In Gear

Introduction

The first thing that you learn as a beginning bushcrafter is that the only comforts you have when you enter the wilderness are the items you bring with you and the items that you can make using the tools that you brought along from the materials that you can gather. Consequently, to a bushcrafter, having good tools as well as having the right tool for the job at hand is of paramount importance. But, because it is simply not possible for a person to carry every tool that they might possibly have a need for, it is extremely important that they choose tools that serve multiple purposes. Therefore, a high quality, properly designed, bushcraft axe (aka camp axe) is invaluable when making an extended stay in the wilderness.

Sale
Marbles Hunters Axe MR703
Genuine Hickory Wood Handle; 18 Inches Overall Length; 6 Inch Axe Head; 3.5 Inch Cutting Edge
Sale
Council Tool 2# Hudson Bay Camp Axe; 18″ Curved Wooden Handle Sport Utility Finish
18″ curved hickory handle; Forged tool steel head. Made in USA.; Hand sharpened, tapered bit for cutting and light splitting.
$48.95
Sale
Council Tool WC20PA19C Wood-Craft Pack Axe, 19-Inch
MADE IN USA; 19" HICKORY HANDLE; 2LB HEAD; 5160 STEEL; FLAT GRIND 25 DEGREES
$135.93

Why Do You Need a Bushcraft Axe?

Most anthropologists consider Man’s ability to make tools to be the distinguishing factor between intelligent and unintelligent life forms. However, to a bushcrafter, choosing the proper tools can literally mean the difference between life and death in a wilderness survival situation because a properly designed bushcraft axe is capable of performing multiple survival tasks.

For instance, the three things a person needs to survive in the wilderness are shelter from the elements, water, and food and a good bushcraft axe can aid you in acquiring all three.

In fact, a bushcraft axe can be an invaluable tool for building all sorts of survival shelters from simple debris shelters to log cabins. In addition, it can also aid you in building a fire by enabling you to collect so called “fat wood” for starting your fire and then by splitting logs to expose the inner surface so that the wood will burn more readily.

In addition, a good bushcraft axe can also aid you in cutting and shaping saplings to form traps and snares which will enable you to catch and consume wild game so that you don’t starve during your stay in the wilderness.

Furthermore, if your axe head is light and thin enough, it can even be used to replace a knife for some simple cutting tasks such as peeling bark, shaping an atlatl or self bow and, even for skinning game animals. Plus, provided that it has been hardened, the poll (back of the head) can be used as a hammer for tasks such as driving stakes and cracking nuts.

Last, an axe can even be used a self defense weapon in the event that you are attacked by a wild animal such as a wild boar, a bear or, a mountain lion.

So, as you can see, a high quality, properly designed bushcraft axe is one of the bushcrafter’s most valuable tools and thus, it is extremely important that you choose the right bushcraft axe.

How to Choose a Bushcraft Axe

As mentioned above, when making an extended stay in the wilderness, having a bushcraft axe can not only make your life far more comfortable, it can sometimes literally mean the difference between life and death. Therefore, it is extremely important that you choose your bushcraft axe with care. So, when choosing a bushcraft axe, there are three main factors that you need to consider consisting of the design of the head, the weight of the head and, the length of the handle.

Head Design

The design of the head is an important factor to consider when choosing a bushcraft axe because it drastically affects an axe’s versatility. For instance, because a bushcraft axe is, by definition, a multiple purpose tool, it must be able to perform many different cutting tasks ranging from butchering game and slicing vegetables for dinner to chopping, carving, and hewing wood.

Thus, both the handle and the head of the axe should be designed in such a way that they allow the user to place their hand or hands in multiple positions along the handle from the knob to the head depending on the job at hand. Consequently, both the Hudson Bay and Scandinavian axe head designs are among the most popular bushcraft axe head designs.

For those of you who are not familiar with the Hudson Bay axe head pattern, the design is believed to have originated in Northern Spain near the border with France. However, the name of this pattern comes from the fact that French fur traders extensively traded this axe head design with Native Americans for furs and other commodities in the Hudson Bay area.

The Scandinavian axe head pattern on the other hand is similar to the Hudson Bay pattern in that it too has a relatively narrow eye and poll but, unlike the Hudson Bay pattern, the Scandinavian pattern features a distinct lug on either side of the eye to provide additional surface area to aid in keeping the head tight.

But, regardless of their origins, the Hudson Bay and Scandinavian axe head patterns have long been considered the ultimate bushcraft axe head designs because they are both compact and lightweight, yet highly effective, patterns. Also, the design enables the user to “choke up” on the handle by sliding their hand up the handle adjacent to the head for increased control when slicing or carving.

In addition, it is important to note that axes with curved bits (the cutting edge) bite deeper than axes with straight bits. Thus, axes with curved bits are better suited to cutting and splitting while axes with straight bits are better suited to hewing and carving. Furthermore, you should also consider the length of the bit because the shorter the bit is, the more deeply the bit will bite but, the longer the bit, is the better suited it is to tasks such as hewing and carving.

Also, you should be aware that they shape of an axe head’s cheeks (sides) also affects its cutting performance. For, instance, the narrower the cheeks are, the thinner the bit will be and thus, the more deeply the axe will bite. On the other hand, wider the cheeks are, the thicker the bit will be and thus, the less deeply the axe will bit. But, at the same time, an axe with thin cheeks will be more prone to bind than an axe with thicker cheek. Plus, the thinner the cheeks are, the less leverage the head will have when splitting wood but, the thicker they are, the more easily they will split a log.

Therefore, by adjusting the length of the bit, the amount of curvature it has, the width of the cheeks, and the weight of the head, an axe head designer can tailor their design to meet the needs of a specific task or set of tasks.

Head Weight

Another factor to consider when purchasing a bushcraft axe is the weight of the head because lightweight axe heads are far easier to control, and thus, they enable you to strike with greater precision than with a heavy axe head. But, a heavier axe head will generate much more inertia (aka momentum) than a lighter axe head will and thus, a heavier axe head will bite more deeply. Thus, lightweight axe heads are best for chopping small trees and logs and for hewing and carving while heavier axe heads are best for felling, sectioning, and splitting.

Handle Length

In addition to the design and weight of the head, the length of the handle can also drastically affect a bushcraft axe’s performance.

For instance, the shorter the handle is, the more control you will have over the head. But, at the same time, the less leverage you will have and thus, the less deeply you will be able to make the axe head bite.

On the other hand, the longer an axe’s handle is, the less control you will have over the head (unless you use two hands on the haft) and thus, the less precise your strikes will be. But, at the same time, the more leverage you will have and thus, the faster you will be able to swing the head to generate more momentum. Thus, bushcraft axes with longer handles will bite more deeply than ones with shorter handles.

So, when choosing a bushcraft axe, you should take special note of the design and weight of the head as well as the length of the handle in order to make certain that you choose the right bushcraft axe for your needs.

The Pros and Cons of Bushcraft Axes

While it is true that a properly designed bushcraft axe will serve multiple functions, the fact is that a bushcraft is axe is still a highly specialized tool and, as such, it has both pros and cons. For instance:

Pros

  • Multipurpose tool – A good bushcraft axe can be used for multiple purposes.
  • Durability – A good bushcraft axe is nearly indestructible.
  • Portability – Due to their relatively lightweight heads and shorter handles, bushcraft axes are easier to transport than a full sized axe.

Cons

  • Possibility of injury – Using any axe is inherently dangerous because the head can unexpectedly deflect from the target or even miss it altogether when chopping or splitting wood and thus injure the user.
  • Expense – A high quality bushcraft axe can be relatively expensive.
  • Maintenance – Because axe heads are made from high carbon tool steels rather than stainless steels, they require maintenance to keep the heads free from corrosion.
  • Sharpening – An axe is more difficult to sharpen properly than a knife is.

The Top 10 Bushcraft Axes

1. Marbles Hunter’s Axe

Description
  • Genuine Hickory Wood Handle
  • 18 Inches Overall Length
  • 6 Inch Axe Head

Marbles is one of the oldest knife companies in America and thus, the Marbles brand name has long been a stable among avid outdoorsmen. Well known for their high quality knives and innovative blade designs, Marbles has applied the same outdoor knowledge and experience that they used to design their imminently popular hunting and bushcraft knives when designing their Marbles Hunter’s Axe.

Perfect for bushcrafting, the Marbles Hunting Axe has a 17.75 inch handle made from Hickory and has a 2 lb. Hudson Bay style head open-die drop-forged from 1045 high carbon tool steel and a 3.5 inch bit with a convex grind.

PROS CONS
(+) Hand-forged construction (-) High carbon tool steel requires maintenance
(+) Excellent head design
(+) Relatively inexpensive

2. Council Tool 18” Hudson Bay Camp Axe

Description
  • 18″ curved hickory handle
  • Forged tool steel head. Made in USA.
  • Hand sharpened, tapered bit for cutting and light splitting.

Council Tool is a family owned and operated business located in the U.S.A. that has been making fine quality axes since 1886. Led by the fourth and fifth generation of the Council family, Council Tool offers the country’s premier line of American-made axes.

Thus, another good choice for a bushcraft axe is the Council Tools 2 lb. Hudson Bay Camp Axe which has an 18 inch handle made from Hickory and a Hudson Bay style, 2 lb., head open-die drop-forged from high carbon tool steel with a Rockwell Hardness of 48 to 55 HRC and a 4 inch bit with a convex grind. Plus, it also includes a genuine leather sheath.

PROS CONS
(+) Hand-forged construction (-) Relatively expensive compared to other brands and models
(+) Excellent head design (-) High carbon tool steel requires maintenance
(+) Can be used either single or double handed

3. Council Tool 19” Wood-Craft Pack Axe

Description
  • MADE IN USA
  • 19" HICKORY HANDLE
  • 2LB HEAD

Council Tool is a family owned and operated business located in the U.S.A. that has been making fine quality axes since 1886. Led by the fourth and fifth generation of the Council family, Council Tools offers the country’s premier line of American made tools.

Thus, it is no surprise that Council Tool teamed up with leading bushcraft experts to design their new line of bushcraft specific axes.

Therefore, the Council Tools Wood-Craft Pack Axe features a 19 inch handle made from Hickory. In addition, it also features a Swedish style, 2 lb., head open-die drop-forged from 5160 high carbon tool steel with a 3.5 inch bit with a flat grind and a Rockwell Hardness of 48 to 55 HRC. Includes a full grain leather mask sheath.

One of the few axes on the market today designed specifically for bushcraft, the Council Tool Woodcraft Pack Axe is designed to be a multi-function premium axe which can cut, chop, split, carve, shave, and hew.

Also, the Woodcraft Pack Axe features a thinner blade than the Council Tool Hudson Bay Axe and, it has been sharpened using a Flat Grind of 25 Degrees for outstanding sharpness, bite, and the ability to hold an edge. Plus, the innovative Phantom Bevels prevent the axe from sticking and allows for cleaner, faster, cutting.

In addition, the top of the blade features a divot on either side and a flat edge on top with sharp, square, edges which are specifically designed to enable a person to use their axe to strike a ferrocerium fire stick.

Plus, unlike most axes, the poll (back) of the Wood-Craft axe has been hardened so that it can be used as a hammer without deformation.

It also includes a vegetable tanned leather mask sheath crafted from full grain cow leather.

PROS CONS
(+) Hand-forged construction (-) Relatively expensive compared to other brands and models
(+) Specifically designed for bushcraft (-) High carbon tool steel requires maintenance
(+) Can be used either single or double handed

4. Gransfors Bruk Hunters Axe

Description
  • Length with handle: 47 cm (18.5”)
  • Weight: 0,9 kg (2 lb)
  • Sheath in vegetable-tanned leather

Gransfors Bruk is well known for producing some of the best axes in the world and thus, the Gransfors Bruk brand name is well known among outdoor enthusiasts and wilderness survivalists alike. Located in Switzerland, Gransfors Bruk drop forges all of their premium axe heads from proprietary Swedish tool steel.

Yet another good choice for a bushcraft axe is the Gransfors Bruk Hunter’s Axe is designed specifically for the hunter and thus, it is a great tool for chopping meat or wood. It features a 18.5 inch handle made from Hickory with circular grooves to provide extra grip when your hands are wet or sticky. In addition, it also features a 2 lb. head open-die drop-forged from Swedish high carbon tool steel and a 3.25 inch bit with a convex grind and a rounded “flay poll” which is useful when using the axe to skin game because an ordinary straight poll can damage the hide. Plus, it also includes a genuine leather sheath.

PROS CONS
(+) Great head design (-) Excessively expensive
(+) Hand-forged from high quality Swedish steel (-) High carbon tool steel requires more maintenance

5. Gransfors Bruk Small Forest Axe

Description
  • Length with handle: 19 inch, Comes original Gransfors "Axe-book"
  • Weight: 2 lbs
  • Sheath in vegetable tanned leather

Gransfors Bruk is one of the top axe manufacturers on the market today and thus, the Gransfors Bruk brand name is well known among outdoor enthusiasts and wilderness survivalists alike. Located in Switzerland, Gransfors Bruk drop forges all of their premium axe head from proprietary Swedish tool steel.

Yet another good choice for a bushcraft axe is the Gransfors Bruk Small Forest Axe is made is Switzerland and features a 19 inch handle made from Hickory and a 1.5 lb. head open-die drop-forged from Swedish high carbon tool steel and a 3.25 inch bit with a convex grind. Plus, it also includes a genuine leather sheath.

Featuring the same size head as the Gransfors Bruks Hunter’s Axe, the Small Forest Axe has a relatively thin blade and the handle is long enough to provide plenty of leverage for chopping and splitting and yet, it is short and light enough to easily fit in a backpack or bug out bag.

PROS CONS
(+) Hand-forged construction (-) Relatively expensive compared to other brands and models
(+) Excellent head design (-) High carbon tool steel requires maintenance
(+) Can be used either single or double handed

6. Hults Bruk Aneby Axe

Description
  • Overall Weight: 2. 75 pounds
  • Head Weight: 2 pounds
  • Handle Length: 20 inches

The Hults Bruk Aneby is a stout, medium sized, axe that is great choice for a bushcraft axe. Designed to offer considerable power and leverage in a compact size, the Hults Bruk Aneby is ideally suited for light forest work, splitting smaller firewood, and felling smaller sized trees.

The Hults Bruk Aneby features a 20 inch handle made from Hickory and can be comfortably used with one hand or both hands. In addition, it also features a traditional Scandinavian pattern, 2 lb., head open-die drop-forged from high carbon tool steel with a 3.5 inch bit with a convex grind and a rounded poll for skinning.

PROS CONS
(+) Hand-forged from Swedish steel (-) Relatively expensive
(+) Versatile size for all tasks

7. Helko Werk Rheinland Pack Axe

Description
  • HANDMADE IN GERMANY - The Rheinland Pack Axe is lightweight, compact, and easy to carry while trekking through the wilderness. Comfortable to use one or two handed, this pack axe will excel at making kindling, limbing branches, building your shelter, and other light splitting and cutting work. Excellent small axe for backpacking and bushcraft work. The Traditional wide-bit German blade is also popular for carving as a carving axe for hobbyists.

Helko Werk is a reputable German company that’s been making high quality axes since 1844. Handmade in Wuppertal, Germany, these axes are named after the region’s famous Rhein River Valley.  Thus, while they are not as well know among outdoorsmen and survivalists as the Gransfors Bruks line, Helko Werk axes are nonetheless excellent bushcraft tools.

The Helko Werk Rheinland Pack Axe is a traditional Rheinland pattern axe and features a 20 inch handle made from Hickory with a linseed oil finish to help prevent it from splitting and a traditional German, Rheinland pattern, 1.5 lb., head open-die drop-forged from C50 high carbon tool steel with Rockwell Hardness of 53-56 HRC and a 4.125 inch bit with a convex grind.

Also included with every Helko Werk axe is a vegetable tanned leather sheath crafted from full grain cow leather and nickel-plated hardware along with a 1oz. bottle of protective oil.

PROS CONS
(+) Hand-forged German construction (-) Relatively expensive
(+) Traditional Rhineland head pattern (-) High carbon tool steels require maintenance to prevent corrosion
(+) C50 high carbon tool steel
(+) Comes with a nice leather sheath and blade oil

8. Snow & Nealley Hudson Bay Axe

Sale
Description
  • Drake Off Road Tools Featuring a 1 3/4# head on a 24" hickory handle
  • Our genuine leather blade sheath is included for your safety
  • Drake Off Road Tools

Although not as well known as some of the other manufactures listed here, Snow & Nealley axes are forged in the U.S.A by an Amish gentleman and his son who bought the Snow & Nealley brand, revived the company name, and restored the quality. So, don’t be fooled by the inexpensive MSRP of the Snow & Nealley Hudson Bay Axe because it features true Amish craftsmanship and is made entirely in America. Thus, the Snow & Nealley Hudson Bay Axe is one of the best values on the market today!

Also one of the most elegant Hudson Bay camp axes on the market, the Snow & Nealley Hudson Bay Axe features a 24 inch handle made from Hickory and a traditional Spanish, Hudson Bay pattern, 1.75 lb., head open-die drop-forged from fine grained, high carbon, tool steel with a 3.5 inch bit with a convex grind. Plus, it also includes a genuine leather sheath.

PROS CONS
(+) Great value for the money (-) Some older, Chinese-made, models have a bad reputation for poor quality
(+) American made

9. Council Tool 24” Velvicut Hudson Bay Camp Axe

Description
  • 2 Lb head; 24 inch Curved hickory handle
  • Forged from 5160 grade alloy steel
  • Bit is heat treated and quenched approximately 1 inch from the cutting edge, then tempered for maximum edge holding and toughness; final hardness Rc 52-56

Council Tool is a family owned and operated business located in the U.S.A. that has been making fine quality axes since 1886. Led by the fourth and fifth generation of the Council family, Council Tools offers the country’s premier line of American made tools.

Therefore, Council Tool offers both a line of standard quality axes and their Velvicut line which differs in that Velvicut axes are made from 5160 high carbon tool steel and have a much finer finish than their standard line of axes.

Thus, another good choice for a bushcraft axe is the Council Tools 24 inch Velvicut Hudson Bay Camp Axe which has a 24 inch handle made from Hickory and a Hudson Bay style, 2 lb., head open-die drop-forged from 5160 high carbon tool steel with a Rockwell Hardness of 48 to 55 HRC and a 4 inch bit with a convex grind.

PROS CONS
(+) Hand-forged construction (-) Relatively expensive compared to other brands and models
(+) Excellent head design (-) High carbon tool steel requires maintenance
(+) Can be used either single or double handed

10. Council Tool 24” Wood-Craft Pack Axe

Description
  • 2 Lb head; 24 inch Curved hickory handle
  • Forged from 5160 grade alloy steel
  • Bit is heat treated and quenched approximately 1 inch from the cutting edge, then tempered for maximum edge holding and toughness; final hardness Rc 52-56

Council Tool is a family owned and operated business located in the U.S.A. that has been making fine quality axes since 1886. Led by the fourth and fifth generation of the Council family, Council Tools offers the country’s premier line of American made tools.

Thus, it is no surprise that Council Tool teamed up with leading bushcraft experts to design their new line of bushcraft specific axes.

Therefore, the Council Tools Wood-Craft Pack Axe features a 24 inch handle made from Hickory. In addition, it also features a Scandinavian style, 2 lb., head open-die drop-forged from 5160 high carbon tool steel with a 3.5 inch bit with a flat grind and a Rockwell Hardness of 48 to 55 HRC. Plus, unlike most axes, the poll (back) of the Hudson Bay axe has been hardened so that it can be used as a hammer without deformation.

One of the few axes on the market today designed specifically for bushcraft, the Council Tool Woodcraft Pack Axe is designed to produce a multi-functional premium axe which can successfully cut, chop, split, carve, shave, and hew.

Also, Woodcraft Pack Axe features a thinner blade than the Council Tool Hudson Bay Axe and, it has been sharpened using a Flat Grind of 25 Degrees for outstanding sharpness, bite, and holding a sharp blade. Plus, the innovative Phantom Bevels prevent the axe from sticking and allows for cleaner faster cutting, carving, hewing, and splitting.

In addition, the top of the blade features a divot on either side of the blade and a flat edge on top with sharp, square, edges which are specifically designed to enable a person to use their axe to strike a ferrocerium fire stick.

Plus, unlike most axes, the poll (back) of the Wood-Craft axe has been hardened so that it can be used as a hammer without deformation.

PROS CONS
(+) Hand-forged construction (-) Relatively expensive compared to other brands and models
(+) Specifically designed for bushcraft (-) High carbon tool steel requires maintenance
(+) Can be used either single or double handed

Final Thoughts

So, as mentioned above, whenever you enter the wilderness, the only comforts that you have are the ones that you bring with you and the ones that you can make from the materials at hand using the tools that you have. Thus, when choosing a bushcraft axe, it is imperative to remember that it is meant to be a multi-purpose outdoor tool and thus, versatility is of paramount importance.

Therefore, when choosing a bushcraft axe, it is extremely important that you choose both a properly designed axe and a high quality axe because the design and quality of your axe will determine both its usefulness and its durability in a survival situation where having your tool fail is simply not an option.

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