Sure, an axe is a fine tool, they’re great for felling trees and building cabins, but to have one as your only cutting tool for wilderness travel? That makes about as much sense as playing golf with a croquet mallet or entering a Hummer in a NASCAR race. If I can take only one cutting tool to the woods, it is a knife, hands down. I have found the knife to be adaptable to every environment I have encountered, from the coast to the mountains. From cutting to slicing to chopping, a knife is simply the best tool to have because it will perform a greater variety of tasks than any axe could ever hope to do.

I go to the woods for extended periods of time and I will walk for miles between camps. With the other gear I need to carry, it’s important not to be weighed down by tools of limited value, and I sure don’t want to waste my energy freeing myself from branches and vines caught on long handles. I can easily relocate my knife to suit the environment: on my belt in more open areas, inverted on a shoulder strap of my pack in tighter areas or when crossing streams, or inside my clothing in extreme cold.

Then there’s trailblazing. When traveling through areas where trails get overgrown and brush and heavy briars need to be cleared from the path, a knife is much easier to wield than an axe. A few well-placed snap cuts with a knife will remove those obstacles using very little energy, while doing this with an axe would require more physical exertion and take more time as well. This because of the effort required to make the cutting strokes, and also due to the energy used to recover from them. Anyone who has used one to clear the huge green briars and honey locust thorns from the path to their favorite deer stand knows what a pain any over-head cutting with an axe can be.

Making The Cuts
In my youth, I read a lot of books on camping. Thus, I always thought it was important to carry the right tool for any job and any extended trip to the woods required a medium fixed-blade knife for camp chores, a folder for detail work and an axe for chopping. Then came an enlightening day in January when I was in my early 20s. I was fishing on the Chattahoochee River and I sheered the key in my propeller. I was 7 miles downstream from camp and my truck. The current was a lot stronger than I wanted to paddle against, so a long hike seemed like the best option. There was a stream that entered the river about a half mile up that varied in width, but nowhere was it narrow enough to jump across and the temp was in the mid 20s. I had to cut down a 10-inch-diameter pine tree for a bridge using only the 6-inch blade of a hunting knife, the largest cutting tool I had with me.

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