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 well-crafted axe.
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.
Best Survival Axes List
- Best Single Forge Build – Estwing Camper’s Axe
- Best Premium Axe – Gränsfors Bruk Forest Axe
- Best Survival Hatchet – Hults Bruk Tarnaby Hatchet
- Best For Bug-Out-Bag – Schrade SC AXE 9CP Axe Saw
- Best Modern Styled Axe – Fiskars x15 Chopping Axe
- Best for Survival – IUNIO Camping Axe
- Best Tactical Axe – Off-Grid Tools Survival Axe
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
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.
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. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.