The bad, I often shop at WalMart for camping supplies. They carry alot of your basic needs at a fraction of the cost. Also if you keep an eye out they will mark equipment down just before the season change. They carry the same backpacking meas as REI and they cost much less. A year and a half ago I purchased a hatchet from WalMart for my son to use for splitting wood and working around the ranch.
My wife tells me that sometimes being a penny smart can turn out to be a pound foolish. This hatchet from Walmart is a clear example of that. The head is made of low carbon count steel so it losses its sharpness quickly and also the metal is very plyable. We would need to sharpen the blade before each use and a couple of times while using it. Also when we were splitting logs, basically using the head of the hatchet as a wedge and hitting on the hindside with a hammer the low quality really made itself clear.
We would miss hitting the head sometimes with the hammer and the neck of the hatchet was of a alluminum material that bends real easy. So for the price of 7 bucks and some change wich seems like a good price it turned out to be bad because it made slow work and often much downtime sharpening and once the neck bent we were done using it as a hatchet and just as a wedge. So on a diabetic scale of 1 to five syringes I would give the camp hatchet from WalMart 1 syringe. Save your money and get quality.
Now for the good, I purchased a Kershaw hatchet to replace unfaithful WalMart. This hatchet runs online from 23 dollars up to 40 dollars. I picked it up at a local Richardson, Texas distributor for 25.
What a difference this hatchet is from the first one. First it has a slimmer head, higher carbon count, and it is a full one piece of metal with the kryton handle. I sharpen this guy once in every 3 to 5 times and it really doesn't need it that often unless I am really working it hard.
A downside to this hatchet is the steel can rust on you. To prevent this just put a little oil on it after use and it is good to go. It also comes with a handy sheath for the head protection that also doubles as a hip holster which is nice if you are out and about with a couple of tools. You can put this one on your waist and have it handy when needed.
I would give the Kershaw hatchet 3 syringes out of 5. The look, feel, and quality are great but, the donwside of oiling the head and it has some obvious seams where it was pressed seems like they could have taken a little time to buff off and made it look real nice.
The ugly, this guy is the Gerber extra large axe. Now I have always had my doubts about Gerber products until I received the Gerber Suspension multi-tool as a gift one christmas. Now I love Gerber products and an really starting to try and buy all Gerber stuff for the outdoors.
All of their axes look the same just the length of the handle is shorter. It has a very modern look with the shape of the blade on the head to the polyamid hollow handle made me very iffy of the quality and having the handle molded around the head made me a bit quezzy as well. I thought for sure this guy could not be a major contendor in the full size axe world. How wrong I was.
I have put this sucker to as many tests as I can and nothing has come loose nor does the handle have any issues. I keep the Kershaw and this guy in my truck and I can't tell you how many times I have pulled it out to use while just driving around town. I paid 40 for the Gerber and online you can find it from around 45 to 60 dollars. You have options when buying an axe of how long you want the handle but, it only costs about 5 dollars extra to go from a half sized to a 3/4 size, and another 5 dollars to go from 3/4 to full size. I always recomend to people to always get the full size axe and also a hatchet. This is the perfect match anywhere. The others might seem easier to handle and travel with but trust me you sacrifice usefullness with smaller axes and a good hatchet makes up for the small work and the leverage of the full size axe is unprecedented. If you ever get the chance just compare different length axes against each other and you will instantly know what I am talking about. If the full size intimidates you that means you just need to get familiar with the product and it will be comfortable in no time.
I sometimes just stand in my front yard walking around with the Gerber keeping the neighbors and local kids in check (I don't carry it over my shoulder, this was for dramatic photage). If you camp, own a house, bike, run, or drive a car I would recommend you get these guys and even keep them in your car. Another example was a guy was backing out in our parking lot at work at the same time I was. Our cars barely brushed each others. I got into my back seat and moved these guys around to get my phone out to take pictures, he saw them. Nothing was wrong with either car but, the guy was very appologetic and wanted no part of starting anything with me. This is self defense by assumed danger (I couldn't hurt a fly if I had too). People do not want to mess with anyone that can handle an axe and hatchet propperly expecially if the know how to use it enough to keep it on hand in their car. Presumed danger, and you don't get in trouble having them in your car like other weapons and like I said earlier the benefit of helping friends make short work of bradford pear trees that lose limbs in wind storms or my mother that has saplings behind her fence that are annoying her. I just bust these guys out and I am a hero.
I would give the Gerber large axe 4 out of 5 syringes. The reason I did not give it the 5th syringe is that I wish there was a little bit more roundness to the blade for splitting wood, it does not come with a very useful handle, and I want to see how the coating on the head works out in the long run. I will do a follow up after the winter months and lots of oak hits the fire.