If you are building a bug out bag or even a general camping and bushcraft kit, it is worth considering adding a survival tomahawk to your gear.
The tomahawk has a storied history as a reliable tool and the modern day survival tomahawk has evolved rapidly to meet today’s needs.
In this guide, we will discuss this history as well as teach you how to pick the best tomahawk for your needs.
What Can I Use My Survival Tomahawk For?
Given the vast utility of a survival tomahawk, it is a tool that any serious prepper should be looking at. A survival tomahawk is one of the best multipurpose items you can have with you and can effectively carry out a great many tasks including:
- Chopping wood
- Kinetic building entry
- Glass breaking
- Vehicle rescue
- Piercing/cutting sheet metal
- Opening of metal, wood, and plastic containers
Few survival tools can offer as many practical uses in such a compact, simple package. One can see why a survival tomahawk is a favorite tool for hunters, police, firefighters, park rangers, farmers, and servicemen.
Best Survival Tomahawk: CRKT Kangee
The CRKT Kangee gets our pick for best survival tomahawk because has a combination of the best characteristics.
It is a compact tool that does not sacrifice cutting power due to its forward weighting and multiple grip options. The fact that it weighs 1.5 lbs means that it will not cause undue fatigue if carried in a bug out bag and can still be swung with ease after a day’s travelling.
The G-10 handle scales come off for cleaning and will last several lifetimes.
The cutting edge design of the CRKT Kangee screams practicality. The sharpened spine is perfect for pushing cuts and the sharp beard makes it ideal for hooking anything just out of reach or for use as a climbing aid.
The tapered spike on the rear side of the Kangee is perfect for piercing tough materials and makes it an even more formidable self defense tool.
Overall the CRKT Kangee is a durable, well-made modern tomahawk that would be a welcome addition to any survival kit or bug out bag.
Best Tactical Tomahawk: Smith and Wesson Extraction and Evasion Tomahawk
The tactical tomahawk space has become crowded as of late and finding the best tactical tomahawk from this crop can be a challenge. You could surely seek a more expensive, flashier option than the Smith & Wesson Extraction and Evasion Tomahawk but you really should not let that distract you.
This tactical tomahawk can be thought of like a tough old grandfather: It will simply get the job done every time. It won’t complain, or give up on you half way. It will do what you ask of it, full stop.
The Extraction and Evasion Tomahawk is extremely well built and makes for an intimidating self-defense option. Its hefty weight of 2.7 lbs and longer than average length (15.9″) will provide the leverage and force required to destroy a lock or silence an enemy’s weapon in a heartbeat.
The thick, full tang construction of the S&W Tomahawk makes this a great tool that can be applied to any hands-on tactical situation.
The fact that it retails around the $50 price point makes it a no-brainer for anyone looking for a reliable tactical tomahawk.
There are many other tactical tomahawks out there that deliver far less for 5 times the price.
Save your money and go with the Smith and Wesson Extraction and Evasion Tomahawk, it is our pick for the best tactical tomahawk.
Best Urban Tomahawk: Gerber Downrange Tomahawk
The Gerber Downrange Tomahawk is the multitool of breaching tools. It ingeniously combines the cutting power of an ax with the sheer force of a hammer and the leverage of a pry bar.
It is an all-in-one urban survival tool for anyone looking for a compact option for defeating building doors and windows or a fast reaction vehicle extraction tool.
Gerber is renowned for making high quality gear with the practical user in mind. This is clearly a tool that is built to last and the all-in-one design makes it the most versatile breaching tomahawk on the market.
The Gerber Downrange would be a great addition to an urban bug out bag and would be an immense aid in scavenging or rescue efforts.
Solid build quality coupled with extreme versatility earns the Gerber Downrange our pick for best urban tomahawk.
How To Choose The Best Tomahawk
The first thing to consider when looking for the best tomahawk is what you intend to use it for primarily. A survival tomahawk that will be used mainly for chopping and breaching should have different features than one that will be a primary self-defense tool.
Let’s look at the parts of a survival tomahawk and examine what styles are best for which tasks.
Tomahawks range in length from 8-20 inches.
Determining how long your tomahawk should be will depend on your intended usage.
A longer handle will provide greater leverage when prying and increased force when swinging but will be less compact and heavier.
A smaller handle will enable more effective usage in close quarters and add less volume and weight to a pack.
Here are some applications that are ideally suited for each type of handle:
Long Handle Tomahawk
- Splitting wood
- Chopping trees
- Opening doors
- Breaking locks
- Butchering large game
- Forceful opening of vehicles for rescue
- Piercing tough materials – kevlar, sheet metal, wood, heavy plastic
Short Handle Tomahawk
- Long hikes (lightweight and compact)
- Close quarters self-defense
- Precision chopping
- Evacuating vehicles
- Butchering small game
The rear of the tomahawk, also called the poll or butt is traditionally flat or rounded. However, many modern tomahawks offer the option of a spike on the back. Once again choosing what type of poll your tomahawk has will depend on what problems you intend to solve with it.
A bushcraft tomahawk will typically have a flat butt for hammering. If you are looking for the best tactical tomahawk for your kit you are probably going to be seeking a spiked back for effective piercing.
It is worth noting that both a flat but or a spike will effectively break glass. Here are some advantages of each option:
- Forcefully opening doors
- Defeating locks
- Easier to carry and deploy
There are many options for the business end of your survival tomahawk. As with every element choosing the best tomahawk for your kit will depend on your intended usage.
Cutting Edge Length
A longer cutting edge will require a larger and heavier ax head. This added weight and edge length will, however, allow for greater force in your swings. This will make splitting wood and chopping doors easier. Many of the best tactical tomahawks have circular cutouts in their cheeks to save weight without sacrificing the cutting edge size. This may be a good option if you want the largest cutting edge without the added fatigue of a big, heavy tomahawk.
A narrower cutting edge will typically be able to pierce deeper with each strike as it will encounter less resistance. This will make a narrower cutting edge better for emergency vehicle extraction and for piercing heavy duty materials.
Spine and Beard Options
If you are looking for the best tactical tomahawk for your kit it is worth mentioning that modern tomahawks come with additional sharp edges beyond the traditional cutting edge.
This is thought to provide a tactical advantage as it opens up additional options for attack and defense when using a tactical tomahawk. Many modern tomahawk makers have started including these options and it is worth considering when finding the best hawk to meet your needs.
The Best Tomahawk: Take Your Pick
As you can see, there are many factors to consider when choosing the best tomahawk for your kit. As with any survival tool you should consider what you are most likely to use your tomahawk for.
A survival tomahawk is an excellent all around choice for their high versatility and compact designs. If you have more specialized tasks in mind like breaching doors, extracting people from vehicles, or serious self-defense you may want to consider a more specialized tool such as a breaching or tactical tomahawk.
Hopefully, our guide here has helped you understand the many qualities that make a good tomahawk such a valuable addition to a bug out bag or survival kit.
To recap, here are our top picks for best tomahawks by category:
- Best Survival Tomahawk: CRKT Kangee
- Best Tactical Tomahawk: Smith and Wesson Extraction and Evasion Tomahawk
- Best Urban Tomahawk: Gerber Downrange Tomahawk
Do you have a survival tomahawk that you love? What qualities do you think the best tactical tomahawk should have? Please let us know in the Comments Section below!
16 comments on “How To Choose The Best Survival Tomahawk For Your Bug Out Bag”
Hi, Thanks for this in depth guide on tomahawk. I learned a lot through it. I own a Lagana which I like very much but I want to try Ontario Ranger RD Hawk II after checking it on this site. Thanks again
Thanks for the comment Nick. Both the Lagana and Ontario are solid Hawks. The Lagana is battle tested and he Ontario is just an all around brute.
Excellent article. There are so many tomahawks available, it helps that you narrow the list down to a few quality choices. My favorite right now is the Gerber Downrange, It has so many features that it is good for almost any application from camping to combat.
The Boker Plus Vox looks interesting too, I really need to get my hands on one and check it out.
This article clearly took a lot of effort to research and write but I’m still confused as to what survival situation these ‘hawks are suited for. I’ve tried several tomahawk brands and designs. I use my current favorite, the Eastwing Sportsman Axe at least a few times a month (primarily for splitting kindling but I’ve used it for everything from slicing pineapple to driving tarp stakes) and I’ve never encountered a situation where a sharpened beard, spine or spike would help. It’s important to be able to grasp the head for detail work and you’ll need a flat poll to use as a hammer or to batton with a stout branch when splitting larger logs.
These hawks look intimidating but if that’s your goal why not just get a handgun?
Thanks for your comment. It is great to hear from someone such as yourself that has experience with this type of tool.
You are right that a flat poll helps with hammering and batoning and that a handgun is a better intimidation weapon.
Some of the hawks in the article such as the SOG and Gerber do have features that are included with pounding in mind.
As for a handgun they are not favored by everyone. I am not saying this is right or wrong, just some peoples’ personal perference.
If this is the case, a hawk is a good option for someone who wants a useful camp tool and self defense option.
I also have an estwing. Supreme quality tool. I believe the tomahawk blade needs a curved blade. I was impressed you didn’t recommend any hawks with a straight blade- no belly that is. The estwing ‘boy scout axe’ has a longer curved handle with rubber grip at base. Just big enough for two handed swing,light enough for one handed use. Too big for close quarters fighting. For that prefer traditional head with flattened eye for hammering, 3.5 inch blade and 16″ straight hickory handle. Just add lanyard.
There are multiple reasons why a firearm isnt always the best choice, the two primary being the loud report when fired and the need of ammunition to use one. The ideology that everything must serve multiple duty has brought about the tactical hawk evolution of today, well beyond the Vietnam war’s tomahawk that was issued to many of our troops. This was a narrow faced, spiked head with a straight wooden handle. it was less effective as a tool than a machete and m ore effective as a weapon. For our BOBs however, a hawk that looks like a weapon is is more attractive than one that looks like an axe. So they are more popular and add a little extra weight to the head, more than anything else. so what is the real deal? its just a compact hatchet for a variety of uses for the bug out bag. Its simple Human psychology, both the reason for carrying the weaponized looking hatchet and why it scares away attackers. Its the same logic that the Clinton Administration used for their reason to ban the AR15 – It looks scary!
I’d like to thank you too as I’m looking seriously at the Estwing. The thin head is my only concern (not enough wedge).
I happen to own the chogan by crkt and i keep it in my BOB. I went with it instead of the kangee with the bush-craft/camp hawk in mind. the butt is flat leading it to be used more as a hammer style than a tactical pick and the spine is not sharpened. they are both the same price point, its just one is designed for combat and that other is not. that doesn’t mean that I cant used it in a fight, I just wont have that spike on the butt as a secondary blade.
Thanks for the info and feedback on your hawk. The Chogan is a great choice and as you have identified, really well suited to be a camp tool.
I’d suggest taking a look at the boker tomahook. It looks like a mix between ulu knife and the CRKT Kangee. It’s about the same price point too. The advantage of the tomahook is you can choke up on it and use it as a decent knife as well.
I’m surprised nobody mentioned that a sharpened spine on a tomahawk allows it to be used as an E-tool as well. The tomahawk truly is a multitool!
Thanks for the suggestion Andy, will have to look at the Boker. Good call on being able to use the sharpened spine as an entrenching tool too!
I have owned many tomahawks and basically agree with this sites pick with the following exceptions. For cheap and fully functional, the CRKT Kangee is my No. 1 pick. Good size, indestructible for all practical purposes, not the cheapest but the best value. RMJ tactical makes the best tomahawks, but expensive, and the Kangee is an RMJ design without the price tag. Stay away from nylon handled hawks, if you have to go cheap, wood is better. Tomahook looks good until you pick one up. Too many cut corners, too thin, cheap handle slabs, a good idea gone bad during cost cutting measures. The Estwing line of tactical tomahawks is a very good value, and very versatile, get one of their long handled framing hammers too, dependable value at $40! Can’t beat that!
Hey, thanks for contributing to the conversation! Glad that you like the Kangee as well and good point on nylon vs wood handles.
Thanks for the advice!
Among the pile of hawks I have is an Estwing, complete with the leather handle. I have to say this much, and it is nothing against the estwing hawk: If you are anything like me, dont buy one, you wont use it, its just to darn pretty to scuff up or get dirty! But it is the strongest built of any Ive ever handled. And picked up most of them!
What do you think about RMj tactical mini jenny?!