There is a fierce battle online amongst survivalists and preppers as to which is the better EDC tool, the survival axe or the survival knife. We’re going to make the case today as to why we think it’s the survival axe.
Given you have a good quality axe and the proper knowledge of how to effectively use it, you would never need a knife.
Given the low likelihood that you’re going to be in a survival or self defense situation anytime soon, we also want to make sure you get the tool that is also useful outside of these situations.
A good survival axe can be used in the garden, on camping trips and for general DIY.
A good survival axe can be used to chop down relatively large trees and process them down into manageable pieces for firewood or shelter. A knife would struggle to get through a substantial piece of wood.
An axe has a larger surface area than a knife and so if you needed to you could use an axe and its handle as the condensers in a water purification rig.
For processing food and possibly even acquiring food an axe will almost always be the better tool.
For these reasons, we recommend carrying a survival axe into the wilderness instead of a knife.
We’ve also put together a list of the best survival axes you can currently get and exactly why we think they’re so useful.
In a Rush? Here Is The Best Axe For Survival...
OUR TOP PICK
This high quality utility axe is great for all situations. It is made to not only function primarily as a survival axe but also as a utilitarian tool.
The possibilities are endless with this versatile and unique take on a core piece of gear.
The head of the axe is uniquely shaped in order to integrate the other tools it comes equipped with.
The C-shaped axe head is great for chopping and slicing and is very forgiving of misplaced strikes.
You’ll easily be able to get through some tougher logs and easily through twigs and branches.
The 4.9” head is constructed from a east-to-sharpen 420 stainless steel that has relatively good edge retention.
The head is fixed to the handle through a full tang and the handle simply acts as a grip and handguard.
The glass reinforced nylon handle is shaped to keep your hand in place without too much strain and has some bumps and grooves that increase grip exponentially.
The nylon itself is very shock resistant and lightweight so doesn’t add a large amount of weight to the unit.
The handle also hides one of the unique features of this axe that we’ll cover later on.
The axe is balanced extremely well and the center of mass sits just below the bottom tip of the blade making it feel weightless and easy to control when you’re using a shorter grip.
The extra saw blade and additional tools on the bottom of the handle are accounted for in the balance to ensure you get the most controlled yet powerful swing.
A huge plus side to this axe is all of the extra tools and uses it comes with.
This is an extremely functional axe but it also operates as a hammer with a nail claw and pry bar, a saw, a set of hex wrenches, a bottle opener, a car escape tool (hardened window breaker and seatbelt cutter) and many other things.
These tools are all integrated into the compact 11.5” axe and make it invaluable for camping, DIY, hiking, road trips and most importantly survival.
- Durable and resistant 420 stainless steel construction.
- Full tang handle.
- Glass reinforced Nylon grip.
- Well balanced tool.
- 10+ extra tools and functions.
- At only 1.6lbs it might feel too light.
This forged axe is made with a purpose and works supremely hard to fulfill this purpose.
The camper’s axe is predominantly a firewood axe that has some extra features that make it ideal as a survival axe.
The solid American steel axe is forged from a single piece of steel massively increasing its overall durability and structural strength.
The carbon steel used for this axe head is extremely durable to strikes and keeps an edge extremely well.
As it isn’t constructed from a stainless steel you will need to make sure to maintain and clean the blade when possible to reduce the chances of surface corrosion/rust.
The axe head is shaped perfectly to split wood and has had a triangular shape forged out above the handle for other purposes.
It’ll easily get through wood without issue and if you choke up on the head you can easily add a level of precision that is normally achievable with axes.
The handle is forged from the same piece of steel as the axe head and you will therefore not be able to even find a seam line.
This type of construction is more durable and functional than traditional full tang designs.
The axe is covered in a patented shock proof material that Estwing claims reduces impact vibrations by 70%.
With its patented design and rubberized coating you will never lose grip of this axe even in wetter conditions.
The blade is balanced to add emphasis to every stroke, you will be effortlessly felling small trees and chopping firewood with the weighted design.
At 14” you get more than enough leverage for high powered swings without it being too bulky to perform intricate cuts.
The axe is designed with one function in mind but the design is very useful in a survival situation.
Given you had a striking rod, you could easily start a fire with this axe and the triangular divot makes it easier to aim your sparks.
Speaking of the divot, this has been added to add a pulling function to the axe, whether it’s tent pegs or you over a cliff edge the extra grip will definitely be welcome.
- High Carbon American Steel.
- Single piece forged construction.
- Full tang handle.
- Patented hock resistant vibration proof grip.
- Triangular divot adds functionality.
- 14” length can be too long.
This tactical Survival hatchet and tomahawk from SOG is a great tool for camping and surviving and adds a feature we haven’t covered yet.
The axe head has extremely sharp angles and a flat cutting edge making it perfect for cutting and chopping.
The 3” axe head is made from 2Cr hardened black stainless steel which makes it durable and corrosion resistant.
The side of the axe head above the handle is also flattened and texture for other uses.
The axe is again a full tang design encased in a glass reinforced nylon and wrapped in a decent length of paracord.
This material as we know is fairly shock resistant and the paracord wrap increases grip massively.
The axe is balanced slightly differently to most axes at a little low down the handle, it is still top heavy and will easily add power to your strikes.
The added feature we mentioned before is that this axe is capable of being thrown, which given enough practice could net you a necessary meal.
The balance aids in the spinning of the axe to ensure it sticks blade or spike first.
The spike can be used as a nail pry but also as a guide for the included ferrocerium firestarter that can be stored in the base of the handle.
The side of the axe head is flattened and textured to allow you to use this tool as a hammer also.
The paracord can be loosened to use as a length of cord for any usage.
- High quality American 2Cr stainless steel.
- Flat blade and spike.
- Full tang wrapped handle.
- Included firesteel.
- Designed to be thrown as a tomahawk.
- 1.2lbs can feel too lightweight.
The next axe on our list is the camping axe from iunio, there are a number of cheaper and lower quality alternatives to this axe but this one stands out in a saturated field.
The interchangeable axe head is made from high carbon coated steel and has a blade that measures 3.3”.
The high carbon steel is great for strikes similar to the first axe on our list.
It has a hammer surface on the back of the axe head.
It also has a curved blade edge to reduce the amount of axe jamming you would experience.
The handle system is where this axe really shines.
The modular handle integrates a huge number of other tools and can be lengthened and shortened as you need.
This collapsible handle is made from a high quality, lightweight aluminum that is textured to increase grip.
The threading is bulky and is made to withstand heavy blows.
As you can add and remove components from the handle, its balance can suffer; you'll have to put some extra effort into balancing it yourself.
As we stated above the handle houses a huge number of extra tools that exponentially increase the functionality and versatility of this axe.
The axe includes (alongside its axe and hammer) a bottle opener, a descaler, a compass, an emergency whistle and fire steel, a safety hammer/window breaker, a handrope a saw and others.
This makes it a one stop shop for any and all of your survival needs. You also get a roll of camo grip tape to cover the handle of your axe.
- High carbon steel axe head and hammer.
- Interchangeable handle.
- 10+ tools in one.
- Adjustable grip length.
- Balance changes.
This hand axe is made from stainless steel and composite nylon to make it a durable and comfortable product.
The 3” axe blade is curved to increase its chopping surface. The rear of the axe head is also a hammer surface.
The axe head attaches to the nylon composite handle through a modernized wedge fit system that binds the handle around the axe head.
This makes the joint as strong as the material the handle is constructed from.
The main portion of the handle is also hollowed to allow for the included saw blade to be stored.
This extra tool increases your wood processing abilities exponentially. This extra integrated tool makes this axe perfectly suited for camping, at home wood chopping and survival.
The balance of the axe is definitely thrown off when the knife saw is removed.
The included nylon sheath has an easy to carry handle, an inbuilt belt loop and a magnesium fire starter that makes it the ideal survival axe.
- Stainless steel.
- Wedge fit axe head.
- Hollowed handle with knife saw.
- Included high density nylon shield with magnesium fire starter.
- The handle feels too lightweight when the knife is removed.
Best Survival Axe Buying Guide
As we’ve already stated, a survival axe will almost always be the better option for you in not only a survival situation but also as a general utility tool, unlike a hatchet for example which is a more specific tool.
This doesn’t mean that all axes are created equal and it’s very important that you know what you’re getting yourself into.
There is no other nightmare situation than being prepared for a survival type situation and having a low quality dollar store axe that comes apart after the first couple of swings.
There are a few things you’ll need to make sure your axe checks off before you put it to the test.
The components and parts that you need to ensure are of high quality are the axe head itself, the handle, the balance, and its versatility.
The axe head itself is the most vital part of your axe, not just the size of it but also its shape and material.
The size and weight of your axe head are important because they basically determine what you’re going to be able to cut and chop.
You don’t want to be lugging around a fire axe with you through the woods because although it might be able to fell trees easily you’re going to have a tough time cutting tinder and performing actions like gutting fish.
A tiny axe can be impossible to use effectively and you’d be better off with a knife.
The shape of the axe head can vary from a double sided battle axe shaped larping tool to a tiny pocket axe that is close to useless.
Making sure that your axe is actually a usable shape is very important.
It's not just the extremes, choosing between a flat and a rounded head can be the difference between chopping wood and spending half an hour unjamming your axe from the log.
You may think that an axe is made from steel and that’s the only thing to consider, you would however be wrong. The type of steel that an axe is made from is also of utmost importance.
Axes are made to withstand heavy blows and slams whilst keeping enough of an edge for intricate cuts.
For this reason, steel that is usually used for knife making would be too brittle, we recommend a durable steel with good edge retention and high carbon content.
If it is also a stainless steel then this increases the overall durability of the axe to general wear and rust.
The handle of the axe is almost just as important as the axe head, this is because of how an axe works.
The axe works on a pivot point and without a proper method of delivering that angular force an axe head is just a large metal puck.
The joining mechanism, the length and the material of the handle all impact the performance and durability of your axe.
The joining mechanism overall is in charge of making sure your axe stays in one piece, if you have a full-tang axe this means that the material used for the axe head runs through the handle and creates the most solid and reliable joint possible.
You can get high quality axes with bolted joints but a full-tang or wedge fit axe will almost always work better.
The length is vital in determining the amount of force and speed you can put behind each axe chop.
This is the deciding factor on what you’ll be able to cut, having a 5lb razor sharp axe head is useless if you only have a 5” handle that can’t generate enough power to utilize it.
The material of your axe handle is mostly important for maintaining your grip and comfort whilst you are using the axe.
Obviously a high quality grip will increase the usability of your axe by ensuring you have a secure hold on it but it really is about what suits you best.
You can get military grade handles that absolutely suck at being comfortable and make you put the axe down after a couple of swings.
Equally important is the material’s shock absorbing qualities, if you’ve ever had the shock of a big swing reverberate up your arm you’ll know why.
A sturdy material like G10 or a traditional material like wood will be good for most purposes.
An axe is unlike most cutting implements in a lot of ways but another one is in its balance.
A knife needs to have its weight evenly distributed along its entire length with its center of mass being just in front of the handle.
An axe on the other hand works best when its center of mass sits just underneath the head. When your axe is balanced properly, holding it from the bottom of the handle will feel weird and wrong which is correct.
Depending on which part of the handle you grip the axe at, its functionality changes.
With a correctly balanced axe gripping just under its head will give you more precision and maneuverability allowing you to perform intricate tasks like skinning or cutting cord. Holding it from the center of the handle will give you a good balance between control and power.
Finally, gripping the axe at the base of the handle is best for high power and speed.
The feeling of an axe in your hand can be quite personal and subjective.
Every axe will feel different to you, so if possible we would recommend testing your axe before committing to it or just ensure that your vendor has a decent returns policy.
Most people will believe that an axe is only good for one thing and that’s chopping. We however disagree, a good survival axe will be able to do a lot more than just chop stuff.
If your axe can help you get a fire started, break out of a car or even rope up a quick shelter then it's doing its job as a ‘survival axe’.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with a traditional camping axe but if you’re looking for the best survival axe available then any extra functionality or tool that comes with the axe saves you from having to get one separately.
Any extra space in your survival or bug out bag is space for more vital supplies like water purifying tablets or paracord.
You can however go over the top and lose functionality as an axe. All the axes we’ve put in this list either walk that line or are very minimalistic and just work very well as an axe by itself.
As long as the axe that you choose to go for meets all of these requirements to some degree, it’ll be a very high quality and effective axe.
I am an independent safety and survival expert and consultant. I have over 15+ years of experience working with corporations and individuals to help identify, remediate and prepare for threats and and disasters. I help clients understand risks and blog about my thoughts and techniques at DisasterShelters.net
Last update on 2023-09-14 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API