Reviewing the Best Survival Hatchet and Camping Axes for the Money in 2018

Here's my outright confession:

There's nothing that gets me excited about another day in life than a morning spent heading out to the great outdoors.

Ever since Dad taught all of us kids about hunting, camping, fishing, surviving out in the woods and being around nature the outdoors has been a part of life. Fast forward through Eagle Scout and heading off after high school and that need to hit the wilderness remained strong.

That probably had a lot to do with why I was obsessed with Alaska and would end up living in the Interior for years (and loving every moment of it).

However,

There's one thing that a long line of exciting experiences taught me from earning my wilderness survival merit badge on a small lake island 3 miles from where the rest of the troop cabin camped in an isolated Canadian fishing resort to being dropped off on a lake 100 miles from any human with the plane not coming back for a week - you learn very quickly to also respect what Mother Nature can throw at you.

Packing the perfect gear for the right situation is tremendous.

That means first and foremost having knowledge and training, and immediately following that up is having the right gear! It wasn't long before I had my own emergency kits, survival kits, and of course my stripped down "must have" gear that included a good Buck Knife passed down in the family, a magnesium waterproof fire starter, a compass, some fishing line (later to be replaced by paracord) and of course I wasn't dropping in the middle of nowhere without a reliable survival hatchet in my backpack.

While some people might have different preferences when it comes to the exact brand or style of starting gear, no question that among the preppers, survivalists, and just genuinely solid outdoor guys I know, a good small ax or hatchet is going to be on the top of that list.

You can't go wrong if you follow me.

Read on to see my picks for some of the better options out there when it comes to the best survival hatchet whether you're camping for the weekend or challenging yourself during some survival time.

Legendary brand does not disappoint

Estwing's most popular model of hatchet is going to rank pretty highly on just about any bast camping hatchet article you're going to find online and there's a good reason for that.

Right off the bat, you can tell this a forged one-piece hatchet, which is what you always want to see in a good camping ax.

The E24A model of hatchet from Estwing looks solid.

The lacquered leather grip gives a very traditional treated wood look while offering a comfortable grip on the hands.

Estwing E24A

This hatchet is forged from a high-quality carbon steel that gives it an impressive durability. In fact, I know many people with an Estwing hatchet that is many decades old and it is fair to assume the new models will hold up this tradition.

Pros

  • Extremely durable option
  • From a trusted brand with a long track history of quality
  • check
    Holds a great sharp edge
  • check
    Great balance
  • check
    Affordable

Cons

  • Heavier model - may be too heavy if you're aiming at going for a light or ultralight backpacking weight
  • Hatchet is the USA manufactured, the sheath is not (if that's important to you)

The one minor complaint I have is the weight (head is 14.9 ounces or 0.93 lbs) - it would be nice if they could offer the same quality without the extra weight. Any long distance ultralight backpackers will want to look for a different option as the weight can be a bit of a pull on the pack. However, everyone else looking for a really exceptional hatchet should take a serious look at this Estwing option.

This is an excellent overall design and holds up to even fairly heavy and challenging use. There's a reason the Estwing E24A is one of the top-rated hatchets currently on the market and in my opinion overall is the best camping hatchet for the money for most people.

Husqvarna 13" Wooden Hatchet

Unique design for better results

The Husqvarna hatchet out of Sweden definitely jumps out from the moment you see it. The handle is clearly carved from hickory wood while the bottom features a distinctive curve that makes it really stick out from other models. If you like old school look and design, this hatchet does not disappoint on those levels.

Husqvarna Wooden Hatchet

Billed as an all-around use hatchet, there are some concerns about the design that make me feel like expectations need to be tempered a bit.

The blade is heavy, which is good for cutting but even if you are traditional, let's face it: carved out wood combined with an ax head blade that is not bonded with the handle means over enough time or with a sharp enough force breaking is much more likely.

In other words, this is a camping ax that is very likely to work until it doesn't. One of the best ways to prevent breakage is to focus on smaller or basic jobs. Much better as a workshop hatchet or around the property light work versus heavy cutting or survival, in my opinion.

Pros

  • Great workshop hatchet
  • Very traditional look
  • check
    Heavy head for more chopping power
  • check
    Handle design allows for easy hanging or carrying via the lanyard
  • check
    Quality Swedish design

Cons

  • Too heavy for long-term backpackers or ultralight hikers
  • Wood handle means accidental damage or snapping is more likely
  • Crosshairs
    Many individuals have had problems with the ax breaking

However, in that carefully limited role, the Husqvarna can be one of the better options out during the time it is properly used.

Gerber Bear Grylls Survival Hatchet

Best compact hatchet option when space is at a premium

Whatever you might think of the Bear Grylls TV show "Man vs. Wild" (my feelings are pretty mixed, personally) the hatchet bearing his name carves out a solid niche for itself that's definitely worth paying attention to.

This isn't your conventional survival hatchet, but that is part of what makes this particular option so interesting.

Bear Grylls Survival Hatchet

Honestly, my first instinct was to have reservations when I saw this design. After all, this hatchet is small. Really small.

When put to the test, there was a lot to actually like. The grip on the handle is exceptionally good. Designed to be ergonomic and no slip, this means a solid and comfortable hold even when the sweat starts beading up on the hand.

The blade is a single tang piece with the handle/grips wrapped around. This is the better design the far majority of the time, in my opinion, and shows a serious intention with good design.

Now does it pull that off? The blade is a bit thin for my tastes and I can see situations where if pushed too hard the blade could chip or falter. This is impressive for what it is and what it aims for, but if you're looking for a consistent use camping ax chances are you'll want to look elsewhere.

Pros

  • Most effective small survival hatchet
  • Great space saver
  • check
    Durable
  • check
    Works for small-scale cutting work or emergency situations
  • check
    Very comfortable handle

Cons

  • Even a great small hatchet isn't going to match what a quality normal hatchet brings to the table
  • Some potential issues with blade quality because of the thinness of construction

In my mind, this miniature ax works best as a backup or #2 option, though some ultralight hikers will find this the best backpacking hatchet because of the lightweight along with dependability.

SOG Tactical Tomahawk

Outstanding defensive hiking ax

SOG has made itself a trusted name among many outdoor enthusiasts with years of good products. While the phrase "tactical tomahawk" makes me nervous in many cases here SOG holds up to that standard of quality and produces a really interesting outdoor tool.

The blade up top is small but properly compact to be useful and not overly hard to wield.

If having a slightly smaller blade head means more stability and less chance of breakage that is a tradeoff I'm willing to make.

SOG F01TN-CP Tactical Tomahawk

My favorite part of this ax is the design. This is designed to be a multi-use tool that is just for that: for being used in the wild. Not for sitting on the wall and looking cool.

The blade up top is small but properly compact to be useful and not overly hard to wield. If having a slightly smaller blade head means more stability and less chance of breakage that is a tradeoff I'm willing to make.

My favorite part of this ax is the design. This is designed to be a multi-use tool that is just for that: for being used in the wild. Not for sitting on the wall and looking cool.

The blade for cutting wood is sharp and compact but effective for reasonably small cuts while the back instead of being a "hammer" edge like conventional hatchet is a pick that is more than enough for self-defense purposes and offers a tool with some serious digging power.

If you want an all around survival tool in hatchet/tomahawk form, this is the one I would most recommend.

Pros

  • Good overall design
  • Very solid pick to go with the hatchet blade
  • check
    Hard plastic handle offers excellent grip even in inclement weather
  • check
    Tends to be very moderately priced

Cons

  • Hatchet blade is a bit small, meaning this isn't great for large cutting jobs
  • Would prefer to see metal/steel handle over reinforced fiberglass
  • Crosshairs
    Doesn't hold up when used consistently as a throwing tomahawk

If you're looking for a pure throwing tomahawk there are better options. For a tool based tomahawk, this is a solid buy that will serve a lot of people well (though I wish they would change handle materials).

Fiskars 14" X7 Hatchet

Top quality small job hatchet

The X7 looks much different than many other hatchet designs.

Not only does the Fiskars X7 hatchet stick out because of bright orange contrasting to dark black coating but the overall look and design is not your conventional camping ax.

Fiskars X7 14 inch

The design is definitely a bit different, as well. The handle offers a plastic grip while the loop over at the top shows this is not a one-piece crafted hatchet but comes from a modern mass-produced design and assembly.

That being said, it's hard to argue against the X7 as an excellent little camping ax perfect for frequent smaller jobs and ordinary use.

Pros

  • High visibility makes it easy to see
  • Unique blade design focuses the force of the swing
  • check
    Durable
  • check
    An outstanding option for frequent regular use
  • check
    Great small hatchet

Cons

  • Definitely a little ax, not a great choice for larger jobs
  • The unconventional look may turn off traditionalists

Why doesn't Fiskars make a hatchet to take on larger jobs? Probably because the same company also makes a quality splitting ax which can do that job - leaving the hatchet for smaller cutting jobs to make the two pieces an effective combo.

Gransfors Bruk Wildlife Hatchet

Mastering the traditional camping ax

There are plenty of modern hatchets and camping axes that choose to use new materials or designs and do so very effectively. I'll even admit that in many cases the new designs are probably better and more secure than the wood handle, pins, and hatchet head designs that are very old school.

Gränsfors Bruk 13.5" Axe Handmade

However, when exceptionally well done these will hold up to some pretty heavy work and in this case. The Gransfors Bruk hatchet is one I really like for a variety of reasons.

The hatchet is lightweight, making it solid for hikers and backpackers, holds up to heavy campsite use, and cuts exceptionally well with a blade that really likes to hold an edge.

A hole through the bottom of the handle allows easy carry via lanyard or attaching to a belt loop with a small leather bit (only do this with a proper cover on the blade), and this hatchet is designed to last.

Very solid camping ax that can last long term if properly cared for. Perhaps the best hatchet for splitting wood (within reason, of course).

Pros

  • Arrives extremely sharp and ready to cut
  • Proper heat treat
  • check
    Lightweight so good for backpackers
  • check
    Solid traditional design
  • check
    Very high-quality craftsmanship

Cons

  • Does take more proper care to keep both wood and metal in the good working shape
  • Ax sheath is poorly designed

The only big drawback here is that the sheath while it looks nice - the way you have to put the ax in means the top little section of the ax head will slice against the leather from the inside.

Given enough time it will eventually slice right through the cover as a result. That is a big disappointment because you will want to purchase a good protective sheath for the blade if you buy this hatchet.

United Cutlery M48 Apocalypse

Tactical tomahawk with plenty of flashes

Oh boy - where do we start with this one? For what it is, the M48 Apocalypse tactical tomahawk is a pretty solid option using modern design and construction to bring together a modern tomahawk that definitely catches the eye.

That being said there are multiple reservations on this one.

Tactical Tomahawk(Model:UC2946)

First: what are you looking for? If you want a "cool looking" tomahawk that you imagine using as a self-defense weapon or something to get shady people thinking twice if you're in an isolated area, then maybe. But as far as a practical camping ax that could be used long term, this isn't the one.

While the look is good and the weight definitely feels good and balanced, there are definite structural concerns with this design that make me hesitant to fully embrace it.

Pros

  • Looks very cool
  • Designed with defense/attack in mind
  • check
    Good length
  • check
    Good blade compared to many other similar looking tomahawks out there
  • check
    Paracord handle is a great practical touch

Cons

  • Not going to compare to a conventional hatchet for survival or practical tool use
  • The design isn't great and makes this model open to breakage

This is one that's best for collectors, as a fun backup piece, or for individuals who want a halfway decent tactical tomahawk that is better than the many terrible mass-produced options out there right now.

MTECH USA Camping Axe

Serious potential from simple design

The MTECH USA camping ax is a simple design featuring a one-piece blade and handles mold of steel that is then covered by a rubber handle for grip. This is not to be mistaken with the throwing axes or "tactical throwing hatchets" by the same company.

MTech USA 11 inch Axe

Sitting at 11 inches in length, this hatchet is a bit smaller than other full-sized options but still offers some decent cutting power. That said, you will need to sharpen this upon arrival as it does not show up ready to go in that respect.

The MTECH USA is a good option but you can't help feeling like a few shortcuts might have cost them from being a great option. There are several reports of the handle breaking for some buyers and while this seems infrequent it happens enough you have to look at this as a potential problem.

This isn't a bad hatchet for small work but it can't handle larger jobs. You would also be right to be concerned about even trying considering the broken handle reports.

Pros

  • Generally inexpensive
  • Focuses on simple but practical use
  • check
    Good looking all black color
  • check
    Handles small chopping jobs easily enough

Cons

  • A touch on the heavy side
  • The handle is not especially impressive - I could see breakage issues with this model

If you need an inexpensive hatchet for occasional small to medium use or are looking for a good inexpensive top rated hatched for splitting kindling then this can serve that role just fine but there are better and more reliable options out there.

CRKT Tomahawk Axe (2730)

Outstanding traditional tomahawk tears into the competition

Sometimes newer designs bring the best option to the table and once in a while you find that the old design (or a version of it at least) actually triumphs as the better choice.

Among the tomahawks, the CRKT Woods Chogan Tomahawk is a favorite for a lot of us who spend a lot of time in the bush.

Right off the bat, I love the length of this. An extra long handle means a 19-inch long tomahawk. 

CRKT Tomahawk Axe 2730

That extra bit of reach and distance can mean more control, the ability to drive more power into a chop, and it means your legs are a bit further back if something goes wrong for some reason.

The handle is made from top-notch hickory wood while the hatchet head is made from a very high-quality carbon steel. The blade sharpens incredibly well while the back actually features a flattened out design to work as an actual hammer.

My one major complaint: as much as I like the wood handle that protective finish means when the hands get sweaty, the handle gets slick. Not the best situation.

Pros

  • A very long handle allows more force
  • Great control on the swing
  • check
    Hatchet head forged from exceptional carbon steel
  • check
    Durable craftsmanship
  • check
    Can take a very sharp edge

Cons

  • The lacquered handle can cause a slippery insecure grip, especially with moisture or rain
  • Doesn't come with a sheath

This tomahawk is a great choice for individuals into bushcraft or who need a camping ax that will do heavy duty work over a long period of time.

Oak Curve 14" Camp Axe

Simple but effective camp hatchet

There are tactical self-defense tomahawks, long-handled tomahawks, survival hatchets, long and short hatchets, but sometimes all you want is just a simple camping ax.

Whether donating to a Boy Scout troop or having it on hand to split some wood for a fire, the Oak Curve Outfitters hatchet is an unpretentious option that simply focuses on making a good quality hatchet.

Oak 14 inch Splitting Firewood and Hammer

For the most part, they manage to deliver. The blade and handle are forged as one large metal piece for better stability while the rubber handle gives one of the better grips I've seen from a hatchet. That means no slipping when your hands get sweaty or the rain starts drizzling down.

The head of this hatchet is good for splitting and chopping make it a great choice for firewood.

Pros

  • Good relatively light option
  • Made from high-quality steel
  • check
    Sturdy and durable
  • check
    Great for firewood
  • check
    Fairly affordable

Cons

  • The sheath is pretty cheap and unimpressive
  • Adequate blade but not the sharpest option out there

This is a great option for people who need an affordable hatchet for basic firewood duty while camping or prepping a backyard bonfire.

In conclusion

There is no shortage of great options out there when it comes to finding the right survival hatchet. If you take some time to focus on what you need most out of a survival ax, what features are the most important, and focus on the top options like the ones listed here, I'm confident you can find the right match (or two or three) that will keep you happy as you chop away without issue.