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Gransfors Bruks Small Forest Axe
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Best Bushcraft Axes and Hatchets Reviewed

Recent years have seen something of an outdoor Renaissance. 

More and more people are getting outside and finding that the peace, solitude, and beauty of nature are incomparable to anything else they encounter in their day to day lives.  

The drive to learn new skills and move toward a self sustaining lifestyle has grown exponentially and so have the tools that allow one to do so. Bushcraft has been gaining popularity over the past few years, and the sheer number of bushcraft hatchets on the market can be intimidating for the first time buyer.

Many tools have their own specific purpose, from felling trees, to field dressing animals, to throwing hatchets, to carving and carpentry.

Other axes boast a more generalized design that allow them to handle many tasks relatively well.  

Every person will have their own preference in tool shape, construction, and function, and it is only after using multiple axes that you will truly understand exactly what it is you’re looking for. 

Choosing the best axe for bushcraft can be as complicated as the skills you are trying to learn. Thankfully, we’re here to introduce you to the best bushcraft axe for your next adventure!

When handling this sort of equipment, it’s best to be protected as possible, as accidents can very easily happen. With that in mind, I’d recommend heading over to our article on the best gloves for bushcraft, as we cover some great options there.

Need more bushcraft gear? Then check out our articles on:

Best Bushcraft Axes

Gransfors Bruks Small Forest Axe

best bushcraft axe
  • Head Material: High carbon steel
  • Length: 19 inches
  • Handle Material: Grade A hickory
  • Head Weight: 1.5 lbs
  • Overall Weight: 2 lbs

Gransfors is well known as being one of the best axe makers in the world, and their Bruks Small Forest Axe maintains that reputation well. As a smaller axe, it is a great choice when you need to balance carrying your tools with high performance.

Its high carbon steel head makes the Bruks Small Forest Axe a great tool to split firewood, limb trees, shave kindling, or carve softer wood.

If you can justify meeting Gransfors at their higher price point, this axe will quickly prove to be a welcome addition to your bushcraft quiver. 

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Husqvarna Wooden Curved Carpenter Axe – 20 inches

  • Head Material: Hand forged Swedish steel
  • Length: 20 inches
  • Handle Material: Hickory
  • Head Weight: 2.2lbs
  • Overall Weight: 3.03 lbs

Husqvarna’s 20 inch Wooden Carpenter Axe is a great option for people more focused on the artisan side of bushcraft. The weight and size of this tool make it an excellent choice for carpenters and those eager to get into shaping wood.

The heavier head and lighter handle coupled with its strong curved cutting edge allow for intricate carving and carpentry, making it an ideal choice for budding craftsmen.

Given its weight and size, however, it is not the best axe on the market for downing trees or clearing brush far from home. 

The axe simply isn’t designed to maximize your swinging force, but it can certainly handle these tasks in a pinch if absolutely necessary.

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1844 Helko Werk Germany Classic Pathfinder Hatchet

  • Head Material: C50 High carbon Steel
  • Length: 15 inches
  • Handle Material: Grade A American hickory
  • Head Weight: 1.25 lbs
  • Overall Weight: 2 lbs

The Helko Werk Classic Pathfinder Hatchet is a portable, lightweight option that has become increasingly popular for folks needing to take a tool further into the backcountry.

Given its lightweight and durable design the Pathfinder is excellent for cutting kindling and taking down small branches. We’re also particularly fond of the hammerhead poll – the flat end of the hammer – which makes it a great hammering tool.

For most adventurers, this added functionality will take shape for hammering tent stakes into tough terrain.  

All in all, the Pathfinder hatchet is the best bushcraft axe for virtually any task around camp.

As a bonus this tool can also be a good option for a throwing hatchet, though it may be a bit expensive to toss if you are not yet experienced in that realm. 

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Estwing Sportsman’s Axe

best buschraft axe - estwing
  • Head Material: American steel
  • Length: 14 inches
  • Handle Material: American steel, with leather grip
  • Head Weight: Not Available
  • Overall Weight: 1.7 lbs

The Estwing Sportsman’s Axe is a uniquely designed small axe that has become a favorite for

backpackers needing a tool in the wilderness. The forged steel head and shaft are connected for added durability, and the leather grip gives this tool a great aesthetic.

Given its size, the Estwing Sportsman’s Axe is great for human powered adventures and still does a surprisingly good job splitting wood, making kindling, or handling smaller projects. What’s more, this axe is a hair lighter than many of the other options we’ve covered thus far, which makes it a great choice for the ounce-counters out there.   

Take note, however, that many advocates of the Sportsman suggest that the beautiful sheen on the leather handle is a bit too much and makes the axe harder to handle. Their solution? Sand down the handle just a little bit to improve the grip and useability greatly.

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Condor Tool & Knife Greenland Pattern Axe

  • Head Material: High carbon steel
  • Length: 16 inch
  • Handle Material: American hickory
  • Head Weight: 1.5 lbs
  • Overall Weight: 2.2 lbs

The Condor Tool & Knife Greenland Pattern Axe is an excellent mid-range bushcraft axe option. Not as expensive as the upper end and not as cheap as the lower, Condor has found a great middle ground. 

The Greenland Pattern Axe is small enough to pack, yet strong enough to handle most all light chopping and clearing work.

This tool is also notably comfortable to handle no matter where you hold it. If you are trying your hand at carving and shaping wood and find yourself choked up toward the head it will feel nearly as comfortable as higher end carpentry axes.

If you are looking for more leverage to fell trees or clear brush and are holding the Greenland Pattern Axe from its end, you’ll be pleased with how well it handles.  

This versatility is a testament to both the product’s design and construction, and our primary reason for recommending it. It’s a well designed axe that’s easy to use for just about every bushcraft task you can think of. 

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CRKT Freyr Axe

  • Head Material: 1055 carbon steel
  • Length: 16.125 inches
  • Handle Material: Tennessee hickory 
  • Head Weight: Not Available 
  • Overall Weight: 1.79 lbs

Arguably the most beautiful tool on our list, the CRKT Freyr Axe comes with an equally compelling story. CRKT tools are designed by veterans in North Carolina, and 10% of the net profits get donated to the designer’s charity of choice. 

The Freyr is a tactical axe named for the Norse god of prosperity, and the Nordic inspiration continues through its design. You can almost picture Viking warriors wielding this weapon in battle! 

As far as its practicality in today’s world, it is good for simple chopping, cutting, splitting and, as you may imagine, is also a unique and fun option for experienced throwers. 

Above all the Freyr is a beautiful axe, supporting a good cause, and a fun addition to any bushcraft collection.

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Gransfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet – 13.50 inches

best bushcraft axe
  • Head Material: Swedish high carbon steel
  • Length: 13.50 inches
  • Handle Material: American hickory
  • Head Weight: 1 lb
  • Overall Weight: 1.3 lbs

The second Gransfors Bruks axe on our list, the Wildlife Hatchet, is an excellent choice for those looking for a small, high quality tool for wood carving, chopping, and making kindling.  

The increased convexity – or curve – of the blade makes the Wildlife Hatchet more of a slicing axe and less of a splitting tool. But, nonetheless, it is great for craftsmanship and many smaller tasks around camp.  

The Wildlife Hatchet is also the smallest and lightest axe on our list, making it an ideal choice for adventurers who plan to log plenty of miles in the backcountry.

This small footprint combined with the time tested craftsmanship and construction of which Gransfors Bruks has built its reputation, the Wildlife Hatchet is one of the best small axes on the market for those looking for a convenient tool to carry around with them.

Like all Gransfors Bruks products, however, the quality is reflected in its cost.  

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Council Tool Wood-Craft Pack Axe

  • Head Material: 5160 steel
  • Length: 19 inches
  • Handle Material: Hickory
  • Head Weight: 2 lbs
  • Overall Weight: 2.6 lbs

The Council Tool Wood-Craft Pack Axe is a heavy hitting axe for those that don’t mind a little extra weight when traveling into the backcountry.

Its sturdy design lends itself to multi-faceted use, and this tool has proven worthy as a cutter, chopper, carver, splitter, and even a hammer as it has been heat treated on both blade and backend.

While a bit on the heavier side, the additional weight of the Wood-Craft Pack Axe adds unrivaled strength and durability.

In comparison to some of the other bushcraft axes on our list, however, the Wood-Craft Pack Axe is less specialized for carving and carpentry. That said, if you are looking for a workhorse to handle most all camp tasks and bigger projects, Council Tool’s Wood-Craft Pack Axe may just be the right tool for you. 

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Hults Brukk Akka Forester’s Premium

best bushcraft axe
  • Head Material: Forged steel
  • Length: 24 inches
  • Handle Material: Hickory 
  • Head Weight: 1.5 lbs
  • Overall Weight: 2.2 lbs

The Hults Brukk Akka Forester’s Premium axe is another workhorse when it comes to bushcraft tasks. Given its heavy duty construction and top notch materials, the Akka is a dream for all campsite and forest trail work.

This is the longest axe on our list making it a great choice to clear brush, chop wood, and make kindling. Additionally, the finger notch near the head makes the Akka exceptionally comfortable to hold while woodworking.  

Similar to the Greenland Pattern Axe, the Akka is a good option that allows for a little bit of everything in terms of bushcraft.

Given its slightly larger size it can be a bit much to bring along on longer excursions, but if weight and packability is not a major concern then you’ll be happy to have it along for the journey.

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How to Choose the Best Axe for Bushcraft

The term bushcraft encompasses a lot of skills and practices, and choosing the right axe for bushcraft is largely dependent on what you plan on using it for. 

While some axes are decent catchall options, others are designed specifically for certain purposes.  As you do research and prepare to purchase your axe, be sure to take into consideration what you will most likely be using it for.  The ideal carving axe will differ from a chopping axe which will differ from a throwing axe.

Axes catered to specific skills will have their own matching set of characteristics, whereas more generalized axes may do many things but at a slightly compromised level.  Ultimately, it is up to you to decide which type of tool will best meet your needs. 

It is also worth noting that, if bushcraft becomes your thing, it is not out of the ordinary for experienced woodworkers and camp enthusiasts to build an arsenal of axes – each with its own designated use. 

As you shop around for what may be your first axe, however, below are some of the more important things to consider.  

Size and Type

Bushcraft axes can roughly be broken down into three types that mostly vary due to their size.  

Hatchets are small tools that are primarily used for chopping wood, limbing trees, digging, dressing game, or throwing. 

Small axes can be used for many of the same things and are typically the most versatile. These tools can be used with both hands for heavier felling of trees and limbs but also can be used close to the neck with one hand for more intricate craftwork.  

Felling axes are the most heavy duty option available. They have the longest handles which provide more leverage and make them the ideal tool for shelter building, brush clearing, and firewood production. The trade off is that most larger axes are not great for craftwork, and they are much heavier and bulkier to tote around.   

Weight

Longer axes will be heavier and can accommodate larger projects. Smaller axes may not be able to easily handle as many heavy duty camp chores, but they are certainly easier to pack with you for longer excursions. Weight varies from one axe to the next, and it is ultimately up to the user to find their preferred balance between strength, durability, and weight. 

Material (Head and Handle)

Material is a critical component to consider when purchasing a bushcraft axe. For most axes, you should be looking for a steel forged head. Additionally, hickory handles have been industry standard for some time now. 

The one exception on our list is the Estwing Sportsman’s Axe, which has a steel handle forged directly to the head – a construction that comes with its own set of pros and cons.  

Head design and blade construction is something you should highly consider when purchasing an axe. Craft specific blades differ from tree felling blades, and it is up to you to decide what your ambitions are. No matter the tool, though, try to find an axe with a square poll opposite the blade to utilize its dual purpose as a hammer or with a mallet

Price

For many people, price point is the deciding factor when purchasing tools, and bushcraft axes are no different. There are countless axes on the market that vary as widely in cost as they do in design. 

One thing to consider while doing your research is manufacturer warranties. If you plan on putting your axe to heavy use, consider finding a tool that comes with an attractive warranty policy.  At the end of the day, though, the bottom line with axes is that you will almost always get what you pay for.  Shelling out a little extra could mean the difference between a bushcraft axe you have for the rest of your life and one you replace in three to five years. 

How To Look After Your Axe

Once you have the perfect axe, you’ll need to look after it in order to ensure its longevity and continued effectiveness. Maintenance can be broken down between the head and handle.

For the axe head – apart from occasional sharpening – your main maintenance task will revolve around preventing rust buildup. First off, rust simply looks grimy, and secondly, it can compromise your axes sharp edge. Occasionally oil your axe head to prevent this rust from appearing. 

Now comes the axe handle – which is traditionally fashioned out of wood. To increase the lifespan of your handle as much as possible, occasionally reapply a high-quality wood finish. There are many options available, but boiled linseed oil is an excellent option. 

Final Thoughts

When looking for the best bushcraft axe, you need to strongly consider what you will be using it for, where you will be using it, and how much you are willing to pay. Some of the best budget bushcraft axe options are listed above as are a few higher end choices.  

At the end of the day, the best small axe for bushcraft is the one that works best for you.  Whether you plan on felling trees, clearing trails and brush, building shelters, field dressing game, or completing intricate carpentry projects, the right tool for the job is out there. It’s up to you to find it!

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