Backpackers need proper backpacking axes or hatchets. However, a lot of them don’t know where to start in finding the best one suited for them. We’re going to show you what to look for in a backpacking axe to help you find the asolute best product for your needs.
What To Look For In A Backpacking Axe
Backpacking axes need to be made properly. It seems pretty obvious, but it’s heavily overlooked because people often fall for the brand idea and not necessarily the best possible tool to get the job done.
What should you look for in a backpacking axe or hatchet?
There four major major things we look for in a quality backpacking axe:
1. Axe Head
You want an axe head that is made from high-end stainless steel or carbon steel. Which one depends on what you need the axe or hatchet for.
You’ll want stainless if you’re going to spend a great deal of time in wet weather. Stainless steel contains chromium which enables the metal to resist oxidation (rust). You can use carbon steel in wet weather but you will have to keep it wiped down with oil to keep it protected.
Carbon steel has its advantages, however, as it is much stronger and more durable. You’ll want a carbon steel head if you’re going to be doing heavier work with it as it can handle more abuse.
Handles are also quite important.
Axe handles were traditionally made of wood. A lot of people like the feel of an axe with a wooden handle. They absorb shock well, are more easily replaced, but they are more easily affected by water. As a wooden handle begins to absorb water near the axehead, it can decay and break.
Fiberglass & composite handles are both a popular trend and very strong as well as great at absorbing shock. You also need not worry about these handles being exposed to the elements as they resist water and will not rot.
The length of your axe is a huge consideration. Will you be felling trees or do you need something to use as a hammer and for light chopping? The longer the axe, the more mechanical advantage you’ll have with each swing allowing you to strike with more force.
Would you be better suited to carrying a shorter tool on your back as opposed to a longer one? Even if lightweight, a longer axe can be more bulky to carry.
You’ll need to take these things into consideration and choose a length that’s best for your situation.
As far as axes for general purposes, heavier ones tend to get the job done with more ease. They follow through better with your swing and vibration is held to a minimum.
When backpacking, however, we’re greatly concerned with weight. So depending on what degree of usage you’ll be doing on the trail, light to medium weight at most will be best. I tend to favor the lighter option as I’m not going to be felling trees. Most backpackers will opt for the lighter axe.
Review Of The 5 Best Backpacking Axes
Gerber Freescape Hatchet
Cold Steel Trail Boss Axe
SOG Voodoo Hawk Mini Tactical Axe
Schrade SCAXE2L Large Survival Axe
Titanium Coated Stainless Steel
Estwing Special Edition Camper's Axe
Gerber Freescape Hatchet
- 17.5 Inches
- PTFE Coating Blade, Forged Steel Head, Composite Handle, Easy To Use
- Smaller, Meaning Less Durable For Bigger Projects
Gerber is well-known for delivering some amazing products. They tend to specialize in all outdoor gear but knives, as well as anything that can cut, might be what they do best. That said, it should not come as a shock to anyone that they do very well with backpacking hatchets.
Despite being a 17.5-inch hatchet, the Gerber Freescape is incredibly durable. We do not advise you use it for major projects, as any smaller hatchet is made for smaller projects. However, Gerber also made this hatchet to be capable of handling just about anything. While you can, say, chop down a tree with this thing...it may take a while if the tree is relatively large. Therefore, it's technically made for other purposes.
This hatchet also weighs slightly over 2lbs. Therefore, it's very easy to travel with. This is something we certainly look for in a backpacking hatchet.
You can easily protect yourself with this hatchet but due to the PTFE coating blade, you can also hunt well with it too. It's also perfect for cutting fish as well as skinning animals somewhat. You truly need a knife for that but this is so sharp and light that it can be used for a ton.
Don't worry about having to use it for projects that require you to get tons of force. This hatchet uses a composite handle that is shock absorbent and will reduce any strain on your hands. This can be crucial when trying to chop things like firewood, as there's always that one harder piece that can catch you as you swing down. Without any shock issues, you can keep swinging and your hands won't be hurting by the end.
That is something we love about Gerber, as they are always thinking about the customer and their needs. On top of this, Gerber adds a personal guarantee to all of its products. Therefore, if you buy the Freescape Hatchet, you're going to be able to get that.
Cold Steel Trail Boss Axe
- 27 Inches
- American Hickory Handle, Drop Forged 1055 Carbon Steel, Weighs 2.7lbs
- Primary Edge Is 4 1/2 Inches
Cold Steel is known for making some of the best steel products you can find in outdoor gear. It's in the name, obviously!
For their Cole Steel Trail Boss Axe, they wanted to make sure you had something that was incredibly durable. They certainly gave you that with their backpacking axes. It uses 1055 Carbon Steel, something made to rarely break even against other steel!
We are not fans of the primary edge being 4 1/2 inches, as that can take away from some smaller projects you may want to do with it. This could include certain skinning or small cutting you need. While that can be done with a trusty knife, pretend you can only take one when going outdoors. Most will pick the backpacking axes rather than knives more often than not. Thus, you want the edge to be slightly smaller.
However, it's ultimately made for protection, hunting, and cutting of various different things outdoors. You can cut down some smaller trees with this, as well as branches with ease. Therefore, while it's not made for the smaller projects it still handles so much that it is well worth the investment you make. Of course, Cold Steel is asking a very reasonable price for their axe, so you're getting a steal with this model!
It weighs just under 3 pounds, so you can pretty much handle anything you want. Speaking of handles, these particular backpacking axes use American Hickory. This is typically quite useful in that, even when wet, it can still be held relatively well. You truly want that in any axe, especially one made for backpacking!
We've found that when handles are made relatively slip-resistant, they can be used throughout the year and especially in rain or snowfall. This is very useful to you as the customer, as it allows these backpacking axes to be worth the money even more than they already are. Of course, Cold Steel is not even asking a lot for the Trail Boss, making it well worth the buy.
SOG Voodoo Hawk Mini Tactical Axe
- 12.5 Inches
- Stainless Steel Head, Light Yet Heavy-Duty, Multi-Use
- Very Little
SOG tends to specialize in both survival and tactical gear. This means most of their products are going to be made for multiple different uses. So it should come as a shock to literally no one that their Voodoo Hawk Mini is terrific.
These backpacking axes use stainless steel while also adding either a hammer pommel or piercing spike. This depends on the version you decide to get. Both can be used for various things such as the hammer for literally hammer purposes or the spike for protection among other things. People love this extra addition that SOG provides with their Voodoo models, and for good reason.
You're paying for quality when you go for SOG products, so any cool additions just make them stand out even more!
They also did not hold anything back from the normal. This is literally a smaller version of their normal Voodoo Tactical Axe. Yet due to being lighter and smaller, along with the blade being 2.75 inches, you're capable of doing a lot. You can cut firewood with it, hunt, fish, or simply use it just as a protective product.
SOG tends to make such good axes, hatchets, and tomahawks that it is very hard to find any true flaws in their work. Their Voodoo models are simply always made to near perfection, making it very difficult to find any real con in their Hawk Mini.
The best part is that SOG adds a lifetime guarantee to most of its products, including the Voodoo Hawk Mini. Any time you need this to be fixed, if you ever do at all, SOG has your back!
Schrade SCAXE2L Large Survival Axe
- 15.7 Inch
- Low Weight, Cold Resistant, Ferro Rod Addition
- 4.2 Blade
Schrade tends to always kill it with their backpacking hatchets and axes. It shocked none of us to see them do such with their SCAXE2L Survival Axe. Keep in mind that this is a bit of a larger axe than some on the list, but it's still incredibly light at just 1 pound 15 ounces. This makes it the lightest on our list among these backpacking hatchets and axes.
The blade uses reliable 3Cr13 Titanium Coated Stainless Steel. That likely also makes it the hardest of the backpacking axes on the list in terms of blade strength. This means it likely could be used for some bigger projects. However, it's truly made for cutting firewood, hunting, and things of that nature. This is on top of survival, of course.
While they do add in a cool polyester belt sheath, this axe also includes a hammer pommel on top of an extra-large Ferro Rod (stored in the shaft). You can use the Rod for starting fires, which is awesome! This is the only axe on our list that is capable of storing much-needed survival essentials all in one. Others can be used in survival situations, but none possess a useful Ferro Rod like the SCAXE2L!
They also added a rubber grip handle, making this essentially cold-resistant and even water-resistant at the same time. Meaning this axe can be used at any time, during any point of the year! We've seen these specific backpacking axes thrown into a puddle, picked up and then used right away in demos. That just shows you how confident Schrade is in their product if you're asking our opinion.
Estwing Special Edition Camper’s Axe
- 16 Inch
- Durable, Long-Lasting, Ballistic Nylon Sheath Included, Leather Grip
- USA Made
We've found that Estwing usually always knows what they are doing with any of the products they make. However, when it comes to backpacking axes and hatchets, we're never disappointed with the results. It's hard to be if you see what they can do with their products each time.
We're including their Special Edition Camper's Axe, but don't let the name throw you off. Sure, it's great for really anything you need it for camping wise. Yet it can be used for multiple different things such as protection, random hunting, and much more. While it does not claim to be water-resistant or even cold-resistant, it likely is due to the leather grip. This is genuine leather, meaning you can grip it incredibly well!
Estwing prides itself on making versatile products and they certainly delivered that with their Camper's Axe.
Another interesting note is that this was made in one big piece, allowing it to be long-lasting and durable. This means it can hold up against truly anything you want to throw at it. They claim it can be used for chopping logs and small trees along with firewood and kindling. However, these are perfect backpacking axes to use for cutting fish, hunting, and everything else under the sun it seems.
Likely the best thing for those in America is that Estwing makes the Camper's Axe entirely in the United States within their Rockford, Illinois branch. They forge truly impressive American Steel and are very proud of it.
Like with SOG, Estwing simply knows what they are doing with their axes and hatchets. We struggled to find anything we hated with this model to a point that we just gave up trying. There seriously isn't a major flaw to write about here.
However, like with all backpacking axes or hatchets on this list...you're going to want to find the best possible product for you. To some, they need something specific that Estwing may not have in their Camper's Axe. If that is the case, that is all well and good. However, if you want something multi-purpose and capable of handling nearly anything all at a great price, the Camper's Axe is a brilliant place to start.