An axe is a multi purpose tool for homesteading, backpacking, camping or bushcrafting. It is difficult to know which axe to choose, so I have done a bunch of research and drawn up a list of the best bushcraft axes and hatchets available. I’ve composed a thorough guide to show you exactly what to look for in an axe or hatchet so that you can select the one just right for you. If you are on the hunt for the best bushcraft axe or hatchet, or if you simply want to know more about them, continue reading for my detailed analyses and reviews.
Overall Best Bushcraft Axe
For those who want the information in a nutshell, we can skip straight to what I think are the best bushcraft axe and hatchet. Detailed information and reviews for all the bushcraft axes and hatchets are further down in this article. In my opinion, the best bushcraft axe is the Gransfors Bruks Small Forest Axe. It is lightweight and portable, it is mighty, and with skill and a tiny bit of extra effort, it can do any task you put your mind to.
Here’s a table with some of the important features when selecting a bushcraft axe.
|Manufacturer: Bushcraft Axe||Price||Head Material||Head Weight||Handle Length||Total Weight|
|Gransfors Bruks: Small Forest Axe||Check PriceBest Overall||Swedish high-carbon steel||1.5 lbs||19 inch||2 lbs|
|Council Tool: Wood-Craft Pack Axe||Check Price||5160 carbon steel||2 lbs||24 inch||2.75 lbs|
|Wetterlings Outdoor Axe||Check Price||Swedish high-carbon steel||1.5 lbs||19.5 inch||2.43 lbs|
|Snow & Nealley: Hudson Bay Axe||Check PriceLow Budget Pick||1080 carbon steel||1.75 lbs||23 inch||2.5 lbs|
|Council Tool: Velvicut Premium Saddle Axe||Check Price||5160 carbon steel||2 lbs||16 inch||3.8 lbs|
Overall Best Bushcraft Hatchet
On the other hand, should you prefer a smaller tool, my pick for the best bushcraft hatchet is the 1844 Helko Werk Germany Rheinland Hatchet. This buschcraft hatchet is exquisitely made and is able to perform a surprising variety of jobs for its size. From cutting to carving to splitting wood, this hatchet is a master in its field.
Here’s a table I made when doing my research and selecting the best bushcraft hatchet.
|Manufacturer: Hatchet||Price||Head Material||Head Weight||Handle Length||Total Weight|
|1844 Helko Werk Germany: Rheinland Hatchet||Check PriceBest Overall||German C50 high-carbon steel||1.25 lbs||14"||2 lbs|
|Gransfors Bruks: Wildlife Hatchet||Check Price||Swedish high-carbon steel||1 lb||13.5"||1.3 lbs|
|Columbia River Knife and Tool Pack Axe||Check PriceLow Budget Pick||1060 carbon steel||Unknown||11.25"||1.14 lbs|
|Hults Bruk Almike Small All-Purpose Hatchet||Check Price||Swedish high-carbon steel||1 lb||16"||1.75 lbs|
|Husqvarna 13-Inch Wooden Hatchet||Check PriceLow Budget Pick||Swedish high-carbon steel||1.25 lbs||13"||2.2 lbs|
5 Best Bushcraft Axes
1. Gransfors Bruks Small Forest Axe
Similar to the Wetterlings axe which I will describe below, the Gransfors Bruks Small Forest Axe is a great multi-tasker when it comes to bushcraft. Only 19 inches in length and 2 pounds in weight, it can handle most jobs well. It is also lightweight and compact, which makes it extremely easy to take along with you on your adventures in the wilderness.
It is the most expensive of the axes, but its materials are of the finest. Completely handmade, its handle is carved out of American hickory, and its blade is made of an especially strong Swedish carbon steel. What is more, this axe comes with an exquisitely refined blade, adding punch to its power.
2. Council Tool Wood-Craft Pack Axe
This axe is well worth the price. With a 24-inch handle and a 2-pound head, it contains plenty of power for chopping, felling, splitting and all your other heavy-duty tasks. What is more, even though it is long, it is capable of finer tasks such as carving and shaving.
A downside to this axe, however, is the very thing which helps to make it so powerful, namely, its length. Although it weighs in at less than 3 pounds, it can be cumbersome to carry because of its sheer size. Its strength and many uses may outweigh this consideration, however, and if you don’t mind the length, you will be more than pleased with its performance.
3. Wetterlings Outdoor Axe
A lightweight axe, the Wetterlings Outdoor Axe is capable of a variety of tasks, especially splitting wood. It can handle the big and the small jobs, although if you have something very heavy-duty, you might want to go with one of our heftier options. For all ordinary bushcraft tasks, however, this axe is well suited.
Its hickory handle is moderately sized at 19.5 inches, and its hand-forged head weighs only 1.5 pounds. It is pricey, but its quality is superb. Unless you have extremely rugged work lined up for your axe, this one is an excellent choice.
4. Snow and Nealley Hudson Bay Axe
My budget pick is this Snow and Nealley Hudson Bay Axe. Made in its entirety by the Amish in America, it has a small head and a large handle. The 23 inches of this axe give it plenty of length for heavy-duty work such as chopping, but the smallness of the 1.75-pound head, though perhaps not handling the bigger jobs as well as more sizeable blades, makes it easy to do detailed work such as carving.
Composed of hickory and 1080 carbon steel, this axe is light and easily carried and keeps an eye to safety with its included leather sheath guard. With a price a modest price it combines quality with affordability.
5. Council Tool Velvicut Premium Saddle Axe
This is the only double-bit axe on my list. Its 2-pound head offers one bit for finer tasks such as carving and another bit for more rugged tasks such as chopping. Composed of very heavy-duty 5160 carbon steel, it maintains its extraordinarily sharp blades with ease.
The 16-inch hickory handle makes it extremely portable, although the total weight may be a bit offputting. However, this axe functions well and adds a wide variety of uses to its smooth, balanced performance. Although its price tag is a bit high, it is not too high for the quality of this axe.
5 Best Bushcraft Hatchets
1. 1844 Helko Werk Germany Rheinland Hatchet
Designed with the wide-bit blade of German tradition, the 1844 Helko Werk Germany Rheinland Hatchet is meant to do all kinds of cutting work. It can clear brush, remove branches and chop wood for kindling, and it can even split wood if the task is not too heavy duty.
Each hatchet is forged by hand in Germany on an open face drop forge, treated with heat and then hardened with oil. The 14-inch handle comes from Switzerland, but it is carved out of the best quality American hickory. A vegetable-tanned leather sheath accompanies this tool to protect both you and its blade.
My second most expensive hatchet, the Rheinland Hatchet has a high price. However, you get everything that you pay for.
2. Gransfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet
The Gransfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet is the most expensive hatchet on my list, but it costs so much for a reason. Just like the Gransfors Bruks axe that we discussed earlier, the blade is hand forged and is made of Sweden’s premium high-carbon steel. Likewise, the handle is hand carved from the best grade of American hickory, and each axe comes perfectly sharpened and ready for use.
This hatchet is good for a lot of light work and chops down small trees, clears branches and splits wood for kindling with the best of them. It is a handy, lightweight, compact tool, weighing only 1.3 pounds and measuring 13.5 inches in length. It is easy to put in a backpack or bag or even, with the help of its leather sheath, to hook on a belt. Expensive though it may be, it is well worth the cost.
3. Columbia River Knife and Tool Pack Axe
The CRKT Pack Axe is one of two budget picks on my list. Measuring only 11.25 inches in length and weighing only 1.14 pounds, it is small but strong. With a hammered 1060 carbon steel blade and an American hickory handle, its quality puts it high in the ranks of bushcraft hatchets. The perfect lightweight hatchet to carry with you on an outdoor adventure, it can handle everyday, basic tasks. That it is no weakling is testified to by its membership in CRKT’s Forged by War collection; it is a tool prepared for tough military service.
The CRKT Pack Axe is portable, durable and useful, and on top of this, it’s an excellent bargain.
4. Hults Bruk Almike Small All-Purpose Hatchet
Another Swedish axe, the Hults Bruk Almike Small All-Purpose Hatchet is a high-quality but high-priced choice. It is definitely not meant for a tight budget. Nevertheless, you get a lot for the price.
Hand forged and treated for durability, it is made of premium-quality Swedish steel. Its handle is formed out of American hickory and is curved for comfort, balance and ease of use. This product is excellent for basic light bushwork, for all your camping tasks and even for carving.
At 16 inches, it is the longest hatchet on my list, and yet it is still lightweight, weighing only 1.75 pounds. Compact and easy to handle, it is a superb little tool to slip into your bag the next time you head out into the woods. If your budget allows it, definitely consider adding the Almike Hatchet to your store of equipment.
5. Husqvarna 13-Inch Wooden Hatchet
My final hatchet, Husqvarna 13-Inch Wooden Hatchet, has the lowest price on the list and you can find it under thrirty dollars online. Although it is inexpensive, it cannot be dismissed as unworthy of our consideration. It can do a lot, including cutting wood, carving, preparing kindling and dressing animals.
Husqvarna axes are made in Sweden, and this hatchet is composed of hand-forged Swedish steel, and it comes equipped with a carefully attached hickory handle. On the downside, the polish on the head is less than perfect, and grind marks are visible. These, however, are only cosmetic defects and do not prevent the hatchet from performing well.
This hatchet is a bit on the heavy side, weighing in at 2.2 pounds. Although this fact may be a deterrent for those making long hikes, it is nevertheless an advantage when considered from the point of view of a woodcutter. The heavy head makes for a more powerful blow, and a more powerful blow means a more easily performed task.
At 13 inches, this is a very packable axe, and considering everything it can do, it is definitely worth your consideration as a survival axe or to put in a backpack for an overnight trip.
Buying Guide: How to Buy a Bushcraft Axe or Hatchet
Hatchet vs Axe : What’s the Difference?
An axe is the name of a broad category of tools, and it includes hatchets within its bounds. However, for purposes of discussion, I will divide things such that when we refer to axes we are talking about everything but hatchets. This necessitates that we define what a hatchet is.
A hatchet is a small axe that can be used in a single hand. It weighs less, and instead of the customary axe poll, it can have a head for hammering nails. It is useful for roofers, carpenters and campers.
Pros and Cons of Axes and Hatchets
There are advantages to both kinds of tools, but there are also some cases in which one is favored over the other.
Pros of Axes
- Larger size and heavier head mean a more forcible blow
- Easier for a beginner to use for big jobs
- Accomplish more intense tasks more quickly and efficiently
- Safer because are more likely to strike the ground first in the event of a miss
Cons of Axes
- Heavier and more cumbersome to carry
- Do not perform as well for more detailed tasks
Pros of Hatchets
- More compact and easier to carry
- Can sometimes double as a hammer
- Can combine a number of uses into one tool in the hands of an expert
- Easier to use for more detailed tasks such as dressing game
Cons of Hatchets
- More dangerous to use since a hatchet, being small, would strike the body in the event of a miss
- Require more time and energy to use for big jobs
- Easy to damage when being used by a novice for more rugged tasks
Parts of an Axe
Axe Blade Steel
Blades are usually made of steel, but not all steel is equal. The kind you want in a bushcraft axe or hatchet head needs to be able to reach a sharp cutting edge and to retain it without dulling or cracking. If it is too soft, it will dull. If it is too hard, it will crack or split. Therefore, you want a relatively high carbon content- which often means paying a relatively high price. The best-quality axes are not going to be found in the hardware store. These lower-end axes are usually made in China, and it is a fairly safe bet that any axes made there are of inferior carbon content, because they come from scrap metal.
The bit of the axe, that is, the cutting edge, can be either single or double. Single-bit axes are more common, but there are also advantages to double-bit axes. Before we compare the two, however, let’s discuss the kinds of profiles.
The profile of an axe or hatchet will be different depending on what the tool is meant to do. For example, a cutting or felling axe is meant to cut through a piece of wood across the grain. Therefore, it has a thin head, which will allow it to penetrate evenly and deeply. A splitting axe, on the other hand, which is designed to cut with the grain, is constructed like a thick wedge for maximum power to force the wood apart.
Now, getting back to the bits, a single-bit axe is what we generally visualize when we think of axes. It will have only one profile, but it enables all the force of the swing to go into the single head. Another advantage is that sometimes the poll, or the part of the head at the opposite end of the cutting edge, is strong enough to function as a hammer.
A double-bit axe, on the other hand, does not have a poll since there is a blade on either side of the handle. One advantage of this design, however, is that it enables a single axe to have two separate profiles, thereby widening its usefulness. It also offers more balance when swung, which can make it easier to use, more accurate and therefore more efficient.
You want your blade face to be convex, but only barely so. This keeps it from getting stuck in the wood and makes it better able to handle frozen wood. An overly convex face will not allow the axe to enter the wood fully, and a straight or concave one will not release from a cut well.
The axe eye, that is, the portion of the axe where the handle enters the head, is more significant than you might think. You don’t want it to be too small, or the amount of wood within the blade will be too thin and therefore weak. Likewise, it can’t be too shallow, since a greater area of contact is best for security.
Look also at the metal around the handle. If it is narrow, it might again be too weak to take heavy work. You want it to be thick enough to avoid cracking during use.
There are three important things to note when looking for the best axe handle: composition, grain, and growth rings. In the first place, an axe’s handle should always be of wood, and the best kinds of wood are hickory and ash. This hickory or ash handle should also be constructed in such a way that the grain runs vertically, as this will make the handle much stronger. Similarly, if there are many growth rings and they are close together, the handle will stand up to much more than if the opposite were true.
Axes usually being made of two pieces, the handle and the blade, it is important to take note as to how they are put together. For this reason, we check what we call the axe alignment or the hang. These terms refer to how well the two parts of the axe or hatchet are joined.
You should check your axe in two ways to make sure the alignment is correct. First of all, make sure that when you stand your axe up with the cutting edge and the handle both resting on the ground, the only parts that are touching the surface are the center of the bit and the very end or knob of the handle. Next, hold your axe so that you are looking at it from the top down. When studying it this way, you should see the cutting edge exactly centered on the knob.
If these two criteria are met, your axe or hatchet is properly aligned.
The balance of an axe is important. If an axe isn’t balanced, it will feel cumbersome and could even be dangerous to use. To check the balance of an axe or hatchet, find the throw of the axe. This is the part close to the head which is thrust forward a little. Hold this in your flat hand and support the knob with the other hand. If the blade is horizontal or barely inclines up or down, it has the appropriate balance.
Ax Handle Length
Handle length is important when choosing an ax. Consider the effects of handle size in the event of a miss. A short-handled axe would likely strike the knee, a medium-length axe would hit the instep, and a long axe would encounter the ground.
While a long axe may be safer, if it is too long it will pose a threat rather than offer protection because of its sheer unwieldiness. To find the most comfortable axe for you, try cradling the axe head in one hand with your arm straight. If the handle reaches to your armpit and no farther, then it should be of a size easy for you to use.
How I decided: My research method
My research has taken me through numerous reviews, articles and videos, and I’d like to include three of the best videos I have found.
In this first video, the reviewer talks about the very popular Gransfors Bruks Small Forest Axe.
In the third video, the reviewer branches out to talk about several different brands, including the RINALDI Hand Forged Italian Calabria Axe 330n000m, the Council Tool 2# Wood-Craft Pack Axe with the 24-inch hickory handle, the Gransfors Bruks Scandinavian Forest Axe and a Hachas Jauregi Urnieta axe like this Basque felling axe.
Uses for a Bushcraft Axe or Hatchet
When you are living in the wilderness or homesteading, there is a lot you can do with your axe or hatchet. Whether you are splitting, carving or chopping wood, felling trees or removing their limbs, dressing animals or even chopping ice, this tool will come in handy. Of course, no single tool will be able to do all of these things excellently, so it is important to keep in mind what you will be using your axe or hatchet for before you buy it. A hatchet, for example, would be unwise to use for felling large trees, but it would be suitable for casual camping or for doing something less labor intensive.
Tip: Using a Handle Guard
When you purchase a bushcraft axe or hatchet, you might consider buying a leather handle guard, such as this Leather Axe Handle Guard. There are mixed opinions about such handle guards in general, but they can be useful in the event of an overstrike. Although your handle is likely to get damaged whether or not you have a handle guard, the damage will probably be lessened by the use of one. Thus, you can keep up both your handle’s function and appearance if you protect it with a handle guard.
Handle guards also have a use if you plan to grip the part of the handle close to the head in order to shave or carve wood. This is more applicable to a hatchet than to an axe, however, and so should not really be taken into consideration if you have the larger tool.
Why Have a Bushcraft Axe or Hatchet?
Is a bushcraft axe or hatchet a necessary piece of equipment? I would argue that for those seriously engaging in wilderness survival, prepping, homesteading or bushcrafting, it is. There are so many homesteading DIY projects it is useful for, and although as we said above not every axe or hatchet can do everything, you can do a great deal with any tool in a pinch. A hatchet is not the best for chopping down trees or splitting wood, for example, but you can do both these things with a little extra time, energy and effort. Therefore, just having such a tool will make you more self-sufficient in your outdoor adventures.
The Bottom Line
There is a lot to look for when you are selecting your bushcraft axe or hatchet. Not only must you carefully inspect the parts of each tool, but you must also consider its peculiar capabilities and your own aims. Whether choosing one of my favorites or something you find on your own, it is important that you know the ins and outs of axes and hatchets before you purchase your tool.