Machete vs. Hatchet – What is the Difference?

Machete is as useful as a hatchet and excels at heavy-duty chopping applications like felling hardwoods. Machetes are more like a knife and are honed for light to moderate chopping tasks. A hatchet is a multi-purpose single-handed ax with a sharp blade for cutting and splitting wood.

So, between a machete and hatchet, which is the fundamental tool for survival?

Machetes and hatchets really do pretty different jobs. Whether machete or hatchet is the best survival tool depends on the terrain and a person’s preferred method of bushcraft.

If you are taking a camping trip to heavily forested regions, you will benefit from a hatchet much more than you would with a machete. Hatchet is designed to handle serious chopping and cutting. It also perfectly works for small tasks too. In simpler terms, you can use a hatchet in a more aggressive way that the machete won’t tolerate.

On the other hand, a machete is optimized for slashing and cutting small branches and vines. Even with its longer cutting edge, it is not honed to hack down trees or slit logs. Notably, there are some situations when machete is the best survival tool to have.

Differences between machete and hatchet

The machete and hatchet debate has been highly contested among survivalists and outdoor adventurers. While both are impressive and extremely important tools that outdoor travelers can’t afford to miss, adventurers and campers have their own preferences.

To compare the two, let’s first explore them differently.


Essentially, a machete is a camp tool that resembles a knife. It has a longer blade honed to excel at many things, including chopping branches for firewood, setting up campfire, hunting, and preparing food (flesh and bone). Machete can also be used for self-defense should you be attacked while on an outdoor adventure.

These knife-like tools typically have a handle and relatively thin blade, which makes them lighter to swing when cutting. Despite being thin, the edges are thicker than those of other knives but thinner compared to hatchet blades.

Although machetes come in different types, their general functionality is pretty the same.

Machette excel when used for lighter cutting tasks. It is honed for activities like clearing bushes, chopping considerably small branches, chopping through flesh/bones, and, if needed, as a weapon.

The main appeal of a machete is its lightweight, which also gives it a distinct advantage over hatchets. The less significant weight allows the user to deliver more swings without getting drained, meaning you can chope vines and branches for extended durations.

Machetes are ubiquitous in the tropics, where outdoor adventurers camp in jungles.


Its blade is not as robust and powerful as that of a hatchet.

It is relatively easier to hurt yourself with a machete, especially if you are over-enthusiastic about your swings.


A hatchet is a multi-purpose single-handed ax. It is designed with a strong, sharp blade for cutting and splitting wood.

Most hatchets come with around 18” long hafts and heads made from carbon steel. When compared to machetes, hatchets are relatively heavier because they tolerate more abuse. Their weight is concentrated in the head, which makes them perfect for hacking down hardwoods. The weight helps to deliver more powerful strokes when working.

If pressed, a hatchet can also tackle a number of knife or machete tasks.

Applications of a hatchet

Chopping hardwood: Although the head of a hatchet is small, it is potent to provide powerful strokes when chopping hardened, frozen woods.

Splitting logs and chopping campfire wood: Hatchets are handy tools when it comes to acquiring firewood when in the wild. Besides cutting down trees, you can use your hatchet to split wood for firewood.

Hammering: Another impressive use of hatchet is to hammer. Outdoor adventurers have repeatedly used the thick spine and back head of hatchet to drive tent pegs.

A hatchet can be used for self-defense against attacks from predatory animals. Although it is relatively difficult to use it as a combat weapon, it doesn’t mean it is not helpful.

Preparing food: When on a camping trip, you will likely hunt game for food. After hunting, you can use your ax to clean and chop the flesh.


There are many benefits you get from having a hatchet as your primary survival tool when camping. This is because it performs excessively aggressive tasks that you can’t achieve with a machete.

That said, here are the benefits of a hatchet.

It can be used in multiple applications, including chopping, hammering, and shaving.

A hatchet can be used more aggressively and performs well in harsh conditions. It is durable

It is far much safer than a machete. Even when handled carelessly or by an amateur, a hatchet is far less likely to cause injury.

It delivers more powerful strokes.


Using a hatchet is more tiring than using a machete

With its considerably short blade, it is not suitable for clearing dense grass

Depending on expertise, you may have slower swings than you would with a machete.

It is relatively difficult to use as a weapon, particularly for those not familiar with the art of using it.

Machete vs. hatchet: How do they handle?

Machetes are more manageable than hatchets, thanks to their lightweight. This allows you to achieve more accurate blows while lowering centrifugal force and inertia so that you continue chopping for significantly extended periods.

When it comes to sharpness and keeping your tool sharp, a machete is sharper. While this makes it great for most chopping tasks, it is relatively harder to sharpen. Hatchets not as sharp as hatchet but can be easy to sharpen – all you need a grinding stone to sharpen it.

If you like hunting, camping, or are just out for a weekend outing, then you need to carry a medium-sized fixed blade with you.

Machete is as useful as a hatchet, provided you are using each tool for the right job. A hatchet excels at heavy-duty chopping applications like felling hardwoods. On the other hand, machetes are honed for light to moderate chopping tasks. Overall, the tools are excellent for their respective uses.