A while back, some douch-nozzle POS got into my van and stole the Estwing Camping Ax my dad had given me. I loved that thing. It was bomb proof like most Estwing products are. Today I was sitting here thinking it was time to reequip the Adventure Van for the summer and I need a new ax.
This led me to looking on Amazon for “Survival Axes” (not sure why). What I found is laughable and led to this post.
First off, hatchets aren’t axes. Lots of the listings that describe their product as axes are really glorified hatchets (at best). The difference between a hatchet and an ax you ask? In my book, the definition is simple. An ax is a tool you can swing with two hands, while a hatchet is designed for one-handed use. Most of these things I wouldn’t swing at anything more sturdy than a Styrofoam block.
The other big problem I have is that there are loads of “survival axes” that are loaded down with gadgets. Lets be real, if you are in a life or death situation, you are going to want more than a Chinese made, screw together hatchet/knife/fire starter/pry bar to save your life.
If your life is on the line, you need tools that will hold up. Cheaply made, Chinese products are just not something I would want to risk my life on. They look cool, but looks aren’t enough.
Now in all fairness, it probably would be better than nothing. Taking a .22 cal revolver into a war zone to protect yourself is better than nothing too, but I don’t suggest that either. Take the right tools for the job.
My experience is that any tool that tries to do too many things winds up being mediocre at best for all of them. I’d rather plan ahead and take dedicated tools with me. If I need an ax, I bring a good ax. If I need a knife I bring a good knife.
My choice for survival ax in the woods
Obviously, I favor the Estwing Camping Ax. I’ve used Estwing products for years and the get lost/stolen long before they break. At one point my father dropped an Estwing hammer off a dock we were working on one fall. The next spring when it warmed up, he went back in fished it out of the lake and it was fine.
Now we come back to the discussion on ax vs hatchet. If you are concerned about weight, drop down to a hatchet. You will give up chopping power so breaking up bigger wood will be harder, but that might be OK for you. If I was building bug-out bag for going overland, I would probably go that route.
But for a long term, last the rest of my life, general purpose ax, I’d go with the 26″ Estwing. For about $40 at your local hardware store you can’t go wrong with it.
One caveat to this is that I’m talking about an “I can have only one ax” situation here. There are different types of axes for different situations. This is by far a general purpose ax so it doesn’t excel in any one trait. If you want an ax that is amazing at felling trees, you need a felling ax. If you want to split wood, get a splitting maul.
Survival ax for in an urban environment
If you are looking for an ax type tool for surviving in the city when the things go bad, then you are looking for a completely different sort of tool. You aren’t likely going to be going all lumberjack felling trees and building shelters from mighty pines.
Realistically you need a tool to break into things, tear things apart and possibly wave at idiots that want to make your stuff, their stuff. To that end, if I was going to pick a survival ax for an urban setting, I’d go with a Truckers Friend type tool (Amazon link).
For a general purpose beat on things, tear things apart and get into things tool, this will do the job. No, it won’t do the job as well as any of the one specialized tool on its own, but the Truckers Friend does them well enough for my liking.
In a city, the big thing will be getting into places for shelter and breaking up things to burn. This will do the job. As for swinging at chuckle-heads it is intimidating and one upside of the curved blade is that it isn’t likely to get stuck. More on axes as weapons in a minute.
Plan for where you will be needing your ax
Planning ahead is really the key thing. Where are you likely going to be needing an ax, what are you going to be doing with it? The key element is bringing the right tools to the situation. This may mean needing more than one ax. Maybe you need an outdoors ax in your big bug-out kit and a hatchet sized version of the Trucker’s Friend in the get home bag that you keep at the office.
Axes aren’t weapons
Now in a pinch anything you can find is a weapon, but axes aren’t weapons. At least the ones that are meant for cutting wood aren’t effective weapons. Sure, one can do a big amount of damage, but the issue is that they get stuck. If you look at battle axes, they had big curved blades that made them great at taking off limbs and kept them from getting jammed in between some ribs, leaving the wielder weaponless.
Now the Trucker’s Friend does have that curved type of blade, making a it a better fighting stick than a regular ax and in an urban setting that may be a plus. Just don’t let too many horror movies fool you. The ax you use to bring down a tree, won’t do you a ton of good against an army of zombies (alive or undead).