Survival 101: To survive outdoors, you need survival tools. You can use your wits and skills to stay alive; but, wouldn’t you rather bring more to make things simpler for you if given the chance? You need all the advantages that you can get in any outdoor scenario. You need something that can help you build things efficiently and something that can fend off attackers easily.
Get yourself a favor and get one that can do both, namely a survival axe.
Some may confuse axe with a hatchet, and although they are basically similar, their difference in size is glaring. A survival hatchet is just a smaller version of a survival axe, and both are crucial equipment in outdoors.
You can use a hatchet with one hand because it is smaller in size compared to an axe, which you need two hands to use. A hatchet has a wider blade than an axe’s but has a shorter handle. Axes are meant to chop woods. You can use an axe to fell trees, clear obstacles, build a home or a bridge, or just about any large job.
Hatchets, unlike large and heavy axes, are for smaller jobs like cutting through shrubs, small trees and bust-up rocks, and even bones of small animals.
You might also hear the word “tomahawk” in the mix.
A tomahawk is another type of axe that typically resembles a hatchet but with a straight shaft. While both axe and hatchet are normally designed to chop, a tomahawk is mainly designed for combat. It is ideal for throwing, that’s why it is lighter in weight.
There are other kinds of survival axes as well.
Apart from a hatchet, there’s also the carpenter’s axe, felling axe, splitting axe, fireman’s axe, maul and shaping axe among many others. Each one is specialized depending on what they are primarily used for.
An axe can be your ultimate savior in the game of outdoor survival
An axe can build and destroy, depending on what you want it to do.
You shouldn’t even go camping or backpacking in the wilderness without it. A survival axe can give you shelter, warm your surroundings, feed you and protect you, all of which you need when you are living even temporarily outdoors.
In some environments, a survival axe is more valuable than most outdoor tools, including a knife.
An axe can do almost everything faster, more efficiently and more economically than a knife can. If you need to clear a path of thick vegetation, you can do so with an axe. If you need wood to build a campfire or to fuel your stove, you can obtain firewood from felled dead trees using your axe. You need it to build a shelter and just about anything that can make your stay outdoors more comfortable.
A survival axe is even more vital to have in harsher conditions. You need it to protect yourself from aggressive animals, as well as to kill game for food.
That said, your survival axe is useless if it’s not in top condition. You need one that can last you a lifetime even with frequent use, not just a few months after two or three whacks.
There are basically five things to keep in mind when buying an axe
Your survival axe must have sharp blade, good grip handle, fine balance, and great overall feel. Where the product is made also matters because you would want to own the real deal, and not a second-rate label.
The blade, or also called the head, is the most important part of a survival axe.
The main function of an axe is to cut down things. Without the blade, the axe is just a stick. Take away the handle and you can still use the head to cut through things, not just as efficiently as the whole thing can. Nevertheless, the blade should be in its best sharpened state all the time.
The blade should be able to endure the constant friction whenever it is used. That’s why a poor quality material cannot be any good.
The blade will break easily or dull quickly if it is made from mediocre material. Choose a survival axe with high quality steel for its blade. It may be more expensive, but it is also an investment that will save you time and money in the long run.
The shape of the head also determines what the axe is designed for. For a survival axe, choose one with long and thin head and a curved cutting edge because they are better at chopping woods than its flat edge counterpart.
The handle determines how safely and effectively a user can use the axe. You need a strong and firm grip on the handle to avoid causing injury to yourself and damage to your surroundings. If you have a solid grasp on the handle, it will not slip away while you are working, in both dry and wet conditions.
Axe handles usually come in three options: metal, wood and synthetic.
Metal handles are the strongest of the three. However, it is also the heaviest. An axe with a metal handle can do heavy work, but it’s not something that you would want to carry around in your bug-out bag.
Wood handles are considered ideal because they are decently strong without being too heavy. And should they happen to break, which can happen but in rare circumstances, they can be easily replaced.
Synthetic handles can come in a few forms, but the most popular is fiberglass, which is normally encased in rubber to give users non-slip grip. Fiberglass is both light and tough, making it a great choice for an axe handle material.
The balance between the tail and the head is another crucial aspect that you should test out when picking out your survival axe.
Good balance adds to the axe’s performance.
It can make your job lighter and faster. And on the contrary, if your axe doesn’t have a perfect ratio between its head and tail, it can make your workload even heavier, causing you to tire more easily. An imbalanced axe can waste a perfect blade and handle.
This is where the weight and feel of the axe appeals to you, the user.
How does it feel in your hand? How about when you swing it, does it feel right? Is it too heavy? Or perhaps it’s too light? Is the handle too rough or too smooth for you? It’s all about personal preference, really.
You might want your axe to be on the heavier side because perhaps the weight of it feels right to you. You might think the best axe should have a longer handle because you can get your hands to a comfortable enough position to swing it. Whatever works for you, you’re the one using it anyway.
Where the Survival Axe is Made
You also want to know the country where the axe is manufactured.
There are axes that are made from low-quality steel to save on cost. You have the right to know where your axe is made so you can be sure that you are buying a genuine product.
Other features of an axe, such as the sheath it comes with and carvings it has, are just extras. They are nice to have but not necessary.
And so here are the Top 7 Survival Axes picked out by Mike’s Gear Reviews in no particular order.
Top 7 Survival Axes
Made in the USA, this hatchet is a one-piece wonder made from “the finest American steel.”
It boasts of a beautiful, hand-polished head and neck, made complete with genuine leather grip that has been sanded and lacquered for a handsome finish. It truly is an aesthetically striking tool that easily stands out from the others.
But it doesn’t just look good; it works superbly as well. With just 13.5 inches in overall length and 14.9 ounces in weight, this Estwing hatchet can cut down young, thin trees without much problem. It is manufactured from 1055 carbon steel heat-treated to ASME safety requirements, making it durable and excellent at resisting shock.
It is a good camping axe that you can bring with your gears.
This camp axe is a proud product of the established Estwing company, which has been making outdoor tools since 1923. As some consumers can attest, this is the type of tool that your grandfather used and one that you can also pass onto your future grandchildren. With regular care and maintenance, this survival hatchet can last to a lifetime.
It’s not all sunshine for the Estwing hatchet, though. Let’s explore the pros and cons of this camping axe.
|Good quality||Stickers on the metal neck are hard to remove|
|Aesthetically pleasing||Comes in dull, needs to be sharpened prior to use|
|Leather grip easily dries and cracks|
Here are the reasons some people call it the best hatchet for campers:
- Solid America steel
- Hand-sharpened cutting edge
- 3.25” cutting edge
- 13.5” length
- Genuine leather grip
- Black nylon sheath included
Its over a thousand positive reviews extol the great craftsmanship of this hatchet, as well as its high quality steel.
Its metal isn’t as hard as many would probably expect, but it does the job of splitting firewood and trees, making it the perfect camp axe.
However, it is not without faults.
Critical reviews claim contradicting points. For example, the top praise for this hatchet is that it is of great quality, one that last several lifetimes. However, a number of negative reviews say exactly the opposite, that it is made of weak steel that is easily chipped.
For the critics, they also said that their product arrived in less-than-stellar condition. The blade apparently had so many scratches already even though it should have arrived brand new, and the leather handle was cracked off. As users have suggested, the leather handle should be treated with Neatsfoot Oil to make it last longer.
Based on majority of user reviews, the Estwing E24A 14-Inch Sportsman Axe is a great value. It is an impressive tool with good-looking features to match. It is purely a camping axe, though, and should only be used to break down woods and young trees, never on rocks.
Unlike the Estwing hatchet above, which sports a classic rugged look, the Gerber Bear Grylls Survival Hatchet has a modern look to it. It is compact and slim, sporting only 1.4 pounds in weight. The gray PVD coating with orange accent gives little powerhouse tool a contemporary appearance.
Named after and apparently approved by the famous British television adventurer himself, this powerful tool has all the features of a survival hatchet and more.
It is best used as a camping axe as it does great job of chopping firewood and thin tree branches. Although the hatchet itself is skinny, it is designed to be an all-around tool for small tasks. You can use narrow back head to pound small things. The bottom of the handle somehow functions as a hammer as well.
The rubberized, molded handle allows for an ergonomic and secure grip even when used in wet conditions. The cutouts on the handle adjacent to the neck and head make it possible for users to get a closer grip of the blade and use it for a more precise slicing, kind of like using it as an emergency knife.
Some users have complained that it’s not quite as sturdy as others have claimed, though. The hatchet, they claimed, is “pretty” but basically useless. Here are the pros and cons of this survival hatchet.
|Comes in super sharp||Blade easily dents|
|Innovative cutout on the handle for more precise slicing||Extremely short handle|
|Narrow back head can be used to pound small objects|
|Bottom of handle can also work as hammer|
|Rubberized handle for zero slip grip|
|Lightweight and compact|
Manufacturer Gerber has listed quite detailed specifications. Let’s examine if they all deliver.
- 3.5-inch blade for swift, precise cuts
- Full-tang, high carbon steel construction for durability
- Ergonomic, non-slip rubber grip for comfortable, secure handling
- Military-grade, mildew-resistant nylon sheath with belt loops
- Bear Grylls “Priorities of Survival” Pocket Guide
- Rubber handle for grip in all conditions
- Overall length: 9.46”
- Blade length: 3.5”
- Weight: 20.8 oz.
- Steel type: 3Cr13MoV
- Handle material: Polypropylene
- Nylon sheath
The most common complaint from negative reviewers about this hatchet is that it is not as high quality as they expected. The item is made in China. Apparently, the material of the blade being stainless steel makes it a cheap product that easily dents.
One reviewer noted that the hatchet’s short handle renders it basically useless. The handle, the reviewer said, is so short that it ruins any force you need from the swing.
The attachment of Bear Grylls’ name is both a blessing and a curse. The USA-made eponymous hatchet reaps the benefit of the former “Man vs. Wild” star’s popularity, making it a popular product. However, his celebrity also makes this susceptible to criticisms, with some calling it not a real hatchet, just as Bear’s critics call him not a real outdoor adventurer.
Nevertheless, over 400 5-star reviews of this survival hatchet on Amazon have high praises. As they noted, it’s a hatchet, not an axe. You can use it as a camping axe to cut small branches and do lesser functions. However, if you need to split or fell trees or pound rocks, this is not the tool for it.
One of the most popular hatchets on Amazon, the Fiskars X7 Hatchet is called the best hatchet by more than a thousand of its users.
Its no-nonsense design doesn’t look much, but it gets the job done. Perfect for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts, the X7 boasts of combined perfected weight distribution, advanced blade geometry, ultra-sharp edge and unbreakable design, making it the ultimate camp axe.
This Fiskars hatchet is an improved version of the older Fiskars axes series. Apparently, everything about it is improved: better balance, better chopping performance, revised handle and hardened bit. It is a little heavier than the older Fiskars hatchet, though, weighing at 22.6 ounces compared to the previous version’s 18.7 ounces.
According to users, though, the X7 hatchet isn’t as perfect as it sounds. Some complained of initial dull blade, while others thought the quality isn’t the up to par with other Fiskars hatchets.
|Rubberized handle reduces shock and gives better non-slip grip||Blade easily dulls|
|Axe head in non-stick coating||Non-ergonomic handle design|
|Virtually inseparable axe head|
|Can be easily carried around as it is lightweight|
The specifications listed on the Fiskars website are quite a tall order, but according to the over 1,600 positive reviews, the product delivers as promised. Here’s what the Fiskars hatchet promises:
- Ideal for chopping kindling and small- to medium-sized logs
- Chops deeper with each swing to get more done faster
- Perfected balance and power-to-weight ratio increases swing speed to multiply power, much like an aluminum baseball bat
- Proprietary blade-grinding technique provides a sharper edge for better contact and cleaner cuts
- Hardened forged steel blade stays sharp longer than traditional axes
- Low-friction blade coating powers through wood and prevents head from getting stuck
- Inseparable insert-molded head will not loosen and prevents overstrike breakage
- Shock-absorbing FiberComp handle is lightweight yet stronger than steel to prevent overstrike damage
- Textured non-slip grip reduces hand strain and improves control
- Designed in Billnäs, Finland, building on more than three-and-a-half centuries of the world’s best forged tools
- Included sheath helps protect blade and the user
- Lifetime warranty
Most of the X7’s weight is on its head, leaving the hollow handle light. This is to give the whole piece the right amount of balance without forfeiting strength. But at 1.4 pounds, it is still considered relatively lightweight for a hatchet, making it an ideal camping axe to carry around.
Some users, however, were not impressed with the quality. Just over a hundred of them claimed that the sharp edges of the axe dulled quickly. Other claimed that it worked well up until a few uses.
The weight of the Fiskar hatchet was also an issue for some of them. While positive reviews extolled the balance of the combined head and handle, critical reviews said that its overall weight didn’t allow them to do their jobs properly.
The hatchet apparently took longer to finish chopping branches than heavier hatchets.
Overall, the Fiskars X7 Hatchet is more than a decent camping axe. It has a few flaws, but it is generally one of the better ones out there.
If you need the best axe to use as a camping tool and as weapon at the same time, the SOG Tactical Tomahawk F01TN-CP is the one you are looking for.
Based on the original tomahawk used by American soldiers during the Vietnam War, this modern version is a versatile piece of tool designed especially for combat missions. You can still use it as a camping axe, though, and it won’t be overkill.
With its great swing balance and sharp edge, it can easily chop woods and it is perfect for throwing. It boasts of being a unique multi-tool that can hammer, extract and chop. It has a blunt edge that can be used for hammering, a cutting edge that can cut through stuff, and a chiseled edge that is ideal for extraction purposes.
The head is mounted to a glass-reinforced nylon handle, which claims to offer no-slip grip. The 420 stainless blade steel has a 2.75-inch head that is coated in black oxide and scratch-resistant coating for reduced reflectivity.
China-made, this hawk is nevertheless well-built, according to reviews. The straight edge comes already sharpened so you can use it immediately.
As this is a tomahawk, it is especially designed for tactical combat missions. It can still chop and dice woods as you would use a survival hatchet for, but don’t expect this to do more. Here are the pros and cons of this hawk, according to user reviews.
|Great weight balance, perfect for throwing||Slippery handle|
|Versatile||Not full tang; head and handle susceptible to becoming loose|
|Belt loop on scabbard too small for standard utility belt|
Here are the features that the SOG Tactical Tomahawk F01TN-CP promises:
- Use this versatile tool for breaching operations, excavation, obstacle removal, extraction, and other utility applications
- Glass-reinforced nylon handle with 2.75-inch stainless steel axe head
- Tough ballistic polymer handle and nylon carry sheath
- An innovative, updated version of the Vietnam Tomahawk
- Length: 15.75 inches; Weight: 24 ounces
- Blade length: 2.75”
- Finish: Hardcased black
- Blade shape: Axe
- Edge type: Straight
- Blade Steel Type: 420 stainless
- Handle material: Glass reinforced nylon (GRN)
- Hardness: RC. 51-53
- Lifetime warranty
The fact that this hawk is made in China is an issue for some users. As evident by their complaints, they felt that the country of origin affected its quality. The main concern appears to be the loosening of the handle from the axe blade as it’s not a full tang.
While it is ideal for throwing, it is not much use in anything else, again according to the critics. The handle is touted as non-slip but it apparently doesn’t allow for solid grip, making it hard to use for chopping.
But again, for over a thousand users, this does the job well. One reviewer claimed to have sliced an ice block using this hawk without problem. The sharp edge allows for passable digging as well. It may dull easily, but it’s also easy to sharpen. Overall, it is a decent tomahawk for novices.
This cool-looking hawk by United Cutlery is every inch a tactical weapon. It claims to be an efficient personal defense and breaching tool that can double as a camping axe. It is a fairly lightweight tomahawk with a broad contoured edge on one side, and a sharp spike edge on another.
The first thing you will notice about the M48 Hawk is its badass form. It just looks especially handsome without being bulky. The two-edged head is attached to 30% fiberglass and nylon-reinforced handle by three separate bolts. The black oxide coating completes the look.
With a fiberglass handle, it is no surprise that the majority of its weight falls on its top. This makes this ideal for throwing and light outdoor activities, but not much for heavy-duty projects.
As the name implies, it is a tactical combat weapon that offers great slashing, chopping and cutting performance. The spike axe head can be an effective breaching device, while the blade edge can be used for fast chopping action.
As some of the reviewers claimed, this hawk is combat-proven.
According to user reviews, the United Cutlery UC2765 M48 Hawk Axe can be both a friend and a useless hanger-on in your outdoor adventures. Here are the pros and cons:
|Balanced weight||Limited warranty|
|Long enough handle for better swing action||Non-comfortable grip handle|
Here are the specifications of the product from the manufacturer:
- 15 inches overall length
- 8-inch axe blade
- Weight: 7 ounces
- Precision cast 2Cr13 stainless steel blade
- 30 percent fiberglass reinforced nylon handle
- Snap-button closure nylon belt sheath
Please note that the Amazon page lists this as having an anodized AUS-6 stainless steel blade. On the United Cutlery website, however, it states that the axe head is constructed of precision cast 2Cr13 stainless steel.
One reviewer swore on the efficiency of this hawk as a combat weapon. Others agreed that it is the best axe for fighting or practicing martial arts. The weight and balance of this simply makes it a perfect throwing weapon.
And while there are quite a number of reviewers who thought that the M48 is a capable camping axe, some beg to differ. According to them, the handle snaps easily, rendering it useless for wood-chopping. It is a great-looking hawk for sure, but this Chinese import doesn’t hold up to expectations.
Like the SOG Tactical Tomahawk above, the United Cutlery M48 Hawk Tactical Tomahawk is ideal for beginners.
This survival axe has a 3-inch forged steel that comes sharp and ready to use from the moment you take it out of the box. Its fibreglass-filled nylon handle is made longer to provide incredible striking force and made lightweight for easy handling.
The saw is a great addition, a perfect partner, for the Gator II axe.
It claims to offer solid and comfortable grip even in wet and muddy conditions, making it the ultimate outdoor tool for adventurers, no matter what the environment or condition they are in.
Gerber, the manufacturer, is an American brand, and therefore the product is made in the country as well, in Portland, Oregon, to be exact.
According to user reviews, the Gator II has a lot of pros but riddled with cons as well. Here’s what they are saying:
|Long handle||Easily breakable handle|
|Comes with saw||Weak magnet holds the saw blade and axe handle together|
|Full tang saw||Hollow tube handle|
Here are the specs of the axe and the saw:
- Forged steel head for blade durability + striking force
- Glass-filled nylon handle hides a coarse blade saw for brush/branches
- Gatos Grip handle material provides sure grip in all conditions
- Axe overall length: 15.60”
- Axe blade length: 2.70”
- Axe weight: 26 oz.
- Axe head: Forged steel
- Axe and saw handle: Gator-grip
- Saw overall length: 10.24”
- Saw blade length: 6.10”
- Saw weight: 2.40 oz.
With only 15.6 inches in length, this axe is perhaps better classified as a hatchet. Perhaps that is why user reviews claimed that it can split firewood and small branches, but not logs.
Some of the users complained of their handles snapping in half while they were trying to chop logs.
The size also makes it a compact gear that you can carry to campsites. Because the saw is housed inside the axe’s handle, packing it in a bug-out bag will be no problem at all.
The saw is a little power tool that is just as big as a butter knife but can tear into wood fast. Its handle is a little short, but it can do a 4” limb job without problem. But even without it, the axe is said to be a versatile piece of tool that you can use as a hammer as well.
Although there are criticisms on the make of the handle, its length is often commended by users. The long handle will allow you to get enough momentum when swinging the axe for a more efficient drive. This is difficult to achieve with shorter handles, such as the Bear Grylls hatchet mentioned above.
For a wildcard entry, here’s an all-purpose tool that you can also use in your camping and outdoor adventures. It’s not exactly an axe, but it includes an axe. The Trucker’s Friend can be your friend if you want a tool that does everything.
As the name implies, it is designed for truck drivers mainly. However, it still a serious tool that can be an indispensable addition to your kit.
Weighing at 2.6 pounds, it’s not exactly a lightweight. It’s a heavy-duty power tool that can function as an axe, hammer, tire chain hook, level, pry bar and nail puller. According to the reviews, it is just a great thing to have around the house or outside it.
Still, as with almost everything else, this isn’t a perfect handy equipment. It is smaller than you might expect, which doesn’t make a good regular tool to use.
|All-purpose||Has a small head for an axe|
The manufacturer has a lot of claims on what the Trucker’s Friend All-Purpose Survival Tool can do. Here are its promises:
- Handy all-purpose hand tool designed for professional truck drivers
- Cut branches, pry loose nails, chip away hard-packed ice, and more
- Includes curved axe, spanner hammer, nail puller, tire chain hook, pry bar and lever
- Shock-absorbing power grip and fibreglass handle
- Made in the USA
It is a bit generous to call it an axe because it isn’t. It’s just one of its functions, but even that is a stretch, according to some reviewers, because it’s too small for use. It will take you time to cut a moderately sized log. Some users even surmise that the blade is not exactly high quality.
Nevertheless, it’s a great tool to have in your emergency kit or, if you have one, in your truck.
You probably will be not reaching for this on a regular basis as you will probably want to use your regular axe and other equipment when you need such functions. But if you need something that can fairly get a job done when you don’t have your regular tools, this is a great buy.
Mike’s Top Choice
After looking at several best-rated axes on Amazon, Mike’s Gear Reviews recommends the survival axe that we think will not let you down. The best axe among them all, according to our review, is the Gerber Bear Grylls Survival Hatchet.
If you want a heavy-duty survival hatchet that is compact and tough, go for the Gerber Bear Grylls Survival Hatchet.
Because it is a full tang–which means the blade and handle are just one piece–there is no fear of the handle separating from the blade. There are no welds between the handle and the head so it’s not prone to breakage as well. The indentations on the handle for the fingers allow for a more precise slicing so you can sort of use your hatchet as a knife.
The bottom of the handle as well as the opposite blade can strike surfaces, pound nails or tenderize meat.
It can withstand any weather condition, and your grip on the handle will not likely slip because of its rubberized coating. Included with the survival hatchet is a military-grade nylon sheath that you can connect in your belt loops for easier access anytime.
Its short handle may be a problem for you, though, because if may limit your swing action.
In close second place is the Fiskars X7 Hatchet 14 Inch.
Like the Gerber Bear Grylls hatchet, the Fiskars hatchet is also high quality, compact and light. Even though it isn’t in one piece, the head and the handle are inseparable. As Fiskars as well as some users boasted, the axe is impossible to break and can even outlast others. This one has almost all the positives of a Bear Grylls hatchet but without the ergonomic handle design. Their prices are even close to each other.
If you want a longer handle for better swing action, go for Fiskars X7 Hatchet. But if you want an ergonomic handle, albeit very short, your best bet is the Gerber Bear Grylls Survival Hatchet.
Are you as fascinated about the Survival world as we are here in MikesGearReviews? Take a look at our Survival Gear Reviews and learn more about the tools you need to survive anything this 2018.