How to choose the right axe for any survival situation

In all of human history, axes are among one of the oldest, most versatile, and most important ever created. In our modern age, an axe can still be one of the most useful tools that you can bring with you when you camp out in the wilderness. Not only is it an excellent chopping tool, but it can also make a great weapon in case you need to defend yourself. Of course, not all axes are created equal. Some axes are strictly meant to be used for battle, while others were designed for felling trees or splitting firewood. Follow this useful guide to learn which kind of axe will be best suited for your survival needs. (h/t to

Types of axes

Axes often fall under one of two main categories: single-bitted axes and double-bitted axes. A single bit axe is the most common felling axe and it is designed to put all the torque behind the one bit attached to it. As such, these axes tend to have curved handles to fully swing the axe in a single direction. The bit is used for cutting, while the poll or butt on the other end is used for balance. In the hands of a skilled user, even a small single bit axe can be used to split an entire hardwood tree. However, while it can be used for felling, bucking, and limbing trees, it is not very effective when used for splitting logs. Double bit axes have two cutting edges and are generally designed to be symmetrical around a center line. Unlike the curved handles found on single bit axes, double bit axes require straight handles. This allows you to swing the axe in either direction. It also comes with other advantages, such as greater accuracy, better balance, and more allowance for speed and power. While both bits are meant to be symmetrical, a closer inspection of the edges will reveal that they are not identical. One edge is incredibly sharp, while the other edge is slightly duller. The sharp edge is useful for quickly and effectively chopping logs. The dull edge can be used for limbing or removing branches from trunks of fallen trees.

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Main purposes of axes

There are three main purposes that axes can serve. They are cutting, splitting, and shaping. You will know what kind of purpose your axe is best suited for by looking at their profile. You can see an axe’s profile by looking down at the very top of the axe with the sharp edge/s facing away from you. An axe meant for cutting will have a thin profile that is suited for penetrating across wood grains. Since it is so thin, it can apply the maximum amount of force on a low surface area to “sever” anything it cuts across. However, if it is used to split a log, it will have the tendency to slide in between the wood fibers instead of splitting the log in half. If you look at the profile of an axe designed for splitting, it should have a wide angle that only gets wider as the area moves further away from the edge. When this kind of axe is slammed onto a wooden log, it should create a wedge in the wood that only gets deeper the more force is applied. That wedge should force the log to split apart. For a shaping axe, the cutting profile doesn’t matter as much as the shape of the bit does. Cutting and splitting axes often have a pronounced curve in their bit to minimize the amount of contact it makes with the wood at any moment. Shaping axes have straight and flat bits designed to create even cuts.

An axe can make an excellent survival tool. If you are skilled enough to handle one, you can use it to cut, split, or shape wood. You can even wield it as a self-defense weapon if you are attacked. In case you lack the skill to handle an axe, you might be able to barter axe heads when SHTF. (Related: Prepping to barter when SHTF: What skills to learn and items to stockpile.)

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