If you are an outdoorsy, survival enthusiast, then you know how important it is to be prepared. You want only the best, most versatile and reliable tools around your waist. So, lets see in this kukri vs hatchet contest, which is the better choice for survival and daily use?
Which one should you bring along on a hike, or in the forest? Is the hatchet really your best friend in the wilderness? Or can the kukri outmatch it in terms of usability, versatility, cutting power, and self-defense?
Differences Between Kukri and Hatchet
These are two very different tools. They were designed with a specific purpose in mind, and they fulfill it very well.
Both the hatchet and the kukri machete are single-edged bladed weapons for daily use. But that is the only similarity they have. Lets see what makes them different? In which environments do they perform best? And which one is more suitable for your wilderness experience.
This is an inwardly-curved machete. The kukri is a single-edged, one-handed short sword.
Some regard this tool as an elongated knife. It has no guard or hilt. It doesn’t have hand protection at all.
The hatchet is just a short, one-handed axe. Like all axes, it is basically a hammer with a sharp edge.
It has a sharpened iron or steel head, attached to a wooden or plastic handle. It is lighter and shorter than an axe. Designed for chopping.
The kukri is the national and religious weapon of the well-known Nepalese Gurkha soldiers. They use it in close-quarter combat and for training.
But the weapon has a long history in this South-Asian country. It is both an item of war and of daily use.
In regards to the hatchet, nobody can claim cultural ownership over it. Axes, hammers, and spears are the basic tools in the arsenal of every culture that has ever existed on planet Earth. No matter how technologically advanced. From the American Natives to the Vikings, Chinese, and beyond.
3. Application and Use
The South-Asian wilderness is a harsh place. The kukri is a perfect survival tool in the dense rain forest. Or in the mountainous regions.
Ideal for cutting, chopping, fighting, making other wooden tools, and so on. It is extremely flexible and wide-ranging in its use.
A hatchet is more suitable for chopping and destroying things. Like splitting wood, taking down trees, demolishing stuff.
In combat, it is a one-hit instant-kill weapon, effective against armor. But it lacks control. So, versus a nimble blade, it stands little chance.
Traditionally, the Nepalese machete was forged from steel (usually not very good steel).
Since it has a broad, thick blade, it handles physical stress very well … you don’t need the best, high-end steel to make a decent kukri. Although, I prefer mine of high-quality material.
Hatchets are domestic tools meant for wood-chopping, household projects, agricultural and manual chores. Given that the metallic axe-head is incredibly thick and heavy, iron is a decent, low-cost choice. Nowadays, most hatchets are made of steel. The handle is either wooden or plastic so that it absorbs shock. That way, it doesn’t hurt your hand.
The machete is light. Its blade is thinner than hatchet head. It is decent at chopping and splitting wood, but the hatchet is just better.
The heavy, bulky head makes the hatchet proficient at chopping thick logs, and for splitting fire-wood. It can strike deeper than the kukri machete. This is also due to the fact that axe-heads have wider cheeks.
6. Improvisational Use
Kukris are sharper and perform better in tasks that require a more nuanced tool, for delicate cutting.
There are varieties of machetes that have a thicker portion of the blade for chopping, and a thinner one (towards the handle) for precision cutting.
What I do like about small axes and tomahawks is they are the best all-around tools for most projects.
You can chop and cut. Or you can use them for hammering a stake in the ground. Hatchets allow you to complete the most simple projects with ease.
If the environment is tropical or swampy, then I will go for a lighter, leaner cutting tool. The kukri is designed to clear a path of vegetation, cut vines, fight off snakes.
If I was traveling in a cold climate, forested area, with hardwood, then my first choice would be the hatchet. It is strong, sturdy, durable and perfect for felling trees.
What is a Kukri?
Living in a dense environment with a risk of encountering danger around every corner requires being prepared. Some places are harsher than others.
The kukri is a multi-purpose camp knife that excels at many things: hunting and preparing food, cutting branches for fire-wood, setting up a campfire, making traps, stakes, wooden spears, and arrows.
Fighting and self-defense are necessary for survival. The Nepalese Gurkha are martial experts with a kukri. It is good at improvising on the spot as well.
Comparison – Kukri vs Hatchet
The kukri is truly versatile. It may not be such an effective chopping blade, but it does the job pretty decently.
Chopping. One good swing can split a short log. If you are working with dry wood, then it splits even better. I was impressed with how easy it is to chop a log into kindling, even with a stainless steel kukri.
Still, I wouldn’t take it too far though! If I were to use my full force in a chop, I would damage the blade and possibly hurt myself. The hatchet has a much broader and sturdier blade. You can chop much bigger and stronger logs.
CAUTION. I always like to advise people when chopping and splitting to be very cautious. Position the log on a stable surface. Make sure your hatchet or kukri fall vertically, in the middle of the log. No oblique angles; the blade should land at a 90-degree angle on the log, parallel to the ground.
If your chopping tool is not parallel to the ground … If you allow the tip to fall lower than the handle, then the log could deflect the tip, and it might land into your leg. The same thing could happen your uncalibrated chop misses the log and continues its downward trajectory towards a leg.
That is why you keep your legs apart and stay at a safe distance from the log. In case the blade slips off or misses the target, at least it won’t hit your femur.
All things considered, I believe the hatchet is better and safer for wood chopping: More power per swing, less energy expenditure, and a wider blade for splitting wood. And it allows you to stay at a safer distance.
Is the Kukri Easier to Handle Than the Hatchet?
With the kukri, every blow is more accurate, compared to a hatchet. The machete doesn’t have that heavy weight on its tip. That is why there is much less centrifugal force and inertia to wear you out. As a result, the kukri is easier to control than the hatchet.
Keep in mind, the kukri has an inward curbed blade, so it is designed to have some centrifugal force. That is necessary for chopping. But not as good for overall control. Since there is more centrifugal force when using the axe, each swing takes less force for the same effect.
Razor Edge. In regards to sharpness, I found that the kukri is much sharper but more difficult to sharpen. If the hatchet edge dulls out, then with minimal effort, you can use any grinding stone to sharpen it.
Self-Defense. The kukri allows for faster and more frequent swings and dabs. You can draw it faster. It combines all the advantages of a knife and an axe, minus the drawbacks.
I remember reading this quote from someone: “A kukri is an unsurpassed weapon of close-range murder in the hands of a specialist.” I really liked that.
Hatchet or Kukri – Which is Better At Certain Things?
Both tools are equally good at sharpening a stake, removing bark off trees, and even feathering sticks and arrows.
Cutting rope. When it comes to cutting rope, it all depends on the circumstance. A kukri can easily slice through a piece of rope or wire. When I tried the same thing with a small axe, I had to struggle and hold the rope in a certain way. I was just easier to hack it off (by placing it against a strong surface).
For thick metal wire, slicing is off the table, and you have to cut it with a good chop.
Bashing. One of the things a hatchet can do that a machete cannot is hammering and smashing things. When I remodeled my kitchen I tried using both tools. I had to remove individual pieces of sandstone. I could do it with both the kukri and the hatchet. But I came across a few tiles that were too tightly glued, I was afraid that if I would put more pressure with the kukri, the thin edge would bend. So, I reverted to the hatchet and just shattered the tile or leveraged the axe-head underneath it.
Protection. The kukri would be my weapon of choices for protection against wild animals. At least, when compared to a hatchet. South-Asian farmers regularly use machetes when working in the fields or wandering in the forest. They are great for fending off aggressive animals, snakes, constrictors (in case a python confuses you with a soft desert).
Digging. One of the tedious tasks needs to do when hunting is to set up traps and tents. So, quite a bit of digging is necessary. Some people say the machete is better at this, but from my personal experience, I found the axe perfectly capable of digging medium holes in the ground.
Food. Another great aspect of the kukri is how effective of a butcher’s knife it is. Most people don’t hunt anymore. But if you go camping and hunting, then you need a blade for hacking bones, gutting, cutting meat, and skinning.
The machete is much better at it than the hatchet. It is just slimmer and more specialized. So, for preparing and processing your catch, bring a sharp knife or a kukri.
The kukri vs hatchet debate can go on forever with pro and against arguments on both sides. But the bottom line is it depends on the type of work that you are doing.
I usually don’t like to end these posts without a decisive conclusion, but in this case, it is a draw. It comes down to situational circumstances that dictate the type of tool you need.
As far as personal preference goes, I think I like the kukri better. It just makes me feel better prepared.
Humans are excellent tool makers and users. What made us the dominant species on the planet was our ability to invent and improvise to find the ideal tool for the necessary job.