One of the best tools to have with you in the wilderness, at home, and anywhere else that requires a bit of outdoor help is the hatchet. Hatchets are incredible pieces of equipment that are quite versatile.
Essentially, hatchets are one-handed axes that are used for things like preparing firewood, cutting brush, and driving stakes. They are designed to be portable, lightweight, and easy to use.
However, you may not know that there are many different types of hatchets on the market. Not all are created equal, and there are tons of brands, designs, and builds that make up the industry. Each type is created specifically for a certain action or use. Some are very versatile and can handle a number of things. Others are very specific and are produced to do certain jobs. It all depends on the build, design, and materials used.
What to look for in a hatchet
There are a few aspects of a hatchet that makes it good and useful. To find the best option for you, weigh your wants and needs and compare them to what each option can offer. Here are some things to look for in hatchets no matter the type!
Strength and durability
First and foremost, your hatchet needs to be durable enough for whatever task it is doing. The strength can vary based on how strong you need it. For example, if you want a hatchet to do some heavy chopping, you need a strong one. On the contrary, if you want one for basic, small bushcraft, you can dial it back a little bit.
It also has to be useful. Certain hatchets are specialized for certain uses. A tomahawk will not be as useful for you if you want to chop wood as a felling hatchet would be. Weigh your options and get a tool that best fits your needs.
Many hatchets have a unique factor or alternative use that can be useful to you. The simple hatchets could be enough, but sometimes you want a tool that can be more versatile.
Today, we will be breaking down the most common types of hatchets and how they are best used for certain scenarios. At the end, you should have a much better grasp on hatchet types and what would best suit you!
Hatchets date back thousands of years, but the tactical version seems relatively new in the big scoop of things. The word “tactical” is an interesting one because, in the way it is applied to a hatchet, there is no real definition. In fact, people tend to group tactical hatchets and axes together because they take on similar shapes.
In general, these are made for survival situations rather than average practicality. For example, tactical hatchets usually aren’t used for chopping wood. Rather, they are used around camp for driving in stakes, dropping small trees, and other loose end jobs.
They tend to be sleeker, lighter, and more modern in terms of design and looks. The traditional hatchet probably has a wooden handle and defined steelhead. Tactical hatchets are usually all metal and are far slimmer.
The term “tactical” sometimes denotes many uses that are added onto the hatchet. These could include a bottle opener, steel striker, carrying bag, and more. You may be getting a little more than what the traditional hatchet offers, but this will vary.
Here are a few features specific to a tactical hatchet:
- Small, compact design that is great for backpacking and easy storage
- The rust-resistant coating on many options.
- Very durable and will last a long time.
- Usually includes a sheath or carrying case that can be attached to a bag
- Add-ons are included in the package.
A sportsman’s hatchet is very much the “typical” hatchet that may come to mind. They are generally simple in design and take an everyday approach that is for the common person.
The Estwing hatchet has taken on an identity of its own within the hatchet space. Just how we think of Kleenex, but in reality, it is tissues, the same rule applies. The Estwing has grown into such a recognizable tool that it could be characterized as its own thing. Estwing is the brand that made and popularized the sportsman’s hatchet. So much, in fact, that they have claimed this category of hatchets for their own in a way.
Besides the iconic “Estwing” script with the yellow background, this hatchet is differentiated by the handle shape specifically. There is a certain curvature of the wooden handle that fits in hand well without being overkill. It is still straightforward and provides a touch of leverage that some hatchets falter at giving.
This is the perfect hatchet to be a daily user. This does not mean you have to use it all the time, but you can beat it up, use it a lot, and get a ton of value out of the hatchet. Simple work like cutting tinder, preparing general firewood, and doing those odds-and-ends jobs is where this tool really sticks out. It is nothing fancy and delivers quality in its simplest form.
Here are a few features specific to a sportsman’s hatchet:
- A cornerstone of the market that has built a good reputation within the industry
- The handle is shaped in a way to be comfortably maneuvered.
- A dependable product that should last a long time
- Affordable without being cheap
Like the sportsman’s hatchet, the forester’s hatchet has been popularized and perfected by a specific brand. Hults Bruk Akka is the industry leader in forester’s hatchets. Although there are many other brands that have produced some quality tools of this type, it is worth mentioning this brand compared to the rest.
This brand is a bit pricier than the others, but you are getting fantastic value for your money. If you want a hatchet that can be used for traditional things and last nearly a lifetime, this is the type and brand to look into.
A forester’s hatchet can relate to the “typical” hatchet that a common person may think of. Its design is simplistic, functional, and traditional. Most models have a wooden handle that fits well in hand. Nothing special, but sometimes special is not the way to go in that regard.
This is the perfect tool for those traditional wilderness jobs and adventures. There are no fancy add-ons or additional uses, but this hatchet does one thing super well: It serves as a reliable, steady hatchet that will be worth the investment. Plain and simple.
The Hults Bruk brand model features American Hickory for the handle and a Swedish steelhead. This combination proves its worth as it remains an industry leader of its kind to this day.
Chopping small wood, carving out work, and being an all-around campsite tool is where the forester’s hatchet excels. At the end of the day, this build and style bring the usefulness that many explorers and outdoors people need. No matter the brand, this is a steady type of hatchet.
Here are a few features specific to a forester’s hatchet:
- Made of high-quality materials to have a long life
- Strong and sturdy without overdoing it
- Encompasses a “traditional” hatchet look and shape
The felling hatchet comes from the felling axe, but in a smaller, more compact version. Felling hatchets are used mostly for chopping and woodwork. Similar to the sportsman’s and forester’s hatchets, the look takes on one of the “normal” hatchets. However, this one is a bit different from the others.
This is mainly due to the felling’s build and ability to cut wood. Not many hatchet types can handle the wood that this option can. This is a huge selling point because you can do what many other tools can’t without having to upgrade to a full-sized axe.
The strength comes from the usually wooden handle that can be wielded with one hand and the unique build of the head. To the normal eye, the head seems pretty standard, but it is constructed in a way to maximize the chopping abilities.
The blade is thin and sharp and backed by a thick build around the top of the handle. This takes what you can handle up a notch. Although it looks very standard on first look, felling hatchets are fantastic for getting the job done.
Where it lacks is complexity in terms of ulterior uses. It is made for preparing firewood, so using it for that is the best possible thing to do. It can absolutely be used for everyday bushcraft and more unique projects, but remember what its roots are.
Here are a few features that are unique to a felling hatchet:
- Has a strong, unique head to maximize your chopping abilities.
- Features a thin, tough blade that can withstand more work than many others on this list.
- It can be expensive but will last a long time due to the quality of the product.
This is really the only section of this blog that groups the axe and hatchet together in the name. This is because a carpenter’s axe is generally the same size as what we consider to be a hatchet. Although commonly called a carpenter’s axe, the terminology can be interchanged to hatchet as well.
The tool gets its name from being small enough to maneuver by carpenters in tricky positions. It is light enough to carry on the belt, but it is also strong enough to do some serious work. More specifically, Japanese carpenters love this tool because the culture, at least back in the day, would use more wood than stone for building. So, the compact axe could be used easily and quickly while up and building.
Compared to other hatchets, this model is differentiated by the shape of the head that makes it perfect for chopping and sculpting. Although you may not use this for contemporary carpentry, it is really good for building structures in the wilderness, chopping wood, and doing some more traditional hatchet work. They feature a strong wood handle with a blocked head that gives you great leverage.
Here are a few features specific to a carpenter’s hatchet:
- Unique blade and head shape to optimize chopping ability.
- A sturdy wooden handle that gives off a classic hatchet look.
- Great for choked up, one-handed work. This ensures specific, accurate detail work.
Especially in recent years, survival hatchets have grown immensely in popularity for a number of reasons. Now, survival hatchets are NOT the same as tactical hatchets. There is certainly some crossover, but there are differences that we will discuss.
The differences between the two are very subtle, but they are also worth mentioning. The main difference is the general size. Obviously, every brand has its own take, and some brands will overlap survival and tactical, but the size is a way to sort it all out. Tactical hatchets tend to be light and compact, but they usually feature longer handles and skinnier heads.
Survival hatchets, on the other hand, tend to have smaller handles and stocky heads. For example, the Gerber Bear Grylls survival hatchet is one of the most popular of its kind. The handle is very short, and the blade is the star of the show.
The difference is subtle, but this is a unique sect of the hatchet world.
Here are a few features specific to a survival hatchet:
- Shorter build made for easy storage on the go
- Generally made of composite materials to avoid decay that could occur with wood.
- Lightweight and easy to use in the field.
Forged Steel Hatchet
One type of hatchet that deserves its own section is the forged steel hatchet. As the name implies, this type of hatchet has a unique build that should be differentiated from the rest.
Forged steel is a material made of alloyed carbon and iron to create a super-strong build. Forged steel can be found in a plethora of other items, and hatchets are no exception.
Several brands produce a forged steel hatchet as each wants to take advantage of the need for a strong tool. One common trend among forged steel hatchets is the head and top of the handle all being one piece. Traditionally, the handle will be one piece, and the head will be attached to it. Many forged steel tools will have a solid piece that connects much of the handle with the head.
Then, a more comfortable handle can be applied to the bottom. You don’t want to be swinging a solid chunk of steel because nothing can absorb the shock. Usually, there is a wooden or rubber handle to help with that issue.
This would be considered a chopping hatchet as it is strong enough to handle some severe wood cutting action. Obviously, it is not as useful in that aspect as an ae, but in terms of hatchets, this is one of the best kinds for that.
A top brand that brings an excellent product is Fiskars. It is an affordable tool that can be super handy and last a long time. Now, not all forged steel options are that cheap, so keep that in mind when in the market for one. They can get quite pricey because of their strength.
Here are a few features specific to a forged steel hatchet:
- Reinforced build that makes the hatchet very strong
- It will last a long time because of that strength
- Can handle heavier chopping and cutting
Roofing hatchets are super unique because they have a very specific use that does not often transfer over into other areas. As you can probably assume by the name, roofing hatchets are meant to be used on the roof.
This sounds obvious, but it is not like a forester’s hatchet that can be used in a number of scenarios for a range of uses. This has a specific use, and you probably won’t buy one if you are not trying to accomplish a specific task.
The normal roofing hatchet contains the classic wooden handle that is used for a number of other types. Where things get funky is with the head. The head is nothing like the normal hatchet. This is because it is designed for roofing. There are a couple of different features that depend on the brand, but the idea of a roofing hatchet stays the same.
One end is dedicated to driving in roofing nails, and the other is a bit more versatile. On the nail end, which is where the blade would be on traditional hatchets, there is often a magnet so you can stick the nail on and hammer away.
On the back end, there can be a few different tools. The main options include a shingle cutter, a nail remover, a sliding gauge, and more. Different models will have different configurations, but with a roofing hatchet, you want to be able to nail, remove nails, and cut shingles. These are the basics.
Here are some features unique to a roofing hatchet:
- Light, easy to handle design so it can be used on a roof with no issues
- Unique head design to hit on all of the uses required for roofing duties
- Many uses packed into one design even though it is very specific to one duty
- Easy to attach to a belt for quick use in precarious situations.
You probably already know what a Tomahawk is, but it is more than what is shown in the movies. Back in the day, Native Americans would use tomahawks for everyday use as well as hunting. Now, modern life does not use tomahawks in the mainstream.
However, they can still be used for camping and other outdoor endeavors. Although they have changed a bit since the origins, the tomahawks still deserve their own section of this list.
Similar to knives, there is a sect of tomahawks that are designed for throwing and sport. Although this is a good deal of them, they are not normally used in the outdoors. However, this type and the ones that are used for real work are not that far off.
Tomahawks are very similar to survival hatchets, and the main difference is the general shape. The blade tends to be skinnier and the handle a little bit longer. There also tends to be an alternative use established into the back end of the head. This could be a pick, nail puller, or something similar. This is a cool perk because it lets you get a little more use out of the tool than you normally would.
The main use for a tomahawk is absolutely not chopping wood. This type of tool is fantastic for cutting down small trees and brush that only requires a hit or two. It is the small, random work where a tactical tomahawk excels.
Here are a few features specific to a tomahawk:
- Sleek, compact design that makes it good for small jobs.
- Usually made of strong composite material, but some use the traditional wood handle.
- There tend to be alternative uses and tools built into the overall design.
- Light, easy to use design that is great for use on the go.
Here are some of the best types of hatchets and their uses! As you can see, there are far more types than meet the average person’s eye. Each one has unique features that contribute to how they are used and what you can do with them.
In order to find the best hatchet for you, survey your own needs and see where they match up with some of the above options. This way, you can find what best suits your needs and invest in a tool that fits you the best. Especially because some of these options can get quite pricey, you want the insurance that you can get the most use out of it possible.