Mar 25, 2014 at 11:37 am #1314822
@maiaLocale: Rocky Mountains
Companion forum thread to:Mar 25, 2014 at 11:43 am #2086034
@justin_bakerLocale: Santa Rosa, CA
This thread should be good.
If anyone is curious as to why the mini hatchet is so expensive, especially compared to their full size axes, it's because there is only one smith that forges the mini hatchets and he screws up often (they are difficult to make).Mar 25, 2014 at 12:40 pm #2086049
The SOG Hand Axe comes in at 18.6 ounces and a street price around $35. Holds a decent edge but unfortunately has one of the least comfortable handles I've ever used. Wouldn't recommend it.
There are lots of other choices in the pound-and-a-half range (Fiskars 7870 is sweet) but then you're getting pretty far afield from the ultralight world.Mar 25, 2014 at 7:49 pm #2086187
@doug-hLocale: Ontario. Canada
Love mine. In a class by it's self. Just don't loose it.
It can be used as a multi tool; cut paper, knife, hammer, fillet fish, fend of aggressive chipmunks, some even say they can shave with it.
Then there is their "outdoor hatchet",
Even more cash.
DougMar 25, 2014 at 7:54 pm #2086190
Not as cool but a good, still lightweight axe at a fraction of the costMar 25, 2014 at 8:10 pm #2086193
They are heavy toys, but nicely made. There is one shop in Seattle that carries them and my nose prints are on the locked glass display case :)
Wetterlings is the apples and apples comparison and should have been included. They run $75-$100 for the smaller models.
My woodsy combo is a $12 4.8oz Gerber saw and a $30 5.8oz Mora Bushcraft. It's just hard to cut up your steak with a hatchet :)Mar 25, 2014 at 8:56 pm #2086205
Great to see a little bit of bushcraft on BPL.
I have the GB wildlife hatchet and it's always along on canoe trips and car camping trips with me. The goal this summer is to carve myself a spruce paddle using just the hatchet, my mora knife and a bit of sandpaper.
That being said, despite my love of using hatchets and axes, I find them the least valuable of the bushcraft tools in the field. A small saw and a fixed blade knife cover all the necessary bases and the hatchet is generally relegated to playing around with for fun. Good fun though. And if I was in a situation where I needed a strong, sturdy shelter (cold january night in the boreal forest) I'd definitely appreciate having the hatchet along.
TravisMar 25, 2014 at 9:04 pm #2086207
"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."
"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."
Ryan Jordan 2010Mar 25, 2014 at 9:11 pm #2086209
@cameronLocale: The WOODS
I can think of a few situations beyond bushcraft where a hatchet or saw would be handy. For starters at established campsites people tend to drag in wood that is too big to burn. If you can cut it up you can make use of it and clean up the campsite to keep the LNT purists happy.Mar 25, 2014 at 11:21 pm #2086240
@glenn64Locale: Snowhere, MN
I thought hatchets were passe, and the new one pound wood chopper was the 9 inch bowie knife, something like a Ka-Bar BK-9.
Saws on the other hand, open up a whole new thread of options lolMar 25, 2014 at 11:22 pm #2086241
@justin_bakerLocale: Santa Rosa, CA
I think it was kephart who carried a small pocket hatchet. He claimed it was all he needed for a split wood fire and cut saplings to throw up a natural shelter.
If you build enough campfires in wet weather you really start to appreciate a light cutting/splitting tool. I am more of a saw/knife guy though.Mar 26, 2014 at 8:08 am #2086286
"Among my most valued possessions is a tiny Col-
clesser tomahawk, of 8-ounce head and 2^ inch
bitt, which, with hickory handle and home-made
sheath, weighs only three-quarters of a pound. I
seldom go anywhere in the woods (unless in march-
ing order with a heavier axe) without this little trick. It is all that is needed to put up a satisfactory shelter wherever there is hemlock or balsam, or bark that will peel, while for other service I use it oftener than I do my jackknife." Horace Kephart, Camping and Woodcraft, vol. 2, p32.
The Colclesser company is long gone, but in searching for it found this review of light hatchets:
He seems to like the Vaughn hatchet better than Granfors, especially after skilled sharpening.
The Vaughn 1/2 lb head hatchet seems to be the winner, 11-12 oz, $22.69:
I just ordered one, $34.33 with shipping. I probably won't ever take it hiking, but I've always wanted one of Kephart's tomahawks.Mar 26, 2014 at 9:39 am #2086313
@sharaldsLocale: Gallatin Range
Thank you, Walter for quoting the hatchet bit Justin mentioned out of "Camping and Woodcraft". I learned more about camping and woods life from reading that ONE SINGLE BOOK which was written in the first decade of the 20th century than I did in the last TEN YEARS of reading backpacking forums.Mar 26, 2014 at 9:40 am #2086314
I often carry my Wetterlings mini hatchet. Very similar quality to the GB (hand forged, Swedish steel, similar handle). I went to get some wood for a large gathering with a friend. He had his double bit full size axe, I had my hatchet. We got through the same size pines at the same time. These hatchets are amazing tool.
As to the expense, have you guys looked at hand made knives lately? $150 is cheap!
KevinMar 26, 2014 at 9:45 am #2086317
I like the pack.Mar 26, 2014 at 10:07 am #2086327
@gearmakerLocale: Northern California
There are some great saws out there that are half the weight or less of even the lightest hatchets.
Ed Biermann makes a couple of great buck saws
Sawvivor was also a good buck saw, but I understand they are no longer made.
Or you can cut down/grind a good pruning saw like a Corona or Fiskars to make it lighter and carve out a handle. Depending on the size of wood you want to cut and related length of blade, such saws can weigh as little as 2.8 oz for a 10.5" blade or 4.2 oz for a 13.5" blade.
With all of these saws you can cut small logs for emergency shelter construction or those too-big logs for firewood referred to in a prior post on this thread. The drawback of saws is that they don't split wood.
Machetes may also be reasonable alternatives to hatchets, and are probably better for fending off rabid chipmunks and fileting fish. I have an 14" machete that weighs 14 oz, and a 21" machete that weighs 21 oz. Then again, I also have a 24" cutlass "machete" from Cold Steel that weighs 32 oz, but it's more a survivalist/prepper/zombie apocalypse tool.Mar 26, 2014 at 1:02 pm #2086390
"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…."
These small hatchets were traditionally used more for butchering large game or in a kitchen for splitting wood stove fuel. IMHO, ALL small hatchets lack the heft to do any real chopping and are rather dangerous in experienced hands, with a tendency to bounce off the target and back into the operator's arm or leg.
All in all, I cut cut far more wood in less time and effort with a small saw at 10% the cost and 25% the weight with greater safety. My cheap Gerber saw will go through a 6" log quickly and little chance of hurting myself.
As far as splitting goes, you can baton small stuff with a knife, although banging on a blade is anathema to me. It is easy to cut a branch halfway though with a saw and then split it by bending it to expose the dryer insides. As others pointed out, small stuff can be broken off by hand or by heel. In a pinch, bigger stuff can be slowly fed into the center of an established fire without cutting or splitting any smaller than what you can comfortably carry.
Carving and shaving wood is best done with a sharp knife. A hatchet is handy for making points or notching, but not much else for wood-craft. When you get into real timber making, there are broad axes and adzes that come into play, but they have no place on the trail.
So what it comes down to for me is that a hatchet is certainly better than nothing at all, but not really the first tool I would reach for. They have a nostalgic appeal, but we're supposed to be over nostalgia and fashion when putting together our UL kits.Mar 26, 2014 at 1:34 pm #2086399
@valsharLocale: San Francisco Bay Area
Glad to see this article and I would really welcome to have some future article touch on the basics of bushcraft.
Survival skills are good and if there should be a situation where gear is lost or shredded, it would be nice to have a little extra skill in the back pocket to save your butt.
TonyMar 26, 2014 at 1:56 pm #2086404
@greenwalkLocale: PA & Ireland
Any thoughts on Wetterlings "Buddy" or Wilderness hatachets for cutting wood for cooking fire? MikeMar 26, 2014 at 3:03 pm #2086434
@traylLocale: SE Tx
"It's just hard to cut up your steak with a hatchet."
You need a bigger steak! ;-)Mar 26, 2014 at 3:41 pm #2086443
@glenn64Locale: Snowhere, MN
3 things are listed as to the benefits of a hatchet.
Keeping your hands clean and free from splinters? A pair of cut-resistant Hy-Flex gloves are only an ounce, work great on rough wood and the rubberized grips make handling slimy branches much easier too. They also make nice pot grabbers (although they melt on hot windscreens, don't ask me how I know ;) ).
Getting to dry heartwood? If you're doing that, then it's most likely for kindling and is something to which a knife is more adept. By the time a fire is big enough to burn big enough split wood to need a hatchet, it should burn wet branches anyway.
It's fun to use? That's debatable. Seems like a big calorie burn to me. A saw seems much easier.
I also noticed that nothing pictured in that article couldn't be accomplished with a small saw. Even a 1.2 oz Sierra Pocket Saw could cut anything shown there. Feeding a BushBuddy with a hatchet? For real? Again, cutting one inch "logs" into wood pellets is a lot easier than stuffing twigs in it every five minutes, but when the tool weighs more than the stove, something's out of balance.Mar 26, 2014 at 4:15 pm #2086454
Glad to see an article on a GB axe. While an advocate of light weight backpacking and a LNT Master Educator it may seem strange that I can see the need for carrying an axe or a folding pack saw in certain situations. While it may not be the primary "go to" item it might save your knickers in a pinch. My favorite GB "implement of destruction" (only in jest) is the GB Small Forest Axe.Mar 26, 2014 at 4:37 pm #2086460
or maybe even a good micro-brew :)
like others have posted, a fixed blade knife and folding/sliding saw will be much more useful than a hatchet/axe for shelter construction, small fires, cleaning fish, fowl and game, etc
I own a small Wetterlings axe and it's handy when I go cabin hopping in the winter, but outside of splitting large amounts of wood- a fixed blade knife and saw will do more for less weightMar 26, 2014 at 6:01 pm #2086483
"Any thoughts on Wetterlings "Buddy" or Wilderness hatachets for cutting wood for cooking fire?"
Other than steel quaility, axe head profiles vary to suit cutting, chopping, and splitting. If youvreallyvwantrd to get the lowdown, a side by side comparison with a number of users should be done.
Someone mentioned the small Vaughan hatchet. It vid so small and light that it has no driving force to do effective chopping. It's a kitchen stove wood tool, IMHO.Mar 27, 2014 at 2:51 am #2086584
@redyetiLocale: South Eastern UK
I got a beautiful Gränsfors Bruk Liten Skogsyxa (little wood axe) for my birthday a couple of years back. I live a few hours drive from them nowadays as it happens.
Gorgeous bit of kit but sharper than you might be used to.
I was practicing left handed wood splitting (I'm pretty good with my right). I was simply resting the axe on the end of the log as I assessed where there might be a crack already opening up in the drying wood. The head of the axe just slipped off, and fell, without force, about two inches onto the tensioned tendon at the back of my right thumb – neatly severing it.
Little blood, almost no pain. Very clean wound. Some pain as the tendon disappeared up towards my wrist though.
I'm no superhero but I've had my fair share of toe-curling injuries over the years from sports and martial arts and I can cope pretty well. However, I had to lie down and nearly passed out. The knowledge of how seriously I'd just managed to injure myself was one of the most unpleasant things I've experienced. To clarify, having no useful thumb is counted as a very serious disability in terms of the scale of the help available in most developed countries.
Of course, a drive to a very well equipped Swedish hospital and some fun-to-watch surgery as the surgeon lengthened the wound considerably to retrieve the severed tendon, and all was well again (after six weeks in a painful cast with my thumb held hard backwards).
Two years on and with a fair bit of physio I have most of the extension range in the thumb and the grip strength is about what it was.
So – gorgeous tool but be very aware that they are razor sharp and require no force to slice though flesh!
Be careful with such things in the back-country. ;)
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