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The Best Axes & Hatchets For The Campsite

Best Camp Axes And Hatchets 00 Hero

No matter how long of a trip or how many individuals are taking part, campfires are an essential component of practically any recreational camping experience. And while one always has the option of hauling in their own firewood and kindling, the reality is that this approach is akin to bringing sand to the beach, as the majority of off-grid locales are rich with trees, logs, branches, and other fuel sources for a campfire.

While not particularly difficult, sourcing your own firewood does require one specific tool: a hatchet or axe. And this brings us to today’s guide, where we’ll be counting down the best camp axes and hatchets currently on the market with a curated selection of utilitarian felling tools and splitters that are lightweight and compact enough to be brought into camp, held in a rucksack, carried on the belt, or strapped to a bag. So, without further ado, let’s get to choppin.’

The Best Axes & Hatchets For Camping

Splitting The Difference

How Do Axes & Hatchets Differ?

Though the two are admittedly very similar — and are often even used interchangeably — the reality is that there are some pretty major fundamental differences between hatchets and axes. For starters, hatchets are almost always considerably smaller than regular axes. With markedly shorter handles and smaller heads — typically measuring no more than a foot in length and no more than 2lbs in weight, respectively — hatchets are also used with one hand, plus are much more conducive to applications such as backpacking where minimizing weight and bulk is key. Because of their compact size and how easy they are to stow in a backpack or carry solution, these single-hand items are also often referred to as “pack axes.” Additionally, hatchets also tend to be fitted with heads that sport a more wedge-shaped profile compared to regular axes — a design that allows them to maximize their efficacy despite their size. 

While hatchets are largely defined by their size, axes exist across a much wider spectrum of different types. From splitting axes to felling axes to even tactical tomahawks, full-size axes are obviously much larger than their hatchet counterparts, and are swung using both hands. Featuring longer and more robust handles and shafts and bigger, heavier heads, axes weigh considerably more, making them less conducive to applications where one’s gear loadout is being carried entirely by hand (or on their back in a ruck). Lastly, there are also some models on the market that blur the line between axes and hatchets, though they aren’t as common. 

Quality Cuts

The Most Important Areas To Consider When Buying An Axe Or Hatchet For The Campsite

Though there are admittedly dozens of factors and finer points that one can consider when buying a camp axe, there are really only a handful of elements to review when shopping that objectively trump all others in terms of importance — the most crucial of which we’ll be highlighting and breaking down directly below. 

Axe Type: The jumping-off point for your search should start with first identifying which type of axe will best suit you. When, where, and how you plan on utilizing your new axe should hugely narrow down your search, as felling axes, splitting axes, and hatchets all have their own respective strengths and weaknesses. 

Size & Shape: This will be partially dictated by what type of axe you select, but regardless of the genre, axes from the same sub-segment can still vary significantly in terms of size, shape, and overall aesthetic form, with some models employing age-old vintage designs while others utilize unmistakably modern layouts that present evolved takes on the space. Just like with axe type, your intended use should ultimately guide this portion of your search. 

Materials: One of, if not the single biggest factor that determines the overall quality and durability of any axe or hatchet is the materials that it’s crafted from. This includes looking into the construction of the handle, as well as the material used to craft the axe’s head — the former of which can be made from everything from wood to modern composites while the latter is most commonly composed of iron, steel, or other alloys. It’s also worth exploring secondary materials such as handle or grip overlays, hardware, and any other more minor elements. 

Head Design: In addition to its construction, you’ll also want to examine the design of an axe’s head, as this item’s size, weight, shape, and profile all directly impact how the axe will perform, as well as which type of tasks it will best lend itself to. Some axe heads will also sport supplementary features or design elements such as notches that can serve as nail and/or tent stake pullers. 

Handle Ergonomics: How a handle is shaped — i.e. its ergonomics — is another factor that plays a substantial role in deterring the performance of any axe or hatchet. Often slightly curved to increase leverage and striking force, the shape, size, and length of a handle is ultimately what determines this area. 

Build Quality: The materials used to make an axe or hatchet are no doubt of utmost importance, though so too is the manner in which said materials were pieced together. The build quality, overall construction, and fit and finish not only greatly impact an axe’s durability and longevity, but these are also key factors that separate the best axes on the market from their cheaper, lower-quality counterparts. 

Weight & Packability: Depending on how and where you plan on using your new axe, you may also need to consider how portable it is. This area primarily comes down to the axe or hatchet’s size and weight, how thick its profile is, and what type of sheath or holster it’s sold with — though we’ll touch more on this latter area immediately below. 

Sheaths & Holsters: The vast majority of axes and hatches on the market are sold with an included holster or sheath — or, at the very least, a cover to shield the axe’s head and blade when not in use. Sheaths and holsters may seem like an afterthought, though these can massively affect how easy it is to carry, mount, or transport an axe or hatchet, making this another pivotal area to review when shopping. 

Estwing Special Edition Fireside Friend Splitter

Photo: Blade HQ
  • Special edition version of legendary pack axe
  • Made in America
  • Has USA-sourced forged steel head w/ hand-sharpened edge
  • Sold w/ included black nylon sheath
  • Incredibly well-balanced
  • Back of head doubles as hammer
  • Would benefit from more ergonomic handle design

Best Pack Axe: Founded in Rockford, Illinois in 1923, Estwing undoubtedly represents one of the most respected names in hammers, axes, and other American-made hand tools. Estwing’s Fireside Friend Splitting Tool boasts a forged, one-piece construction culminating in a 2.375” hand-sharpened edge. This Special Edition version of the Fireside Friend also sees the neck and face of its blade treated to a matte black finish and the regular model’s Blue Shock Reduction Grip swapped out for a stacked, leather-wrapped handle setup. Made in America, this pack-friendly camp axe is also sold with an included black nylon sheath.

Head Material: Forged Steel
Handle Material: Steel & Leather
Overall Length: 14.25″

Barebones Field Hatchet

Photo: Huckberry
  • Inspired by antique woodsmen axes
  • Has 1055 High Carbon Steel mated to Hickory handle
  • Offers great value
  • Back of head doubles as hammer
  • Sold w/ included 900D polyester sheath
  • Straight handle lacks ergonomics & grip

Best Splitter: Protected by a two-year warranty, this Barebones axe is a modern-day reissue of a classic field hatchet with a dead-straight handle design and a Scandanavian-style head. Inspired by vintage camping gear, this axe features a 4″ cast 1055 carbon steel blade and hammerhead fixed to a Hickory construction handle. Weighing only 1.2lbs, this hatchet also makes for a great pack axe, despite its extended handle length. Stamped with a Barebones logo and finished with a matte black coating contrasted via a bare blade edge, the head of this axe is also protected by an included sheath crafted from rugged 900-denier polyester.

Head Material: 1055 High Carbon Steel
Handle Material: Hickory
Overall Length: 17″

Council Tool Velvicut Hudson Bay Axe

Photo: Amazon
  • Legendary USA-made axe from heritage brand
  • Forged 5160 steel head has been heat-treated & quenched 1” from cutting edge
  • 5160 alloy construction rated at 52-56 on Rockwell scale
  • Features excellent build quality
  • Hickory handle has great ergonomics
  • Included leather cover/sheath doesn’t provide carrying or mounting options

Best USA-Made Axe: In continuous operation since 1886, Council Tool is another thoroughly iconic and thoroughly respected name in the hand tool game, with a 136-year history of delivering high-quality, built-to-last products. And this long-held tradition continues with the Velvicut Hudson Bay Hatchet. Coated in a light oil to prevent rusting and bring out the metal’s natural patina, this axe’s forged, tempered, and heat-treated 5160-grade alloy steel head is guaranteed by Council to last a lifetime. This heirloom-quality axe is equipped with a lightly-curved handle that’s composed of grade “A” American Hickory. Every component on this axe, from its head to its handle to its leather blade mask, is made in America, too.

Head Material: 5160 Steel
Handle Material: Hickory
Overall Length: 18.75”

TOPS Knives Grandpa’s Ax

Photo: Blade HQ
  • Top-shelf EDC-inspired hatchet
  • Made in America
  • Has full-tang 1095 carbon steel head
  • Micarta handle affords stellar ergonomics & grip
  • Penned by knife designer Lorenzo Espinoza Sr.
  • Super lightweight at only 1.425lbs
  • Expensive for its size

Editor’s Pick: With its unique sweeping shape and ergonomic handle, the TOPS Knives Grandpa’s Ax delivers immense chopping power in a surprisingly compact 11” package. Designed by Lorenzo Espinoza, this axe sports a full-tang 1095 carbon steel construction with a tumble-finished 4.0” head that’s been rated at between 56 and 58 for hardness on the Rockwell scale. Sold with a 0.6oz leather belt sheath, Grandpa’s Ax sees its full-tang handle cloaked in a set of green Micarta scales, giving this traditional tool a more modern feel. The simplicity of this design coupled with its rugged materials practically guarantee a lifetime of use — if not several.

Head Material: 1095 Carbon Steel
Handle Material: Micarta
Overall Length: 11.00″

Gränsfors Bruks Small Forest Axe

Photo: Amazon
  • Compact heirloom-quality axe
  • Made in Sweden from premium materials
  • Sold w/ leather sheath & Gransfors’ Axe-book
  • Features excellent build quality
  • Though made from recycled content, axe head alloy composition is unknown

Best Heritage Axe: Based in the Swedish province of Hälsingland, Gränsfors Bruks has been hand-forging heirloom-quality axes since its inception in 1902. This axe consists of a curved Hickory handle that’s been mated to a handmade, forged blade head that’s been manufactured using recycled steel. At almost 20” in total, this model is on the larger end of the camp axe spectrum, however, it’s still compact enough to be carried in or on a backpack or ruck. Weighing 2lbs, this Swedish-made axe is also sold with a vegetable-tanned leather sheath. And while it doesn’t come cheap, this is another tool that was engineered to last a lifetime.

Head Material: Recycled High-Carbon Steel
Handle Material: Hickory
Overall Length: 19.68”

Toor Knives Camp Axe

Photo: Blade HQ
  • Top-shelf tactically-inspired hatchet
  • Made by hand by boutique SoCal-based knife brand
  • D2 steel head has KG Gunkote finish
  • Outstanding build quality & fit & finish
  • Textured G-10 handle affords stellar ergonomics & grip
  • Weighs only 1.3lbs
  • Expensive price

Best Modern Hatchet: Designed using a spare-no-expense ethos, Toor Knives’ Camp Axe is an incredibly rugged and extremely capable hatchet that weighs in at only 1.30lbs and spans just 12” in total. Using a full-tang construction, this axe is built around a handle crafted from D2 blade steel before being adorned in G10 scales using Toor’s signature Dynamic Fluting grips. Protected by a snap-button-secured leather sheath, this axe’s head has been further fortified via a black, KG Gunkote finish. In addition to being made in America, Toor’s Camp Axe also comes protected by a lifetime warranty. This item is also produced in a total of three color choices and is available with optional custom engraving.

Head Material: D2
Handle Material: G-10
Overall Length: 12”

Prometheus Design Werx SPD x Hardcore Hammers Ranger Axe

Prometheus Design Werx SPD X Hardcore Hammers Ranger Axe (1)
Photo: Prometheus Design Werx
  • USA-made axe made from finest materials available
  • Born out of collab between Hardcore Hammers & PDW
  • Unparalleled build quality & fit & finish
  • Has 4140 “Ordnance Steel” head w/ Ferritic-Nitrocarburizing blacked-out finish
  • Axe head decorated w/ SPD Kraken logo stamp
  • Offered in multiple hand-applied finishes & color options
  • Expensive price

Best Premium Axe: A special, limited edition version of Hardcore Hammers’ American-made Ranger Axe, this PDW Special Projects Division variant features a 64oz head with a 4.75” cutting edge that’s composed of 4140 alloy “Ordnance Steel” that’s been fortified via a Ferritic-Nitrocarburizing blacked-out finish. Forged by hand in Wisconsin and Illinois and decorated with a custom-tooled SPD Kraken logo stamp, the axe’s tempered head has been mated to a 28” Grade “A” American Hickory handle that’s been finished by hand in a special tri-color combo. Boasting heirloom-grade quality through and through, this axe is also sold with a custom sheath that’s made in Montana from saddlery-grade, top-grain leather.

Head Material: 4140 Steel
Handle Material: Hickory
Overall Length: 28”

Aclim8 COMBAR PRO Titanium

Photo: Blade HQ
  • Ultra-rugged & ultra-premium 6-in-1 axe & survival tool
  • Winner of Red Dot Design Award
  • Features insanely rugged materials, design, & build quality
  • Has pivoting 420HC head w/ titanium spade & hammer
  • GRP body houses fixed blade knife & folding saw
  • Very expensive price

Best Survival Axe: Unequivocally the most innovative axe on the market, Aclim8’s COMBAR Pro Titanium is a cleverly-designed six-in-one survival multi-tool that can handle everything from chopping to splitting to digging to hammering to sawing. Winner of a coveted Red Dot Design award, the COMBAR Pro sports a pivoting 420J2 stainless steel head and extended spade that are paired with an ultra-rugged glass-reinforced polymer handle. Also boasting a number of components made from a top-shelf amalgamation of 6AL-4V titanium and hard-anodized aluminum, the Pro-spec version of this axe contains an internal magazine that houses a folding saw and a full-tang fixed blade knife. Built to stand up to the world’s most hostile and unforgiving conditions, the COMBAR Pro Titanium offers an incredible amount of utility — and durability — in a single item.

Head Material: 420HC & Titanium
Handle Material: Glass-Reinforced Polymer
Overall Length: 15.75”

The Best Tactical Tomahawks

Photo: Gerber Downrange

Interested in checking out a selection of thoroughly modern axes that have a bit more of an edge to them? Then be sure to head over to our guide to the best tactical tomahawks for a handpicked list of deadly yet utilitarian CQC weapons and breaching tools.