One of the most multi-purpose tools that you can have with you when your camping, bushcrafting, hiking, or if you happen to find you are stuck in the woods is a small well-crafted axe or hatchet.
It can be used as a substitute for many other tools and used for not just chopping, but also carving and skinning. An axe can be used to cut wood for a fire, build shelter, help you to hunt and serve as a weapon for self-defense should you need it.
Now an axe may not be the first survivalist’s choice of gear, as it probably does not stand up to a knife, multitool, or saw; but we would say it comes in at #4. Now when we say “survival axe” we don’t mean that this is a good tool to throw in your bug-out bag, it’s far to bulky and heavy. You should be looking at something much smaller and lighter.
There are many different types of axes out there, each with slight variations in height, build, blade length and weight.
Now that that is all cleared up we will give you our list of the best survival axes, that we have found on the market that are sure to outlast your stint in the wild.
The First half of the list is for small axes and the second half of the list is for hatchets.
17 Best Axes & Hatchets
1. Estwing Camper’s Axe
Best Single Forge Build
Dimension: 12-26 x 1.4 x 7 inches
Weight: 7 ounces
Material: handle grip is made with synthetic leather, metal is made from the best American stainless steel.
Pros: Very easy to wield, Absorbs shock, Handle reduces blisters, Made from high-quality steel, Easy to maintain.
Cons: Not the best choice for heavy-duty jobs.
The Estwing Camper’s Axe is made by a very popular company called Estwing that has been in the market of making axes for nearly 100 years and is chosen as our top choice. It comes in four sizes from 12-26 inches that are made of high-quality steel drop forged and tempered, with two finishes both coming with a shock-resistant handle making it one long-lasting blade.
The Estwing camper’s Axe has a nylon sheath with a belt loop and has a 4in edge that makes it a wide edge for easy cutting. It has a great weight balance, is super light and can be wielded very easily even if you are not an expert handler.
The Estwing camper’s Axe is a solid steel construction piece. It is best used for small logs and kindling, as it’s not made for heavy-duty chopping. The Estwing C amper’s Axe is the perfect fit for you for light work and great to carry with you if you are going to head out into the backcountry.
The axe is forged out of one piece of steel, making it extra durable and comes with a comfortable handle, designed to reduce shock and vibrations. The handle, made of synthetic leather, gives it a firm grip, and its 7-ounce weight makes the axe very easy to use without being exhausting work.
Why we like it? It’s a solid piece of construction. We like that it is made out of a single piece of steel as you don’t have to worry about the head getting lose.
2. Gränsfors Bruk Forest Axe
Best Premium Axe
Dimension: 19.5 x 7 x 0.9 inches
Weight: 2.2 pounds.
Material: The axe handle is made of wood, the axe head is made with proprietary steel.
Pros: Comes as factory fitted razor sharp, Classsic look, The steel is hand-forged, Two different versions.
Cons: More expensive
The Gränsfors Bruk Small Forest Axe is popularly called SFA, is famous among bushcrafters and survivalists and we can see why. The axe is heavier than the previous axe and has your more traditional axe feel which we like, as it has a wooden handle. It comes in two variations, the picture is the 19in and there is also a 25in variation if that length suits your fancy.
The smaller version of the SFA is portable and feel it better for EDC use. The longer version actually is used by firefighters as it is dependable and can be used for a variety of settings and circumstances in brush, forest and house fires.
Although the Gränsfors Bruk Small Forest Axe is quite expensive, in comparison to others on this list, this guy is hand-made in Sweden (and isn’t some Chinese knock-off), in the corner blade has the blacksmith’s initials (so you can be sure there is some pride in their work) and comes with a 20-year warranty.
If you want a decently portable, lightweight axe then you won’t regret this baby.
3. Hults Bruk Tarnaby Hatchet
Best Survival Hatchet
Dimension: 15.0 x 6.9 x 2.25 inches inches
Weight: 1.5 pounds
Material: Handle made from hickory and the axe head is made from Swedish steel
Pros: Hand forged, Cheaper alternative than Gransfor, Hickory shaft handle.
Cons: Not a super clean finish axe head
The Hults Bruk Tarnaby Hatchet is a 15 inch “hatchet” though for survival its the perfect axe size really. If you want his big brother, coming in at 25inches the Hults Bruk Forester, this thing is a beast. They come from a Swedish foundry that have been making blades since 1697. The ergonomic curved shaft and handle is hand-carved and made from hickory. It is 1.5 lb, so a bit lighter than the Gransfors with an axe head that has a “notch” under the blade that is used for clearing forest trails.
This axe is similar to the Gransfors Forest Axe, in that they are both made in a forge in Sweeden, although they are two separate forges and companies. The biggest distinction is the blade as it is not the same quality as the Gransfors. But that makes it nearly 50% cheaper, so its a good alternative.
The steel of the axe head is still hand-forged and well designed to keep an edge longer thanks to the tempered zone.
The Hults Bruk Tarnaby Hatchet is considered a jack of all trades. Its size makes it easier to wield and good for EDC as well as survival use.
4. Schrade SC AXE 9CP Axe & Saw Combo
Best For Bug-Out-Bag
Dimension: 21 x 7 x 2 inches
Weight: 2.2 pounds
Size: 18 inches
Material: Titanium coated stainless steel & rubber handle
Pros: Corrosion resistant, Durable, Comes with a saw.
Cons: The steel does not hold an edge when compared to carbon steel.
The Schrade SC AXE 9CP is an axe and saw combination tool made from Titanium coated stainless steel. The company Schrade makes alot of survival blades and you can see how this axe was made with survival and portability in mind. This is the type of axe that would be most appropriate for a bug-out-bag as it’s relatively light, small, and multi-use tools set.
It has a light build so you would not want to be doing any serious chopping. It is not a type of axe that would be used for heavy work, but great for smaller chopping and emergency prep.
The saw blade is a nice add-on and can be easily removed and replaced if needed. This is a specialty axe, so it will have a very different feel than, lets say a lumber-jack axe. You will not be getting the traditional feel, as the rubber handle and titanium coating gives it a “modern” look and is really only for those looking specifically for a portable survival-esque/multi-tool.
5. Fiskars x15 Chopping Axe
Best Modern Styled Axe
Weight: 3.4 pounds
Material: Carbon steel & composite handle
Size: 23.5 inches
Pros: Lifetime warranty, Fiberglass handle for absorbing impact shock.
Cons: Needs to be sharpened often.
The Fiskars x15 is a Finland-based company that has been around since 1649. This chopping axe is medium-lightweight, balanced, and easy to wield which also has a more modern feel in comparison to the traditional axe. This is a slightly longer version of the wildly popular Fiskars x7 Hatchet. So it seems this one may by riding off of the success of its little brother.
Though it has its own specs to match, namely high carbon steel which has a low friction coating, preventing rusting, as well as a molded design that locks the axe head in place.
The Fiskars x15 has a handle that absorbs shocks and is rubber so it will not slip with sweaty hands. The tiny brother is 16in while this is a big 23.5 inches, though feels easier to wield due to its modern build and weighted axe head.
The company is so sure of its virtually unbreakable design that they will give you a lifetime warranty.
6. IUNIO Camping Axe
Best for Survival
Dimension: 8.74 x 4.49 x 1.89 inches
Weight: 2.05 pounds
Material: High carbon steel & aluminum alloy handle
Pros: A space-saving multipurpose tool, The length can be adjusted, Comes with a sheath to attach to your belt, Carries extra survival gear like a compass and whistle.
Cons: Not for heavy duty use
The IUNIO camping axe is more of what you would think a survival axe to look and feel like. Though it really is a hatchet due to its small size, rather than a camping axe despite the name.
In truth the IUNIO axe more like a multi-tool as it comes with a hammer (back end of the axe), fish scaler, compass, bottle opener, magnesium rod, and an emergency whistle.
The kit comes together with a molle bag, sheath and some camo wrap. The inside of the shaft handle is hollow and can be used to stash a pen, fishing line, knife any other little bit of survival gear.
The hollow tube handle can be assembled and disassembled by twisting the segments apart. Because it is hollowed it can not and should not be used for heavy-duty work. As it is a survival axe should be more used for emergency use or for light work rather than any big log splitting.
7. Off-grid Tools Survival Axe
Best Tactical Axe
Dimension: 11.5×5.5×1.25 inches.
Weight: 1.49 pounds.
Material: synthetic, with glass-filled nylon handle.
Pros: Lightweight, Lots of features, Good value for money.
Cons: Some features are unnecessary.
This Off-Grid tool Survival Axe has 22 different multi-tool functions and is even more of a multi-tool than the previous IUNO camping axe. The Off-Grid axe would work best in a bug-out bag or for an emergency situation as it is light and compact coming in at less than 12 inches and under 2 pounds.
The axe is not intended for heavy usage or for splitting big logs as it is more of a hatchet and is meant for chopping wood that is smaller in diameter.
Some of the tools that come with this are a saw, seat belt cutter, glass breaker, screw drier, ferro rod, sharpener, and whistle. There are several variations to this axe that gives you different tools, depending on what types of tools you are looking for.
If you want something that you can wield easily then this may before you, though if you plan on building some major bonfires, then I’d probably stay away.
For More Gear See: Best Survival Gear & Best Bushcraft Gear
The rest of this list will be shorter hatchets…
8. Gransfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet
Those who are searching for a quality, traditional hatchet that can be used around the campsite and for scouting will find just what they need with the Gransfors Bruks hatchet made in Sweden. The camping hatchet has a classic look and feel, which could be a nice choice for those who want to have a rustic hatchet.
This hatchet is durable and has quite a bit of power for being as small as it is. It can be used to split small logs and to chop off branches from trees. It will help you to get your kindling for the fire quickly and easily.
This camp hatchet also comes with a sheath, which is perfectly shaped to cover the edge of the blade and the top of the hatchet. This way, you can more easily carry your hatchet without needing to worry about it cutting into the other gear that you have along with you. The sheath is made from vegetable-tanned leather, and it looks great.
Overall, this is a high-quality camp hatchet that is also quite pleasing form an aesthetic standpoint. With proper care, this tool can last a lifetime.
9. Gransfors Bruks Hand Hatchet
It’s not a coincidence that Gransfors Bruks shows up on the list again. This Swedish company knows what they are doing when it comes to making high-quality axes and camping hatchets. One of the first things you will notice with this hand hatchet is that it is several inches shorter than the Wildlife Hatchet above.
Having this smaller size does not diminish the quality at all. This is still a good option for those who are considering a camp hatchet. The size of the hatchet makes it easy to carry with you whenever you are out on a hike or camping. It will not get in the way at all, and it is lightweight, just like the above option.
Again, this comes with a quality leather sheath that has been vegetable-tanned. The hatchet is durable and built to last, as long as you take proper care of it just like any other tools you have.
10. 1844 Helko Werk Germany Rheinland Hatchet
Another high-quality option for those who want a beautiful and functional handmade camp hatchet is this option from 1844 Helko Werk Germany. These tools, which are made in Wuppertal, Germany and named after the Rhein River Valley, is one of the best camp axes to choose.
These hatchets work very well when it comes to cutting off branches, creating kindling, and clearing away brush. They can also be used for light splitting. Each of these tools is handcrafted and makes use of C50 high-grade carbon steel. They are open face drop forged, and then heated and oil hardened for durability.
The handle was made in Switzerland from American Hickory. The camp hatchet comes with a vegetable-tanned leather sheath, as well as a bottle of Axe-Guard, a protective oil that will help to keep the hatchet in great shape for years to come. This lightweight option will be welcomed by any camper.
11. 1844 Helko Werk Germany Helko Classic Pathfinder Hatchet
With such a quality brand, it’s no surprise that they are on the list again. All of the hatchets and axes from this company are handmade in Germany. Like the Rheinland Hatchet above, this Pathfinder Hatchet is made from C50 high-grade carbon steel, and the handle was made in Switzerland from American Hickory.
While this option is slightly longer than the previous hatchet on the list, you will find that it still happens to be quite compact. It will work well for clearing up brush, splitting some small pieces of wood, and getting kindling ready for the camp. This is a trusted and reliable hatchet to have around, and it has a classic look. It could be just what you need.
As with other products from 1844 Helko Werk Germany Helko, the Pathfinder Hatchet comes with a bottle of protective oil for the hatchet, as well as a leather sheath that has been vegetable-tanned.
12. Hults Bruk Tarnaby Hatchet
This small hatchet from Hults Bruk is lightweight and easy to carry along with you when you are out hiking and camping. The axe head has been handmade in Sweden in a foundry that has been operating since 1697.
The process for making the steel head requires that it is struck many times to increase the density. By increasing the density of the steel, the durability of the hatchet head for this camp axe is also improved. The head can hold an edge quite well, so you can use it multiple times before needing to sharpen it again.
The handles are made from American Hickory, and each of the axes have a leather, protective sheath that comes with it. The sheath is traditionally designed and styled, and it looks great on the camp hatchet. This hatchet has a classic look, and it will be a welcome addition to the collection of tools that you have in your camping gear.
13. Schrade SCAXE5 Tactical Hatchet
This is a full tang hatchet from Schrade, a company that has been making quality outdoor gear for more than 100 years. This has a different look and feel from the hatchets discussed up to this point. Rather than being a typical camp hatchet, this is a tactical hatchet that offers some other features.
It is made from high-carbon steel, and it features a nylon fiber handle that goes over the steel handle. This is a very durable hatchet that comes with a black nylon belt sheath with a belt loop, which makes it easy to transport.
Elements that help to set this hatchet apart from others are the nail pry bar at the bottom of the handle and the spike pommel. This is a quality, reliable hatchet that can serve you well when hiking, camping, or if you are in a survival situation.
14. Estwing Special Edition Camper’s Axe
This camping axe from Estwing is forged in one piece, and it is more of an oversized hatchet than an actual axe. However, because it is larger and somewhat heavier than other options for most hatchets, it can do a bit more in terms of chopping larger wood than a typical hatchet.
The hatchet is made in the USA, and because it is made from a single piece, it is highly durable and is likely to last with proper care. The camp hatchet includes a ballistic nylon sheath, which will help to keep the sharp edge secure and keep hands and fingers from getting cut.
This hatchet has a genuine leather grip, which makes it comfortable to hold onto and work with. Overall, this is a quality tool that could be a good option for someone who wants something a bit larger than some of the other hatchets on the list.
15. Prandi German Style Hatchet
Here is another traditionally-styled hatchet that could be a good choice for your needs. It has a beautiful design, and the head is made from carbon steel. The handle is ergonomic and created from American Hickory. This means that handle will be sturdy and strong for all of the work that you will put the hatchet through.
This hatchet also features a lanyard hole and a leather lanyard, which can help to keep the hatchet from dropping out of your hand. In addition, it has a thick leather sheath that will cover the cutting edge of the hatchet.
This is one of the heavier options on the market right now, and it can provide you with the power you need to cut through wood and kindling for your campfire.
16. Gerber 9” Hatchet
When you look at this hatchet from Gerber, a well-known brand, you will immediately see that it is quite a bit different from the other options on the list. From the miniscule size to the design, it is decidedly different. However, it can still be a fantastic hatchet for your needs, which is why it is on this list.
Made in Finland, this hatchet has a composite handle and a forged steel head. It also has a unique sheath that will keep the blade safe.
In addition to the 9” hatchet, there are other sizes available including 14”, 17.5”, 23.5” and 36”. Those options on the larger side would be considered an axe rather than a hatchet.
17. Estwing E44A-1
To round out the list, we have another option from Estwing. This is a popular, traditional type of camp axe that has all of the same benefits as other tools from this brand. It is made from a single piece of steel, and it has a heavy-duty sheath that helps to keep the cutting edge safe.
It features a comfortable leather grip to help reduce impact vibration by as much as 70%, and it has been hand-sharpened and polished. This is a durable and reliable option that could make the perfect camp hatchet. It is one of the options that is on the heavier side, though.
How to Find the Best Survival Axe?
Just like other survival tools, survival axes are specially designed for emergency situations which usually means it should be easy to carry around. However, an axe by definition is not really portable, as they tend to be over 22 inches and over two pounds, so it’s more about finding a balance and that works for you, whether you are looking for durability or portability.
What to do with a Survival Axe?
An axe has traditionally been mostly used for chopping. However, smaller, and more of the modern portable axes can also be used for slicing, cutting, as a hammer, for carving, skinning and digging small holes. The more portable the more able it is to be used as a multi-tool. An axe can also be used for
- Clearing brush
- Chopping wood for fire
- Building a shelter
- For self-defense
- Setting up traps
- Making other tools and weapons
There are many different ways you can use an axe.
The Benefits of Having a Great Hatchet
If you have ever been camping, and you didn’t have a hatchet with you, then you already know how nice it would be to have one of these at your side. These camp hatchets will help to cut up the wood and kindling that you’ll need to get a fire going. In addition, they can provide some self-defense in a pinch.
You can use the hatchet for more than just cutting the wood you need, though. It could be used for cutting through rope, and even to help with quartering small game quickly, and more. You could even use the flat edge on the back of the hatchet as a hammer. This could help you to put in your tent stakes, which can be very helpful if the ground is hard.
This is one of the best types of camping and survival tools there is, and everyone should have at least one of these camping hatchets around. Consider them an essential part of your gear, and make sure that you always take proper care of your hatchet.
You might even find that you want to have more than one hatchet. This way, you can have one for work at the home, a dedicated hatchet for when you are out hiking and camping, and perhaps one that you keep in the car, just in case.
What’s the difference between a hatchet and an axe?
The term, ‘axe’ is broad and can mean anything from hatchets to a tomahawks; though there are distinctions, which would make you want to classify them as separate.
The real difference, though, comes with the size. An axe, such as a felling axe, will have a much longer handle, and it will often have a heavier head. A true axe will be utilized for felling trees and chopping larger pieces of wood. A hatchet is better suited for kindling and smaller, lighter work.
Axes are usually a bit longer and heavier (though there are many exceptions to this)typically under two pounds and smaller than 22 inches, whereas axes are usually more than 22 inches and will be more than two pounds. Whereas hatchets are usually much smaller, shorter and are wielded with much more dexterity and used with one hand, rather than with two hands as with an axe.
Even though some people might interchange the names, know that there is certainly a difference between them. You might find that you will want to have both a hatchet for the smaller work and because it’s easier to carry, as well as an axe if you ever need to take down larger trees. Many of the brands listed above also make axes.
Tomahawks, on the other hand are distant cousins having a lot of associated historical imagery as it was the favorite weapon of many Native American tribes. It has since gone through a distinct makeover that are even lighter and shorter than the other two cousins and are even more versatile than a hatchet as they can also be used for throwing.
How to Find the Best Survival Axe?
There are things to note when considering getting a survival axe.
You want something that’s going to last for years. It usually pays to spend a few extra bucks on a good quality axe than to get something cheap. The reason for this is that if you have to use the axe in an emergency or survival situation, it has to be able to withstand the shock you place upon it without breaking right when you need it most.
We’ve cultivated the list above of the very best options on the market for camping hatchets. They are trusted brands, and they are known for making quality items that are built to last a long time, as long as you take proper care of them.
You should consider what kinds of job you want the axe for, before you decide on the size. If you are looking to fell big trees or splitting thick logs, you are going to need an axe with more weight and a longer handle.
Whereas, if you need an axe mostly for chopping smaller pieces of wood, for general use around camp, or to carry around, you are going to want something that is more mobile, and portable.
3. Blade edge
Typically survival axes will have a convex grind, (as with most axes and hatchets) though not all meaning it has more of an arc shape giving them a slight curve rather than just flat edge which makes it easier to chop wood with, as well as less likely to get stuck on the wood when chopping down trees.
The curve in the axe blade also makes it more able to keep a sharp edge however it does make them harder to grind and sharpen.
A survival axe should be easy enough to carry and wield. Working with a heavy axe is more for felling trees, rather than for emergency use. While a heavy axe with a sharp blade can make fast work of small trees, you may struggle to use it in an emergency situation.
After all, you may be injured or exhausted and trying to carry that thing around is going to be difficult. You want something lighter so it’s easier for you to hold onto, something that won’t cause strain on your wrist or hands.
A good grip is essential for any axe or (hatchet). The handle should be easy to hold on to whether you go for fiberglass, metal or wood is up to you, though metal or fiberglass will be harder on your hands and without any shock absorber, you may find it a little painful if you aren’t used to wielding an axe. What’s nice about wood is that it actually will absorb some of the shock in comparison to a straight steel handle. There is no standard for handle size, so it comes down to personal preference.
A sheath is a common feature on most axes today and some may come with extra little features like compartments for storing tools or fire starting material such as flint and steel or waterproof matches. Whether the axe you choose has a leather sheath or plastic it’s just good to have one to protect both you and the blade.
Naturally, high-quality steel will be essential, as mentioned. It will be more durable, and it can keep an edge longer. However, you will also need to consider the handle. The wood handles and those made from fiberglass and other materials have their individual benefits.
Having a wood handle is nice for a traditional look and feel, and it tends to be much easier to replace these handles if needed. When other types of materials break, it often means needing to replace the entire tool. However, those who have wooden handles will need to make sure they maintain the wood to keep it from drying out and then cracking.
Keep in mind when you are choosing a hatchet to add to your own camp gear that these can make for fantastic gifts, as well. If you know a friend or a family member who loves to spend time hiking, camping, and enjoying the great outdoors, you might want to consider picking up one of the hatchets on this list for them.
Survival axes range anywhere from $40 up to around $300 depending on size, materials and if the blade was hand forged or made by a machine. Hand-forged blades are much more expensive and will generally have better quality steel than machine-made ones.
Many of the axes on this list come from Sweeden, which has forges that go back several hundred years that go for over 100-300 dollars, whereas machine-produced axes from China can be found for less than fifty. However, you get what you pay for.
Practical Tips for Keeping Safe While Using a Hatchet or Axe
The hatchet is a great tool, and you are probably excited about getting a new hatchet, or your first. However, you will also want to make sure that you know how to use one of these safely. Improper use of these tools can cause serious injuries, which is the last thing you need, especially if you are out at a campsite in the middle of nowhere.
You always have to put safety first and should always have a clear mind before using the hatchet. Make sure that your other body parts, whether it’s your legs or your hands and fingers, are always be entirely out of the way of where you are swinging the hatchet. You must always think about where that blade will be going to keep yourself and others safe.
If you notice that the head of the hatchet is loose, you need to fix it before using it. If you were to swing a camp hatchet or a camp axe that has a loose head, there is a very real chance that it could fly off of the handle and cause a serious injury to yourself or someone else.
You must also make sure that you keep the head of the hatchet covered with a sheath whenever you are transporting it. This will eliminate the risk of it cutting someone, and it ensures that it doesn’t damage your other gear. Along the same lines, you shouldn’t simply leave the hatchet stuck in a piece of wood. It’s not good for the hatchet.
The best survival axes are those that you feel comfortable with, as there is no single axe that is “the best”. The type of axe you are looking for will largely be determined by what you plan on using it for as every person’s needs will be different. Happy Chopping.