Camping Axe vs. Saw: Which is Better?

Whether you are on a camping trip or just a long outing outdoors, there are plenty of tools for anyone to use and utilize at their full potential when needed. Two items specifically are an axe and a saw. However, one may argue that one of the two is better at functioning than the other, so is a camping axe or saw better?

Saws are better at operating and safer when compared to the camping axe. Saws are valuable survival tools and are excellent for the long-term benefits, while camping axes are harder to operate and do not provide much functionality for optimal uses in terms of survival.

Though saws are seen as useful in their overall design and purpose compared to axes, both are great for specific purposes and will do the job if you can identify the target goal needed for each. Axes will have their uses that saw may not be able to fulfill and vice versa. Let’s continue on and understand these purposes they can serve.

What are Camping Saws?

Camping saws can come in many forms and designs, but the most common are the ones that feature a lengthy tooth-edged blade attached to another lengthy handle area where the saw can safely cut the material it is aiming to cut while keeping the individual safe from any serious injury.

The camping saw is a classic in any camper’s arsenal of tools that may be utilized during their outdoor endeavors. The main material that the camping saw is mostly used to cut is wood, but it may also be used to cut through PVC pipe and some metallic materials. It really depends on the individual and how they use this tool.

Since we are focused on the camping versions of these tools, we would most likely see them only being used on wood without the use of electrical or any other method of power. Most camping saws are foldable with the ability to be stored safely with no worries of cutting your backpack or yourself.

The basic use of the saw is placing the tooth-edged blade onto the surface from where you would like to cut and then forcefully pushing down on the surface while creating a “back-and-forth” motion as you go, making sure you are checking and re-checking to see if the cut is staying on course. It takes effort and energy, but it will produce a clean cut.

What are Camping Axes?

ax on expressive rusty background

Camping axes, unlike camping saws, are more universal in design and therefore easier to transfer one skill from one axe to another. The camping axe usually features a lengthy handle area where the head of the plastic or wooden handle is attached firmly to a carbon steel blade that usually features a flat base on one side and the blade on the other. Some axes may replace the flat base side with a “hammerhead” feature that can be used to hammer items when necessary.

The use of the camping axe is the same as other types of axes: they chop things up and can be used to cut things down. To use a camping axe, firmly grasp the mid-point of the handle with the blade facing towards the surface. With a firm grip and steady hands, create an arch motion that allows you to connect the blade to the surface of what you are aiming to cut. You will likely use a camping axe to chop wood for your campfire.

Camping Axe vs. Saw

Now we return to the basis of this article and its question, “which are better: a camping axe or a saw?” Saws are clearly superior between the two. Though the camping axe and saw are used in different ways, the saw remains dominant in its more general use and how we use it.

You have to take fewer precautions when you use a saw than when you use an axe, although you do have to be careful when using either one.

Now that we have discussed briefly what both camping axe and saw are about, let’s place them in application situations to understand further their goals and purpose, as well as solidify the saw as being the best tool for general use and promotion of safety.

Applications of the Camping Saw and Why it is Better

The mainstay of the camping is to focus on woodwork and perhaps carpentry. Even in camping this applies well depending on the person and how dedicated they are to the quality of living while residing in the outdoors. Generally, the blade of camping saws produces clean cuts and small shavings of what the individual intends to cut. These shavings can be used to start and maintain a fire.

Camping saws can also be used to remove protrusions and smooth out large wood pieces such as logs and tree stumps for the purpose of a handmade chair or bench or even a base for a bed. Lastly, another possible use is to keep the camping site clean and tidy. The saw is excellent in making sure small bits of wood are sliced away to make space or create a new path.

It is much easier to use a camping saw than an axe because it is lighter and requires different movements to work. It is easier to move your arm in a sawing motion than it is to swing an axe, and you have to exert more energy when you swing an axe than when you use a saw. (Source)

The weight of a camping saw is one of the reasons why they are better than axes. Camping saws are incredibly light, which means we can store them effectively without sacrificing too much weight and use them without creating unnecessary strain on our shoulders. Also, because camping saws are small when folded, they don’t take up much space in your backpack or duffel bag, and the space an axe might have taken up can be filled with other useful items.

The camping saw is perfect for almost all situations while providing ergonomic-friendly features such as its weight, size, and other safety-related features.

Applications of the Camping Axe

tree cut with axe. survive in wild nature concept. ax stuck in a tree stump. axe in the forest. cut tree outdoor. wanderlust, hiking and travel.

The camping axe is a heavy-duty utility tool that is meant for splitting wood. It is hard to chop small pieces of wood with an axe because of how you have to use them and the size of the blade. The results of such cuts are not as clean as we would expect, but it will be able to chop large pieces of wood in a quick fashion.

Returning to the idea of energy exertion, the axe is by far the most taxing on the body, especially during long sessions that require the use of the camping axe. The natural weight of axes and the form and motion required to properly use them takes a toll on the arms, shoulders, and perhaps the core.

When it comes to survival, splitting wood is the only real purpose of an axe. They can be used to defend yourself, but you would likely be better off using a different tool like a knife or something with a smaller blade. It is easy to tire yourself out when using an axe, which is not good when you are camping by yourself or in a situation where your survival is extremely important. Because you are tired from using an axe, you will not make the best decisions.

When you use an axe, it is extremely hard to make the wood smooth because of how fast you have to swing the blade and because of the size of the blade, so you can’t use an axe to smooth wood enough to use it as a bench. (Source)

Then comes the issue of the size of an axe in terms of needing to pack. Most campers who have a camping axe usually store the axe on the outside of their backpack on a side mount. Camping axes are rarely capable of fitting inside a camping pack or backpack. Even if one is able to fit inside, the space that would be used to store the axe could be better used for other important items that cannot be put on the outside of a backpack. (Source)

Lastly, when you use an axe, it makes a loud sound when it connects with wood. That sound can tell people around you where you are, which may not be good if you are trying to avoid someone, or wake up people that are sleeping nearby. Camping saws are much quieter.

The utilization of an axe for survival is not surprising. However, it is heavy, inconvenient in most situations, and not safety friendly, so it is not the best tool that you can bring to your camping trip.


Camping saws are much safer to use than axes. Typically, the most significant injury you will get if you use a camping saw incorrectly is a cut or chopped-off finger or two. Although it would suck to lose your fingers, it would not be the end of the world, especially because if you get to a hospital fast enough, you will likely be able to get them sewn back on. Plus, because of the design and the motion of the saw, the ridged edges will surely grab our attention when something is wrong or you are about to cut your finger.

If you somehow drop your camping saw, it will not cause an injury because the blade is not sharp enough to do so. If it touches your bare skin when you drop it you may get cut, but it will not be a serious one that requires stitches. It may not even need a band-aid to stop bleeding.

Meanwhile, it is very easy to lose a limb or seriously injure your foot or leg if you use an axe improperly or manage to drop it. From a camper’s standpoint, there is nothing worse than losing an entire portion of your limbs through the misuse of an axe. Yes, accidents happen, but the consequences that come from using an axe are substantial and may cause you to have to pay a significant amount of money in medical bills.

Considering the weight and motions you go through to swing an axe, we are not given a sign that something is wrong until it is too late. Once we slip, our toes, feet, shins, fingers, hands, forearm, and even gut will pay the price and immediate medical assistance will be required, and that may not be an option for you.

It is extremely easy to harm other people if you use an axe improperly, and it is extremely hard to harm other people when you are using a camping saw, which is another reason why it is safer to use a camping saw than an axe.

I personally have experience with dealing with an axe. When using one, I always think about possible consequences if things do not turn out well and I think about my surroundings and whether others will be in jeopardy if such misfortunes were to happen. I constantly focus on my form when I am using an axe so I can stay safe and ensure that other people around me can stay safe.

Ultimately, it is up to you whether you choose to use an axe or a camping saw. However, camping saws are better than axes because of the versatility, size of the blade, and what safety precautions you need to take every time you use either of these tools. Oftentimes, camping saws can be folded, so you can easily put them in your backpack or pocket and use them whenever you want to.

Axes are much harder to carry and store. You need to make sure you put the blade cover on before you pack it, and to ensure you will be safe while traveling, you need to put it inside of your backpack, making them hard to get out quickly.

Both camping saws are useful tools, but camping saws are better overall.

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