A hatchet or axe is a strong, thick bladed, wood chopping tool. In a survival situation if you don’t have a chainsaw handy, your hatchet is going to be your best friend.
A vital part of any survival situation is fire, and you will not have fire if you don’t have something to burn. Even if you are gathering fallen branches instead of chopping down your tinder, you are still going to want to have a tool that can chop your wood down to size and clear up stray branches in order to control your flame.
Axes, hatchets, and tomahawks are excellent blades to have for any hiking, camping, or outdoor adventures. Be sure to check out our Buyer’s Guide if you want help deciding what tool would be best for you and for more information about the difference between an axe and hatchet.
1. Fiskars x7 Hatchet
If you are looking for a great hatchet on a budget, Fiskars brand axes and hatchets will not disappoint. We love the X7 Hatchet as an option that gives the great strength and wood cutting power of an axe at a lighter weight than other options out there.
The Fiskars X-series is also more of a high-tech design with additional features that you won’t find with a wood handled traditional axe or hatchet. This axe has a fibercomp handle with a non-slip grip and a vibration absorbing chamber. All these features built in to the handle help make a powerful hatchet that is virtually unbreakable. This 14” hatchet even comes with a sheath and a lifetime warranty.
2. Gransfors Bruk Small Forest Axe
The Gransfors Bruk is the ultimate axe. You will not find a higher quality ax anywhere else. This camping ax is very traditional style from the Swedish company that is known for excellence and comes with a 20 year warranty.
With a 19 inch long handle and weighing 2 pounds, this ax is small enough to fit in your pack but still feels heavy-duty enough to finish any wood chopping project with ease. This axe comes razor sharp out of the box. It is expensive, but the traditional built quality and ‘you-get-what-you-pay-for’ saying really applies with this ax. If you are looking for high-end quality that won’t let you down, buy the Gransfors bruk!
3. Husqvarna 13” Wooden Hatchet
This little hatchet is another solid choice that is high quality at a price that can’t be beat. The Husqvarna hatchet has a hickory handle which provides a more authentic look. The head is attached to the handle with a wooden wedge and a steel wedge to ensure it’s securely attached to give you the trust you need to get your job done.
This hatchet has a 13” long handle and is 15” long total, weighing about 2 pounds. The Husqvarna brand is based in Sweden and this hatchet is forged from high quality Swedish steel. It also comes with a leather edge cover for safety and to protect the edge.
4. Estwing Sportsman’s Axe 14” Camping Hatchet
This Estwing Camping Hatchet is a good quality tool that is proudly made in the USA. This hatchet is uniquely forged from one piece of 1055 high carbon steel. That provides a more durable hatchet.
The handle is uniquely wrapped in leather and hand sanded and leathered to provide comfort and support. The Hatchet is 14 inches overall and weighs 1 pound 12 ounces so it is a great size for carrying and camping. It also comes with a ballistic nylon sheath to keep the hatchets edge ready for use!
5. SOG 11.5” Hand Axe
The SOG hand axe is smaller and easier to transport than other hatchets we’ve reviewed. At 11.5 inches long and weighing barely over 1 pound, it’s the perfect tool to carry in a bug out bag without noticing the extra weight.
The hatchet is perfectly designed for hammering and chopping and also has a more modern design with a glass reinforced nylon handle. It also comes with a protective sheath. SOG also includes a lifetime limited warranty to protect against defects.
6. Gerber Gator Combo Axe II
The Gerber Gator Combo Axe II is a unique axe that includes a small coarse saw that stores inside the handle. This saw adds more options for use with brush and small branches. It may seem like a gimmick to have a hollow handled axe with a 10.24 inch long saw inside, but Gerber does a great job still providing high quality tools with this multipurpose axe.
The axe itself is 15.6 inches long and the glass filled nylon handle is very lightweight and durable, despite being hollow. The saw stays inside the handle with magnets so you don’t have to worry about it coming loose when chopping wood. The handle also has the Gator Grip signature handle to add more confidence with use. The head is made of forged steel and comes with a ballistic nylon sheath for blade protection.
7. Kershaw Camp Axe
The Kershaw Camp Axe has a drop forged high carbon steel to provide durability and prevent the axe head from breaking off the handle. It is only 11 inches long and weighs 14.5 ounces, making it easy to carry. The handle is made of a non-slip krayton to help provide a better grip. It also comes with a plastic sheath to protect the blade.
8. Schrade SCAXE 2 Stainless Steel Small Axe
The Schrade SCAXE 2 is another great bug out bag option. It is 11.8 inches long with a glass fiber filled handle. The handle also is rubberized to provide added grip comfort and confidence. The head is 3Cr13 Titanium Coated Stainless Steel which is strong and durable.
As added weather protection, the axe comes with a thermoplastic sheath that can be worn on the belt. On the back of the head there is a hammer pommel, and inside the sheath there is a ferro rod for fire starting. The multipurpose features of this axe give you a lot of survival gear for your buck.
9. CS90TA-BRK Trail Boss
If you are looking for a heavy duty full-sized axe, look no further than the Cold Steel Trail Boss. This axe is 26 inches long, with a beautiful American Hickory handle. The head is Drop Forged 1055 Carbon Steel and will help you split any wood with ease.
If storage space and weight isn’t a concern, this heavy duty axe will get the job done. It has good weight and balance and for the price, it is a solid choice in an axe. The only downside is it does not come with a sheath to protect the blade.
10. Gerber Bear Grylls Survival Hatchet
For the price, the Gerber Bear Grylls Survival Hatchet is a great choice to have in your bug out bag. Weighing only 1.4 pounds, this hatchet is cleverly designed to be able to still put out a lot of force for its small size. The handle design helps, as it has a rubberized non-slip grip with a finger hold below the head to allow you to choke up your grip.
It also has a hole at the bottom of the handle for a lanyard for extra safety. The hatchet is full tanged with a high carbon steel head. The back of the head has a cross-hatched striking surface, perfect for hammering. The hatchet also comes with a military grade, mildew-resistant sheath that has loops to easily attach to a belt or pack. As an added bonus, it also comes with Bear Grylls’ “Priorities of Survival” pocket guide.
Although we have grouped Axes and Hatchets together, there are some differences in size and utility that are important to know when deciding what to purchase. Axes are generally bigger and longer than a hatchet. On average, a hatchet is about 12 inches long, while axes are over 22 inches long. Having that much longer of a tool gives much more leverage and force when swung. So Axes are the ideal tool for chopping wood.
However, the size means that axes are not always ideal in a camping or survival situation. If you are not worried about storage space, weight, and have some real logs to chop an axe is a great choice and will make any job you have much easier!
However, if you are looking for an ax that you can take with you camping or to carry in a bug out bag or survival situation you may appreciate the lightweight and smaller option of a hatchet. Having a tool that is easier to carry is also helpful in a self-defense situation. If you are looking for something to throw and use primarily for self-defense, but also do a little wood processing, be sure to check out our information on tactical tomahawks.
First, to understand what makes a quality axe or hatchet we need to look at the anatomy of an axe or a hatchet:
Traditionally, the handle or shaft of the axe was made of wood-often hickory. The handle is what the head attaches to and what provides the force for the blade to chop when swung. The handle needs to be durable to withstand the forces being applied to it.
When selecting an axe with a wood handle, be sure to examine what direction the grain goes by looking at the bottom of the handle. The strongest wood will have a grain aligned in the same direction as the blade. If the grain is horizontal to the blade, the handle will not be able to withstand the force from the chopping and is much more likely to break.
Handles are also made of plastic, fiberglass, or metal to provide a strong alternative to the traditional wood handles.
The head of the axe or hatchet is what provides your chopping power. We usually prefer a carbon blade with a head made of forged steel. This will make the axe cheaper in price, while still providing the strong durable blade you want. Be wary of axes made entirely of stainless steel, it tends to not be as strong as carbon steel.
There are some important characteristics to look for when purchasing a high quality axe or hatchet:
The weight of the axe effects its chopping ability and ease of use. A heavier axe can chop through thicker pieces of wood, but is harder to swing and not as convenient to carry. However, be cautious of getting a tool that is so lightweight that you are doing all the work to chop anything.
It’s best to find a happy medium based off what you intend to use the axe for- go a little lighter if you want to be able to take it backpacking or store in a bug out bag, or look for something heavier if you want to do some serious wood chopping.
The balance of an axe refers more to how the tool feels when you swing it in the air. The more balanced the handle and head are, the better you will able to ensure that you can hit your target with each swing. Handles with a slightly curved design are easier to weild and help ensure that your swings are balanced and accurate.
The length of the axe is going to determine how easily you can pack around or carry it. But the length also is going to determine how the axe is used- a shorter axe is generally used for quicker and smaller chopping needs around camp.The short handle makes it easier to do fast, accurate strikes. A longer axe can handle much harder tasks and greatly adds to your actual cutting strength when you need to chop logs and thicker wood.
The sharpness of an axe is important for the longevity of the tool. A brand-new axe is sharp out of the box, but how long the blade will hold its edge is going to be determined by the type of metal it is. Look for a high dense metal or steel. Also be aware that part of the maintenance of an axe is learning how to sharpen it.
Ultimately, you’re always going to be grateful having an axe or hatchet in addition to your knife in a survival situation. If you have the luxury or storage space such as your truck bed, having the heavier duty head and longer handle of an axe is going to make your shelter building, game processing, or fire building chores much easier.
If you want the convenience of being able to carry your wood processing tool in a bug out bag or possibly use in a self-defense situation, the lighter weight, compact hatchet will not let you down.