A few weeks ago while I was out splitting some kindling for our wood stove, I was swinging my old hatchet and thinking to myself that it sure would be nice to have a really well made hatchet to keep in my bug out bag.
Once the fire was roaring and my house was finally warm, I started doing some online research. I’ve always admired the beautiful look of the Estwing® Sportsman’s Axe with the leather handle so I started browsing through their website to see if they had anything new.
To my surprise, I discovered that they had a black 16″ Special Edition Camper’s Axe that REALLY caught my eye!
While I think their leather handle is the most beautiful handle I’ve ever seen on a product like this, what really interested me about it was the fact that it didn’t have a leather handle.
This tool actually has their Nylon Vinyl Shock Reduction Grip® on it (FYI, it feels like rubber in your hand). My immediate thoughts were that a handle like this would make it much easier to keep a firm grasp on the handle during inclement weather. After all, if we ever have to bug out and leave our home, it’s not going to be like taking our family on a nice leisurely camping trip when the weather is always going to be perfect. It very well could be raining or snowing and I don’t want to risk having a tool like this slip out of my hands if the handle is wet!
I reached out to the good folks over at Estwing and they were kind enough to send me out a complimentary demo model to test in exchange for my honest opinion about the product.
My Initial Impressions
When the box arrived, at first I had forgotten that it was supposed to get here that day. After picking the box up, my first thoughts were, “I wonder what this could be?” because it was rather heavy. It was my husband who opened the box and his actual words were, “Holy cow! This thing is AWESOME!”.
He handed it to me and I have to say that I was impressed as well. Our old hatchet was a cheap 12″ camping model that I bought many years ago so I didn’t have any idea what a 16″ camping axe like this would actually feel like in my hands.
Upon close examination, the first thing that really impressed me was the build quality. There’s no doubt that this is a well made tool. The fact that the axe is one solid piece of steel from the cutting head to the end of the handle is amazing! I can’t imagine how an over-strike with this tool would ever result in any damage to the handle. I know this because during testing, I intentionally missed the log so that the handle would hit the wood. This test didn’t cause any structural damage to the handle at all.
Best of all, I didn’t get my bell rung when the handle hit the wood because of the shape of the tang. Instead of being round like a wooden handled hatchet, it is thin and relatively flat. This tang profile resulted in the handle actually making a bit of a split in the piece of lodgepole pine that I was chopping into kindling.
The second thing that impressed me about this tool was the handle material. I really love how it feels in my hand. The rubberized grip makes it super easy to hold onto. Another thing was it didn’t hurt my hand while I was using it like my old hatchet sometimes does. I see why Estwing calls it a “shock reduction” grip.
One other note about the handle is that the rubber goes far enough up the length of the handle that I can use two hands and wield it like a longer handled axe. As a matter of fact, in my opinion this is a multi-purpose tool. It’s short enough to be used like a hatchet but long enough to be used like an axe. They call it an “axe” but it really feel more like an over-sized hatchet to me.
My husband had no problem using it like a hatchet but he’s a lot stronger than me. After a bit of practice, I figured out that if I just gripped the handle a little closer towards the axe head, it no longer felt too heavy for me to use one-handed.
The rear of the axe head has a nice flat surface that I tested while driving some tent stakes into the ground. As expected, it worked great for this chore.
What’s the Bottom Line?
Well, hands down, this is the nicest hatchet I’ve ever owned! I love that it’s made in the USA as well. In the interest of being honest, the only criticism I can make about it is that it’s a bit on the heavy side for a lady. That’s a pro and a con in my opinion. The extra weight does make it easier to cut with. Instead of having to swing it hard, I just let the weight of the tool do the job. The con is that I’m not sure I would want to carry it in my pack during a long hike.
This tool is going to be lashed to my husband’s bug out bag since he doesn’t mind carrying the extra weight. Overall, I’m very impressed and I can say with a clear conscience that I really like it. The only caveat is that I feel obligated to tell you all that I haven’t used it extensively yet. Honestly, it appears to be built so well that I imagine I’ll like it just as much now as when I’ve swung it hundreds of times.
If you’re in the market for a new camping axe, I suggest you check this one out on Estwing’s website at estwing.com/ao_se_campers_axe_16.php.