Do you consider yourself as an outdoor enthusiast? Or do you want to become one? Do you often go hiking and feel that nature is like your own home? If you answered yes to these questions, you know the importance of fast and efficient packaging. Have you wondered why would someone need a hatchet?
A hatchet is one of the most versatile tools. A hatchet is primarily used for cutting and splitting firewood. Because of its small size (hatchets are smaller and lighter than axes), a hatchet can be easily carried or transported with you when you are in the great outdoors (camping/hiking/backpacking etc…). A hatchet can also be used for hammering (with the back of the head), whittling wood, throwing, or even skinning and butchering game animals if needed.
When getting ready for another trip to nature, you are aware that you are limited to the most important things that you will need. Otherwise, your backpack will be too heavy and you won’t be able to move.
But, axes can be heavy tools. Why should you carry one? And not any axe, but precisely a hatchet.
First of all, let’s define a hatchet.
A hatchet is basically a different type of an axe. Axes can be divided into several categories:
- felling axes
- forest axes
- small forest axes
As you can notice, the hatchet is the smallest possible version of an axe, but also the lightest and shortest.
Table of Contents
What are the standards that define a hatchet?
Well, there are no strict rules, but roughly, this is how you can recognize a hatchet:
- Overall length – 10”-16”
- Blade length – 3”-5”
- Weight – 1-3 lbs
Why a hatchet?
It is easy to notice that hatchets can also be heavy tools. Well, 3 pounds may not be too heavy, but when you add everything that you need to carry and put the rucksack on your bag, you will understand what I am talking about.
However, surviving in the wild may require different tasks, from felling trees to trimming branches. Even if you are Rambo, you won’t be able to take every type of axe.
Since you need to decide to take only one, your choice should be a hatchet.
Whatever you wish to do in the woods, this useful tool will help you with every task. If you need to fell a tree, you will need more effort, but smaller tasks will be easier.
Trimming branches for a campfire, carving projects, all of these tasks can be done within an hour, of course, with the right hatchet.
But, how to find the right hatchet?
You will need to focus on 3 things: head, handle and balance.
When you look for a head, apart from the sharpness, the grind of the bit is also important. The blade needs to be sharp so it can cut the wood, but if the bit is thick it will be harder to penetrate into the wood. If you are interested in taking a hatchet camping you may want to read my review of camping hatchets.
Wooden, metal or plastic handle?
A wooden handle is good, but I would recommend trying the fiberglass plastic. It is as durable as a wooden one, but it weighs less. Stay away from metal handles, as although they are strong. they weigh more.
What about the balance?
People often don’t consider this, but it is very important. So, the hatchet is good if the balance point is next to the head. This gives you more control, especially if you use the hatchet for carving.
What activities can you use the hatchet for?
Splitting firewood: A hatchet can be used for splitting wood for a fire. This is probably the most common use for a hatchet. Smaller pieces of wood burn quicker and easier and small pieces (kinderling) are needed to get a fire started and going well. But why a hatchet over and axe? Hatchets are smaller and lighter than axes so are great if you need to carry it and don’t want the extra weight and size. This makes hatchets perfect for camping and hiking. See this review of the best hatchets and axes for camping and hiking.
Chopping down a small tree: A hatchet can be used to chop down small trees. If you want to chop down a larger tree I suggest that you use an axe or even a chainsaw. See this review of the best homeowner chainsaws here and how to chop a tree in the direction you want here.
Cutting off tree branches: A hatchet is great for chopping off tree branches. If you have a tree with a branch that you don’t want you can chop it off with a hatchet. Or if you are out camping and want to chop off dead branches for firewood a hatchet can be just what you need.
Hammering: You can use the back (also known as the butt or poll) of the hatchets “head” as a hammer. This can be great to bang in tent pegs or other hammering jobs.
Axe throwing: Most axe throwing is actually hatchet throwing as a full size axe is too big to throw well. You can see a review of the best axes/hatchets for throwing here.
Processing game: If you hunt and take a large animal a hatchet can be better than a knife for getting throw joints and bones.
Sharpening it: After all that chopping and splitting your hatchet can get blunt. A dull blade makes is harder to use so you want to keep it sharp. You can read about sharpening an axe or hatchet with a range of tools and even a rock here.
Anything that you need a blade for: If you keep your hatchet blade sharp you can use it for just about anything that you would just a knife for though it may not be perfect for cutting a butter knife or cutting your sausages at dinner it can make do in a situation where you don’t have anything better.
In case you are interested to learn more about every one of these tasks, I would suggest my other article for a detailed explanation what you can do with a hatchet here.
If used improperly, hatchets can be dangerous tools. Lost of control over your hatchet can cause serious injuries and damages.
How to protect yourself?
When working with the hatchet, stay low to the ground. If for some reasons you miss the target, the hatchet would hit the ground, instead of hitting your leg.
Before you swing, think of every possible result if you miss. This way, you will reduce the possibility of injuries.
Also, learn how to carry a hatchet safely.
Hatchet maintenance and modification
Hatchet maintenance won’t take you much time. You just need to sharpen the hatchet blade from time to time, make sure there is no rust on it. If you have a wooden handle, you will have to oil it sometimes, and that is it.
However, many people often choose to do bigger changes to their hatchets. Changing the grid angle, or even replacing the handles are very common.
Why would someone do this?
Well, changing or modifying the parts will make your hatchet better. Of course, you need to have knowledge in order to do that.
For example, you have bought a throwing hatchet but after a while the head is loose. You don’t want to spend money again for a new one, and you get used to the one you have bought.
In this situation, many people decide to buy a new handle and replace it with the original one. Instead of buying a new hatchet, you will make a better throwing axe from what you already have.
Hatchet is a great tool and a must-have not only for outdoor enthusiasts but also for homeowners as well. You don’t have to go hiking, as this tool can be used for splitting wood in your yard. The hatchet in the image is a Fiskars x7, it is available on amazon here, or you can read my Fiskars x7 review.
Do you have any other reasons why would someone need a hatchet? Or what do you use a hatchet for? Please share your opinions in comments.
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