Are you Peter Freuchen? No. You’ll need a good axe.
“The axe is the most important bush tool there is. Outside of fire, nothing may contribute to your comfort and leisure than a well-chosen axe.”
Wilderness Survival Instructor
There are some that say you can survive stranded in the wilderness as long as you have an axe. It comes as no surprise that many survivalists insist their axe, hatchet or tomahawk is their most important survival tool. Axes are obviously built for chopping wood, but there are other uses to consider when choosing the perfect axe for your needs.
Important Roles Your Axe Can Play
- Starting a Fire: If you are trying to start a fire you will need to shave the wood off fallen, dead branches. This will serve as your tinder. You can then start a fire using various methods like friction (with dry wood), the hand-drill method or the bow-drill method by using one of your shoelaces.
- First Aid: You think you only need wood for a fire? If you end up injuring yourself, wood may need to be cut to fabricate a splint.
- Defensive Weapon: If you ever come up against a predator who has decided you might be an ideal prey, having a nice blade may mean a world of difference
- Ice Chipping: You can use an axe or hatchet to both dig in the snow and ice, or cut some away for use as drinking water later.
Peter Freuchen made an axe out his own poo and dug himself out of a snowed in cave. You probably think I'm a liar, the cracked podcast is a credible source of information. Right?
- Making a Signal: The metal of your blade can be used as a signal to alert people of your situation.
- Hunting: You will need a blade to hunt and dress animals, gaining access to the meat.
I've convinced you! How to choose a great axe.
Size Matters: When choosing an all-around camping and survival axe, a good rule of thumb is to match your axe length to that of your arm. To do this, grasp the head of the axe and try to tuck it into your armpit. The toe of the haft should sit inside your armpit comfortably.
Alignment: When inspecting your axe choices, pay attention to the alignment of the head with the handle. This varies, even with the finest axes from the best makes and suppliers. The head should be perfectly in line along the handle.
Balance: The axe should balance level when you balance it with a couple of fingers just below the head.
Grain: If you are choosing an axe with a more traditional wooden handle, the grain should run straight along the entire handle. If a diagonal grain is present, the handle is likely to split.
A Note on Blade Edge: It is good practice to keep your axe sharp. All woodworking tools must be sharp enough to be used effortlessly and efficiently. A dull axe will take more time and energy from you and be prone to glancing and potentially injuring the user. Keep your axe sharp. Caring for your tools is as important as choosing the right one.
The difference between an axe and a hatchet
The most prominent difference between these two survival tools is size. An axe has a longer handle than a hatchet.
Axes are mainly meant to cut and chop wood that requires a two handed effort whereas hatchets are a single handed tool meant for smaller tasks like cutting young trees and shrubs.
The blade of the axe is slimmer and tapers out whereas the hatchet has a wider and shaped like an inverted funnel. A hatchet is more versatile and has the ability to be used as a weapon.
Top axes on the market
Description: This high quality hand-made Scandinavian Forest Axe comes with a 20 year warranty. The axe is specially designed for strength and power by professional blacksmiths. The handle is hickory and the blade is forged to a thin, curved bit and sharpened. This axe is an ideal tool for cutting and chopping wood while camping.
Description: This is an ideal axe for survivalists and outdoor enthusiasts. It has a forged stainless steel head and a longer glass-filled nylon handle than its predecessor. The handle is decorated with Gerber’s “gator” texture, offering a comfortable grip in soggy conditions. What we really love about this product is that there is a coarse blade handsaw housed in the handle and held in place magnetically. This tool can be used for sawing branches and brush, making this combo a tough, lightweight, and ideal camping tool
Description: The Estwing Splitting Axe is a single forged piece for added strength. The handle is covered in a vinyl nylon grip perfect for shock reduction. At an affordable rate this axe comes with an embossed leather sheath.
It’s no secret why the axe is any survivalist’s go-to tool of choice. Choosing a quality axe that meets your own individual needs is an important decision not to be taken lightly. One day, your axe may be the difference between life and death. So choose wisely, and take care of it..