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A true survival situation requires efficiency of effort. This includes traveling, gathering food, and keeping yourself warm. A quality axe or hatchet is one of the best tools for both structure building and processing wood for heat and cooking. Not just any axe will do. If you are serious about survival, or even bushcraft, spend some time researching and selecting a quality tool. Check out these top three axes and hatchets for the one that best fits your needs!
Using Axes and Hatchets
In the hands of an expert, a hatchet or axe is a timesaving tool that can cut, slice and chop. Beyond the obvious, experts will even use an axe for processing food. It takes time and practice, but as you build these skills, your axe or hatchet will become an indispensable tool.
Bushcrafters have made an art out of using axes and hatchets. From bulk wood processing for firewood, to carving tools, they have written the book on these tools. Let’s read into the cliff-notes on these valuable tools.
Difference Between Axes and Hatchets
The obvious difference between an axe and hatchet is the length. With length comes leverage and power. Axes are best used for the bulk work of chopping and splitting. Felling a tree, sectioning it into smaller pieces is the work of an axe. Hatchets are better used for finesse work. The length suffices for chopping through smaller branches, however, in a pinch you could tackle larger logs.
The next difference is the shape and weight of the head. The power work of axes requires mass to generate the inertia required chop and split. Generally, the head is wider, and the blade has a steeper angle. Alternatively, the head of a hatchet is lighter and narrower, with a blade that has a narrow angle befitting of a sharper cut. Additionally, the surface opposite the blade will be flat to facilitate hammering.
Axes are power tools. When you need to get through a large log and you don’t want to waste extra calories, and axe is your tool. With their long length (leverage), heavy head, and wide blade angle, they bully their way into wood and send chips flying.
Axes will be the go-to tool for felling trees, removing limbs, bucking logs into shorter lengths. Similarly, they will be used for splitting logs or hewing them into other shapes. Finally, you can use one for some detail work such as coarse carving. Assuming you have the skills and can swing it with safety.
A hatchet is a portable tool that you can slip into your pack or secure it to the exterior. Some are even small enough to holster on your beltline. Regardless, their size makes them attractive.
Being small, a hatchet is used for lighter work. They can limb logs and trees, with the keenest edges making exacting cuts and quick work of smaller limbs. You can even split logs however, without the leverage and mass of an axe, you may need to “baton” the logs by setting the hatchet on the end-grain, then hammering it with another log.
Hatchets are the perfect tools for up close work. From feather sticks for starting fires to cutting tent and tarp pegs, the maneuverability inherent in a hatchet is key. Finally, don’t stop there, get creative and use yours to make other tools such as spoons.
Top Three Axes
There are too many axes on the market to count and too wide of a price spread to cover in one article. The following choices are the best considering size, cost, and durability.
1844 Helko Werk Germany Bavarian Woodworker Axe – Heavy Felling Axe
An axe should have good wood, craftsmanship, and above all, good steel. The 1844 Helko Werk has all three elements.
- Handmade in Germany – The Bavarian Woodworker is a full-size traditional German cutting axe, with the heft and power required for heavy felling work. The 3 ½ lb. Rheinland pattern axe head has a sharp, slim, wide-bit blade that will outperform most American pattern felling axes at cutting work. The pattern is named after Germany’s famous Rhein River Valley, a heavily forested region where cutting axes like these have been in use for centuries.
- C50 High Carbon Steel: 53-56 HRC – Helko Werk axe heads are open-face drop forged individually by hand from German C50 high grade carbon steel. Drop forging is a process in which the blacksmith uses tongs to hold and shape hot steel as a drop hammer falls repeatedly onto it.
- Grade A American Hickory Handle – Linseed Oil Finish – 150 Grit Sanded Sustainably sourced grade A American hickory handle. All Helko Werk camping axes and hatchets have handles individually hand finished and selected for grain orientation and density with a boiled linseed oil finish and sanded to 150 grit for a comfortable and smooth finish on your axe handle
- Includes Full Grain Leather Sheath and 1 oz Bottle of Axe Guard Protective Oil – All Helko Werk axes and hatchets include a vegetable-tanned premium leather axe sheath to protect your axe blade and head. The Axe Guard oil is a metal protecting oil to help maintain the steel of your axe head, and prevent rust over time.
- Dimensions: Head Weight: 3-1/2 lb, Length: 31 in, Total Weight: 5-1/2 lb
With an overall length of 31 inches, it will buck any log you throw at it. Starting at the hickory handle. It has straight grain, dense and strong as iron. Sanded smooth with a boiled linseed oil finish, add your own coat according to the directions to preserve the handle for the generations.
The head of the Helko is hand-forged with high carbon steel via a skilled operator and a drop hammer. The process produces a strong steel that holds a keen edge. The steel will require some upkeep, such as periodic sharpening and oiling.
At 3.5 pounds, there is enough heft to quickly buck logs and fell trees with minimal effort and exertion.
Gransfors Bruks Scandinavian Forest Axe 25 Inch, 430
What the Gransfors lacks in length it makes up in quality. This Swiss-made masterpiece has a 25 inch handle and tips the scales at 2.6 pounds. These two numbers put it pretty close to hatchet territory. It’s ease of use and comfortable grip make it at home with the harder work required of an axe.
First, the handle has a slight curve offering a bit more leverage during the swing and the head has a smooth top (unlike the slight angle to the Helko. The narrower cutting surface applies more effort to each swing.
Next, like the Helko, the carbon steel head and hickory handle will require periodic maintenance, however each rub down with boiled linseed oil, or cleaning of the head offers an opportunity to slow down and focus on the maintenance tasks.
Cold Steel All-Purpose Axe
Not everyone needs to spend $150-$200 on an axe. Especially if you use it as a utilitarian tool. Quality axes have their place, but not in every prepper’s toolshed. This is where the Cold Steel comes in.
- Featuring a European style head with a 4″ blade and a 4 1/2″ cutting edge
- It takes a big bite with every swing. Plus, it features a very sturdy, durable straight-grained American Hickory handle
- In our extensive field-tests in the outback of Australia, the Trail Boss was used to chop kindling
- Clear roads and trails, to build blinds and even to chop down a fair sized tree
In short, this budget friendly tool is 27 inches long with a 4.5 inch cutting edge made from 1055 steel. The straight handle is made from American Hickory that will withstand the use of the average outdoor hobbyist.
Top Three Hatchets
With smaller size comes slightly reduced manufacturing costs and therefore it’s easier to invest in quality for less money. Likewise, there are more variables in length, head design, and blade geometries. Take a good look at your needs and select the best hatchet from this list to match your use.
Hults Bruk Almike Small All Purpose Hatchet
This Swedish hatchet is the perfect accompaniment to any backpack or bugout bag where you need a chopping tool but wish to avoid a full-sized axe.
The overall length of the Hults is 16 inches with a weight of 2.1 pounds. As with the better axes and hatchets, the American Hickory handle is sanded and protected with a base coat of linseed oil. A few extra coats of your own (once a day for a week, once a week for a month, once a month for a year, once a year for the rest of your life) will allow you to pass this tool down to your grandchildren.
Finally, the head is hand forged with a flat back surface for pounding in tenttarp stakes or other hammering operations.
Wetterlings Wildlife Axe
For those who choose to go into the forest with minimal tools, it’s hard to go wrong with the Wetterlings Wildlife Axe.
The 12 inch size is perfect for small work of liming trees and fashioning tools. The size is perfect for exacting control over the edge. With a grip near the head, you can even use it for the most delicate cuts, including processing game and fish.
Husqvarna 13″ Wooden Hatchet
Returning to the budget category, the Husqvarna applies quality where it is needed.
- Small, light axe that can be used for cutting branches or splitting small camp fire wood
- Head is attached to the hickory shaft using both a wooden and steel wedge to secure fastening
- Comes with a leather edge cover
First, the 13 inch length and weight of less than one pound is perfect for use around the firepit or stashing inside your go-bag. Second, while the steel and manufacturing may not be up to par with some of the other tools in this list, as a budget hatchet, it will stand up to the use that any part-time outdoor enthusiast will throw at it.
It has been said that the tool makes the man. Then again, it is the amateur that blames their tools for poor performance. A quality axe or hatchet will make for easy work, but only in the hands of a skilled woodsman.
In conclusion. these axes and hatchets will serve you and your children well. But they will only do that if you do your part of caring for them and, more importantly, caring for yourself by way of respecting the tool, building your skills, and keeping a keen edge on it at all times. For you never know when you will need it!
Bonus: Root Cellar That Can Be Used as a Bunker
Do you remember the old root cellars our great-grandparents used to have? In fact, they probably built it themselves, right in their back yard.
If you want to learn how to build a backyard bunker like your grandparents had, without breaking the bank, then you need Easy Cellar.
Easy Cellar will show you:
- How to choose the ideal site
- Cost-effective building methods
- How to protect your bunker from nuclear blast and fallout
- How to conceal your bunker
- Affordable basic life support options
Easy Cellar will also reveal how a veteran, with only $421, built a small nuclear bunker in his backyard.