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Hults Bruk Akka / Hultafors Åby Forest Axe review: an elegant beast of a wood chopper

The premium Hults Bruk Akka / Hultafors Åby Forest Axe has an extended handle for increased power and a versatile head profile

Hults Bruk Akka/Hultafors Åby Forest Axe
(Image: © Matthew Jones)

Our Verdict

A premium hand-forged axe, the Hults Bruk Akka – marketed in the UK and Europe as the Hultafors Åby – gives you the power and capability of a light felling axe in a size that isn’t too unwieldy to take on camping or canoeing expeditions. It’s more than you’ll need just to get a small campfire going, but it’s our pick of the bunch for extended trips into wilderness or backwoods areas.

For

  • • Premium hand-forged steel head
  • • Hickory handle
  • • Supplied with high-quality leather head mask
  • • Versatile size and weight
  • • Longer handle gives greater cutting power

Against

  • • Overkill for many campers
  • • Price

Hults Bruk Akka / Hultafors Åby Forest Axe: first impressions

Along with rival forge Gränsfors Bruk, Hults Bruk is one of the most highly regarded axe makers in Sweden. You might notice, however, that this axe is branded Hultafors. That’s because Hults Bruk was bought by the Hultafors group in 1992 and now manufactures axes for both brands. The Hults Bruk brand is sold in the US, while Hultafors is sold in other international markets. 

The company makes a wide range of premium and standard axes, which are sold by both brands under different names. Fortunately, the premium axes are identical in all but name – so the Hults Bruk Akka and the Hultafors Åby are the same axe. And whatever it’s called, it’s definitely one of the best camping axes out there.

It’s designed as a light felling axe, with a hand-forged 1.5lb (approx 700g) head and a hickory handle. Overall length is just over 23 inches. That’s not the most compact axe around, but on the other hand it enables this axe to be used for heavier felling and limbing work. 

Hults Bruk Akka / Hultafors Åby Forest Axe

The leather head mask oozes old-school quality (Image credit: Matthew Jones)

The head is well seated on the hickory handle, with plenty of crown above the eye – a nice touch. It is hafted with a wooden wedge and a circular metal pin. The handle has tapered shoulders and a slim throat, so it can be used with one hand if needed. A pronounced palm swell and a squared butt offer a secure, comfortable grip, with space for two hands. The handle is natural wood, left unvarnished and unpainted but oiled to maintain the wood. This offers both warmth and tactility, while also absorbing moisture from sweaty palms.

The handle is finished with a lanyard hole and the axe is supplied with a high-quality leather head guard or mask that protects the bit and most of the head very effectively.

Specifications

• RRP: $160 (US) / £130 (UK)
• Weight: 975g / 2lb 2oz
• Blade length: 8cm / 3in
• Overall length: 60cm / 23.25in
• Head: Hand-forged carbon steel
• Handle: Hickory
• Head guard: Heavy duty leather

Hults Bruk Akka / Hultafors Åby Forest Axe: in the field

Hults Bruk Akka / Hultafors Åby Forest Axe

The longer-than-average handle gives you greater cutting power (but makes this axe more of a challenge when it comes to packing) (Image credit: Matthew Jones)

The head is a fairly unusual shape, but very versatile. It is well suited to both mid-size chopping and more detailed work thanks to a thin blade profile with slightly convex cheeks that makes deep cross-grain cuts. 

It feels very precise, aided by a shorter cutting edge that comes wickedly sharp. The beard also has a large cutaway akin to a carpenter’s axe, which allows the user to choke up on the handle for very fine control. Despite the longer handle, this makes it a good tool for carving and whittling projects, whether you’re making wooden camp utensils, larger camp furniture or even building a natural shelter. Slim shoulders also ensure it’s very comfortable to use in this way. 

But in two hands, the Åby is great for limbing logs, snedding branches or felling small to medium-sized trees. In fact, it’s a fantastic axe for processing larger volumes of wood, especially when used in conjunction with a folding saw. Though it isn’t really designed for splitting, it will chop through small rounds and make batons for kindling. It has a slightly thicker bit than the popular Gransfors Bruk Small Forest Axe, which we also tested, and we think the Hultafors Åby actually performs better in this respect than its rival. 

Hults Bruk Akka / Hultafors Åby Forest Axe

The slimline, head-on profile of the Hults Bruk Akka / Hultafors Åby Forest Axe (Image credit: Matthew Jones)

The hand-forged steel head is of extremely high quality and the axe came with a keen, nicely polished edge. The poll has bevelled edges and a brushed finish that enables it to be used as a light hammer for knocking in tent pegs or similar.

You could just about strap this axe to the outside of a decent-sized hiking backpack too. In terms of total weight, it is a fraction under a kilogram – just over two pounds – which is the same as the GB Small Forest Axe. Neither are much heavier than a robust hatchet. But we think the Åby delivers significantly more felling power than almost anything else in its weight class.

It might be more axe than many weekend campers need, of course, and similarly there’s no reason to spend this much if budget is a consideration. But if we wanted a lifetime camp companion and were going on something like a wilderness canoeing trip, this little powerhouse would be our top pick.

An outdoors writer and editor, Matt Jones has been testing kit in the field for nearly a decade. Having worked for both the Ramblers and the Scouts, he knows one or two things about walking and camping, and loves all things adventure, particularly long-distance backpacking, wild camping and climbing mountains – especially in Wales. He’s based in Snowdonia and last year thru-hiked the Cambrian Way, which runs for 298 miles from Cardiff to Conwy, with a total ascent of 73,700 feet – that’s nearly 2½ times the height of Everest. Follow Matt on Instagram and Twitter.