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There isn’t much philosophy around a survival axe. It’s a simple tool with as many functions as you can think of. Chopping wood or big bones (or anything else, really), hammering nails, wielding it in a thick forest to clear your way, or defending yourself – this tool is always good to have.
It’s one of the oldest items in the history of hand tools and weapons. In prehistoric times, when bushcraft was really a way of life, our ancestors used hand axes without shafts for over a million years. Basically, those were just sharp and pointy pieces of stone. Rough and unrefined, but they did the trick! Next, a wooden handle (just like ours today) significantly improved the ease of use and efficiency, but the stone head remained (okay, we’ve modernized that one).
To start using metal for axe heads and various other purposes, they had to wait till the Bronze Age that dawned on us some 4,000 years ago.
Frankly, your humble survival axe hasn’t changed much ever since. It still contains those two basic parts, sometimes both made of metal, other times wood and metal combined. And it’s still every bit as useful and necessary as ever. Technology may thrive, but it hasn’t come up with smart axes just yet. And even if it does some day, I will always remain an advocate of the good old, wood-and-metal, simple and rugged, dependable survival axe.
Survival Axe vs. Hatchet vs. Tomahawk – Fight!
This is a debate that’s been going on for centuries. All three tools look pretty similar. Whichever option you choose, you’ll have to pay a similar amount. And all three are versatile enough to make your wilderness survival and/or bushcraft a lot easier.
So, which one should you opt for?
It really depends on the item’s primary purpose. If you need a weapon that you can easily carry around on your person, the answer is tomahawk. It’s a lightweight little survival axe with ergonomy that allows for one-on-one fights, much like a hatchet does. However, it flies better than a hatchet. And usually, the cutting edge is thinner than both in axes and hatchets. If you were to come across a large animal that won’t mind its business, I’d put my money on these smaller tools as opposed to axes, which are more difficult to swing and therefore slower as a defense weapon.
And what are we to say about axes that you don’t already know? They come in one shape and multiple different sizes. The smallest ones are typically the same size as a hatchet or a tomahawk. So, there are no significant differences there.
In all likelihood, the most popular, mid-sized axe will suit your needs best. But if you need a powerful monster axe for chopping firewood or splitting big logs, you’d better get an eight-pound. Even though it’s pretty heavy and you need both hands to strike, it will actually save you lots of muscle power if you do it right. And the job will be done much sooner. For branches and kindling, though, a hatchet will be much more convenient.
Tomahawks just don’t fare very well with logs. Since their edges are thin, they tend to get stuck. Which means you’ll have to invest a wee bit more stamina into every hit.
Pro Maintenance Tip for Axes, Hatchets, Tomahawks (Or Any Other Blade)
Swords need a whetstone, but so do other weapons and tools with blades. No matter how sharp your survival axe is to begin with, you should be responsible enough to sharpen it after every use. If you pound a log with a dull (or even dullish) axe, you’ll need twice as much physical strength. And just like your back and hands will suffer, the head of the axe will suffer too, putting up with unnecessary exertion.
Also, never leave an axe outside. When you don’t intend to use it, grease it up and tuck it in under a roof – or at least a tarp. Sure, modern axes are made of stainless steel. Still, you don’t want to risk your tool corroding due to negligence.
4 Best Survival Axe Choices With Reviews
Fiskars X25 Splitting Axe
Back in the days when wooden axes reigned supreme, the real trick was finding an axe with a perfect balance. Maybe you wouldn’t have noticed that in an hour’s work. But try splitting logs for five hours and your back will tell you the difference.
Luckily, most modern survival axes boast perfect balance and ergonomy. And this Fiskars product is no different. You can choose between 28 and 36 inches, depending on your needs (and height). The handle is superb since it absorbs shock and prevents damage to itself or the edge if you’re a tough, super strong guy who likes to really swing it.
Add the fact that it comes with a lifetime warranty, and you’ll get the picture.
- Lifetime warranty
- Comes with a sheath for easy carrying and hanging
- Pretty lightweight (a bit over five pounds) for such a powerful axe
- The metal head is easy to sharpen
- Unbreakable handle
- A wee bit more expensive than your ordinary axe
Estwing Camper’s Axe
This survival axe is rugged enough to withstand any and every blow without suffering any damage to either the edge or the handle. You can choose between 16-inch or 26-inch, or you may even get both. In the great outdoors, you need the smaller tool for finer work with smaller branches or animals’ bones, as well as the bigger one when you need more power.
The grip is made with vibration reduction technology and has a non-slippery coating. Keep in mind, though, that neither of these were made for arduous work such as splitting logs all day long. If that’s what you need, you’d better get a splitting maul.
- Excellent, versatile camping tool
- Nice grip, vibration-proof and non-slippery
- Very comfortable for short or mid-height people
- Very lightweight
- Beautiful (if that’s something you care about)
- Not a heavy-duty survival axe, may bend if you constantly use it for splitting logs
Hults Bruk Kisa Medium Sized Felling Axe
If you’re not a fan of glossy and fancy-schmancy modern-looking axes, this might be the best choice for you. Don’t let its middle size and humble design fool you. This thing was not made to look, but to act. And its wooden handle will outperform and outlast many metal handles coated with this and that for better grip or fancy looks.
It’s a super durable tool for long hours in the wood, tough carpentry work around your cabin, as well as trimming, carving, felling, splitting. Still, it’s small enough to be easily carried around on your back.
- Very versatile and multipurpose
- Simple yet rugged design and structure
- The size fits most purposes – and most people too
- If properly maintained, it will last a lifetime
- A bit pricey
Gransfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet
This list wouldn’t be complete without a hatchet, for those survivalists who can’t do without one. Its 13.50 inches and less than 1.5 pounds in weight are just enough to let it be your regular companion on any outdoor trip. Despite its modest looks, it’s powerful enough to fell smaller trees and do any other work. As a hatchet, you can easily throw it at a wild animal if it comes too close.
- High-quality handle and blade
- Comfortable grip and great balance
- Comes with a leather sheath included
- Compact and lightweight enough for women to use
- As heavy-duty as an axe of this size can be
- A bit on the pricier side
You know how they say: keep your smartphone close, but your axe closer. In the wild, things get even more radical. You may ditch the phone, but an axe will still be your best friend.