Best Survival Axe: 8 Reliable Choppers Reviewed

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Survival situations aren’t the time to test out the latest celebrity-endorsed gimmicks on the market. It’s a situation to prepare for with reliable, trusted tools of proven performance.

An axe and hatchet are more than worth their weight in these rough-and-tough scenarios, and we’ve got the best pulled aside for your evaluation.

Our Top Pick

The Estwing Sportsman’s full tang hatchet is virtually bombproof. Not only will it stand up to dog’s abuse it is also beautifully crafted and proudly made in the USA.

Despite it’s quality credentials it is very wallet friendly and can be had for a steal.

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Why an Axe or Hatchet?

Multi-tools are a handy item to have, and those ultra-durable knives built for anything and everything are practically a must-have. So why get an axe, or a hatchet for that matter?

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?

Axes in a log
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 fell or at least chop firewood. In the event 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 smaller trips and purposes; camping, work 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

Best Axes and Hatchets For Survival

We’ve broken this into 8 total items to review: 2 hatchets, 4 axes, and 2 that are somewhere inbetween.

#1 The Hatchets


Estwing Sportsman’s Hatchet

Top Pick

What a beauty. I included this one first because if you only look at one tool, it should be this sucker.

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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, hold 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 the full Estwing Axe Review.

Pros

  • Full-tang construction
  • Tried-and-proven construction
  • Attractive price tag

Cons

  • Needs to be sharpened “out of the box”
  • Leather handle needs some work for long-lasting reliability

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Fiskars X7

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.

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Its handle is constructed of fiberglass but it’s as perfectly balanced as Thanos’s plan. The hatchet is also very light and the blade is strong and sharp, and that makes 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.

Pros

  • Very lightweight
  • Beautifully designed blade

Cons

  • Fiberglass construction
  • Stiff feel when wielding
  • Imperfect sheath

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#2 The Axes


Estwing Camper’s Axe

Top Pick

Alright, I’m a fan of Estwing in general, you caught me, but this is another great product, personal bias aside.

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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 woods, 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 its 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.

Pros

  • Easy to wield
  • Full-tang construction
  • Narrow bit aids in control

Cons

  • Needs sharpening “out of the box”
  • Sticker on the handle can be a pain to remove
  • Narrow bit makes bigger, tougher jobs harder to handle

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Gränsfors Bruks Forest Axe

Leave it to the Scandinavians to build a beautiful and durable axe.

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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 wood with aplomb and ease and makes most chopping jobs a cinch.

The wooden handle is a beauty to wield, and the blade/bit are high quality and promise 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.

Pros

  • Built on a pedigree of long-lasting and high-quality axes
  • Wooden handle is high-quality and easy to wield
  • Great bit

Cons

  • Can be difficult to sharpen without practice
  • Pricey for an axe

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Cold Steel Trail Boss

Knife aficionados will recognize the Cold Steel name and they’d be right to assume high-quality workmanship.

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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 well in the hand and allows for controlled swings, once you get used to that lack of a curve, and it bites hard into 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 can be a pain in the neck to repair. Those minor complaints aside, it’s a fantastic purchase and worth the price.

Pros

  • High-quality construction
  • Relatively easy to sharpen
  • Good weight and size for wielding for heavy use

Cons

  • Does not come sharp “out of the box”
  • Can be problematic to repair

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Fiskars x15 Chopping Axe

An excellent example for when fiberglass and modern design go right.

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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 strong and sharp head, and it’s 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.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Great design for axe head
  • Fiberglass handle absorbs some impact shock

Cons

  • Not very sharp and requires regular sharpening

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#3 Something Inbetween


Off The Grid Trucker’s Friend

Sometimes you need a little bit of everything, a hybrid tool. The Trucker’s Friend promises to work as an acceptable axe, a heavy hatchet, and a few things inbetween.

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This sucker can substitute as a lot of tools: an axe, hammer, pry bar, lever, and nail picker, among others. If you are compromised on weight and space these multiple features make the Trucker’s Friend a great solution.

However those multiple uses come at a price; the axe/hatchet is good at a lot but doesn’t excel in any one department. Still, it has strong construction and can be useful in a variety of ways, so it’s worth considering.

Pros

  • Comfortable to wield
  • Light enough to carry around
  • Multiple uses

Cons

  • Fiberglass construction isn’t ideal for durability
  • Doesn’t excel in any one capacity

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Prohoe Rogue 55HXH

Besides a good knife, a cutting mattock is my favorite tool. It’s a multi-purpose tool that is more than worth its weight in any survival scenario.

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The mattock end of this tool is useful for digging and breaking ground for everything from starting a survival garden to building fire breaks to… well, any other digging you need to do.

But the real beauty is in the axe side of this tool. The benefit of a good gardening tool like the Prohoe Rogue is that it’s designed for heavy wear-and-tear jobs.

I use this style of mattock for cutting through tree roots when I don’t want to damage an axe blade. This tool wouldn’t be great for chopping firewood but it’s perfect for rough jobs where you wouldn’t want to chip your hatchet or axe.

Pros

  • Multi-purpose tool
  • Intended for chopping through dirt and rock
  • Solid construction

Cons

  • Longer handle may be cumbersome for some to use
  • Is not intended for chopping wood or for detailed work

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Matt Suwak

Born and bred in rural Pennsylvania, Matt embraced the backwoods lifestyle. An early exposure to knives, firearms, gardening, and foraging developed him into the outdoorsman he is today.

Matt is fueled almost entirely by beer and hot sauce. Learn more about Matt here.

Leave a comment

  1. Eastwing’s 3/4 axes are ideal for teaching someone to use an axe. If they “overshoot” what they are trying to cut you don’t end up with a broken handle . It is a shame the Boy Scouts have given up teaching the use of the axe. The Fiscar’s (Gerber) XL axe has a short handle, but, it is very good; the swell at the handle’s end really aids in control. The plastic sheath works surprisingly well.
    A personal favorite has been the Plumb 3/4 axe. There were two models, one having a 1/4 lb. heavier head. Plunb used a plastic to attach the handle and head (Plumb Bound) and should you break a handle replacing the old handle is a son-of-a-gun.

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