Are you looking for the best survival axe or hatchet?
We’ve spent countless hours researching and testing the best options available, so you can pick a reliable, trusted tool with proven performance.
Best Survival Axes and Hatchets
We’ve broken this into 7 total items to review: 2 hatchets, 4 axes, and 1 that’s somewhere in between.
Best Survival Hatchet
Estwing Sportsmans Hatchet
What a beauty. I included this one first because if you only look at one tool, it should be this sucker.
The handle on it is made of lacquered leather (see our full review for our guide on improving the quality of this handle), but it fits the hand well. It’s a breeze to swing… almost too easy.
Estwing’s design is seemingly built on the idea of, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” because the hatchet hasn’t been redesigned since the early twentieth century.
It swings effortlessly, holds an edge well, and the flat butt of the bit can be used as a hammer effectively and smoothly.
Best of all, its full-tang steel construction makes the knife practically indestructible. Use this hatchet for its intended purposes, and you’ll find a lifelong companion at your hip.
Read our hands-on Estwing Axe Review.
- Full-tang construction
- Tried-and-proven construction
- Attractive price tag
- Needs to be sharpened “out of the box”
- The leather handle needs some work for long-lasting reliability
Fiskars X7 Hatchet
If you’re shopping from big box stores and are on a budget, the Fiskars X7 is a reliable option at a very affordable price.
Its handle is constructed of fiberglass, but it’s perfectly balanced. The hatchet is also very light, and the blade is strong and sharp, making up for the fiberglass construction. Except for the space it takes up in your pack, you’ll hardly be aware of its presence on your person.
It’s a bit stiff in function for my taste, but some folks might have more flexible wrists than I have. You can easily pick one up in-store and see for yourself, then order it when you’re ready.
- Very lightweight
- Beautifully designed blade
- Fiberglass construction
- Stiff feel when wielding
- Imperfect sheath
Best Survival Axe
Estwing Camper’s Axe
Alright, I’m a fan of Estwing in general, you caught me, but this is another great product, personal bias aside.
It’s a solid piece of steel construction and has a perfect size (a little over two feet in length) for precise chopping.
If you’re felling giant trees and splitting wood, the smaller bit of this axe is not ideal for your purposes…, but for general-purpose chopping, this is an excellent blade to use.
The rubber handle is kinda “meh” in my hands, but it’s durable and provides a solid grip in most scenarios.
It has a perfect length and weight that makes it a breeze to use without overstraining yourself; in almost any scenario, a lighter, easier-to-wield axe is king.
- Easy to wield
- Full-tang construction
- Narrow bit aids in control
- Needs sharpening “out of the box”
- The sticker on the handle can be a pain to remove
- A narrow bit makes bigger, tougher jobs harder to handle
Gransfors Bruks Forest Axe
Leave it to the Scandinavians to build a beautiful and durable axe.
This axe is designed for “limbing,” that is, removing limbs and branches from a fallen tree, and in this duty, it excels beyond expectation. The blade bites into the wood with aplomb and ease and makes most chopping jobs a cinch.
The wooden handle is a beauty to wield, and the blade/bit is high quality and promises only the best results.
It’s expensive, but damn, man, that thing holds an edge and provides a high-quality level of performance. Check it out, and I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Cold Steel Trail Boss
Knife fans will recognize the Cold Steel name, and they’d be right to assume high-quality workmanship.
Although I tend to prefer an axe with a curved handle, this one possesses a straight handle… and it isn’t hard to use.
It fits nicely in hand and allows for controlled swings once you get used to that lack of a curve, and it bites hard into the wood. Reviewers suggest using this for heavy-duty projects rather than plain-and-simple jobs.
Unfortunately, it does not come shipped with a sheath, and when damaged, it can be a pain in the neck to repair. Those minor complaints aside, it’s a fantastic purchase and worth the price.
- High-quality construction
- Relatively easy to sharpen
- Good weight and size for wielding for heavy use
- Does not come sharp “out of the box”
- Can be problematic to repair
Fiskars X15 Chopping Axe
This an excellent example of when fiberglass and modern design go right.
The Fiskars x15 is light and easy to wield, balanced well, and swings naturally.
It’s a bit small for a felling axe, but it has a sharp and robust head, and its minimal weight allows the user to swing it more than a bigger, heavier axe.
Better yet, it has a lifetime warranty. That kind of guarantee takes a lot of the stress out of purchasing a new tool.
- Great design for the axe head
- The fiberglass handle absorbs some impact shock
- Not very sharp and requires regular sharpening
Why an Axe or Hatchet?
To save your other tools from overuse.
Even if it isn’t listed on the box, every tool you buy has an expected lifespan, and the more we overuse them, the faster you’re going to reach that end of life.
Using a good survival knife for chopping firewood is great if it’s the only tool you’ve got, but carrying a hatchet gives your knife a break from heavy-duty work.
And if you’ve got something bigger to knock down, a standing tree or a log, for instance, anything but an axe or hatchet is going to guarantee you some blisters, banged fingers, and a whole lot of time.
The settlers and mountain men did not build log cabins with their Bowie knives.
Okay, So… Axe or Hatchet?
Well, it depends.
The longer your trip outdoors, the more likely you’re going to need an axe. At some point, you’ll need to fall or at least chop firewood. If you need to build permanent shelter, an axe is the only way to go (or a chainsaw if you’ve got access to gasoline to burn).
Hatchets are ideal for shorter trips and purposes; camping, working around the house and garden, and practicing bushcraft are ideal uses. These tools excel at splitting firewood, making kindling, and felling/chopping smaller logs and trees.
If you can carry both (maybe you’ve got a group or vehicle and the weight of an axe and a hatchet isn’t an issue), carry both. Otherwise, own at least one of each and keep them handy and accessible for when you need them.
How Are These Tools for Self-Defense?
Despite what television, movies, and video game want us to believe, axes and hatchets are not a good option for self-defense.
Can an axe or hatchet inflict severe and massive damage in the right scenario? It sure could, but those scenarios are few and far between. Our self-defense feature goes into detail on the likelihood of these scenarios playing out in your favor.
A knife is better for self-defense than an axe by a wide margin. Check out our self-defense knife guide to see why this option is superior.
What Makes a Good Chopper?
Balance and the quality of steel are generally the key shopping points for purchasing an axe or hatchet.
- The steel should be a bit on the soft side and isn’t sharpened to the edge a knife has; a slightly duller edge prevents the axe from rolling on impact and allows it to power through its target
- An easy-to-handle tool is superior to one capable of delivering massive blows in almost every scenario; purchase an axe that’s modestly weighted and capable of delivering accurate strikes
- For axes you’ll want a handle that’s of moderate length; in theory, a longer handle allows you to strike with more power, but more power won’t compensate for the accuracy and control of an easily handled… err, handle
- Hatchets should be easily wielded and meet a fine point between balance and heft
- Axes are better when they have a double bit (two blades instead of one) for versatility and control, whereas hatchets are better when the back end of the blade can be used as a hammer