There are many ways of looking at a survival kit or bug out bag, but perhaps the most useful is to think from the viewpoint of tools. While tools are the heaviest part of any pack, they are also the one category which is most durable. When all your food is eaten and your fancy fire starters are gone, the tools will remain and you’ll have to survive with them.
While we have a much broader selection of tools available to us today, traditionally the survivalist’s tools consisted of their knife, their hatchet, a shovel and their saw. All three of those are still considered to be critical tools, although many people have exchanged their hatchet for a tomahawk.
On the surface, that might not seem like much of a change, but it actually is. The hatchet was originally created to be a tool, while the tomahawk was created as a weapon. Even today, while people say they can use their tomahawk as a hatchet, it doesn’t perform as well.
There are a couple of basic differences between the two. A good hatchet has a fairly heavy head, which might be counted against it when it comes to the overall weight of your pack; but is important when you’re trying to get up enough momentum to split some tree branches for the fire. It’s much harder to do that with a tomahawk, as the head of a tomahawk is made of much thinner stock.
On the tomahawk’s side of the ledger, the longer handle that tomahawks typically have will help with coming up with the necessary momentum for splitting wood. But just how effective that is depends a lot on the particular model and how heavy the head is.
The other big thing the hatchet’s head does for it is to act as a hammer. That’s important for driving tent stakes. Most tomahawks not only don’t have a hammer head or wide enough back on the head to use them as a hammer, they have spike there, so that the weapon will inflict damage no matter what side hits. So, anyone carrying a tomahawk instead of a hatchet will have to use a rock as their hammer. Not an insurmountable issue, but an issue nevertheless.
So, which is better? That depends mostly on how you’re going to use it. If your main reason for carrying it is as a close-quarters weapon, then you want to be carrying a tomahawk. But if it’s part of your kit because you see the need for it as a tool, you’re better off carrying a hatchet.
Another thing to consider is carrying a machete instead. While a machete is not ideal for splitting wood, it can still be used for it. It’s also a pretty fierce weapon for close quarters work. But the machete also has other uses, like clearing a trail, that neither of the other can do.
The real key here, regardless of the choice that you make, is to become an expert in the use of the tool you choose. An expert with a machete can do things with it that others can’t, just like an expert with a hatchet or one with a tomahawk. It’s what you know, more than what you have, which makes the real difference.