Pack hatchets are suitably sized mini-axes that are designed to be carried in (or attached to) a backpack. The advantage of carrying a pack hatchet rather than a normal sized axe for backpacking or camping is plain.
But with the reduced size and weight comes a significant reduction in chopping power. Technically, a pack hatchet is any type of hatchet that can be carried in a backpack, but the term is more widely used for very small one-handed hatchets.
The role of these small axes in a camping or backpacking environment is to provide a means of cutting, slicing and chopping that is superior to what a camping knife can do.
A camping knife is one of the most versatile tools you can carry in your pack, but lacks the chopping power of an axe. The goal of a pack hatchet is to provide everything a knife can do… and more.
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Is a pack hatchet better than a knife?
A good survival knife such as the Mossy Oak Survival Hunting Knife is an absolute necessity for outdoors. I cant think of a situation where you wouldn’t be better off carrying one of these with you.
A pack hatchet should be just as useful, versatile and sharp as a good survival knife, otherwise… what’s the point?
On paper, a pack hatchet has a razor sharp cutting blade that can do anything a knife can do. It also has the additional capability of chopping and hammering – which a knife typically cannot do. So a pack hatchet should be the clear winner.
Unfortunately, pack hatchets find themselves somewhere in the middle of knife and axe territory. Not quite a knife, not quite an axe. The main problem with pack axes is the lack of weight.
Related Article: Axe vs hatchet… What’s the difference?
An axe is useful BECAUSE of its weight. A heavy piece of sharpened steel attached to a long handle has proven to be one of the most useful tools mankind has ever produced! From the stone age to this very day, axes are still sold in the thousands.
A pack hatchet does not provide sufficient chopping power to perform proper axe duties. But overall, I would take a GOOD pack hatchet over a knife for the added versatility that it provides in an outdoor situation.
Are pack hatchets necessary for camping or backpacking?
An experienced backpacker knows that what you carry in your pack should only be absolutely necessary for the trip. The last thing you want is to add tools or equipment that are just going to weigh you down. So, is a small pack hatchet really necessary?
Some would argue that a good folding saw is a better compromise. It has better cutting ability and is a hell of a lot lighter – but doesn’t have the chopping power that a pack hatchet can provide.
It’s a pretty unfair comparison as both tools serve completely different purposes. I ALWAYS carry a folding saw because they are small, light and just so damn useful in the wild. In particular the amazing Silky Ultra Accel, but they’re not much good at chopping wood or hammering tent stakes.
The necessity of a pack hatchet will depend on your goals while camping or backpacking. For example, an easy hike to a ready-made campsite shouldn’t really require you to carry a pack hatchet.
Related Article: Best Silky folding saws for camping, bushcraft & backpacking
But a 3-day trek across tough terrain, setting up a makeshift camp each night would definitely require some extra tools. A good quality pack hatchet is certainly something you should consider in this scenario.
Gerber Pack Hatchet – Is it any good?
At just under 10 inches in length and weighing 20.8 ounces, this full-tang stainless steel hatchet is extremely small and light. It easily fits in a backpack and includes a compact sheath to keep it safe when not in use.
It’s portable size and versatile shape makes this handy tool appealing to all kinds of outdoor enthusiasts including campers, hunters, fisherman, hikers, and survivalists.
The full tang aspect provides good balance and it feels pretty sturdy for such a small hatchet. The rubberized handle with finger grooves is comfortable and provides adequate grip.
There is no wedge-shaped head typical to most hatchets – it’s narrower than you might expect. A little power is lost there, and the back of the blade (poll) is not as useful for hammering, but when you’re in a pinch, it gets by.
Finally, the blade IS sharp and holds up well to some decent amount of chopping. All-in-all it’s a very versatile little hatchet that won’t take up much room in your pack, you’ll hardly notice the weight. And it’s very effective at what is was designed for.
You won’t be felling any trees with the Gerber Pack Hatchet, but as a super-handy mini cutting and chopping tool for more intricate work… and a budget price, it ticks all the boxes!
Check out the current price of the Gerber Pack Hatchet on Amazon.
What is the BEST pack hatchet?
For a pack hatchet to be truly effective, it needs to be as sharp as a knife and have enough weight to perform axe duties such as chopping and splitting wood.
Many tiny hatchets are just not capable of this due to their size, so it’s really down to preference whether you carry one of these or just go with a knife. Like I mentioned earlier, the Gerber Pack Hatchet is pretty useful as a handy cutting tool.
But it doesn’t give you much more functionality than a knife except a little chopping power. It’s certainly pretty poor at splitting wood.
For a truly exceptional pack hatchet that can do it all, look no further than the Gransfors Bruk Hand Hatchet…
Gransfors Bruk Pack Hatchet
This classic pack hatchet is the best of the best. At 9.5 inches in length and weighing 1.3 lbs, the Gränsfors Bruks Hand Hatchet is very small but has sufficient weight to be truly useful as a mini axe.
Hand-made in Sweden by the finest master-craftsmen, this beautifully crafted mini-axe arrives sharp as a razor and ready for use. Heavy enough for some real wood chopping tasks, but the real strength of this hatchet is precision work.
The short handle and super sharp blade mean you can do a range of wood working, fire prep (splitting small logs, kindling, cutting feather sticks, limbing, carving etc.) and any other cutting tasks required around camp.
The traditional aspect of this pack hatchet means it has a rustic quality to it, so no one is identical. This is normal with quality hand-made products. There is no highly polished factory finish on this hatchet which is great, and the hand-forged high-carbon steel head is as durable as they come.
All-in-all it’s a remarkable little hatchet that is highly versatile, razor-sharp and will last a lifetime.
Check out the current price of the Gransfors Bruk Hand Hatchet on Amazon.
Pack hatchets are a great addition to your backpack that adds the chopping power that a survival knife is missing. A good knife is always useful in a camping or backpacking scenario. And a folding saw should be one of the first things to pack.
The advantage of a good quality pack hatchet is that it can replace your survival knife completely. Many pack hatchets either aren’t as sharp as a knife or don’t have the weight necessary to perform axe duties – making them a bit pointless.
As a budget choice, the Gerber Pack Hatchet is surprisingly good at what it is designed to do, but provides little chopping power to be really effective as an all-round pack hatchet.
If you’re looking for the best of the best, the Gransfors Bruk Hand Hatchet has no equal. It’s exquisitely made, highly effective, durable and will last a lifetime.