What Size Is Best for a Camping Axe?

A camping axe next to a coffee mug.

Before any group of folks ventures into the great outdoors, it’s important they know how to equip themselves with all the necessary gear. One of the crucial elements of the camping equipment is, of course, a top-notch camping axe. We’ll be talking about it today quite a lot!

So, how does one figure out which camping axe’s good? Top-quality design or functionality; form vs. function? What about the size and its role? All of those questions (with an emphasis on the last one) we will answer in the article that awaits you below. To phrase it differently: among other things, you’ll learn what size is best for a camping axe! 

You’ll want to opt for a camping axe that’s lightweight, yet highly functional (for chopping wood, creating tinder, etc.). A camping axe that’s about 18-21 inches (46-53 centimeters) long should be just the thing you need. Of course, if you’re a camper-backpacker, you might want to obtain a camping axe that’s about 12 inches (30 centimeters) long.

Now, we can’t stop right there! Don’t hesitate to check out what else we’ve got in store for today!

Why do you need an axe for camping?

Before we delve deeper into our main topic, it might be best to see why is a camping axe such an important item. In other words: let’s see why should one even bring it along on a camping trip.

Chopping wood/creating tinder

The simplest answer you can get is: you’ll need an axe for chopping wood. To make a solid campfire (good for smoking meat, maybe), you’ll need some dry wood. In case there’s no dry wood around, you’ll probably need to strip off the exterior layers of a larger chunk of wet wood to expose the dry core. A quick digression: the second part of this paragraph’s title’s not what you’d think of first when someone would say “create tinder”. The thing is: you’ll want to utilize your trusty hatchet in the shaving motion to create a good number of little wood slivers that will help you start a fire with ease.

A functioning substitute for a hammer/shovel

You can use the back end of your axe blade as a completely-functioning hammer. Why you’d need to hammer anything while camping in the first place? For instance, you might want to hammer in tent pegs or drive in the central pole for a makeshift shelter. Whatever’s the case: just make sure the axe blade is covered in its sheath before you do this, because you don’t want to end up cutting yourself on the exposed edge.

Oh, and what about the whole substitute-for-a-shovel thing? Here’s the thing: if you didn’t pack your shovel before kickstarting your camping adventure, an axe might take its place with no hassle. For instance, if you’ve chosen the area you’ll sleep in, you can use your axe to clear the area of various insects and vermin that might hide beneath the terrain you’ll sleep on. Also, you might utilize your axe to dig a trench around your sleeping site in order to drain water from your camping area if rain was to fall.

Rudimentary protection

First of all, let’s just say one thing: there are many ways you can protect yourself from wildlife encounters without using any “weaponry”. However, there are times when folks have no alternative than to engage in combat. Your axe will serve you well to deter the predator in that situation. Although, you should keep in mind that this will probably never happen to you; the chances are way below slim.

Wintertime issues

If you’re camping in extreme weather conditions such as the dead of winter, your trusty camping axe might be the most important piece of equipment you can rely on for survival. For instance, you can use your axe to break through the ice in order to reach flowing water and provide yourself access to fish. Now, of course, this mightn’t be the best solution if you’re sporting an auger. Still, if you ain’t got one, your camping axe will help you score some food in icy conditions (when there’s not much food to count on).

Now that you’ve seen what a good, sturdy camping axe can be used for, it’s time we check out the main question of today’s article: what size is best for a camping axe?

A camping axe laid on top of some wood chips.

What size is best for a camping axe?

Okay, so without further ado, let’s see that answer. The thing is: you should always opt for a shorter axe. It’ll need to be less than 2 ft (0.6 m) long. For instance, an axe that’s about 18-21 inches (46-53 centimeters) long possesses enough power and capability to be used in various (useful) ways, without being tough on your camping cargo. Of course, if you’re looking for something that’s even less of a pressure on your camping equipment inventory, look for an axe that’s about 12 inches (30 centimeters) long. Keep in mind that it’s a very good axe to split kindling with, but not much more than that.

All in all: camping axes need to be portable without posing any threat to the weight of your backpack (especially if you’re backpacking). For instance, if the axe’s too big, there’s hardly any chance that it will fit inside your backpack. Not to mention is way on the inconvenient side, even if fits inside the pack. Anyway, always make sure that the camping axe you’re planning to obtain fits your camping needs.

What else should you look for in a camping axe?

Now that we’ve seen what’s the best size for a camping axe, let’s consider what else do you want to watch out for when buying this amazing piece of camping equipment!

Weight

When picking out the ideal camping axe for your needs, you’ll have to find a balance between the so-called chopping force and the axe’s portability. Needless to say, a weightier ax will make chopping wood seem like a piece of cake; lighter axes are, however, much easier to carry around with you on your camping trips (we’ll repeat: especially if you’re walking to your campsite/backpacking).

For how long are you planning to carry your backpack? In other words: are you reaching the campsite by car or by foot? If you’re driving directly or really close to the campsite, it might be best to opt for a heavier one. On the other side, if you’re going on a backpacking adventure, reaching each campsite on foot, opting for a lighter version has no alternative.

If you’re wondering what kind of lightweight camping axe should you opt for, we’ve published an article about two fantastic items you could consider obtaining. Just follow the highlighted link!

Durability

There’s no need to emphasize the fact you’ll need an axe that’s made from high-quality metal. By obtaining such a camping axe, you’ll ensure that you’ve bought an item that’s durable, alongside being easy to sharpen. What kind of metal are we talking about then? You’ll want to know that plain carbon steel (1050-1090, 5150, 5160) is definitely the coolest blade material for axes out there since it’s fairly easy to sharpen and resists corrosion like a pro. Additionally, it’s a bit tougher than stainless steel and it keeps the edge sharp even in touch with harder materials.

Also, you’ll wanna know that the most popular steel type you can find on various camping axes and hatchets is stainless steel (420). The reason behind its popularity is that this item is very functional in high-moisture environments.

What about handles?

We guess we’ve talked about the axe blade a bit too much. We see no reason why the handle should be forgotten or intentionally ignored. Okay, so what about the best kind of handles for camping axes? The most popular kind is the solid wood handles. Of course, you can find stainless steel, ballistic nylon, or even composite plastic camping axe handles. However, wooden ones are known for their fantastic traits. For instance, hickory and ash wood handles are pretty infamous (in the best possible sense) for their strength, durability, and straightness.

What size is best for a camping axe? – a quick summary

Here at Outdoor Is Home, we sometimes like to repeat what we’ve learned during the course of preparing an article. That’s why we’ll show you what to look for in a camping axe before picking out the ideal one for your needs:

  • Size. You’ll need something that’s lightweight, yet functional (for chopping wood, etc.). Opt for an axe that’s 18-21 inches (46-53 centimeters) long.
  • Weight. It kinda depends on how you’ll reach the campsite. If you’re going on foot, pick a lighter one. If you’re driving a car, pick out a heavier one, since they offer more opportunities (in terms of survival).
  • Durability. You might want to opt for a blade that’s made out of plain carbon steel. They’re known to be the most durable and easy-to-sharp blades on the market.
  • Type of handle. Want the best? Go for an axe that has hickory or ash wood handles.

That’s about it for today, dear outdoor fans! For more tips on camping and everything that’s related to this amazing human activity, check out this page.

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