Hatchets have been around since mankind first existed in the world. It’s a simple striking tool, as it has a sharp blade on one side and a hammer head on the other side, attached to a handle.
Different from a large axe, or a camping axe/hand axe, hatchets are portable, have short shafts, and usually have a narrow head with a relatively small body and a large cutting blade. As a type of a hand axe, it’s meant to be used with just one hand.
When you’re choosing what kind of cutting tool you need for your EDC, camping, backpacking, or general day-to-day use, a hatchet can be a great option. I recently ran into a guy from Wisconsin who saw his hatchet as a critical component to his EDC.
Used in the same way as a pocket knife, he had one with him (or in his car) at all times. He talked me through all the different ways he used it on an everyday basis and made me feel like I was missing out on a critical tool for everyday living.
A hatchet is known for the more traditional ways you can use it. Think splitting kindling, creating tinder, and other similar activities. But, I wanted to share some of the additional ways you can start to use your hatchet. Passing on the Wisconsinite’s words of wisdom plus some additional ways I’ve used my hatchet, you’ll quickly see why a hatchet can become your go-to everyday carry tool.
Just don’t be surprised if it inspires you to grow a manly handlebar mustache.
Here are ten different ways to use a hatchet.
10. Splitting kindling
Kindling is an important component of fire starting. A hatchet can make this chore an easy task if you know what you’re doing. Be sure to “contact split” the wood to help minimize the risk of injury. You swing the hatchet and piece of wood together until contact with a solid surface. The hatchet edge is then driven into the wood creating the split.
9. Creating tinder
You can create tinder by holding a piece of kindling in a vertical position and using the hatchet in a shaving motion to produce super thin splinters of wood.
8. Driving tent stakes
The backside of the hatchet is hammer-shaped. Simply use this butt of the hatchet like you would a hammer. It makes camp setup pretty simple as you don’t need to go into the woods and find a rock or if you’re car camping, pack in extra tools.
For added safety, leave on the leather mask (if you have one) that covers the edge of the blade and not the entire head of the hatchet.
Have you ever been in camp in the middle of the day and found yourself twiddling your fingers to pass the hottest part of the day? Me too. In-between peak fishing times is always the longest part of the day.
Fill your spare time with a little carving project. Start small with things like a spear or arrows then work your way up to spoons and bowls.
6. Build a shelter
A hatchet can be used to help gather all the material you would need to build a temporary shelter should the need or desire ever arise. From teepee styles to lean-to’s, a hatchet can speed up the process compared to gathering dead/fallen material.
Consider having a hatchet with you as you go out into the backcountry for emergencies. Hunting, fishing, or just going on a day hike, it’s still small enough that the usefulness outweighs the weight.
5. Snow and ice tool
If you need to chop/breakthrough crusty snow or make a hole through a layer of ice to access water, a hatchet will get it done. As you gain elevation, water sources can freeze over. A hatchet gives you a lot more breaking power over a standard camp knife.
Tip: It will only take once, but be sure you stop chopping prior to breaking through the ice until your ready to punch through all the ice. You don’t want it to fill up with water while you are still chopping or you will be soaking wet. Water and freezing temps are a bad combination.
4. Chopping down small trees
It may not be as efficient, but a hatchet can get the job done in a pinch. Best done from a kneeling position, take your time and be sure to use those angles to your advantage. You’ll want to chop into the tree both from an upward and downward angle to make a wedge before switching to the opposite side.
3. Clean up limbs
Are you building that shelter I mentioned above? Clean up a few of those branches on your frame to make your home away from home more hospitable. Be mindful of the shorter handle to prevent injury, as longer axes are always safer, but they just don’t offer the same portability as a hatchet.
Starting a fire with a hatchet can be quite a challenging process. You’re probably going to rough up your hatchet in the process. However, keep in mind, this is a backup to the backup when it comes to fire-starting. The idea is to strike the sharp edge of the metal against an appropriate rock to create sparks. Sounds easy, right? Hardly, but it can be done. Try a cheap axe to get your practice in. Be sure to have all your materials prepped and ready to go. You want to be able to utilize that precious spark when you get one.
1. Wild game processing
If you harvest and process wild game often enough, you will appreciate the assistance from a larger tool like a hatchet. I have found one especially useful when it comes time to open up the rib cage on larger game like whitetail deer. It makes that part of the processing much more manageable than a smaller field dressing knife.