You need a hatchet for camping for its diversity of functions, including fire craft, field dressing game, food preparation, and shelter building. Your hatchet acts like a hammer, a tool for breaking through ice, or functions as a shovel if you can’t access one. Hatchets are the ultimate multi-tool.
The word hatchet comes from the Old French word hachete, a diminutive form of a hache or an axe. Although it is a type of axe, it is distinguished from an axe proper by being made to use one-handed. Hatchets may serve a variety of functions and are particularly useful for the outdoors.
If you were in any doubt that a hatchet is your best bet for your outdoor adventure, read on and discover the many ways your hatchet can improve your camping and maybe even save your life.
Top 8 reasons you’ll need a hatchet for camping:
1. Chopping Wood
Your hatchet is an essential tool in shelter building. You may cut down a tree’s limbs for a lean-to and strip the bark from a tree to create a protective roofing material for your shelter. Drier, dead branches take far less effort, and you can use your hatchet to either chop them off or use the back of your hatchet as a hammer and knock the branches from the main stump.
If you find yourself needing to chop down a tree in a survival situation, your hatchet can do the job.
- Ascertain the direction of your trees, lean, and position yourself behind and under the lean.
- Chop into the tree at both upwards and downwards strokes to make a wedge through the trunk.
- When halfway, change to the opposite side and repeat the wedge action slightly higher up the tree than the first wedge.
- When it’s ready to fall, stand back and watch out for the tail kicking up and to the side.
2. Making Kindling
Your hatchet is a perfect size to split larger pieces of wood down to form a faster burning kindling to get your fire started. The hatchet is particularly useful in an emergency, allowing you to strip off outer layers of wood in a damp environment and expose the dry wood beneath for kindling.
If the temperature drops suddenly and your surroundings are damp, a fire made in this method can not only make you more comfortable but could save your life.
Contact splitting is the safest route to create kindling with a hatchet. Having the hatchet handle and wood held at the base of your swing will ensure you don’t accidentally injure yourself, which may be deadly in remote locations.
- Lay the wood parallel to your hatchet edge and along with the handle of your hatchet.
- Hold the branch and hatchet handle in each hand, making your hands are both on the handle end.
- Hit both the wood and the hatchet simultaneously on your chosen woodblock.
Here is a video example on how to safely chop kindling with your hatchet:
3. Creating Tinder
If you need to start a fire quickly in a survival situation and the area you are in is wet, you will struggle to find the materials to create the dry tinder you need to make fire. Once you find a larger piece of fallen wood, you may often strip off the outer layers to expose a dry wood core.
Holding your dry kindling in a vertical position and using your hatchet blade in a shaving motion will create thin, dry slivers of wood you may use to start your fire.
4. As a Hammer
The back end of your hatchet blade is made to function as a hammer and may easily be used as one. This hammer function has many uses in a camping environment, such as hammering in tent pegs or driving in a center pole for a makeshift shelter. Ensure that your blade is in its sheath when you use the hammer action as you may easily cut yourself on the exposed hatched edge
5. Processing Game or Fish
If you rely on your hunting skills to survive, there is only so much a hunting knife can do. Your hatchet’s weight and compact size are perfect for cutting larger meat portions at the joints for easier consumption.
The curved edge of your hatchet lends itself to the contours of a fish and makes an efficient descaling tool with a quicker, cleaner cut than most knives.
6. Protection From Predators
When in nature, one must try and evade contact with larger, predatory animals. If you can not disengage and have no viable alternative when under threat of attack from a large animal, a hatchet is a more visible and useful tool to deter large predators.
7. As a Shovel
If you are in a wilderness setting and you have no shovel, a hatchet may take the place of one. When you have chosen your area to sleep in, you may use your hatch to drag and clear the area, ridding yourself of insects and vermin that may hide beneath.
You may also use your hatchet to dig a trench around your sleeping site to drain water from your sleeping area. Rain may run into your sleeping area or affect your fire, and having a deflection channel may help you stay dry.
8. For Icy Conditions
If you are caught in winter conditions, your hatchet may be a crucial tool for your survival. You may use your hatchet to chop through the ice to reach flowing water or to access fish. The hatchet is not ideal for this function as it is messy and can scare away fish from the area by its noise. If you don’t have an auger and are stuck in the snow, your hatchet will be your best friend.
What Should I Look for in a Good Camping Hatchet?
Camping hatchets must not only be portable but must also be compact enough to carry without affecting your movement unduly. If your hatchet is too big, it won’t fit in your backpack, and even if it is secured to the exterior of your backpack, it might prove inconvenient. Ensure that the size of your intended hatchet has the correct dimensions to suit your camping needs.
Choosing the right weight hatchet is a balance between chopping force and portability. A heavier hatchet will make chopping easier, while lighter hatchets are easy to carry. You should consider factors such as the distances you intend to carry the hatchet. If you plan on hiking extensive areas, a lighter hatchet would be a better choice.
Your hatchet blade should be made of high-quality metal for durability as well as ease in sharpening. Plain carbon steel (1050-1090, 5150, 5160) is a popular blade for hatchets because it is simple to sharpen and stands up well to corrosion. It is harder than stainless steel and maintains its edge better when exposed to hard materials.
Stainless steel The most popular type of steel found among axes and hatchets is 420 and serves better in the outdoors for use in high moisture environments. (CLICK HERE – to see a great, compact survival hatchet on Amazon.)
Solid wood handles are popular with camping enthusiasts even though there are stainless steel, ballistic nylon, and composite plastics available on the market. Hickory and ash wood handles are traditionally chosen for their strength and straightness.
Hatchets are so handy that some outdoors men claim it as the single most important tool they would bring into a survival situation if they had only one item to choose. Their beauty is the many functions they can mimic in one sturdy package.
Ensure you keep your blade protected in a high-quality sheath when not in use and avoid damaging the blade in ground contact, and your survival tool should last through your adventures.
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Erick is a freelance writer and outdoor enthusiast. Growing up in Nairobi Kenya and now calling Glasgow, United Kingdom home. Sipping on homemade spiced swahili tea and enjoying a good book is his idea of bliss.