If you spend any time in the woods, whether backpacking, camping, cutting firewood, or hunting, there are many good reasons you may want to carry an axe or a hatchet. From a good backpacking axe or hatchet to heavy-duty axes designed to cut down trees, there are plenty of excellent options.
Table of Contents
- Should I Take An Axe Backpacking
- Axe Features
- Hatchet Features
- How to Choose the Best Axe for Backpacking
- Axe and Hatchet Safety
- Best Backpacking Axe
- Best Backpacking Hatchet
- Best Hatchet for Bushcraft
- Best Axe for Bushcraft
- Best Axe for Cutting Down Trees
- Final Backpacking Axe Thoughts
Should I Take An Axe Backpacking
As a general rule, you should take an axe or hatchet backpacking. A backpacking axe will help cut kindling and fire wood, clear an area for your emergency shelter or tent, and pound in tent stakes.
Typically, backpackers want to save weight, and consequently, axes can be pretty heavy. Therefore, it’s not a tool most backpackers consider carrying with them into the backcountry. However, there may be some reasons you’d take an axe on your back for miles. These include:
- You’re clearing a trail of downed trees in a wilderness area without the use of horses to pack in all your gear and tools.
- You’re backpacking in cold weather and need the ability to delimb more significant pieces of wood for burning.
- You need to split bigger logs to fit into a backcountry fireplace, e.g., hiking into a yurt or cabin with a fireplace.
- You need to clear a large area to set up your camp, including removing trees or underbrush.
A hatchet for backpacking is far more common as they’re much smaller than an axe and therefore weighs less. However, hatchets are best for delimbing smaller branches, chopping wood too difficult to break with your hands and feet, or chopping small saplings down. Hatchets also typically have a hammer on one side of the head that can be good for pounding in tent stakes. A hatchet is also suitable for splitting kindling if you already have larger pre-cut logs.
There are many axes, but the most common are regular axes and hand axes. You may also hear the term “camp axe,” but this often refers to a hatchet.
Regular axes have a long and straight handle length set 90-degrees to the axe head. These are good for taking full swings with a lot of force behind them, designed to split logs into smaller pieces of firewood or even chop down trees.
A hand axe has a smaller handle than a regular axe, but they’re typically straight and set at 90-degrees to the head. These aren’t as heavy-duty as regular axes but can still be useful for chopping down small trees or splitting small logs.
Another idea for using an axe is if you’re in a wild country full of dangerous wild animals. An axe can be driven into a tree far enough and is strong enough to create a step. You can then step on it for a boost to get high enough into the tree and out of danger.
A hatchet is typically less than two feet long and is more lightweight than an axe. The blade may be broader, designed to cut against the wood grain. The handle may be made of wood or metal, and some are covered in rubber for an easy grip.
Backpacking hatchets are suitable for splitting kindling, delimbing trees and branches, cutting tiny saplings, and even processing wild game. They can be used to split a ribcage or pelvis or even skin an animal. Backpack hunters may choose to carry a hatchet for this very good reason.
Remember, your intended use will dictate the features you look for. For example, the best woodworking hatchet will vary from an axe used to chop down trees. So, if you decide you want an axe for backpacking, there are several things to consider.
Axe Intended Use
First, you’ll need to know your intended use so you don’t take more or extra weight than necessary or something that won’t do the intended job. An axe will give you more power and cutting ability, while a hatchet is excellent for cutting small branches and kindling.
Next, saving weight will be an essential consideration. Therefore, take into account the material of the axe handle as some weigh more than others. They often come in metal, wood, or synthetic materials, which can affect the weight. For example, a wooden handle likely will be heavier than a composite handle, plastic handle or synthetic handle.
The overall length also matters in that it takes up valuable space, but it can also be more cumbersome. With a longer handle, you’ll get more swing speed, which gives you more power. This is ideal for cutting big pieces of wood, chopping through trees, and clearing space.
Pay attention to the shape and design of the handle. Some will be better suited for lots of use and be more comfortable on your hands. A rubber handle will allow for a more comfortable grip, and if you find one that’s brightly colored, it will be easier to find when you set it down.
The shape and size of the head as well as the additional parts of an axe will also dictate weight, so if you don’t need a full-size, heavy-duty axe, consider one with more of a tapered head.
Multi-Purpose Axe or Hatchet
Finally, most axes serve the purpose of chopping trees, delimb, or cutting through other wood. They are not the same multi-purpose tool that a hatchet is, whereas a hatchet has a hammer opposite the sharp blade that can be used as a hammer. Therefore, you may want to choose between the best camp axe or hatchet.
Remember that axes and hatchets are dangerous tools if misused. The blades on these should be kept sharp to cut through materials easier. Sharper tools result in less fatigue for the user. However, it also makes a misplaced swing incredibly dangerous.
Always pay attention to who is around you when using these tools. Make sure people are clear of you, so you don’t accidentally hit someone or slice them with the blade. Additionally, be careful not to miss your target and hit yourself. This can result in a horrible, potentially deadly injury.
Axe Sharpener: A sharp axe is a safer axe
Invest in the best axe sharpener. While it may seem counterintuitive, a dull axe is far more dangerous than a sharp one in many ways. Using a dull implement will take more effort. You could potentially swing harder than is necessary with a sharp tool, meaning more power behind an accidental miss.
Finally, always keep a firm grip on your axe or hatchet. Accidentally letting go of it, mid-swing can also result in horrific injuries to you or others. You can never be too careful when using these tools, so educate yourself on proper axe safety before use.
Best Backpacking Axe
If you’re looking for the best backpacking axes, the weight will be a significant consideration. However, the function is still a critical component; after all, if it doesn’t work well, what is the point of carrying it with you? So, if you’re looking for the best axe for backpacking, take a look at the Browning Outdoorsman Axe.
First, this axe weighs a mere 2.65 pounds. While this is a lot in backpacking terms, it’s certainly doable. You can probably compromise elsewhere on weight if you must have an axe in your pack.
The axe is 28 inches long, making it just under 2.5 feet. At this length, you can easily strap it to the outside of your pack and not worry about it swinging or hitting your legs. The strategically placed holes in the handle are also a great weight-saving design.
The head is a steel tomahawk-style 2 ¼” tapered head that comes sharp and stays sharp, although all axes will eventually need to be sharpened. The shape makes it lighter than some other heavy-duty axes.
While this axe isn’t designed for chopping down large trees, it is certainly made for cutting small trees, chopping firewood, and delimbing branches and trees. It’s also a great size for kids and teenagers learning to chop wood.
So, give this Browning a try, whether you’re looking for the best lightweight axe for backpacking or just a great-sized axe for around the house.
Best Backpacking Hatchet
If you don’t need the full power of an axe, perhaps an excellent backpacking hatchet is something to consider for your next trip. A hatchet is versatile and more lightweight than an axe. In our experience, the Estwing Camping Hatchet is an excellent, straightforward choice that will serve your backpacking and camping needs.
This is one of the best hatchets for kindling, one of the main tasks you’ll need a hatchet for. For example, if you pack a small saw for cutting small logs, you’ll be able to cut kindling for starting a fire using this hatchet easily.
It weighs 1.38 pounds and comes in 12″ or 14″ length, so it isn’t a stretch to consider taking it backpacking or hunting.
This beautiful hatchet is forged from a single piece of high-grade steel in the USA. It holds an edge and sharpens easily. A nylon sheath is included for protecting the hatchet’s sharp edge between uses.
The handle is made of a lacquered leather grip, which is great for functionality and looks rustic and beautiful at the same time. Some reviewers love the lacquered grip, while others choose to sand it off and apply leather oil for a grippier finish. Either way, people that have used this little hatchet find it works great for basic hatchet needs.
If you’re looking for the best camping axe or lightweight backpacking hatchet, this one is worth checking out.
Best Hatchet for Bushcraft
Since bushcraft is the acquisition and development of knowledge and skills to survive in the natural world, it only makes sense to buy tools capable of aiding in said survival. So we think the Off Grid Tools Pro Survival Axe Elite is worth looking at.
This versatile tool is like the Swiss Army knife of hatchets. With 31 features, it works as a hatchet for hatchet things and numerous other tasks as well. Weighing in at 1.7 pounds and only 11 inches long, it’s also lightweight for backpacking or hunting.
It comes with a hammer, nail puller, hex wrenches, a seat belt cutter, pry bar, claw, bottle opener, foldout saw blade, gas saw shutoff wrench, and more!
This hatchet is proudly made in the USA and great for tossing in the truck or taking to the woods.
Best Axe for Bushcraft
If you depend on your axe for survival, don’t scrimp on quality. The Swedish-made Hultafors / Hults Bruk Ekelund Hunting Axe should not be overlooked as a survival hatchet.
While it’s a bit more expensive than other axes, this is one you’ll keep forever and take good care of. It’s hand-forged from high-quality steel in Sweden in a foundry in operation for over 300 years! The blade is razor-sharp. Sharp right out of the box.
It weighs 2.7 pounds and is 20 inches long. The wooden handle is made of treated American Hickory, and it comes with a leather sheath.
This “hunter’s axe” is a great survival tool to add to your arsenal and, with the proper care, will last you a lifetime.
Best Axe for Cutting Down Trees
Sometimes you need a good axe for doing work around the homestead or cutting down trees, and what you’d use for backpacking won’t likely work for these tasks. An axe for cutting down trees needs to be sharp, well balanced, and have a long handle. The 1844 Helko Werk Germany Classic Forester is what you’re looking for in an excellent all-around axe.
This axe is handmade in Germany by one of the oldest axe manufacturers in Europe. It weighs 5.5 pounds with a 3.5-pound hand-forged carbon steel head capable of providing enough heft for cutting down trees. A blacksmith carefully crafts each head using time-tested techniques. The marks of the forging process are left on the head to avoid compromising the integrity of the axe, and no two are the same.
The handle is made of Grade-A American Hickory and is sanded and finished by hand, then coated in linseed oil for a smooth finish. The total axe length from end to end is 31 inches.
If you’re a fan of handcrafted, high-quality items, this axe is for you.
Final Backpacking Axe Thoughts
Whether you’re looking for a high-quality backpacking axe, something for cutting down trees around the house, or a multi-purpose hatchet, there are plenty of great options. So we’ve given you a list to consider.
We think the best lightweight backpacking axe is the Browning Outdoorsman Axe and it is our top pick. Still, if you’re looking for specialty axes or hatchets for use in other areas, we’ve also given you good choices. There are plenty of options, whether you seek the best camp axe, an axe to cut down trees, or the best axe for bushcraft.
Read through our recommendations keeping in mind what your intended purpose is. Remember that the different sizes, heads, and handles will impact weight and functionality. Not all are designed to do the same thing.
The biggest mistake you can make is trying to do a job with the wrong tool, which can be pretty dangerous. After all, a high quality hatchet is not designed for chopping down a full-size tree. However, there is nothing wrong with owning more than one of these magnificent tools for all the jobs you may need to do!
Hopefully, you are excited about the options on this list, and you’re ready to buy the best axe or hatchet for your needs so you can get chopping!