When the SHTF and there is no electricity or fuel, hand tools — and the knowledge of how to use them —

Axe Type Overview

TypeBit WeightHaft Length
Hatchet1 ½ pounds12 – 14 inches
Limbing2 pounds24 inches
Felling3 – 4 pounds36 inches
Splitting / Maul8 pounds40 inches

will be incredibly important. When you escape to the woods, the almighty axe is the go-to tool. Axes can be used to fell a tree, build a shelter, chop firewood, and even to defend yourself, if necessary.

There are many different types of axes. Some have very specific purposes, while others are a little more versatile. In this article I focus on four specific types of axes — hatchet, limbing, felling, and splitting — but at the end of the article you’ll find links to some less common axes. Each of the four main axe categories includes links to several options that are available on Amazon, or links to other sites if they are not available on Amazon.

Remember that a good quality tool that will last you a life time is not typically cheap. Yes you could buy a $17 hatchet. But you really shouldn’t if you want it to stay sharp and be a dependable tool.


A hatchet is a small and light one-handed axe. The typical length is only around one foot, so wearing a hatchet on your belt is comfortable. Having a hatchet in your Bug Out Bag is a must. Keeping one in your car trunk is a great idea too. Hatchets can cut down small trees, split firewood, be used as a campsite hammer and much more.

Here are some good quality hatches that are available on Amazon. The least expensive is on the left (starting off around $40) and each one after is a little more pricey.

Gerber 14″ HatchetEstwing Sportsman’s AxeHults German HatchetHelko Swedish Hatchet
Gerber AxeEst Wing HatchetHults HatchetHelko Hatchet


A limbing axe should be introduced after a felling axe. But because the axe is lighter and shorter, I’ll speak about it first. A limbing axe is most commonly used for cutting the limbs off of a tree after it has been cut down (or felled). The bit (or head) weight and the haft (or handle) of the axe are both double that of the hatchet. The unusual length makes for a very versatile axe for general use. It is light enough for one handed use and long enough for two handed axe.

Estwing 26-Inch Camper’s AxeHusqvarna Multipurpose AxeWetterlings Hudson Bay AxeGransfors Bruks, Small Forest Axe
EstWing LimbingHusqvarna LimbingWetterlings Hudson Bay AxeGransfors Bruks, Small Forest Axe

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe. – Abraham Lincoln


A felling axe is the perfect tool for cutting down trees. They are “full size” and two handed axes. They are designed with an extremely sharp, thin bit and tapered head to cut across the wood grain as deeply as possible with every swing.

Hults Bruk Atran Felling AxeHultafors Swedish Felling AxeWetterlings Appalachian Forest AxeGransfors Bruks American Felling Axe
Hults Bruk Atran Felling Swedish AxeHultafors Hand-forged Swedish Felling AxeWetterlings Appalachian Forest AxesGransfors Bruks American Felling Axe Straight


A splitting axe, or Maul axe, are the heavy hitters of all the axe types. The other axes can be packed if wanted. But this beast typically stays at the bug out cabin. With a long haft and a heavy concave bit this axe is used to strike the end of a log and split it into smaller pieces.

Fiskars X27 Splitting AxeHelko Vario 2000 Log SplitterLeveraxe Splitting AxeGransfors Bruks Splitting Maul
Fiskars X27 Super Splitting Axe 36-InchHelko Vario 2000 Heavy Log SplitterLeveraxe Splitting AxeGransfors Bruks Splitting Maul

Having an great quality tool is useless unless you know how to use it. Buy one or two at a time and practice using them!

Other Axes that are interesting

If you are interested in building log cabins, I strongly suggest looking at the full line of quality tools at Gränsfors Log-building and Carpentry Tools. For inspiration I’d suggest this amazing video.

Relevant Links