The Best Pickaxes of 2022

Though a pickaxe may seem like a tool from another era, it plays a vital role in today’s landscaping and gardening projects.

By Tony Carrick | Published Apr 19, 2022 1:30 PM

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The Best Pickaxe Options

Photo: depositphotos.com

While a shovel may be the first tool one reaches for to dig a hole, hard, rocky earth often renders the common spade useless. Fortunately, there is a tool that can break apart hard earth—the pickaxe. The pickaxe, famous for its use in the construction of the Great American Railroad in the 19th century, features a pointy pick side and a flat wedge-shaped side (hence the name “pickaxe”).

While the pickaxe’s days of excavating earth to make way for the Iron Horse may be over, their ability to break up hard, rocky soil makes them essential in the world of gardening and landscaping. Read on to learn more about the features of these specialized tools and find out why the models below are some of the best pickaxes on the market.

  1. BEST OVERALL: Tabor Tools Pick Mattock with Fiberglass Handle
  2. RUNNER-UP: Hooyman Pick Mattock with Heavy Duty Forged Head
  3. BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Fitool Forged Adze Pick, Weeding Mattock Hoe
  4. BEST HEAVY-DUTY: Truper 31646 Railroad Pick, Fiberglass Handle
  5. BEST LIGHT-DUTY: Knights Of Armur Weeding Mattock Hoe 
The Best Pickaxe Options

Photo: istockphoto.com

What to Consider When Choosing Best Pickaxe

Choosing the proper weight as well as a model with a suitable handle and a durable head are key to choosing the right tool for pickaxe digging. Ahead, learn more about these and other important features of these landscaping tools.

Weight

A pickaxe’s weight determines not only how easy the tool is to use but also how effective it is at breaking up rocky or hard earth. Similar to sledgehammers, pickaxes are typically rated by the weight of their head. Pickaxes range in weight from smaller 1.5-pound hand tools up to full-size 5-pound pickaxes. Choose a weight that suits the job and the user. A pickaxe with a heavier head will produce more force for breaking up hard earth but also requires more strength to swing.

Handle Material and Length

Pickaxes come with either wood or fiberglass handles. Wood handles consist of ash or hickory, which are strong hardwoods that also have some flex, helping to absorb shock while resisting cracking. Some pickaxes have fiberglass handles, which are lighter than wood handles and offer more shock absorption. Fiberglass handles are also more durable than wood as they aren’t prone to rot or weathering and won’t shrink or expand with changes in humidity. Handle length ranges from shorter 15-inch models for gardening and light-duty use up to full-size 36-inch pickaxes that allow one to swing with more force.

Head

The standard pickaxe head consists of two sides—a pointy side and a narrow horizontal blade end. The pointed end is used to break apart rock and hard earth that normal shovels would struggle to dig into. The flat end, also known as the adze side, is designed to function as either a pry bar or a wedge that can split apart dirt and rock. The wedge shape, which is similar in style to a hoe, is also suitable for cultivating earth in a garden.

Our Top Picks

The pickaxes below include both large and small pickaxes, all of which have ergonomic handles with durable heads.

Best Overall

The Best Pickaxe Option: Tabor Tools Pick Mattock with Fiberglass Handle
Photo: Amazon.com

This pickaxe from Tabor Tools pairs a 36-inch fiberglass handle with a sturdy steel head to create a tool that offers plenty of force while still maintaining a manageable weight. The long handle allows the user to generate ample leverage for prying up materials or plenty of force for breaking apart rocky ground while keeping the tool’s overall weight light at just 5.5 pounds.

The fiberglass handle has the added benefit of absorbing shock, making it more comfortable to use. A long nonslip grip covers the bottom half of the handle, helping to prevent slips while swinging the tool. The adze-style head makes this pick ideal for cultivating the land or cutting through rocky soil.

Product Specs 

  • Weight: 5.5 pounds
  • Length: 36 inches
  • Handle material: Fiberglass

Pros

  • Nonslip grip
  • Fiberglass handle absorbs shock
  • Adze-style head ideal for gardening

Cons

  • More expensive than other 36-inch pickaxes

Get the Tabor Tools pick mattock on Amazon.


Runner-up

The Best Pickaxe Option: Hooyman Pick Mattock with Heavy Duty Forged Head
Photo: Amazon.com

With a head that spans some 21 inches, this pickaxe provides ample leverage for prying up roots as well as plenty of power for breaking through rocky dirt. The Hooyman Pick Mattock features a nice combination of strength and ergonomics. The handle is epoxy sealed into the head, ensuring it stays in place, and the head consists of high-strength forged steel that resists chipping.

An ergonomic fiberglass handle cuts the overall weight of the pickaxe while absorbing shock while in use. A rubberized grip that extends halfway up the handle helps the user get a firm hold on the pickaxe for aggressive swings.

Product Specs 

  • Weight: 5 pounds
  • Length: 36 inches
  • Handle material: Fiberglass

Pros

  • Adze-style head ideal for certain applications
  • Steel head is glued to the handle for stability
  • Lightweight fiberglass handle absorbs shock
  • Rubberized grip extends halfway up handle

Cons

  • Longer head may be awkward for some applications

Get the Hooyman pick mattock on Amazon.


Best Bang for the Buck

The Best Pickaxe Option: Fitool Forged Adze Pick, Weeding Mattock Hoe
Photo: Amazon.com

With its small size and light weight, this pickaxe from Fitool is an ideal choice for breaking up hard dirt in a garden, removing weeds, and other light-duty applications. This compact pickaxe measures just 15 inches long with a head length of 9.6 inches and a total weight of 1.4 pounds, allowing the user to wield it with just one hand.

It also features durable construction with a heat-treated steel head and fiberglass handle. A rubberized grip that covers more than half the handle makes it easy to grip the pickaxe while swinging it. With its slip-on eye pattern, the pickaxe is easy to assemble or disassemble.

Product Specs 

  • Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Length: 15 inches
  • Handle material: Fiberglass

Pros

  • Lightweight design makes it easy to wield
  • Easy to assemble and disassemble
  • Adze-style head design ideal for gardening

Cons

  • Only suitable for lighter-duty tasks

Get the Fitool forged adze pick on Amazon.


Best Heavy-Duty

The Best Pickaxe Option: Truper 31646 Railroad Pick, Fiberglass Handle
Photo: Amazon.com

With its 6-pound head and 36-inch handle, this pickaxe is well suited for breaking through rocks and tough dirt. The fiberglass material helps reduce user fatigue by not only keeping the overall weight of the pickaxe at a manageable level but also helping to absorb shock.

A rubber grip inspires confidence that the pickaxe won’t go flying while taking more aggressive swings, while beveled tips on both the pick end and the pointed end help to bite into stone and dirt. A guard that extends below the head protects the handle from damage due to overstriking.

Product Specs 

  • Weight: 6 pounds
  • Length: 36 inches
  • Handle material: Fiberglass

Pros

  • Shock-absorbing fiberglass handle
  • Length allows for more force
  • Beveled tips bite into hard dirt and rock
  • Lightweight handle

Cons

  • Thicker head not ideal for prying

Get the Truper railroad pick on Amazon.


Best Light-Duty

The Best Pickaxe Option: Knights Of Armur Weeding Mattock Hoe
Photo: Amazon.com

This smaller pick from Knights of Armur is an ideal choice for those looking for a tool to help with gardening. The handle is less than half the length of a full-size pick at just 15 inches. Its smaller size coupled with the lightweight fiberglass handle give this pickaxe a total weight of just 1.4 pounds, making it suitable for one-handed use.

A thick rubber grip allows the user to get a firm handle on the pickaxe, helping to prevent accidental slips. The head consists of drop forged heat-treated steel, which gives the head excellent impact resistance.

Product Specs 

  • Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Length: 15 inches
  • Handle material: Fiberglass

Pros

  • Small size ideal for weeding
  • Fiberglass handle absorbs shock
  • Large grip adds comfort

Cons

  • Smaller pick

Get the Knights of Armur weeding mattock hoe on Amazon.


Our Verdict

With features that include a fiberglass handle that reduces shock and weight and a well-designed head, the Tabor Tools Pick Mattock is a worthy choice for most pickaxe needs. Those looking for a smaller pickaxe for gardening needs should consider the Fitool Forged Adze Pick, which measures 15 inches long and weighs just 1.4 pounds.

How We Chose the Best Pickaxes

In reviewing more than a dozen pickaxes for this article, we considered a variety of criteria. A good pickaxe should have a durable handle that helps to make the job easier. With that in mind, we only selected models with lightweight fiberglass handles that absorb the shock of each impact. We also chose models with durable steel heads that resist chipping and other wear and tear. The handle is crucial with a pickaxe, so we stuck with those that offer rubberized grips that allow the operator to get a good hold on the tool. To suit a variety of users and applications, we included both full-size pickaxes as well as smaller models for gardening and cultivating.

FAQs

If you’re wondering how a pickaxe differs from a mattock or how you might use your new pickaxe, then read on for answers to these and other commonly asked questions about these outdoor tools.

Q. What is the difference between a pickaxe and a mattock?

Although the terms are often used interchangeably, the pickaxe and mattock are different tools. A mattock is a hand tool that has a vertical axe blade combined with a horizontal blade called an adze. A pickaxe, in comparison, has an adze blade side and a pointed pick side.

Q. What are some common uses for a pickaxe?

A pickaxe is commonly used in farming and landscaping to break up hard or rocky soil or to dig a hole for new plantings. Pickaxes that have an adze end are also useful for removing weeds.

Q. How should I clean my pickaxe?

Clean your pickaxe by brushing off any dirt or debris that may be clinging to it after use. If the pickaxe is wet, dry it off before putting it away.

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

While it is possible to use a pickaxe for interior demolition work, it’s not really designed for this purpose. A pickaxe is more likely to cause more collateral damage, which could include plumbing and electrical. A sledgehammer is better suited for this type of work.

Q. Is one type of wood better than another for the pickaxe handle?

Ash and hickory are the best wood species for a pickaxe handle. These hardwoods are very strong and also have a small amount of flex that allows them to absorb impacts.