Jan 5, 2010 at 11:02 am #1253804
If I am in the campfire building mood sometimes my pocket saw doesn't cut it. I have always wanted to build a SUL hatchet because even the lightest hatchets out there are a bit too heavy.
Would you carry a 4-8oz SUL packable backpacking/camp hatchet?
Head constructed of titanium
Handle constructed of carbon fiber.Jan 5, 2010 at 11:11 am #1559747
I'm not sure a titanium head would last, and a carbon fiber handle sounds like a bad idea for cold weather. I would like a lighter solution though.Jan 5, 2010 at 11:14 am #1559748
@owareLocale: Steptoe Butte
A machete can take the place of an hatchet much of the time
and be lighter. Also can cut snow blocks.Jan 5, 2010 at 11:24 am #1559754
A good small fixed blade such as the Benchmade Nim Cub II or the Rat Cutlery Rat 3 can be used to split wood by batoning. The Nim Cub is the lightest at 3 ounces. Its much easyier to clean a fish with a fixed blade than with a tomohawk. Also great for slicing tomatoes and fingers. AliJan 5, 2010 at 11:40 am #1559762
A very light hatchet wouldn't be very functional because the weight of the head is used to add to the force to chop or split the wood. It would likely have other flaws, like being weak or not holding an edge for very long.
How long do you plan to maintain a fire? If it's just a short one, or one for cooking, you're probably better off just using smaller diameter wood which can be sectioned by breaking. You could also baton a 3 oz/4 inch blade Mora knife, but a 6" folding/sliding saw would be more efficient. The same Mora knife could also be batoned to split smaller diameter wood if necessary due to moisture.
If you want or need a longer-burning fire, or if most of the dead wood is covered under snow, bring at least a 19" axe and a folding bucksaw. A 3/4-sized (26" or so) axe would be preferable for splitting wood on deep snow.Jan 5, 2010 at 11:53 am #1559767
I have never carried a hatchet backpacking due to the weight but always carry one when I go car camping and nothing can split wood like a axe/hatchet. Sure it doesn't do a great job of filleting fish but thats what my pocket knife is for.
I have a bunch of carbon fiber and was thinking of other things to build.
LawsonJan 5, 2010 at 1:48 pm #1559792
@martycLocale: Industrial Midwest
You, of course, know of the Gransfors Bruks mini hatchet?
Gransfors Mini Belt Hatchet
"It's small, light and perfectly balanced. It can sharpen a pencil, slice a tomato paper thin, and shave the print right off this page. It will frizz sticks for tinder; cut fine kindling and split small logs. It will fillet a fish, skin a moose, tenderize a steak, turn your pancakes, spread jam and peanut butter; pound tent stakes and chop vegetables. And it will ride as lightly on your hip as the average hunting knife."
-Cliff Jacobson, Tactical Knives
With a quote like that, it is hard to resist adding the Gransfors Mini Hatchet to your outdoor gear.
Like all the Gransfors Bruks products, the "Mini Hatchet" is of highest quality and excellence. It weighs in at 11.03 oz, and is 10.25 inches in lengthJan 5, 2010 at 2:01 pm #1559799
Wow, nearly $150 for a Gransfors hatchet!?! For that price the hatchet and sheathe should be made out of fine Corinthian leather and rich mahogany.Jan 5, 2010 at 2:15 pm #1559803
Yeah I have seen the Gransfor mini hatchet and was thinking something similar but titanium for the head and carbon fiber for the handle. I figure it would weigh about 4oz.Jan 5, 2010 at 3:26 pm #1559823
How much and when can you have them ready?Jan 5, 2010 at 3:55 pm #1559836
I don't think a suitable hatchet with a carbon fiber handle and titanium head will ever be ready. The good thing about this combination is that they both have similar expansion ratios and weigh little. The problem with a composite is that you'll have to do elaborate and precise machining where the two materials meet so that it forms a strong joint. You'll also have to design it such that the head flexes gradually where it meets the carbon fiber to minimize the chance for stress fractures.
Then there's the issue of most carbon fiber resins/epoxies being brittle, especially when cold. It will also be impossible to optimize the carbon fiber unless you have millions in machinery and mucho expertise to orient the fibers in the direction where they're most needed. Finally, the edge of a titanium blade won't last long.
I'd rather see a ferrous head that's machined to save weight mated with a titanium handle. This would cost less and might actually be useful.Jan 5, 2010 at 4:00 pm #1559840
I've liked the idea since I read Kephart's books.
The A-23F has a 5 oz head, 8 oz total. $38
Horace Kephart "Camping and Woodcraft" talks about his light weight hatchet, 8 oz head.
http://www.oldjimbo.com/survival/tinyhatchets.html reviews some of these.Jan 5, 2010 at 4:04 pm #1559843
@ryanLocale: Northern Rockies
I have the Gerber Backpaxe (17 oz, the short version) and have purchased–and sold–the Gransfor Mini.
The Gransfor Mini has to have the worst performance-to-cost ratio of any hatchet on the market! That aside, its weight is poorly distributed, the handle is too heavy. There's simply not enough mass there for it to be a useful tool to split wood, although it works well for hacking branches off of stumps, but then again, so does your foot, or the Benchmade Nim Cub knife with a baton.
Slicing tomatoes, spreading peanut butter, yes, it probably does OK for stuff like that.
The Backpaxe is heavy by comparison – 17 oz – but I can also split 4 to 8 inch pine with it, which I could never do with the Gransfor Mini. The Backpaxe center of mass is all in the head — the handle is a very light poly handle. You won't get lighter with carbon fiber or titanium, and the weight in the head is important for performance.
What I'd rather see for a small hatchet is something CHEAP because carbon fiber handles are going to break. So, a nice heavy ferrous head (7 oz would be fine, with a 3 inch blade (the hammer head would be essential) coupled to a 1 oz poly handle to make a half pound hatchet that would be a fine performer for small wood.
At some point though, we probably have to admit that using a hatchet is more therapeutic than practical, even for those of us that cook with wood on small fires, Bushbuddies, or titanium Shepherd's stoves. I find a hatchet practical for the latter, and more aesthetic for the former. But i still take one on short trips.Jan 5, 2010 at 4:05 pm #1559846
To build on what Ali and Andy said, although it's a cool idea, it doesn't make much sense. The mass of the axe/hatchet is a large part of what makes it a useful tool. If you want to split wood, batoning a fixed-blade knife will get you a more versatile, lighter-weight, more functional option. Have you ever split wood w/a light axe? It stinks. And my experiences were w/the Gerber series, which were at least 4 times heavier than you're talking about. For anything other than ideal wood, I ended up batoning the hatchet, anyway. I think you can come up with some more functional uses for your spare carbon fiber…Jan 5, 2010 at 4:17 pm #1559850
@jeff-kLocale: New York
I wonder if it would be possible and practical to have a light headed hatchet and then add ballast to the head it by filling it up with water, sand, etc. Therefore you would have the weight when you want it, but you could empty it out when you didn't.Jan 5, 2010 at 4:21 pm #1559853
The thing about a hatchet is the smaller it is the less useful it is. I have handled the GB Mini and I have to say it is nothing but a toy. Cool, but just a toy. The smallest hatchet I have used that I still feel is useful weighs 2 lbs., which is the Wetterlings Small hunting axe.
Either carry the weight of a real hatchet or learn to do without. I suggest the later.
Titanium? At this time there isn't the technology to make titanium hard enough for such tools. Mission knives makes the hardest Ti right now and I feel it is too soft. It is nothing but a gimmick IMO.
Carbon fiber doesn't have a whole lot of impact resistance, I wouldn't trust it to be a hatchet handle.
JosephJan 5, 2010 at 4:23 pm #1559854
"I think you can come up with some more functional uses for your spare carbon fiber…"
I'm sure I'm the only one who would love this (I tend to think a bit differently about things…..), but one of the pieces of my Army gear I actually loved (or at least the functionality of it) was my entrenching tool. That thing could do so much! But it was (is) so darn heavy! One of its most useful functions — orient the blade at a right angle to the shaft and tighten the, well, tightening ring. Hack out the hole. Now put the bottom of the shaft on the ground, with the blade still at a right angle to the shaft (and parallel to the ground), and sit on it to do your business. You could read a magazine in (relative) comfort in the middle of the woods while doing what you need to do without worrying too much about your trousers. Make that lightweight and you'd have one customer! Probably only one, though! ;-)Jan 5, 2010 at 4:40 pm #1559860
My experience is much different than Ryan's with the Gransfors Mini. I have used one for 5 years and have split many larger rounds of wood. I also had a Gerber Backpax and disliked the feel of it. It was very club like and the handle too short for my likes. I sold it in short order.
The next larger Gerber has the same head as the Backpaxe with a longer handle. It weighs very little more and is a much better tool for splitting than the Backpaxe in my experience.
It just goes to show that different people like different things.Jan 5, 2010 at 4:51 pm #1559866
I haven't said anything bad about a lack of weight. It's a trade off. My concern is that the thing would be EXTREMELY expensive to be reliable….or it would be expensive and quickly fail. Now with different materials it might work. It may be challenging to chop wood with, but at least a hammer head on the back would still drive stakes….plus you could reenact a few Mel Gibson scenes.Jan 5, 2010 at 7:10 pm #1559928
We've carried the Gerber on our winter trips and for field dressing during Deer and Elk season. It does a nice job for a 17oz hatchet. 2 Years ago though I will admit I broke a handle at Lava Lake on a 10 inch Lodgepole.Jan 5, 2010 at 7:33 pm #1559938
I agree that a steel head and a wood or plastic handle would probably make the most sense due to cost and performance but I can buy a small fiskars or gerber hatchet. This is something I want to build. As my original post stated I have the carbon fiber and titanium and know how to work with both materials.
Sure the titanium would be softer than tool steel and the carbon fiber has a chance of breaking due to a miss but who cares? I am not looking to build this to sell. I was just asking if anyone else has ever thought of building or carrying a SUL hatchet.Jan 5, 2010 at 9:11 pm #1559975
This may sound crazy, but how about filling the head with water, or maybe sand. If the inherit disadvantage of a lightweight hatchet is that it is light, then adding weight (at the camp site) should be fairly easy. I have no idea if this is practical, but I could see some sort of design involving a hollow head, with a screw on cap. Without anything in it, it would be OK (a little on the light side) but filled with water (or sand) it would be ideal.
With or without the fillable head, I think the general idea is worth pursuing (a lightweight hatchet). Yes, it may be "too light" but that just means that it is bigger. Bigger is better for chopping, right? In other words, if the thing weighs only 10 ounces, it may be the best 10 ounce hatchet around.Jan 5, 2010 at 9:20 pm #1559977
What about a Marbles Small Belt Axe (MR000)? Is this just a toy or heavy?Jan 5, 2010 at 11:57 pm #1560009
@antigLocale: Pacific Northwest
Department stores like Lowes and Home Depot are nice places to find small axes. They have them in the hammer section. Small head, wooden handle.Jan 7, 2010 at 9:47 am #1560462
Lawson, your OP question was "Would you carry a 4-8oz SUL packable backpacking/camp hatchet?" The people who've posted have answered that question; instead of answering with a simple yes or no, they've explained their reasoning. It's just part of normal discussion and idea development. Everyone has been working along with you and trying to help you… no need for a retort such as this.
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