I've hiked some in my life, and gotten used to carrying a small axe for chopping wood for the fire. But after I bought my self a large fixed-blade bowie knife, I find myself relying less and less on the axe for chopping since the knife very much acts like a small axe.

So my pickle is, now that my axe is left in the dust by a more versatile tool(?), would it make sense to completly remove it from my pack list? Or are there more benefits to a small axe that I can't see?

Perhaps it is better to carry a small axe and a normal-sized fixed-blade knife instead of the pretty large bowie knife?

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    Just to clarify, what situation are we talking about: backpacking? hiking and car-camping? General survival? (Perhaps we can clarify this and add a tag to your question?) Commented Aug 13, 2013 at 15:49
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    This isn't what you asked, but where are you going hiking? I live on the east coast, and I've always found that if you're out in the woods you can usually get away without an axe (you can find small sticks and fallen branches, and build a fire with those), although an axe is certainly a convenience when you don't care about the extra weight.
    – DavidR
    Commented Aug 14, 2013 at 12:39
  • @DavidR: Agree with you! Exactly, Thats what the guy wants to decide, whether to carry it or not. If Yes, then why? Will the benefit of an axe outweigh the drawbacks and win over a large knife? I answered this question assuming this way :)
    – WedaPashi
    Commented Aug 14, 2013 at 12:45
  • @DavidR : Since I live in central Sweden, it will mostly be fo usage in the woods. If I would go further nort to go hiking in the mountains the situation would change little unless I choose to camp above the treeline.
    – Mwigs
    Commented Aug 14, 2013 at 12:59
  • Check out the Sawvior. I have been hiking for a long time and it is tough to beat. Lightweight. Collapsable, and practical.
    – JPaterick
    Commented Mar 26, 2014 at 8:20

4 Answers 4


I have never taken an axe or hatchet camping with me, and I canoe-camp and car camp where space and weight are far less an issue than they are for hikers. In addition to weight and space there is the safety issue using a heavy tool that you swing hard.

I use a folding saw (and carry spare blades) and it does whatever I need. I cannot split large logs with it, but I never need to do that - I section smaller logs and trees (up to the thickness of an arm) and have no problems having fires. Axes and splitters are for home.


This one is about 6-8" long, costs $20 at Canadian Tire, and has met our needs for decades. We carry spare blades for it which I presume we bought at the same time. I think we snapped a blade once and replaced it on the spot.

  • I won one of these saws a couple of years ago(a bacho one), can't really say I've used it that much, but that is an excellent idea.
    – Mwigs
    Commented Aug 14, 2013 at 12:56
  • A saw is indeed a very good choice for individual camping: it is lighter, faster and easier to use then an axe. If your group is >1 people, you can also use a "string" saw like this one: rei.com/product/775079/…
    – Steed
    Commented Aug 14, 2013 at 13:00
  • Where I go hiking, the only fires allowed are in stoves in huts. Most huts have a hut axe. I carry a folding saw (a Gerber, if I remember right( and a small fixed blade knife. The knife can baton small lengths of wood into kindling (and cut my food up). Commented Mar 27, 2014 at 1:40

I really don't find any specific need to carry something which is so heavy and bulky, and something that can cause injuries due to unsafe packing, unsafe way of carrying, unitended mishandling, when you have a fairly safer substitute for that. I have used one such fixed-blade knife for from cutting woods to making a make-shift raft. You may (may God not put you in such a situation) need something like an axe you are referring to, for making a raft which would endure long enough to take you in wild sea/oceans and sustain tides. Because, you will have to make it out of Huge and mainly Broad wood trunks. Now that is when you will need to have that axe with you, having a knife would be very uneasy to craft/build one such thing.
But, that I doubt if you ever need to do such a thing.
Yeah, if I know that I am gonna camp at a site for long time, say 5-6 days, then instead of arranging timber everyday, using a knife to cut wood, I would take my axe with me, spend some time (2-3 hrs) with wood and axe, And, that will save me from doing that task in pieces everyday at the camp.

  • I have done some calculations, and it seems that I save only about 300grams when I carry a large knife, as opposed to an axe+ a small knife.
    – Mwigs
    Commented Aug 13, 2013 at 15:08
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    @MarcusWigert: With that (extra)space to carry 300 grams, If I carry dates/dry-fruits/chocolates or even make space for a 300 ml worst-case reserve pack for water, Hiking/Trekking/Backpacking/Camping would be some much fun and safe! Its all about the personal opinions on what to carry, and what not.
    – WedaPashi
    Commented Aug 14, 2013 at 12:33

An axe is (when used properly) just as safe as any knife.

On long hikes where I know campfires are gonna be a must I do actually carry a small hatchet. My axe has a fairly long handle and weights just about 0.5kg.
There are smaller and lighter ones, but a light head and long handle means less to carry when walking and more leverage when using it.

For safety you should always have a proper axe sheath that goes with it (leather or hard plastic).
And you need to be able to stow it away, most countries don't allow you to carry a 'weapon' that's within hands reach and require a two step process before you can use it (eg open rucksack, take of sheath).
Having it stowed away properly inside your rucksack also means that it can't hurt you or anyone around you when falling.

To me a large knife is far more dangerous then an axe because of the ammount of sharp surface. And besides: using tools for anything other then their intended use is only for emergency situations, so don't go around smacking rocks on your knife to fell a tree because it's both bad for your tool and dangerous.

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    I saw someone using an axe to split short logs by swinging the axe with a log on the end against the ground. When it hit the ground the log span in the air and cracked his head.
    – QuentinUK
    Commented Mar 26, 2014 at 17:58
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    @QuentinUK And I saw a huge amount of people injured by knifes... Any tool is dangerous if not used properly. Commented Jun 22, 2014 at 21:54

Of course only you know the answer to this question based on your own experience and needs.

A large knife can chop and split wood just fine and has many other uses. Here are the disadvantages I can think of, the advantages are obvious.

  • A knife and an axe's blade are sharpened in a different way. A knife should be sharp, while an axe should have a somewhat rounded blade in order to stand up to the abuse of chopping trees. Thus a knife will dull quicker than an axe.

  • A knife's tip is vulnerable to breaking off if mistreated.

  • A large knife can scare other hikers. Just see how my post accumulated 5 downvotes and several close votes within a week.

To conclude, I am all for carrying a large knife instead of an axe. But I recommend a kukri instead of a bowie knife.

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