Survival Hatchet: Should You Be Carrying One?

Survival HatchetDo you own a survival hatchet?

Or maybe a better question to ask is…should you carry a survival hatchet?

And what qualities does a good one have?

As with most survival gear-related discussions… there are good and bad qualities to consider, but mostly there are tradeoffs.

Today I’m going to talk about the following survival hatchet topics:

  • The Difference Between A Survival Axe And A Hatchet
  • Basic Parts Of A Hatchet
  • 3 Survival Hatchet Techniques
  • The Many Uses Of A Survival Hatchet
  • Pros And Cons Of Carrying A Hatchet
  • New Innovated Hatchet Designs
  • Should You Be Carrying One?
  • The Hatchet I Carry
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The Difference Between a Survival Axe and A Hatchet

The survival hatchet is a type of survival axe. It’s the smallest version of an axe with a hammer on the backside.

For example, Survival Cache shows that there are several categories of axes, such as Felling Axe, Forest Axe, Small Forest Axe, and Hatchet.

The hatchet is the axe in the smallest group.

A hatchet head weighs in the 1 to 3 lbs range; it has a 3 to 5-inch blade and a 10 to 16-inch overall length.

These measurements are just rough estimates since there are no exact standards for an axe to be considered a hatchet, but hatchets are the lightest, shortest, and smallest axes available.

Basic Parts of A Survival Hatchet

There are two essential parts of an axe or hatchet. The blade and the handle. It’s really all there is to an axe or hatchet. However, there are many facets of these 2 basic parts, such as:

  1. Basic Parts Of A HatchetHeel of Bit
  2. Bit/Blade
  3. Toe Of Bit
  4. Axe-Side/Cheek
  5. Poll/Butt
  6. Belly
  7. Shoulder
  8. Back
  9. Throat
  10. Grip
  11. End Knob

The Head

If you want a good hatchet then the head is going to be the most important part, so make sure it’s quality is high. The head of your hatchet must cut…and cut well.

Not only is this determined by sharpness (duh!) but also the bit thickness.

If the area immediately behind the blade edge widens quickly, then it will have a tough time getting good penetration, no matter how sharp the blade it happens to be.

Plus it will tend to glance off a tree when swinging at a sharp angle instead of biting into the wood.

You also want to make certain to keep the head of your hatchet nice and smooth. Any unnecessary abrasions or dings on the head (or cutting edge) will reduce its penetration efficiency.

The Handle

The two primary aspects of a survival hatchet handle are the overall length and material.

The longer the handle, the better your ability to generate swing speed and force. However, longer handles tend to weigh more and don’t fit in packs or bug out bags as easily.

Handle materials typically come in one of three options: metal, wood, or fiberglass.

Metal handles are strong and durable but are also the heaviest of the three material options.

Wood handles are a decent choice since they are also rugged, but they can get slick if they get any oil or lubricant on them.

You don’t want your hatchet slipping out of your grip mid-swing (that would be bad).

My favorite is the fiberglass handle. Especially a hollowed-out fiberglass handle with a nice rubber grip.

Why? Because fiberglass is reasonably strong but light. If it’s hollowed out, you’ll reduce weight significantly, and as long as it has a nice rubber grip it won’t accidentally slip out of your hands.

Of course, I’m biased to carrying my survival hatchet in my bug out bag, so this type of handle might not the optimal choice for someone who isn’t planning on carrying it on a hike, backpacking, or bugging out.

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It’s always good to ensure your survival hatchet has a good balance. It is preferable to have the balance point of an axe or hatchet be located on the handle right up against the head.

This balance location offers the best control for both swinging and carving tasks.

The 3 Survival Hatchet Techniques

There are three basic methods for using a hatchet: chopping, splitting, and carving.

1. Chopping

A hatchet is an excellent tool for chopping smaller trees.

The larger a tree’s trunk size, the longer you will be chopping it. Larger axes make large tree chopping easier, so just keep this fact in mind when choosing which trunk to attack with a hatchet.

Correct chopping technique is a vast topic, and I won’t be covering it in the article, however, I will say that you should plan your top and bottom attack angles to equal the diameter of the trunk.

So if the trunk is 4 inches thick, then your total top and the bottom cut gap should also be about 4 inches.

Check out this video for even more hatchet chopping techniques and advice.

2. Splitting

Splitting wood is necessary to make kindling. It’s a relatively straightforward skill, but there are a couple of things to note when doing this with a hatchet as opposed to a full-sized axe.

First, I recommend you split wood from your knees and not standing up.

Hatchets are much shorter than standard length axes so if you try splitting a chunk of wood standing up and miss…the hatchet is going into your leg.

Also, don’t split wood on the ground. This will prevent your hatchet from hitting the ground. Hitting the ground with your hatchet will ding the blade and damage your cutting edge…making it less effective.

3. Carving

To carve properly, slide your hand all the way up to the head of your hatchet. Now, slide the head of your hatchet down a piece of wood.

With this grip, you can control your bite angle pretty well, and you’ll also have a lot of leverage to power through sections as needed.

I find it easier to do rough wood carving with a hatchet than with a survival knife. However, I do prefer a sharp survival knife over a hatchet to do any detailed carving.

Maintaining Your Hatchet

Just a quick note on the maintenance of your hatchet…it’s very straightforward.

Maintain the blade sharpness the same way you would a knife by touching up the edge with a sharpening stone.

Keep it dry, so it doesn’t rust and that’s about it.

Also, you should learn how to sharpen your hatchet properly.  Another fantastic in-depth video from Wranglerstar.

Here’s a solid Beginners Guide To Hatchets by Ross Gilmore, that goes into even more detail about choosing and using a hatchet.

Here’s a more in-depth guide to axe use.

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The Many Possible Uses Of A High-Quality Hatchet In Survival

Making a Fire – The hatchet is a much more efficient tool than a survival knife for chopping and splitting wood for making kindling.

Plus, you can use the blade of the hatchet to strike a piece of flint to throw some sparks onto fine tinder.

Sounds easy right?

Not so fast…it won’t be easy the first time, but if you follow this video by IA Woodsman, you’ll soon be a pro.

He makes it look easy…

Making Feather Sticks – Feather sticks help to create the fine kindling you need to help start a fire using sparks.

This is a must-learn skill for anyone who lives in a wet weather climate such as the Pacific Northwest. Why?

Because creating a feather stick allows you to get to the dry portion of a limb. Have you ever tried to light wet wood? Not smart.

Instead create a feather stick with fine, dry feathers and it will catch on fire with much less effort.

Building A Shelter

You don’t have to have a hatchet to build a survival shelter, but it does make it a whole heck of a lot easier and gives you more options.

With just a survival knife (and no hatchet) you will have to either limit the size of your shelter’s support branches or waste a ton of time and energy using a knife to cut your limbs to size.

Bottom line: A survival hatchet will slash your shelter build time significantly.

Self Defense

Hatchet or Tomahawk throwing is an art but if learned it can be deadly. Just another survival self-defense tool to add to your arsenal.

You can never have too many self-defense skills.

Make A Splint

You don’t necessarily need a hatchet to split a couple of pieces of wood for a makeshift splint, but it can do it…and quickly at that.

Chop Foods

Grip way down on just the head of the hatchet blade to make a nice chopping knife.

As long as your hatchet blade is sharp, it will slice through even soft foods such as tomatoes. It will do fantastic on hardy foods such as chopping potatoes, onions or carrots, etc.

Make A Spear

You can quickly take a solid limb and make it into a sharp spear. Just point the end of the limb you intend to add a point to and chop at an angle, swinging away from you.

Within minutes, you’ll have a very sharp, very effective spear or jabbing stick.

Hammering Stakes

You can use the backside side of your hatchet as a hammer, which is perfect for hammering in shelter stakes or trap stakes.

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New Innovative Hatchet Designs

I’ve recently noticed this innovative survival hatchet on the market.

While it might not be for everyone.

However, I felt it was worth sharing as another option and innovative design to appreciate in the hatchet market.

Pros and Cons of Carrying a Survival Hatchet


Well, this one is easy…we just covered all the uses of a hatchet above, so obviously, those are all pros.

To add to the pros, I would say carrying a survival hatchet gives you more versatility and options than a survival knife alone and weighs much less than an axe.

However, we just touched on the one big con to carrying a survival hatchet: weight.

Anytime we’re talking about hiking, backpacking, or bugging out we have to consider weight.  3 lbs. might not seem like a lot but when you add up all the other gear you are considering carrying…it all adds up.

Should You Be Carrying One?

The controversial Survival Hatchet…to carry or leave it behind.

We only have so much room in our bug out bags.

So we must justify every single piece of survival gear we own, especially when we’re talking up to 3+ extra lbs.

However, after weighing all the pros and cons, I believe the answer is yes if you’re backpacking, hiking or bugging out. That’s why I added one to my bug out bag checklist.

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Survival Hatchet vs Knife – There are just some things you won’t be able to do efficiently enough with a survival knife alone. Sure, you can do most things with a good survival knife, but as Rocky Mountain Bushcraft states in their thorough hatchet vs knife article:

One thing is certain though, when it comes to pure chopping power, hatchets are clearly the undisputed “king.”

If you have a well-designed hatchet with a sharp blade (and have the room in your pack) then I would suggest you go ahead and add one.

I shouldn’t replace a survival knife, but I would prefer to carry both if at all possible.

My Gerber Survival Hatchet

The Hatchet I Carry In My Bug Out Bag

I carry the Gerber 14 Inch Hatchet.

Why? Mainly because it only weighs 22.57 oz (1.4 lbs).  If you’ve read much of my blog posts then you probably know how much I focus on weight and keeping it reasonable.

So of course, I’m always looking for high-quality, rugged, proven gear that holds up over time but is also lightweight.

That’s exactly what my survival hatchet is: high quality, rugged and lightweight.

So did I convince you to add one to your bug out bag? Is a lightweight hatchet going to find some room in your pack? Give me some feedback in the comments below.

As A Way To Introduce You To Skilled Survival, We’re Giving Away Our Ultimate Survival Gear Checklist. Click Here To Get Your FREE Copy Of It.
Remember: Prepare, Adapt and Overcome
“Just In Case” Jack

P.s. Are you ready for the tough times ahead?

Find out now by taking my short Readiness Score Quiz – it’s absolutely free.
Once complete, you’ll know exactly where you stand on the “fragile” vs.” resilient” spectrum.

The post Survival Hatchet: Should You Be Carrying One? appeared first on Skilled Survival.

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