Hatchet Vs Knife | Which Tool Is Better For Survival?

By James Barton •  Updated: 02/05/19 •  6 min read

In any survival situation, having a belated tool is a must. Almost everyone in the survival community prefers a knife. However, there are a few people who prefer a hatchet or small ax. In this article, I’m going to give my take on this issue. Let’s get into a comparison of hatchet vs knife.

hatchet vs knife

1. Tree-Felling And Major Woodwork

heavy hatchet

There’s no doubt that for large-scale woodwork a hatchet or small ax is much more capable than a knife. Felling a small tree with a survival knife—no matter how beefy—is all but impossible. That’s not the case with a hatchet.

Even a small hatchet makes it possible to feel trees and saplings quickly and efficiently. Chopping firewood and preparing wood for use in structures is also much easier with the leverage and reach provided by a hatchet. Hence, for felling trees hatchet is considerable comparing large survival knives or a bowie knife.

Advantage: Hatchet

Fine Woodwork And Carving

While a sharp hatchet makes it possible to do some fire woodwork, a knife is obviously better at these tasks. With a handle and overall shape designed for carving and intricate tasks, a fixed-blade knife with a significant blade length provides a safer platform as well.

Advantage: Knife

Skinning And Cleaning Game

For most small game tasks, the smaller blade and higher precision of a knife allows you to skin and clean faster and more easily. However, there are a few areas where the hatchet does come out ahead. This includes simple tasks like quartering, cutting through ribs, and removing the head. A hatchet makes it easy to chop through bone and sinew for these larger tasks. You can use either a knife with a very sharp edge or a hatchet.

Advantage: Tie


As a weapon, a hatchet is usually going to be more effective than a knife with a tang blade. That’s because it has a longer reach. In close combat, reach is incredibly important.

The power of any individual strike is also going to be higher with a hatchet since the handle and higher overall mass increases momentum. The haft of the hatchet also allows it to be used as a hook and for blocking strikes.

Advantage: Hatchet

Also Read: Self Defense Tips: How to Defend Yourself with a Kukri Knife

Hammering Tool

In a survival situation, tools must be repurposed for a great many tasks. One of these might be hammering. Hammering could be important for driving stakes into the ground for shelter, to secure a handing animal, or to soften food. As many hatchets have a built-in flat-hammer on the rear of the blade, they have a clear advantage for this task.

Advantage: Hatchet

Weight And Portability

Any knife is likely to be smaller, lighter, and more easily concealed than a hatchet. Therefore, a knife is a clear winner in this category.

Advantage: Knife


In most cases, a hatchet will be more durable than a knife, because a hatchet is designed to be swung around and bashed into the wood. Knives are for the most part designed for more fine use. This is not true of all knives—some are truly strong and well-constructed—but in general, a hatchet will last longer than a knife when put to hard use.

Advantage: Hatchet

Fire Starting

A knife has several advantages over a hatchet when it comes to fire starting. For one, it’s much easier to create wood shavings or a feather stick with a knife. Additionally, striking fire steel on the back of a knife blade is much easier than using a hatchet. While the hatchet does make it easier to process the fire starter and prepare larger firewood, the knife wins out as the best tool here.

Advantage: Knife

Misc. Cutting, First Aid, And Camp Chores 

best knife

When it comes to cutting, there are numerous needs that come up in a wilderness or survival situation. These can include cutting holes in clothing or fabric, cutting bandages, piercing abscesses or blisters, cutting rope or twine, and many more. For these small camp chores a knife, with its small agile blade with a pointed tip), has a clear advantage over a hatchet. 

Advantage: Knife

Which Is Better?

So which is the better survival tool: hatchet or knife? The can be no definitive answer to this question. Anyone person is likely to answer the same question differently depending on the situation they find themselves in. The knife may be better suited to many tasks, but the hatchet can adequately perform some of them—while performing others that are all but impossible with a knife.

In any survival or prepping scenario, you need to make a choice based on your terrain, likely tasks and obstacles you may face, the amount of gear you can carry or maintain access to, the size of your party, and so on.

Ideally, you should have both tools—and if you have a couple of people, you can split the job of carrying these items are have the best of both worlds.

If not, you may have to make a choice. But I can’t make it for you. Heck, if you live in the tropics you might dump both of these in favor of a machete! The lesson is simple: adapt to the circumstance. That’s how you survive.


1. Is a knife or hatchet better?

A knife is typically better for everyday use, while a hatchet is better for heavier tasks such as chopping trees or wood.

2. Is a hatchet good for self-defense?

A hatchet is not as well suited as large knives for self-defense. A knife’s design makes it ideal for puncturing and inflicting wounds, while a hatchet’s design makes it better suited to chopping wood and other tasks.

3. Is a hatchet considered a knife?

A hatchet might be called a special type of knife or classified as an ax (though there are many distinctions between the two). In common usage though, “knife” typically means “folding blade knife” and “hatchet” means “non-folding hand tool”.

4. Is a hatchet a good weapon?

When used as one, yes! Hats would probably be more effective than knives in war settings because they can do more damage. Overall, the use of just one tool is dependent on requirements and personal preference.

Summing Up

So, which is the best for survival? The answer may not be as clear-cut as you think. Both a knife and hatchet have their pros and cons, and it ultimately depends on what you’re most comfortable using and what kind of tasks you need to complete.

If you’re looking for a general all-purpose tool that can do everything from chopping wood to skinning a deer, then the hatchet is probably your best bet.

But if you need a more precise tool for delicate tasks or want something that’s easier to carry around with you, go with the knife. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide which one is better for your needs.

James Barton

James Barton

Hi, I'm James. I am the founder and main editor for The Survival Corps. I have been a part of the survival and prepping community since my mid 30's as I downsized and started to prepare to be self sufficient in a time of crisis.