Although some woodsmen more modern than I may shun the need or use of a tool as archaic and low-tech as a hatchet, I have found that they are of utmost importance for backwoods adventures. I do not walk into the deep woods with plans of an overnight stay without my trusted Estwing Sportsman’s Axe. As I expressed in my post about The Duncan Trio, if the hatchet is paired with an excellent fixed-blade knife and folding knife, it will suit the needs of most any woodsman.
A hatchet is ideal for cutting small trees, building shelters, collecting firewood, shaving wood for tinder, cutting bone when dressing or butchering game in the field, and for countless other necessities around the campsite. It handles all of the jobs too large for your fixed blade knife and is much smaller and more convenient to carry than longer-handled axes. Additionally, the woodsman will find that a hatchet is as useful when car-camping with the family (and bringing their own pre-cut wood) as it is when you find yourself alone in the backcountry.
I purchased my Estwing Sportsman’s Axe from a local Home Depot for around $35. They are made in the U.S. and are the highest quality hatchets that I have found. The forged one-piece steel is extremely durable and takes and holds an edge extremely well. Mine was actually quite sharp as purchased and only required a few strokes from a metal file for field use. The leather handle is comfortable and shaped well for strong gripping and extended use. The leather sheath is satisfactory although it isn’t especially eye-catching. Much better sheaths can be found on eBay if you are particular. I’ll likely leave mine as is until the sheath doesn’t protect the blade any longer. At that point, I’ll either purchase a hand-made sheath or attempt making one myself.
I highly recommend that every woodsman consider adding a hatchet to their packing list for their next outing, and if he is wise, it’ll be an Estwing Sportsman’s Axe.