As a seasoned camping aficionado, I understand the intricacies and challenges of selecting the right gear. Today, I want to focus on a crucial, often overlooked piece of equipment – the camping axe. This tool can make a significant difference in your camping experience, whether you’re chopping wood for a fire or handling minor on-site tasks.

It might seem like an easy choice, but axes come in various shapes and sizes, each with its specific purpose. When you’re packing for an RV trip, it’s important to choose an axe that’s neither too big nor too small, strikes the right balance between weight and length, and matches your strength and skills.

As someone who has wielded many axes, I’ve accumulated knowledge and personal insight that will help you choose the perfect axe for your camping needs.

Your Guide to Choosing the Perfect Camping Axe

Size and Frame of the User

Taller individuals might find longer axe handles more comfortable, while shorter ones may prefer axes with shorter handles.

User’s Strength

Stronger individuals may handle a heavy axe head combined with a longer handle more easily. However, remember that using an axe requires skill. So, beginners should be careful in choosing their axe.

Axe Head Weight

An axe that’s too heavy can be unwieldy, while a too-light axe may require more effort to swing. Both scenarios can create unsafe conditions for the user and those nearby. For reference, the average axe head weights are as follows:

  • Light camping hatchet (tomahawk): 1.5 lbs (300 to 700g)
  • Forest axe (felling axe): 2.5 to 3.5 lbs (1.1 to 1.6 kg)
  • Splitting axe: Up to 4.5 lbs (2 kg)
  • Splitting maul: 5 to 8 lbs (2.5 to 3.5 kg)

For most people, the best average axe for splitting wood will weigh between 4-6 lbs.

Axe Handle Length

Finding the right handle length is critical for effective and safe axe use. Here are some general guidelines for axe handle lengths:

  • Hatchet: 8” (200 mm) to 14” (400 mm)
  • Forest axe (felling axe or cutting axe): 28” to 36” (700 mm to 900 mm)
  • Full axe: 36” (900 mm)
  • Typical utility or camping axe: 20” to 24” (500 to 600 mm)
  • Boy’s axe or ¾ axe: 28” (700 mm)
  • Scout axe or ½ axe: 18” or 20” (450 to 500 mm)

Safety Considerations

Remember that longer handles can be safer because they keep the axe head further from your body. However, a longer handle also requires more effort to swing, which can be exhausting and potentially dangerous, especially for beginners.

Conversely, if a handle is too short, the axe may strike at awkward angles and with less force, making it tiring to use.

Axe Guards: Commercial or Homemade?

Axe guards are crucial for protecting your axe blade and maintaining its sharpness. They also enhance safety by covering the sharp edge. Commercial axe guards are usually sturdy, and affordable, and come with a leather sheath or pouch that slips over the blade.

But if they’re unavailable or you prefer a DIY approach, homemade axe guards can be a practical alternative.

Commercial vs. Homemade Axe Guards

Commercial Axe Guards

Commercial axe guards are usually sewn and riveted, offering robust protection for your axe blade. These guards typically range from $12 to $15. Some variants even feature slots for threading through a utility belt, suitable for smaller axes.

Homemade Axe Guards

If commercial guards are unavailable or you prefer the charm of a DIY solution, homemade axe guards can be a great alternative. The creativity, cost-efficiency, and emphasis on safety these homemade guards can offer are worth appreciating.

To protect the axe blade and keep it sharp, an edge guard or an axe sheath is important since a properly sheathed axe is a lot safer.

Types of Homemade Guards

  • Rubber hose: A garden hose of about 6” (15 cm) in length can be slipped over the blade and held in place with an elastic band made from a motorcycle tire tube.
  • Bike handlebar grip: A handlebar grip can serve as an effective guard for axes with smaller heads. A rubber holder cut from a truck’s inner tube can secure it.
  • Woodblock: A dowel or 1×2 piece of wood, each longer than the axe blade by 1” (2.5 cm), can be cut with a table saw to fit the blade. A parachute cord can be used to knot the guard to the axe.

Safeguarding Your Axe

Whether you choose a commercial or homemade guard, the primary goal is to protect your axe blade and the surrounding environment. An axe guard or sheath prevents chips on the blade and potential harm to other items in your camping gear.

These protective tools can be made from various materials like heavy canvas, synthetic leather vinyl fabric, decorated leather, ballistic nylon, and molded plastic. Some modern axes with polyamide handles even feature custom-made guards of thermoformed plastic clips.

Ensuring Safety When Using Axes

Remember, when using or transporting axes, safety should always come first. When walking on uneven trails, carry a full-size axe by hand instead of strapping it to a pack, where it could cause harm. For backpacking or canoeing trips, a shorter and lighter axe is a better choice.

So, equipped with this knowledge and expertise, you’re now ready to choose the perfect axe for your next camping adventure. Happy axe shopping!

Common FAQs

What’s the difference between a chopping AXE and a splitting AXE?

In several ways, a chopping axis varies from a splitting axis. A chopping axis blade is slimmer than a splitting axis and sharper as it is designed to cut through wood fibers.

A hatchet and a chopping axis are both built for similar use, but there are noticeable differences.

What’s better for splitting wood, AXE, or maul?

The splitting maul is a great choice for very large pieces of wood as its heavier weight gives you additional strength. Smaller users can find the heavier maul weight difficult to swing. For smaller pieces of wood or splitting around the edges of the wood, a splitting axis is the best option.

What is the best steel for an AXE?

Most axes use medium-carbon steel, mostly around 1050-1060. This is because this steel is the best for sharp-edged weapons, and it is heat-tempered to reduce the chance of cracking and splintering.

Is it easier to split dry or wet wood?

Ultimately, you can split wet and dry wood. The latter is generally easier to break, but many prefer separating the former because it dries out faster. But if you use a log splitter, you should not split wet or dry wood.