Any bladed tool can be the difference between surviving an emergency or not. Because it is more powerful than a knife, an axe can help conserve precious energy. Survival axes have dozens of uses, and we’ve reviewed the top survival axe for 2021.
I’ve been a survival story junkie ever since I first read Hatchet as a child. It is the hatchet that saves Brian’s life. He uses it to make fire and to craft arrows and spears to hunt.
In the last survival book I read, Raft of Stars, two boys try cutting cedar trees with their Barlow knife for a raft. They don’t get very far after hours with just a knife.
Survival Axe – Top Five
Many manufacturers use the terms “axe” and “hatchet” interchangeably when talking about survival axes. However, hatchets are one-handed axes that are smaller and more easily transportable than axes. Hatchets are merely lightweight axes. Since hatchets are a type of axe and manufacturers don’t differentiate, we’ve included both types on our list.
1. Estwing Special Edition Camper’s Axe, 26”
The Estwing is a heavyweight camping axe. While it’s too heavy for backpacking, it’s perfect for drive-in campsites, kayaking, and keeping in your vehicle. The 26” handle with shock-reducing leather grip enables a powerful two-handed swing. Estwing makes its axes in the USA from American tool-grade steel and hand-sharpens its blades. Estwing blades are durable enough to pass from generation to generation.
- Includes a snap-on nylon cover
- Durable for generations
- 26” handle with comfort leather grip
- Weighs 3.4 pounds
- Includes no other survival components
2. Off Grid Tools Survival Axe Elite Multitool
The Off Grid Tools Survival Axe has more than just the camper in mind. You can keep it in your vehicle’s glove box when you’re not outdoors just in case. It comes with a wide range of extra survival tools. The blade is heat-treated and includes a sharpener. If the 6” saw blade wears out, it’s replaceable. The nylon handle is rubberized, coated, and glass-filled. Off Grid Tools makes the Elite version in the USA with 1055 carbon steel.
- Includes a sharpener, hammer, nail claw, pry bar, 6” saw blade, fire starter, safety whistle, compass, thermometer, can and bottle opener, safety hammer, seat-belt cutter, flathead screwdriver, wrench, and hex sockets.
- Lightweight, 1.6 pounds
- High-carbon steel
- The blade arrives dull and will need sharpening
- You have to buy a sheath separately
3. Liantral Survival Camping Axe
The Liantral survival camping axe is a high-quality multi-tool. It is on the heavier side of survival axes on our list. Liantral makes its blades from steel and includes six survival components that screw into the 18” aluminum alloy handle. The handle is long and sturdy enough to be a powerful 2-handed tool. It also has a long and short extension bar to assist with whatever job you have. However, you’ll want to use gloves for an extensive chopping job.
- Includes a safety hammer, fish knife, flint/magnesium rod, emergency whistle, bottle opener, and compass in the handle
- Can lengthen and shorten the handle
- Includes a snap-on sheath
- 2.3 pounds
- The knife blade is weak
4. Lexivon V18 Splitting Axe, 18-Inch
The Lexivon splitting axe is a popular choice. It’s easy to attach to a backpack for hike-in camping. Lexicon makes its blades from meticulously hardened high-carbon steel. With a balance point close to the head, you can swing the axe faster to multiply your cutting power. The Lexivon’s fiberglass composite shaft should be more robust than a wooden handle and not bend like a steel one.
- Includes a protective carrying case and sheath
- High-carbon steel blade
- Balance point close to the head
- Lifetime warranty
- Handle is hollow
- No other survival tools included
5. RoverTac 14-in-1 Multitool Camping Accessory Hatchet
The RoverTac Multitool includes 14 different tools, folds down for safety, and is exceptionally lightweight. It’s like the Swiss Army knife of survival axes. All 14 multi-tools, including the hatchet, fold into the handle. Because it is lightweight and on the small size of survival axes, it’s easy to pack even in a daypack. It also performs a variety of survival tasks in emergencies.
- Includes a file, saw, hammer, knife, wire cutter, two types of pliers, fish descaler, bottle opener, various wrenches, and three types of screwdrivers
- Weighs only about 1 pound
- Includes a nylon sheath you can clip to your belt
- Small size doesn’t give it a lot of momentum for cutting large pieces of wood
- No fire starter among the tools
Survival Axe – A Buyer’s Guide
Read on to learn more about the most important tips and features to consider before buying a survival axe.
What Survival Axes Can Do
A survival axe has various functions in a camping or survival scenario, including:
- Chopping wood for a fire, shelter, or raft
- Creating tools and weapons, such as bows, arrows, and spears
- Becoming a weapon for self-defense
- Processing fish and game
Some survival axes also include other multi-tool components to aid in outdoor survival, such as:
- Fire flint
- Saw blade
- Blade sharpener
What to Look for When Buying a Survival Axe
- Blade: High carbon steel keeps a sharp edge longer than other blade materials.
- Handle: Traditional axes have wooden handles. However, more lightweight materials like fiberglass, plastic, and metal cut down on weight and increase durability.
- Head: A low-carbon head has more flex and is more durable.
- Balance: An axe with poor balance doesn’t swing properly and breaks more easily.
- Weight: You need an axe lightweight enough to carry in your pack but heavy enough to generate momentum when you wield it.
- Durability: Axe durability is dependent on the blade, handle, head material, and how well you take care of it.
How to Care for Your Survival Axe
- Keep it sharpened. A dull blade isn’t very effective. Invest in a good whetstone to keep it sharp.
- Replace the handle. If you use your survival axe often, the handle will wear out. First, check to see if your axe is still under warranty. If not, you can find new axe handles at a hardware store or online.
- Avoid rust. Always put your axe away out of the elements and away from moisture. If it rusts anyway, you can use a rust remover.
Top Survival Axe – Final Thoughts
Whether you’re camping, hunting, or well and truly lost, a survival axe can be an indispensable part of your pack, campsite, or to keep in your vehicle or boat for emergencies.
The Estwing and Lexivon are traditional, long-handled axes without any frills, while the Liantral adds in multi-tool survival components. The Off Grid Tools and RoverTac are easier-to transport, shorter axes that include multi-tool survival components.
The Estwing is the top survival axe on our list. Estwing has been around since the 1940s, with grandpa handing down his axe to his son or grandson. The Estwing’s high-quality, made-in-the USA steel and leather components make it a trustworthy axe for diverse needs. It has a long handle and provides a powerful two-handed swing.
Choosing the best survival axe for your needs will depend on how much weight you can carry, whether you want a multi-tool survival axe, and how much space you have for an axe.
You can always choose more than one for different purposes. Keep an Estwing in your vehicle, attach a Liantral to your camping backpack, and put a RoverTac in your daypack. The most important thing is to have the tool you need in an emergency.