If you are planning to make fires and work with wood, a hatchet is an important tool when camping. The best camping hatchets will make easy work of chopping and splitting wood. Hatchets are a great tool for creating kindling from branches so you can quickly start your fire.
A hatchet is also a tool where quality counts. When it comes to camping gear, in some areas you can get away with saving a few bucks. But a cheap hatchet is a sure way to disappointment and often dangerous. A quality hatchet will last you a life time. You’ll be using that same hatchet when camping 40 years from now. So take a minute to learn the difference and invest in the best camping hatchet you can afford. We have a lot of tips below to help you make the best decision. We’ve also included links to the products to make it easier for you to see reviews and pricing. These are affiliate links and if you make a purchase we may receive a small commission.
Do you Need a Hatchet for Camping?
A good hatchet should be a basic in your camping tool kit. How many times have you tried to start a fire in a picked clean campsite. You know, the campgrounds that don’t let you gather wood so every twig is gone. All you have is a stack of solid logs bought from the campground host. Meanwhile the kids are standing expectantly with their hot dog sticks. With a hatchet you would be in business in just minutes. Not only can you split those logs, but you can use a hatchet to easily shave branches into kindling and into a pile of small shavings to make starting your fire a piece of cake. Whew… campsite tension just dropped.
Of course, in a wilder campsite, a hatchet is indispensable for fire craft. You can easily cut up brush and downed branches so you have a warm camp.
A quality hatchet is also perfect for carving wood to create simple tools for your campsite. You can go far beyond just carving hot dog sticks. If you have a quiet day in camp, try using your hatchet to create a simple bowl or a spoon. It’s amazing how you can create something beautiful while you are enjoying nature.
Many camping hatchets can replace the hammer in your camping bag, especially useful for pounding in tent stakes. We’ve hit campgrounds where the ground is so hard you couldn’t possibly get a stake in the ground without a hammer. But why carry the weight of a hammer when a hatchet with a flat pommel can do double duty.
Best Camping Hatchets Quick ViewHere's a quick glance at the best hatchets for camping. You'll find a more detailed review of each hatchet further down in this article. (note - best viewed on phone when flipped to horizontal view)
How Much Does a Camping Hatchet Cost?
A camping hatchet can cost anywhere from $10 to $200. There is a very big difference in the quality and type of construction as you go up the scale. Seriously though, you can purchase a really good hatchet for camping that will last you for years in the $35-$60 range. I urge you to forget about most of those hatchets in the $10-30 range due to poor workmanship. However we did call out theSchrade SCAXE10 in the reviews below as a great starter hatchet that can usually be purchased under $25. At the top end we included 2 Swedish made hatchets that are hand-forged and built in the old world style.
Features to Look For When Selecting Your Hatchet
The Blade Construction
Blade and Head of the Hatchet are usually made of carbon steel or stainless steel.
- Stainless Steel is really nice in that it won’t rust. But has the negative that it’s softer and will need sharpening regularly.
- Carbon Steel is harder and will hold its edge longer. You will need to remember to make sure it’s packed away dry and protected from rust.
The forging process is also an important consideration when selecting your hatchet. Most quality hatchets use a mechanized forging process with a lot of human management to ensure a strong sharp blade. The high end hatchets, like those from Gransfers Bruks and Hult Bruk are completely hand forged which is why they come with a higher price tag. Very low end blades are machine stamped and because of that there is a lot less control over the quality so they should be avoided.
The Handle Construction
Hatchet Handles are generally made from Wood, Fiberglass or Steel.
Wood handles are made from ash or hickory and are the most traditional. If doing a lot of heavy work, a wood handle is great at absorbing the impact and reducing stress on your body. They also have the benefit of being easy to replace should you break one. Wood handles tolerate temperature changes easily and will always feel good in your hands.
The downside of wood hatchet handles is that they need a little more care. Wood will swell or shrink depending upon the weather and moisture conditions. If not properly stored, that can result in broken handles and a poorly fitting hatchet head. Some of the highest quality hatchets are made with wooden handles because of the great balance and comfortable grips.
Fiberglass handles are tougher and can take more abuse than wooden handles. You will find that you can leave a fiberglass handle out in a rainstorm and have no impact on the handle. Other than a quick rinse to get off dirt, there is no maintenance to fiberglass. If weight is a concern, such as in a backpacking hatchet then a fiberglass handle is the winner.
So why wouldn’t everyone switch to fiberglass? The biggest reason is the comfort of the swing, which for basic camping tasks isn’t much of an issue. It’s not like you are taking down a big tree with your camping hatchet. Another reason is a fiberglass handle won’t do well in extreme cold. You won’t want to break open an ice hole with fiberglass since it’s likely to shatter.
Steel hatchet handles are definitely the most durable. They are near indestructible. Steel handles are also more rare because a just plain steel handle will transfer the impact of hitting the wood to your body. That’s why companies like Estwing have added shock absorbing rubber to their handles.
The Best Camping Hatchet Reviews
🪓 Brad’s Top All Around Choice: Estwing’s Sportsman’s Axe
The made in the USA, Estwing’s Axes are famous for their strength and durability. When I asked Brad for his top choice for the best camping hatchet, he didn’t hesitate one second before announcing it was the Estwing. Why? Because the axe is forged of carbon steel all in one piece which means it will never break. Each step of the forging process is carefully supervised for quality control. Check out this Discovery Channel video on how they are produced and you will also be impressed with the attention to detail.
The handle of the Estwing’s Sportsman’s Axe is wrapped in a very cushioning leather wrap that is not only attractive but reduces the force and impact on your arms when chopping. With just a little bit of care this is the hatchet that will go camping with you forever.
PROS: We love that this hatched is highly durable and practically indestructible. You’ll also find it extremely low maintenance which is one less thing to worry about when you get home from your adventure.
CONS: Carbon Steel will rust if left out in the weather, it will be important to store your axe dry and put a little REM oil on the head before storing for an extended period of time.
🪓 Best Value Hatchet: Fiskar’s X7 Hatchet
The Fiskar X7 Hatchet is not only our top choice for best camping hatchet best value, it is also my top choice. Why? Because of a lifetime of history with the high quality products created by Fiskar. From my first pruning shears to my well guarded sewing scissors, Fiskar has continuously performed over the decades. And they back that up with a lifetime guarantee that I’ve personally used on an other product.
So what’s special about the X Series hatchets and axes? All are made with a virtually unbreakable lightweight Shock-absorbing FiberComp® handle. They liken it to the difference between swinging an aluminum baseball bat compared to a wooden one where the speed of the lighter bat wins. The handle wraps around the top of the blade for a secure hold. And the blade has been treated with a low friction coating so it will slide through wood smoothly.
PROS: This Fiskar camping hatchet is very lightweight due to the fiberglass handle. And the slightly longer handle allows for a good solid swing. You’ll also appreciate the great feeling grip. We also love the very reasonable price.
CONS: Although Fiskar guarantees this hatchet, the way the handle wraps around the head makes me a little nervous. That wouldn’t keep me from making this purchase, but I would suggest inspecting your hatchet at the end of each camping season to watch for any wear in this area. Out of almost 5,000 reviews only 2 complained that it broke so obviously the odds are slim.
🪓 Best Hatchet for Backpacking: Gerber Pack Hatchet
Smaller than a sheet of notebook paper, the Gerber Pack Hatchet is extremely compact. The handle is full tang, which means the stainless steel feeds through the rubberized grip all the way to the bottom of the handle for extra strength. In addition to a comfortable rubberized grip, Gerber has added finger grooves right below the bit for more control in close up activities such as carving shavings off your log.
It comes with a sturdy nylon sheath with a belt loop which makes it perfect for backcountry adventures. The sharp narrow blade will slice right through wood.
PROS: We love the compact size which makes it a great hatchet on those trips where size matters. The under the bit finger grips are surprisingly helpful in controlling the blade when doing close work.
CONS: This Gerber hatchet wouldn’t be good for replacing your hammer due to the narrow spine. If you are car camping and have the space it wouldn’t be our first choice, it’s more for backcountry camping where space is of essence.
🪓 Best Lightweight Camping Hatchet: SOG Camp Axe
Coming in only a smidge above a pound, the SOG Camp Axe is the perfect choice when weight matters and you still want good control over your wood work. With a polished stainless steel head you’ll love that this axe won’t rust when wet weather strikes.
We really like the heavy duty fiberglass handle that should hold up practically forever. SOG designed the camp axe specifically with a pommel wide enough to be a good hammer, so it will be easy to pound in those tent stakes. You’ll find this hatchet to be well balanced so if you want to try a little hatchet throwing to pass the time it’s a good choice.
PROS: This is a super sweet, high quality hatchet if are looking to save weight in your pack. It is highly durable and will last through a lot of abuse in camp.
CONS: The sheath is not the sturdiest. If you are using this hatchet heavy duty, you might consider replacing with a leather sheath that snaps on and off easier.
🪓 Great Traditional Hatchet: Prandi German Style Hatchet
The Italian made Prandi German Style Hatchet is about as traditional as it gets. German style refers to the shape of the blade and in this case, it’s perfect for camping where you want an easy cut through wood and a flat pommel for pounding. The handles are made from American hickory which has been carefully milled to maintain the grain the length of the handle to ensure the hatchet’s strength. And you’ll love the very reasonable price on this hatchet. The leather sheath is an optional purchase, however we’d recommend you purchase with the hatchet since it’s a really nice addition.
PROS: This is well balanced which will make it easier to complete your wood working tasks. You’ll love the feel of the hickory handle. For the price it’s an excellent camp hatchet.
CONS: The hickory handle arrives unfinished which means it could absorb more moisture than most. It’s an easy fix though, just rub in some tung oil and you are ready to go.
🪓 Best Beginner Hatchet: Schrade SCAXE10 Hatchet
Forged in one solid piece out of high quality stainless steel, the Schrade SCAXE10 Full Tang Hatchet is meant to withstand the elements. The stainless steel behind the cutting blade and along the handle has been powder coated to protect the metal and the handle has an awesome ergonomic rubber coating that fits comfortably in your hand.
You’ll find a flat pommel on the blade, making camp set up and tent stake hammering easy work.
PROS: It’s relatively low price makes this Schrade hatchet a great choice for beginning outdoorsmen who is not ready to invest a lot of money in a camp hatchet. And the small size will makes it super easy to pack.
CONS: This is a great basic hatchet to tuck into your camping gear for general camp use. But we’d be surprised if you don’t upgrade at some point if you camp a lot. Like most hatchets in the lower price range, the sheath is lacking in durability.
🪓 Best Heavy Duty Camping Hatchet: Hults Bruk Tarnaby
If you are looking for a camping hatchet with a little more heft then the Hults Bruk Tarnaby is what you need. At a little over 2 pounds, the heavy head packs a wallop when chopping wood. The little bit of extra length on the handle will give you more leverage.
Hults Bruk has been hand-forging axes for over 300 years. Their Swedish steel blades hold a sharp edge for a long time making them in high demand. They wrap the head with a well designed leather sheath. The handle is a beautiful and well polished American hickory selected for it’s strength.
PROS: this hatchet is a work horse and will go make easy work of splitting wood. The hatchet head is of high quality steep so will last a lifetime with a little care.
CONS: An axe of this type needs a little more care. You should dry and treat the steel head with REM oil before storing at the end of the season. All wood axe handles need to be dried and then oiled with tung or linseed occasionally to keep the wood from splitting. It only takes a few minutes to maintain which will result in an axe you really love to use.
🪓 The Cadillac: Gransfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet
This is not the hatchet for the casual camper due to the high end pricing, but wow… it’s a very special hatchet for someone who highly values craftmanship in their tools. The Gransfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet is part of the forestry series which is designed for cutting down trees and chopping branches more than splitting wood. If you are going to be clearing brush and small trees, you’ll find a lot of power in this little hatchet.
Gransfors Bruks is committed to the environment and the Swedish made steel head is made from custom selected recycled steel that is not too hard and not too soft. It’s designed to create an axe head that withstands the forces of the wild while maintaining a very sharp edge. The hickory axe handle is carefully cured then treated with linseed oil and finished with beeswax to avoid future shrinkage and breakage.
PROS: First let me say this is a beautifully made, hand-forged hatchet that you will want to keep in your gear for the rest of your life. It’s well weighted to provide a powerful cut when clearing brush and branches.
CONS: If you are only splitting wood for camp fires and not clearing brush, then this isn’t the hatchet for you. It also requires an application of REM oil before storing to keep from rusting.
Axe Vs Hatchet
The difference between an axe and a hatchet is primarily in the size. And with that comes different functionality. An axe has a long handle which gives you more leverage when swinging it. For that reason an axe is better for heavy duty use. If you were going to be splitting wood for hours, you’d want an axe that you could swing with both hands and come down strong on the log.
A hatchet is really just a small axe. The handle is shorter and it is lighter weight. Hatchets are meant to be used with a one handed swing. For camping, a hatchet makes a lot more sense. You will generally only be using your hatchet for a single short task, like starting tonight’s fire or a little afternoon wood carving. Plus a hatchet will take up a lot less space, and we all know space is at a premium when packing for a camping trip.
How to Safely Use A Hatchet
When splitting wood, it is best to use a hatchet from a kneeling position. If you are swinging an axe and miss the log, because of the length of the handle, the blade will usually end up hitting the dirt instead. But if you are standing and miss the log with a hatchet, it is more likely that the shorter handle of the hatchet will guide the blade right to your leg. Not a good result. By getting closer to the ground, the hatchet will usually hit the ground instead of you.
Always be aware of your surroundings when using a hatchet and make sure you have a clear swing zone.
When using a hatchet to carve or shape wood, the lightness of the tool allows you to grasp closer to the head which gives you a lot more control. It’s best to use a pair of gloves to protect your hands and work away from your body to protect… well you know… your body.
How to Sharpen Your Hatchet
“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” – Abraham Lincoln
Lincoln may have been referencing the importance of preparing for a task in general, but it is true that a dull hatchet slows down your work progress. It is also dangerous. When you slam the head of the hatchet against a piece of wood, the goal is to have the blade go into the wood. But if the blade is dull, it will slide off the wood and that is exactly how it ends up in your leg instead.
Your best bet for a sharp hatchet is to sharpen regularly. It really only takes a long time to sharpen if you have let it go for a long time or have abused your hatchet. Here’s a video from Shrade that demonstrates how easy it is to get a sharp edge:
As you can see, you only need a couple tools that are inexpensive and easy to pick up when you purchase your hatchet. Most important is a quality sharpening puck. Then grab a pair of protective leather gloves which will also keep those nasty little splinters out of your hands while offering some protection from nicks while sharpening. In the case where your hatchet has had a really rough life and has some deep nicks, you might need to file those out before sharpening.
How to Store and Care for Your Hatchet
The best way to store your hatchet is to clean it first. Make sure all dirt and sap is removed from the handle and from the blade. Then apply a little oil, like Rem oil or WD40 to the blade before storing. That will keep it from rusting. If you have a wooden handle it’s important that the wood is dry before storing. If you pack away a wet hatchet, not only will the blade rust, but a wooden handle could warp effecting your swing.
Sheaths for Your Hatchet
The Sheath is the protective cover over the head of a hatchet. Not only does it protect the edge of your hatchet from getting banged up and nicked, it protects you from that sharp edge. If your hatchet doesn’t come with a high quality sheath, you should plan to get one. The best hatchet sheaths are made of leather and wrap around the head. You might also look for a sheath that doesn’t cover the butt of the hatchet so you can leave the sheath on while hammering in your camping stakes.
Before you go… Check out some of our other guides for great camping gear:
You’ll be surprised at how much use you get out of owning the best camping hatchet. They come in handy in so many ways. You can’t go wrong with any of the hatchets featured in this guide to buying hatchets for camping. Don’t forget to save this to your wish list board on Pinterest so you can easily find this list of great hatchets again.