Best Backpacking Axe of 2021 (Guide & Reviews)

by Julien Heron
Last Updated: February 5, 2021
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From cutting through thick brush on the trail to chopping up firewood at a campsite, a quality axe is a quintessential gear piece for avid backpackers everywhere. If you’re planning a wilderness backpacking adventure or any other lengthy outdoor trek, you’ll definitely want to consider adding the best backpacking axe to your camping arsenal.

Not sure what to look for when selecting the best backpacking axe? Look no further than this comprehensive guide to choosing the best backpacking axe for your needs, plus the top 5 backpacking axes every outdoor enthusiast should learn about.

The top 5 backpacking axe we recommend for 2021:

What Should You Look for When Selecting the Best Backpacking Axe?

Selecting the best axe for backpacking doesn’t have to be a challenge, but there are some key elements to look for when making your purchase. Here’s what you need to know.

Consider the Axe’s Head Size

The size of the axe head is an important factor to take into account when choosing the right product for you. Specifically, the axe head’s weight is key because it can make all the difference between carrying your axe around without issue or feeling bogged down when you store it in your pack. If the head of the axe is too large, it’s going to be pretty difficult to transport it in your gear with ease.

The best backpacking axes feature heads that are light and easy to maneuver, extending up to approximately 12 inches in length. For expert and novice backpackers alike, camper aficionados and newbies both, a 12-inch axe head is a good dimension to aim for.

Much smaller than that, and the head may not be sufficient to get the job done. Too much larger and you’ll feel a significant difference in the overall weight of your gear or potentially cause strain for your hand.

Consider the Type of Backpacking Axe

There are 3 primary kinds of backpacking axes: the tactical axe, the survival axe, and the camping axe. A tactical axe is perfect for things like chopping logs on the campsite. Tactical axes are very sturdy and chop smoothly. They feature a thinner design than the other two and serve a dual purpose for hammering and chopping because they sport an integrated hammer.

A survival axe is going to be the axe of choice for wilderness backpackers and survival camping. Survival axes will serve you well from everything from chopping hefty branches to demolishing trees, and other heavy-duty chopping activities.

Finally, camping axes are the standard variety that many backpackers bring with them on the road for things like chopping firewood and cutting through bushes. Camping axes feature a moderate weight while still being highly durable and sturdy. If you are new to backpacking and outdoor treks, a traditional camping axe is going to be your best bet.

Consider the Material of the Axe Handle

Another key feature to bear in mind when selecting the best axe for backpacking is the material of the axe handle. Why is this important? Well, the material the handle is manufactured from will ultimately decide how comfortable it is to hold and grip your axe. Many traditional axe types feature wood handles, which are sturdy but could cause plenty of blisters and unpleasant rubbing on your hands.

Other axe handles are manufactured from plastic, but that also is not particularly comfortable for extended treks. Some of the best backpacking axes are designed with leather handles, that are comfortable to hold while offering sufficient grip, so the axe won’t slip out of your hands if they get sweaty.

Ultimately, the decision comes down to a matter of personal preference. If you plan on physically carrying your axe during much of your backpacking excursion, the comfort of the axe handle is going to matter a lot more than if you intend to attach it to your gear and only take it out to chop some wood or brush.

How Should You Use a Backpacking Axe?

If you’re new to backpacking or haven’t used a backpacking axe much on your previous treks, it’s critical to know how to maintain and use one to ensure your safety on the road.

Remember to Use the Sheath

Backpacking axes feature sheathes to secure and shield the blade whenever you’re not using it. A sheath protects you from potential injuries and makes carrying it in your gear or your hand much safer.

So, the first thing you need to remember when using the best backpacking axe is to always put on the sheath when you’re not using it. When you’re ready to use your backpacking axe, just be careful when taking off the sheath so you don’t get any cuts.

Don’t Forget Eye Gear

If you intend to chop wood with your trusty axe on your next backpacking excursion, don’t forget to wear eye gear to protect your eyes from flying wood chips. You should never, ever try to chop wood without the proper eye gear, or you could risk serious injury.

How to Split Logs the Right Way

If you’re going to be using your backpacking axe to split logs, you need to know how to do it the right way to get the job done correctly and ensure you don’t get injured in the process. Start by ensuring you have plenty of room to maneuver and swing your backpacking axe.

Next, look around you to make sure there isn’t anyone else nearby that could get in the line of fire of flying wood.

Once you’ve done those two things, position the log you’re going to chop on the ground and kneel. While still in the kneeling position, direct your axe towards the log’s corner and cut downward. The reason it’s best to chop from the corner is that your axe won’t get lodged in the ground once you’ve split the whole piece of wood.

If you intend to chop an entire tree, you’ll need to approach things a bit differently. For starters, raise your backpacking axe and cut downward from right to left, positioning your slice at a 120-degree angle. By doing so, you should be cutting out a V shape. Eventually, as you repeat the chop, the part of the tree you’re slicing should simply fall out.

The Best Backpacking Axe Reviews

Check out the top 5 best backpacking axes on the market currently!

Estwing Sportsman's Axe - 12" Camping Hatchet

Estwing Sportsman’s Axe 12″ Camping Hatchet on white background
Estwing Sportsman’s Axe 12″ Camping Hatchet
An ax with a nice grip and sharp edge for the outdoorsman
The Estwing Sportsman’s Axe 12″ Camping Hatchet uses American steel for durability, and it has a leather grip that keeps you comfortable while you cut a trail.
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  • High-grade steel blade
  • Quality leather handle that grips well
  • Slanted blade for precise chopping
  • Nylon sheath to protect you from the blade
  • A single piece instead of detachable parts
  • The handle tends to gather marks
  • The blade can wear out quickly with frequent and prolonged use

The first best backpacking axe on our list is the sturdy Estwing Sportsman Axe. We love this backpacking axe for its quality design and fantastic 12-inch head. While many axes feature heads that detach from the handle, we were happy to see that this design is a single piece, which ensures additional durability and longevity of use.

The super lightweight axe sports a slanted blade for precise cutting and comes with a nylon sheath for safety.

The high-grade steel of this blade makes it a fantastic choice to chop wood and brush without struggling and straining your wrist. One of the features that really drew us to the Estwing Sportsman’s Axe was its beautiful and dependable leather handle. The leather handle will give you an amazing grip when chopping.

The handle’s design is comfortable and smooth without being so slick that you have to worry about your hand slipping. Besides these features, this best backpacking axe is definitely one of the most cost-effective picks on our list.
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Fiskars X15 Chopping Axe 23.5 Inch

Fiskars X15 Chopping Axe 23.5 Inch on white background
Fiskars X15 Chopping Axe 23.5 Inch
An axe with an all-purpose design for clearing trees
The Fiskars X15 Chopping Axe has a sharp blade that cuts deeper with every swing, and it has a perfect balance on the power-to-weight ratio.
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  • Impressive 23.5 inches
  • Great for chopping logs and felling trees
  • Shock absorbent handle
  • Insert-molded head so the blade doesn’t come loose
  • Better for lengthy or wilderness backpacking than more basic outdoor excursions
  • Too large to fit into a backpack with ease

The Fiskars Chopping Axe is another best backpacking axe perfect for chopping really big logs and felling trees during extended wilderness adventures. However, if you’re going on a simple backpacking and camping trip, this blade might be a little larger and sharper than what you need.

The head of the backpacking axe is an astounding 23.5 inches. The axe features integrated insert-molded specifications, so you don’t have to worry about the blade coming loose.

If you’re going to be backpacking for a longer period and chopping down trees for firewood, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better option than the heavyweight Fiskars X15 Chopping Axe. We liked the balance it offers the user while being light enough to maneuver with moderate ease.

Another feature we were happy to see was the FiberComp handle that absorbs shock, so you don’t experience massive recoil after each chop.
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Husqvarna 576926501 19" Wooden Carpenter's Axe

Husqvarna 576926501 19″ Wooden Carpenter’s Axe on white background
Husqvarna 576926501 19″ Wooden Carpenter’s Axe
A thin-bladed axe with excellent control and stability
The Husqvarna 576926501 19″ Wooden Carpenter’s Axe has a recess in the head that allows you to get close to your cutting field to fell trees faster with more accurate cuts.
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  • Nice, thin blade
  • Carbon steel design
  • Leather cover to protect your hands from the blade
  • Very cost-effective
  • Steel could break with prolonged, extreme use
  • You have to be careful when using the axe as the head could detach if hit too hard

The Husqvarna Wooden Carpenter’s Axe made it to our list of the best backpacking axes for its high-quality carbon steel design to serve you well for many camping adventures ahead. If you’re trying to find an axe that will enable you to chop plenty of lumber in succession, the Husqvarna Wooden Carpenter’s Axe is a sturdy, dependable option to consider.

We also liked that this best backpacking axe is very cost-effective. You’ll get plenty of use out of your investment without breaking the bank. It may not be quite as durable as the previous two picks we mentioned, but unless you’re going to be felling a forest you should be just fine!

We liked the very thin blade that slices precisely, while the design itself is very light because of the quality of the carbon steel.

The axe comes equipped with a leather cover, so your hands don’t get cut when chopping. We would note that the handle is designed from hickory wood instead of a more comfortable material like leather, but the wood is very durable and will stand the test of time. The axe’s head also sports a steel wedge, so you don’t have to worry about the blade slipping out.
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Gerber Bear Grylls Survival Hatchet

Gerber Bear Grylls Survival Hatchet on white background
Gerber Bear Grylls Survival Hatchet
A small hatchet that cuts firewood or helps build a shelter
The Gerber Bear Grylls Survival Hatchet has a high-carbon steel construction with a full tang for durability, and the non-slip rubber grip is perfect for wet conditions.
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  • Very compact and lightweight
  • 3.5-inch blade with concentrated sharpness
  • Rubber handle
  • Construction grade stainless steel design
  • Highly versatile option
  • Not ideal for slicing through really tough lumber
  • The blade might be too small for some preferences

For wilderness camping excursions and rugged outdoor adventures, it’s hard to beat the Gerber Bear Grylls Survival Hatchet. If you’re going be hiking through deep brush and wooded areas, we’d definitely recommend this best backpacking axe for your consideration.

It weighs a mere 1.4 pounds and is super compact, so you’ll have no problem carrying the axe by hand or storing it in your pack until you need it.

While this best backpacking axe might not be the best choice for felling lumber, it will serve you well for basic backpacking needs such as chopping wood and cooking at the campsite. We loved the trusty 3.5-inch blade that is highly compact but with a sharp, concentrated design for precise slicing. The handle is designed from rubber, with a sufficient grip.

We also liked the fact that the design sports construction grade stainless steel, which is something of an anomaly in the world of backpacking axes. The back of the axe includes a striking head with a crosshatch design for extra smashing capabilities and additional versatility.
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BladeMate Survival Camping Hatchet

BladeMate Survival Camping Hatchet on white background
BladeMate Survival Camping Hatchet
An ax with a 4.5-inch blade and a comfort grip handle
The BladeMate Survival Camping Hatchet has a black stainless steel blade with an ergonomic handle that is perfect for clearing brush or personal protection.
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  • Durable black stainless steel
  • Compact design
  • Super comfortable grip handle
  • Good for chopping firewood and slicing branches
  • Ideal for survival backpacking and camping
  • The design might be too short for some tastes
  • The handle is definitely not as comfortable as some other options

Our final best backpacking axe pick is the BladeMate Survival Camping Hatchet. As its name suggests, this axe is great for survival backpacking and camping. If you need to slice through branches in your path in wooded areas, the black, stainless steel design will serve you very well.

Alternatively, if you want a trusty blade for things like chopping firewood to cook over or build a fire for warmth, the BladeMate Survival Camping Hatchet is also a worthy choice.

The design is very short and compact, so you’ll have no trouble carrying it around in your gear or holding it. The handle sports a comfortable grip design, so your hands won’t slip or hurt after extended use.

The backpacking axe is definitely smaller than some of the other options on our list, but if you are looking for something to slash through branches, chop firewood, and use when cooking, the BladeMate Survival Camping Hatchet is a quality option to consider.
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Final Thoughts

So, who made it to the top of our list? While we liked each of the best backpacking axes on our list for a versatile array of user needs, the final winner for us is the Estwing Sportsman Axe. We loved the quality 12-inch blade design that is just the right size for most backpacker’s trekking and camping needs.

We also liked that the axe comes as a single piece rather than detachable parts, to ensure extra durability.

The design is so lightweight, manufactured from high-grade steel and a smooth leather handle with a strong grip. In addition, the Estwing Sportsman Axe is a very affordable choice which is always a plus. Whether you’re new to backpacking and using an axe in general or a seasoned pro, this selection is the best backpacking axe in terms of quality, efficiency, durability, and an unbeatable price.

Julien Heron
I’m passionate about all things outdoors, bridging the gap between generations and sharing my passion for hiking and camping. My goal is to spread the endless benefits of being outside, always striving for better performance, new challenges, and ways to explore responsibly.
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