Best Hatchet

Posted March 4, 2014 by Joel Schopp in Backpacking
E24A Hatchet

Why a Hatchet?

I don’t remember a lot of books I read in school growing up.  One I do recall in vivid detail is Hatchet by Gary Paulsen.   In the book a young boy crashes in a plane in the wilderness of Canada with nothing but his wind breaker and a hatchet. If the title had been pocketknife or compass the book wouldn’t have resonated.  The utility of a hatchet goes beyond chopping wood, it connects to a primal part of you.  It’s an emotional tool that also happens to be very good at chopping branches and small trees, and splitting wood for starting a fire.

Why this Hatchet in Particular?

Here are some reasons to love the Estwing E24A Sportsman’s Axe


Estwing has been making hammers, axes, and hatchets in the USA since 1923.  Your grandpa might have bought this same hatchet.  As far as I can tell nothing much has changed in terms of design and materials over the years.  It is a time tested design, proven across generations of outdoorsmen.


The Estwing hatchet is one piece of metal from the head all the way down to the base of the handle.  We don’t know what it would take to destroy it, but we are pretty sure it would involve power tools.  You just won’t be able to break it from use. The handle is wrapped in leather that when properly cared for should last a lifetime.  When your children or grandchildren inherit the hatchet the leather wrap is easily replaceable with another few wraps of leather or with paracord.

Most other hatchets have a wooden handle and a metal head.  Invariably, that wooden handle deteriorates from exposure to weather or just from repeated impact.  If you are lucky the loose head is just unusable, but typically a wooden handle hatchet ends with the head flying off while you are using it.  That is dangerous, and it is impossible to find a replacement handle.  With the Estwing hatchet you don’t have to worry about wood handles.

The metal of the hatchet is 1055 steel.  Whenever we start talking about steel we inevitably round up some knife geeks and see what they have to say.  In this case has a lot of say on 1055 steel:  “This steel is particularly suited to applications where strength and impact resistance is valued above all other considerations and will produce blades of almost legendary toughness.”  At Rugged Individual we totally agree, except we’d remove the word almost.  This is a hatchet of legendary toughness.


Goldilocks would have loved this hatchet.  Some hatchets are too big, others are too small, some are too heavy, some are too light.  This hatchet is just right.  You want some weight to carry the momentum of the swing into effective wood chopping, but not too much weight that the chopping gets tiring.  The handle should be long enough to build up speed in the swing, but short enough to control when chopping with one hand.  The curve of the handle and the weight of the blade feel really good.  It’s a tool you are happy to pick up and sad to set down.


If the tool didn’t perform but was pretty we’d toss it in the trash. It is only after knowing that it works great that we give bonus points for attractiveness.  The glistening leather handle and the embossed leather head cover that doubles as a belt holster look cool.

In a day and age when everything is rubber and plastic, the steel and leather of this hatchet stand out in a good way.  We think the steel and leather stand out because it hearkens back to a simpler time when maybe life was harder but it was also more straightforward.  Whatever the psychological reason, we think this is the coolest looking hatchet we have laid eyes on.  If it weren’t so useful we would hang it on the wall as a piece of art.


Often at Rugged Individual we find that the best gear is often more expensive and we have to lay out a more affordable alternative for those who are trying to make a dollar go farther.  We are happy that Estwing has price this hatchet affordably.  If you are looking to spend a lot or a little this is still the right hatchet for you.  It won’t break the bank and performs as well as the more expensive hatchets we’ve used.

Review Round Up

BlackOwlOutdoors did a nice youtube review of the hatchet.  Skip to 3:20 if you just want to see it doing some chopping.

284 Amazon Customer rated it 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Over at Home Depot 17 customers rated it 4.9 out of 5 stars .

The Survivalist forum has a nice thread on this hatchet.   Some choice quotes include, “I’ve had it for almost 20 years and I’m sure it will keep going strong long after I am gone.” and “I’ve cut down 10 inch diameter aspen with mine. Easily usable with 1 hand but has just enough handle to use 2.”

About the Author

Joel Schopp

Joel is a a rock climber, canoer, backpacker, camper, father, skiier, programmer, swimmer, cyclist, zipliner, kayaker, and adventurer in no particular order. He is president of the Central Texas Mountaineers, Texas regional coordinator for the Access Fund, and sits on the board of the non-profit Ascend Outdoor Adventures. Joel wants you to have the best gear so you don't think about your gear and instead focus on the wonder that is the outdoors.


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