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The 7 Best Axes and Hatchets for Camping and Survival

From a full-length axe that’ll make quick work of cordwood to a simple hatchet that you can stash in your backpack.

collage of three axes
Courtesy

The axe is among the oldest tools that humans created. Although simple in design — a metal blade (these were originally stone) joined to a wooden handle — an axe has remained unchanged due to its timeless utility. Stainless steel, ballistic nylon and plastic composites have ushered the axe into the contemporary era, while wood continues to endure as a top choice for handles. And while professionals such as farmers and firefighters rely on the axe in everyday labor, the tool is equally suited to camping and survival, where it can be used to clear trails and harvest wood for a campfire. Whatever use you have for an axe, buy a quality one, take care of and maintain it and you’ll be assured that it’ll last a lifetime.

filson axe
A quality axe is sharp, sturdy and well-balanced.
Hayley Helms

Best Axes and Hatchets

Filson X Brant & Cochran Dirigo Belt Axe

Best Overall Axe
Filson X Brant & Cochran Dirigo Belt Axe
$450.00

Hand-crafted in Maine, the 25-degree, 1050 carbon steel head and 17-inch hickory handle are crafted using traditional forging and tempering techniques — for history buffs, the steelhead is the same efficient wedge shape unique to Maine axes in the early 1900s. The size is somewhere between a hatchet and a Hudson Bay — big enough for most jobs but not unwieldy for smaller axe handlers like myself.

  • Blade: 1050 carbon steel axe head
  • Handle: Hickory
  • Sheath: Leather
  • Overall length: 17 inches
  • Weight: 1.75 pound head
  • Origin: USA

    Gerber Gear Freescape Hatchet

    Best All-Around Composite
    Gerber Gear Freescape Hatchet
    $65.00
    $46.99 (28% off)

    Gerber’s Freescape Hatchet is a contemporary iteration of a classic wilderness hatchet. The axe combines forged steel with a lightweight and durable composite handle that’s equipped with a grippy (and bright) mold. These solid materials, combined with a no-frills design and an innovative sheath make the Freescape a suitable match for everyday use and trips into the backcountry alike.

    • Blade: Forged steel
    • Handle: Glass-filled nylon
    • Overall length: 17.3 inches
    • Weight: 32.6 ounces
    • Origin: Finland

      Gränsfors Small Forest Axe

      Best All-Around Wood
      Gränsfors Small Forest Axe
      amazon.com
      $199.00

      Gränfors Bruks is one of Sweden’s three remaining axe forges, and it traces its history back through a complicated web of family and business ties to the beginning of the 20th century. The company continues to forge axes of the highest quality by hand, with a keen eye for detail and sustainability. Despite its size, the Small Forest Axe is built for limbing and felling trees. The smiths at Gränfors Bruks’ forge each axe head with special carbon-steel alloy and stamp it with their initials when they’re done. This, plus a hickory handle and vegetable-tanned sheath make the Small Forest Axe an heirloom-worthy workhorse.

      • Blade: Carbon-steel alloy
      • Handle: Hickory:
      • Sheath: Vegetable-tanned leather
      • Overall length: 19 inches
      • Weight: 32 ounces
      • Origin: Sweden

        SOG Hand Axe

        Best Budget Axe
        SOG Hand Axe
        walmart.com
        $26.67

        “Budget” doesn’t have to carry a negative connotation; SOG’s Hand Axe is proof of that. Forged with 420 stainless steel, the Hand Axe is built with a durable full-tang construction and a short G10 scaled fiberglass handle. The axe is built to take-on campsite tasks such as prepping kindling, trimming branches and hammering stakes, and at just over 11-inches in length and 18.6-ounces in weight, it won’t add too much extra weight to a bag or pack.

        • Blade: 420 stainless steel
        • Handle: G10
        • Sheath: Ballistic nylon
        • Overall length: 11.1 inches
        • Weight: 18.6 ounces
        • Origin: China

          Hults Bruk Arvika 5 Star Racing Axe

          Best for Fast Chopping
          Hults Bruk Arvika 5 Star Racing Axe
          $229.00

          The Five Star has already proven itself time and again; it’s been in production by Swedish axe maker Hults Bruk for 50 years. In 2018, the Arvika made its USA debut. The 32-inch two-handed axe is designed to make fast work of even the hardest woods, thanks to a 5.5-inch steel head hand-forged in a foundry that’s been in operation since the 17th century, and a shapely hickory handle. The Arvika is designed to last years, and its 4.5-pound head can be profiled and customized by those with the skill and tools to do so.

          • Blade: Swedish steel
          • Handle: Hickory
          • Sheath: Leather (sold separately)
          • Overall length: 32 inches
          • Weight: 5.2 pounds
          • Origin: Sweden

            Off Grid Tools Survival Axe

            Best Survival Axe
            Off Grid Tools Survival Axe
            $49.99

            Off Grid Tool’s take on the survival axe brings new depth to the multitool category. The Survival Axe packs 31 features into a hatchet style axe that’ll fit into any backpack or bug-out bag. There’s the heat-treated resharpenable hatchet blade, which is expected, but then there’s also the hammer, belt cutter, gas valve shut-off wrench and a locking six-inch replaceable Sawzall blade that’s capable of cutting through metal. These add-ons (and more) make the Survival Axe a great multipurpose tool, but with a 420-grade stainless steel near-full tang construction and nylon handles, it’s a great axe too.

            • Blade: 420 stainless steel
            • Handle: Nylon
            • Sheath: Nylon
            • Overall length: 11.5 inches
            • Weight: 27.2 ounces
            • Origin: China

              Best Made Hudson Bay Axe

              Best for Hanging Over the Mantle
              Best Made Hudson Bay Axe
              $224.95

              Displayed on a wall, an axe can contribute a rustic accent to any interior. But if an axe is to be used to make a statement, it should do so through quality heritage design. Best Made Co.’s Hudson Bay Axe draws on a classic American pattern and updates it with a range of contemporary painted handles. And if there is work to be done, the Hudson Bay makes mean work of logs and brush thanks to a narrow profile and a two-pound head made from 5160 carbon steel.

              • Blade: 5160 carbon steel
              • Handle: Fine-grain Appalachian hickory
              • Sheath: Bridle leather
              • Overall Length: 26.5 inches
              • Head Weight: 2 pounds
              • Origin: USA

                CRKT Woods Chogan T-Hawk

                Best Axe for Throwing
                CRKT Woods Chogan T-Hawk
                $79.99
                $59.99 (25% off)

                There’s nothing quite as satisfying as the thick thud of steel as it sinks into wood, and the best axe for target practice is the straight-shafted tomahawk. CRKT worked with Ryan Johnson of RMJ Tactical to design this hickory handle, 1055 carbon steel axe. The Chogan’s head is forged to take on all chopping tasks and features a butt ideal for hammering nails and tent stakes, both of which make it a handy tool to have in the backcountry.

                • Blade: 1055 carbon steel
                • Handle: Tennessee Hickory
                • Sheath: Lether (sold separately)
                • Overall Length: 19.1 inches
                • Weight: 33.4 ounces
                • Origin: China
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