On a recent camping trip, I had a chance to test out the Gerber Bushcraft Axe, a fairly new product from Gerber. The Bushcraft Axe is designed as a general-use backcountry axe for cutting limbs and splitting firewood and looked like a promising tool for off-roading, overlanding, and car camping.
Here, I’ll share my initial thoughts on the axe and what I thought about it after a single camping trip. I’ll update this article later, after using the axe for a few months, to provide a more in-depth long-term review.
|Forged high-carbon steel
|Composite with rubber over molding
Here’s the TL/DR version of the longer review below:
The Gerber Bushcraft Axe is a well-designed tool for use overlanding, off-roading, and car camping. It’s fairly compact, cuts and chops well, and has good ergonomics. While it’s not a dedicated splitting axe or tree cutting axe, it seems to do a decent job of both — which is what you want in a general-use axe. The hidden storage area in the handle isn’t really a reason to buy the axe, but having a place to store a spare lighter and parachord doesn’t hurt.
Below is my video review of the axe:
Gerber Bushcraft Axe Overview
While you can get away with a hatchet in the backcountry, if you are engaged in vehicle-based backcountry adventure (our focus here at Ordealist), you should consider getting a good axe.
Axes are clutch for clearing trail obstructions when overlanding and off-roading. In heavily wooded areas, it’s not uncommon to come across tree limbs blocking the trail, in which case an axe will help you quickly clear the way and carry on. An axe is also very handy when chopping firewood in camp as it provides more leverage and chopping power than a hatchet.
I was excited to see that Gerber had released an axe for general backcountry use. What does that mean? Typically, a wilderness axe is more compact than axes designed for other use. They are designed to be more versatile than a dedicated forestry axe (meant for cutting down trees or chopping off limbs) or a dedicated splitting axe (for splitting rounds of wood into firewood). They also tend to serve multiple purposes, such as having a hammer or hoe on the back of the axe head.
Gerber Bushcraft Axe Features
Gerber is a well-known company that’s been making quality knives, multitools, and other outdoor equipment for decades. This is just my observation, but my original impression of Gerber years ago was that they made relatively expensive tools. In recent years they’ve produced equipment that is more affordable but in my experience still well made. Their Bushcraft Axe comes with a lifetime warranty, which speaks to their commitment to quality products.
Below are the notable features of the axe, including a few that set it apart from other axes we’ve used.
Forged Axe Head with Machined Reliefs
The head of the axe is made of forged high-carbon steel with a corrosion-resistant coating. The side of the axe head has machined “reliefs” on either side that Gerber advertises as helping make “deeper cuts with less effort.”
These are essentially wide grooves that are cut out of either side of the blade, that seem to split the difference (pun intended) between a cutting axe and a splitting axe. The top and bottom portions of the edge taper widely like a splitting axe, while the thinner middle section is thin like a tree-felling axe. The axe does cut well, and the reliefs seemed to make it easier to wiggle the axe free when it got stuck in a round of wood while splitting.
Gerber is known for its multitools, so the hammer head on the back of the axe head is on brand. It came in handy for hammering out a pin that got stuck on a stabilizer jack on my overland trailer. I’m not convinced it would take the place of a smaller hammer in my tool kit, but it’s handy when you’ve already got the axe out of your vehicle.
Another nice touch is that the axe head narrows near where it connects with the upper portion of the handle, which makes it easy to choke up on the handle. This makes it easier for using the head for fine work like carving points on sticks or notches into logs. It also makes it easier to use the hammer for lighter hammering tasks.
The axe comes with a sheath for the head made from a synthetic fabric. High-end axes often come with a leather sheath, but this one seems durable enough and is easier to care for than leather. Time will tell whether it’s as durable as leather.
Compact but Ergonomic Composite Handle
One of my favorite things about this axe is the handle. At 26.25 inches, the axe is long enough to allow for powerful chopping action but short enough for stowing it easily. The composite handle is nicely shaped with rubber over-mold grips where you grab it.
Ports are cut into the upper portion of the handle to reduce weight. It’s still a relatively heavy axe compared to some of the others that we highlighted in our axe buyer’s guide.
Near the axe head, the handle has an integrated overstrike guard. This is a common feature of splitting axes to protect the handle if you miss with the cutting edge of the axe and hit the handle on the wood. Typically, the overstrike guard is a visible metal tube that extends down from the axe head over the handle, but on the Bushcraft Axe, it is hidden inside the composite handle.
Removable Gear Storage Insert
A unique feature of the axe is that the lower portion of the handle, which is hollow, features a hidden gear storage insert. The insert slips into the bottom of the axe and snaps in place with two plastic buttons. To remove the insert, you press the buttons on either side and pull the insert out.
The first few times I removed the insert, I found it somewhat difficult to squeeze the buttons and pull the insert out. I got the hang of it after a while, but it took some finger strength. I’m hoping it gets a bit easier to remove over time. I could see it being tough to get it out if your fingers were cold or wet.
The gear storage insert comes wrapped with paracord which is always handy to have in a pinch. It also has a couple of hollow spaces that are big enough to hold a mini-lighter, matches, or other backup items. My take on this compartment is that it’s a good place to store a few emergency items. I like the axe otherwise and don’t see this as the defining feature (even if Gerber’s marketing does lean into it), but I may one day be glad I stashed a mini-lighter in there.
Like I said at the top, based on my experience so far, the Gerber Bushcraft Axe seems like a great axe for car camping, off-roading, and overlanding. It has a lot of features that are suitable for an axe you carry into the backcountry in a vehicle.
It’s relatively compact and comes with a sheath, which makes it easy to stow or mount on a rack. The hybrid blade makes it decent for both cutting limbs and roots and splitting rounds of wood. The hammer on the back of the head makes it versatile.
On the downside, it’s not the lightest or smallest axe, so probably not the best choice for backpacking. While the hidden cargo storage in the handle is novel, it’s more novelty than necessity.
No axe does everything perfectly, but this one does a lot of things well.