, but we think it’s worth it, especially since the hatchet doesn’t burn too much of a hole in your wallet.
- A 12” polished steel sportsman’s hatchet
- Forged out of one piece for maximum durability.
- Lacquered and hand-sanded genuine leather grip ensures the hatchet stays in your hand.
- Includes a ballistic nylon sheath to keep you and the hatchet safe and undamaged.
- Manufactured in the USA.
- Grip varnish can become slippery when wet.
Though it’s a throwing hatchet, you don’t have to throw the next product on our list, but it is nice to have the option.
This is the SOG Tomahawk Throwing Hatchet, and you’ve probably heard of the SOG brand, known fully as SOG Specialty Knives, Incorporated, for their great SOG knives modeled after the Vietnam era. They’re the brand you go to when you want light but efficient tools that can get the job done quietly.
So, about the hatchet. It’s another longer hatchet at 12.5” but you don’t feel it when it sits in your hand. This is because, given the tactical roots of the SOG brands, all of their products are made with weight efficiency in mind. The Tomahawk Throwing Hatchet in particular weighs approximately 19 ounces, allowing for quick strikes and throws that take up less of your energy.
The blade is the star of the show on any hatchet, but SOG has a tried and true design for their hatchet and axe blades that they use on many of their products. The Tomahawk Throwing Hatchet is no different, and it’s manufactured from grade 420 high-carbon stainless steel for maximum durability while staying light and easy to swing.
That SOG design favors smaller axe blades, however, so you need to be aware of that when making your decision to buy.
Versatility is the watchword of any hiking or backpacking tool and SOG had this in mind when designing this hatchet. The hatchet has a spike on it that can be used to pierce tin cans or fabric while there’s also a flat edge that you can use for hammering with no negative effects on the hatchet whatsoever.
The handle is made from glass-reinforced nylon, a low maintenance textured grip that can sustain high impacts and sit securely in your hand when doing so.
SOG has a warranty system where your hatchet can have repairs or replacement if the hatchet is properly maintained and suffers a fault that was out of your control.
- A 12.5” throwing hatchet that weighs only 19 ounces so that can be swung fast and thrown faster.
- SOG’s signature blade shape that’s formed from tough 420 stainless steel.
- Features a tactical spike for piercing and a flat edge for hammering.
- The glass-reinforced nylon handle ensures you have a solid grip on the hatchet.
- SOG replacement and repairs are available if your well-maintained hatchet needs it.
- The SOG hatchet design favors small blades.
Genius Earth’s Travel/Hiking Fanny Pack is available in red or blue and is made of durable, lightweight nylon material and features high-quality mesh on the pack sides for increased air circulation.
Measuring 11 x 6 x 5 inches, this pack is sizeable enough to carry all of your must-have hiking essentials whilst remaining compact enough for ease of portability.
With 2 bottle holders (1 on either side) and two pockets (a large main pocket measuring 8 x 6 x 5 inches, plus a front zipper pocket), this pack has plenty of storage space.
The waist strap is highly adjustable, fitting waists measuring between 18 and 50 inches, so it’s suitable for both adults and children.
This pack also includes 2 20 oz water bottles, making this product an even better deal.
- A longer 14” hatchet that weighs 1.38 pounds that balances this ratio well.
- The FiberComp handle is stronger than steel and almost indestructible.
- Fiskar grinding technique and low-friction coating ensure clean and uninterrupted cuts.
- Protected by a lifetime warranty.
- The axe head is a tad thin.
- The axe butt can’t be used as a hammer.
Best Backpacking Hatchet Buying Guide
How to buy the best backpacking hatchets
Buying a hatchet isn’t something most people do every day, so it makes sense that some of you need some extra help to find the really good ones.
We’d suggest you treat them like any other tool because that covers most of the core concerns, you’ll have when buying one. As for backpacking use, you’ll want versatility, and we have a section on how to identify that in hatchets below.
Length and Weight
It may seem obvious that you’ll want to know the basic specs of your hatchet, like the length and weight, but there are more practical reasons to know these figures.
Any tool that you swing needs to be balanced in terms of its weight and the distribution of that weight, so you shouldn’t get a hatchet that’s too heavy at the head or foot since you won’t be able to swing it properly.
Most hatchets fall between 10” to 19” with their weights generally being between 1.10 to 1.40 pounds or 17 to 22 ounces. These will change depending on the materials used and the construction process used to make the hatchet but, as a general rule, heavier hatchets need to be longer to more evenly spread that extra weight so that it’ll swing properly.
Construction and Materials
The next important details you should know before buying are the materials used to make the hatchet and how they’re bound together.
The material obviously has an effect on the weight of your hatchet, with tool steel, stainless steel alloy, and carbon steel axe heads all having different weights and prices attached to them. Remember to consider price when comparing products, sometimes the cheaper model is best, especially if it lacks a feature that you weren’t planning on using anyway.
The handle should have a softer material that’s more friendly to the touch like rubberized and textured plastic or, for a more traditional hatchet style, wood or leather. This is so the hatchet doesn’t sit uncomfortably in the hand and these grips will be treated or patterned to add more grip.
What’s just as important as which materials are used is how they’re connected. Breakages where a section of metal or plastic split are rare, usually it’s a connecting point between two of those materials where the pressure becomes too much and the tool breaks. The single best defense against this is a hatchet made from one piece of metal since there are no structural weak points between the axe head and the tang that fits into the handle mold, where it’s unlikely to fly out.
If that is a concern, insert molding is best used to properly bind a tang to keep the hatchet in place.
Versatility is the watchword of any camper or backpacker kit. Every tool you carry should ideally have multiple ways of using it and, while hatchets have a very obvious and singular use for cutting and chopping, some are made to pierce and hammer.
This is done through a piercing spike and a wider axe head, presenting more surface area at the back so your strikes can get more purchase and act as a hammer.
This isn’t guaranteed in all hatchets, sometimes a hatchet is a hatchet, but it’s something to look out for. If there’s a cheaper alternative to the hatchet you want that includes extra functionality, we think that’s more desirable than an expensive model capable of just cutting.
A hatchet is like any other tool, and when buying tools, it’s wise to get them with some sort of warranty or repair agreement in the event that the tool breaks through no fault of your own.
Hatchets are no different, so we’d recommend checking which after-purchase support comes with the products you’re looking at. This will usually take the form of limited warranties that repay or replace the product if it breaks during a certain period after buying it, though sometimes the manufacturer will be accommodating enough to repair your trusty hatchet and send it back to you.