A good axe is one of the most useful tools to have when camping. You can clear a campsite, cut and prep wood, and generally make your day easier with one. You shouldn’t just grab any old axe though, a camping axe combines specific qualities that make it a great multi purpose tool. Here’s a list of some of the best camping axes available today.
- 1 Best Camping Axes
- 1.1 Cold Steel Trail Boss Axe
- 1.2 Fiskars Splitting & Super Splitting Axe
- 1.3 Gransfors Bruk Small Forest Axe
- 1.4 Estwing Sportsman’s Axe
- 1.5 Schrade Large Survival Axe
- 1.6 Hults Bruk Akka
- 1.7 Estwing Camper’s Axe with Shock Reduction Grip
- 1.8 Husqvarna Composite Multi-Purpose Axe
- 1.9 Yeacool Camping Axe Multi-Tool
- 1.10 Elk Ridge Personalized Axe
- 1.11 Gerber 23.5-Inch Axe
- 1.12 Off Grid Tools Axe
- 2 Buyers Guide for Buying the Best Camping Axe
- 3 Final Thoughts
Best Camping Axes
The best camping axes combine high quality materials with useful designs. It’s important to remember though that different campers will need different axes. A car or RV camper will probably go for a heavy duty axe or splitting maul to make quick work of their cutting chores.
Hikers and bushscrafters will undoubtedly prefer the light weight and portability of felling and forest axes or even hatchets.
We’ve tried to include a variety of great products from both categories.
Cold Steel Trail Boss Axe
The Cold Steel Trail Boss lives up to its name well. It’s a large axe with a very powerful design. It’s fully 27 inches long from knob to head and has a much larger bit area than most other axes of its size.
It’s made from drop forged carbon steel and uses an aggressively curving bit. This gives it a 4 inch blade that cuts more wood with each swing. The handle is straight by design but has a knob at the bottom for a firm grip. There have been some reports of poor grain alignment and broken handles but on the whole Cold Steel seems to have taken care of this issue.
The whole thing weighs just 2.7 lbs and gives you a lot of axe to work with. It’s compact enough to be carried all day yet robust enough for heavy work. Overall, the Cold Steel Trail Boss is an excellent axe that fulfills most of the tasks you’d need while camping.
Fiskars Splitting & Super Splitting Axe
Fiskars makes a wide range of scissors, knives, and tools for the outdoors. Their Splitting Axe line includes everything from hatchets all the way up to heavy duty sledgehammer like splitting mauls.
They use lightweight yet ultra strong fiberglass for the handle. To this they add a forged steel axe head with a geometry specifically designed to split logs. These start off with a 17 inch splitting hatchet and go all the way up to a 36 inch splitting maul designed for medium to large logs.
If you’re planning to pack your axe in I’d recommend the 17 or 23.5 inch axe. For car camping though it’s hard to beat the raw power of the 36 incher. It’ll make quick work of just about any size log.
An important thing to keep in mind is that splitting axes are very specialized. They’re designed to split apart logs for the fire and do a darn good job of it. Their heads are larger, thicker, and heavier than on forest or felling axes and aren’t well suited for chopping or carving.
If you want a quality splitting maul though it’s hard to beat the Fiskars Super Splitting Axe.
Gransfors Bruk Small Forest Axe
Gransfors Bruk has been forging fine Swedish axes since 1902. The Small Forest Axe is a 19 inch long, drop forged axe that’s perfectly sized for light camp use.
The Small Forest Axe is designed with a straight edge bit and excels at chopping and felling tasks. You can easily trim medium branches and split kindling and light wood.
The head itself looks rugged, with hammer marks visible on its surface revealing its quality. At just 2 lbs and 19 inches long it’s the perfect size and weight for either car camping or bushcrafting.
It’s durable, beautiful, and made with the best materials available. It’s definitely on the expensive side but for your money you get an axe your children and grandchildren will be using after you.
Estwing Sportsman’s Axe
Estwing is a specialty manufacturer of high-end hand tools designed for impact work. These include a variety of construction, roofing, geological, and other hammers as well as quality axes. The Sportsman’s Axe is one of their most iconic products.
It has a standard curved bit axe head that’s forged with the handle into a single piece. They then wrap attractive brown leather to create an instantly recognizable grip. The Sportsman’s Axe is 12 inches long, just about the perfect hatchet length.
Its unibody construction makes it one of the most durable axes on the market. It’s very difficult to break an Estwing product. If you’ve been looking for the perfect camping hatchet to take on your adventures the Estwing Sportsman’s Axe should definitely be taken into consideration.
Schrade Large Survival Axe
The Schrade Large Survival Axe applies the company’s decades of knife making experience to the axe world. It’s just under 16 inches long and weighs only 31 oz.
The blade uses a traditional curved bit design and is made from titanium coated stainless steel. This gives it enhanced corrosion resistance, great when you’re cutting in damp conditions. The handle is made from fiberglass and has a rubber coated grip for a secure hold.
The hammer end of the axe head has a textured pattern on it for more accurate strikes and the handle includes a lanyard strap for multiple carry options. It’s just over the size of a hatchet but not quite large enough to be a full size axe.
This makes it very useful as a camping axe while still being exceptionally portable.
Hults Bruk Akka
Hults Bruk has been hand forging Swedish axes since 1697. In all that time their process hasn’t changed much for one simple reason: It works. Their Akka Forester’s Axe exemplifies this creed in spades.
It has a drop forged straight bit head with a beautifully rugged finish on it. It has a traditional 24 inch hickory handle that’s treated with linseed oil. The axe is quite lightweight for its size, coming in at just 2.2 lbs total, but is extremely durable and effective.
Its handle design gives you excellent leverage for a variety of tasks while the tempered steel bit powers through even the densest woods. It includes a classic leather axe sheath and manual for the care and proper use of the Akka.
If you’re looking to purchase an heirloom quality axe that is lightweight, packable, and easy to use the Hults Bruk Akka is a serious contender.
Estwing Camper’s Axe with Shock Reduction Grip
The Estwing Camper’s Axe uses a high-strength unibody design to give you a very useful hatchet sized camping tool. Estwing knows how to build tools that last.
The Camper’s Axe is made from a single piece of forged steel. The handle is then coated with a natural leather grip to help protect your hand from impacts.
It has a curved bit and is available in both 16 and 26 inch long versions. This lets you choose between a slightly large hatchet or a robust felling axe. Either will work well as a camping axe thought the 26 incher can get a bit cumbersome if you’re packing all your gear in and out of the forest.
For a high-quality, made in the USA product you can’t go wrong with the Estwing Camper’s Axe.
Husqvarna Composite Multi-Purpose Axe
Husqvarna has been making quality axes and other tools since 1689. Their Multi-Purpose Composite Axe is designed to fulfill a wide range of chopping, splitting, and general use roles with ease.
It has a 23 inch long fiberglass handle with a steel reinforcing plate near the head. This helps prevent damage from missed swings or bad impacts with wood. The blade itself has a curved bit with a hardened hammer end great for pounding tasks.
The Multi-Purpose Axe comes with a really neat plastic sheath as well. It actually loops around the handle of the axe to give you an easy carry point to grab onto. The axe itself weighs about 4 pounds, making it a bit on the heavy side for your standard camping axe.
It makes up for this extra weight with its versatility and rugged design. It’s a well made product from a respected company. If you want something a bit bigger for your next camping trip the Husqvarna Composite Multi Purpose Axe won’t let you down.
Yeacool Camping Axe Multi-Tool
This camping axe from Yeacool gives you a fully functional axe and a true multi tool. The straight bodied aluminum handle unscrews to reveal 7 useful survival and camping tools. These include:
- Fire Starter
- Fish Scaler/Saw
- Bottle Opener
- Glass Breaker
The Yeacool camping axe is halfway between a hatchet and a felling axe in size. It weighs just under 2 lbs and comes with a plastic sheath that doubles as a belt holster. The axe itself is made from hardened steel and does a good job chopping kindling, small branches, and basic carving.
The handle is made from anodized aluminum and has more heft to it than you’d expect. The screw off compartments twisted smoothly and attached securely when you were finished with them.
We didn’t get a chance to try out the fish scaler but the whistle, compass, bottle opener, and fire starter all worked great. The ferrocerium rod in particular gave off a very large spray of sparks when struck with a knife blade.
If you’re looking for a true multi tool axe the Yeacool camping axe is a great option.
Elk Ridge Personalized Axe
The Elk Ridge Personalized Axe allows you to engrave names, personal messages, or event titles onto an attractive pakkawood handle. It’s a 10.5 inch long hatchet style axe with both a cutting hook and several hex wrenches built into the blade.
Rather than the traditional eye and handle design the Elk Ridge axe uses a full tang style handle and body that adds greater strength to the axe. It’s a lightweight axe that’s designed to be used with one hand.
This limits you a bit in what tasks you can fulfill but does make it much easier to carry if you’re hiking. We really liked the ability to personalize it. These make great groomsman or birthday favors for all the guys in your life.
If you’re just planning to split kindling and shave wood with your camping axe the Elk Ridge axe is a fun choice. Don’t expect to be chopping down trees or doing serious carving with it though.
Gerber 23.5-Inch Axe
Gerber is a well known name in the axe, knife, and equipment field. Their 23.5 inch axe is a fiberglass handled midrange tool great for a variety of tasks. It weighs just over 3 lbs and is sized to carry out pretty substantial cutting, clearing, and chopping while still being very portable.
The axe head was forged in Finland and has a non friction coating to help it cut more efficiently. Its fiberglass handle is coated in a soft material to increase your comfort and help prevent slippage.
One thing we really liked was the straight handle design with include end knob. Most straight handled axes lack the knob. This can take some getting used to for new or inexperienced axe users. It also comes with a hard plastic sheath to protect the bit during transport and storage.
Off Grid Tools Axe
The Off Grid Tools Axe is a jack of all trades if we’ve ever seen one. It’s a made in the USA product that combines 7 different tools into one durable axe. These include:
- Curved Axe
- Nail Puller
- Tire Chain Hook
- Pry Bar
It’s designed for both chopping and light demolition work. You can cut through boards or sheetrock then turn it around to pound out other materials. The nail puller and pry bar are great for removing stuck or stubborn attachments.
The Off Grid Tools Axe is just over 19 inches long and weighs 2.5 pounds. This puts it in a really good weight class for camping purposes. The included hammer is great for pounding in tent stakes and other basic tasks. Its fiberglass handle is incredibly durable and wrapped in shock absorbing material to protect your hands.
Overall this is a well made axe with an interested set of additional tools. If you’re looking for a jack of all trades tool the Off Grid Tools Axe isn’t a bad choice at all.
Buyers Guide for Buying the Best Camping Axe
When you look at camping axes there are a number of important factors to consider. The most basic are pretty obvious but some of these may surprise you.
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One of the most important things to think about when looking at a camping axe is the price. High end axes can run you several hundred dollars if you aren’t careful. At the same time, you can get pretty good axes for less than $20.
What it comes down to is what you’re looking for and what you’re willing to spend. You can get a functional axe at an inexpensive price but it probably won’t last quite as long as you’d like. Generally they’re made from cheaper materials and aren’t as carefully crafted. Think plastic handles and thinner steel.
If you invest around $100-$150 in a high quality axe you’ve got something that will basically last forever with proper care. The axe head will be drop-forged and made from very high-quality steel.
The handle will likely be hickory and beautifully stained. These kind of axes are built to last. As long as you take care of it you’ll buy an axe once and use it for the rest of your life. Then your kids can fight over it for the next generation.
You have more choices than you might think when it comes to axe handles. The first is what material is used to make it. The most common are plastic, wood, and fiberglass.
Synthetic materials are considered to be stronger but many people prefer the look of traditional wood. Hickory is widely accepted as the best wood to use for axe handles. It’s strong, flexible, and has a very nice grain pattern.
You also need to look at the angle and shape of your handle. Straight axe handles are used on all double bit axes and a variety of single bit ones. They’re incredibly versatile and will do just about any job well.
Curved handles are more specialized but still fulfill a range of uses. They’re easily the most common axe handle shape and give your axe a more traditional look.
If you’re looking at more exotic axes you can even find some folding or collapsible handles. Make sure you know the strength of these materials before using them for heavy chopping.
Here’s where the arguments really begin. There are lots of different styles, grinds, and materials in modern axe heads. We don’t want to get too in depth so we’ll just cover the basics.
Materials wise you want an axe that’s made from forged and tempered steel. This means that the axe head has been hammered after being shaped to increase the density of the steel. It makes it much harder and more durable. You want the edge of the axe to be tempered for exceptional hardness.
This makes it harder to put an edge on it but once there it will last longer. You can get a good working edge that will last for several hours of work. Nothing worse than having to stop every 10 minutes or so to sharpen a dull axe head.
Look for axes marked felling or forest style. These are great all around workhorses and provide the most versatility for a campsite.
Is it a Multi Tool
This is a question we get a lot. If you’re looking at the true dictionary definition of a multi tool it’s not……
We choose to disagree though. An axe is one of the best multi purpose tools around. It can chop through brush, cut branches, split wood, shave tinder, or be used as a hammer in a pinch. If you have a hatchet or axe there’s not much you can’t do out in the backcountry.
An axe isn’t a multi tool in that it has several different tools. It’s a single tool that fulfills multiple functions.
Camping axes range in size from a hatchet up to a full size wood axe. Hiking and bushcrafting axes have to be portable enough to pack and carry easily but robust enough to stand up to hard work. If you’re a car camper you can bring whatever size axe you like. Even splitting mauls are appropriate.
A good rule of thumb for a portable axe is between about 12 and 26 inches. That starts you off with a hatchet and gets up to a medium felling axe. 19 to 23 or so inches is a really good sweet spot. You’ll be able to swing it like a larger axe while still using it one handed like a hatchet.
The best weight will vary depending on what kind of camping you’re doing. Car and RV campers can get away with full sized axes and splitting mauls while hikers and bushcrafters have to watch every ounce.
If you’re looking for a real general purpose star you should get an axe with a head between 1.5 and 2 pounds and an overall weight below 2.5. This makes it heavy enough for serious work but light enough to carry over rough terrain.
Agility mostly comes down to the weight and style of your axe. It looks at how easy it is to move your axe quickly and for precision tasks. Heavier axes are less agile and more suited for heavy tasks.
If you’re looking for an all arounder axe it’s better to get a light to medium weight one.
Penetration is important for some tasks but less so for others. If you’re looking at any kind of heavy chopping you need an axe that can really bite down. Thinner axe heads will get deeper into the wood but they won’t create as much splitting force.
The more you penetrate the wood the less physical force you’re applying to the surface. A splitting axe/maul doesn’t need to penetrate very far. A felling axe does. It’s designed to cut deep into the wood and open up a channel. You can then strike down at an angle to break a wedge of wood loose.
Strength is important in any axe but you need to balance it with how you’ll use yours. If you’re looking at hatchets or lightweight tools for small tasks you can get away with a thinner, lighter head.
For serious chopping, splitting, or felling you need to have high-strength steel in a good thickness. There are three main points of failure on an axe:
- The bit
- The handle
- The eye
The bit is usually damaged by striking something you shouldn’t like a rock or a nail. The eye and the handle generally only give way if you abuse your axe or if they’ve been allowed to deteriorate. If you use a regular axe as a sledgehammer you can cause the thinner metal around the eye to give way.
So long as you buy a quality axe and maintain it properly it’s unlikely you’ll suffer a handle break.
By their very nature axes need to be more durable than other tools. They’re designed to be swung into dense materials to chop them apart. Look at the thickness of the metal on your axes head and the quality of the finish on the handle.
Check for any deformation or bulging on the eye of your axe. That’s the most common point of failure for an axe. Other than these you should consider what type of metal is used, how the handle is attached, and what material it’s made from.
For axes with a curved handle there are three grip points. These are the belly, the throat, and the knob. The knob is the upturned part of the handle located at the opposite end from the head. It gives you a natural stopping point when you really want to apply centripetal force to a swing.
The throat is located toward the front of the bit and is where your non dominant hand rests. This is the hand that will act as the balancing point for the axe and it shouldn’t move much during your swing.
The belly is on the back of the handle and is where you put your dominant hand. You should hold it just a few inches below the head of the axe. Once you begin your swing it will naturally slide down to meet your other hand.
You should never carry or transport an axe without a sheath. An unsheathed axe is just as dangerous as a naked knife blade laying in your vehicle. Most camping axe makers will provide you with some kind of sheath when you buy their products.
Higher end companies will give you stylish leather sheaths that look incredibly sharp on your shoulder.
With camping axes it isn’t really possible to pick a single best camping axe. Depending on where, how, and how often you camp you’ll have wildly different needs than someone else.
Our best advice is to focus on the quality points we discussed above and consider how you’ll be camping. If you’re a diehard car camper go for a larger and more powerful axe. You’ll have a much easier time of most tasks and don’t need to worry about the added weight.
For the bushcrafters and hikers out there it isn’t quite so simple. You need something that’s durable and effective but won’t break your back humping it over a dozen hills. Your best bet is going to be a compromise product such as a felling or forest axe.
Whatever type of axe you go for make sure you buy from a reputable company with a solid warranty and support network.