Hatchet vs Saw – Which Would You Pick For Your BOB?




Here’s a question that’s bound to stir up a little controversy, but if I was given a choice I’d pick a Sawvivor or Sven Saw over a hatchet any day for my bug-out bag.  Here’s why.

The hatchet is a good tool, no question about it; however, as far as processing wood goes my personal favorite is a saw.  A good saw in addition to your survival knife will give you the ability to cut firewood and then split it with much less effort than using a hatchet.  A hatchet may be a more versatile tool than a saw in that you can cut the tree down and limb it using just the one implement, but it’s a lot more work.

Of course there are bound to be differences of opinions, but my personal preference is the Sawvivor (with the Sven Saw a very close second) and my Bekker BK2 Campanion survival knife.  Both saws fold up so they take very up very little space in your pack and they are both fairly light, although the Sawvivor is a bit lighter than the Sven Saw, but I would recommend either one for your pack.

The Bekker knife is a beast.  It’s a 1/4″ steel and when you pick it up you know you’ve got a sturdy tool in your hand.  I’ve used it for many different tasks and never once worried about breaking or damaging it.

My second favorite survival knife is the Cold Steel SRK.  This knife isn’t as beastly as the BK2, but it’s a little longer and extremely durable.  Check out the review here.  It would probably be a better tool for processing game than the BK2, but for all around ruggedness the BK2 is a slightly better choice.

In one of my BOB’s I have the BK2 and Sawvivor combo and in the other I have the Sven Saw and SRK.  I’d be happy with either one of those combinations as I’ve used both and liked them quite a bit.  I’ve used these tools to make lean-to’s and other shelters as well as for cutting firewood.

So how about it, folks?  Would you rather have a hatchet or a saw in your BOB if you had your choice?

Questions?  Comments?

Sound off below!

-Jarhead Survivor



Bekker BK2


41 comments… add one
  • j.r. guerra in s. tx. September 13, 2013, 7:26 am

    Tough call. The saw probably, but when / if that saw blade snaps, you better have a spare or three handy. A saw makes much less noise in the woods when cutting.

    One of my old kits has a short large toothed saw blade that is about 10″ long in a length of old cut garden hose with a full length slit. The hose is a cover with teeth inside when stored. When needed the blade can be either grasped with hose as handle to cut, or a branch handle can be made made to make a frame. That Sawvivor is very cool btw. b two thumbs up d Definitely a step up from what I am describing above.

    The hatchet is pretty useful too though. Not only for chopping, but when handle is choked up on, makes a pretty good carving / planing tool. It can be used to process game to ‘make meat’. The tomahawk (round pol) is useful in that a handle can be easily cut in field, the handle slid into it. Versus the elliptical pol of the normal hatchet. Maybe some room for one of the small tomahawks (mouse) blades only could be made in your pack or truck box.

    Wow, round and round . . . what was the question again ? :^)

    • Jarhead Survivor September 13, 2013, 1:51 pm

      I think this is a really good question. It was put forth by one of the readers on the shtf facebook page.

  • Leon Pantenburg September 13, 2013, 9:08 am

    A saw works for me best. I use it for a multitude of tasks, including quartering a big game animal carcass. I think most people are more likely to hurt themselves with a hatchet.

  • Rooikat September 13, 2013, 9:11 am

    Hard decision…
    I personally have ben using a tomahawk for years. Never carried an axe.
    I just recently started using a saw. I find it makes me feel a whole lot safer when out with the less woods-inclined.
    If I had to pick right now? Tomahawk. Less liable to break than a saw; I can replace the handle if need be.

    I like the looks of that sawvivor. I clicked on the link; Amazon is not currently carrying it.

    • Jarhead Survivor September 13, 2013, 1:52 pm

      The Sven Saw is a pretty good option as well. It’s a little taller than the Sawvivor and thus needs a deeper pack, but over all it’s a very good option for the field.

  • Charlie Foxtrot September 13, 2013, 9:14 am

    A saw will get you more wood, but when it dulls it’s a lot tougher to re-sharpen than a hatchet. So… How long will you be out there.
    My preference would be to have both, I can always use more than I can carry.

  • TOR September 13, 2013, 9:20 am

    I lean towards the hatchet/ hawk side. For me they are more useful for light camp type tasks. There are certainly advantages to both tools.

    • Jarhead Survivor September 13, 2013, 1:53 pm

      Very true. If I had the choice to choose just *one*, it would probably be a hatchet – or better yet an axe.

  • Ray September 13, 2013, 9:43 am

    Hudson’s bay Ax , Bigger than a hatchet , lighter than an ax, It will do most camp chores with alacrity. But if I really need to cut up wood My chainsaw is coming out. I spent the winter of 79-80 in a cabin with my brother and two wood stoves + fire place. We had two axes and a crosscut saw + a splitting maul and 4 wedges. That was the hardest I EVER worked to stay warm, and I grew up in a house with a coal grate and three coal stoves.

    • Jarhead Survivor September 13, 2013, 1:59 pm

      I remember my dad using a buck saw when I was old enough to start going out in the woods with him. Probably age 5 or 6. At least old enough where I didn’t get the way all the time.

      Later on I got to use it as well although he’d upgraded to a chain saw by that point. I still use an axe, maul, and wedges to split wood. My neighbors have a hydraulic splitter they’ll let me borrow, but I only need it for the really twisted stuff that just won’t split with a maul.

      I’ll look into the Hudson’s Bay axe. It sounds like a good tool.

      • Ray September 14, 2013, 8:00 am

        The crosscut was the mankiller, I been splitting wood since I was 10. But felling and cutting up wood with that old rocking horse was more work than ether of us knew we’d get into.

    • sput September 13, 2013, 2:59 pm

      agree on the Hudson Bay ax

  • Expat September 13, 2013, 10:33 am

    I spent 10 days on an Ontario fly in fishing trip a couple of years ago. THE most useful piece of equipment the four of us brought was a hatchet I had made.
    Forged from spring steel with an Australian hardwood handle, it served for cutting small (3″ diameter) firewood and as a hammer (we brought a handful of 16p nails), plus a bunch of other things. Somebody was using the thing most all the time.
    Any large pieces of firewood were just dragged over to the fire and one end stuck in. Wound up with a 4′ long fire bed but that works a lot better than a round one. Just had to push the log in more every once in a while.
    I’ve used bow saws – they suck – big time. The same for those big honking survival knives. They do nothing well except make people think you’re a Rambo want-a-be.
    All I carry now is a custom made (David Brodziak)fairly small, sharp knife and that hatchet.

  • GoneWithTheWind September 13, 2013, 11:09 am

    I think questions like this are valid and cause people to think and understand the value of certain survival items. I can’t remember who said it but one of the early woodsman said with a axe and little else he could go out in the woods and live for years. An ax is a wonderful tool, capable of smaller detail work if used right and can fell a tree and build a log cabin. It is also a defense weapon. But for cutting a lot of wood into fire sized chunks or cutting boards a saw can’t be beat. My answer is for a long term survival situation I would like to have both and for a BOB I would probably not carry either one since I place so much importance on weight.

  • R.C. September 13, 2013, 11:58 am

    j.r. brought to mind important things to be aware of.

    If a saw blade snaps, did you bring replacement blade? What if the bow on your bow saw breaks? What then? I have a folding saw, and I can at least fasten that saw blade to a stick or something.

    With an axe/hatchet, i’ve never seen the blade break. I have seen handles fail on an axe, but never the blade.

    • Jarhead Survivor September 13, 2013, 2:05 pm

      Same here in regards to never seeing a hatchet fail. I did see an axe with a big split down the side where the handle went in though, so it is possible. To be fair the axe must have been sixty years old and it was obvious it had seen some hard duty in its time.

  • ThatguyinCA September 13, 2013, 12:36 pm

    The whole idea for picking survival equipment is: does the item have mulitple uses? The next questions are; How likely is failure and what I do if it failed? If i had to choose between the two a good heavy duty hatchet would be the choice.

    However, sometimes you get into the dilemma you are trying to broach. What happens if one item can only do one job but does it SO well that time saved by the task performance efficiency of that item is a benefit in itself? That’s what makes this one such an awesome question. A compact lightweight saw would be welcome.

    Having both is not an impossibility. The saw you show is lightweight, compact, durable and very effective. Adding it wouldn’t be that much of a weight gain or much of a space eater.

    That said, if it was one or the other, I’d go with the hatchet but when performing a task that a saw would do better I’d be saying to myself, “should’ve packed the saw.”

    • Jarhead Survivor September 13, 2013, 2:07 pm

      As you note, the whole question is designed merely to make a person think. In real life though I don’t pack a hatchet in my bag because the Bekker BK2 is heavy enough to do the light chopping stuff I need it to do. Luckily I’ve never had a saw blade break, but I’m extremely careful using it in the field so it doesn’t pinch. I also make sure it’s good and tight so the blade doesn’t bow when I’m using it.

      • j.r. guerra in s. tx. September 14, 2013, 10:40 am

        One saw that likely won’t break AND is portable is the Dandy Saw. This one does not take-down, but comes in several sizes = the small one might be a BOB tool. I have the 24″ inch (iirc) and it works very well.

  • irishdutchuncle September 13, 2013, 1:26 pm

    sven saw.

    I need to make a sleeve to keep it in, plus buy a couple spare blades. my kit includes an ignition file for saw sharpening. I added a better “wing-nut” and a couple washers to the saw.
    it also ratttles a little when it isn’t assembled, so I may pack it with a few scraps of felt if I go hiking with it.

    I’d rather have my Estwing hatchet along too, instead of batoning my sheath knife to split wood. they make a midsize axe also, which might be better, as Ray suggested. (see above)
    I plan to add a hone and a large file, for axe sharpening, to my tool kit.

    • Jarhead Survivor September 13, 2013, 2:08 pm

      I think if I was going to carry anything it would be a mid-sized axe.

      The Sven Saw is a great piece of equipment.

      • irishdutchuncle September 15, 2013, 2:46 pm

        the “big brother” to the Sven, plus the axe, were part of our troop equipment, whereas the hatchet was illustrated in the Scout Handbook as a piece of indivigual gear. the mid-size axe can do just about anything the hand axe could. (plus a few things it can’t. I don’t have one, yet. I have the Sven) nice to have it all, but a lot for one man to carry. you can work up more of a sweat trying to do everything with just an axe. the saw takes a lot less energy, if you need to cut to a length.

        split firewood is much easier to ignite than bark covered logs. you need to have enough kindling, or else…
        the hatchet is great for making kindling.

        Now I can’t decide.

        • irishdutchuncle September 15, 2013, 11:22 pm

          if that BK2 had been available back in 1977, I would have saved up a little more money and bought that instead of my Camillus. that is a real nice looking blade.

  • Badger359 September 13, 2013, 3:28 pm

    I usually carry a Sven saw and have never had a any issues with. However the survivor looks interesting. I have used Hatchets for the most part, primarily because I can pull it out and go to work with out any fuss unlike having to assemble the Sven, not that its a big or anything. I have used my RAT-7 for most things and a small mora for little things

  • Roseman September 13, 2013, 3:45 pm

    My mid size axe is always with me when working in the woods. It is useful for so many things, too many to list. No question a saw is a better tool for firewood processing but good for little else.

  • Steve suffering in NJ September 13, 2013, 5:44 pm

    Got a Gerber pack AX. It’s pretty damn small. Takes up minimal space. Very easy to make very sharp. Able to shave arm hair with it like a good sharp knife. Saws nice but the AX can hammer, smash, probably skin too though not nice and cleanly. AX can be pushed into self defense in a pinch. I don’t see the saw doing that. For fire wood or shelter building saws prob a bit better, but that’s where it stops in my opinion.

    • Az Dave September 16, 2013, 11:15 pm

      I have a Fiskars hatchet that is the maker of the Gerber axes and hatchets but only half the price. I also agree on the quality of these hatchets. Check your local Wally World garden section.

  • T.R. September 13, 2013, 7:30 pm

    A Tomahawk , I used to carry a machete , but now that I have used a hawk , I wouldn’t trade it for outdoors . Plus you can do more things with it , especially if it has a hammer pull on the back end . A traditional hawk will break down , as it is designed for the head to slide down for use as a cutter , or scraper . Only down side is that you wont be chopping huge things with it , but for its size , its a good all around tool to take with you . Between a hawk and the ” spetsnaz ” shovel , you can do a lot of things out there .

  • Pineslayer September 13, 2013, 7:39 pm

    Gosh I hate it when I have to choose. Right now our packs have Bahco folding saws and SRK Carbon V’s. My daughter actually has chosen the Mini-Bushman as her favorite, it is so cute and versatile. It is really hard not to pack a hatchet or small axe. All of the saws mentioned here are pretty light, so can’t we take them all Jarhead?

  • Steve suffering in NJ September 13, 2013, 11:31 pm

    Tomahawk got me thinking. But the hawk, in my opinion is a weapon more than a tool. Was my stand by for night stand duty when kids were small and pistols needed to be locked up. Axe is more of a tool that can be used for defense than a defensive tool (hawk) used as a tool . Just my 2 cents.

    • T.R. September 14, 2013, 12:43 am

      The only problem with the tomahawk or any of the ax family is that it is unwieldy , and as a weapon , the recovery and sped is not there , the Spetsnaz shovel is actually a far better weapon and lightning fast .

  • highdesertlivin September 14, 2013, 1:07 am

    I would opt for a woodsmans axe.The grind is shallower than a felling axe, and smaller edge surface.Also its handle is somewhere between a hatchet and a full size axe.I think the saw would be good for a weekend type excursion. When your building a structure to ride the winter out, you will be sharpening your axe at night, long after your saw blades have worn out.My 2 cents.

  • Wyzyrd September 14, 2013, 2:58 am

    You really probably need them all, in reality.

    A lot depends on your location. In jungle, a machete will be your go-to tool. In Canada, in winter, you’d be crazy to leave the house without a full-size felling axe, or at least a Hudson’s Bay /woodsman’s model. A good saw w/spare blades doesn’t weigh much or take up a lot of space, and will get you wood faster and more safely, in general. In an urban survival/evac situation, a hacksaw might be the the more useful tool. A good hatchet or ‘hawk is almost always handy outdoors. Don’t discount a cheap chef’s meat cleaver (file a ‘spade’ on the front edge as a ‘cathole-digger’ as a multi-use tool that won’t take down a sequioa or anything, but is very easy to use for small chopping and drawknife tasks.

    Situational Awareness. Very much like “don’t only take a knife to a gun-fight”. Don’t only take a machete to the Canadian boreal forest in December, or only a felling axe to the Arizona desert in August.

    Just my opinion, and worth exactly what you paid for it.

  • James Holmes September 14, 2013, 6:01 am

    Hi all,

    Well, I’d say I prefer my Becker Brute. They dont make them anymore, but I also own a Companion, the brute has a thicker area on the backside of the kukri shaped blade meant to be used as a striking surface, it’s called “batoning” use a heavy stick to pound your way through something. Not all use this, but I do.

    Firewood too long? Why waste energy cutting it up? Surely there are less time consuming chores that need doing.

    If the stick/log is too long, I just feed it into the fire from the side when it burns that section up, I push it farther in when needed. The only reason I can see to chop it into small pieces is for use in a stove. Sawing live wood isn’t something to do, but dead wood either breaks easily enough, or I move onto a smaller diameter branch. If I didn’t have my Brute, I’d use my kukri, splitting wood is a chore that needs doing for kindling. And anybody that thinks a small saw is somehow safer than an ax has never tried to saw a stubborn piece of wood (because men have a talent for picking up that kind of wood) with cold hands or gloves. The feeding method for long pieces of wood is covered in the boy scout handbook. And, no, the fire doesn’t “creep” up the branch and out of the fire ring, once no longer in contact with the coal bed it just peters out.

    Kukri – I have bought a couple of american sized kukri’s off of amazon from a place called “kukri house” nothing fancy, just massive leaf springs worked into a tough blade by hand by craftsmen in Nepal. Gives new meaning to the jabberwocky description of “vorpal” blade. Yeah, you guessed it, I’m in love with that design. Anything a small blade can do, I can do with my kukri. Not so the other direction. The Becker Brute is a crossbreed type kukri, slightly curved and heavier at the end. The new “machax” is a very poor cousin to his original Brute, too lightweight.


  • Michael September 14, 2013, 11:35 am

    I have one of the Trail Blazer collapsible buck-saws and it’s pretty awesome. But, I rarely need to process that much wood. I mostly use it for yard work.

    I don’t like hatchets too small to do much work and too hard to control, but I do like smaller axes like Hudson’s Bay and Greenlandic axes.

    Unless it was in the winter, I’d probably wouldn’t put an axe or saw in a bug out/get home style bag, too much weight and I’d be more focused on getting where I needed to go than living out of the thing.

    In the winter, I’d go with a small axe over a saw, mostly for it’s versatility and ability to help make improvised shelter.

  • Jarhead Survivor September 14, 2013, 2:48 pm

    I think the trick with an axe is to keep it sharp. The axe I use to split wood is pretty dull, but if I sharpened it up to a really nice edge it would be a much more useful tool.

    I like these questions because it helps you to think about the various aspects of each tool. There were a couple of comments about carrying an axe that made a lot of sense to me.

    There’s a video out somewhere of a group going through SERE training (I think) and they all carried an axe that had been sharpened to a finely honed edge. Good survival tool.

  • Heartless September 14, 2013, 6:26 pm

    For me, it is a matter of pragmatism. A saw may be better in the long run for work – cutting up wood and the like. But, an axe or a hatchet is not just a tool. It is useful for self-defense. Kind of hard to hold or finish someone off with a saw.

  • No More Mr. Nice Guy September 15, 2013, 12:52 pm

    Axe most definitely More versitile Partial to it anyway , since that’s what puts the food on my table. An axe should have a keen edge on it not a sharp one

  • Wildman Williams September 15, 2013, 11:37 pm

    I semi agree. BK total thumbs up, i like the laplander saw fairly inexpensive and extremlly durable. Buck saws are nice although you are limited on the diameter of wood you are processing. Laplander saw not so much. I have processed both large game, small game, and veggies with the BK2. IMO BK2 + Laplander (or similuar type saw) great combo. Thanks

  • Christopher September 29, 2013, 2:42 pm

    Two things to check out: (search for them at Amazon)

    Gerber Gator II combo axe: has a saw stored in the handle

    4-in-1 Woodsman: Axe, saw, mallet, stake-puller (ok, the stake puller probably isn’t a big deal, but the other three are nice)

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