How to choose An Axe For Your Camper

man in black jacket and black pants sitting on brown wooden log during daytime

I bet you didn’t think axes can be so various. If you have an RV, owning an axe is important, but easily forgotten or set aside. First to consider is that your axe should be of just the right size, not too large nor too small. This is mainly for safety and ergonomic purposes. 

An axe is a lever, thus, the force of the head depends on the handle. This is why a balance between the weight and the length is an important consideration.

What should I look for in a camping Axe? Things to consider

  • User’s size and frame: an axe with a longer handle may work well with a taller frame
  • User’s strength: a heavier head combined with a longer handle may be easier used by stronger individuals
  • User’s skill: it takes skill to be able to use an axe safely, so if you’re a beginner, it’s best to choose your axe properly.

Axe head weight

An axe that is too heavy will be uncomfortable to use while an axe that’s too light requires more swing effort. Both of these factors create a harmful environment to the user and the people around the work field.

  • Light camping hatchet (tomahawk): 1.5 lbs (300 to 700g) 
  • Usual 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)

How heavy should an AXE be?

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

Axe handle length 

There are various options in terms of axe haft lengths in the market today and it is best to look for the one that feels just right. 

  • 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” (¾ of 36” is 27” or about 700 mm); A lot of people agree that this is a great camp axe.
  • Scout axe or ½ axe: 18” or 20” (450 to 500 mm) in haft length with a 1.25 to 1.5 lbs of head weight

Some say that axes with longer handles are safer because it takes the head further from the user’s body. But keep in mind that a handle that comes out too long requires more effort to swing and this adds up to the user’s exhaustion. Plus, it also adds to the danger of using this tool, especially with unskilled individuals. On the other hand, if a handle is too short, it usually strikes in awkward angles with lesser force, which in turn will also be tiring. 

As a compromise, a heavy head can be neutralized by a shorter handle, while a lighter one can be helped by a longer handle. However, these are mere band-aid solutions.

Homemade or commercial axe guards?

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.

Commercial axe guards

Commercial axe guards are usually sewn and riveted and come with a leather sheath or pouch slipped over the blade as it is held in place by a leather strap or webbing that buckles in the rear head. 

Sometimes, guards come with a snap for hanging on the user’s belt. There are also variants that have a pair of slots to thread it through a utility belt but this is usually for smaller axes.

Commercial axe guards are generally durable without a high price tag. They usually range from around $12 to $15. However, take note that they are not always readily available in the market so some axe owners create makeshift guards instead.

Homemade axe guards

Since commercial guards, as I’ve said, aren’t always easy to catch, recycling to create one is definitely not bad at all. Once, a local Scout troop leader gave out a task to each of his patrol to come up with makeshift axe guards and here are the results:

Rubber hose

Running at a length of 6” (15 cm), a garden hose was slipped over the blade after being split on one side and was anchored in place by a makeshift “elastic band” derived from a section of motorcycle tire tube. Overall, this one was a success but the motorcycle tube eventually stretched out.

Bike handlebar grip

The next group utilized a bicycle handgrip instead of the previous garden hose. A set of handlebar grips worked well for both axes. The rubber holder was cut from a truck inner tube and it functioned greatly. 

Wood block

1” dowel was used for this version. It was dropped into a storage box and was split. This group also used a 1×2 piece and each piece of wood was about 1” (2.5 cm) longer than the axe blade. A table saw was utilized by one of the boys’ dad to have a saw kerf into the wood. Moreover, the blade was cut into the kerf and a parachute cord along with the wood was used to knot the guard to the axe.

Purpose of the challenge

The challenge given to the Scout troops came with some delightful purposes:

  • Brought out their creativity
  • Emphasized awareness of axe safety
  • Encouraged safe storage and transport of the tool
  • Save money by recycling
  • Proper caring for tools

Despite being homemade, these axe guards perform the way we’d want a commercial one to at a price a lot cheaper than its counterpart in the market.

Commercial axe guards and axe sheaths

Axe guards or sheaths are mainly there to serve as a protection to the axe blade. Actually, it protects both the blade from chips and everything else it may strike from being broken.

The difference between an axe guard and an axe sheath is the former covers just the bit while the latter covers the whole head. But, both variants have a sheath or a pouch that is made of durable fabric. Additionally, the sheath also serves as a protection to the sides of the head so they remain polished and sharp.

Although there are generic and one size fits almost all types of axe sheaths and guards, specifically designed ones still perform best as they are created especially for the axes they are made to protect.

Axe edge guard build

Axe blade sheaths and guards are commonly made of:

  • Heavy canvas
  • Vinyl fabric made of synthetic leather
  • Highly decorated leather
  • Ballistic nylon
  • Molded plastic

Recently, “high tech” axes are making it into the scene. These are axes with polyamide handles and custom-made guards made of thermoformed plastic clips that are put over the head. 

How are axe blade guards and sheaths held in place

The anchor typically comes in a form of a leather or webbing strap or flap. It traverses behind, around, or over the head as it is fasted in place. But take note that with plastic guards, moulded clips instead snap on to the axe head.

Here are different types of guards:

  • Single strap that traverses along the rear heel or butt of the head with a buckle or a snap to fasten it. Make sure that the strap is fastened securely to avoid slipping off of the strap.
  • The previous design can be used for a sheath but it then lies in the angle between the haft and the heel. This has lesser chances of slipping off.
  • Sheaths that have a through-hole for the haft and are held in place by a flap. The flap then folds over the head, specifically over its top, and is then fastened with a snap.
  • A design that wraps around and criss-crosses around the head. This variant is secure but is less common and is of older styles. 
  • Thermoformed plastic sheaths that snap over the head and are retained by moulded clips or friction fit.

Safety first

Safety comes first with everything. When walking along uneven trails, make sure to carry a full size axe by hand rather than strapping it to a pack where it can potentially cause harm. Another thing to consider is that a shorter and lighter axe is best for backpacking or canoeing.

Common FAQs

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

In several ways, a chopping axis varies from 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 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 edges of 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

So now that we have discussed the different things to consider, it’s now your time to decide. Happy axe shopping!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *