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Hatchet Vs. Knife: Which One Should You Carry?

knife hatchet -- rockymountainbushcraftDOTblogspotDOTcomThere are a large number of fixed blade knives and hatchets available on the market, but a surprisingly small number of them are meant for survival. A true survival knife or hatchet should share the following qualities:

DURABILITY: Many knives and hatchets are not as durable as they appear.  If you see a new knife or a hatchet priced at $15, you would be wise to be wary of it. A true survival knife or hatchet needs to be constructed out of strong, high-quality materials that can do anything and everything from chopping wood, to cleaning game, to using for self-defense. A cheap, low-quality steel knife or hatchet is simply not going to cut it.

SHARPENING ABILITY: A true survival knife and hatchet will need to be sharpened repeatedly over many years. Even the highest quality knives and hatchets can still dull after repeated use. What sets survival knives and hatchets apart from the rest is that they can be sharpened many times over and still be just as good as when you first acquired them. A low quality knife or hatchet will continue to be dull after sharpening.

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VERSATILITY: A true survival knife or hatchet needs to be versatile. Some knives and hatchets are designed for specific uses and may be less applicable for other situations. For example, tactical knives are excellent for combat uses, but may be less suitable for carpentry work. A hatchet that’s designed for wood splitting will do that job well but can be a pain to use for cleaning game. Does this mean you can’t use a tactical knife for carpentry or you can’t use a splitting hatchet for game cleaning? No. But jack-of-all-trade type knives and hatchets are better suited for survival.

Now that we know the important qualities needed for survival knives or hatchets, you may be asking yourself, which is more important — a knife or a hatchet? Obviously, both have their own merits and should be a part of your complete survival kit as a result. But what if, for whatever reason, you could only have one?

survival knifeMany people believe that a good quality survival knife is the most important item in your survival kit. There are few applications in survival that another tool could do better than a survival knife. A knife is an excellent tool for defending yourself, for cleaning game, for making other tools and for shelter making. But some would argue that for heavy duty applications, you need a hatchet.

For example, can you split logs with a knife? Absolutely, but it’s a role that would be made easier by a survival hatchet. Can you cut wood with a knife? Again, yes, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t easier with a hatchet. Other applications where a hatchet would be more valuable than a knife would be to cut ice, to hammer nails, to dig, and to create sparks to make a fire.

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Nonetheless, hatchets have their downsides, too. They are typically heavier and always bulkier than a survival knife, so packing one around on long treks would be more difficult and more noticeable. Since a knife is a more precise tool, it is better for cleaning game, preparing snares, dealing with injuries and making precision tools.

The debate of whether the survival knife or the survival hatchet is more important has been waged by survivalists and outdoor enthusiasts for decades and will continue to be for many years. Ultimately, the question of which one is more important comes down to your needs.  Include both in your survival kit if you can, but if you can only take one, think about what you will be doing out in the wild and whether the knife or the hatchet would better fit those applications.

Remember, regardless of whether you prefer the knife or the hatchet, take care that it’s not just any knife or hatchet. A quality, durable, versatile and easily sharpened knife or hatchet will always serve you better.

Which one would you put in your kit if you had room for only one? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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