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Preview – SHTF – Inspecting Zippo’s 4-in-1 Woodsman Axe

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The Camper’s Companion

You’ve driven this winding road though the mountain pass a hundred times, but a downed tree a mile ahead forces you onto an old canyon logging road bereft of people, other cars, and any basic trappings of civilization. If you really didn’t need to be home in a hurry, you could have easily backtracked to the main highway 40 miles to the south.

Rounding a blind corner, your truck high-centers on a large rock obscured by some brush, and you feel in the seat of your pants that distressing cacophony of shredding metal and splintering stone. Fifty feet later, you roll to a stop, as all of the lights on your dashboard blink like a Christmas tree and acrid smoke spills out from underneath the hood.

Quickly going through the five stages of grief — denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance — you bang on the steering wheel and scream a few choice words. Your cell phone has no bars in this canyon. You’ve got no food, no water — no nothing, it seems. Looking around the cab, there’s very little of any value to you now: a briefcase full of papers, some fast-food wrappers, and the tire-jack kit. However, just under the front seat you’re elated to discover something that’s been collecting dust for months: the Zippo 4-in-1 Woodsman your wife got you for your birthday.


Versatility Versus Practicality
A man is comfortable with a tool in his hand. You can build something, move something, or break something with tools. Even if you never have the chance to use it, it’s a nice safety blanket to have in case you need it. But is the Woodsman the tool you’ll want when you have nothing else?

Right out of the box, the Woodsman is black and menacing…with the exception of the orange sheath. It is designed to replace three or four tools commonly needed when camping: an axe, bow saw, mallet, and stake puller. But it seems to have been designed by a committee that included at least a dozen marketing guys and no campers with any discernible survival skills. It compromises its one strength (versatility) by being itself impractical.

Made from a strong plastic, the throat of the axe handle is wide and comfortable, but the grip is designed too far up the handle to make swinging it 100-percent efficient. At 3.8 pounds, the heft provides confidence when you do swing it, an assurance that when the cleaving end finds purchase on its target, the effort will not be wasted. However, to get the most out of any diminutive axe, holding it as far away from the head is necessary to communicate all of its force on the objective.

The problem here is twofold. When the stake puller device is not in use, it’s clipped onto the handle at the exact spot that is most comfortable to hold while swinging. Unclipping it is a fine option, but not only will it flop around while chopping, unclipping it leads to the second problem: The pivoting door that allows access to the bow saw blades (and provides tension) is made from a plastic with a smooth texture, contrasting with the molded texture of the rest of the handle. Coupled with the fact that there are no finger knurls, anyone holding onto this smooth part is just one swing away from launching the axe across the campsite.


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