by Cousin Josh - 10 years old
An axe is an essential piece of gear for anyone who is going to spend time in the backcountry. A proper axe is an investment. If well cared for it will last for many years.
A good axe should have a solid steel head. A solid steel head will hold up to years of heavy use. The axe head should be secured into the handle through the axe eye with a steel wedge.
There are now some axes where the fibreglass handle is moulded around the head (see below). These axes tend to be a bit less expensive and the head should not loosen over time. A drawback with these axes is if they break in the wilderness you can't really fix them.
The axe handle should fit comfortably in your hand. Make sure you can grip the handle firmly and that the end knob is large enough to keep the handle from slipping out of your hand. The handle can be made of fibreglass or wood. An axe with a fibreglass handle will often be lighter than one with a wooden handle. A wooden handle is easier to replace and is more environmentally friendly. If the handle is made out of wood make sure that the wood was dried before it was turned. This way the handle won't shrink and come loose from the head.
While a good axe might be expensive, it is worth the money because it will last longer. My favourite axe is my Gränsfors Bruk Small Forest Axe. It costs about $129 CAD and can be purchased at Lee Valley Tools or Canadian Outdoor Equipment.
If you are looking for a less expensive option, my younger cousins and Uncle Dave tested out the Fiskars X7 14" Hatchet this summer and it performed well. It's under $40 and you can get it at Home Depot. Or you could get the Gerber Sport Axe II which has a more compact cover. These axes are made by the same company and are pretty much the same except for the colour, cover, and logo. These are good axes for kids (and adults) because the bright colours make them easy to find if they get left on the ground and they are lightweight (the handle is hollow).
To find out more about different types of axes and how to use them you can check out the Gränsfors Bruk Axe Book.