I have been camping for decades, and I’m embarrassed about how long it took me to figure out this technique. I’m sure it’s not a new idea – but I never see it done this way.
The problem with most campsites is there is no chopping block, or a spot to split your kindling. Your axe will end up in the dirt, and likely hit a rock or a buried bottle cap or something.
Hitting the dirt can dull and even chip your axe – I’ve done it, and it sucks.
Everything I’ve seen online talks about contact splitting – which is fine, but it’s more of a greenwood technique. Doing it with large dried pieces of firewood also kinda sucks. It’s much harder and uncomfortable to hold.
Enter my dumb revelation…
How to split wood on a campsite without hitting the dirt
- Lay two larger pieces of firewood on the ground
- Stand the piece of wood you intend to split between them
- Press them together so the logs on the ground hold the target log upright
- Split, and the heel of your hatchet will catch in the front log rather than hitting the ground. Saving your axe from harm.
- Repeat – as the wood becomes smaller this technique makes even more sense.
The benefits of this approach are:
- Protects your axe. The front log on the ground will act as a chopping block and catch the heel of your blade before it hits the dirt. The wood will split without you driving all the way to the ground.
- It’s easy. There is really nothing to it – you don’t need to spend time trying to balance wood or looking for a good spot. And can be done standing, squatting, or kneeling.
- It’s safe. It will hold up small or odd-shaped pieces of wood without endangering your hands (NEVER HOLD WOOD YOU ARE SPLITTING). And If you miss or ricochet, the axe lands in the front log (protecting the axe and you)
Tips for Success
Don’t aim right for the middle of the log. When splitting you want to aim for the close side, to avoid overstriking the handle. For this technique, it will also make sure the heel of the blade catches the front log.
You don’t even have to take the wood out of the bag. Just cut the bag across the middle, and stand up the first piece you can. Give the end of the bag a tap with your foot to hold it together, and swing.
Why contact splitting is the wrong technique
Contact splitting is when you hold a log and the hatchet together (making contact), and hit them against a hard surface to split the wood.
This technique is popular on youtube and can make sense out in the woods but it’s not great on a campsite.
- Campsite firewood is seasoned, and pre-cut making it hard and uncomfortable to split this way. You will want to wear gloves.
- You will almost always have to kneel in the dirt, which shouldn’t be a requirement of basic camping. The method above is so much easier.
If I missed something or you have any questions, feel free to leave me a comment below. I do my best to respond to everyone.
About the author:
I’m just a guy who likes axes – as a tool, the craft of restoring them, and the history. I got tired of only finding crappy websites, so I set out to build a better one myself.
Jim Bell. – Owner, Creator