Camping is an incredible way to explore the great outdoors, but with limited space and weight restrictions, every piece of gear matters. Among the essential tools to bring along is an ax or small hatchet. Depending on the type of camping you are planning will dictate whether you take a backpacking hatchet or camp ax.
A backpacking hatchet is typically smaller and lighter to fit into your pack easily. It is geared more toward woodcraft and firewood processing.
A backpacking hatchet is not only for chopping wood; its versatility is what sets it apart from its camping ax counterpart. Backpacking hatchets can serve multiple purposes, such as:
- Chopping firewood and kindling
- Clearing brush and small branches from the trail
- Building emergency shelters
- Assisting in food preparation
- Hammering tent stakes
A camp ax is a little larger and can do more aggressive chopping and tree felling. A camp ax will do the little stuff like a hatchet, but you can do more building and construction tasks with an ax.
While car camping or camping at a fixed location, you can rely on a larger, heavier hatchet or ax for various tasks.
- Tree felling
- Cabin construction
- Large firewood production
- Processing hardwoods such as oak and hickory
- Fighting in a shield wall
How Did I Pick These Hatchets and Axes?
For this list, I am dividing it into two sections: backpacking hatchets that can fit inside a pack or easily be strapped to the outside of your pack and larger camp axes that can still be carried easily. The hatchet has to be on the lighter side and be a proven solid performer while the ax needs to be large enough for serious firewood production. I have personal, real-world experience with every ax and hatchet listed below. I started with 24 choices, and these are the ones that made the final cut.
The Best Camping Axes That Made the Cut
The axes and hatchets I mentioned above are my top picks, but I did do a ton of research and bought several hatchets. Not all of them are awesome, but not all of them are junk, either. I am putting the ones below into the “Honorable Mention” category because they might strike you differently than they did me. They all had some decent reviews, so don’t just take my opinion of them; feel free to do additional research.
Estwing 12” Sportsman’s Axe
Classic design and rugged construction
I hate this hatchet and only use it for axe throwing, but it has a big following and a lot of Five Star reviews. The Estwing Sportsman’s Axe is a compact, single-piece hatchet made of forged steel. It weighs approximately 1.9 pounds and has a 2.75-inch cutting edge. The genuine leather grip offers a comfortable hold and a cool look.
Its durable construction and balanced design make it an ideal choice for backpackers seeking a reliable tool. I am on the fence about this guy. Like the Gibson with the full tang mentioned above, this one also transfers the chopping shocks to your hand. You need to try one in your hand first before you pack it up. Also, quality control can be an issue; some hatchets come looking like they are used. I listed it because it’s popular, but know that it’s not one of my favorites.
SOG Camp Axe
A go-to choice for campers looking for a portable and efficient tool for various outdoor tasks
Weighing in at just under 1 pound, the SOG Camp Axe is a minimalist’s dream. Its stainless steel head and glass-reinforced nylon handle make it lightweight yet strong. The flat backside of the head doubles as a hammer, offering added versatility. This hatchet is perfect for those who prioritize weight reduction and portability.
Manufactured by SOG, a well-known brand specializing in knives and tools, the Camp Axe aims to deliver functionality, durability, and performance in a lightweight package. When you first pick up the SOG it almost feels too light, but don’t let that fool you; it still chops with the best of them.
I’ve used this hatchet on a wide range of wood types, from softwoods to hardwoods, and as expected, the denser the wood, the more demanding the chopping becomes. It’s essential to note that this axe has a mere one-pound weight and a shorter handle than many others. Its primary purpose is not as a splitting hatchet but rather as a lightweight, adaptable axe that is convenient to pack when saving space and reducing weight are crucial. Despite this, it can still effectively split wood, although it might not be the best option for larger-scale tasks.
The rear side of the axe head incorporates a flat area that doubles as a hammer, further enhancing the tool’s adaptability. This feature proves especially handy for jobs like pounding tent stakes. The SOG Camp Axe’s handle is made from glass-reinforced nylon (GRN), a robust and lightweight material recognized for its strength and resilience against various environmental factors. The handle’s ergonomic design makes it comfortable to hold for long periods and offers a firm grip during swinging. I will note that when not wearing gloves, the handle is not as comfy to hold and the circular grooves dig into your palm a little.
Balance, durability and functionality
Despite being marketed as throwing hatchets on Amazon, these hatchets are perfect for carrying in your backpack. They feature a classic, traditional design with a solid wood handle that provides a comfortable and secure grip. What’s even better is that they are affordable, making them a great choice for those on a budget.
Although the hatchet’s shorter size may not be suitable for felling large trees, the sharp blade is ideal for processing firewood, and its small size makes it easy to use for light chopping tasks, such as clearing a camping area or creating kindling. The hatchet’s compact size and lightweight design also make it easy to carry and store, ensuring that it’s always at hand when you need it. Whether you’re out in the wilderness or simply need a reliable tool for everyday use, the WICING Hatchet is a versatile and cost-effective option to consider.
LEXIVON V-ONE Survival Hatchet
Compact, well built, and budget-friendly
I reviewed the full-sized Lexivon axe here and, for the money, it’s decent enough. This is a great inexpensive option for outdoor activities. Its coated stainless steel head is durable and can handle tough chopping and splitting tasks. The non-slip, shock-absorbing handle provides a comfortable and secure grip, even in wet or slippery conditions. The hatchet is compact and lightweight, making it easy to carry around. Overall, it’s a reliable and functional hatchet that can become an essential tool for outdoor enthusiasts. This hatchet is under 10”, so it’s not chopping massive logs, etc.
Berry & Bird Camping Axe
Superior cutting performance, ensuring campers can tackle woodwork and campsite tasks with ease
If you’re in the market for a compact, one-handed axe perfect for bushcraft and backpacking, this is another solid choice. While it’s not suitable for taking down large trees, it’s perfect for smaller tasks and preparing firewood. There was a note inside the box that the end user is required to do the final sharpening and it comes from the factory less sharp on purpose. This is weird and a pain, but my axe was sharp enough, and I did hit it up with a stone to finish it some more. The packaging and overall presentation are great, but the less-than-sharp thing bugs me.
Husqvarna 13 in. Wooden Handle Hatchet
Classic style and craftsmanship with modern functionality
The Husqvarna is on the honorable mention list and not the top choice because the price has gotten insane over the last three years. I love it, but there are way cheaper options now that are equal in quality.
First, it’s a known fact that you need to spend a lot of time sharpening this guy right out of the box; check out all the YouTube videos of how people modify these. If you can get over that, then you are good to go. It’s a basic hatchet and gets the job done.
While information about the steel used in the head is limited to being Swedish, the long-standing reputation of Swedish steel for producing superior steel with minimal impurities and trace elements make it a reliable choice for axes and knives.
The hatchet’s weight may come as a surprise to some, as it is slightly heavier than most hatchets out there. However, this feature actually adds to the tool’s overall balance and comfort during use, especially for heavy-duty chopping and cutting tasks. Its perfect balance provides great control, making it an enjoyable tool to swing.
The Schrade SCAXE2 is a compact, all-purpose camping hatchet. Schrade has several small hatchets in their lineup, and all are pretty solid. The SCAXE2 compact size makes it easy to carry in a backpack or on a belt, making it ideal for camping, hiking, and other outdoor activities. The SCAXE2 also features a hammer pommel at the base of the handle, which is useful for tasks such as driving tent stakes or breaking up kindling.
The axe head is nitrate coated, which is a durable material that can withstand a lot of use without showing any signs of wear. Even after several uses, the blade is still in excellent condition, with no visible scratches other than the blade edge.
Despite its compact size, this hatchet is solid and durable, with a comfortable grip that allows for precise control during use. Whether you’re clearing a campsite, preparing firewood, or carving wood for camp crafts, this hatchet is up to the task. One of the best things about this tool is its quality, especially considering the affordable price point. It’s clear that a lot of care and attention went into the design and manufacture of this hatchet, resulting in a reliable and effective tool that won’t break the bank. Overall, if you’re in the market for a small hatchet that can handle a variety of outdoor tasks, this one is definitely worth considering.
Bison Hunter’s Hatchet
Amazon is full of a ton of no-name axes and hatchets that you have no idea where they came from. The Bison Hunter’s Hatchet is one of them. I had to do some digging before I could test it out, but I was pleasantly surprised at the overall quality. The Amazon seller could have done a better job with the description!
To my surprise, there is some history behind the hatchet. The Bison website touts that the German Army, fire brigades, and foresters around the world use Bison hatchets and axes.
The Bison Hunter is hand-forged like traditional axes using the finest German steel, heat-treated to an impressive HRC51-56. The Hunter’s Hatchet, part of the Bison 1879 line, is a lightweight, portable option that easily fits into any backpack.
It’s a popular choice for hiking and hunting trips, with a pronounced lower section of the blade that adds length to the cutting edge, a unique feature not often found in hatchets of this size. The blade is exceptionally sharp and made to last, even after frequent use. With its classic design and exceptional craftsmanship, the Bison 1879 Hunter’s Hatchet is worth the asking price.
SULKADA Camping Hatchet
The SULKADA Camping Hatchet is marketed as a versatile tool suitable for camping, hiking, and other outdoor activities. It features a carbon steel blade and a non-slip rubber handle for a comfortable grip.
While the company claims that the hatchet can handle a variety of tasks, including chopping, cutting, and even hammering, the low price point may raise some concerns about the quality and durability of the product. However, I was pleasantly surprised when I got it in hand. The blade angle is a little wider than I would like, but it’s light enough and durable enough to spend the money on.
You may take a chance when you order it, mine was near perfect out of the box and sharp enough, but there are a lot of reviews where people got a dud. Buyer beware I suppose, but if you get a good one, then you got a good one!
Which One Should You Buy?
A backpacking hatchet should be lightweight, durable, and versatile. The options listed above cater to a variety of preferences and needs, but all have a proven track record of excellent performance in the field. Whether you’re an experienced backpacker or a beginner, a good hatchet is an essential tool that will make your adventures safer and more enjoyable.
Do I Need A Hatchet On A Backpacking Trip?
I never go backpacking without the Fiskars X7 I listed, but I know some people are on the fence about whether they need a hatchet on a backpacking trip. For me, it’s a comfort and safety issue. First, I always want a campfire, and a hatchet makes it much easier to process firewood and split kindling. You could use a large survival knife and baton wood, but that’s another article.
There have also been many articles over the last few years about banning axes and hatchets in National Parks and on hiking trails. This is because, like everything else in the world, our natural resources are abused by idiots. Let’s be clear here when discussing building fires and gathering wood. You don’t cut or chop down live trees in National Parks, State Parks, Government lands, etc.! This should go without saying for nature enthusiasts, but I’ll say it anyway: You only gather wood that is dead and has fallen to the ground.
Once you start backpacking often and you come across highly used campsites, you will see very clearly what happens when idiots can’t find dead wood for a fire and start cutting branches and trees.
However, I am against banning the carrying of hatchets on these lands; this is just another example of Government and Eco-Warrior overreach; they can go…you know what. We must teach these fools why you don’t chop down live trees and how to safely have a campfire, not ban them altogether.
Frequently Asked Questions About Backpacking Hatchets
How Much Does a Good Backpacking Hatchet Typically Cost?
Regarding backpacking, having the right hatchet can make all the difference. But how much does a good hatchet typically cost? When looking at hatchets for backpacking, you’ll find a wide range of prices depending on size and material.
Smaller and lighter hatchets are usually more expensive, as they are made with higher-quality steel and have better designs. For example, an ultralight titanium hatchet could cost anywhere from $90 to $200 or more. On the other hand, a basic steel camping axe may only cost around $20. It’s important to consider what type of backpacking trip you’re going on when selecting your hatchet.
For casual trips, a basic steel camping axe will do just fine. You won’t need something as lightweight or durable as an ultralight titanium hatchet unless you’re going on longer or tougher trips. In addition, if your trip involves splitting kindling or larger logs, you’ll want to invest in a durable backpacking axe with a thicker head and longer handle for more leverage. These types of models will cost more than the basic steel versions.
No matter what type of backpacking trip you’re planning, it’s important to research different options before buying your hatchet so that you know exactly what you’re getting for your money. Make sure that the model you choose is strong enough for any job that might come up during your trip but also light enough for comfortable carrying in your pack.
How Do I Sharpen a Backpacking Hatchet?
When it comes to bringing a hatchet along for a backpacking trip, sharpening it is an important step. Without proper sharpening, the hatchet won’t be nearly as effective when it comes to chopping and splitting wood. Fortunately, you can take some simple steps to ensure your hatchet is properly sharpened.
First and foremost, you’ll need the right tools for the job. A file or a whetstone are both great options for sharpening your hatchet. If you opt for a whetstone, make sure to get one with two different grits so that you can refine the edge of your blade. Additionally, you’ll want to ensure that whatever tool you use is designed specifically for metal blades; if not, it could damage your hatchet instead of sharpening it.
Once you have the right supplies on hand, you can begin sharpening your hatchet head. Start by laying the blade flat against your work surface and ensuring that all of its edges are evenly aligned with the stone or file. Then use long strokes along either side of the blade in order to even out any nicks or bumps on its surface. As you go along, ensure that both sides of the blade are being evenly sharpened by flipping it over from time to time.
Finally, once the edges have been sufficiently smoothed out and sharpened, take a piece of leather or cloth and lightly rub it across the blade in order to remove any burrs which may have formed during the honing process. Be sure not to press too hard while doing this; otherwise, it could end up dulling the edge again! With these steps complete, your backpacking hatchet should now be suitably ready for use on your next outdoor adventure.
What Is the Best Way to Store a Hatchet While Backpacking?
When backpacking, it’s important to have the proper equipment, and we all know that a hatchet is a great tool for splitting wood, making kindling, and preparing meals. But when you’re on the trail, how do you store your hatchet safely? Here are some tips for keeping your trusty hatchet secure while backpacking.
The first thing to consider is the size and weight of your hatchet. It can be difficult to carry in a pack if it’s too large or heavy. Look for a lightweight hatchet made of materials such as aluminum or titanium that won’t add too much weight to your load.
Next, you’ll want to make sure your hatchet won’t accidentally open while you’re on the go. If you have an ax with a sheath, make sure the sheath fits snugly around the head of the ax and securely fastens with straps or clasps. This is especially important if you’re carrying other items in your bag that could potentially get damaged by an open blade.
Storing your hatchet properly is essential for keeping yourself safe and preventing potential damage to other items in your pack. Make sure you choose a lightweight yet durable model that can fit comfortably in your backpack, and ensure it has secure fastenings so it doesn’t accidentally open during transport. With these tips in mind, you’ll be ready to confidently hit the trail, knowing that your trusty hatchet is safe and secure!
Is a Backpacking Hatchet Suitable for Splitting Firewood?
When it comes to backpacking, a hatchet is a handy tool that can be used for a variety of purposes. But the question remains; is a backpacking hatchet suitable for splitting firewood? The answer is yes, but with some important caveats.
A backpacking hatchet is designed to be lightweight and easy to use in remote or difficult-to-access areas, which makes them a great choice when you need something compact and portable. However, they are not typically as durable as regular axes and may not be able to handle larger pieces of wood. Additionally, they are made from lighter materials and may not have the same chopping power as traditional axes.
When using a backpacking hatchet for splitting firewood, it’s important to keep in mind that you should only split small pieces of wood at a time. If you try to split large logs with your hatchet, you risk damaging the blade or handle, making it unusable for future tasks. It’s also important to remember that even though backpacking hatchets can be used for splitting firewood, they aren’t designed specifically for this purpose so it’s best to limit their use accordingly.
Backpacking hatchets are incredibly useful tools that can help make any outdoor trip more enjoyable and efficient. While they may not have the same power as traditional axes when it comes to splitting large pieces of wood, they are still capable of easily handling smaller logs and can make quick work of any kindling you need while on the trail.
Are Backpacking Hatchets Legal to Carry in All States?
Backpacking hatchets are a popular item for campers and hikers who want to be able to carry a tool that can help them with tasks such as cutting firewood, building shelter, or making tools. But it is essential to consider the legalities of carrying a backpacking hatchet. Are they legal to carry?
The answer depends on the state in which you are traveling. Different states have different laws regarding carrying a hatchet, and some even require that you have a permit. For example, in California, it is illegal to carry any type of knife – including a backpacking hatchet – without a permit. In New York, however, carrying a knife or hatchet is legal if it is intended for use as an outdoor tool.
In addition to state laws, there may also be local regulations that should be taken into account when traveling with a backpacking hatchet. These regulations could include restrictions on where and how the axe can be carried. It’s always best to check with local law enforcement before traveling with any type of weapon – even an axe designed for outdoor use.
It’s important when traveling with a backpacking hatchet to know the laws and regulations concerning its use and transport. Doing so will help ensure that your trip goes smoothly and you remain within the bounds of the law when enjoying nature with your trusty tool by your side.