Camp Axe Vs Hatchet: What’s the Difference and Which is Best?

Last Updated on 19/06/2023

Camp Axe vs Hatchet

If you’re going to collect and chop firewood, you may have to decide what’s best, a camp axe vs hatchet. A camping axe is longer and gives more leverage, so is better suited to splitting lots of larger logs. A hatchet is useful as a multi-tool and easier to use with one hand, thanks to its smaller size and lighter build.

When you’re heading out camping, you want to take everything you need and nothing you don’t. It may seem unnecessary then to take a camping axe as well as a hatchet, but how do you choose between them?

Let’s have a look and compare the camping axe vs hatchet.

What is the Difference Between a Camp Axe Vs Hatchet?

A traditional camping axe has a long wooden handle and a steel head with a double beveled edge. Axes are commonly used for splitting large logs and collecting enough firewood for the night. They are not as effective as a saw for chopping up fallen wood, but their swing length means they can chop through large trunks.

The hatchet is smaller and designed to be used one-handed. Sometimes referred to as a hand axe, these can have a similar design to the larger axe but are increasingly being made with plastic handles to save on weight. A bushcraft hatchet will also commonly have a flattened area for hammering, making the hatchet more multi-purpose.

Benefits of a Camp Axe

Axe vs hatchet for camping then. Why might we choose the axe?

  • Camp axes have a longer swing. This means you can generate more leverage and split larger pieces of wood. It also makes them more suited to chopping up fallen wood, though if you have a saw, this would be even better.
  • As well as the extended swing, an axe will typically have a heavier head on it than a hatchet. This extra weight gives it power as it drops onto the wood. Often, you have to put little power of your own into splitting wood, as the pendulum effect does all the work for you.
  • Anything that involves swinging a sharp and heavy lump of wood and metal through the air has the potential to be dangerous. The two-handed grip that axes require makes it safer and more accurate as you swing toward the wood you’re splitting.

Benefits of a Hatchet

  • Hatchets require less of a swing and are better in a small space. This is also ideal if you are working around other people, as you can control your safe area far more easily than when you’re wielding a large axe.
  • Compared to a wood-splitting axe, hatchets are far lighter and much easier to transport. If you plan to walk into camp, or if space is limited, a hatchet is far more suitable than a camping axe.
  • When it comes to choosing what to take camping, you’re far more likely to take something versatile than something with just one use. Hatchets often have a hammer head on the rear of the axe head. This multi-tool use makes them more versatile and can save you from carrying extra equipment.
  • Usually, when you’re camping, the wood you’re hoping to collect is already around the right size to burn. More often than not, you need a tool that is capable of splitting your sawn wood into easily burnable, kindling-sized chunks. The hatchet is more suited to splitting smaller logs than a larger axe.

Is a Hatchet or Axe Better for Camping?

In short, the camp axe vs hatchet is a matter of where and why. Before you choose between the two, think about where you are likely to be camping and how long you will be camping. It’s also important to consider what you will be using your fire for and the type of wood in the area.

If you are camping for a long time and require larger chunks of wood, an axe will be more useful for you. Camping axes are better for splitting large pieces and hardwoods, which require more of a swing to generate the right power. Axes are particularly good if you are car camping.

Where hatchets are a better choice is often if you have to walk a long way into your camp. In these situations, the lightweight design of the hatchet is a huge benefit, and they can stow easily on or inside your pack.

If you’re trekking, your fire will usually be small for warmth rather than longevity or cooking. In this instance, the wood you split is often for kindling or to get to the center of damp logs. The hatchet’s one-handed use and ability to split smaller sticks make it perfect for small wood-burning stoves.

What is the Best Size Axe for Camping?

If you have decided that an axe is best suited to your needs, chances are you don’t need to grab the biggest, heaviest one on the market. Anything with a handle over 12 inches is considered an axe, rather than a hatchet. An axe with a 12 – 24 inch length is usually more than enough for going camping.

This length gives you enough swing to split even tough hardwoods and plenty of space for both hands on the handle. It keeps the axe short enough, though, that you don’t need loads of space to work in, and you can still carry it short distances. 

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This article has been written and/or edited by Andrew N. 20+ years of hiking, mountaineering, and camping experience, with access to all the latest outdoor gear.

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