Which camping ax is best?
Ensuring you have enough food and water is crucial when you’re packing for a camping trip, but you must also have the right tools. A small shovel and rubber mallet always come in handy, but for firewood, you’re going to need an ax.
Surprisingly, deciding on the right ax isn’t as simple as walking into an outdoor store and picking the one that makes you look like a rough lumberjack. There is almost a science behind it, but it’s totally worth it if you want your perfect ax to last a lifetime. The WilFiks 15-Inch Camping Ax is ideal for splitting wood to make kindling.
What to know before you buy a camping ax
Ax vs. hatchet
While an ax and a hatchet are essentially the same things, there are some stark differences. For example, a hatchet is often smaller than an ax. But it also depends on who you ask. Some outdoor gear makers refer to a hatchet as a camping ax, with a “traditional” ax referring to long-stemmed tools used in forestry.
But generally, hatchets are meant to be used with one hand, and the back of the head is flat for striking or hammering. Hatchets and tomahawks are similar, as they don’t have a separate handle and blade but rather, are made from one solid piece of material.
Cheek thickness for different jobs
The cheek of an ax is the longest part of the head. It is essentially the exposed metal between the bit (or edge) and the handle’s eye. The thickness determines if the ax is best for cutting or splitting wood. A thicker cheek is excellent for splitting wood with the grain to make kindling. A thin cheek is best for cutting or chopping wood or trees against the grain.
Traditionalists would probably tell you a wood handle is the best for any ax. But you have several choices to make your job easier. Wood is the most common, but it can also damage easily. And while they are replaceable, wood handles aren’t as sturdy as non-replaceable fiberglass or metal. Fiberglass is also excellent at absorbing shock, whereas metal isn’t.
What to look for in a quality camping ax
The blade’s shape determines how much metal comes in contact with wood during the strike. A curved blade is wider, letting more metal penetrate the wood and requiring less power. A flat blade makes more contact with the wood, so you must swing harder. It’s a delicate balance between what you are chopping or splitting and how much force you can generate. But generally, a good-quality camping ax has some curve to it, making it excellent for splitting logs or chopping off tree limbs.
Balance of the ax head
In the split second it takes to swing an ax, things can go horribly wrong if you aren’t precise. The slightest offset in balance can cause your swing to drift to one side and miss the wood. A good-quality camping ax has a balanced head that will always swing true.
A quick way to determine the balance is to rest the ax on its shoulder and heel with the blade facing upward. If it remains in the middle, the blade is balanced. If not, the head will tip over to whichever side is heavier.
While it isn’t necessary to have a double-bit ax, it can come in handy. A regular ax is single-bit, meaning it has one sharpened blade. A double-bit ax has two blades on opposite sides of the head. This is generally so that you have a thin cheek on the one and a thick cheek on the other. It’s the best of both worlds, but if you overdo the ax length and size while camping, you’ll definitely get some sneers from others.
How much you can expect to spend on a camping ax
The average price of a camping ax largely depends on the materials used and the length. A small ax with a steel handle costs $15-$20, while a broad-headed ax with a fiberglass handle runs $30-$60.
Camping ax FAQ
Can you hammer your ax into wood?
A. This is a controversial question. Some believe that an ax isn’t meant to be hammered, while others see no problem with it. But why would you want to? Well, many strike the ax into the wood, then hammer the back of the head to penetrate further. It can help to work through knots, but it can also damage the metal.
How do you protect your ax?
A. An ax is only good when the blade is sharp and the handle undamaged. To protect the blade against premature blunting, there are several blade covers that easily slip over. The handle should also be oiled regularly with a protective coating.
What’s the best camping ax to buy?
Top camping ax
What you need to know: This 15-inch camping ax is the perfect length for chopping small logs, branches and kindling.
What you’ll love: It has a forged carbon steel blade with a shock-absorbing fiberglass handle. The blade can be sharpened with a file, and it comes with a sheath.
What you should consider: Some users said it feels a bit light.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top camping ax for the money
What you need to know: This polished steel ax is made from solid metal and has a rubber handle.
What you’ll love: The edge is perfect for splitting wood while the back of the head is flat for hammering. It comes with a sheath.
What you should consider: Coming in at just over 11 inches, it’s not as long as others, but it gets the job done.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
What you need to know: Forged from one solid piece of metal, the head has a sharp edge for log splitting and a flat surface for hammering.
What you’ll love: The shock-absorbing grip is covered in leather, and it comes with a ballistic nylon sheath.
What you should consider: The weighted wedge can be a challenge to strike accurately.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
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Charlie Fripp writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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