Lightweight, compact survival hatchets have been around since the days when leather and wool were the high-watermark in outdoor wear. But just as those materials pale in performance compared to today’s high-tech outdoor textiles, the stamped-and-plated mild steels and riveted, molded plastic scales used on compact hatchets from the ’50s pale in comparison to today’s CNC-ground stainless steels and various synthetic handle materials.
Gerber’s Pack Hatchet, as its name implies, is a minimalist, lightweight (1-lb., 2-oz.), compact (5-inch X 9.5-inch), inexpensive unit made with modern, albeit somewhat pedestrian materials, but possessed of brilliant design and exceptional ergonomics. Ground from a single piece of 0.225-inch-thick stonewashed stainless steel, the Pack Hatchet features full-tang construction wherein a small portion of the tang extends slightly through the one-piece, dual-density handle affixed to it with a single Torx-style, button-head fastener.
A lanyard-attachment point is molded into the harder portion of the handle at its toe, and black, rubberized areas along its front and rear provide the hand-filling, yet slender, nearly 6-inch-long handle with just the right amount of resistance to slippage in heavy use. Immediately above the handle, the hatchet’s metal frame features a double choil of sorts below its bit that allows the index and middle fingers to securely choke up on the hatchet for chores more akin to shaving fuzz sticks rather than hacking through logs.
Interestingly, the semi-circular indentations serve as a perfect balance point when the piece is resting on the fingers, hand at the side. At the back of the head is a 1.5-inch protrusion in the head’s profile that works as a hammer surface. Like the rest of the hatchet, its face has been faceted to eliminate harsh edges, although, in this case, leaving the material at full thickness would have provided slightly more surface area for pounding.
The bit consists of a symmetrical wedge profile measuring nearly 3.5 inches in width at its edge. A high (2-inch) grind makes for a subtle transition to the primary edge, which is well-executed by machine and kept at bay inside a pack or on a belt by the included black, nylon sheath. In use, the Pack Hatchet is a capable performer that can handle anything from deft scraping and shaving to savage cutting and hacking. It would make an ideal companion to a 4-inch fixed blade or folding knife to handle those chores for which the latter would be pressed far beyond their intended roles.
So, if you’re a pack minimalist who doesn’t go in for “batoning” conventional knife blades and you have occasion to construct shelters or process wood for fires, then, by all means, check out the Gerber Pack Hatchet—its performance may surprise you. The suggested retail price on the hatchet is $33.