Best Camping Hatchets: The Top 8 of 2019

Camping Hatchet Score Weight Overall Length
Top Pick: Estwing Sportsman’s Axe
95
30.2 oz 13.5″
Runner-up: Fiskars X7 Hatchet
91
22.6 oz 14″
Best Value: Coleman Camp Axe
90
30.4 oz 13″
Schrade SCAXE10 11.1″ Full Tang Hatchet
89
21.9 oz 11.08″
Best Backpacking Hatchet: UST ParaHatchet FS
86
11.4 oz 9.7″
Gerber Bear Grylls Survival Hatchet
85
20.8 oz 9.46″
Elk Ridge ER-272
84
11 oz 8″
SOG Tactical Tomahawk
82
24 oz 15.75″

We put eight of the best camping hatchets to the test over two months of rigorous field use and experimentation. After our testing, the Estwing Sportsman’s Axe emerged as our top pick. This high-quality hatchet is versatile, durable, and capable enough for any camp task we could throw at it.

Our runner-up was the Fiskars X7 Hatchet, a unique and beautifully designed camp hatchet that excelled at splitting wood and carving.

The Coleman Camp Axe was our best value pick, while we think the lightweight and low-profile UST ParaHatchet FS is the best backpacking hatchet.

Read on for our full reviews and recommendations as well as tips on choosing the best camping hatchet for your needs.

The 8 hatchets we tested.

The 8 camping hatchets we tested.

Top Pick: Estwing Sportsman’s Axe

Estwing E24A Sportsman's Axe

The Estwing Sportsman’s Axe was the best of all worlds.

This versatile hatchet could easily split kindling and chop through larger logs in a single swing. It even did passable job at carving tasks.

In our chopping test, the Fiskars and Coleman hatchets were slightly more efficient, but the Estwing could still make short work of most branches we put in front of it.

It proved itself to be one of the most rugged and durable axes in our test, as well, showing almost no signs of wear to the blade, handle, or any other component even after months of field testing and stress tests.

We liked that the sheath leaves the back of the hatchet uncovered so that you can easily hammer in tent stakes without removing it from the sheath.

There weren’t many negatives we could find with the Estwing. The blade wasn’t exceptionally sharp right out of the box, and it wasn’t the best for carving—the narrow handle close to the head made it difficult to find a solid, comfortable grip. For carving and detailed work, we preferred our Runner-up, the Fiskars X7 Hatchet.

That being said, most of what we use a hatchet around camp for is chopping and splitting wood, pounding in tent stakes, and other grunt work. For those purposes, the Estwing Sportsman’s Axe was nearly flawless.

Product Specs

  • Weight: 30.2 oz
  • Blade Length: 3.25″
  • Overall Length: 13.5″
  • Material: Stainless Steel

Runner-up: Fiskars X7 Hatchet

Fiskars X7 Hatchet

This hatchet gets serious points for style. We loved the sleek, modern design and thought it was easily the coolest-looking camp hatchet in our test.

It wasn’t just a pretty camp decoration, though. The V-shaped wedge drove through logs with one swing. It was the most efficient in our chopping test, taking just 18 seconds to get through a 2″ hardwood branch.

The Fiskars’ sheath was one of our favorites as well. Its unique design locked the blade in securely while being incredibly easy to use. Quick, simple, safe, and secure—exactly what a sheath should be. Some people may not like the lack of a belt attachment for the sheath, though.

The sheath of the Fiskars X7

The sheath of the Fiskars X7

We were skeptical of the plastic handle but found it to be stable, high-quality, and comfortable to hold. During our stress test, we saw an ever-so-slight bowing of the handle when we torqued the hatchet sideways, but it wasn’t enough to really concern us.

The handle was also one of the most comfortable to choke up on for carving and whittling wood. The blade was among the sharpest in our test and was easy to control and carve with.

The blade did take a beating in our stress test, and it showed some small dents and chips. Nothing that can’t be smoothed out by a good sharpening, but it didn’t hold up quite as well as the Estwing to hard chopping. The black coating also started rubbing off almost immediately.

Overall, the Fiskars X7 Hatchet is a well-made, thoughtfully designed, and versatile camping hatchet that would make a great addition to anyone’s camping gear.

Product Specs

  • Weight: 25 oz
  • Blade Length: 2.7″
  • Overall Length: 13.75″
  • Material: Stainless Steel

Best Value: Coleman Camp Axe

Coleman Camp AxeThe Coleman Camp Axe isn’t pretty, but for the price it’s an incredible bargain. This is a rough-and-tumble hatchet that will get the job done, assuming the job is chopping things.

If we wanted to pick one hatchet to split logs and occasionally chop down a small tree, this would be it, with its aggressive wedge shape and slight downward curve.

Don’t expect high quality here. Right out of the box, the edge was rough and jagged, with multiple spurs and snags. It was by far the dullest blade in our test.

Coleman doesn’t even bother to include a sheath because, honestly, you’d have to try to cut yourself with this hatchet. The blade itself definitely doesn’t need protection from any dings or chips, either.

The Coleman Camp Axe is not great for fine work or carving. Although it was surprisingly comfortable to hold, its thick head made it difficult to accurately carve anything. With a good sharpening, it might be passable. Still, it wouldn’t be our first choice.

If you’re looking for an inexpensive hatchet or a backup to throw in your car, the Coleman Camp Axe is a great value.

Product Specs

  • Weight: 30.4 oz
  • Blade Length: 3″
  • Overall Length: 13″
  • Material: Stainless Steel

Best Backpacking Hatchet: UST ParaHatchet FS

UST ParaHatchet FSThis little hatchet weighs only 11.4 oz. While it makes a lot of sacrifices, it’s an effective tool for the weight.

It’s great for splitting kindling, and it works as well as a lot of camping knives and backpacking knives when it comes to carving and whittling.

While it showed a little bit of wear after our testing, damage was minimal and we felt the blade held up well.

Of course, this hatchet can’t even begin to compare to larger hatchets for chopping.

There’s virtually no width or heft to the head, so forget about having any momentum behind your swings—in our chopping test, the ParaHatchet took 3 to 4 times as long as the larger hatchets to get through branches. Considering it’s also a third the weight, however, that’s not a horrible trade-off.

Overall, we were impressed with the quality and usefulness of the ParaHatchet. For well under a pound, this is an excellent addition to anyone’s backpacking or hiking gear.

Product Specs

  • Weight: 11.4 oz
  • Blade Length: 4″
  • Overall Length: 9.7″
  • Material: Stainless Steel

Reviews of the 4 Other Camping Hatchets We Tested

Schrade SCAXE10 11.1″ Full Tang Hatchet

Schrade SCAXE 10 Full Tang HatchetThe Schrade SCAXE10 Hatchet was an interesting middle-ground: light and compact at only 11.1 inches long, while still having a heavy head and a comfortably long handle.

Overall, we liked the grip and feel of this hatchet. It was excellent for carving work, with a comfortable handle and sharp, easy-to-control blade.

It didn’t chop quite as well as we expected. We had a hard time getting wood to split cleanly and a surprisingly hard time chopping through branches. The Schrade came in behind the smaller and lighter Bear Grylls Hatchet in our chopping test.

We were disappointed with the sheath, too. After a while, we noticed that with only a little pressure we could get the top edge of the blade to pop out of the sheath.

We’re not sure if this is because the plastic relaxed with use or because of a small plastic tab inside the sheath that appears to have broken off.

The Schrade's blade poking through its sheath.

The Schrade’s blade poking through its sheath.

Despite the shortcomings of the sheath, we liked the feel of this hatchet and its balance between compactness and power.

Product Specs

  • Weight: 23.4 oz
  • Blade Length: 3.55″
  • Overall Length: 11.08″
  • Material: Powder Coated 3Cr13 Stainless Steel

Gerber Bear Grylls Survival Hatchet

Gerber Bear Grylls Survival Hatchet

For a small camp hatchet, the Gerber Bear Grylls Survival Hatchet packed a lot of punch. It came dangerously sharp right out of the box.

We were seriously impressed with its chopping ability. It could plow through branches up to 2″ with minimal effort.

The only hatchets that were faster and more efficient in our chopping test were the much larger and heavier splitting axes.

The Gerber doesn’t have the weight or thick wedge needed to split wood with a single swing, though it does a decent job batoning through larger logs.

Our biggest dislike was its sheath. We’ve never been fans of sheaths that force you to maneuver the entire handle through them, and this one is no exception. The rubber grip of the handle doesn’t slide smoothly through the nylon sleeve, requiring you to push and force it—never a good thing when there is a sharp blade involved.

The top corner of the blade tends to catch on the inside of the sheath and can abruptly pop out. Even once we got used to the sheath, it required extra effort and care over the others in our test.

For a dedicated camping hatchet, you’d be better off choosing one of the heavier hatchets above. For a compact backup hatchet, a carving or kindling-splitting tool, or a hatchet that’s light enough for backpacking but functional enough to justify its weight, this is a solid option.

Product Specs

  • Weight: 20.8 oz
  • Blade Length: 3.5″
  • Overall Length: 9.46″
  • Material: 3Cr13MoV Stainless Steel

Elk Ridge ER-272

Elk Ridge ER-272The Elk Ridge ER-272 was very similar to the UST ParaHatchet, but a few design differences left us preferring UST’s take on a lightweight backpacking hatchet.

When it came to carving, cutting, and whittling wood, the Elk Ridge was excellent and as easy to work with as some knives we’ve tested.

The blade was sharp out of the box, but it showed some small dings after our stress test. We found the grip shape to be less comfortable in general than the UST.

We preferred UST’s sheath, with its single snap and pouch for a ferro rod. The Elk Ridge sheath had three very tight snaps that were a pain to open.

The Elk Ridge’s cordage wrap was much thinner, less comfortable to hold, and less useful in an emergency situation than that of the UST ParaHatchet. After just a few uses, the ER-272’s cordage started to loosen and slide around, making the grip less secure. Eventually, the melted ends of the cordage came loose and the handle unraveled.

Overall, the Elk Ridge hatchet wasn’t awful. With a custom paracord wrap around the handle, it would be a decent option. But we preferred the UST ParaHatchet as a backpacking hatchet.

Product Specs

  • Weight: 11.4 oz
  • Blade Length: 4.2″
  • Overall Length: 9.7″
  • Material: Stainless Steel

SOG Tactical Tomahawk

SOG Tactical TomahawkThe SOG Tactical Tomahawk is a remarkably well-made tool.

The blade is extremely sharp and durable, as is the spike, which showed virtually no wear in our stress test. The handle and grip are comfortable to hold and give a long, smooth swing.

It was excellent at fine work. Comfortable and well-balanced when choked up close to the blade, this was one of our favorite hatchets for all-around grip and feel.

The SOG is also incredibly cool and satisfying to hold. It was easily the most fun hatchet to use during our testing.

But it isn’t as well-suited to typical camp tasks as the other camping hatchets.

It was only average in chopping speed. When it came to splitting logs and kindling, it fell short. It didn’t have enough of a wedge in the head to split larger logs. The short blade made even splitting kindling a bit of a challenge.

If you want a hatchet that’s cool and fun to use, then this is it. Is it the best hatchet for camping? Definitely not, which is why it scored the lowest of the hatchets we tested.

  • Weight: 24 oz
  • Blade Length: 2.75″
  • Overall Length: 15.75″
  • Material: 420 Stainless Steel

Summary

Here are the best camping hatchets:

  • Estwing Sportsman’s Axe
  • Fiskars X7 Hatchet
  • Coleman Camp Axe
  • Schrade SCAXE10 11.1″ Full Tang Hatchet
  • UST ParaHatchet FS
  • Gerber Bear Grylls Survival Hatchet
  • Elk Ridge ER-272
  • SOG Tactical Tomahawk

How to Choose the Best Camping Hatchet for Your Needs

Types of Hatchets

Splitting Hatchets: These are basically miniature versions of axes. They have a long handle to facilitate swinging and a thick wedge in the head to force a piece of wood apart along the grain. They are best for efficiently splitting medium to large logs.

Utilitarian Hatchets: These may not have the heft and wedge shape needed to efficiently split larger logs, but they are more versatile. They tend to have a thinner, more gradually tapered head, are better at substituting for a knife in carving or fine tasks, and are easier to control for splitting smaller kindling.

Lightweight/Survival/Backpacking Hatchets: These minimalist hatchets tend to be small, with a relatively flat, lightweight head. They are useful tools and easy to carry, but they have a hard time with chopping or splitting tasks.

Tomahawks: These lightweight axes are based off of the Tomahawks historically used as weapons by some Native American tribes. They tend to have shorter blades and longer handles than other hatchets, along with a spike coming off the back of the blade.

Weight

For Backpacking: Obviously, if you are planning on carrying a hatchet backpacking, you’ll want something as light as possible. Lightweight backpacking hatchets (under a pound) can be excellent for carving, fine work, and splitting kindling.

The lighter you go, though, the more power you lose. While lightweight hatchets can get through medium-sized logs and small trees or branches, it takes considerable effort and time.

For Car Camping: Around camp, where weight isn’t an issue, a hatchet with a heavy head and longer handle is ideal.

There’s no need go much larger or heavier than the hatchets we tested and reviewed in this buying guide. All of the full-sized hatchets in our test were capable of splitting typical-size firewood.

Blade & Head Shape

After the weight of the hatchet, the shape of the blade and head will determine how well it chops, carves, and performs other tasks.

Thick Head: A blade that quickly expands into a thick wedge will be ideal for splitting wood, as the wedge will force the wood apart along the grain.

Thin Head: Thinner heads are better for carving, whittling, and more controlled tasks, but lose splitting power.

How We Tested

Sharpness Test

Before doing anything else, we tested how smoothly each blade cut through a piece of standard printer paper.

Wood Splitting Test

We wanted to see which hatchets could split wood with one swing. We found that the Coleman, Estwing, and Fiskars hatchets could easily and cleanly split large firewood. The Schrade was capable of splitting medium sized logs. All of the others required techniques other than simply swinging to split a piece of firewood.

Chopping Test

Chopping branches with the Bear Grylls Survival Hatchet

Chopping branches with the Gerber Bear Grylls Survival Hatchet

We measured the time and number of strokes needed to chop through branches approximately 2″ and .75″ in diameter. All branches were from the same tree.

Stress Test

We stress-tested each hatchet on a large, uneven stump of very hard wood, chopping from as many different angles as we could and twisting the handle to break off pieces of wood. We were looking for any chipping or bending in the blade, weakness in the handle, or other issues that arise from heavy use.

Field Testing

We put these hatchets to the test in the field for over two months, chopping firewood, splitting kindling, and carving some basic camp and survival tools.

Splitting wood with the Elk Ridge ER-272

Splitting wood with the Elk Ridge ER-272