Even the most peace-loving and placid amongst us love a little bit of axe-work, right? Whether it’s the image of the wild outdoorsperson or just the satisfying crunch of steel on wood, getting your hands on the best camping axes and hatchets appeals to some primal urge and sensibility that, ultimately, just feels a little bit cool.
Not only can they make us look cool and allow the indulgence of a touch of acceptable violence, however, camping axes and hatches are also mightily handy. Anyone who has ever been on a camping trip and tried to collect wood for a fire will vouch for that statement! Even if we’re only picking up chunks of deadwood from the forest floor, having an axe or hatchet to hand allows us to chop and trim the wood down to nice, tidy, fire-sized pieces. If nothing else, this will at least help to ensure we don’t turn our camp fire into a wild fire!
When it comes to choosing an axe, however, the number of options available makes decision-making testier than trying to chop down a giant sequoia with a butter knife. But have no fear, dear fellow Cool of the Wilder, we’ve got your back on this one…below, we’re going to take you through our selection of the best camping axes and hatchets out there in 2020 to make choosing your trusty tree-toppler (or trimmer, maybe) a cinch.
- FAQs when choosing the best camping axe
- The 11 best camping axes and hatchets in 2020
- What to look for in a camp axe or hatchet
Summary of superb camping axes and hatchets
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|Hoffman Camp Axe||Hand forged, very powerful and highly durable||2.25lbs (1.02kg)||19in (48cm)||$$$$$|
|Schrade SCAXE2 Survival Hatchet||Modern and portable||1.37lbs (621g)||9.5in (24cm)||$|
|Gransfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet||Very durable with 20 year guarantee||1.5lbs (650g)||13.5in (34cm)||$$$$|
|Hults Bruk Almike Hatchet||Powerful and long||1.75lbs (794g)||16in (40cm)||$$$|
|Gerber Pack Hatchet Camping Axe||Great all rounder, light||1.3lbs (589g)||9.4in (23.87cm)||$|
|Excellent value, good quality||1.9lbs (861cm)||11.5in (29cm)||$|
|SOG Badaxe Base Camp Axe||Very strong and durable||2lbs (905g)||16in (40cm)||$|
|Gerber Gator Combo Axe II||Powerful, comes with handsaw||1.6lbs (726g)||15.6in (39cm)||$|
|Husqvarna Hatchet Axe||Powerful and well made||2lbs (905g)||13in (33cm)||$$|
|Fiskars X7 Hatchet||Great value with lifetime warranty||1.4lbs (635g)||12in (30cm)||$|
|Off Grid Tools Survival Axe||Lightweight with integrated tools||1.7lbs (771g)||11.5in (29cm)||$|
FAQs when choosing the best camping axe
Hatchets and hand axes are fairly similar. However, there are some differences:
Hatchets are usually smaller, more lightweight and more portable than axes. Their shafts are shorter. Their heads are narrower with a large cutting blade compared with axes that have a larger head that doesn’t really taper to the blade.
Some hatchets have a hammer head on the backside of the head, whereas true axes will only ever have a blade — they are not designed for hammering. That said, there are some axes on our list that feature hammer heads.
The 11 best camping axes and hatchets in 2020
If you’re after an exceptionally high quality axe that will last you a lifetime of superb performance then look no further than the Hoffman Camp Axe. Hand forged in the USA by Liam Hoffman himself, the axe heads are heat treated and hung directly onto hand carved, kiln dried, ash or hickory handles. Complete with a vegetable tanned leather sheath and a hardened poll that truly stands up to the demands of proper hammering, this is no everyday axe.
The 2.25lb head makes mincemeat of both hard and softwood chopping projects leaving the weight of the tool to do the work for you. And with a 19in handle, the Hoffman Camp Axe maintains excellent control even on the most precise cuts. Want something heavier or longer? No problem. Hoffman Blacksmithing forges his Camp Axe in three different head weights and five handle lengths.
Yes, it may be the most expensive option on our list, but when you’re getting the absolute best in hand-made craftsmanship, the extra spend is more than worth it. This is an heirloom product that will last for generations.
- Hand forged in the USA
- Exceptional performance
- High quality steel
- Head weight and handle length options available
- Comes with exceptional leather sheath
- Highly durable poll for hammering
- On the heavy side in terms of portability
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The Schrade Survival Hatchet is almost the antithesis of the above GB hatchet. Using a titanium-coated stainless steel head, fibreglass handle, rubber grip and thermoplastic sheath, this is a very tidy, ergonomic axe with a far more modern feel. Measuring in at 11.8” long with a 3.8” blade and weighing 1.37lbs, the Schrade is highly portable but consequently lacks the striking power of longer or heavier axes such as the GB Wildlife, Almike, Estwing and Husqvarna axes (below).
Overall, a nicely balanced and minimalist axe that will serve you well as long as you don’t intend on toppling anything too big!
- Nice grip
- Good balance
- Only 1.37 pounds
- Storage space inside the shaft (no, really!)
- Shaft a fraction short (about 9.5” to the axe-head)
- Hollow shaft can mean getting some ‘stingers’ if you swing into a hard, chunky log
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The GB Wildlife Hatchet is a handsome devil of an axe. Beyond its looks, however, it also packs a mighty punch, boasting a 13.5-inch hickory handle, a 1-pound head, a 3-inch bit and a handy leather sheath. It also comes with a twenty-year guarantee but is so robust, well-made and durable that it’s unlikely you’ll ever need to use it!
Although pricier than similarly styled competitors like the Almike and Husqvarna hatchets, the GB Wildlife Hatchet oozes quality and provides better all-round performance on chopping jobs, little and large.
NB. If purchasing the GB Hatchet, rest assured that – despite the name – no wildlife need meet with its keen-edged blade. Wood will do just fine…
- Very handsome!
- Quality sheath
- Hand made
- Great for chopping kindling
- Good handle
- Robust and durable
- 20 year guarantee
- Reasonably light (1.5lbs)
- Occasionally comes with some minor, character-giving flaws due to being handmade (slight misalignment, varied curvature)
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In appearance, the Almike bears a vague resemblance to the classy-looking GB Wildlife Hatchet (above), but pick it up and you will instantly realise that this bad boy is a little better suited to a tackling slightly larger logs than the Wildlife. Weighing in at a fairly hefty 1.75lbs and boasting a 16” American Hickory shaft, the Almike packs a lot of power with good leverage and balance. The dense axe head is hand-forged and made from Swedish steel making it super durable whilst maintaining its sharpness, even after multiple sharpenings.
This is a good option for slightly bigger chopping jobs at camp or at home – just make sure you’ve got your lumberjack shirt at the ready!
For more details, read our full review of the Hults Bruk Almike Hatchet.
- Powerful – can tackle larger logs
- Good leverage and balance
- Big (16” shaft)!
- On the pricey side
Despite looking more like a futuristic tomahawk than something you’d chop wood with, the Gerber Pack Hatchet Camping Axe is an awesomely-portable and practical little hatchet that will do pretty much everything you need to do barring chop the wood for you. Though missing a decent hammer on the reverse of the blade, this hatchet is ultra-compact (9.4″ / 23.87cm), lightweight (1.3lbs / 589g), has a grippy handle and a narrow blade for chopping kindling and stripping bark. It could, moreover, double up as pretty handy tomahawk…winner! A superb option for backpacking and overnight hiking trips.
- Very compact
- Sturdy considering its size
- Looks kinda cool
- Comes with a sheath
- Won’t chop wood for you!
The super-sleek, classy-looking Estwing Sportsman is an aesthetically lovely little chopper. It might weigh a few hundred grams more than some of its competitors (the Fiskars X7, Almike and GB Wildlife Hatchet, for example) but you might be tempted to plump for this one just in order to have fellow axe-wielders eye your shiny, one-piece tree-trimmer with envy. Where the Sportsman might just win your approval over the similarly visually endearing Almike and GB Wildlife Hatchet is its price, which is very pleasingly low (about a quarter of the Almike’s and a fifth of the GB’s!). For this very modest outlay, moreover, you get a very reliable axe with a lacquered leather grip, a tempered 3-1/4” cutting edge, strong nylon sheath and a nice head-to-shaft balance.
A strong contender for the title of Best Budget Axe!
- Wide hammer end for easy splitting of larger logs
- Very good-looking
- Very well-made
- Single-piece construction means you never have to worried about the head flying off
- Sheath is a bit tacky
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The SOG Base Camp is another tough, single-piece axe that boasts a sleek finish, rubber grip and a decent flat head for knocking in tent pegs and stakes or any other bashing needs. At over 2lbs in weight and 16” long, however, this isn’t the most portable axe in our review. It also falls a little short of other one-piece or heavyweight competitors the Gerber Pack Hatchet, Estwing Sportsman and Husqvarna hatchet in terms of practicality. First of all, it arrives fairly blunt and will require some sharpening before cutting through even small branches efficiently. The blade and bit are also fairly shallow, meaning that, despite its size, the SOG struggles to make its way through larger chunks of wood.
All told, this is a simple, reasonably-priced camping axe that does everything moderately well but fails to excel to the extent of other low-cost options such as the Grylls Survival Hatchet and the Husqvarna Hatchet Axe.
- Nice curved and rubberised handle
- Flat hammer head handy for knocking in stakes and pegs
- Very strong and durable construction
- Not the best sheath
The Gator Combo Axe is a versatile, low-cost chopper boasting a super-handy integrated freebie – a coarse-bladed handsaw! The textured grip prevents slippage in wet conditions and length of the shaft (15.6”) gives good striking power for larger chops.
Strangely, the most functional and appealing aspect to this camp axe is the integrated saw, which is held magnetically inside the handle and is ideal for trimming stubborn branches or cutting smaller logs to size. Compared to the the other axes and hatchets in our review, the quality of the Gator is nothing to write home about, but this bonus feature just might make it worth its relatively low price.
- Integrated saw is very handy!
- Not too heavy (1.6lbs)
- Not the most durable
- Takes a while to sharpen
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Another classy looking chopper, the Husqvarna Axe uses a curved, hickory handle and a shiny Swedish steel head. The most appealing feature to this camp axe is also is greatest drawback – the 1.5lb head. While great for chopping into larger chunks of wood and providing great striking power, combined with the 0.5lb handle it makes the Husqvarna a little low on portability and heavier than most competitors. Given its low price, however, the Husqvarna offers a well-made and solid, cheap alternative to other wooden handle axes such as the Almike and GB Wildlife Hatchet.
- Very friendly price!
- Solid, Swedish steel head
- Nicely weighted head
- Leather sheath
- Slightly slippery handle
- Heavy (2lbs)
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Cheap, ergonomic, relatively light and fitted with a flared head that prevents it getting wedged in your log, the Fiskars X7 is a very neat-looking and practical chopping companion that is ideally suited to small jobs but can also take on some larger splitting tasks. Most endearing in the X7 is the lug at the base of the handle for better grip and the aggressively shaped head, which is also decently weighted and well balanced with the lightweight shaft.
- Reasonably lightweight (1.4lbs)
- Good grip/handle
- Nicely weighted and shaped head
- Lifetime warranty
- Metal is a touch on the soft side and prone to denting and/or chipping
- Not quite the same chopping power are similar sized and weighted axes like the Grylls Survival Hatchet and Husqvarna Hatchet Axe
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In the coolness and quirky stakes, the Off Grid Tools Survival Axe is very much a winner. Not only does this compact little axe boast an integrated 6”saw, steel glass breaker and four hex tools for tightening and loosening bolts, it manages to squeeze in a seat belt cutter, gas valve wrench and bottle opener too! Although very robust, portable, cheap and weighing just a fraction over a pound, this is not the most practical for those who’d like to do some serious chopping. The shortness of the shaft and the consequent lack of balance mean the Survival Axe really isn’t going to do much more than chop a bit of kindling and, with a bit of effort, cut some moderately thick branches.
For those on a budget the Survival Axe poses competition to the Gerber Pack Hatchet, the Husqvarna hatchet and Fiskars X7. It does, however, lack much of their chopping power.
- Loads of additional tools
- Integrated saw
- Poor balance
- Short (lacks leverage)
- Not made for chopping larger logs/branches
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What to look for in camp axe or hatchet
Quality of build
Carrying an extra pound or two of gear into the backcountry with you only for that gear to then break would be massively disappointing and perhaps have you wielding another axe at whoever sold you the first one. For that reason, the materials and construction of your camp axe or hatchet must be high quality. Look for stainless steel, a solid shaft that’s long enough to give leverage and sturdy enough to avoid stunning your hand and arm, a sticky grip, and a good balance in weight between head and shaft.
Most commercial axe companies use machinery to create and process axes in bulk. The process of shaping the metal is highly laborious and tough going without machinery, hence the massive price difference in camping axes. Although commercially made axes aren’t necessarily any less strong than their hand forged counterparts, the amount of hours, blood, sweat and tears that go into forging the steel head of an axe by hand means that they are valued much higher. Most hand forged axes also come with hand carved handles and many people argue that the quality of the whole product is much greater than that of axes pumped straight off the production line.
Portability and weight
The fun and convenience of wielding a camp axe on your backcountry travels has to be weighed up against the inconvenience of carrying the thing in there with you. How heavy and bulky you choose to go will depend on your own preferences (and leg power!). Certain axes offer a more streamlined and lightweight solution that might sacrifice chopping power. Whereas weightier models might be better suited to the aforementioned sequoia than simply trimming a few finger-wide scraps of deadwood.
The overall cutting power of an axe is another very important pre-purchase factor. An axe’s cutting power depends on the balance, the blade, the ‘bit’ (the section behind the blade) and also the grip.
A good grip will ensure your hand doesn’t slip when swinging and could potentially save you a few toes.
Balance and weight
If the weight of your camp axe is mainly in the head, this will give you greater power and control when chopping.
The blade and the ‘bit’
The blade’s efficiency mainly comes down to the material used, but its width is also important. With both the blade and the ‘bit’, too much width will make trimming branches tricky. If, however, these sections are overly skinny, in all likelihood the axe will wedge and get stuck if swung into larger logs.
Whether you’re an ultra-light obsessive, an old-school aestheticist or a fan of the newfangled and quirky, Cool of the Wild hopes you will find an axe or hatchet ideally suited to your needs in the above list. Whichever camp axe you choose, we’re sure that you’ll be chopping up a storm somewhere soon!
Happy hatcheting, people!