Hatchets Or Saws?

Discussion in 'Back to Basics' started by CATO, Oct 7, 2012.

  1. CATO

    CATO Monkey+++

    I've seen this question a lot in the forums:
    The answers are wildly varied. So, I started thinking: What kind of hatchet is optimal for taking along on a pack? Can you get by with a small hatchet--maybe even a hawk, or do you need a trail axe? What's more useful: hatchet or saw? Do you need both? Keep in mind, these are my conclusions...I'm not interested in a debate of one over the other; I'm just sharing my experiment.

    Here are my requirements:
    • Must be small enough and light enough to fit on a pack for many miles of hiking.
    • Must be efficient at it's job of cutting wood (and when I say "cutting wood" I mean everything from felling a tree to cutting it up into logs...and when I say "efficient," I mean that it can't be too tiring to cut down a tree or chop through said tree)
    So, here's what I did. I had a hardwood tree (~12" in diameter) in the backyard that had to come down. So, I thought I would test everything from a small hatchet up to a trail axe in addition to a saw. The saw I have is an 18" Sawvivor.

    When chopping the tree, I used each tool (including the saw) for a few minutes to see what the progress was essentially asking myself "How much of a PITA would it be to use this to chop this whole tree up into logs for either shelter building or for fire?" (Note: this test was focused on a tree, not saplings. I think any of these would be useful for a sapling. Although, I the the trail axe would be overkill).

    After I felled the tree, I also chopped the limbs off.


    As far as the axes go, it was MUCH easier using the trail axe (Cold Steele) because of the leverage I got from the handle. Everything else was highly inefficient and would take up a huge amount of energy. However, between the longer Gerber axe and the hand forged tomahawk, the tomahawk was the winner. That thing was wicked sharp. I think the thickness of the Gerber hatchets makes them less efficient at getting through the wood. An Eastwing is much better than the Gerbers IMO. I had another hatchety/hawk thing--the SOG with pointed tip, (not in the picture below), and found it quite useless for chopping. Maybe it looks cooler than its actual utility. The machete just didn't have enough kinetic energy compared to the trail axe or tomahawk. The CS shovel is interesting: it's sharp as h3ll and could be used as a shovel (alleviating the need for an entrenching tool), but it's just too awkward for me and I think any digging with that thing would ruin the blade.

    I didn't set out to test this--it was an afterthought while chopping. Let me first point out that I LOVE hatchets. I've been around them all my life. I think my first chop was with my Grandpa's Eastwing. I like tomahawks even more.

    After a while in the woods, you probably get real good with a hatchet. But, I noticed that with the exception of the trail axe, everything else was fairly dangerous--especially the tomahawk. As an example, just a slow swing with the tomahawk would go right through a 2" limb. Not so with the other tools. That thing was super-sharp and you had to watch what you were doing. I don't want to get a huge laceration after SHTF.

    This was also an afterthought. My wife was going for a walk with the kids and told me that she could hear me chopping at the end of the neighborhood. This got me to thinking: in a SHTF scenario, I don't want people to know about me. With a saw, they could pass me up at 50 - 100yds and never know I was there. At 500 - 600yds or more, they'd hear me chopping. I just don't want that kind of attention.

    Based on the totality of everything, the Sawvivor saw will stay in my pack. I just can't see the need for a hatchet that can't be served with something else I already carry (e.g., I generally have an entrenching tool, large knife (CS Recon Scout or CS SRK), a folder, and scissors).

    Here are the testing tools (the Recon Scout is just for size comparison).

    From left to right: Cold Steel Trail Boss

  2. Seacowboys

    Seacowboys Senior Member Founding Member

    I carry a wire saw, a shor4t LinderRostfrei machete, and a Speznaz shovel in my bike-camping duffle. This seems to meet all of my camp needs with minimal effort. Naturally, a camp ax would be more effecient but for my purposes, these simple tools do a very good job.
    KAS likes this.
  3. CATO

    CATO Monkey+++

    How do you use your shovel? Mostly digging....or mostly chopping.

    I found mine to be a little awkward for one-handed wielding. Two-handed, I felt it was a little short.
  4. Seacowboys

    Seacowboys Senior Member Founding Member

    I do a fair amount of chopping with it, and have split some wood too., but it definitely digs a crap-hole much better than it chops trees.
    Tully Mars likes this.
  5. Brokor

    Brokor Live Free or Cry Moderator Site Supporter+++ Founding Member

    Take your pic: The Cold Steel Trail Boss axe, Ultimate Survival Technologies chain saw, Estwing hatchet, Pack saw and the folding Sven saw.
    I use each of these, but I do not carry all of them at once. Each one has its benefits and perform very well at various tasks. I never leave without the UST chain saw --it's fantastic. I always have the Sven saw in the pack, and use either a hatchet or the Trail Boss axe. Basically, the lighter duty pack saw is the runt of the group, but nice to have because you can also use it to cut bone. I don't mess around with the flimsy diamond encrusted survival wire saws since I broke every one I have used. I also do not fancy the folding knife saws since they tend to be a waste of my time.

    cold1tb. estwing. saw1. saw2. sven saw.
  6. TailorMadeHell

    TailorMadeHell Lurking Shadow Creature

    Just found two items to add to my gear. Thanks Brokor. I like that chain saw and the Sven. I like the compact idea. I do have a Kukri on my hip and a sawback machete attached to my bag.
    Brokor likes this.
  7. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart,Deadman Walking, Snow Monkey Moderator

    Since I have a roll of Oregon Chainsaw Chain, it would seem to ME, thar one could make up their own Hand drawn Chainsaw by just making a set of handles connected to the ends of a length of said Oregon Chainsaw Chain.... I will be trying this out when I return home from my FlatLands Road Trip. ..... YMMV...
    Tully Mars and stg58 like this.
  8. CATO

    CATO Monkey+++

    Have you seen a Sawvivor? I have a Sven...but, prefer the more hack-sawish shape of the Sawvivor. It's easy to bust your knuckles with a Sven. Although, if the Sawvivor hadn't came out, I would carry the Sven.
  9. CATO

    CATO Monkey+++

    I would be interested to see a comparison in time between the hand-drawn chainsaw and a bow saw (which would approximate a Sven or Sawvivor). I think it would take some muscle to pull a chain-saw through a tree (more muscle than a bow saw anyways given how thin they are).

    I'll be interested in your result.
  10. 45ACP

    45ACP Monkey

    Sawvivor is a good saw, lighter than a hatchet and more usable space than the triangular fold down/bow saws.

    Those little wire saws and hand powered "chain" saws suck.

    Opinions like mileage, varies.
  11. Brian

    Brian It is as you say

    Thanks for the link to the UST chainsaw. I've been looking for something like this for awhile now. Great saw to have in your pack; so versatile.
    Brokor likes this.
  12. -06

    -06 Monkey+++

    I quit carrying hatchets long ago--good way to end up with a terrible gash. Have a couple of 18" bow saws, folding saw, and a couple of "string" saws hiding in the BOBs.
    CATO likes this.
  13. Brokor

    Brokor Live Free or Cry Moderator Site Supporter+++ Founding Member

    They work. Try one and see for yourself.

  14. -06

    -06 Monkey+++

    Couple of points: as with a powered saw you need to be careful as to the direction of fall, saw can easily get in a bind, and with a larger tree/limb you need to undercut it first. Undercuts help guide the direction of fall and keep from splitting the wood so badly.
  15. CATO

    CATO Monkey+++

    I was talking about a real chain saw chain. Not one designed for it--they are noticeably smaller.
  16. KAS

    KAS Monkey+++

    how did they turn out????
  17. BTPost

    BTPost Stumpy Old Fart,Deadman Walking, Snow Monkey Moderator

    Better thanI had imagined....
  18. ghrit

    ghrit Bad company Administrator Founding Member

    I think that is a rather, uh," brief" answer. [worthless]
  19. vonslob

    vonslob Monkey++

    I too would like to see how you did it.
  20. stg58

    stg58 Monkey+++ Founding Member

    This is my favorite for packing with the saw in the handle.
    • Axe:
      • Overall Length: 15.60"
      • Blade Length: 2.70"
      • Weight: 26 oz.
      • Head: Forged Steel
      • Handle: Gator-Grip
    • Saw:
      • Overall Length: 10.24"
      • Blade Length: 6.10"
      • Weight: 2.40 oz.

    Stealth Camper likes this.
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