This article is for the hardened adventurers and grizzliest of woods-people. It’s not every backpacker that requires a hatchet on their travels let alone the best backpacking hatchets.
It’s a pretty unusual bit of gear. But that means if you are in the market for a portable hatchet it can be hard to know where to start looking.
Yes, you could settle for a utility knife like the average traveler, but if you’re really going into the wild, a hatchet is going to be an invaluable bit of gear.
You’ll be able to build shelters, chop firewood, and use it as a hammer.
The problem is, not every hatchet will do. They’re notoriously heavy and large tools.
You’ll need to be able to lug them around the world with you, and being that they’re a dangerous item, they should be kept inside your bag and out of view as you travel.
So, in this article, we’re going to be discussing five of the best hatchets for taking with you on your rugged journeys.
We’ll be assessing all the aspects of them that make them suitable for a life off the beaten track.
We’ll even be whittling together an in-depth buyer’s guide and brief FAQ section so you can get the hatchet that can survive the rigors of your adventures.
OUR TOP PICK
Helping you get lost and stay lost at our number one spot is a traditional hatchet design made to the highest standards possible.
The hatchet head, made from solid Swedish steel, is shaped through a hand-tempering process in which it’s struck multiple times to increase its density and strength.
It also has specially tempered zones designed to provide you with an incredibly sharp head no matter how many times it has been dulled and sharpened.
This top of the line hatchet doesn’t skimp on the handle either.
It’s solid curved American Hickory. Hickory is one of the best possible materials for hatchets because it’s insanely hard and durable.
It’s so hard-wearing it will give the steel a run for its money.
The handle also comes pre-treated with linseed oil that makes it completely waterproof, perfect for a life exposed to the elements.
As if this hatchet wasn’t cool enough already, it comes with a quality leather sheath embellished with traditional Swedish decorative designs that make it feel even more special.
This hatchet is a very portable 9.4 inches, and only weighs 1.5 pounds, which is amazing.
That’s still quite a bit of room in your backpack, but at least it won’t dislocate your shoulders.
This hatchet is for the outdoors people who appreciate great craftsmanship, and have an affinity for all things simple.
It’s for someone who ventures out because they wish to escape hyper-modern everything and slow things down.
It’s a little pricey for a small item, but with this Swedish beast close at hand in the wild, you’ll feel like a dauntless Viking.
- Traditional design
- Made from solid American hickory. A very tough wood
- Surprisingly lightweight
- Good size to get some serious work done
- Steel head is tempered using a hand-grinding process for maximum durability
- Comes with ornate leather sheath with traditional Swedish designs
- Handle is treated with linseed oil to make it completely waterproof
- Smallest hatchet on the list, perfect for travel.
- No advanced grip
Coming in at our two spot is a brutal piece of art designed to last you forever.
This amazing hatchet is drop-forged from a single solid piece of American steel, making this the most durable on our list.
No conjoining parts means nothing can come loose or snap.
The blade is the handle is the blade is the handle is the blade...you get the point.
Estwing aren’t one to ignore the finer points of their craft.
They excel when it comes to detail, which is why this hatchet is sharpened and polished completely by hand.
The 3 ½ inch edge should make easy tinder of any small to medium-large log.
You also get a durable nylon sheath to keep this thing in tip-top condition.
As there’s no separate handle material to talk about here, let’s get straight to the grip, which is another quality appointment.
It’s made entirely of a genuine leather wrap, hand sanded and lacquered to ensure it’s waterproof, comfortable, and grippy as hell.
It’s 14 inches long, so not the largest, but not the smallest.
A middling size might appeal to a lot of people as it gives you enhanced chopping ability whilst keeping things nice and portable.
The singular steel construction does add a little extra weight, but nothing that’s going to bring you to your knees.
This hatchet is so impressively crafted we honestly don’t know whether we’d chop logs with it or hang it on the wall alongside a Turner masterpiece. It’s that impressive.
- Crafted from one piece of American tool steel so it basically can’t break
- Real leather grip is hand treated to ensure longevity
- Middling 14 inch size makes it portable but great for chopping large logs
- Affordable considering the craftsmanship
- Curved blade will be great for felling small trees
- Comes with a durable nylon sheath
- Super sharp and durable 3 ½ edge
- Curved shape give it a comfortable feel in your hand
- Singular stainless steel construction makes this a little bit heavier than our other picks
Our number three spot is the largest option on our list at 16.5 inches long, so if you’re looking to chop some fairly large logs on your tour, this might be the one for you.
Despite its length, it weighs a minuscule 1.36 pounds.
The blade is geometrically primed using a proprietary grinding technique.
It’s then coated with a low friction substance that stops it from getting stuck and makes for an extra resilient edge with even more bite.
It’s also a straight edge design meaning it will excel for vertical usage.
Its insert-molded head is said to be totally inseparable from the handle, so don’t be precious with this thing.
It’s ready to take on some serious work.
The Fiskars is the first straight handle hatchet on our list.
As long as the weighting is correct, this doesn’t really have an effect on swing speed or shock absorption.
It mostly comes down to personal preference.
Some people like a straight handle as it gives them a better sense of where the head is during a swing and where it will strike.
The handle core is made of a fiber composite that’s said to be stronger than steel, and the lower half has a yellow colored textured grip pattern to secure it in your hand.
It comes with a plastic sheath that protects both sides of the blade.
- Carbon steel composite construction is harder than normal steel
- Great grip pattern
- Straight handle gives you strong idea of head position during use
- Extra long scale will allow you to chop larger bits of wood
- Low friction blade coating prevents it from sticking in wood
- Amazingly lightweight design for its size
- Straight edge will be great for vertical strikes
- Straight handle isn’t for everyone
- Straight edge won’t be as good for lateral swings
Helping you live the wildness in your heart at our number four spot is another straight handle hatchet designed to handle the rigors of long stints off the grid.
This 11.5 inch tomahawk style hatchet has a 3.1 inch blade with a slight curve, giving you great vertical and lateral performance.
The blade is made of good old stainless steel, so you can expect a low maintenance, durable edge.
SOG have finished the steel with a low friction satin polish to prevent the head becoming lodged in larger logs.
This hatchet has the lowest beard of all our picks which keeps the weight down to 1.1 pounds while providing plenty of finger room for shorter, precision strikes and feather sticking. SOG have also broadened the back end of the blade to give you a really impressive pummel for a smaller hatchet
The handle is made from a strong and shock absorbent glass-reinforced nylon, making it perfect for heavy duty usage and high impact work.
The grip is really impressive here too. The deep lateral grooves running up the handle will give your hand plenty of traction in bad weather.
This hatchet is perfect for those who truly want to get out there and pit themselves against the elements.
The low beard and advanced grip make it a tool for true survival applications. This hatchet could be the difference between life and death.
- Stainless steel blade
- Glass-reinforced nylon handle needs no maintenance and absorbs shock well
- Awesome simple but deep grip patterns keep it secure in your hand
- Low beard broadens the blade while offering you finger space
- Great for feather sticking
- Super lightweight
- Quite small
- Slightly curved blade makes it extremely versatile
- It’s quite pricey
Giving us an extra edge in the wilderness of our final spot is a super affordable hatchet designed specifically for camping and expeditions.
The head, made of 3Cr13 stainless steel, is a full tang design, meaning it’s secured through the handle and out the other side.
3Cr13 is an incredibly hard steel but quite cheap to manufacture.
This is the perfect combination if you want a quality hatchet at a reasonable price.
The head is also powder-coated to ensure a sharp edge for longer.
The handle is coated with a durable TPE rubber, the perfect material to soak up loads of shock, protecting your hands.
The TPE also provides an awesome grip running down the handle from half way up.
You’ll be able to use this hatchet in the heat when you're sweating or caught in the rain.
The great thing about a hatchet is its versatility in the wild. This design is no exception.
The back side of the head acts as a strong pummel, giving you the choice between sharp and blunt force.
It’s an uber-modern take on the hatchet, yet the ergonomic curves and broad 3.6 inch edge give it a natural look.
It’s designed to feel like an extension of your body.
This hatchet is pretty large at 13 inches long, but Schrade have kept it nice and light at 1.4 pounds
- Awesome rubber grip
- TPE rubber-coated handle should absorb some shock
- Strong stainless steel blade
- Cheap production keeps the price down. This hatchet is great value for money
- Full tang design
- Comes with plastic sheath
- Pummel on the reverse of the head
- Plastic sheath might need a stronger replacement
- Didn’t specify handle core material. Customers said it’s not a great shock absorber
The Best Backpacking Hatchets Buyer’s Guide
If nothing on our rugged list chopped its way into your heart, here are some things you should consider as you broaden your search for the perfect hatchet for backpacking.
These are all things we ourselves thought about when choosing hatchets for our list.
Hatchets come with a range of price tags.
It’s best to set yourself a budget so you can cut to the quick and find the right one for you.
The most important aspect of a hatchet in this case is its portability.
You need to be able to lug it around with you through forests, over mountains, across rivers, and more importantly, through populated areas.
Backpacking isn’t just about the wilderness. Yes, it’s a constant state of leaving, but that just means it’s also a constant state of arriving.
You need to be presentable in public, and a wild-looking, travel-weary individual carrying a hatchet is not going to be accepted by the townsfolk. Your hatchet needs to be stowed away securely and comfortably.
Backpacking is all about traveling light, but your bag is probably already pretty stuffed. Unless you want to sacrifice some other equipment or clothing, you’re going to have to find an incredibly compact hatchet.
Of course, the smaller you go, the less useful it’s going to be out in the wild. We recommend looking for something between 6 and 16 inches in length. Any larger and you might have to try and source a separate carry case.
The next factor to consider is weight. It’s no good having a nice sized hatchet if you feel like you’re dragging around Thor’s hammer.
You need to try and find a balance between durability, and portability. We recommend never choosing something over 2 pounds.
We know that doesn’t sound like a lot, but add anything heavier than that to the rest of your belongings and you’re in for a spine splitting experience.
Most hatchets will come with their own custom-fitted sheath, but they tend to vary in quality, so it might be worth putting some money aside for an upgrade.
A strong handle couldn’t be more important when it comes to hatchets.
They have to withstand all the force that passes through the head and stifle it so you don’t feel it running through your hand and wrist.
Companies are stuck with heavy steel for their hatchet heads, so they’re always experimenting with different handle materials to bring down the overall weight without losing too much durability.
Due to this, you’re likely to run into all kinds of different materials when shopping for your backpacking hatchet.
Whatever it is, it should be durable and shock absorbent. Strong woods are great as long as they’ve been treated with something like linseed oil.
Different kinds of rubber are great shock absorbers. You may even run into some strange composite metals.
As long as you check up on the qualities of the material, you’ll know if it’s a quality component.
Traditional style hatchets tend not to have special grips, which gives them a really nice classic aesthetic, but out in the wild, a little bit of extra grip will make it highly functional in bad weather.
The last thing you want to happen in a storm is a rain-slick handle slipping from your grasp on a backswing and flying off the side of a mountain, or even worse, injuring a friend.
Most hatchet heads will be made from steel, which is great, but not all steel is equal in strength.
Make sure you find out exactly what kind of steel has been used. High carbon and stainless steels are perfect.
How the blade is fitted to the handle is everything when it comes to hatchets.
These two parts are useless when separated.
If the head runs all the way through the handle and out the other side, it’s going to be far more durable than if it only travels partway into the handle.
A curved blade will be better for lateral strikes and felling trees. A straighter edge will suit vertical swings and chopping logs. This isn’t too important, as both will do both, so to speak.
A bearded hatchet will have a gap between the handle and the lower portion of the blade.
his allows you to grasp the hatchet high up for precision work. The gap in the steel also keeps weight to a minimum.
The larger your edge is, the larger the logs you’re going to be able to split.
This is essential to any kind of Hatchet. You need something that’s weighted to give each swing optimal force. This means the head should account for well over half the total weight.
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the difference between an axe and a hatchet?
It’s mostly a size difference.
Axes are designed to be used with two hands on larger logs. Hatchets are supposed to be single-handed devices.
How do you sharpen a hatchet in the wild?
You can use a stone with any kind of lubricant.
Oil is perfect but water will suffice. Soak the stone then run the blade away from you at a roughly 10 to 15 degree angle around 10 times a side.
There you have it you wandering wolves, five of the best hatchets for backpacking. Each of these products has something really special about them.
Any one of them would make a great tool to accompany you in the great outdoors.
I hope you've been able to choose the best backpacking hatchet for your needs now.