If campfires and bushcraft are your things, you’re going to need an axe or hatchet along with your bushcraft knife. One won’t be much good without the other.
But, it can be overwhelming figuring out where to start with so many options available, right?
I’m going to make it easy for you by listing the top 20 axes and hatchets for backpacking and camping so that you can find the best camping axe for 2020.
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- TOP 20 Best Camping Axes & Hatchets 2020
- Estwing Camper’s Axe
- Gerber 23.5-Inch Axe
- Cold Steel Trail Hawk
- Husqvarna 20” Carpenter’s Axe
- Gransfors Bruks Small Forest Axe
- Council Tool Woodcraft Pack Axe
- Fiskars X11 Splitting Axe
- Estwing Sportsman’s Axe
- Fiskars X7 14-Inch Hatchet
- Gerber 14-Inch Hatchet
- Husqvarna H900 13″ Composite Hatchet
- Off Grid Tools Survival Axe
- Schrade 11.8” Stainless Steel Small Axe
- SOG Hand Axe
- Schrade SCAXE5 Tactical Hatchet Full Tang
- Schrade SCAXE2G Survival Hatchet
- Husqvarna 13-Inch Wooden Handle Hatchet
- Gransfors Bruks Hand Hatchet
- Gransfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet
- Gerber Bear Grylls Survival Hatchet
- How to Choose the Best Camping Axe or Hatchet
- Sharpening the Blade
TOP 20 Best Camping Axes & Hatchets 2020
Estwing Camper’s Axe
Review: This axe is a little long as far as other camping axes go, but the extra handle length is worth considering if you’re looking for an axe that will make short work of much larger logs.
The overall length is 26” and it weighs in at 3.4 lbs. This is heavier than the other axes on this list but it may or may not be a deal-breaker for you.
- This is an affordable axe considering it’s American made .
- Well balanced and easy to swing with a sharp edge.
- Almost full-tang the forged steel upper is welded into a hollow steel handle.
- Shock reduction grip reduces vibrations by 70%.
- Might be too heavy for strapping to a pack.
Gerber 23.5-Inch Axe
Review: This is axe provides an excellent balance of length, weight and chopping power. The 3.35 lbs. weight is a little on the heavy side, but the chopping power that weight affords you is necessary if you’re going to be doing more than just a little chopping.
Made in Finland, the quality of this axe is hard to beat.
- PTFE coated blade is rust and friction resistant.
- Composite nylon handle is durable and comfortable to use.
- Comes with a secure plastic cover for the blade.
- Surprisingly affordable for such a high performing axe.
- Too heavy for backpacking but well-suited to camping.
Cold Steel Trail Hawk
Review: This is an option for more experienced axe-users who are willing to make some modifications to upgrade this axe from a reasonable buy to an incredibly good value buy.
General consensus seems to surround stripping the paint from the head, removing the set screw, sanding and re-staining the handle.
- 22” handle makes for a good swing action.
- 1055 carbon steel head and solid American Hickory handle.
- It doesn’t come ready to roll if you’re looking for a sleek and well-made axe.
- Sheath sold separately.
Husqvarna 20” Carpenter’s Axe
Review: This axe isn’t designed specifically with camping and backpacking in mind, but you can’t really go wrong with the balance of swing, weight and bite, this axe is a powerful tool that won’t leave you wanting.
- Swedish steel head and Hickory handle.
- Comes with a leather sheath that covers the edge.
- Lightweight enough, at just under 2.5 lbs.
- Offers more control and precision than many other camping axes.
- Some people may want to remove the coating on the blade.
Gransfors Bruks Small Forest Axe
Review: This 19” axe is among the best of the best. Handmade by an historic Swedish company, this axe represents craftsmanship and care of the highest level.
It has a solid Hickory handle and comes with a vegetable tanned sheath to keep the blade contained in transit.
- Manages to weigh just 2 lbs. which is lighter than some of the hatchets on this list and ideal for carrying.
- Carbon steel alloy axe head is extremely durable.
- Ideal length for slightly larger scale chopping if you need to.
- Not cheap – but arguably worth the money for the top-of-the-line quality.
Council Tool Woodcraft Pack Axe
Review: This is a similar deal to the Granfors Bruks above, having a 19” Hickory handle, but it’s a touch more affordable and a touch less well-crafted.
However, it is an excellent axe and the ideal size and weight for camping trips.
- 2 lbs. head of 5160 steel.
- Lightweight enough to strap to a backpack but heavy enough to process firewood without too much effort.
- The poll is hardened so will cope with a little hammering.
- Comes with a sheath for the blade.
- Sheath only covers the very tip of the blade.
Fiskars X11 Splitting Axe
Review: This small splitting axe is reasonably priced and perfect for processing wood at a campsite or building a small shelter.
It’s the midpoint between an axe and a hatchet. It has the power of an axe, but the compact portability you would expect in a great traditional hatchet.
- Comes in four sizes.
- Slightly larger size makes this the best camping hatchet for long term campsites.
- Non slip grip with a shock absorbing handle makes it almost impossible to break this tool.
- A little larger than most camping hatchets.
Estwing Sportsman’s Axe
Review: This is another axe that treads the fine line between axe and hatchet, which can be ideal for camping. It’s a 14” hatchet forged in one piece of steel making it extremely durable.
Given the right treatment, it will last a very long time and likely be the only hatchet you need to buy.
- Comes with ballistic nylon sheath.
- Leather handle.
- Flat poll is ideal for hammering tent stakes.
- Well balanced for powerful striking.
- For a longer lasting handle you may want to sand off the glossy finish of the leather and then oil it instead.
Fiskars X7 14-Inch Hatchet
Review: If budget is a concern, this is the best cheap hatchet you can find. It’s designed to be wielded like a baseball bat.
The power comes from a perfectly balanced weight that is easy to swing, and the reliable cutting head is ideal for kindling and small trees.
The size is nice and compact, and the reinforced plastic coated handle won’t splinter or shatter.
- Powerful, but easy to carry. This is the best hiking hatchet for people who want to pack light.
- Low friction coating on the blade keeps it sharp and prevents chipping.
- Insert mounted head is inseparable to prevent breaking.
- Since this hatchet is light and compact, it can’t be used for large cutting tasks.
Gerber 14-Inch Hatchet
Review: This little lightweight camping hatchet is a shorter version of the 23.5” Gerber axe. This is the best backpacking hatchet for people who need to assemble campsites or clear brush.
The composite handle is designed to absorb shock, saving your wrist when you’ve been chopping all day.
Combine that with the friction-resistant coating on the blade, and it’s never been easier to process wood.
- Comes with an easy to use blade guard, preventing you from accidentally cutting yourself or your supplies when not in use.
- The same model comes in 5 different sizes, with the smallest being 9”.
- Hefty enough for some light bushcraft work, but light enough for a camping bag.
- Since it’s made from forged steel, it might take a while to sharpen properly, but it also won’t dull quickly either so that’s a win!
Husqvarna H900 13″ Composite Hatchet
Review: This composite hatchet is a hiker’s dream.
The plastic and rubber casing on the handle provides a superior grip in wet conditions, so you can safely use the hatchet no matter the weather conditions.
The head is treated with a friction reducing coating for a smooth chop. The balance point in this hatchet is located close to the head, giving you more power when you swing.
- The back edge of the hatchet functions as a hammer, giving you two tools in one.
- Weatherproofed and designed specifically for hikers and outdoor workers.
- Bright orange color of the handle makes it easy to spot this hatchet outdoors. You won’t lose it at the campsite.
- Hammer end can’t be used with steel splitting wedges – they’ll damage the hatchet.
Off Grid Tools Survival Axe
Review: Strictly speaking, this is also more a hatchet than an axe, but they’re calling it an axe so let’s humor them! This survival axe is like a giant multi-tool in the shape of an axe.
It has all sorts of little nooks and cut outs for different purposes including different sized hex sockets, a glass breaker, seat belt cutter, and 6” saw blade.
- Sharp blade is ideal for cutting small pieces of wood and can be re-sharpened.
- 420 stainless steel almost-full-tang.
- Compact and lightweight package weighing just over 1.5 lbs. and measuring 11.8”.
- More suited for motorcycle or road trips but still a worthy choice for camping.
Schrade 11.8” Stainless Steel Small Axe
Review: This powerful little axe is the ideal size and weight for a variety of tasks around camp and when backpacking.
Again, it’s more of a hatchet, but it’s got excellent power and effectively splits wood. It has the added bonus of a fire starter in the handle and a flat textured poll for light hammering.
- TPR rubber ergonomically designed grip is comfortable and slip resistant.
- Titanium coated stainless steel blade with glass-filled handle.
- Textured hammer poll.
- Comes with a ferro rod in the base of the handle for fire starting.
- Included sheath and lanyard on the fire starter are of lower quality.
SOG Hand Axe
Review: If you’re not sure exactly whether you want an axe or a hatchet, a hand axe finds the middle ground. In all honesty, it does behave more like a hatchet being designed to be used in one hand, but it strikes well like an axe.
This hand axe is a lightweight, but a tough and sharp little tool that will take up minimal space in your pack and work well for chopping small pieces of wood or for hunting tasks.
- Very lightweight and compact weighing just 18.6 oz. and measuring just over 11”.
- 420 stainless steel full-tang blade.
- Ballistic nylon sheath and G10 handle with finger grips.
- The small size might be limiting if you’re faces with larger pieces of fallen wood.
- There is a little recoil in the handle which could start to get uncomfortable quickly.
Schrade SCAXE5 Tactical Hatchet Full Tang
Review: This is an incredibly versatile full tang hatchet, offering multiple different functions that make it great for home maintenance as well as camping and backpacking.
Build a campsite, clear the path, and cook a meal with this tactical hatchet.
- Full tang means this hatchet’s head won’t split off.
- The nail pull and pry bar are nifty little bonuses.
- Glass filled nylon handle gives you the weight you need for powerful swings.
- Blade is high carbon stainless steel, so it takes a while to refine the edge.
Schrade SCAXE2G Survival Hatchet
Review: This hatchet is simple in design, but it delivers as far as quality is concerned.
The bright green handle makes it perfect for a campsite, where you need your tools to be easy to find after you’ve set them down.
The ergonomic shape makes this hatchet easier to use, relieving hand and wrist strain with its intuitive design.
- The ergonomic handle is glass filled and coated with a rubber grip. It won’t slip out of your hand, and it has the weight you need to cut efficiently.
- Comes with a strong leather sheath to protect the blade.
- There’s a ferro rod stored inside the handle which is easy to pull out by the lanyard so you can use the hatchet as a fire starter.
- The overall length of the hatchet is less than 12 inches. While this is good for backpacking, it doesn’t offer a far reach.
Husqvarna 13-Inch Wooden Handle Hatchet
Review: This is a traditional style tool. So many hatchets these days have metal or plastic coated handles. This one is wood – the way all of the classic sportsman hatches used to be made.
The curved handle fits perfectly into the hand, and the hickory wood is heavy and reliable. The hand forged edge is almost impossible to match in terms of quality.
- Comes with a durable leather sheath to protect the blade edge for storage and travel.
- Swedish steel will hold up, even after being sharpened dozens of times.
- Great price for the quality.
- Since the handle is all wood, there is no nonslip grip. Be careful when using this hatchet in wet environments.
- The total weight of the hatchet is 2.4 lbs, which is a little heavy for a hiking backpack.
Gransfors Bruks Hand Hatchet
Review: This is a mini hatchet that’s easy to pack in any bag. It’s 9.5 inches long, and the thick hardwood handle is perfectly shaped to fit comfortably in the hand. It can be used to carve and chop just about anything but it especially ideal for more controlled bushcraft and hunting uses.
The head is forged from a special kind of Swedish steel that can last decades without chipping as long as its properly maintained.
- Short length and thick ergonomic grip make this the best hatchet for carving. It can also be the best hatchet for bushcraft if you have intricate tasks to tend to.
- Comes with a custom fitted leather sheath to protect the blade when you’re out and about.
- It is rather pricey.
Gransfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet
Review: This is it! This is the classic woodsman hatchet, exactly like a historic lumberjack would have used.
Gransfors Bruk improved on the age-old design, using sturdier wood and harder steel than most companies used in the past.
Nothing has ever been more reliable than this hatchet. It’s probably just like the one your grandfather used, but even better.
- Length gives you a good reach, but also optimum control.
- Comes with a tanned vegetable leather blade sheath – it’s tough, and it won’t snag or rip while you travel.
- The handle is oil finished, rather than varnished. It won’t get slippery when it’s wet.
- This is a very expensive hatchet, because it’s made with the highest quality materials.
Gerber Bear Grylls Survival Hatchet
Review: This could be the best survival axe of 2020. It’s designed for ultimate portability, with its compact size being able to easily fit into a backpack or onto a tool belt.
The 3.5 inch blade is perfect for most campsite tasks. In a pinch, it’s even the right size and shape to clean a fish.
- Nonslip rubber grip makes it easy to use this hatchet in wet environments.
- Comes with a mildew resistant nylon sheath for safe transport.
- Full tang hatchet is made of high carbon steel – it’s not likely to break.
- Handheld size tool isn’t ideal for large swinging motions, like a regular axe.
How to Choose the Best Camping Axe or Hatchet
There are a few things to think about before deciding what kind of axe or hatchet will suit your camping style best.
Will you be hiking a reasonable distance? If so, light weight and compact size will be priority.
Will you be attempting to split larger pieces of fallen wood? If so, an axe with a slightly longer handle may be more appropriate.
Also, consider what other tools you’ll have with you.
Will you have a good backpacking knife? If so, you probably don’t need a hatchet capable of more controlled cutting and could go with a blunter edged tool more useful for splitting.
Other things to consider:
Full tang hatchets are better for weight distribution, and they’re also less likely to break.
Wooden handled hatchets are rarely full tang, but they’re also designed to balance well.
If you’re getting something with a plastic handle or a coated grip handle, you want to make sure that the hatchet is full tang. It’s less likely to split.
As far as axes are concerned, being full tang is slightly less relevant. There are still full tang axes out there if it’s important to you. But a well-made wooden handled axe with a carbon steel head is hard to beat.
Some people strictly prefer wooden handled hatchets and axes. They’re a timeless design, and they’re always balanced well.
Hatchet handles can’t be made out of any kind of wood – they require very hard woods which are often expensive.
Expect to pay more for a wooden handle, but expect the quality that comes with it.
If you’re getting something with a plastic coated handle, make sure the grip is good for all weather conditions and that there is some kind of shock absorbing property so your arm doesn’t have to absorb the vibrations.
A>xe and hatchet heads can be made out of either carbon steel or stainless steel. Stainless steel won’t rust, but it’s softer and will need sharpening more often.
Carbon steel will hold its edge for much longer but it will need protecting from rust, and when it comes time to sharpen, it will take some skill and time!
Sharpening the Blade
Filing the blade is a beginner friendly technique. While holding the handle between your knees or clamping it in a vice, follow the bevel of the hatchet with a mill file.
Use the same amount of strokes on each side. Check periodically to make sure the bevel is even on both sides.
It’s a long and slow process, but it’s really hard to mess up. If you’re not comfortable with tools, this is the best way to do it.
Filing only really works for touch ups. If the blade has gone completely dull, grinding is your only option.
Grinding is a little more difficult, and you might want to practice it on old tools before you test it with your new hatchet.
You’ll need safety goggles and gloves, because sparks will fly. Turn on the grinding wheel, and follow the bevel down on both sides, drawing it back and forth.
Only do a few passes at a time – it’s easy to grind more if you need it, but you can’t undo it if you grind too much.
What is the Difference Between Axe and Hatchet?
The main difference between an axe and a hatchet are the length of the handle. Axes are designed to be held with two hands and swung, using the weight of the head to do the work and split the log.
Hatchets are designed to be held with one hand so the handle is much shorter. They are also much lighter so need more effort to use, or need to be restricted to small pieces of wood.
Hatchet or Axe for Camping?
This depends on your camping style and whether you’ll be looking to split larger logs or stick with smaller branches. It also depends on how far you’ll need to carry the tool. Either can be great, you just need to know what you plan to do with it.
What are the Different Types of Axes?
The different types of axes predominantly vary by size, head shape and weight and differ in function, such as felling versus splitting.
Heavier blades with longer handles will split larger logs than shorter, lighter axes. Some axe heads have two cutting edges rather than one cutting edge and a poll.
All the different styles and shapes have different names but you don’t need to know them all!
Hopefully, this article has helped you to decide on the best camping axe 2020 for your camping and backpacking adventures.
Remember to only fell a live tree if you really need to. Focus on using dead wood and only take what you need.
Don’t forget to download my solo travel ebook if you haven’t already and feel free to comment below if you have any thoughts on camping axes and hatchets!
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