There’s a debate among bushcrafters, survivalists and other outdoor enthusiasts about which is a better tool in the field, a fixed-blade camp knife or a hatchet. Each has its proponents, with big knives probably taking the edge for all-around utility. But for sheer chopping power nothing beats a hatchet. Sure, a large knife can baton firewood or curl up some feather sticks for fire-making, but try hacking down a meat pole, splitting a round of hardwood, or driving tent stakes. Take a look at these options for selecting this essential camp tool.
A steel-handled hatchet will just about last forever. They tend to be slightly heavy and therefore aren’t really a wandering bushcrafter’s blade, but if you just need a rugged hatchet to throw in the back seat or bang around the bottom of a johnboat, steel is the way to go. They’re handsome at any age, and the one-piece construction will last longer than you do.
Classic bushcraft calls for a wood-handled hatchet. There are many makers and styles, some of the best of which are Scandinavian. If you ask any “axe head” what is their favorite hatchet, odds are that the Gransfors Bruks Small Forest Axe is at or near the top of the list.
Hatchets are not just for chopping wood. If you want to have a little fun around camp, set up a target and have at it with a throwing axe. Or if you want a little more all-around use, look for a hatchet specifically designed with a hammering head. Not all hatchet heads, particularly forged bits such as the Gransfors Bruks axe, are suitable for hammering. If you are going to beat on it, make sure the tool is designed for that kind of abuse.