6 Best Backpacking Hatchets of 2021

Last Updated: January 2021

Quick Recommendations

A commonly forgotten piece of gear on our backpacking or camping list is a quality hatchet.

While we can get a lot accomplished with a bushcraft knife, nothing quite compares to a backpacking hatchet's functionality. 

Some nights, you can get by without a hatchet, but a few smokey fires later, and you'll be glad you had a hatchet to break down larger pieces of wood into smaller pieces. 

In this article, we will do a deep dive into six of the best backpacking hatchets, as well as some of the primary criteria you should consider before buying one.

Best Overall Backpacking Hatchet

The best all-around backpacking hatchet on our list had to be the Estwing Sportsman's Axe. It comes in both a 12" and 14" size, but we prefer the 12" for optimal packability. 

Although this is a small hatchet, it packs quite the punch and can get most necessary camping activities done with ease.

It has a great aesthetic and includes a leather handle grip.

The only real downside could also be a pro to some backpackers and bushcrafters because the hatchet's steel head is attached to the shaft.

The reason this could be a con is that it makes the head non-replaceable. However, it does add to the durability and strength of the hatchet as a whole.

It is incredibly lightweight, which is essential when choosing a hatchet for backpacking.

Although it is small, it can still split wood, make kindling, and performs well on any human-powered backcountry adventure.

Key Specs:

  • Weight: 1.7lbs
  • Overall Length: 12-14"
  • Blade Material: American Steel

What we like: 

  • Made in the USA
  • Very affordable 
  • Easy to use and maneuver 

What we don't like:

  • The head is not replaceable 

Runner-up Best Backpacking Hatchet

Suppose you are looking for even higher quality option than our top pick. In that case, the Gransfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet is an excellent choice.

Gransfors Bruks also makes a full-size axe that is optimal for yard work and car camping, but the Wildlife Hatchet is ideal for backpacking purposes.

It is a lightweight design that does not skimp on the durability or quality of materials, so it will be more expensive than some other options on our list.

The size and weight of the hatchet make it the perfect size for any backpacking adventure.

The blade itself has more of a curve than other hatchets, making it more functional for slicing than splitting wood.

Overall, for the needs of most backpackers, the Gransfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet will be a quality and long-lasting tool.

Key Specs:

  • Weight: 1.3lbs
  • Overall Length: 13.5"
  • Blade Material: Swedish High Carbon Steel

What we like: 

  • Optimally durable and robust design
  • Very packable 
  • Made with high-quality materials 

What we don't like:

  • Pricey

Best Budget Backpacking Hatchet

Buying budget items is a good launching point. Especially if you are someone who camps a few times a year or isn't sure they want to invest fully into backcountry activity.

Bear in mind that when it comes to outdoor equipment that most high-quality, durable equipment will be more expensive and perform far better. 

That isn't to say that the Tabor Tools Camp Hatchet isn't a good choice, but it isn't the highest-quality choice. It happens to be extremely affordable, and it will get the job done. 

It isn't too large or too heavy to bring backpacking, and it is straightforward to use.

You will have no problem making kindling or shaving down wood with this tool, but when it comes to chopping, make sure you know how to sharpen the blade as it may dull quickly. 

If you plan on splitting a lot of wood, consider one of Tabor Tools larger axes or pairing their hatchet with their log splitting tool

Key Specs:

  • Weight: 1.9lbs
  • Overall Length: 14"
  • Blade Material: Steel

What we like: 

  • The blade is easy to sharpen
  • Ergonomic grip increases balance while chopping
  • Comes with a blade cover for easy transport

What we don't like:

  • Materials aren't of the highest quality

Best Hatchet for Camping

All of Hults Brukk hatchets and axes are quality choices for any camping experience.

However, the Hults Bruk Jonaker Hatchet is perfect for camping because of the size and application. It is a bit more expensive than other hatchets on the list, but it is well worth the money. 

Most of the time, when we are camping, we don't need much more than a hatchet to make a few small cuts and to make kindling, so a full-size axe isn't necessary.

So, choosing one that is lightweight, packable, and easy to use should be a priority. 

The head of this hatchet makes it ideal for carving or making kindling for a fire. The short handle gives you more control over small, precise movements, and the cut of the blade provides a sharp, refined edge.

Key Specs:

  • Weight: 1.5lbs
  • Overall Length: 9.4"
  • Blade Material: Solid Swedish Steel

What we like: 

  • Simple, effective design
  • Strong and durable head
  • Excellent for carving

What we don't like:

  • Slightly expensive

Best Lightweight Backpacking Hatchet

Most of the hatchets on our list are under 2lbs, but the Gerber Back Paxe II takes the prize for the best lightweight hatchet for backpacking. 

While there may be smaller, even lighter hatchets on the market, the Gerber Back Paxe II should be a top choice because of the quality, durability, and ease of use. 

The sleek design isn't just for looks either. The blade has a PTFE coating, which reduces friction as you chop, preventing the axe head from getting stuck.

The short handle makes it easy to maneuver when making kindling or carving but still allows for effective chopping due to shock-absorbent properties.

With all of these features, the Gerber Back Paxe II still manages to be extremely affordable. It is a great companion for any backcountry trip or even for car camping. 

The only potential downside of this hatchet is that it uses a larger plastic sheath instead of having a rubber cover for the blade.

It is a bit bulky, but it does a great job protecting the blade and is safer if camping with small children.

Key Specs:

  • Weight: 1.2lbs
  • Overall Length: 9"
  • Blade Material: Forged Steel with PTFE coating

What we like: 

  • Small, lightweight, and easy to carry
  • PTFE coating on blade reduces friction while chopping
  • Shock absorbent handle

What we don't like:

  • Plastic sheath is somewhat bulky

Best Hatchet for Splitting Wood

While all CRKT axes tend to be top of their class, the Freyr Axe brings a little bit of style and a lot of functionality to any trip into the woods. 

It has a durable hickory handle and an interesting curve to the blade. After a few uses, you will learn to love the unique design, and the Freyr will soon become your go-to wood chopping tool. 

Although this axe is a bit longer than other options on our list, that's what makes it ideal for chopping and splitting wood.

While you can accomplish this with shorter handles, you can add more momentum and force with a longer handle, making the wood splitting process much easier.

This axe's head can get a nice, sharp splitting edge, but it doesn't always come ready to use from the factory.

It will help if you plan on sharpening the head before using it to get the blade's optimal performance.

Key Specs:

  • Weight: 1.79lbs
  • Overall Length: 16.125"
  • Blade Material: 1055 carbon steel

What we like: 

  • Supports military veterans
  • Durable hickory handle
  • Easy to carry and use

What we don't like:

  • Factory edge will need to be sharpened upon arrival 

Backpacking Hatchet Buying Guide

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Not all hatchets are created equal, and not all hatchets have the same intended purpose.

Knowing those two things going into buying your backpacking hatchet is extremely important.

Before you jump into the shopping process, whether it be online or in-person, the first decision you should make is what your budget is. 

Backpacking and bushcraft hatchets are not the most affordable item if you want a high-quality tool that will last you years of use.

Once you've narrowed down your price range, then you can start to dig a little deeper into a few other purchasing considerations. 

Type of Hatchet and Intended Use  

Another primary consideration when choosing a backpacking hatchet is what your intended use is going to be.

Are you planning to take a hatchet with you strictly to make fire building easier? Or are you intending on sharpening your throwing skills? Are you learning more survival and bushcraft skills?

These questions and more will help you decide which type of hatchet is right for you. Each activity requires slightly different hatchet designs. 

When choosing the best backpacking hatchet, though, we recommend that you look for a hatchet that is a multi-purpose tool.

It should be versatile enough to chop wood, make kindling, use as a hammer, limbing, digging, and carve wood. 

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Size & Weight

No matter the piece of gear, when you're backpacking, every ounce counts.

So, when shopping for the best backpacking hatchet, it is essential to consider your hatchet's size and weight along with the price and functionality. 

Seeing that a hatchet too small has limited application, in general, it is safe to invest in a hatchet anywhere from 9-14" long.

If it is a bit longer than that, it could still be used for backpacking, but you'd have to be okay with carrying some extra weight. 

If possible, the hatchet should be under 2lbs for backpacking purposes. Heavier than that, and you are likely getting more into the size of an axe, not a hatchet. 

The longer and heavier the axe is, the easier it will be to chop wood efficiently, but the more cumbersome and impractical it will be as an actual backcountry tool. 

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Materials

Always look at what materials the hatchet is made from. This should include both the head and the handle. 

Most blades will be made from steel of some kind, but they will vary in the type of steel and the coating.

Generally, bushcraft specific hatchets will be pretty universal, but as you get into more particular crafts like carving hatchets or felling hatchets, the blade materials may differ more. 

Handle material and shape also impact the durability and functionality of the hatchet. When looking at hatchet handles, most of them will be made from a strong wood of some kind.

However, it isn't uncommon for cheaper hatchets to use plastic handles with a rubber grip. There is nothing wrong with this, but plastic tends to be less durable in the long run and doesn't hold up as well in cold conditions. 

You can also look to see if the head and handle are connected or not. This could determine durability as well as functionality in the field.

If the head is connected to the shaft, then it will likely be stronger. However, the major downside to that is the head then becomes irreplaceable. When the head isn't attached to the handle, it has the potential to loosen and come off. 

Backpacking Hatchet FAQs

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How should you care for your hatchet?

Once you invest in a backpacking hatchet, to get the most out of your new purchase, you need to maintain and care for it properly. 

Both the head and the handle should be cared for. 

Beyond the occasional sharpening of the axe head, the major piece of maintenance should be to prevent any rust from building on the steel. Some hatchet blades will use a coating to help you in this rust prevention process, but that doesn't eliminate the possibility.

Recognize that rust build up not only makes your hatchet look bad, but it also compromises the sharpness of the edge. To prevent rust from accumulating, oil the head from time to time. This can be done after sharpening or before being put into storage for the winter. 

The handle of your hatchet is often a forgotten part of maintaining your bushcraft tool.

Most of the best backcountry hatchets use wood for their handles, though, and to improve the lifespan of your hatchet, the wood should be finished from time to time.

You can use a variety of different quality wood finishes, but we recommend boiled linseed oil. 

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What's the difference between an axe and a hatchet?

There are three main types of wood cutting tools to know the differences between hatchets, small axes, and felling axes.

They all have their specific uses and qualities. In general, hatchets will be the smallest, which is why they are ideal for backpacking. 

Hatchets are most often used for chopping small pieces of wood, carving wood, limbing trees, throwing, dressing game, and sometimes digging. 

Small axes will be similar to hatchets, but they have a broader application. Unlike a hatchet, most axes will have longer handles, requiring you to hold them with both hands to use.

They will make it easier to chop and split wood because of this, but even small axes can carve and make kindling if held close to the head.

Then you have larger, felling axes, which are the most aggressive and heavy-duty axe option.

They will have long handles that make it possible to fell trees to clear brush, chop firewood, and even build shelters.

These axe types are only suitable for large projects and will have limited application in terms of craft. 

How to Sharpen Your Hatchet?

Final Takeaways

A quality hatchet should be a key piece of gear for every outdoorsperson. 

Most of our favorite camping and backpacking memories wouldn't be quite the same without a night spent around a campfire.

Some nights, you can get by without a hatchet, but a few smokey fires later, and you'll be glad you had a hatchet to break down larger pieces of wood into smaller pieces. 

However, with countless options to choose from finding the best backpacking hatchet for your needs is not easy. 

We hope that after reading our reviews and buying guide you should now have no problem finding the best hatchet.

Happy Chopping!

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