Axes, Hatchets, & Machetes

Question of the day: Hatchet or Machete?


Which do you prefer, a hatchet or a machete?

Reader Robert H. left a comment on Jeremy’s Estwing E44A review which got me to thinking:

For clearing small saplings and vines, I think he would find the CRKT Halfchance Parang a better tool. I also clear lots of brush on my property and ditched the hatchet and went with this reasonably priced Ken Onion designed blade.

I have reviewed the Halfachance, and it is a heck of a tool. I understand his argument that a machete is a more versatile tool than a hatchet. I think I might even prefer one as well for most tasks. As always the intended use is major determining factor.

A 3/4 or full axe is definitely the better chopping tool or large limbs and logs. At the same time it is near worthless on flexible vines and light limbs. But for the purposes of this QOD I want to focus on hatchets.

An axe really isn’t great at cutting non-fixed vegetation. However, for kindling preparation it is the safer and less awkward tool. And truthfully, how much clearing of brush do you do when you are camping?

That said, I can do a reasonably competent job with kindling prep with a machete. Neither tool is really good for backpacking unless you know that you will be doing significant wood prep. For light or emergency use, batoning with a bushcraft-style knife is sufficient.

Around the house, I grab the Halfachance for anything that I don’t fire up the chainsaw for. I think it is slightly more packable for camping, if less perfect for the task of firewood prep. However, I think the versatility of a good machete (not a Harbor Freight $9 special) makes it the tool I prefer to grab when headed out to camp.

Which tool do you prefer, a hatchet or a machete?

Did I miss any points, pro or con for either?


27 responses to ‘Question of the day: Hatchet or Machete?

  1. I use a rigging axe for camping. It’s basically a hatchet with a hammer head on the back side. I’ve never had much luck hammering in tent stakes with a machete.

  2. I prefer a machete. Not that an axe isn’t a good tool but as a weapon, a subject that you failed to discuss, it is quite unwieldy. As a veteran jungle fighter that is the tipping for me

  3. I own a hatchet and a machete for around the home, I find myself grabbing the hatchet far more often than the other. That’s partially because of the abundance of trees that have to constantly be delimbed though.

    So hatchet for me

  4. Hatchet for hardwood and machete for brush or vegetation. I bring a hatchet when I go into the cascades, but a machete would be great for clearing shooting lanes.

  5. Back to the original review of the Estwing e44a, I wanted to find some budget alternatives for the Estwing e44a that sort of meet the same design requirements liked by reviewer. In short there aren’t a lot of chopping “axes” in this size range. By that I mean the head shape definitely leans towards the chopping/felling side, and most small axes seem to take a more balanced approach to head shape. Basically this is a felling style blade on and oversized hatchet handle. I do think he could get more versatility out of something like a Fiskars x7 hatchet or a Husqvarna Curved Handle hatchet, but nothing really matches the head design of the Estwing. e44a in that price range.

    • Thanks for the comments Robert. I have a Fiskars X7 and a Gerber Camp Axe II which is a re-branded Fiskars X10. The Gerber Camp Axe II is the closer of the two in size and weight to the Estwing E44A. The Gerber works well for splitting kindling and the X7 for backpacking, kindling and roughing out wooden spoons. I do not have any of these but three alternatives come to mind for the Estwing Camper’s axes size and price range. The Council Tool 2# Hudson Bay short handled axe, the Husqvarna Carpenter’s axe and the Snow & Nealley Penobscot Bay Kindling Axe. So many axes. So little time to try them all. Haha.

      • Yeah I looked at those. Maybe the carpenter’s axe based on the narrower head design would be a good alternative. The Estwing is kind of unique in size/shape so I guess I could see how someone might choose it now for certain jobs.

  6. As others have stated I prefer a machete for brush and vines up to 3″ in diameter. From 3″ to 6″ I prefer a hatchet, camp axe or boys axe. Above that it would be between a full size axe or a saw. I also think a hand saw should be thrown into the mix.

  7. Instead of ‘rock, paper, scissors’ we could just start a round of ‘saw, hatchet, machete’ and see who wins?

    In the end, the now famous Robert H is right, own them ALL (notice I didn’t say ‘one of each’, where would be the fun in that).

  8. Depends on the job to be done.
    Use the right tool for the job at hand.
    When camping it depends on the terrain.
    You carry one, your buddy carries the other and you are covered either way.

  9. A machete and a file for home or on the road/trail. Ax for home use, or more permanent location. Having a chain saw hardy is always good. “Which tool do you prefer”? All of them.

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