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Gerber 9-Inch Hatchet

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Gerber 14″ Hatchet

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Hults Bruk Tarnaby Hatchet
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The Best Backpacking Hatchets & Axes

Whether you’re thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail or tackling terrain in your own backyard, a particular set of tools are sure to accompany you on every backpacking journey. 

From the handy pocket knife to the tried-and-trusted camping spork, each piece of equipment that occupies space in your pack is designed to be versatile, lightweight, and durable.

From setting up camp and preparing dinner to constructing an emergency shelter, the backpacking hatchet is a reliable tool that every hiker should have by their side. 

This simple piece of equipment has been put to use by our ancestors for thousands of years, and modern technologies have made the unwavering design more reliable than ever before. 

As the temperatures rise and backpacking season emerges in full force, take a look at the best backpacking hatchets and axes to find the one that’s built to meet your every need on the trail.

Best Backpacking Hatchets

Gerber 14″ Hatchet

best backpacking hatchet
  • Head material: Forged steel
  • Length: 14 inches
  • Handle material: Glass-filled nylon
  • Head weight: N/A
  • Overall weight: 1 lb 6.6 oz.

Oregon-based equipment manufacturer Gerber produces some of the world’s toughest pieces of outdoor gear. The company’s problem-solving, life-saving products are carried by hunters, soldiers, and tradesmen to overcome any obstacle, large or small. 

Though Gerber designs a vast number of hatchets and axes, their 14” Freescape Hatchet is engineered for life in the backcountry.

Featuring a forged steel head and a shock-absorbing FiberComp® handle, the Freescape is your troubleshooting assistant when smaller tools can’t get the job done. As the “middle brother” of the Gerber single-hand axe series, this mighty little hatchet is extremely durable and lightweight yet fully capable of packing a serious punch. 

The axe’s forged steel head offers superior edge retention to slice through wood at a depth that’s three times greater than average. The head’s coated surface also prevents the blade from sticking in wood as you prepare the campfire. 

The handle, meanwhile, is made from a soft-touch over-mold with shock-absorbing properties to help prevent overstrike injuries. 

Use the Freescape to chop wood, pound tent stakes, or slice veggies like a lumberjack. When you’re done, throw on the protective sheath to keep the blade in top-quality condition.

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Hults Bruk Tarnaby Hatchet

  • Head material: Solid Swedish steel
  • Length: 15 inches
  • Handle material: Hickory
  • Head weight: 1.25 lbs
  • Overall weight: 2 lbs 3 oz.

The Tarnaby Hatchet from Hults Bruk weighs more than its lightweight competitors, but that weight adds up to more power whether you’re making kindling or clearing the trail ahead. 

The hatchet’s head is made from hand-forged Swedish steel in a foundry that has been in operation since 1697, and the steel itself is struck multiple times to increase its density and durability.

In keeping with their superior attention to detail, Hults Bruk constructed the head in a manner that creates tempered zones that hold a sharper edge, even after prolonged use. 

The hickory handle is treated with a protective coating of linseed oil, and each axe comes with a traditional leather protective sheath that’s embellished with unique Swedish decorative elements.

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Estwing Sportsman’s Axe

best backaclomg hatchet
  • Head material: Forged American Steel
  • Length: 14 inches
  • Handle material: Forged American steel with shock-reduction grip
  • Head weight: N/A
  • Overall weight: 2 lbs

As the big sibling to the Estwing Sportsman’s Ax, the Camper’s Ax features many of the qualities in a bigger package that’s well-suited for life on the trail. The drop-forged steel head is tempered for prolonged backcountry use, and the metal is hand-sharpened and polished to last when other axes would sooner fail.

Unlike the Sportsman’s Axe that features a genuine leather grip, the Camper’s Axe makes use of shock reduction composite materials that are bonded to the handle so your hands will never slip — Estwing claims the grip will reduce vibrations by as much as 70%. 

The axe head’s unique design features a triangular cutout that’s designed to help you pull out those troublesome tent stakes.

While other axes often expose the metal to the elements, the Camper’s Axe utilizes a black powder coat to shrug off water, dirt, and debris.

Choose from three different handle colors that include blue, black, and blaze orange, and secure the blade with the durable nylon sheath to keep it safe when it’s not in use.

All in all, one of the best backpacking axes out there.

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CRKT Freyr Axe

best backpacking hatchet
  • Head material: Hot Forged 1055 Carbon Steel
  • Length: 16 inches
  • Handle material: Tennessee Hickory
  • Head weight: N/A
  • Overall weight: 1.79 lbs

Columbia River Knife & Tool, or CRKT for short, has manufactured everyday carry tools for over 25 years out of their Oregon-based headquarters to award-winning success. The company’s Freyr Axe may look peculiar with its simplistic design, but CRKT shaped this tool with Viking style in mind. After all, why meddle with an axe shape that’s been tried and true for over a thousand years?

The blade is forged from 1055 carbon steel that receives a passivation treatment for ultimate corrosion resistance, and the handle is carved from 

Tennessee hickory and is crafted for durability and ease of use. Designed by Elmer Roush in Brasstown, North Carolina, the Freyr Axe is made within CRKT’s Forged By War program — a therapeutic project that allows combat veterans to design and forge custom tools drawn from their experiences in combat situations.

10% of the proceeds from the Freyr Axe go to the Green Beret Foundation, so your money is supporting not only a local brand, but a veteran as well.

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Fiskars Small Hatchet 

  • Head material: Forged steel
  • Length: 13.75 inches
  • Handle material: FiberComp® handle
  • Head weight: N/A
  • Overall weight: 1.4 lbs

As one of the best backpacking hatchets and axes available on the market today, the Fiskars Small Hatchet measures a mere 14 inches in length and weighs less than two pounds to offer superior versatility on the trail. 

The blade’s ultra-sharp edge holds up to chopping projects on small- to medium-sized logs, and the low-friction blade coating prevents the head from getting stuck.

Much like the Gerber 14” Hatchet, the Fiskars Small Hatchet incorporates a shock-absorbing FiberComp handle that’s lightweight yet stronger than steel to prevent overstrike damage. The insert-molded head attaches securely to the handle, so it won’t come loose after repeated use, and an included sheath protects the blade and the user against unwanted cuts.

A lifetime warranty ensures the Fiskars Hatchet will stay by your side for years to come and cements its place as one of the best lightweight backpacking hatchets.

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Gerber 9” Hatchet

best backpacking hatchet
  • Head material: Forged steel
  • Length: 9 inches
  • Handle material: Glass-filled nylon
  • Head weight: N/A
  • Overall weight: 20 oz

As the smallest and lightest hatchet on this list, Gerber’s 9” Hatchet is extremely minimal yet exceptionally durable, making it the perfect trail companion when you’re looking to save weight deep in the backcountry. The forged steel head holds an edge without breaking a sweat, and the shock-absorbing FiberComp® handle will reduce vibration while preventing overstrike.

The hatchet’s portable design works well in the kits of outdoor aficionados and hikers alike, and its size makes it ideal for chopping kindling or splitting small logs. The included sheath will protect the blade and your gear as you make your way along the trail, making this an intuitive kit axe for camping and beyond.

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Schrade SCAXE10

  • Head material: 3Cr13 Stainless steel
  • Length: 11 inches
  • Handle material: Stainless steel
  • Head weight: N/A
  • Overall weight: 1 lb 6 oz.

The Schrade SCAXE10 is an inexpensive entry into the world of backpacking hatchets and axes that features a stainless steel blade and a durable stainless steel handle coated in a layer of thermoplastic rubber. 

The axe’s handle acts as a hammer pommel to drive in tent stakes when the ground is hard, and the lanyard at the base of the handle will secure the axe to a backpack or other piece of equipment for safe storage when not in use.

The blade is sharp out of the box, and the axe comes with a protective sheath, though many have mentioned it may not attach securely to a pack or belt loop (you may want to purchase a separate sheath just in case). The SCAXE10 is well-suited for any outdoorsman or prepper thanks to its broad utility as a lightweight and durable tool.

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Gransfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet

  • Head material: Forged steel
  • Length: 13.5 inches
  • Handle material: Hickory
  • Head weight: N/A
  • Overall weight: 1.3 lbs

Perfectly designed for limbing or splitting wood for the fire, the Gransfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet is a lightweight option that’s small enough to fit in your pack or belt, making it one of the best lightweight hatchets for backpacking. 

Each hatchet head is individually hammered into shape, and it bears the initials of the smith who made it to create a one-of-a-kind masterpiece.

While other hatchets can easily tear a hole in your pack, the Wildlife Hatchet makes use of a creative sheath that covers the edges and the top of the poll to protect your belongings as you trek. The blade comes razor sharp out of the box, and a belt loop holder makes for the perfect addition to ensure this hatchet is always by your side when you need it most.

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Adler German Axes Rheinland Hatchet

best backpacking axe
  • Head material: C45 Steel
  • Length: 14 inches
  • Handle material: U.S. Hickory
  • Head weight: 1 lb 5 oz.
  • Overall weight: 1 lb 14 oz.

Think of Adler’s Rheinland Hatchet as your all-purpose companion in the backcountry. Measuring a mere 14 inches in length, the Rheinland is easily transportable thanks in-part to a lightweight hickory handle and a sharpened head made from durable C45 steel.

The Rheinland may look old-fashioned, but underneath its timeless design you’ll find a modern fit and finish. The handle, for instance, is coated in a layer of black anti-slip paint to allow for a secure grip no matter the conditions. The head shape, meanwhile, is broader at the blade to offer a larger, curved cutting surface. And the head mount is made from wood with a round metal wedge to provide endless splitting capabilities for years to come.

German manufacturer Adler was founded in 1919, and their factory builds on 4 generations of know-how to produce a wide variety of world-class axes and hatchets. Even excess wood waste from the handle manufacturing process is reused to generate the energy that runs the factory. The Rheinland comes with a cotton storage bag and a heavy-duty leather sheath with a 2-button release system.

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How to Choose a Hatchet

Deciding on the best hatchet for backpacking can pose a serious challenge. After all, this single piece of gear will likely be the heaviest piece of equipment in your arsenal, so it pays to ensure your next hatchet is designed to meet your needs if it’s going to occupy space.

Though some hatchets tout superior materials and others boast their lightweight construction, the best hatchets will provide a combination of these characteristics alongside a price tag that won’t burn a hole through your pocket. Let’s take a look at the many characteristics that define a hatchet to determine which one is right for you.

Size & Weight

While you’ll want your hatchet to be lightweight and easy to carry, that lack of weight comes at a cost when the time comes to chop a piece of wood. The lighter the head of your hatchet is, the more work you’re going to do to split a piece of wood, big or small.

Also, reduced length means reduced head speed and overall power. This again means you’ll find yourself working overtime to chop kindling or small logs. A hatchet that balances size and weight will weigh around 1.5 lbs and measure 9 to 12 inches in length.

Type

Believe it or not, more than one type of hatchet exists on the market today. After all, a hatchet and an axe may look similar in many ways, but they’re technically not the same. Let’s take a look at the differences between these tools in greater detail.

Hatchet

From the shape of the blade to the materials that are used to construct the handle, a hatchet and an axe look similar in many ways, but a hatchet is smaller than an axe. You can think of it as a lightweight axe that’s used for various tasks, from chopping wood to preparing an emergency shelter.

A hatchet is easily defined by its small handle. An axe will often incorporate a handle that allows for two-handed use, but a hatchet handle is so small that it works better when you’re using it with one hand. This is an easy way to distinguish a hatchet from an axe.

Small Axe

A small axe will incorporate a thicker blade head and a longer handle to allow for easier splitting by the campfire with two hands. Though small axes and hatchets are often intermixed with one another, a small axe will also include a small hammer on the back of the head that can be used to drive tent stakes, hit a splitting wedge, or fix other pieces of gear in the backcountry.

Felling Axe

A felling axe has a sharper and narrower blade head that’s designed to cut perpendicular to the wood’s fibers, whereas a hatchet or small axe will cut parallel to the wood’s fibers (as if you’re splitting a log). Though you can split wood with a felling axe, the head will often get stuck in the wood because it is thinner. Essentially, a felling axe is what you think of when you hear the word “axe.” It’s the tool your dad used when you were a kid.

Materials (Head & Handle)

The hatchet is composed of two primary parts: the head and the handle. The head of the axe is the heavy piece of metal on top that contains the blade, and this is always made from some form of steel. There are four different types of steel that are commonly in use today, but most hatchets will use a stainless steel blade that prevents rust and corrosion. 

Some blades are coated in a protective layer of powder or paint that adds corrosion resistance while preventing the hatchet from getting stuck in the wood.

The handle materials of the hatchet will often vary depending on the manufacturer. Some brands that have designed hatchets for decades choose to utilize natural woods such as hickory, while others have relied upon composite materials such as fiberglass that are more durable, lightweight, and cheaper to produce. Wood handles will look nicer, but composites will often last longer, especially in brutal outdoor conditions.

If you’re on the market for a hatchet but the various materials have you confused, take your time by starting with the head of the axe. Determine what type of steel is being used, and what the properties of the steel are. Is it resistant to corrosion? Will it need to be sharpened regularly? Refer to a blade steel guide that can help you along the way.

Once you’ve identified the head material, take some time to decide on the handle material. Wood is pretty and timeless, but it’s also prone to damage. Composites are cheaper and more lightweight, but they may wear down over time.

Deciding which materials are right for you comes down to personal preference, so don’t grow too concerned thinking one is better than the other.

Price

When it comes to camping and backpacking hatchets, you get what you pay for. High-quality composites and steel that won’t break down over time may come at a price, but they’ll last longer at the end of the day.

If you find yourself in the backcountry every weekend, invest in a high-end hatchet that’s designed for regular use. It may cost more upfront, but it will last longer too. If you’re the type to go camping every now and then, feel free to purchase something that’s cheaper and simpler. 

It will still get the job done at the end of the day, and you won’t need to care for it after the camping trip comes to an end.

Final Thoughts

Whether you decide to pack a hatchet or not depends on the type of backpacking you’re into. If you decide to add one to your arsenal of equipment, make sure the extra weight is worth it by purchasing the best backpacking hatchet you can afford. 

Avoid the hatchets that seem gimmicky, and don’t let the fancy ones fool you.

The best backpacking hatchets and axes will be easy to use, and they’ll help you get the campfire going at the end of a long day.

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