As I learned from the 1986 award-winning novel Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, in which a thirteen year old kid stranded in the middle of a forest survives with solely a hatchet, a survival axe is an invaluable tool in any type of survival or bushcraft scenario. A well-trained survivalist can use a survival axe for all kinds of things, whether it’s making a shelter, chopping wood, or something else entirely.
If you’re looking for a good survival axe, you’re in the right place. This article reviews five survival axes, the pros and cons of each, their strengths, benefits, and why you might choose one over the other.
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What to Look For in a Survival Axe
An axe is the kind of tool that you will likely keep for a long time. So, there are a number of things that are worth keeping in mind when making that purchase, to make sure you get the right choice.
The three main ones that I consider are the thickness of the axe head, the type of material used for the handle, and the axe’s length and size.
The thickness of the head of your axe has a number of implications. First, it’s going to affect how the axe cuts and chops. An axe that has a heavier, thicker head is going to have more weight behind it. However, this does also mean that a thicker axe will be heavier. If you intend to do something like travel long distances while also carrying a bag and a few other things, then a thinner head can be an advantage and make a difference that you’ll start to notice after a bit of walking.
There are a number of materials used to make axe handles. Most commonly, axe handles are made from wood, synthetic materials, or from metal.
Wood is an extremely common material for axe builds. It’s relatively light, generally on the lower end in terms of cost, and is generally durable enough for any standard use case. In my opinion, wooden axe handles look great. Most of the axes on this list have handles that are made of wood. Wooden axe handles can also be replaced very easily.
If you’re looking for a lighter survival axe, you might consider using an axe with a synthetic handle. While these handles can be a little bit more expensive, they are also lighter weight. This can make a large difference if you’re using it for something like bushcrafting and want to be able to get your pack as light as possible.
Some axe handles are also made of metal. These are of course heavier, but can provide additional strength, such as in a rescue or construction type scenario. However, metal is less common for survival axes.
For a survival scenario, I lean towards either a wooden handle or a synthetic handle. Most readers are going to find that those options are the best fit for them as well; however if you have a specialty use case, you might consider a metal handle.
Handle Length and Size
Axes come in all shapes and sizes. Some are large, two-handed varieties; others are smaller axes or hatchets that can be just a foot or two. If you intend to put your axe into a truck and then drive out to a campsite, it might be better to have something a little bit larger; if you’re going to go bushcrafting and carry or an axe through the woods for long distances, then something a little shorter tends to be more advantageous.
In general, I prefer to have an axe that’s somewhere in the range of 16 to 20 inches long. I find that 18 inches is a pretty solid length, which provides a good balance of both portability and ease-of-use. However, it can be nice to have something a little bit longer around the house, if portability isn’t a major concern.
Our Best Survival Axe Picks
Gransfors Bruks Small Forest Axe
The first thing that stood out to me when using this axe is that it was extremely sharp out of the box. If you’re used to using something like a cheap axe that you’d buy at a department store, you’ll be surprised by just how sharp this thing is. Additionally, I found this axe was very well-built; sometimes you’ll buy an axe where the head is a little bit loose or just starts to come loose over time, but this one was well built and assembled tightly. The body and the handle are sleek, both looking and performing well.
Out of all the axes that I tested, this is what I would say is my favorite. It’s extremely effective, and it’s also very well built. For most people, I would say that you could buy this axe, and then never have to think about buying another survival axe for the rest of your life. Whether you’re getting a first axe, or are buying another to add to your collection, this is an all around excellent choice.
CRKT Freyr Axe
Out of the box, this axe was noticeably duller than the Gransfors Bruks. However, it was sharp enough to do the job. I spent a minute sharpening it up and I was able to get it cutting even better. I also like the appearance of the handle; the choice of a darker hickory makes this product stand out from the rest. This really does look great, which is always nice for a tool that you’ll be using for years.
Overall, I’d recommend this axe as a solid mid-range option at an excellent price. The amount of value that you get for something at this price point is quite high. Whether you’re looking for something to serve as a first survival axe, or whether you just need a nice reliable buy to add to your arsenal, I’d recommend this in a second.
Marbles Hunters Axe
The axe can be purchased either by itself, or with a sheath. This does give you the option of getting an axe for a little bit less in total, since a lot of the other options come with a sheath regardless of whether you personally want to pay that extra cost.
One advantage to this axe, is that since it was made in El Salvador, the cost is a bit lower than some of the other alternatives. Regardless, it’s still a pretty solid axe even though it’s made outside of the USA. If you’re looking to get something that will do the trick, but that won’t break the bank, this is an excellent option.
Council Tool #2
If you’re looking for a longer axe, this is a good option. The other options on this list are generally in the 16 to 20 inch range; this of course means this axe is a little bit bigger if that’s what you are looking for.
When using this axe personally, I found the extra length to be nice, but if I were carrying it around, which I often am, it does feel a little bit cumbersome. For an axe that you might keep in your backyard for occasional chopping of wood or similar, this is a good option. For something more like a survival or bushcrafting type scenario, at this price point, I’d lean toward the Gransfors Bruks. Regardless, this is a solid pick.
Fiskars 378501-1002 X7 Hatchet
This is a much smaller axe than the other products reviewed here. This can be a nice selling point if you’re looking for a smaller product that is easily able to be carried around.
This is the kind of axe I might put into my bag when going out on a hiking trip with family. For a bushcrafting type scenario, I’d generally pick something a little bit more heavy duty, but the small size and light weight are nice if you want something simple to have on hand.
What an amazing time I’ve had reviewing all of these survival axes. There are so many different types of survival axe, that I almost lose my mind and feel like I’m going into some kind of Heaven, filled with the best survival axes.
But at the end of the day, I think I can narrow it down to just a few axes that I think are particularly good. Now don’t get me wrong these are all good axes. But when it comes down to it, if I were to just pick one, there are three I’d be looking at as my final contenders.
In terms of pure quality, the best survival axe I’ve used is the Gransfors Bruks Small Forest Axe. The only problem you might have with this tool is that it’s sharp enough to cut yourself on. I’d keep it away from children for sure. This is the kind of axe that will last you for a lifetime. I use it for going out camping, hunting, and bushcrafting; I also use it for some tasks around my yard, such as cutting back the branches on overgrown trees.
Of course, there’s a ton of value provided by the CRKT Freyr Axe. For the price, this axe works great and also looks quite nice. It’s a great introductory buy if this is your first axe, giving you a ton of value for a pretty solid price. I found that sharpening up this axe was a good trick to get a little more value out of it; regardless it’s still plenty sharp out of the box. This is an all-around good purchase and an amazing value for the price.
The Marbles Hunters Axe is also a pretty solid survival axe and it comes at a great price. It’s a nice, mid-sized axe at 18-inches and gets the job done. There are higher-end axes, but this will do the trick no questions asked. If you go out to the forest now and then, or occasionally need to chop a few pieces of wood, this will definitely do the trick.
So, which survival axe is your favorite? What do you find the most important when purchasing one of these bad boys? Let us know what your favourite survival axe is in the comments below. We’re always happy to hear what you have to say.