Estwing Long Handle Camper’s Axe Review
By Iain Gordon
In every wilderness enthusiast’s life there comes that point in time where they have a realization. It usually goes a little something like this:
‘I wish I had more wood...’
Maybe you’re huddling close to the fire on a cold night. Or you’re cooking steaks over an open campfire for that impossible-to-duplicate taste. Or you’re staying for a few nights in the same location. You need an easily-available material to burn, build, or whatever it may be and into your head pops:
‘I wish I had more wood...’
Often times, a quick excursion into the bush in search of small, dead twigs and branches will suffice. But this is not always the case. There are times when small amounts of wood are simply not sufficient.
And for those times, we have axes :)
In my many travels as an outdoorsman, its been my continuing pleasure to have the ability to use the Estwing Long Handle Camper’s Axe.
The Long Handle Camper’s Axe is a 26-inch, four and-a-half pound, steel axe with a four-inch cutting edge. It features a forged steel head with a through-body steel shank that goes all the way through the handle to the axe’s head. The handle comes with a thick nylon grip that serves to reduce the vibrations and shock of cutting into thick wood. Every axe also comes with a leather sheath to accompany it.
To give just an idea of the extent to which I’ve used this fine tool, I will give you a short overview of the exploits and travels of my own personal Estwing.
My own axe has been with me for seven years. Over that period of time it has accompanied me from the mountains of northern Arizona to the shores of the Hudson Bay on the Arctic Ocean. In my work in northern Canada, where I was a canoe-tripping guide for several years, the axe was in use constantly. Part of my job was to find dead wood, fell it, and split it for use in cooking and cleaning every night (fuel is too heavy and bulky to carry on long-term canoe trips). While doing this, the axe was exposed to the elements entirely, having to endure rain, sleet, ice, submersion in water, hours of exposure to the sun, and repeated use.
But more specifically to Arizona, my axe has accompanied me on many basecamping and backpacking trips in the higher altitude regions of the state (you know, where there’s actually trees). On a recent trip to Mt. Lemmon, in my home city of Tucson, the axe was used to hack thick branches off of fallen trees and chop up some of those already fallen trees for firewood when the cold night outlasted our Costco supply of pre-cut wood. The duties and conditions here at home were largely the same as before in Canada, but perhaps on a smaller scale (smaller wood was used and less of it) with heavier sun exposure and the added element of sand and dirt, which the axe handled without a problem. In other words, the Estwing performs just as well with small-time jobs as it does with the bigger ones.
As a testament to its durability and utility, I still have it today. It works as well as the day I bought it.
So now I’ve barraged you with the numbers and the back story, but what does it all really mean? To make a long story short: this is a sweet little axe.
Weight. It’s lightweight, short-handled design gives it versatility both in use and in transport. Because it is so light, it is an absolute terror when it comes to felling trees, the axe is so weightless that it can be swung with incredible speed and ferocity. This, coupled with the sharpness of the steel cutting edge, makes slight work out of felling trees as thick as two feet in diameter. On top of this, it is just small and light enough (26-in. long and 4.5 lbs.) that it is a viable option for backpacking and any camping trip that is conscious of the size and weight of gear.
Through-body steel shank means safety. If you’ve worked with axes a lot, you know the scariest thing that can possibly (and often does) happen while using an axe is the detachment of the axe head from the body. I’m talking mid-swing into a thick tree base and suddenly your axe head becomes a deadly careening metal projectile in any random direction it chooses. Pray you don’t have friends or family nearby. This is actually a pretty common problem among axes with steel heads attached to wooden or plastic bodies. This is an impossibility with the Estwing. The head and shank are one piece of solid metal, so that thing isn’t going anywhere unless the entire axe takes flight.
The shock reducing grip. Ok, maybe it’s a little soft to be talking about how awesome it is that this axe cushions the blow when you strike a piece of wood, but when you’re hacking away at the third tree of the afternoon after a long day’s work, you’ll appreciate it too. The grip on this axe is designed to be easy on the hands and arms by absorbing some of the force that travels back through the axe handle when chopping wood. Let’s just say it does its job, and it does it very well.
Endurance. You can take this axe with you to hell and back and it will still do what it does best. I have yet to encounter an element that can truly slow this axe down. Even rust (my axe has some) doesn’t stop the axe much as long as you keep the cutting edge sharp, it doesn’t have any moving parts or delicate pieces to be destroyed by the rust. As far as endurance and withstanding the test of time, this thing is a beast. Call it Superman.
Pricing. It’s pretty standard to find this axe sold retail for about $50. This is a lot of money if you aren’t planning on using the axe much, but honestly, if you aren’t planning on using it much-- don’t buy an axe. Other things will suffice. Saws, hatchets, and even hunting knives can take care of the small-time needs. But if you are serious about you’re wood needs, this axe is the bomb, and you cannot beat the price-to-quality ratio offered here.
Weight. Yes, weight makes it into both categories on this one and here’s why: because there isn’t much weight behind this axe, it doesn’t lend itself to splitting large billets of wood. Now, when I say large, I mean a foot-and-a-half in diameter. Mostly, you probably won’t need to spit wood that thick on a camping trip. But should you need to, this axe will cease to be your friend, it just doesn’t have the sheer weight necessary to power through thick wood in one go. Stick to splitting thinner wood when using this Estwing, or honestly you’re probably in for a bad time.
The sheath. Unfortunately, the sheath is not nearly as enduring as the axe itself, and chances are, it will be long gone before the axe is through. The sheath, being leather, doesn’t take to getting wet well, and it will start to deteriorate if continually exposed to water. But most disappointing is that after a while the axe’s blade may begin to wear through the leather, as mine did. Crappy. And once that sheath is gone, it can be a pain you-know-where to find a replacement.
The cons don’t even come close to outweighing or outnumbering the pros in this case. If an axe has only limited utility in your camping arsenal, then you may not want to go through the hassle of bringing the Estwing Long Handle Camper’s Axe along. But if you, like me, have regular need in your travels for felling and splitting firewood on-the-spot then this axe comes highly recommended. This axe will take 90 % of all its jobs and tear them to pieces for you. If you get one, get ready to unleash the beast.