Wed. Oct 20th, 2021

A survival axe or machete is a must-have item for anyone travelling into the wilderness or into any form of a survival emergency, regardless of how small their bag is. You might wish to carry one or the other if you’re trying to pack light.

Which of these will you require the most? The purpose of each tool will be discussed in this post. You can then choose which you require in each given situation (whenever possible, we highly recommend carrying both an axe and a machete when in the wilderness).

The Cliff Notes


  • Intended for light to moderate chopping / hacking
  • Long, (relatively thin) blade provides chopping/hacking ability
  • Easy to use as improvised combat weapon
  • Swing may be hazardous for newbies
  • Suitable for tropical settings


  • Intended for heavy chopping
  • Short, thick head provides chopping ability
  • Difficult to use as improvised combat weapon
  • Swing safer for newbies
  • Suitable for coniferous / alpine settings

What is a Machete?

A machete is a tool that resembles a long knife with a blade that is at least 10 inches long. This instrument is designed to cut and hack through a variety of materials, including dense bushes. During your investigation, you will discover that machetes come in a variety of shapes and sizes, each with its own set of uses.


A machete’s blade is long and made of steel (carbon or high carbon). It’s thicker than other knives, but not as thick as a hatchet blade. It’s been used for hacking and cutting for centuries. It’s also useful for skinning animals.

A machete’s handle is short and fashioned of a variety of materials, including plastic, wood, and Micarta. Ivory was used in the past, however, this is no longer the case.

A machete is a small, lightweight implement that is simple to use. This is the instrument to use if you’re out in the woods and need to chop through dense brush.

Machetes are available in a variety of price ranges. They can cost anywhere from $20 to $200 or more, but many of the lower-cost ones are of good quality and dependability.


Chopping Power
A machete is fantastic for cutting through dense undergrowth, but not so much for cutting through wood. Some machetes can cut through wood, but it takes a long time and the result isn’t always clean.

A machete’s short handle makes it far riskier to use, especially for beginners. Before going into the forest with a machete, be sure you know how to handle it properly.

What is a Hatchet?

A hatchet is a smaller axe with a shorter handle than a standard axe. The head is built with a sharp side for cutting and splitting wood and a hammerhead on the other side. A hatchet is indispensable since it may be used for a variety of tasks. It can even be used as a weapon if necessary.


Hatchet heads are typically constructed of carbon steel and range in thickness from low to high. The type of material utilised will be determined by the desired application.

The haft, or handle, is lengthened – up to 18 inches long – to allow users to properly wield the weapon. The haft is traditionally made of wood. Today, you may get newer models with composite materials as handles, which are the most popular.

Hatchets often weigh between 20 and 32 ounces. The head is the most substantial component of the body. Because of the weight distribution, this is the greatest tool for chopping wood because it allows you to put more power behind the handle.

To get a nice hatchet, you don’t have to pay a lot of money. They range in price from $20 to $150, and the lower-cost variants are often just as reliable as the higher-cost models.


While the weight of a hatchet allows you to generate so much force with each stroke, it can also lead your arm to tyre more quickly. You’ll notice it in your arm and shoulder after a few strokes.

When you don’t have any other options, the hatchet is a good combat weapon. Swinging and hurling hatchets are two common self-defence movements (the latter should only be done by those who have knowledge of the technique).

Hatchet vs Machete Comparison Table – Which is better?

Type of JobHatchetMachete
Typical Weight1-1.5 lb0.9 lb
Trail and Brush ClearingX
General Camping ToolX
Light chopping (limbs up to 3″ diameter)X
Tree felling (>3″ diameter or larger)X
Slicing/knife workXX
Plant removal/restorationX

A machete or hatchet can be used as a knife in the same way. A hatchet’s blade, like a machete’s, can be used as a knife. As a result, I would consider each instrument to be equal to the task in general.

A machete’s large blade, on the other hand, can be ground to various angles while still retaining its slicing effectiveness. As a result, a machete in the hands of an experienced user might have an extremely narrow-angle for some survival activities like skinning an animal. For example, a larger angle for the hatchet works closer to the handle.

Which instrument you would use for habitat restoration would depend on the type of vegetation you were removing. A machete is better than a hatchet for most typical woody invasives like vines. The hatchet, on the other hand, would be the natural choice if you come across larger trees.

While both instruments can be used to destroy woody invasive plants using the cut and paint approach, which tool to employ depends on the plant to be killed. Nobody would try to cut down a Bradford Pear tree with a diameter of 5 inches with a machete. At the same time, cutting into Oriental Bittersweet with a hatchet would be challenging.

Personally, if I were to embark on an invasive plant-killing spree, I would already know which plants to target and at what stage of maturity. That would influence my tool selection, and it should be for you as well.

I used to be in charge of large expanses of invading species (Bush Honeysuckle). A hatchet, machete, axe, or pruning saw are all useful tools to have (and I used all of them!). However, in the years since I began, I have acquired a chainsaw. However, I continue to use my machete. It’s great for removing all the twigs from small branches and saplings so that enormous brush piles don’t form. Despite the fact that I have a power tool, I only use it on huge diameter trunks!

So, what can we conclude from all of these comparisons? The most obvious conclusion is that you need to know where you’re going and what kind of vegetation you’ll find there.

If you were hiking for kilometres to go to a specified location, you would most likely choose the lightest tool. Because you don’t want to arrive at your campsite/job site wearier than required. Otherwise, if weight isn’t an issue and you have room, go ahead and take both!

When To Use A Hatchet

Assume you’re in the woods and need to construct a shelter or gather wood for a fire. When it comes to cutting down little trees, a machete isn’t much use. In this circumstance, a hatchet or a small axe is the ideal option. Cutting even the tiniest tree with a knife would be nearly difficult, but even the tiniest hatchet will suffice. Hatchets can also be used to chop firewood.

When To Use A Machette

A sharp and lightweight implement is required for chopping and hacking through dense foliage; the machete is suitable for this. Unlike with a hatchet, your arm will not fatigue as soon, allowing you to labour for longer periods of time. This is a tool that you should have in your toolbox if you need to cut a route through a brush.

Hatchet Vs. Machette

So, is the hatchet or the machete the better tool? It depends entirely on the application. Each has its own set of pros and weaknesses, but when utilised properly, they both get the job done.

Unless you know you’ll be undertaking tree removal or dealing with a lot of dead and dry wood, I’d go with the machete.

As previously stated, and as everyone who has tried it knows, a machete is ineffective in chopping dead and dried wood. It doesn’t seem to have the inertia to cut through or break off springy deadwood. It can’t be used as a hammer, either. That is one ‘intangible’ that a hatchet provides.

The answer is simple because a machete can be used as a hatchet in practically all scenarios (almost all if you have enough patience) and will outperform or match a hatchet made of greenwood. The versatility of a machete is greater. That would be my preference.

An axe is the implement of choice for chopping wood. A machete is the greatest instrument for chopping undergrowth and even skinning animals. When you’re out in the woods, bring both tools with you just to be safe.


[1] – Wood handbook : wood as an engineering material. Madison, WI : USDA Forest Service, Forest Products Laboratory, 1999. General technical report FPL ; GTR-113: Pages 4.1-4.45


By Beth

I'm Beth Nunes, the proprietor of preparing in the city. My family is the most important thing in the world to me. I couldn't bear the thought of my three small children going hungry, so I became obsessed with finding simple and practical ways to be prepared for the future by building food storage and gathering other emergency preparedness items.

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