12 Best Bushcraft Axes and Hatchets – 2024 Review and Guide

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I tried over 30 bushcraft axes and hatchets and found that the Warwood Tool Perfect Axe is the best choice for bushcraft and wilderness survival.

An axe seems like a simple tool. However, to select the best bushcraft axe, there are many things to consider. We cover all of these in our extensive camp axe and hatchet guide below.

Best Bushcraft Axes and Hatchets
Jason showing his Warwood Tool Perfect Axe Pack Axe with head in stump outdoors
My Warwood Tool Perfect Axe

When I was a child, we used firewood for heat and cut it from our own property. I learned how to use an axe at a young age and have nearly 40 years of experience using them. During bushcraft trips and even just quick camping trips, a good bushcraft axe is essential. Around my property, I also use my bushcraft axe quite often.

I took my experience along with my team and others in the bushcraft community to put together this review. We looked at over 30 axes that met our criteria and narrowed them down to this list. I own a few of these axes for my personal use and only recommend the ones I think have good value.

Keep reading to find my tips on picking the best bushcraft axe!


Quick Comparison of Our Favorite Bushcraft Axes and Hatchets

BEST OVERALL AXE
Warwood Tool Perfect Axe

Warwood Tool Perfect Axe

5160 Steel Head

Unique Head Design

Finished Handle

Price: $$

BEST CAMP AXE
Council Tool Woodcraft Pack Axe

Council Tool Woodcraft Pack Axe

5160 Steel Head

Durable

Metal Handle Wedge

Price: $$

BEST SWEDISH MADE
Granfors Bruks Small Forest Axe

Granfors Bruks Small Forest Axe

Hand Forged

Sharp

Well Balanced

Price: $$$

BEST BUDGET AXE
Snow & Nealley Hudson Bay Axe

Snow & Nealley Hudson Bay Axe

Hudson Bay Head

Nice Handle

Low Price

Price: $

BEST OVERALL HATCHET
Council Tool Hudson Bay Belt Hatchet

Council Tool Hudson Bay Belt Hatchet

5160 Steel Head

Head Design

Metal Handle Wedge

Price: $$

BEST BUDGET HATCHET
Prandi German Style Hatchet

Prandi German Style Hatchet

Hickory Handle

Hand Made

Great Price

Price: $


The Best Bushcraft Axe

Warwood Tool Perfect Axe – Best Overall

Warwood Tool Perfect Axe
  • Type: Pack/Camp Axe
  • Head Weight: 2.25 lbs
  • Handle Length: 19” or 28”

The Warwood Tool Perfect Axe is one of the best bushcraft axes and really the best multipurpose camp axe we have found.

Warwood Tool is a family-owned company in West Virginia that has been in business since 1854. They are forging experts and have been making tools for the railroad and construction industry for decades.

Jason showing the Warwood Tool Perfect Axe
My Warwood Tool Perfect Axe

Since they have so much forging experience, it was only natural for them to make an axe.

The Perfect Axe is new, but the design has been around since 1885. The original perfect axe was designed by William Kelly, and Warwood Tool has made some nice improvements.

This axe is 100% made in the USA. The head is made from 5160 high-carbon US steel and hardened to 50-55 Rockwell. The bit has a flat Scandi grind, which is very simple to sharpen. The poll of the axe is also hardened which allows me to use it to drive tent stakes or spikes.

What really sets the perfect axe apart from others is the bevels on the head. The thinner bit cuts well and the bevels help to keep it from getting stuck when splitting. It is the best splitting axe I have used of this size.

The bevels also keep the weight of the head down to a reasonable 2 ¼ pounds.

Jason Showing the Bit of the Warwood Tool Perfect Axe
Notice the unique head design

The handle is made from Tennessee Hickory and is fully finished with a clear lacquer. The lacquer protects the handle and creates a durable finish. This is important especially when I am going to be using it in wet weather.

Chris at Warwood Tool let me know that if I preferred, I could simply sand off the lacquer and treat the handle however I wanted. This is an option if you prefer a natural handle.

The custom leather sheath is one of the best I have seen. It is made from thick American steer hide and has a beefy snap to keep it in place. It smells just like leather should.

When I received my axe the bit edge had a small bur on it. I touched it up with a file and polished it with my axe stone. In 5 minutes, I had it very sharp. This is really the only negative I could find.

Overall, this axe feels great. I use it to both cut and split, and it is my favorite of all the axes I have tried so far. It is made in the USA and is everything I look for when I head out into the woods.

Jason using the Warwood Tool Perfect Axe
This axe cuts quickly and splits great too

Recommended for:

The Warwood Tool Perfect Axe is for someone looking for the best bushcraft axe. The 19” handle option is great for my pack, while the 28” option is best when I have a lot of wood to process.

PROS

5160 Steel Head

Bevel Head Design

Metal Handle Wedge

Made in the USA

CONS

Bit May Need Initial Touchup


Council Tool Woodcraft Pack Axe – Best Camp Axe

Council Tool Woodcraft Pack Axe
  • Type: Pack/Camp Axe
  • Head Weight: 2 lb
  • Handle Length: 19”

The Council Tool Woodcraft Pack Axe is our choice for the best camp axe. It is part of Council Tool’s Woodcraft line of axes designed specifically for Bushcraft. This is a true multipurpose axe that is made in the USA.

Council Tool has made axes and other similar tools in southeast North Carolina since 1886. All of their axes are drop forged by hand, using similar methods that are used by the European manufacturers.

The head is made from 5160 high carbon steel and is guaranteed for life. This steel is perfect for a bushcraft axe due to its toughness. While it will dull quicker than other steels, it is easy to sharpen and can handle tough hardwoods and cold conditions without chipping. 

Jason splitting wood with the Council Tool Pack Axe
This axe is the perfect size to split wood

Both the bit and the poll of the head are heat treated, allowing me to use the poll as a hammer for driving other metal objects like tent stakes. The bit comes extremely sharp right out of the box, and the flat 25-degree Scandi grind makes it easy for me to sharpen.

The handle is made from Appalachian Hickory, and the grain is aligned with the head as it should be. The handle comes lightly treated with linseed oil. This can be good or bad, depending on your personal preference. Some people like to finish and treat their own handle, while others do not.

I like that the Handle is secured to the head with a metal wedge. The handle and wedge are cut off smooth above the head, a surprising attention to detail.

My axe came with a few rough spots on the handle that I took care of with some fine grit sandpaper. I then treated it with linseed oil to keep it from drying out too much. See our guide below for how often you should treat your axe handle.

I like the custom leather sheath that comes with the axe, it fits very well. It is a must-have since the edge is so sharp. The book that comes with the axe is also a nice touch. The history of the company and the old photos are interesting.

This axe feels great and swings nicely with one or two hands. The weight and balance are perfect. The affordable price along with being made in the USA, makes it one of my favorites.

Recommended for:

The Council Tool Woodcraft Pack Axe is for someone wanting a high-quality bushcraft axe that is made in the USA. It is a little smaller than our top pick, so it feels more like a hatchet than an axe.

PROS

5160 Steel Head

Sharp

Metal Handle Wedge

Made in the USA

CONS

Handle Needs Finishing


Granfors Bruks Small Forest Axe – Best Swedish Made Bushcraft Axe

Granfors Bruks Small Forest Axe
  • Type: Pack/Camp Axe
  • Head Weight: 1.5 lb
  • Handle Length: 19”

The Gransfors Bruks Small Forest Axe is thought by many to be one of the best. Gransfors Bruks makes some of the finest axes in the world and have been since at least 1902. They are handmade in Sweden by skilled craftsman. This allows them to monitor the full production process to ensure every axe has no defects. The axe head has a 20-year guarantee, so they stand behind their work.

The axe head is forged from high-carbon steel. It is then ground, hardened, and tempered by hand through the same process the company perfected years ago. It comes very sharp, much sharper than any axe I have found in a hardware store. The steel used is recycled steel, but quality control measures have been established to ensure high quality.

The handle is made from Hickory and is shaped so the grains are aligned with the head. It is attached to the head with a traditional wooden wedge. The handle is soaked with linseed oil and then treated with beeswax to protect it from dirt and water.

Grunsfors Bruks only uses steel wedges for their splitting axe handles. Steel wedges offer extra head security for axes that experience higher forces. Keep in mind that this axe is not meant for heavy duty splitting since it has a wood wedge.

This axe comes with a custom leather sheath that is vegetable tanned, a process that dates back thousands of years. 

I like how the axe feels. The head weight and handle length are perfectly balanced. I also like the axe book that comes with the axe that details how to properly maintain it. Be sure to study it!

I would personally prefer that the head weighed closer to 2 lb and had a steel wedge to secure it. Also recycled steel is not the best choice in my mind. However, this axe is made for light-duty work around the campsite. 

Recommended for:

The Grunsfors Bruks Small Forest Axe is for someone looking for a high-quality, ready-to-go bushcraft axe. If you need something for heavy work, this axe may not be the best for you.

PROS

Quality – Hand Forged

Sharpness

Balance

CONS

Price

Steel is Recycled

No Metal Handle Wedge


Hults Bruk Aneby Axe

Hults Bruk Aneby Axe
  • Type: Pack/Camp Axe
  • Head Weight: 2 lb
  • Handle Length: 20”

The Hults Bruk Aneby Axe is the perfect sized bushcraft axe. Hults Bruk has been making axes in Sweden since 1697, over 300 years. They even say there are artifacts on their manufacturing site of stone axes. Let’s just say they have some experience with axes.

The head is a Scandinavian design using Swedish steel. The steel and hardness level is balanced to result in a tough yet sharp axe. The head is a little thicker with a convex grind, so it lends itself to splitting more than cutting. The head has a finger notch for one-handed carving and a rounded poll for skinning.

The axe comes fairly sharp, but I found it really needs to be touched up with a stone to get it to the level of the other axes. The center of the bit tends to be duller than the edges.

The handle is American Hickory and is treated with linseed oil at the factory. A steel ring wedge is used to attach the handle to the head, ensuring a secure fit.

I like the leather sheath that comes with the axe and the book that details how to care for it as well.

The weight of this axe feels just right for bushcraft. The upper part of the handle is a little thicker, which makes it feel more precise for detail work.

Recommended for:

The Hults Bruk Aneby Axe is for anyone looking for the perfect sized Swedish made bushcraft axe. This axe is a handcrafted piece of art, and it is something you can hand down to younger generations.

PROS

Quality – Hand Crafted

Steel Handle Wedge

Head Design

CONS

Bit Needs Sharpened

Price


Helko Werk Rheinland Pack Axe

Helko Werk Rheinland Pack Axe
  • Type: Pack/Camp Axe
  • Head Weight: 1.5 lb
  • Handle Length: 20”

The Helko Werk Rheinland Pack Axe is made in Germany by Helko Werk. They have been making axes since 1844, so they certainly have experience.

The axe heads are hand-made through a drop forge process. The craftsman works the hot C50 steel through the forming process, controlling the temperature and time to ensure a tough axe head. The head is then tempered based on their many years of experience to achieve a perfect level of hardness.

The head is a German-wide bit, which is similar to a Scandinavian head and a Hudson Bay head, but a little bigger. 

I feel that, on one hand, it makes it a good bushcraft axe since it will handle a variety of tasks, from cutting and splitting to fine carving as well. On the other hand, it does add some weight to the front of the head, so it throws the balance off some. At just 1.5 pounds, it is a little on the light side.

The handle is made from American Hickory and coated in linseed oil. It is secured with a metal wedge, so the head coming loose is not an issue. The handle does feel a little bit bigger to me than the other axes. It may be OK for someone with bigger hands but seemed a little off to me.

I like the vegetable tanned leather sheath that comes with the axe. It has an adjustable buckle strap that holds it in place well. Even if it loosens over time, I can use the next hole in the strap. I also like the fact that it comes with a bottle of protective oil for the head, something that the other axes do not come with.

Recommended for:

The Helko Werk Rheinland Pack Axe is a great-looking axe for someone looking for a high-quality axe that is right up there with Swedish manufacturers. The handle is a little on the big-side, and the overall balance is not as good as some of the others. The larger head is nice though for a variety of tasks.

PROS

Quality – Hand Forged

Head Material

Nice Finish

CONS

Bigger Handle

Light Head


Snow & Nealley Hudson Bay Axe – Best Budget Bushcraft Axe

Snow & Nealley Hudson Bay Axe
  • Type: Pack/Camp Axe
  • Head Weight: 1.75 lb
  • Handle Length: 24”

The Snow & Nealley Hudson Bay axe is made by the Amish in Maine. The Amish are known for their quality craftmanship, and they have been making axes since 1864.

The head is a traditional Hudson Bay style head made from 1080 steel, which I like for cold weather Bushcraft work. At a little less than 2 pounds, it is still heavy enough to do some light splitting without weighing my pack down.

The head is hand-tempered and ground, but it does not come with a final edge on it. I found that it took quite a bit of hand work to get a good edge on it. The Hardness is on the lower end of most axes, so it is durable yet easy to sharpen.

Since this is a traditional Hudson Bay head, it could loosen over time since the length of the eye is short. This is not a defect in manufacturing but rather just a result of the design.

I like to soak the head in linseed oil when I feel it getting loose. This helps to keep the handle from shrinking in the head. In an emergency in the woods, I have also soaked it in water, but only as a last resort. This makes it loosen even more when it dries.

The handle is American Hickory and is 24” long. This is a little longer than a typical camp axe, and it allows me to get a little more power into cutting wood. The balance is a little farther down the handle, which also lends itself to cutting.

I did not like that the head and handle were coating a lacquer/clear coat finish. I found that it did come off during use, so eventually, I have to either treat the areas where it came off or remove it from the entire axe.

The clear coat is good for someone that wants a low-maintenance axe, just throw it in your truck and don’t worry about it.

This axe is the most affordable on our list, so it is a big plus. It is half the cost of some others, so it is significant. It also comes with a leather sheath, so there are no worries about them leaving this key item out to get the price down.

Recommended for:

The Snow & Nealley Hudson Bay axe is for someone looking for a low-cost bushcraft axe. The longer handle makes it feel more like a felling axe without the heavy weight. The lacquer finish is a personal preference. Just keep in mind that you will need to put the final edge on this axe.

PROS

Low Price

Nice Handle

Hudson Bay Head

CONS

Lacquer Finish

Needs Final Edge

Head Can Loosen


The Best Bushcraft Hatchet

Council Tool Hudson Bay Belt Hatchet – Best Overall Bushcraft Hatchet

Council Tool Hudson Bay Belt Hatchet
  • Type: Belt Hatchet
  • Head Weight: 1.25 lb
  • Handle Length: 14”

The Council Tool Hudson Bay Belt Hatchet is a great choice for light bushcraft work.

The head is made from 5160 steel, the best choice for a bushcraft axe. It is a Hudson Bay style head, which is great for not only processing wood but also for carving and skinning. The larger curved toe of the head lends itself to more detail work.

Both the bit and poll are hardened, so I can use the poll to hammer tent stakes. The head is guaranteed for life.

The handle is made from Grade A Appalachian Hickory. It has been lightly treated with linseed oil but still should be treated regularly to maintain it. The length is perfect for a hatchet and is balanced with the head.

Hudson Bay axes are known for the head to loosen from the handle over time since the eye length is short. Council Tool has solved this issue by redesigning the eye with ribs to create more contact area with the handle. This makes the head more secure on the handle a solves the loosening condition that used to be common. A metal wedge is also used to secure it.

A very nice leather sheath is included with this hatchet, which makes it easy to carry on my belt or pack.

Recommended for:

The Council Tool Hudson Bay Belt Hatchet is our top pick for the best bushcraft hatchet. It is for anyone looking for a smaller hatchet with all of the qualities of a camp axe. It is also more affordable than its European counterparts.

PROS

5160 Steel Head

Head Design

Metal Handle Wedge

CONS

Handle Needs Finishing


Gransfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet

Gransfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet
  • Type: Belt Hatchet
  • Head Weight: 1 lb
  • Handle Length: 13.5”

The Gransfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet is a smaller version of its big brother, the small forest axe.

This hatchet is made of the same materials and craftsmanship as the small forest axe but is a hatchet length and weight for use with one hand.

It comes with a vegetable-tanned leather sheath custom-made for the hatchet.

The steel on this hatchet can be a little on the hard side, so it may not be the best for hardwood in the wintertime. Hard blows can cause the edge to chip, and the harder steel makes it harder to sharpen.

Since this is a lighter hatchet, it should only be used for light-duty work around the campsite. It is not the best for splitting large pieces of firewood.

This hatchet felt a little small to me. But if you are looking for a lightweight hatchet to keep on your belt, this is a good choice.

Recommended for:

The Gransfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet is for someone that wants a premium handmade hatchet from a company with a great reputation. It is small and lightweight, perfect for hanging on my belt.

PROS

Lightweight

Very Sharp

Nice Sheath

CONS

Small

Price


Hults Bruk Almike Hatchet

Hults Bruk Almike Hatchet
  • Type: Hatchet
  • Head Weight: 1 lb
  • Handle Length: 16”

The Hults Bruk Almike hatchet is hand forged in Sweden, so the quality is top-notch.

The head on this hatchet is a little lighter than most, so I found it is perfect when I need to save save weight in my pack. It is made from Swedish steel and holds an edge well. I like my bits super sharp (a sharp axe is a safe axe), so I had to put in a little stonework after I received it.

The handle is made from American Hickory and is treated in linseed oil. I treated mine when I received it and then I reapply regularly (see our guide below). The handle is secured by a metal wedge, which I like.

This axe feels great, and the lighter head with a longer handle allows me to swing it with less effort than the other hatchets. The undercut near the head makes it easy to control for detail work.

The leather sheath is custom-made and covers the entire head. I like the leather pull cord that holds the sheath in place, but over time it can tend to get loose. When I hang it on my belt, I am sure that the sheath is snug.

Recommended for:

The Hults Bruk Almike hatchet is great for anyone looking for a high-quality, Swedish-made hatchet that is lightweight for their belt or packs. This one is less than 2 pounds overall, so great for anyone looking to save weight where they can.

PROS

Swedish Quality

Lightweight

Nice Balance

CONS

Edge Touchup Needed

Corded Sheath


Helko Werk Rheinland Hatchet

Helko Werk Rheinland Hatchet
  • Type: Hatchet
  • Head Weight: 1.25 lb
  • Handle Length: 14”

The Helko Werk Rheinland Hatchet is a smaller version of Helko Werk’s Pack Axe. It is made from the same quality materials and hand-made by craftsmen in Wuppertal, Germany. They also have their own North American distribution center, so getting them is easy, and customer service is US based.

Like the Pack Axe, the head has a wide German style bit. This is mostly a personal preference, but for a hatchet, it lends itself more to carving and skinning and less to splitting. If you plan to have an axe and a hatchet, this would be a great option.

The large bit can have some inconsistencies since it is hand sharpened. I noticed that the center was not as sharp as the edges out of the box, but easily took care of it with a stone. 

The handle is American Hickory and secured with a metal wedge. It is lightly finished with linseed oil, which does need to be reapplied a few more times.

I like the head weight of this hatchet, and the overall feel is good. I also like the knob at the end of the handle. For light work, it swings well one-handed.

The leather sheath is nice, and they have a leather handle collar also available. This helps to protect the handle from misplaced strikes and is a great option.

Recommended for:

The Helko Werk Rheinland Hatchet is great for someone looking for a quality hatchet with a broad head for carving, skinning, and general light woodwork. It goes great with a pack-axe combo.

PROS

Swedish Quality

Wide Head

Leather Sheath

CONS

Needs Initial Sharpening

Best as Combo


Snow & Neally Outdoorsmans Belt Axe

Snow & Neally Outdoorsmans Belt Axe
  • Type: Hatchet
  • Head Weight: 1.25 lb
  • Handle Length: 15”

The Snow & Neally Outdoorsmans Belt Axe is made in Maine by the Amish, just like the Hudson Bay axe above.

This hatchet has a forged head made from 1080 steel. Snow & Neally outsources the forging process and brings the heads in-house to hand temper and grind them. In the early 2000s, they were sourcing heads from China but have since changed back to a US supplier.

The handles are made in Tennessee from Appalachian Hickory and finished by hand in Maine. There has been concern from some customers on the grain of the handle properly aligning with the axe head. 

I found that Snow & Nealley is planning to move handle production in house to better control this issue. In the meantime, they are monitoring the fitment closely to make sure the handles have been made correctly.

The weight of this axe and the handle are balanced well for one-handed use. I found that it works well for splitting kindling.

This hatchet comes with a lacquer/clear coat coating like the Hudson Bay Axe. As I mentioned, this is a personal preference, if you like it or not. We also found we needed to put the final edge on the axe and could choose if we wanted a flat scandi grind or more of a convex grind.

A custom leather sheath that is handmade in Maine is included also. The quality of the sheath is outstanding.

Recommended for:

The Snow & Neally Outdoorsmans Belt Axe is for someone looking for an American-made Bushcraft Hatchet that is lower cost. Since the forged head is finished to a lower hardness, it is great for very cold weather and is easy to sharpen to your preference.

PROS

Good Balance

Made in the USA

Price

CONS

Lacquer Finish

Handle Alignment

Needs Frequent Sharpening


Prandi German Style Hatchet – Best Budget Bushcraft Hatchet

Prandi German Style Hatchet
  • Type: Hatchet
  • Head Weight: 1.35 lb
  • Handle Length: 14.25”

The Prandi German Style Hatchet is made by Prandi in their facility in Northern Italy. They have been making over 150 models of axes and hatchets there since 1969. In 2004 they achieved ISO certification, which means they have documented their entire process to ensure the same results with every axe.

The head on this hatchet is forged from C45 steel – then hardened and polished by hand. The head design is a traditional German hatchet, so it has a wider curved blade. This makes this hatchet great for light splitting and cutting but also for carving and skinning.

The Handle is made from American Hickory and is secured to the head with a metal ring wedge. Some have found that the head becomes loose after heavy use or throwing but is easily reset by driving the wedge further into the handle slightly.

Note that the price of this hatchet is great, less than half the price of some of the others on our list. However, it will require some maintenance and some initial sharpening to get it bushcraft pack-ready.

A leather sheath is included with this hatchet. It is an Ok sheath, but not one of the best.

The balance and weight of this hatchet are good. I think a slightly longer handle would make it even better for delimbing and other light work. It is a good length for carving, though.

Recommended for:

The Prandi German Style Hatchet is for someone looking for a budget Bushcraft Hatchet that has a quality forged head and Hickory handle. This hatchet tends to be better for carving but also works well for light cutting and splitting around the campsite. It would make a nice combo with a camp axe.

PROS

Hickory Handle

Hand Made

Price

CONS

Head can Loosen

Leather Sheath

Needs Initial Sharpening


Tips for choosing the Best Bushcraft Axe

There are many different types of axes on the market today. You can walk into any hardware store and find a few different shapes and sizes of axes. Often, I find that none of these are the best axes for bushcraft or camping specifically.

A bushcraft axe is somewhat of a personal decision depending on the area you plan to camp, what you plan to do at camp, and how much weight you want to carry. It may be that you need two axes, or possibly none at all.

Jason holding the best bushcraft axe in the woods
Me with the Council Tool Pack Axe in the woods

One thing is for sure though. Whenever I am on a long trip out in the woods, I find that I really need an axe. Just take a look at the winners of Alone, they all selected an axe as one of their 10 items. It is an essential bushcraft and survival tool.

Jason's custom Bushcraft Axe Diagram showing all the parts of an axe and their names
The Parts of an Axe

In my experience a pack style or boy’s axe that has a two-pound head and about a 20” handle is the best choice. This is the best size for most work that I need to accomplish on a bushcraft or camping trip. This is also a good size to just keep around my home for utility work when I don’t need a big axe.

Jason's bushcraft axe in a stump with his gloves and the sheath laying on the stump
My bushcraft axe ready to work

When I plan to camp where cutting down trees is not allowed, a smaller bushcraft type hatchet is sometimes better. It is lighter to carry and allows me to process smaller pieces of wood easier.

Axecraft is an essential bushcraft skill, and getting the right axe makes learning much easier. Bigger is not always better.

The Bushcraft Axe Head

The head is the working end of the axe, and there are many different configurations on the market. Some are good for more general bushcraft work, while others are dedicated.

Jason's bushcraft axe showing a closeup of the head
The head of my Bushcraft Axe

Material

The head of a bushcraft axe should be made from some type of Carbon steel. Carbon steel will hold an edge while still being tough enough to withstand impacts. 5160 high-carbon steel is one of the best choices because of its durability. 

The hardness of the steel is also important, and many manufacturers consider it part of their trade secret. There is a delicate balance between too hard and too soft. A soft bit will be tougher but lose its edge quickly, while a harder bit will be more likely to crack and chip.

Jason using a bushcraft axe splitting wood
Splitting wood into smaller pieces is usually my main focus at camp

I have found when using my axe in sub-freezing temperatures, a lower hardness is better. The higher the hardness, the more brittle the steel becomes at low temperatures. Overall, I look for a hardness between 52 and 56 HRC.

Weight

A heavier axe head will generate more force when it strikes the wood. It also takes less inertia to get it moving. In general, I find need more room to use a heavier axe. However, a heavier axe head means a heavier axe to carry.

Jason's Bushcraft Backpack and his Bushcraft Axe attached on the side.
The Woodcraft Pack Axe in my Backpack

For felling trees over about 6” in diameter, a 3-pound axe head is a good size. For general bushcraft work where I am not processing large trees, a 2-pound axe head like on a boy’s axe is my top choice. For smaller hatchets, around 1.5 pounds or so is a good weight.

Size and Shape

There are many different sizes and shapes of axe heads. Most were designed years ago and named for the place they were first used or the type of head. The major difference between them is polled single bit and double bit. 

Jason driving a tent stake with his bushcraft axe
Driving a tent stake with my Bushcraft Axe

In my experience, polled single-bit heads are the best for bushcraft. They have a cutting edge on one side and a pole or flat face on the other. Often the poll is also hardened and can be used as a hammer for driving tent stakes or wedges.

Jason using his bushcraft axe to split wood
A Scandi style head is great for cutting and splitting

Edge Type or Grind

There are a few different grinds that you will see on axes. For bushcraft axes, there are really two that should be considered.

A Convex edge is more of a round profile from the tip of the bit back to the bevel. In general, this type of edge is the strongest. For any structural shape, a curve is better than a flat since it distributes the forces. A corner is where forces concentrate and can cause failure.

A Convex edge is better at splitting wood and not so much for cutting wood. I find that it may not penetrate damp or frozen wood and will take more energy to use. Also, a convex edge is harder to sharpen since it is a gradually curved surface.

Jason's bushcraft axe showing the grind on the head
I prefer a flat grind on my Bushcraft Axe

A flat or Scandi edge basically forms a triangle at the point. This edge is better at cutting but is not quite as durable as a convex edge. It is a good multipurpose grind for both cutting and splitting and finer work such as making stakes or cutting notches. I find that it is easier to sharpen since I have a flat, fixed angle to grind. 

Custom graphic showing the different Bushcraft Axe Grinds

The Bushcraft Axe Handle

The handle of a bushcraft axe is just as important as the head. The handle should be strong, comfortable, and made for the main tasks that the axe will be used for.

Material

Wood handles are the best choice for a bushcraft axe handle. They absorb shock well and can be replaced easily. I can make a replacement in the woods if I had to. Hardwoods like Hickory and Ash are the best.

When selecting my bushcraft axe, I make sure the grain of the wood in the handle is perpendicular to the axe head. Wood is the strongest when loads are perpendicular to the grain. An easy way to remember this is to think of how a tree grows. The grains are going straight up, and this is what keeps trees from easily falling.

Jason's bushcraft axe showing the grain of the wood in the handle
The grain of the wood in the handle of my bushcraft axe

Shape and Length

In general, the heavier the axe head, the longer the handle should be. A handle around 18” to 20” is best for a bushcraft axe. This length is long enough to do some heavier work with two hands but short enough for finer detail with one hand as well. 

If I know that I don’t need to fell any trees (in some areas, it is not allowed), then I find a shorter hatchet length handle of around 12” to 15” is better. It takes up less room and is lighter in my pack.

The shape of the handle can either be straight or curved with a knob at the end. I find that a straight handle gives me a little better control for detail work, while a curved handle gives me more cutting power. For larger axes and multipurpose bushcraft axes, a curved handle with a knob at the end is best.

Jason's bushcraft axe showing the knob on the end of the handle
I personally like a knob on the end of my bushcraft axe handle

Alignment of the Handle to the Head

Bushcraft axe handles that are curved should be aligned with the head of the axe. This allows me to accurately strike with the bit hitting the wood perpendicular and not glancing off. This is very important for both safety and the effort required to process wood.

The attachment of the head to the handle is also important. Metal ring or spike wedges are more secure than just wood wedges.

Jason's bushcraft axe showing the alignment of the head to the handle
The alignment of the handle to the head should be straight

Balance

The balance of a finished axe is important for safety and how much effort I must expend while using it. The overall center of gravity should be a few inches from the head on the handle. This allows me to both swing it efficiently and hold it near the head for detail work.

Cover or Sheath

The best bushcraft axes will come with a leather cover for the head. This is very important for both storage and safety. The edge of the axe should be maintained and kept sharp. The sharper, the better. It is easy to damage a sharp edge when it comes into contact with other metal objects, especially at odd angles.

Jason showing the sheath on the Warwood tool perfect axe
The leather sheath on my Warwood Tool Perfect Axe

Of course, any sharp edge can cut you if you contact it accidentally. I always keep my axe covered when I am not using it. It both protects me and my axe and is a necessary accessory. 

Jason's bushcraft axe with the sheath in place
A Sheath is essential for a bushcraft axe

Here is a great video by Ray Mears on Selecting a Bushcraft Axe and Bushcraft Axe Safety.


Bushcraft Axe Accessories

Here are some accessories that I have and recommend.

  • File – for taking care of any large nicks to the bit.
  • Sharpening Puck – to sharpen your axe periodically.
  • Wedges – to use when you are splitting larger lengths of wood.
  • Linseed oil – used for treating the handle. Treat a new handle every day for a week, every week for a month, and every month for a year. Then touchup depending on use.
BEST AXE FILE
Helko Werk Dual Sided Axe Sharpening File

Helko Werk Dual Sided Axe Sharpening File

Single and Double Cut

Tooth Free Edge

Flat Handle

BEST SHARPENING PUCK
NedFoss Axe Sharpening Puck

NedFoss Axe Sharpening Puck

Dual Grit

Leather Case

Pocket Size

BEST WEDGES
AR-PRO 5.5" Wedges

AR-PRO 5.5″ Wedges

ABS Plastic

Side Spikes

Storage Bag

BEST LINSEED OIL
Furniture Clinic Boiled Linseed Oil

Furniture Clinic Boiled Linseed Oil

Great for Axe Handles

250ml

Quick Drying


Choose the Best Bushcraft Axe for You

Now that you understand what to look for, which will you choose? Our top pick, the Warwood Tool Perfect Axe, is the best all-around bushcraft axe. However, you may prefer a bushcraft hatchet or want both for your next trek in the woods. It all depends on where you will be camping and what type of tasks you like to accomplish with your axe.

Now that you have selected an axe to process some firewood, check out our guides on bushcraft shelters and the best wool blankets to keep you warm at night. Our Bushcraft Guides and Gear Reviews also has a ton of great info to help you on your next tramp in the woods!

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Jason has an engineering and problem solving background. He is an avid outdoorsman, survivalist, and competitive shooter. He enjoys researching the best and most practical solutions for the problem at hand, studying stoicism, and finding innovative ways to be prepared.