Purchasing the right camping axe is an important decision. It's common for people to see a large camping axe and become intimidated, so they choose an axe that is too small for all the various uses around a campsite. Hopefully, I can help you to avoid that problem with this article. It’s important to understand what your needs for a camping axe are before you choose one. Here are my five uses to consider when choosing a camping axe along with my personal recommendation and a few camping tips as well.
My five uses when choosing a camping axe:
1. Felling Trees
2. Splitting Wood
3. Preparing Kindling
4. Building a Shelter
5. Limbing Trees
Here's a quick reference chart I put together for you to help you get a feel for these types of uses for an axe. But be sure to check out my personal recommendation at the end of this article. After 40 years of camping, I've learned a few things about how to choose a camping axe.
Tree Felling Axe
Type of Axe: Felling Axe
Price Range ($125-$175)
There are three reasons you would need to fell a tree at your campsite.
The first reason is to clear a spot to set up your campsite if one is not available or you want a particular view or protection from say the cold north wind and the spot you’ve chosen has a few small trees in the place you would like your tent and campsite.
The second reason to fell a tree at your campsite would be to use the length of the tree to build your camping shelter as opposed to using a pop-up camping tent. Some off-trail bush campers prefer building their shelter out of small trees, tree limbs, and evergreen boughs rather than using a tent.
The third and most common reason for felling a tree is for firewood. Depending on the location of your campsite, most of the time there just isn’t enough small firewood laying around to sustain a campfire for a couple of days unless you bring the wood with you.
Wood Splitting Axe
Type of Axe: Splitting Axe
Price Range ($80-$229)
Splitting axes are usually around 30 inches long and have a maul like head. This thick head causes the wood to split apart after the blade enters the wood. Which is fine when you are splitting wood to burn at home in your fireplace or stove you would normally use a maul because it is heaver and by design has the wider head than a typical axe. However, when you are camping you don’t really need to be dragging around an 8-pound maul. The right camping axe can work as well for splitting firewood for your campfire.
After you have felled a couple of trees (I usually look for dead trees because the wood is already dry), then you will need to cut them into short links (12 inches or so) then split them. When they are split not only do, they ignite easier, but they are easier to handle and keep dry if you stack them. The smaller size allows the air to flow through your wood stack and dry out even if it gets rained on.
Camping tip: I usually keep my split wood downwind about 10 feet from my campfire so the heat and smoke can help dry it.
Preparing Kindling with An Axe
Type of Axe: Kindlin Axe
Price Range ($35-$74)
Most folks think splitting wood is the same a preparing kindling, but it is not. So, preparing your kindling for starting your campfire doesn't require a heavy axe. What it does require is a sharp axe. A sharp edge allows you to shave the wood you have it split down to a size (under an inch thick and less than a foot long) that causes it to ignite or dry out faster if it gets wet.
Camping Tip: If you happen to find a dead Pine tree, many times the heart of the tree will be loaded with tree rosin. This stuff burns like kerosine. It will even start burning if it gets wet. So, taking your sharp axe and shaving the Pine heart down into paper-thin slivers can save you a lot of time starting your fire. I love to find Pine-heart to shave down with my axe.
Building A Shelter with An Axe
Type of Axe: Bush Axe
Price Range ($73-$229)
Axes have been used for thousands of years to build shelters in the bush. Even though you won’t need to build a log cabin, you may decide to build a lean-to for fun instead of using a tent and cover it with evergreen boughs. Or you may decide to cut down a long slender tree trunk trim off the limbs and rope each end up to a tree. Then you can throw a canvass over the tent or tarp. In my teens, this was how I built my tents.
This all definitely depends on your skill level, the kind of shelter you want to build, and the size of available trees. But you sure can build a monster size shelter that has plenty of headroom if you use your axe to do this.
Limbing Trees with An Axe
Type of Axe: Limbing Axe
Price Range ($59-$84)
You just found your perfect spot to set up camp. The only problem is the tree limbs. When they are hanging low over your tent and the wind picks up, there goes your tent. Or at the worst, they beat holes in it. You could just move the tent, but you won't have to if you just trim the limbs back to the base of the tree trunk with your axe. You could use a hatchet to do this as well.
Camping tip: Another reason for limbing trees around your campsite is to use the limbs to make kindlin as well. When I’m going to be camping for longer than one day and I’m in the bush, one of the things I do even before setting up my campsite, is limbing the trees and make a large pile of them. I don't even cut them up into kindling until the end of the second day. Just 24 hours of letting them rest in a pile with the wind and the sun working on them, make great kindling.
My Personal Recommendation
I've given you a lot of information to consider. So, let me help you make the decision much easier. After 4 decades of camping here is my choice for the best all-around camping axe that can take care of all five of the camping axe uses above; felling trees, splitting wood, preparing kindling, building a shelter and limbing trees.
For me, the best camping axe to use should be 18 to 20 inches long and weigh about 2.5 lbs. and have a thin long blade with a medium-sized head. If you keep the blade sharp there aren’t many tasks around the camp that you can’t take care of with this small axe. It makes a great camping axe. You can use the backside of the axe head to drive tent stakes or even nails if need be. I love this size axe.
Camping tip: I would however not get a wood-handled axe because they are easy to crack and splinter the handles. Back in the day, that's the only handle we had, but unless you have a lot of experience using an axe, you’ll beat the handle the death. This usually happens when splitting wood. You can also choke up on the handle for shaving and splitting kindling or trimming limbs off a tree.
I highly recommend this axe with a fiberglass handle. Its handle is almost indestructible and will last you decades. I personally like this Intertool Steel Splitting Axe. It weighs just over 2 lbs. and has a 21-inch handle and is not expensive. You can get it on Amazon for $29.97 by clicking on the link in blue above. Worth every penny too.
Well, that's all I got for you today!
Thanks for reading my articles. My goal is to help you to save money on great products and have a great time. And maybe throw in a few nuggets of helpful tips that I've learned along the way.
Until the next article…do yourself a favor and take a kid camping, it will change your life.
All the best,
P.S. I recommend you take a look at Kyle Noseworthy’s video here. He and I disagree, a little but his video is very informative. Be sure to watch it till the end and you will see why I like the
Size of the Intertool Steel Splitting Axe for an all around great camping axe.