Whether you are looking for the best hatchet for camping and backpacking or maybe you need a great survival hatchet, we have the ultimate list for you. Culled from our own real-world testing, the following top hatchets will serve you well!
I have always been a knife guy and, for that matter too, a hatchet guy! I remember my very first hatchet and I still have it today. Actually, my very first hatchet wasn’t a real hatchet, but a roofing hammer I got from my grandfather’s garage when I was about 8 years old. I have two tools that I still own from my Grandpa Casey and both hold a special place to me. The first one is his roofing hammer, and the other is an original set of Pec Pliers which makes an appearance in some of my EDC Instagram pics.
I realized even back then the unbelievable usefulness of having a hatchet close at hand, not to mention the fun they can bring. What kid doesn’t like to chop and swing an ax, right? I also never go backpacking without a hatchet, even though I am somewhat of an ultralight hiking nut. I can’t imagine ever going camping without a hatchet. I always want a fire (no matter what) and there just isn’t a replacement for a small camping hatchet when it comes to making firewood on a hike.
Many of the hatchets on this list are great for axe throwing, read our story on Why Axe Throwing Is So Popular!
What’s the Difference Between an Ax and a Hatchet?
Now, I keep using the word hatchet and not ax, because they are two different things. A hatchet is a small ax used for camping, backpacking, yardwork and general utility situations. They are great for butchering large game, cutting cartilage, making kindling, chopping small trees, etc…you get the idea.
An ax, on the other hand, is usually much larger with a bigger head and longer handle. Originally, they were used for battle (think Vikings) and, of course, forestry. An ax handle is usually much longer than a hatchet, many times they are over 28” – 30” in length. The big factor between the two is this, an ax is meant to be swung with two hands and a hatchet can chop and cut with a single-handed swing.
Also, as an aside, ax and axe? Same word, British vs. American spellings. Typically I use ax (as an American) but some companies have product names which include axe, and I tried to be consistent with what the company used.
What’s the Difference Between a Hatchet and a Tomahawk?
I should mention tomahawks here, too. In a nutshell, a tomahawk is usually a lighter weight hatchet used mainly as a weapon or tactical fighting tool. A tomahawk’s blade is thinner and flatter as to be more aerodynamic since they are meant to be thrown. Like so many tools that have been around forever, the history of the tomahawk can get cloudy, but this is an excellent article on how the Algonquian Indians invented the tomahawk and then the Europeans saw the usefulness and adapted it for themselves. Regardless of the history, let’s just say the modern tomahawk is still more of a weapon than an all-around tool.
My Very First “Hatchet”
Now that we have a better understanding of the terms and lingo, let’s get into the jist of this article…the search for the best hatchets under $50!
How We Graded
We judged each of the hatchets the same way and tested them on the same pieces of wood so it would be fair. Each hatchet was used to split kindling out of pine, carve some feather sticks, judge chopping performance against seasoned oak logs, and how the hatchet felt in the hand.
We chopped, cut, slashed and tried to qualify for a lumberjack competition in an effort to see which was going to be the best. We also looked at out of the box sharpness, overall performance and value. To us, if you have to regrind the head or do more than a light touch up out of the box, then it got put into the ‘junk’ category.
The price of the hatchet was weighed heavily in all of our testing. We didn’t expect miracles for the less expensive ones and we had higher expectations for the pricier models.
Pic From axespecialists.com
Leave it to the internet to answer all your hatchet questions. Make sure you check out the image of all the correct terminology for parts of an ax/hatchet. I never knew what the underside of the ax head was called…until now!
So, you could call this list “The Best Hatchets For Backpacking” or “The Best Hatchets For Camping” too, either way, we did the research for you to make a solid choice! Here is our list for the “Best hatchets You Can Buy Under $50”! Below the list you will find detailed reports on our first-hand experiences with all the hatchets.
The Best Hatchets Under $50
- Fiskars X7
- Schrade SCAXE10
- Condor Scout Hatchet
- Prandi German Style Hatchet
- Marbles MR701SB Camp Axe
- Cold Steel Weeping Heart
- WilFiks Chopping Axe
- Edward Tools Harden Camping Axe
- CRKT Woods Nobo Tomahawk
- Kobalt Camp Ax
- Estwing Sportsman’s Axe
- Estwing Tomahawk Axe
- BRUFER 203651-3 Hatchet
- HACHIEMON Japanese Style Hatchet
- Coleman Camp Ax
Finally, the big thing we looked at was the overall value: what do you get for your money, and is it worth it? To be fair here, we were pretty rigorous and picky on all of these contenders, especially considering they were $50 or less.
Overall Winner – Fiskars X7
The choice was easy, and frankly I knew going into this battle royale that the Fiaskars might come out on top and it certainly did. The X7 hatchet wins in several categories, first off the $30 or less price tag is outstanding for the value and performance you get. The hatchet is lightweight, feels good in the hand and comes out of the box razor sharp.
It also cuts like a beast. I still have my original Fiskars which I bought over 15 years ago and it usually is found in my backpack on any type of camping trip. The overall design is superb and the balance is spot on. I think that’s why it has so much cutting power. The bottom of the handle has a good sized flare to aid in grip and it has a good neck allowing you to choke up for detail work. You will not be disappointed with this guy!
Runner Up – Schrade SCAXE10 11.1in Full Tang Hatchet
This was the surprise of the group! This guy is smaller than many on the list but it still packs a lot of force in a swing. It’s a full tang, meaning it’s made from one solid piece of steel and felt like a quality piece of gear in hand. What was shocking was the cutting and chopping power this one had.
As with any knife or blade, the grind has a lot to do with it and the ax head shape here is excellent. Schrade is always the value contender and they came through again here, for less than $25 you get a decent piece of gear. Included is also a fitted kydex sheath, a nice touch.
Honorable Mention – Condor Scout Hatchet
The Condor Scout technically shouldn’t be on the list because it’s price fluctuates and, as of this writing, it was actually $59, but that extra $9 bucks definitely gets you some cool factor in the looks department.
The Scout hatchet fits in the hand well, has just enough of a handle taper to feel secure, and has a great blade shape that really allows you to hold it close for finer tasks such as carving or making more precise cuts.
It also comes with a very nice leather sheath, something not all of these hatchets have. It chopped well and was a solid performer in all tests. The Condor has more of a woodsman feel to it, so if you’re a bushcrafter (or want to be one) it might be more for you.
THE REST OF THE PACK
Prandi German Style Hatchet – PRA0308TH
This was another surprise and was extremely close to being the absolute best on the list. It was only nudged out by the Fishkars because of its weight. The Prandi is more of a mini ax than a hatchet and has some wicked chopping abilities.
It also was fun to throw! A thick contoured handle made it feel secure when swinging and the blade grind was fierce! Again, this thing was a chopper! If you’re not weight conscious, it would make a great backpacking/backcountry companion. It’s a high quality tool for only $40.
Marbles MR701SB Camp Axe
Here is a nice, simple, no frills hatchet that is a steal at around $35. If you are looking for a vintage style woodsman hatchet, this is a serious contender. I would definitely spring for the extra few bucks and get the Prandi above, but if you’re on a tight budget, you could do worse. The solid hickory wood handle is carved nicely on the lower grip section allowing you to grasp the hatchet right at the fulcrum of the swing transferring a lot of power into the chop. This hatchet has fallen prey to popularity with all the youtube reviews because it used to be right at the $20 price point. The beard of the hatchet is at a good angle allowing you to hold it just below the head for detail work.
Cold Steel Weeping Heart
This was a Father’s Day gift, so you can probably guess my kids know me well! It’s also one bad to the bone hatchet (or tomahawk, as it’s referred to differently on a bunch of websites). I can’t say much more than Cold Steel’s own promotional video here. It has not only the looks, but the performance to back it up. With a longer handle, you can use two full hands to swing this beast. It does everything above average and the spike on the rear side makes this guy more than just a camping hatchet, it’s built for self defense and survival situations too.
This guy had awesome first bit power and cut deep. It did, however, have some “skitter” on harder woods. That’s because the head is on the lighter weight side, but flip it around to use the spike and look out; it has wicked penetration! Of all of the hatchets on the list, this one was an easier one to get good at throwing. Take this guy if you want to make a show of it or expect to be in a shield wall. If you have to split a ton of wood and kindling, you may want something with more weight.
Check the price, its under $50 most of the time!
WilFiks Chopping Axe, 15”
Make your choice wisely, both the Wilfiks and Edwards 15” (below) look almost identical in their pictures and descriptions, but they are very different. The WilFiks here is 200 grams heavier with a great blade bevel making this a stellar ax for less than $30. The fiberglass handle is well executed with a nice knob at the end for easy gripping and swinging. This guy feels secure in hand and when using it the fiberglass construction definitely dampens vibrations to your arm. Overall, fantastic construction and a well-beveled blade that was nice and sharp out of the wrapper.
Edward Tools Harden Camping Axe 15”
Here is another one that you really can’t beat for the money! A lighter weight version than the WilFiks above, it still has some heft behind it to get the job done. It was relatively sharp right out of the box and the fiberglass handle fits an average-sized hand well. What I really liked about this one was it had a cushion grip built into the surface of the handle which made it feel more secure while gripping and swinging. The padding also took a little sting out of repeated chops. The fiberglass handles really do dampen the impact just enough to make a difference. If you don’t mind an industrial look to your hatchet or safety orange in color, this is a really decent option for under $20.
CRKT Woods Nobo Tomahawk Axe
As I started writing this, I seriously considered making it the overall winner…it was a hard decision because this is one heck of a hatchet. Officially called a Tomahawk by CRKT, it gets the job done. Designed by Ryan Johnson, there was a lot of thought put into this one and I appreciate that considering it’s an awesome deal at the $40 mark. First, the head is held in place by friction and not wedges. This means you can break it down to pack up or remove the head to use alone for fine work. The under-edge has a sharp grind to it so, if you want, you can detail it up and have it cut on a pulling motion. The hickory handle is 19” long making it one of the taller hatchets on the list, but that extra length does not go to waste and it really allows you to get a full two hand swing on it. This one really cuts and you can get some power behind it. It’s also a solid set-up that doesn’t have that tinny feel when striking hardwood. Seriously consider this one!
Kobalt Camp Ax
I have to say, I originally included this one on the list because I thought it was going to be horrible and would be an interesting ax to test out. Well, I was wrong, oh so wrong! This is such a great ax I can’t even believe it. For less than $20 you get a well-balanced, deep cutting and decent looking performer. It goes to show you the importance of the bevel and angle grind because that’s what makes this one cut so well.
Now, if you were into “tuning up” an ax, this would be a great one to start with. Kobalt is the Lowes store brand, so it’s readily accessible. It cut like a monster in the seasoned oak, sliced into pine like a beaver and even stuck in a tree on several occasions of throwing.
Estwing Sportsman’s Axe – 14″ Camping Hatchet
Another insanely popular hatchet on the list. However, I think that might be only a result of it’s ready availability, because I found it to be only an average performer. The Eastwing has two things going for it, one it’s American Made and two, it has a really cool leather wrapped handle. It’s a decent all arounder and performed most tasks adequately. I just don’t think it has the cutting power of some of the others on the list. If the hatchet wasn’t so dull to start with, I think my opinion would be drastically different.
It also makes me wonder how you can trust online reviews because this has a great rating on Amazon (over 80% 5 Star Reviews) and I just don’t understand why. It doesn’t feel that great in hand, it transfers vibrations to your hand and arm something fierce, and even though the leather looks cool, it’s a slick handle that doesn’t give you good purchase. You may think I’m being too judgmental on the vibrations, but I actually use these things and can tell you, you won’t be able to be swinging this guy all day long. It comes in around the $40 mark, but there are better options out there.
Estwing Tomahawk Axe
Since we mentioned tomahawks above, I thought I would add the Eastwing to the list. I’ve had this one for a few years as it caught my attention at Home Depot. It’s solid, full tang and well crafted, but it’s not a woodsman’s tomahawk or hatchet. It’s built more for tactical situations like breaking glass, chopping into doors, etc.
It barely can chop wood or split kindling. It also suffers from a poor grind angle that makes the sharp edge too broad/wide to really do any slicing. This is more for looks or to keep in the car or under the bed as a self defense weapon, and if that’s your need, it will excel. The handle has a nice, heavy duty rubber grip and it also comes with a nice nylon sheath. Like the Hachiemon (below) it looks great in pictures!
BRUFER 203651-3 Hatchet
The competition for a hatchet under $50 has a surprisingly deep field. Just when you think you researched all the options another one pops up. The Brufer 203651 has very mixed reviews on Amazon with some saying the head broke off or the handle split. After using this one for a bit, I have come to the conclusion that people are expecting too much from a less than $25 ax with an actual hickory handle.
This is a solid, well-built ax with good ergonomics, especially considering that it’s so inexpensive. If you want a woodsman style ax that is more bushcraft, this is a good choice. It’s also cheap enough to start honing your throwing skills.
HACHIEMON Japanese Style Hatchet
Another one that disappointed us a little. It looked so awesome in pictures we thought it would clean up, but that just proved: looks can be deceiving. This chunk of metal is right at the bottom with the Coleman. The main issue was that the blade grind was so much broader (meaning it was more of a blunt edge hatchet) than all the rest that it severely limited its cutting potential. It’s a shame because it really feels great in your hand and is an easy swinger, just too bad it couldn’t chop for a hill of beans (which,obviously, is the purpose of a hatchet). On a side note, if you’re into Japanese stuff and cool looking gear, this thing takes great pictures!
I recently learned that this style of hatchet is refereed too as a Japaneses carpenters Axe or a “Te Ono”. You can read a little here.
Worst On The List – Coleman Camp Ax
This hatchet is guilty of a copycat crime and is readily available, everywhere from Walmart and Target to almost any hardware store. That has to be the only reason it’s a big seller and popular, because it’s an absolutely terrible hatchet. The hard rubber handle grates on your palm, the bevel of the blade is wide and broad making it more of a safety tool than anything meant for cutting. I understand that this hatchet is around the $10 mark and we shouldn’t expect much, but you would be better off with nothing!
Ax Sharpening & Tuning
I mentioned “Ax Tuning” above a few times. This is more than just sharpening up a stock blade. I just happened to see a video on YouTube which led to another and another. It’s very popular right now to buy a bargain/budget ax and customize it into a beast. This encompasses changing the blade angle to be more proficient, dying the handles and coloring them, polishing the head, and so much more.
Many of the videos showed how efficiently you can change up an inexpensive ax with no more than a basic mill bastard file and a sharpening stone. After a few of these videos, you’ll realize that even one of the cheaper axes can be made into a beauty.
A Very Cool Axe Restoration!
Get The Basics To Sharpen Your Own Ax!
When it comes to axe sharpening and touching up the blade, the Internet expert has to be Wranglestar on Youtube. If you haven’t seen any of his videos, make sure to check him out. He’s been on YouTube for over a decade and got his start with axe sharpening. Since then, he’s grown his channel into homesteading and general self sufficiency. All his videos are well done.
Check Out These Two Axe Sharpening Videos
One thing is for sure, you can get one heck of a hatchet for $50 or less. Originally, I started writing this article because I didn’t think you could do better than the Fiskars X7, and for most tasks, this is true. However, I did find several really amazing hatchets. No matter your situation, a hatchet is a handy and practical tool: to carry on hikes, to go backcountry adventures or or to build out a bugout bag. This post just reinforced my thought process of having a great machete, a solid hatchet and a hard-use folder or fixed blade on all my camping and hiking adventures.
Blair Witkowski is an avid watch nut, loves pocket knives and flashlights and when he is not trying to be a good dad to his nine kids, you will find him running or posting pics on Instagram. Besides writing articles for Tech Writer EDC he is also the founder of Lowcountry Style & Living. In addition to writing, he is focused on improving his clients websites for his other passion, Search Engine Optimization. His wife Jennifer and he live in coastal South Carolina.