Best Pickaxes

Updated June 2021
Header Image
Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
Bottom Line
Pros
Cons
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

30 Models Considered
18 Hours Researched
2 Experts Interviewed
94 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for Best pickaxes

While you may never have held a pickaxe, this T-shaped hand tool is probably still familiar to you because it’s been around for eons. Pickaxes date back to the prehistoric era, when they were often made from deer antlers and the shoulder blades of large animals. Today, metal, fiberglass, and wood have replaced the original bone. Pickaxes are widely used for landscaping, gardening, and breaking up everything from packed clay to rocks to concrete.

When shopping for a pickaxe, look for one that is rugged enough to hold up to your tasks while still being light enough that you can use it for extended periods. You’re also going to need to think about the materials and configuration that go into the two prime features of a pickaxe: the handle and the head.

This buying guide examines all these factors, including the price you can expect to pay for a variety of pickaxe types.

I1 
In addition to being a valuable tool in its own right, the trowel end of a pickaxe also helps to balance out the weight of the axe.

Key considerations

Durability

If you’re going to use your pickaxe to break up rocks or cement, it should be able to take the abuse. The best way to ensure this is to buy a pickaxe made of the highest-quality materials, which means forged steel for the head and fiberglass or steel for the handle.

Before purchasing a pickaxe, look at the online comments to discover any possible problems concerning the pickaxe’s durability and longevity.

Weight

You want to know how heavy a pickaxe is before purchasing it. Be sure that it’s a weight that both meets your needs and you can comfortably use. You can wield a heavier pickaxe with more force, which allows you to use it effectively for a greater range of projects. At the same time, a heavier pickaxe will also be harder to use for an extended period of time without you getting tired.

Pickaxes generally range from 2.5 to 8 pounds, and some manufacturers offer a range of sizes to meet different needs. You should also note whether the listed weight is for the whole pickaxe or just the head. See the FAQ section for more information on pickaxe weight.

Vibration

One other consideration when purchasing a pickaxe is how it deals with the vibration, or shock, produced when using it. Pickaxes are intended to break up hard materials like rock or concrete, and this can create a sizable amount of force that travels back up your arms and through your joints. Some pickaxes have a specially designed handle that helps to reduce this shock. This makes the pickaxe more comfortable to use and protects your body, from wrists to back, from excessive wear and tear.

Dyk1
Did You Know?
Are you searching for a compact pickaxe? Go with a railroad pickaxe. This is generally smaller than a standard pickaxe and more pointed, making it a great overall tool for a variety of projects.
Staff
BestReviews

Features

Handle

There are three elements you need to pay attention to when considering pickaxe handles: comfort, length, and material.

Comfort: The handle is the only part of the pickaxe that you’ll be in contact with when using it, so it should be ergonomic. The more comfortable it is to hold, the longer you’ll be able to use it without pain, blisters, or calluses. Some handles, particularly fiberglass, also have a padded grip for added comfort.

Length: The majority of standard pickaxes are about 34 to 36 inches long. Pickaxes that deviate from this are usually shorter and designed for simple gardening work. As a general rule, the longer the handle, the more force you’ll be able to exert on the material you’re breaking up.

Material: Pickaxe handles come in a few different materials. While you might run across a few made of foam, rubber, or even steel, the most common materials are wood and fiberglass.

  • Wood is not only cheap, but it can also absorb vibrations and shocks. Wood is generally durable and easy to replace, although it is susceptible to damage from overstriking (hitting the rocks with the handle and not the head) and water.
  • Fiberglass is more expensive than wood, but it is also more durable. It holds up to vibrations and shock, and it’s often designed with specific anti-shock features that allow it to handle overstrikes better than wood. It won’t develop splinters or soak up water like wood, but a fiberglass handle can be difficult to replace if anything goes wrong with it.

Head

Pickaxe heads are usually made of cast or forged steel and feature two counterbalanced tools: pick and trowel.

  • Pick: This is the sharp end of the head and is used for breaking up concrete, rocks, or hardened earth. It can be either curved or straight.
  • Trowel: This is opposite the pick and is a blunter tool that’s useful for prying up rocks or chiseling surfaces. The end of the trowel is usually sharp enough to dig into materials. It varies in length but averages around 4 inches wide.
Dyk2 
Did You Know?
While now primarily used for landscaping or agriculture, in medieval times a pickaxe was wielded as a weapon on the battlefield.
Staff
BestReviews

Pickaxe prices

Inexpensive: At $20 and below, you can find simple, light pickaxes. These are often made of cast steel, and the wooden or light fiberglass handles tend to be on the shorter side. Due to their lighter weight, these pickaxes are best for light gardening or camping use.

Mid-range: In the $30 to $45 range, you can find a wide variety of pickaxes with either wooden or fiberglass handles, in addition to both cast and forged heads. Pickaxes in this range are designed for homeowners with moderate gardening or landscaping needs, and some are rugged enough to be right at home in a professional landscaper’s arsenal.

Expensive: Pickaxes that cost $50 to $60 or more are geared toward professionals. These are typically forged steel with reinforced fiberglass handles that offer special vibration control. Pickaxes in this range are usually heavier and capable of producing much more force.

Dyk3 
Did You Know?
The term “pickaxe” has a rich etymology, appearing in a variety of ancient languages, including Old French (pocois), Middle English (picas) and Latin (picus, or “woodpecker”).
Staff
BestReviews

Tips

  • Look at the grain. When searching for a strong wooden handle, go with one in which the grain runs the length of the handle, not horizontally.
  • Go with forged steel. Pickaxe heads are usually made from forged or cast steel. If you have a choice, go with the forged steel. While cast metal is cheaper, a forged head is more durable and will last much longer.
  • Choose ash or hickory. Do you have your heart set on a pickaxe with a wooden handle? Try to find one crafted from either ash or hickory. Both of these woods are preferred for their appearance and the feel of the handle in the hands.
  • Go light. If you plan to use your pickaxe around delicate plants or shrubs, select a lighter axe. A lighter pickaxe is easier to use and provides you with greater control.
  • Be safe. For maximum safety, choose a pickaxe that uses reinforced pins or rivets to securely attach the head to the handle.
I2 
Of the various types of pickaxe handles, wood can handle temperature extremes the best, remaining comfortable and sturdy in both high heat and intense cold.

FAQ

Q. Is a mattock the same as a pickaxe?

A. While the two terms are often used interchangeably, they refer to two separate tools. A mattock, also called an adze, usually has a broader horizontal blade on one end of the axe head, with a pick or axe on the other. While a pickaxe also features a pick,  or pointed end, the other side of the head is usually a narrower chisel than what you find on a mattock.

Q. When a pickaxe is listed as being a specific weight, such as 5 pounds, is that the whole weight of the axe or just the head?

A. In some instances, the axe weight refers just to the weight of the head. This isn’t always the case, however. Handles are typically around 36 inches long and can double the overall weight of a pickaxe, which may prove too heavy for some users. Conversely, if you think you’re buying a pickaxe with a 5-pound head and discover that the overall weight of the axe is 5 pounds, the head probably only weighs half that amount, which could leave you with an axe that’s too light for your purposes. The bottom line here is to be sure to read the product listing carefully, or check the shipping weight if the listing isn’t clear. Either will provide you with a good idea of how much the axe weighs.

Q. Can a pickaxe be used to do interior work, such as tearing out drywall?

A. While a pickaxe can certainly be used for such projects, it isn’t really designed for construction work. As such, you might be better off going with something like a sledgehammer for such projects. A pickaxe can be on the heavy side, which is fine for digging in the dirt but less so for continuous overhead use. The pick and chiseled ends of a pickaxe can also do a fair amount of damage to wiring, studs, and exterior walls if you’re not careful. Our recommendation: for interior work, stick to tools designed for such purposes.

Other Products We Considered
The BestReviews editorial team researches hundreds of products based on consumer reviews, brand quality, and value. We then choose a shorter list for in-depth research and testing before finalizing our top picks. These are the products we considered that ultimately didn't make our top 5.
See more
Our Top Picks