Axe vs hatchet for camping

Axe or hatchet for camping?

What is better – an axe or a hatchet for camping? There are different opinions about this. Axes and hatchets are similar but hatchets are typically smaller and lighter than axes. They can be used for the same types of activities (mostly chopping and splitting wood) but each has its pros and cons. So which is best for camping:

You are in a rush, and you need to pack yourself very quickly for a several days camping in the woods with your friends. You take your backpack, what is the first thing you will put in?

A hatchet is lighter, shorter and therefore more portable than an axe. This generally means that a hatchet moresuitable for camping than an axe, especially if you need to carry it with you on foot. However, an axe is more effective at chopping and splitting wood due to the extra length (giving you more leverage) and weight (giving you more power). So if you are planning to do a lot of chopping or splitting or if you do not need to carry your equipment very far on foot then an axe is more suitable. 

You are in a rush, and you need to pack yourself very quickly for a several days camping in the woods with your friends. You take your backpack, what is the first thing you will put in?

Let me guess: Your hatchet or your axe.

Maybe you already know what a hatchet is and why someone would need a hatchet.

But what would be more useful for you when camping? You can’t take both for sure.

In case you are looking to buy one and are looking for a comparison, here are some models that are worth a look.

Axes and hatchets recommendations

Model Overall length Blade length Weight Price
Fiskars x11 17” 3” 2.1 lbs $
Schrade SCAXE 2 11.8” 3.8” 1.4 lbs $
Shiflett Steel Throwing Axe 11.3” 5.3” 0.8 lbs $
CIMA Tactical Tomahawk Camping Axe 11.8” 4.3” 1.1 lbs $
MTech USA XTREME MX-AXE10BK 8.25” 0.2” 0.5 lbs $
MTech USA MT-AXE8 15” 3.5” 0.5 lbs $
Cold Steel 90TH 22” 6.5” 1.3 lbs $
Gerber Gator Combo Axe II 15.6” 6.1” 1.6 lbs $
Gransfors Bruks Axe 14.5” 2.5” 1 lbs $$$
Westerlings Saw 118 Outdoor Axe 14.5” 3” 2.3 lbs $$

In case you are interested in more models, I would suggest visiting my other articles for bushcraft hatchets and axes, as well as a guide to all the activities you can use a hatchet for.

Both articles have more than enough model reviews that will help you with your tool choice.

Survival challenges

Surviving in the wild will bring you many different challenges from chopping wood, through clearing obstacles and getting firewood.

In order to keep yourself alive, you will need to do these tasks quickly and efficiently. That will require having a range of tools like a knife, an axe, as well as a hammer.

But, since you can’t take many tools with you, you will need to shorten the list of things. The biggest, and probably the toughest decision would be whether you should take a hatchet or an axe.

Axe vs hatchet comparison

Although they look very similar, these tools are different. In this section, the focus will be on several aspects, so you will be able to learn the difference and decide what exactly you need.

Aspects Axe Hatchet
Activities  felling trees, splitting large wood, stripping bark,  felling smaller trees, shaving bark and splitting softer wood
Sizes  smaller versions – 19”-22”  10”-16”
Belt carrying too big to carry it on a belt  ideal for carrying on a belt
Space  requires bigger space  can be used in tight spaces
Power  very powerful  less power


The axe is made of a head and a handle. Although they are not visual, the head is made of several parts that affect the using and the balance as well. So, if you thought that the head of the axe is just the blade, you are completely wrong.

This tool is designed to be used with both hands, as that is the only way you will get maximum power. The amount of power is important as you will need to fell trees, split large wood, and strip bark.

Most of the axes are 19”-22”, but manufacturers understand the struggle of packing everything in a backpack, so you can find much smaller axes.

Even though many axes are designed for both hands, this is not a strict rule, and you can operate with many axes with one hand. But, you will need to be careful, as using this tool with one hand mean decreasing the balance, not mentioning the fact that you will be tired after a short period of operating with it.

Do I need an axe?

Well, in case you are about to do some large jobs, like shelter building, making a bridge, etc. then you should go for an axe.

But if not, there is no point in taking an axe with you. Axes are big and heavy, and you don’t want unnecessary weight on your back.

Do I need a Hatchet?

The most simple definition of a hatchet is the smallest version of an axe. But, as you will see, there are many things that make this tool different.

The major difference is in the handle – the handle of a hatchet is much smaller, which means less power. On the other side, a smaller handle is great for reaching in tight spaces, where you wouldn’t be able to make a swing with an axe.

Since it is small, this tool is used with one hand and for different activities.

What can you do with a hatchet?

You can fell small trees, split softer wood and maybe even harder if the wood is not big in diameter. Even though the is less powerful than the axe, it can chop through bones, in case you plan to go animal hunting.

In addition, hatchets can be used as hammers too.

As you can see, a hatchet is a multi-purpose tool designed for a huge variety of activities and it can make your stay in the wild much easier.

What is a tomahawk?

Tomahawk is a different type of a tool, very similar to a hatchet. Their primary function is weapon, but they are also good as a chopping and splitting wood tools.

Summing up

Both tools have advantages, but disadvantages as well. Considering all together, you need to agree that they are great tools.

Which one is better for camping?

It depends on your use. If you go with a purpose of felling trees and building shelters, you should go with an axe. Opposite, if you want to trim branches and split wood, you should pick the hatchet.

Which one do you prefer, an axe or a hatchet? Feel free to post your opinions in comments, and share your favorite models.

Best Axes and Hatchets for Camping

Maybe you have made up your mind about the if you want to take an axe or a hatchet camping, maybe not. But maybe have have not selected which model is the best for you. Check out my review of axes and hatches for camping here:

Best best saws for Camping

A hand saw can be an alternative to a hatchet or axe when camping. Check out my review of the best folding, bow, chain and wire hand saws for Camping

Fiskars hatchets, axes & splitter maul review

Fiskars make a wide range of economically priced axes, hatchets & splitter mauls. Read about the Fiskars range and the difference between them like

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Comments 1

  1. When I first went camping, I thought that an axe is going to be more handful, but after a day of carrying it, I’ve realized that I need something lighter. Still, I thought a hatchet is just too small for what people usually need on a camping trip. Luckily, I had a talk with some of my friends who are also into camping and decided to give a hatchet a try. You really don’t need all that weight for regular camping.

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