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Be an axe man: if a tree falls in the forest and nobody is around with an axe ... don't be that guy.

No other speaks to outdoorsmen like a worn axe. A beat-up Gerber axe and a Cold Steel tomahawk ride in my FJ al all times. They don't help with tailgsters, but I Steel better knowing they re there, and when you do need one afield, you breathe need one. The tomahawk is handy and provides hours of entertainment on camping trips: Any male who doesn't want to throw a tomahawk can be written off as a lost cause without guilt. Today's axes and hatchets are marvels of edge-holding ergonomic beauty and toughness, sure to be appreciated by anyone who had a cheap one with a loose, wobbly head as a kid.

Gerber Gator Axe

Knice knife, and a hatchet for that big elk's neckbone, too! A neat-o magic trick for the outdoor gear queer who has it all, the Gator has a full-size hunting knife that slips into the handle of the hatchet, held there by a magnet. Our knife was a little loosey-goosey in the handle and prone to slip out, but Gerber has since remedied that. Rides nicely in its belt holster.

$45; gerbergear.com

KOA Hunters Hatchet

The high-carbon tool steel is sharp enough to shave with, but that's about all we like about this highly priced little cutie. The blade edge is too short, and the "hand rubbed, oil-finished American red hickory" handle feels unfinished and almost too puny for a boy to use with confidence, yet it feels heavier and less capable than the Fiskars and costs well over twice

$70; knivesofalaska.com

SOG Hand Axe

Nothing crazy-exotic about this design from a company known for some wild ones, but the SOG Hand Axe is built to be a lightish backcountry essential as well as a camp or truck preparedness tool with just enough heft to be truly handy. We like it plenty, and it seems indestructible and sharp-sharp. Terrific handle grip for control.

$52; sogknives.com

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Fiskars X7

Pretty? No. Practical? Oh, yes. This 14-incher lacks the warm wood touch of the cool vintage-style axes, but after brutalizing a similar-style (wrapped head) Gerber axe for years and never having to deal with a splintering, shrinking wood, handle, the modern styles really are absolutely more durable. Hardened steel is designed to cut deeper on each swing, the head is nonstick coated, the grip is nonslip, and the shaft is designed to survive overstrike.

$28; fiskars.com

Condor Woodworker Axe

Condor's carbon steel classic is plain gorgeous, a hit with editors, a layman's working axe that would look just fine hung over the mantle. It has a fat, gleaming, polished-steel edge offset by a hammered finish across the head. An 18-inch hickory handle and 1(1/2)-pound head make it about perfect. Killer matching hatchet with similar cool-looking head style available, too.

$55; condortk.com

Cold Steel TRAIL BOSS

This is a plain-Jane version of exactly what an all-around, throw-it-in-the-truck camp axe/hatchet should be, with plenty of meat for the swinging (two pounds, 10 ounces) and just enough hickory (23-inch handle) for the six-inch head to give other hatchets an inferiority complex without being unwieldy. Cold Steel makes an awesome variety of tomahawks in all sizes, too.

$45; coldsteel.com

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Title Annotation:SKIP KNOWLES
Author:Knowles, Skip
Publication:Petersen's Hunting
Date:Nov 1, 2011
Words:540
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