It’s small and lightweight, with some extra features that might prove useful in an emergency scenario, but other than that, the performance of this mini hatchet largely reflects its budget price.
- Light and compact
- Supplied with nylon head guard
- Stainless-steel head with black oxide finish
- Integrated features include nail pry, scraper blade and multiple hex wrench
- Lacks head weight
- No poll or butt for hammering
- Delicate bit
Whitby Camp & Survival Axe: first impressions
We’re not sure who designed the Whitby Camp & Survival Axe, but they appear to have taken inspiration from multiple different historical tools and weapons, then melded them together to create a slightly bizarre-looking beast.
The steel head has a tomahawk-like profile with a black oxide finish, presumably designed to appeal to those who like the stealth or “tactical” look. Instead of a standard butt or poll, the back of the head has a wicked-looking scraper blade, plus a nail pry at the top. Then there are a series of cheek cut-outs for good measure, which can be used as a hex wrench in survival or emergency situations.
• RRP: $25 (US) / £20 (UK)
• Weight: 340g / 12oz
• Blade length: 9.5cm / 4in
• Overall length: 33cm / 13in
• Head: Stainless steel (black oxide coated)
• Handle: Nylon with rubberized grip
• Head guard: Black nylon
This unusual head is attached to a plastic nylon handle via two bolt fasteners. The lower portion has a green rubberized grip with a chain and rune pattern that is primarily decorative – perhaps it is supposed to evoke the power and strength of Viking axes. It’s finished with a lanyard hole. In short, the styling and design is certainly divisive and makes it a bit of an outlier in our best camping axes buying guide. We weren’t big fans, but it might appeal to some.
The head is made from 4mm stock, 3CR13 stainless steel. This is an entry-level Chinese steel but a popular choice for budget camping knives and tools because of its balanced qualities. It has excellent corrosion resistance, sharpens easily, is reasonably hard and tough, has decent edge retention and is easy to work with. The cheeks are flat, while the bit has a double bevel of similar profile to Mora’s Lightweight Axe. The cutting edge came reasonably sharp, but it is very thin, and the heel and toe in particular flare to points that look susceptible to chipping.
Given this axe’s budget price point, we were surprised to find that it comes with a nylon guard / mask that covers the whole of the head. It’s stitched and riveted, with a strip of nylon webbing to attach it to a belt or hiking backpack – though we wouldn’t recommend doing so, since unfortunately it gave way almost immediately on our test sample. The mask is also slightly awkward to fit and remove, since you need to slip the entire handle through it before snapping the two press studs together to hold it in place. Having said that, it does the job, and is more than you get with many hatchets.
Whitby Camp & Survival Axe: in the field
There’s no denying this little axe is extremely light and portable. Both the shaft and head have thin profiles that ensure it is easy to carry, with minimal bulk. It will slide easily into a small pack or the side pouch of a bigger hiking backpack. Obviously, this small size is a slight drawback when it comes to performance, since it simply doesn’t have the heft to easily split larger pieces of wood. Still, for chopping kindling and similar light tasks, it works well, and is generally quicker and easier than batoning with a knife.
Though the straight shaft isn’t the most comfortable or efficient design for making arcing, chopping motions, the rubberized grip ensures reasonable safety. It didn’t slip in use thanks to the tacky surface, though we noted that it did tend to pick up bits and pieces from the ground, like wood chip and other campsite debris.
The tomahawk-like head means it is technically possible to choke up on the head if you want to use the cutting edge for more precise cutting tasks, but that sharp scraper blade on the back of the head is worryingly close to the fleshy part of your hand. We were pleasantly surprised by the performance of the rear scraper blade itself, though. It actually works well for making wood shavings or peeling bark for campfire tinder.
The nail pry is less effective, since we were reluctant to apply too much force for fear of breaking the nylon handle. And while the hex wrenches do technically work, using them is time-consuming and requires a fair bit of clearance around the bolt or nut you’re trying to loosen. Then again, it’s a feature primarily designed for survival or emergency use, so in that sense it’s better than nothing.
The materials used, while being relatively cheap, ensure that this is a fairly practical outdoor tool – that stainless steel head with its black oxide finish is unlikely to rust, and the plastic handle won’t rot or swell with moisture. It doesn’t make for the most elegant or tactile feel in the hand, though.
Overall, a mixed bag. But for the price – which is less than most pocket-knives – that’s perhaps inevitable and means that the negatives can be largely overlooked. The positives are its affordability, its low weight and compact dimensions. In short, if you just need a hatchet for chopping kindling and making tinder for fire-lighting, this is a reasonably priced alternative to a fixed blade knife. However, we suspect the Whitby Axe will mostly be purchased by preppers and survivalists attracted to its tactical look and emergency utility features.
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.
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