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The Base Camp Axe from SOG Specialty Knives and Tools.

“A razor may be sharper than an axe, but it cannot cut wood.” Franz Kafka

A good camping trip takes good planning, and that means selecting the right tool for the jobs you may encounter. The Base Camp axe is forged from 1055c carbon steel, a good grade better known for durability and toughness than for holding a knife edge – though I can’t imagine that ever being a real problem with this particular axe.

It is 16” long, weighing in at 33 ounces – a little heavier than most hatchet-sized camp axes, but the durability, stiffness, and security of the head that comes from the full tang construction are worth a little extra weight:   As its name implies, it is really not intended as a backpacking accessory.  The head is 5.75” long, with a slightly curved, 3.4” blade.  The bottom of the blade runs straight into the main thickness of the blade, giving a slight nod to bearded Viking axes.  The double curved haft descends into a comfortable, molded rubber handle, flared at the end and drilled for a lanyard.  Viewed from above, the head has an elongated arrowhead shape, about 5/8” thick at the widest point, with a long taper to the edge. 

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A rigid black nylon sheath with belt clip is included with the axe. When the axe is inserted, the back of the sheath swings down to lock it in place, tension-held by a protruding nylon nub that slots into a hole on the hinged back piece.

The Base Camp axe rests easily on the belt.  I wore it on my right hip – I’m right-handed – and, in normal walking around, gathering wood, or yard work, it stayed securely in place and did not get in my way.  The axe is short enough that the handle did not hit as I crouched down (though the fact that I’m now north of 40 and not as flexible as I used to be might have something to do with that…).  The axe was surprisingly easy to unsheathe and retrieve with one hand – it felt like a very natural series of motions. 

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As is fairly common in my experience with axes and hatchets, the factory edge was sharp enough for chopping wood, but not sharp enough to casually cut myself on handling the unsheathed axe. 

I had the opportunity to take the axe with me on a week-long camping trip, and offered it for the use of the 35-person campsite.   The Base Camp Axe was the primary firewood tool for the week, seeing use both cutting green branches and splitting pre-cut firewood.   My campmates (including, with myself, four adult Eagle Scouts,) were quite pleased with its performance, especially as a splitter.  We never bothered to dig the larger splitting maul out of storage to handle our cord-split firewood.

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It was my friend Chad that gave me the best comment:  “I like it.  This thing splits like a much bigger axe.”

My only concern is with the axe’s sheath.  I haven’t had the axe long, but I worry that, over time, the nub that holds the sheath closed may wear away.  SOG’s website lays out a fairly comprehensive warranty policy, but I do not know if that sort of gradual wear and tear in the normal course of use would be covered.

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The Base Camp Axe sells online for anywhere from $45.00 to $80.00.  It looks and handles like it could be a long-lasting, durable tool.  I might hesitate to buy at $80.00, but I’d be comfortable with the value that I’d be receiving if I bought this axe for $45.00 to $55.00.

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This axe will be making the return trip to my annual camping event, and any other non-backpacking camping events I’ll be attending.  It has measured up as the right tool for the job.