An axe is one of the most primitive tools for outdoors. Primarily used for processing wood- felling, splitting or just kindling and chopping branches, the camping axe of today serve more than one purpose.
If you are an avid camper or backpacker, you can rest assured that you would have to process wood, process game, hammer in tent pegs or have a gear for protection and tactical purposes. All of these requirements can be fulfilled by a suitable Axe, Hatchet or Tomahawk. Most outdoorsmen swear by their axe/hatchet as one of the most useful tools that they carry.
Picking the right type of axe is often a challenging task. Axes are traditionally long and heavy tools used for wood felling and splitting.
Hatchets can be thought of a one-hand axe, i.e. they are smaller, lighter and easier to use for wood kindling and chopping branches.
A tomahawk is a special type of hatchet which can be used as a tactical throwing weapon as well. Tactical hatchets and tomahawks are nowadays more popular among campers and backpackers because of their size and weight.
In this article, we will look at some of the best axes, hatchets and tomahawks available in the market. We will also look at the factors to consider before picking the right one for you. Finally, we will also look at some of the accessories you should consider along with your axe or hatchet.
Important Note: As per regulations, axes cannot be sold to people under age of 18 years. Axes cannot be shipped to D.C., MA, Miami-Dade and Sarasota counties, FL, Canada or Puerto Rico. Please check your state, county and city laws for restrictions before ordering such tools.
Best axe comparison listOur pick of the best camping axes out in the market and how they stack against each other.
|Gransfors Bruks, Small Forest Axe||19"||2.2||- This big daddy of forest axe is made in Sweden from the best grade sturdy steel with a hickory wood handle.|
- A truly buy it for life item, the axe has a 3.25 inch face and a very well hand crafted handle.
- Has bigger versions as well but this ultralight small version is fit for camping needs.
- Comes with genuine leather sheath.
|Husqvarna 26-Inch Wooden Handle Forest Axe||26"||2.7||- This Swedish made forest axe features a heavy steel head and Hickory Wooden Handle|
- The head is attached to the handle using both a wooden and a steel wedge to secure fastening.
- Suitable for small-scale tree felling, splitting logs, trimming branches and clearing bushes
- Comes with a genuine leather sheath
|Fiskars X25 Super Splitting Axe||28"||5.6||- This X-Series Splitting axe by Fiskars is made with best grade steel.|
- It features a shock-absorbing Fiber Comp handle which is lightweight yet stronger than steel
- Comes in larger and smaller variants as well.
- Has a smart sheath for transportation and storage.
|Wetterlings Hudson Bay Axe||23"||3||- This made in Sweden axe has a strong head made with Swedish carbon steel and wooden handle.|
- The bit is hardened to 57 Rockwell rating.
- Comes with genuine leather sheath
|Gerber 23.5-Inch Axe||23.5"||5.6||- This smartly designed modern day axe has a forged steel head with PTFE coated blade for low friction, long term wood processing.|
- The axe features a composite handle that is shock absorbent.
- Has longer variants as well.
- Comes with a slim sheath for storage and transportation
Best hatchet comparison listOur pick of the best camping hatchets out in the market and how they stack against each other.
|Estwing E24A Sportsman's Axe||12" and 14" versions||0.93 for 12"|
1.02 for 14"
|- This hugely popular, made in USA hatchet is made with single piece American Steel.|
- The hatchet features a genuine leather grip.
- The package includes heavy duty nylon sheath for storage when not in use.
- Can be shipped outside US in selected countries.
|Zippo 4-In-1 Woodsman||14"||3.7||- This multi-functional made in the US tactical hatchet has a stainless steel axe blade & polymer handle with saw blade storage|
- The hatchet features two rugged wood saw blades, tent mallet and stake puller.
- Comes with Dual function cover, saw handle and safety sheath
|Schrade SCAXE5 Tactical Hatchet||12.8"||1.56||-This 12.8" tactical hatchet is made with high grade carbon steel and features glass-filled nylon handle slabs|
- The hatchet also features a nail pull and pry bar
- Comes with heavy duty polyester sheath for storage when not in use.
|Fiskars Consumer 14-Inch Hatchet||14"||1.4||- This imported hatchet made by world leader in cutting tools is manufactured with forged carbon steel blade, inserted in unbreakable handle made Of Nyglass|
- The blade is based on blade-grinding technique providing better wood processing.
- Comes with sheath for storage and transportation.
|Gerber Bear Grylls Survival Hatchet||13"||1.4||- This well designed hatchet features a 3.5” stainless steel blade with a heavy duty rubber handle |
- The back of the head features a crosshatched striking mallet.
- The package includes heavy duty nylon sheath for storage when not in use.
Best tomahawk comparison listOur pick of the best camping tomahawks out in the market and how they stack against each other.
|SOG SK1001 Survival Hawk||12.1"||1.22||- This popular tomahawk boasts of full-length stainless steel construction|
- Features an handle made with glass-reinforced nylon
- This multi-function tomahawk has paracord wrapped on handle, which also includes a hidden fire starter
- Has a nail pry and blades fitted in the handle.
- Comes with ballistic nylon carry/storage sheath
|Columbia River 2725 Kangee T-Hawk Tomahawk||13.75"||2||- This tactical tomahawk is made from single piece steel and has a spike on one end.|
- Features a curved handle and a finger grip coil along the front for enhanced control and balance.
- The package includes a form-fitting Kydex sheath with secure buckle strap.
|Smith & Wesson SW671 Full Tang Tomahawk||15.9"||2.69||- This unique T-Hawk from one of the best weapon manufacturer in the world features black 1070 high carbon steel body with black TPE overlay handle slabs|
- It features an axe on one end and spike on the other.
- Comes with heavy duty polyester sheath for storage when not in use.
|Estwing ETA Black Eagle Tomahawk Axe||16.25"||1.1||- This made in USA tomahawk is made with single piece American Steel.|
- It has Nylon Vinyl Shock Reduction Grip and can be used for cutting, trenching, digging, excavation and other operations
- Comes with heavy duty nylon sheath for storage when not in use.
|United Cutlery M48 Tactical Tomahawk||15"||2.2||- This smartly built tactical tomahawk is made with high grade carbon steel and has axe-and-spike construction|
- The handle is made up of paracord wrapped 30% fiberglass reinforced nylon
- Comes with snap-button closure nylon belt sheath for storage
What is difference between an axe, hatchet and tomahawk and why do you need one?
As per Wikipedia, An axe (in American English also spelled ax) is a traditional tool that has been used for millennia to shape, split and cut wood; to harvest timber; as a weapon; and as a ceremonial or heraldic symbol. The axe has many forms and specialized uses but generally consists of an axe head with a handle, or helve.
So if your camping trip involves any type of wood processing, along with tactical activities like hammering tent pegs, prying nails or even sawing then a camping axe, hatchet or tomahawk is a tool for you.
Now let us look at the difference between the three major axe types for backpacking and hiking:
- Axe: A camper axe is typically longer – more than 20 inch long and heavier – no less than 2 pounds. However, because of its traditional use as a wood felling and splitting tool, the axe blade is heavy duty and generally has a Rockwell rating higher than that of a Hatchet or Tomahawk.
- Hatchet: A hatchet can simply be thought of a smaller axe. It is generally no more than 14 inches long and considerably lighter than an axe. Because of its smaller size, hatchets are primarily used for lighter wood processing – splitting branches and kindling wood. Modern hatchets for camping have developed into smart tactical tools with additional features such as pry bar, mallet and saw included in the design. If you are unsure about the best tool for processing wood during backpacking, you should always consider a hatchet as your first choice because of its weight, ergonomics and packing friendliness.
- Tomahawk: A tomahawk is a special type of hatchet, which was primarily developed for combat and protection. Typical tomahawks follow an axe head-and-spike design. Since they should be easy to use as a weapon, tomahawks are generally lighter and have a smaller head blade. Tomahawks can be used for processing small wood branches and barks.
In the next section, we look at some of the factors while considering the best axe/hatchet/tomahawk for yourself or somebody else as a gift.
How to pick the best axe, hatchet or tomahawk for yourself?
Once you have decided the wood processing tool you would go for, picking the best axe, hatchet or tomahawk can often be a challenging task, considering a large number of such tools available in the market. In addition to economical and preference considerations, some of the major factors to consider while selecting the best axe tool are listed below:
- Head design, type and Rockwell Rating
- Handle design and type
- Size of the axe/hatchet/tomahawk
- Weight of the axe/hatchet/tomahawk
- Additional tactical features and considerations
Head design, type and Rockwell Rating
Considering that most axe type tools are not very cheap, considering the head design, building material and relative performance in wood processing is an important consideration. The head of the axe is generally made up of high grade carbon steel or stainless steel. This is important as you would not want your axe blade to rust out.
The type of the head would depend on whether it is an axe, hatchet or tomahawk. Hatchet and tomahawks typically have a tactical head design with one end of the head used for wood processing and other for hammering, prying or spiking.
Pick the one that best fits your needs, considering the primary function you would be using the tool for. It is natural to get enticed by the tactical designs of the head, but if you are looking for a wood processing tool, go with a solid head design.
The cutting power of any such tool is measured by what we call a Rockwell rating. In short, as per Wikipedia, “The Rockwell scale is a hardness scale based on indentation hardness of a material.” Rockwell ratings are typically expressed in terms of alphabets after the letters “HR”. Typical axe should have a rating of HRC 45 to HRC 55. This would ensure they have decent cutting prowess.
Handle design and type
The handle of the axe or hatchet is the probably the second most important part of the tool. Handles of such tools vary considerably in design and building material. Hatchets and tomahawks such as Schrade SCAXE5 Tactical Hatchet and Estwing E24A Sportsman’s Axe are made with single piece carbon steel and hence have a unique handle overlaid on the surface. Other such tools have separate head and body inserted into a handle. The outer surface handle of most hatchets and tomahawks is made up of either genuine leather, Nyglass or high-grade rubber.
Most axes, on the other hand, have a traditional head-and-handle design in which the wooden handle is inserted into the axe head. Some axes such as Husqvarna 26-Inch Wooden Handle Forest Axe have the head is attached to the handle using both a wooden and a steel wedge for secure fastening. Some axes such as Fiskars X25 Super Splitting Axe and Gerber 23.5-Inch Axe have newly designed fiber handles. Check out the handle design and videos on the same to determine what to expect from such a tool to determine whether it would fit your need.
Size of the axe, hatchet or tomahawk
The size of the axe, hatchet or tomahawk in terms of the length of the tool can also be a factor as it governs what type of wood processing you can do using the tool. Longer tools can process bigger branches and logs. As discussed above, Camping axes are typically longer, ranging from 22 inches to as long as 36 inches. The hatchets are typically 12 or 14 inches long. Tomahawks, similar to hatchets in design are 12 to 15 inch long, with a smaller blade. There are exceptions, such as the Gransfors Bruks, Small Forest Axe, which though built like an axe, packs the same amount of power in short 19 inches. Consider this while picking the best axe, hatchet or tomahawk for your needs.
Weight of the axe, hatchet or tomahawk
If you are backpacking or hiking and carrying your own supplies, the weight of the axe becomes important criteria to consider. Axes have a very heavy blade which makes them heavier and less compact – weighing in excess of 3 pounds. Hatchets and tomahawks are much lighter. If compactness and weight are a consideration, then it is a good idea to go with a hatchet as it is typically one to two pound in weight and will be suitable for almost all your expected camping needs.
Additional tactical features and considerations
The advancements in last decade on material and tactical designs have made axe tools much more useful and easier to handle. All such tools – be in axe, hatchet or tomahawk have multiple tactical functionalities available with them. For example Schrade SCAXE5 Tactical Hatchet features a nail pull and pry bar along with the blade. Similarly SOG SK1001 Survival Hawk has paracord wrapped on its handle, and also includes a hidden fire starter, along with nail pry and saw blades. Consider all such features while picking the best one for you, as it can effectively reduce your spending in such items.
In addition to these, all such tools come with genuine leather, nylon or polyester sheath for easy storage and transportation when not in use. A well-designed sheath in an excellent accessory to consider while picking the right axe tool.
Along with these, most of the axes, hatchets, and tomahawks have bundle or combination packages as well which include additional saws, axe sharpener, carry case etc. If you would need these items, it is a good idea to go with such bundles as they tend to be cheaper when compared to buying such items separately.
Which are the best axes, hatchets, and tomahawks and what our picks are?
Estwing E24A Sportsman’s Axe – Editor’s choice for the best hatchet
The word of hatchets is synonymous with Estwing, and the E24A Sportsman Axe is no exception. Truly a BIFL(buy it for life) gear, this hugely popular, made in USA hatchet offers the best of both worlds when deciding on the picking a hatchet – it is compact and has an extremely well-built blade for efficient wood processing.
The hatchet features a full tang manufacture and is made with single piece American Steel, making it exceptionally durable. The hatchet comes in two variants – 12 inches and 14 inches and weighs no more than paltry one pound.
The hatchet has a genuine leather grip making it easy to handle while processing wood. What’s more is that the package includes a heavy duty nylon sheath for storage when not in use.
To add to these factors, the hatchet is backed by lifetime warranty and can even be shipped to selected countries outside the US.
The only drawback one may consider about this hatchet is that because of its full tang metal construction, you can expect to experience some shock while processing bigger branches of wood. Estwing continues to come up with advancements and design to minimize the shock and strain transferred to the handle, so you can expect improvements in these areas in coming years.
SOG SK1001 Survival Hawk – Editor’s choice for best tomahawk
Another full tang BIFL (buy it for life) gear, SOG SK1001 Survival Hawk is an excellent tomahawk that boasts of full-length stainless steel construction. Often called the baby SOG, this 12.1-inch survival tomahawk is the smallest one of a long line of SOG tomahawks, but it surely packs a punch. It weighs around 19 ounces and features a blade that is of such high quality that the hawk can be used to take down small trees, clear the paths and even process game such as a deer or filet the fish. The other end of the blade features a fully functional nail pry.
The Survival Hawk features a handle made of Nyglass – glass reinforced nylon making it extremely comfortable to use. The handle is attached to the body of the hawk using heavy-duty bolts and a steel ferrule ensuring high stability. In addition, the handle has a paracord wrapped around the handle, which also includes a hidden fire starter. In addition, the handle has blades fitted to function as tactical saw when required.
The SOG SK1001 Survival Hawk comes with ballistic nylon carry and storage sheath for easy transportation and storage. The Hawk comes with limited lifetime warranty. Once you see the price of this product, you will feel it is truly value for money.
Gransfors Bruks, Small Forest Axe – Editor’s choice for best axe
No list of axe tools is complete without a reference to the granddaddy of all – the Gransfors Bruks Axe. Why else do you think you find the name Bruks in multiple axe brands? This traditional axe is so durable that it can be passed on to generations.
Though the Gransfors Bruks, Small Forest Axe would not qualify as a traditional woodsman axe because of its 19 inch length, it can do everything that you may desire from an axe during your backpacking or camping trip. It weighs only 2.2 pounds and can be used to processing heavy wood, logs and branches.
This forest axe is made in Sweden from best grade sturdy steel and features an ergonomically curved hickory wood handle. A truly buy-it-for-life item, the Gransfors Bruks has a 3.25 inch face which is extremely sharp and durable. The axe comes with a genuine leather sheath for easy and safe storage.
There are many bigger versions of this axe and if you so desire, you can pick them instead of the small forest Axe.
The only drawback is that the Gransfors Bruks axe cannot be considered to have is its relatively high price- sometimes 50% more than other such models. But if the initial investment is not an issue, you should go for this awesome product as it would be worth every penny of your investment.
Schrade SCAXE5 Tactical Hatchet – Best value pick for the best axe, hatchet or tomahawk
Though not the cheapest wood processing tool, the Schrade SCAXE5 Tactical Hatchet is an excellent value for money product to consider if you want to get a multi-functional tactical tool that can fulfill all of your requirements. It is worth noting that Schrade is the end-of-line manufacturers of Smith and Wesson and Imperial knives.
The Schrade SCAXE5 Tactical Hatchet is a made in the US tactical hatchet that features a full tang powder-coated high grade carbon steel body. The handle portion is coated with a smartly designed set of glass-filled nylon fiber handle slabs. The hatchet is about 13 inches in length and weighs an ultralight 1.56 pounds.
The Schrade hatchet has a blade-and-spike design for its head with the pointed spike on one end of the hatchet to dig up holes for tent stake. This smart professional hatchet also features a nail pull and pry bar on the handle side to help pull out tent stakes once done.
The Schrade Hatchet comes with heavy duty polyester sheath for easy storage and transportation when not in use.
The only complain one may have with this hatchet is that it is just 13 inch long and hence may not be able to process wood efficiently. But believe us, Schrade Tactical Hatchet is built to fight above its weight class and is suitable for all decent sized wood processing functionalities.
For all these reasons Schrade SCAXE5 Tactical Hatchet is our best value pick for best axe, hatchet or tomahawk.
One of the most important thing to ensure proper maintenance of axe or hatchet is to keep sharpening the blade from time to time using a combination of sharpening grit or tool and oil. It is generally recommended to sharpen every six months or so. Some of the most popular options for this task are listed below:
- Gransfors Bruks Grinding/ Sharpening Stone
- DMT Diafold Double Sided Sharpener
- Lansky Dual Grit Sharpener LPUCK
- Smith’s 50582 Axe and Machete Sharpener
- Norton Sharpening Stone Oil
- Lansky Nathan’s Honing Oil
Another recommended accessory is the safety gear- gloves and goggles to use while operating these tools for wood processing. While these accessories are not a must while operating hatchet or tomahawk, they are mandatory while felling and splitting bigger tree logs and branches. Consider the following accessories:
- Forester Woodsman’s Safety Kit
- G & F 1607L Cut Resistant Work Gloves Grip
- NoCry Cut Resistant Protective Work Gloves
- DEWALT Safety Goggles
Final thoughts on the best axes, hatchets and tomahawks to buy in 2017
In this post, we looked at some of the best axes, hatchets and tomahawks for backpacking and survival available in the market. We looked at the basic difference between the three tools with respect to wood processing and which tool should one opt for based on requirements and preference In addition, we also looked at some of the factors to consider while picking the best tool for our needs. Finally, we looked at some great accessories for maintaining and operating these tools, especially axes. Do let us know how you found this article and if you would want us to consider anything else. Best wishes for your next trip with your favorite axe gear!