A survival axe is a must-have piece of kit for your camping trip or survivalist preparation. With an axe, you have a handy tool to collect wood and build a fire.
An axe also works like a multi-tool around the campsite. It provides you with a hammer and a self-defense weapon, to name a few. However, there are hundreds of models online. Settling on the best survival axe can be a daunting experience that takes hours of research.
We decided to take the hassle out of your purchase decision. In this post, we’ll unpack the best survival axe reviews, making our top recommendations. If you’re looking for a survival axe for your next camping trip, our buyer’s guide will give you the information you need to choose the right model for you.
Our Top Picks
- 1 Our Top Picks
- 2 Survival Axe Reviews
- 3 Other Best Selling Options
- 4 Survival Axe Buyer’s Guide
- 5 Axe Safety Tips
- 6 Survival Axe FAQs
- 7 Best Survival Axes – The Verdict
If you can’t wait to pack your gear and head for the hills, you can skip the rest of the review and focus on these three models.
We picked these axes from the hundreds of listings online, providing you with the best overall, premium, and budget model. Choose the model that suits your survivalist or camping needs, and start prepping your gear for your trip.
Best Pick: CRKT Birler Compact Axe
- Strong And Durable: 1055 carbon steel holds an edge well
- Durable: Tennessee hickory is a dense material that withstands hard use
- Compact Chopper: Size allows you to take this mighty axe anywhere
- Designed by Elmer Roush in Brasstown, North Carolina
- Limited Lifetime Warranty covers any defects in materials or workmanship, see company site for details
The CRKT Birler compact takes the top spot in this review for the best overall model. This axe features design and construction with toughened stainless steel. You get a sharp edge right out of the box, with no need for grinding.
Premium Pick: Hults Bruk Tarnaby Hatchet
- This axe head is hand-forged and made from Swedish axe steel in a foundry that has been in operation since 1697.
- As part of the production process, the steel is struck multiple times thereby increasing its density and resulting in more durability of the axe.
- The head is constructed in such a way that there is a tempered zone designed to hold a very sharp edge even after many sharpenings.
- Each axe comes with a traditional leather protective sheath that is embellished with some unique Swedish decorative elements. The axe is shipped in its own storage box and comes with a detailed users manual.
The Hults Bruk Tarnaby hatchet is our top choice for the best premium survival axe in this review. The manufacturing company features a rich legacy in the knife-making industry, with its foundry established in 1697. The struck-steel design makes for a durable, toughened axe-head that holds an edge under the most demanding survivalist conditions.
Budget Pick: Estwing Sportsman’s Axe
- FORGED IN ONE PIECE – The most durable, longest lasting striking tools available
- OUTDOOR VERSITILITY – Perfect for chopping logs, small trees & branches or splitting firewood & kindling
- HEAVY DUTY SHEATH – Includes ballistic nylon sheath to protect hand sharpened cutting edge. 2.75 or 3.25 inches edge
- GENUINE LEATHER GRIP – Hand sanded and lacquered for a durable yet comfortable finish
- MADE IN THE USA – Our tools are proudly crafted in Rockford, IL using the finest American steel
Campers and survivalists working with a budget will the best value from the Estwing Sportsman’s axe. This model features a full-tang design, with leather strapping on the handle for added grip in wet-weather conditions. This hatchet doubles as a hunting tool and makes for a throwing axe for hunting smaller animals.
Survival Axe Reviews
Now that you have an idea of the top models in this review let’s unpack them in further detail. We’ll also look at a few other survival axes that make our list of the top models.
CRKT Birler Compact Axe
The Columbia River Knife & Tool Company has a history of producing some of the best blades in the United States. They carry that legacy into the design of the Birler axe, featuring a hot-forged 1055 carbon steel axe-head for extra-heavy-duty use.
This model comes with wide cheeks for wood splitting and a lightweight cut-out design in the axe-head. You get a compact survival axe with an ergonomic Tennessee handle for total control over the axe when swinging.
Featuring a design by legendary knife-maker Elmer Roush from Brasstown, North Carolina, The Birler wins our top spot for the best overall survival axe in this review.
- Columbia River Knife & Tool are a top-quality knife-making brand
- Hot-forged 1055 carbon steel axe-head
- Sized for easy chopping and compact carry
- Holds an edge well after rugged use
- Ergonomic handle design
- US hickory handle for shock absorption and flexion
- Axe-head sheath sold separately
Hults Bruk Tarnaby Hatchet
If you have the money, we highly recommend investing in the Hults Bruk Tarnaby. This survival axe features a rich legacy of knife design extending back to 1697. This Swedish model features a multi-struck and tempered axe-head that holds an edge.
This model is suitable for the most demanding tasks around the campsite. This model features wide cheeks for easy wood splitting. You get a US-sourced hickory handle for optimal shock absorption and a lanyard hole for harnessing the axe to your wrist. The axe comes with a leather sheath to protect the blade and prevent dulling.
It’s an expensive axe, but worth the money. The Hults Bruk Tarnaby hatchet makes our top spot for the best premium model in this review.
- Hults Bruk a leading knife-making brand since 1697
- Multi-struck axe-head design for durability
- Holds an edge for years
- Tempered zone in axe-head for edge retention
- Includes leather protective sheath
- US-sourced hickory handle for shock absorption
- Premium Price
Estwing Sportsman’s Axe
If you’re looking for the best value deal in this review, we recommend the Estwing hatchet.
This model features a forged, full-tang design. The blade integrates with the handle for an all-metal system. This hatchet is suitable for one-handed use, and the leather strap on the handle gives you excellent control over the axe head when swinging.
This versatile survival axe is lightweight and compact, making it easy to carry on or in your daypack.
The cheeks on this model are slightly slimmer than the other two top models in this review. This slimline design allows for a good balance between wood splitting and tomahawk-like functionality for self-defense.
- Full-tang design
- Suitable for hunting or camping
- Forged design with sturdy hatchet head and razor-sharp blade
- Versatile use around the campsite or on hunts
- Genuine leather handgrip
- Heavy-duty nylon ballistics sheath included
- Hand-sharpened edge
- Leather grip gets slippery in wet weather
Hults Bruk Akka Foresters Premium Outdoor Axe
If you’re looking for a survival axe with more muscle, the Hults Bruk Akka Foresters premium outdoor axe is a great choice. This model comes with a long, US-sourced hickory handle for total control over the axe during your swing.
The Foresters axe features design and construction with premium carbon steel, with the manufacturer using a triple-struck manufacturing process for a toughened blade with a consistent edge. The hand-grind finish on this axe gives it long-lasting service life, and the custom leather sheath protects your axe when not in use.
- Hults Bruk, international Swedish knife-making brand since 1697
- Multi-struck axe-head for a durable design
- Tempered zone in the axe-head for better blade retention
- US-sourced hickory handle treated with linseed oil
- Strap hole in the handle
- Comes with a leather axe-head sheath
- Slightly Heavy
CRKT Woods Chogan Tomahawk
CRKT get a second mention in this review for its Chogan Tomahawk model. We had to include this axe in our review. It has a survival look with a tactical edge. This model features a shock-absorbent hickory handle and an ergonomic design that feels good in your hands.
You get a carbon-forged axe-head, with a hand-grind finish on the blade for a razor-sharp edge. We like the multi-tool design of this Tomahawk. The axe-head’s rear features a hammer striker tip for other campsite tasks like hammering in tent pegs.
- Hot-forged 1055 carbon steel axe-head
- Excellent edge retention
- Multi-purpose head for cutting and hammering
- Designed by Ryan Johnson of RMJ Tactical in Chattanooga
- Suitable as a throwing weapon
- US hickory handle for shock absorption
- Limited lifetime warranty
- Not full tang
Getta Tools Outdoor AxeThis survival axe features design and construction with a forged steel head and a composite handle. You get a shock-absorbent strike, with a durable handle that won’t ever split or crack.
This model comes with a razor-sharp edge, and it’s suitable for tasks around the campsite, such as splitting logs.
The rear of the axe head features a hammer-strike surface. Use it for hammering in tent pegs or other related tasks around the campsite. The high-grip handle ensures non-slip functionality when swinging.
The handle features a lanyard hole for wrist straps and a lightweight, compact design that makes it a great choice for a survival axe.
- Composite handle for lightweight carry
- Forged carbon steel axe head
- Suitable for tasks around the campsite
- Hammerhead for tapping in tent pegs
- Ergonomic, non-slip handle with a lanyard hole
- Nylon sheath included
- Not made in the USA
Intertool HatchetThe Intertool is another affordable survival axe with a rugged and robust design for use around the campsite. This axe features a hot-forged carbon steel axe-head, with wide cheeks for splitting logs. You get a decent length in the handle, and this hatchet is suitable for one-handed use.
The only gripe we have with this model is the setup of the axe-head and shaft. We would prefer a design that doesn’t make sue worry about the axe-head coming loose.
- Composite fiberglass handle for strength and lightweight design
- Ergonomic, non-slip handle
- Hot-forged axe-head with excellent edge retention
- Lightweight and compact
- Silicone blade cover included
- The axe-head connection to handle doesn’t look as sturdy as other models
- Full sheath not included
KSEIBI 274115 Small Camping Splitting HatchetThis affordable survival axe comes with a cheap price tag, making it the most affordable model in this review. You get an ergonomic, high-Viz handle helping you find the axe in any location. The ergonomic handle design and rubberized grip make it easy to control this axe in wet weather or when wearing gloves.
This compact survival axe features design and construction with forged steel. And slender cheeks for multi-purpose use around the campsite. You get an accurate grind and finish on the axe-head, with a sharp, reliable edge.
- Suitable for general use around the campsite
- Hi-Viz handle for easy spotting
- Ergonomic grip with a composite handle
- Compact and lightweight
- Lacquered finish
- No sheath included
Other Best Selling Options
- Dimensions: 11.1 inch (28.1 centimeter) overall length with a blade length of 3.6 inches (9 centimeter) and a weight of 1 pounds 5.9 ounces
- Durable: Blade is made of reliable 3Cr13 S.S with a black, rubber wrapped handle
- Dependable: Quick and easy access with the convenient black thermoplastic belt sheath
- Secure: Have confidence that the blade will not slip with the security of the ergonomic black rubber grip
- Be prepared: Axe features a hammer pommel and has a full tang design
- DIMENSIONS: 15.7 inch (39.9 centimeter) overall length with a blade length of 4.2 inches (10.6 centimeter) and a weight of 1 pound 15 ounces
- DURABLE: Blade is made of reliable 3Cr13 Titanium Coated S.S. with a black, glass fiber filled PA & TPR material and cold resistance flexibilizer handle
- DEPENDABLE: Quick and easy access with the convenient polyester belt sheath
- SECURE: Have confidence that the blade will not slip with the security of the ergonomic black rubber grip
- BE PREPARED: Axe features a hammer pommel as well as an extra large ferro rod that is stored inside the shaft
- 3 tools in 1: Axe, Hammer Head, Pry Bar.
- 420HC steel body w/ Cerakote will not bend or break.
- Desert Tan G-10 composite scales on handle for grip.
- MOLLE-compatible sheath attaches to pack, webbing, or body armor.
- Get the job done on the first try.
- ✅ Full-Tang Axe & Knife - Both full-tang 3CR13 blades have excellent strength, edge retention and corrosion resistance for lasting durability. The handle is constructed of black wood with fully polished finish, suitable for long-term use
- ✅ Extremely Humanized Design - The hatchet set has sharp blades, which provides you a great striking force and deep. The tool is built with a comfortable and textured grip wooden handle designed with ergonomics in mind for strongest grip. The raised part of the handle is provided with an anti-skid groove to prevent slipping and injuring yourself in the process of use
- ✅ Easy For EDC - Combo set comes with protective Nylon Sheath, snap-button closure and hook and loop fasteners scabbard protect the blades for extra safety. Belt loop for easy attach to your belt, keep everything at your fingertips when needed
- ✅ Great Choice For Outdoor Work - WORKPRO Axe and Fixed Blade Knife Combo Set can be used for various jobs in your daily life. Perfect for outdoor activities such as fixing garden, camping, hiking, DIY home & farm projects
- ✅ What Will You Get - Combo Set includes a 10-inch axe and a 13-inch knife with corresponding sheath. We are always here to accept your suggestion or resolve your issue
- 12.1 INCH STAINLESS STEEL TACTICAL AXE: The Survival Hawk tomahawk axe is a wood chopping axe, camp axe, hiking hatchet and survival tool with a 3 inch hardcased black stainless steel blade
- 19.5 OUNCE PORTABLE MULTITOOL AXE: Light yet tough, this small backpacking hatchet and survival axe with firestarter is a superb outdoor tool with a glass-reinforced nylon and paracord grip
- HUNTING AXE WITH SHEATH: The Survival Hawk stainless steel metal hatchet and multi functional camping axe includes a ballistic nylon sheath that can be slung from your belt or gear for easy access
- FIRE STARTER AND CLAW SPIKE: Tactical axe tool features a checkered hammer edge, claw for prying and wire cutting, and an in-handle ferrocerium firestarter rod for fire starters camping tasks
- SOG FOR LIFE: Take care of your camp axe and we’ll take care of you; we gladly consider repairs and replacements for your properly maintained SOG FastHawk survival axe with fire starter
Survival Axe Buyer’s Guide
A survival axe is an essential tool in bushcraft. If you’re going hunting, camping, or anywhere outdoors, a survival axe can come in handy in several situations around the campsite and the field. Selecting the right survival axe to meet your needs is a challenge, especially when you have hundreds of models to choose from.
In this section, we’ll unpack more details around selecting the ideal survival axe for your outdoor needs. There’s more involved with choosing the best survival axe than you think.
Hatchet Vs. Axe – Which Is the Better Choice?
When selecting your survival axe, you have different styles of axe available. The hatchet and axe are the two most common styles, each with subvariants.
The hatchet also describes other throwing axes and Tomahawks useful in combat situations. However, these axes are not the best choice for survival situations. Some hatchets are suitable for multi-purpose use, with the Estwing being a good example of a multi-purpose survival axe with hatchet design.
A hatchet typically comes with a design suited to a one-handed function. Therefore, you have less control over the axe-head than you do with a longer handle allowing a double-handed grip. A hatchet handle typically measures under 16-inches, making it a compact-carry tool suitable for use as a survival axe.
Hatchets are great for minor cutting tasks, and they can split logs with a bit of effort. Some hatchets are also suitable for self-defense or hunting purposes, featuring a multi-tool design for use around the campsite and in the field.
The Length of the Handle
The handle length is an important consideration when selecting your survival axe. As mentioned, hatchets come with handles around 16-inches or less, making them a compact survival tool. However, the handle length might not be suitable for larger wood-splitting tasks.
If you’re going in a group and bringing along a large amount of gear, you might want an axe with a longer handle. Splitting wood for a larger fire with a hatchet will take you all afternoon. A longer handle gives you more leverage and makes splitting logs a breeze.
Longer handles also allow you to move the axe-head faster, providing a bigger impact and more force when splitting. Selecting the right handle length to match your application is important. While a long handle gives you more power, it adds more weight to your gear and requires more space or an outside-the-bag carry system.
If you’re looking for the most compact handle length, you can find some models with handles under 14-inches. These models can fit inside your backpack, and they often feature design with composite handles for added lightweight design.
The Shape of the Axe-head and Blade
Most survival axes feature a curved axe-head design, with blade lengths varying around 3.5-inches. According to experienced blade-makers, this length has a history of providing users with the best axe performance for general use when wood splitting and chopping.
It’s important to note that the shape of the blade from the bit to the eye can play a significant role in the survival axe’s performance. The size of the edge has an impact on the functionality of the axe for specific tasks.
The bit refers to the front of the axe-head, and the eye is the piece that attaches to the handle. The cheek is the most important feature of the axe-head, referring to the axe’s side between the eye and the bit.
Thinner cheeks on the axe-head provide the user with better penetration, and most felling axes feature this design. Tomahawks also feature thinner cheeks, providing better penetration in self-defense situations.
However, our survival axe should have thicker cheeks. Thick cheeks give more weight and chopping power to the axe-head. A thick cheek provides you with more inertia and leverage when swinging the axe head.
If you try to split wood with thin-cheeks, it results in the blade getting stuck halfway through the log, instead of making a clean cut. With a thick-cheek design, you get more lateral force coming down on the axe-head’s cutting face.
You need to settle on the design that makes the most sense for your survival needs. If hunting is more important than campsite activities like chopping firewood, make sure you get an axe with thin cheeks. Think cheeks are better for mood splitting and campsite duties, but less optimal for hunting.
Pro-Tip: If you must split logs using a Tomahawk or other axe-heads with thin cheeks, lay the log on its side. If you’re not chopping thick logs, you’ll have an easier time chopping it in half width-wise than length-wise.
The Weight of the Axe
The weight of the axe plays a significant role in survival situations. When every calorie counts, you don’t want to be dragging around heavy equipment. A survival axe is a lightweight, compact tool that has plenty of versatility in a survival situation.
Therefore, selecting a lightweight model is typically the preferred option. Axe-heads with thicker cheeks will weight more, and you’ll need to consider that when finalizing your purchase. Choosing the right equipment can mean making it to your campsite on time or arriving late.
The weight of the axe comes from the head and the handle. In most cases, the handle makes the biggest impact on the overall weight of the axe.
The Handle Materials
You have four options when selecting the handle materials for your survival axe. Some models like the Estwing come with a full-tang, forged design. This design means that the axe-head and the handle are all alloy or metal, in one, consistent package.
These models typically feature a hatchet design, meaning that the handle doesn’t add much more weight. However, the full-tang design does send more impact through the handle during splitting tasks.
The second choice is a fiberglass handle. This design features plenty of strength in the handle and a lightweight finish. There’s less chance of fiberglass breaking on you than a wooden handle, and you don’t have to oil it.
The third choice is a polymer handle. These handles also feature lightweight design and construction. However, they might not have the same durability or shock-absorption as fiberglass handles. Polymer handles typically feature in cheaper designs where materials costs need to remain low on the manufacturer’s side.
The fourth and final choice is a wooden handle. Most top-quality brands rely on a wooden handle for improved flexion and shock-absorption qualities. US hickory is a common choice on top models, providing a tough, rugged handle that lasts for years.
The only issue with a wooden handle is that you’ll need to condition it with linseed oil from time-to-time. This maintenance prevents the wood from drying out and splitting in your hands while working.
The grip of your survival ax is another important consideration. Wooden handles typically don’t come with any textured grip. As a result, they are harder to handle in wet weather conditions. With a damp wood handle, there’s more chance of losing your grip on the handle, causing an accident.
Polymer handles feature a textured grip providing better control in wet weather conditions. Look for models featuring textured and gell grips for the best management in wet weather.
Ergonomics also play a significant role in handle grip. Choose a model that looks easy to hold in your hands and easy to use.
When selecting your survival axe, you’ll need to assess whether you need multi-tool functionality from it. Axes are handy for cutting and splitting tasks, but they can also be useful for other duties around the campsite.
Some models feature design with a hammer on the butt edge of the eye, providing you with a hammer for sinking tent pegs or other tasks. Some models with thinner cheeks come with multi-purpose functionality turning the blade into a knife or a shovel.
It’s also important to note that you’ll need a survival axe specifically designed for hammering if you need it for this task. Most axe heads feature design and construction with softer metals around the eye. As a result, you can end up deforming and damaging the axe head by hammering with it, causing the head to loosen.
Axe Safety Tips
A survival axe is a handy tool around the campsite. However, it features a sharp blade and deserves respect. To prevent accidents around the camp, you must ensure you use the right axe-etiquette. By adhering to a set of basic safety principles, you mitigate the risk of a severe injury to yourself or a team member.
Here are a few safety tips to ensure you never have to deal with a trip to the emergency room that might involve an expensive heli-lift.
- Watch videos on YouTube about correct axe-handling before you go on your trip
- Always ensure you have two hands on an axe when swinging to chop wood
- Set up a dedicated area around the campsite for chopping
- Avoid chopping anywhere around people
- Look for hazards around the chopping site such as stones and pebbles
- Position yourself away from the path of your swing
- Swing so if the axe decides to glance off the wood, it doesn’t move toward your body
- Sharpen your axe after every hunting or camping trip
- Review YouTube videos to learn the correct grinding technique for your axe-head
- Carry your axe with the sheath on to prevent accidents and the dulling of the blade
- Always carry your axe with the edge facing down to the ground
- Never use an axe in cold weather without warming the axe head beforehand
How you position yourself during your swing is possibly the most important part of proper axe safety. It’s challenging to position your body to chop optimally, and it feels unnatural at first. However, with some practice, you’ll eventually get it right, and the movement will become natural.
Learning to chop right is where people experience the most accidents. Make sure you have the right handle for the cutting job. A longer handle gives you more leverage and speed over the axe-head, allowing you to split larger wood pieces.
Shorter individuals will do better with shorter-handles, as their body acts a fulcrum, giving them more power with a short handle over a longer one.
Survival Axe FAQs
Do the SEAL teams use tomahawks as weapons on missions?
North Carolina knife-maker Daniel Winkler reportedly designs and manufactures stealth assault tomahawks for the US SEAL teams. SEAL Team 6 has a history of carrying these weapons into battle.
Do I need a camping axe or a hatchet?
A camping axe is suitable for heavy-duty chopping tasks, while hatchets are more general-use tools around the campsite. Use a hatchet for splitting wood or throw it at a target. The best survivalist axes have multi-function use.
Is it legal to carry an axe?
Yes. According to bylaws, in most states, carrying an axe with you is not a punishable offense.
Where is the best place to buy a survival axe?
We recommend picking up the best survival axe on Amazon. Amazon has plenty of choices, and Prime members get fast shipping directly to your doorstep.Amazon’s buyer protection ensures you receive your goods in order, and you’re free to make returns without any hassle.
Best Survival Axes – The Verdict
By now, you should have a good idea of the best survival axe to suit your needs. Whether you’re camping or cutting your way through the wilderness on a hunting trip, you’ll need a survival axe. However, we realize it is challenging to choose from only a few models.
If you’re having trouble settling on an axe, why not go with one of the models in our top picks? The CRKT Birler Compact Axe is an example of top-quality American blade manufacturing, with a carbon steel axe-head that holds an edge.
The hickory handle is great for absorbing vibration, giving you plenty of control over the axe while chopping firewood.
The Hults Bruk Tarnaby Hatchet is a great imported model. It wins the award for the top premium survival axe in this review.
You get a rich knife-making legacy behind the axe, with quality craftsmanship and a durable folded design for a long-lasting axe-head that holds its edge. The US-sourced hickory handle gives you complete control over the axe-head when swinging. You geta leather axe-head sheath included in your purchase.
The Estwing Sportsman’s Axe is the top choice for survivalists on a budget. This model features a forged, full-tang design. It’s suitable for a camping axe, and it’s a great choice for hunting trips when you might need a throwing axe.
This model comes with a leather-wrapped handle for total control over the blade when cutting. Pack it away in your bag with its durable ballistic nylon sheath protecting the axe-head.