Choosing a Hatchet for Survival
A hatchet or small hand axe is a multi-tool that can be used to cut, chop and hammer if you purchase a traditional type hatchet. The typical hatchet will have a cutting edge and a hammer edge that can be used to hammer nails, break glass for emergency extractions and you can do flint knapping to make arrowheads or even fishhooks. While it is not designed for flint knapping, it can be used for this purpose in emergencies.
In a survival situation a hatchet is indispensable because it can be used to chop wood, or even chop trees down to make shelter, chop through ice to obtain drinking water or to cut a hole for fishing. The striking end can be used to hammer stakes into the ground, smash rocks to make smaller cutting tools or used as a blunt instrument for non-lethal self-defense. The metal of the hatched head can also be used to create a spark for fires if struck with flint/hard stone or you can use with a Ferro rod.
Tactical hatchets while they have a cutting/chopping edge they are typically designed for when you find yourself trapped and have to cut or break your way through a door or even a wall. A tactical hatchet may have slots in the head to shut off gas meters or open the valves on certain oxygen tanks and these are typically carried by first responders or military personnel.
The piecing spike would be used to break through stone, brick, light metal, glass or wood barriers. Typically, a tactical hatchet would be lighter so they are not as useful for chopping larger pieces of wood and most have a straight handle, which can make chopping awkward. The holes in many tactical hatchet heads are designed to lighten the hatchet and do not serve any other purpose. Many of these types are designed for throwing and thus could be considered a self-defense or even a hunting weapon as well.
The typical so-called camp axe/hatchet is ideal for hikers, hunters and campers. You have the cutting edge and hammering edge combined. The shape of the handle is perfect for swinging and delivering blows, and at the same time allowing you to maintain your grip. You can still purchase hatchets with wooden handles and the handle is inserted into the hatchet head. Some prefer wooden handles and others like fiberglass or even all steel handles.
Obviously, a wooden handle will require maintenance to keep the wood from drying out and cracking. If you buy a quality product however, there is no reason why a wooden handled hatchet would not last you a lifetime. Note how the wooden handle is inserted into the hatchet head in the above picture. This means that over time, the head may loosen but on the other hand, you can change handles if you break or splinter it or it otherwise becomes unusable. A one-piece hatchet if for some reason you damaged or broke the handle it would be difficult if not impossible to repair.
Before buying a hatchet, know what you expect it to do. If you are a hiker or camper your hatchet will be expected to chop wood, cut rope and hammer in stakes and in some situations it may be needed for digging holes if you need to search for water or extract edible roots from the ground.
For bug-out-bags, or home emergency kits a traditional hatchet would be ideal as tool for cutting, chopping or even to help extract you from a damaged building. A tactical one is ideal if you are looking for a self-defense weapon that can also be used for chopping, cutting and for making, an emergency egress or used for rescue operations.