The Swedish company of Wetterlings has been hand-forging axes since 1880, and it shows. The curved hickory handle fits into your hand like the comfortable handshake of a lifelong friend and the 19-ounce turpentine axe head is perfectly balanced for maximum drive with minimal effort. Forged out of Swedish carbon steel by expert blacksmiths, the slightly rounded, sloped bevel blade is 5.5 inches long and 2.5 inches wide—perfect for splitting firewood, shaving kindling, or removing blown-down limbs or small trees. Our tester admits to using the hatchet as a paperweight on her desk when not in the field—from the handsome leather blade guard to the Wetterlings Genuine Hickory brand on the handle, this isn’t an axe that will gather dust in your tool shed.
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This ingenious creation might as well have been plucked from the overactive imagination of our adolescent past: How do you make a great knife even better? Add fire!!! But perhaps it’s better that we found it now, when we’re (arguably) more mature. Light My Fire, a Swedish company dedicated to easily starting fires (and manufacturers of some cool camp kitchen products) paired with Mora of Sweden, who’ve been making high-quality knives for more than 120 years. The result? A camp-friendly knife with a sturdy, profile-grounded blade made of 12C27 stainless steel mounted on a comfortable, grippy rubber handle. The firestarter is mounted at the base; a small twist, and you’ll find the FireSteel. Draw that across the blade and the shower of sparks will ignite your campfire or gas stove, even in wet conditions. The knife clicks satisfactorily into the hard plastic sheath, and a belt loop makes it easy to carry the FireKnife pretty much anywhere you go. (Note to self: We don’t always need to take it with us.)
We’ll always love our multi-tools, but there’s something engagingly simple and graceful about a well-crafted knife. The Benchmade 530 achieves our Platonic ideal of the flip-knife, with its spear-point blade made of 154cm stainless steel, an ambidextrous thumb-stud opener, horizontal “scales” along its svelte black handle, and reversible steel pocket clip. At a feathery 1.88 ounces, it’s one of the lightest, most trail-friendly knives on the market, with a 3.25-inch blade that’s long enough for all back- and sidecountry uses—cooking, light camp work, and the like, and Benchmade’s proprietary Axis locking mechanism will help prevent the slim chances of user error. For more rugged applications, you should upgrade to the 530S, which adds a serrated edge on the lower half of the blade for deeper cutting. Either way, you’ll likely spend almost as much time using the knife as you will admiring its craftsmanship. As one tester—who had used only a give-away utility knife until he found the 530—said simply, “This is a knife.”
www.mcnett.com, 4.5 ounces
Whether you’re swimming with sharks or simply setting up camp, you’ll be glad you have the Samish at your side. Hewn from corrosion-resistant 420 stainless steel, the stiletto-tipped three-inch blade has a serrated edge for sawing and a traditional straight edge for cutting. There’s also a notch for cutting fishing lines or cord. The well-balanced knife has a molded nylon scabbard that’s designed for mounting on a vest, belt, or leg. The 3.75-inch molded nylon grip fits well into your hand, with no slipping. We like the fact that the knife can be completely disassembled for cleaning. Also, the sheath comes off with a quick flick of the thumb, making it easy to use with one-hand.
A hundred years ago, a pocketknife was an essential piece of everyday equipment. From cutting twine to peeling an apple, everyone carried one (and every young boy aspired to own one). In celebration of 100 years of supplying outdoor adventurers, L.L. Bean has brought back some of their own time-honored classics. The two-inch anniversary pocket knife is hewn from sustainably-harvested Swiss walnut, so each knife has a unique, beautiful grain. The walnut case is contoured to fit snug into your hand, with a groove exactly where your thumb wants to rest. Despite its pocket-friendly size, inside are 11 stainless-steel tools, including a Philips head and standard screwdriver, cork screw, bottle and can opener, file, hole punch, and a sharp, nearly 2-inch blade. Both the blade and case have L.L. Bean’s 100-year commemorative logo—making it a special present. Trouble is, you’ll want to buy one for yourself, too.