If you are in the market for a new survival hatchet, then you’ve probably already taken a look at what’s available out there. Choosing the best survival hatchet for you specific situation and use-cases can be difficult because there’s a lot of brands and products to choose from, and they pretty much all claim to be the best. We’ve have made a list of the best options available so that you can narrow down your choices to the best of the best. Your best bet is to go with one of the top picks above based on your budget.
Blade material and size, handle material, design and construction all factor into which survival hatchet will end up being the right choice for you. Think about whether you want stainless or carbon steel, what kind of grip material you think you’d like, and how you’re likely to use your survival hatchet. These factors will help you determine which survival hatchet is the best for you. If you want to take a deeper look and really figure out the best survival hatchet for your specific needs, we’ve put together a survival hatchet buying guide at the bottom of this page.
Best Survival Hatchet Buying Guide
The factors that you should look at when deciding which survival hatchet is the best for your needs include the following.
Blade Material & Construction
The first thing you should be looking at is what material the blade of your survival hatchet is made of. Obviously, your hatchet head will be made of metal, and in fact the vast majority of axe heads are made of steel. It’s the specific type of steel that matters. Hatchet blades tend to be constructed of either carbon steel or stainless steel. Stainless steel has the advantage that it doesn’t corrode or rust. However, it also isn’t as durable or retain a sharp edge as well as carbon steel – that’s because stainless steel is softer than carbon steel. Stainless steel is also much shinier in appearance than carbon steel – and will keep its ‘sheen’.
There are pros and cons to each material. If you value sharpness over all else, go with carbon. If you’re likely to deal with moist and wet conditions, perhaps stainless is the way to go (to avoid rust). Most people like the aesthetics of stainless steel more than carbon steel. Carbon steel will require less sharpening, but will require upkeep in different ways to prevent damage and corrosion.
Another factor to consider when it comes to the blade is whether your hatchet head was forged or not. Forged steel allows the grains of the metal to be aligned, which means greater durability over time. The drawback is that the best survival hatchets made with forged steel tend to be more expensive, because forging steel is more expensive and more difficult than using molds.
Lastly, some companies cover their hatchet blades with low-friction coating to allow for easier cutting, particularly through high friction materials like wood. If you’re a traditionalist, perhaps you don’t like the idea of that. Whether or not a low-friction coating interests you is a question a personal preference.
Blade size is another factor to consider – the larger the blade, the more suitable it is for heavier work, but the less precision you get. It also means you’re carrying around more weight. There’s always a trade-off between the size of a survival tool and how much it weighs, so this also comes down to personal preference. If you’re looking for greater utility, large blades are appropriate, but if portability is your first priority, then you’ll be happier with a smaller, lighter survival hatchet.
Handle Material & Length
Survival hatchet handles tend to be made of one of a few types of materials. The most traditional, classic material is wood. If you’re more of a traditionalist, then you’ll likely enjoy both the aesthetics and the feeling of a good old wooden handle.
Paracord is another material that’s becoming more popular for hatchet handles. It makes for an excellent gripping material. On the other hand, in some products, paracord can come loose from the handle, and it’s not the most comfortable material to be gripping during long term usage. It definitely means your hatchet is less likely to slip out of your hand, but that comes at the expense of comfort.
Rubber is another kind of grip that is used – the plus is that it’s much more usable in wet conditions. Rubber won’t slip even if the handle and your hand are both wet. On the other hand, not everyone is a fan of the feeling of a rubber grip, and aesthetically it’s definitely the least attractive material.
Leather is another quite classic handle material for hatchets. It’s a comfortable material to hold, and allows for pretty good gripping. It doesn’t do as well in wet conditions though.
Some survival hatchet handles (not the grip itself, but the whole handle) have shock absorbing qualities, which can allow for easier and more comfortable extended usage.
The length of the handle also matters, but this is more a personal preference factor. Longer handles mean greater power in a swing (because of leverage), but potentially less precision.
Construction Style & Features
Typically, the best survival hatchets will be full tang – what that means is that the blade of the hatchet extends all the way down through the handle as one piece of metal. This allows for greater durability, and means that the blade is less likely to become loose or detached from the handle. However, this isn’t the traditional design for survival hatchets. If you’re a traditionalist, you might prefer the look and feel of a hatchet with just a blade head. This is most typically seen in survival hatchets with wooden handles.
Some of the best survival hatchets also come with additional features – firestarters, hammer substitutes on the back side of the blade, and so forth. Think about how and where you’re likely to use your survival hatchet the most, and what tasks you want to be able to accomplish with it, and work backwards to a product that makes the most sense for you. That’s how you’re going to find the survival hatchet that’s the best fit for you specifically.
Difference between a Survival Axe and a Survival Hatchet
Many people may be wondering what the difference is between an axe and a hatchet. Well, you’re not alone, and it’s a fair question. Axes and hatchets look similar and perform similar functions, so why is there a distinction? It’s especially difficult to tell nowadays, as every company that produces outdoor tools want their products to show up regardless of whether you’re looking for a hatchet or an axe.
A hatchet is different than an axe in that it is designed to be used for multiple purposes and typically comes with a smaller handle so that it is easy to hold and use for cutting down branches, splitting firewood, and chopping large pieces of wood.
Axes were originally designed for forestry, or in earlier centuries, for use in battle. Put simply, an axe is best used if you’re looking to cut down a whole tree. A hatchet is appropriate if you’re looking to break a log down into smaller pieces. Axes typically are not made to handle all the uses of a hatchet, although that doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t work in a pinch.
What it boils down to is size. Traditionally, axes are substantially larger, and hatchets have more varied uses and are smaller. However, it’s important to keep in mind that every company wants their product to fit into both categories, so you’ll often see products with names that include both the word ‘hatchet’ and the word ‘axe’. This has happened so much that now even survivalists and outdoorsmen use the terms almost interchangeably, which is a shame.
On this site, when we refer to hatchets, we mean smaller hand tools (often suitable for single hand usage), that can be used to chop logs, but also do more precise cutting work. When we refer to axes, we’re specifying something that could be uses to cut down at least a smaller tree reasonably quickly. So all the best survival hatchets on this page fall under our understanding of what the word hatchet means.