Estwing Camper’s Axe (E44A) Review: The High Value, Heavy Duty, US Built, Chopping Axe To Beat

The Estwing Camper’s Axe

Estwing immediately brings to mind solid steel hammers. I myself have one such hammer that gets used frequently. Impressed by the quality of their hammers, I decided to try out their axes. I first purchased the 26” camper’s axe, then the 12” leather sportsman’s axe and finally the 16” camper’s axe. Having used all of them I find myself reaching for the 16” axe the most. Just like a  ⅜” ratchet has the widest range of use for automotive work the 16” Estwing has the widest range of use for me. It is heavy enough for most small jobs and portable enough to keep handy.

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My main use for this axe is the constant war I wage against vines, overgrowth, storm cleanup, and brush around my 15 acre property. Everytime I pick up this axe I immediately notice the solid heft of it. At almost 3 pounds the axe weighs only 6 ounces less that my 28” Councile FSS Boys axe. The head profile and grind make it an excellent chopper. The long concave cheeks allow the axe to bit deep into the wood with every swing. Most small limbs and vines are severed with minimal effort in one or two swings. The head and haft are drop forged from a single piece of  tool steel. Estwing does not list the steel they use but my guess is a medium carbon steel somewhere around 1055 or 1060. It holds an edge long enough for a solid day of work. At the end of the day I spend 10 to 15 minutes with it on the strop to bring the edge back to a keen point. Then a shot of WD-40 to prevent rust.

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From the factory the edge was a little too thick for my taste. I reprofiled the edge by bringing the shoulder back and convexing the edge. Most axes need a little work from the factory to get the best performance. With a good quality steel it is a job that will only need to be done once. Then only stropping or light file work is needed to maintain the edge. That is assuming you don’t chip or roll the edge from hitting a rock or hidden nail.

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The handle of the E44A is one of my favorite aspects of the axe. It is made from a grippy shock reducing nylon. With or without gloves it affords a secure slip free grip. This is even the case when damp. It fits my medium size hands well. The length of the handle allows for a one or two handed grip. This axe comes with a pre-drilled lanyard hole. When wrapped around ones wrist the addition of a lanyard adds a measure of security. 

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Well it can’t be all good, right? I do have a few small criticisms for consideration. The very characteristics that make the head good for chopping work against it when used for splitting wood. I know that is not what this axe was designed for but feel I should mention it in case anyone is contemplating purchasing one for that use. When using the axe to split wood the cheeks long shallow taper will get stuck before the wood starts to split. Once stuck the entire log can be picked up and tapped against the chopping block to drive the blade in until it begins to split. The second issue is the lacquer coating used has allowed moisture underneath it and caused rust in a few spots. This is even with regular coatings of oil. This is only cosmetic and does not affect the function of the axe. I also prefer the leather sheath which was discontinued in 2015 in lieu of a nylon one.

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Aesthetics/Style/fit/finish 4/5

The hudson bay style is one of my favorites when it comes to a small to medium camp axe. The fit and finish are pretty good for a mass produced axe with a combination of automated and manual machining processes.

Blade 4/5

From the factory the edge comes sharp enough to start work. As usual I spent extra time modifying the edge to get the best performance out of it. The metal holds an edge well, is easy to maintain, and touch-up. The strength of the blade geometry lies in chopping but falls short in splitting tasks. That is fine by me because I have a dedicated splitting axe and maul.

Ergonomics 4/5

I really like the nylon handle. It provides a secure grip in any weather. The shock reduction grip does its job and does not transfer a substantial amount of shock into the user’s arm. The neck of the handle is narrow with sharp angles. For this reason choking up on the head quickly becomes uncomfortable and awkward.

Ruggedness/Durability 5/5

This axe has ruggedness and durability to spare. It will last a lifetime. The one piece steel construction leaves no handle to break or loosen.

Value 5/5

At $40 this axe is worth every penny. To top it off it is made in the USA.

 

Specs:

Estwing Campers Axe E44A 16 in

Price: $39.97 plus tax at Home Depot

Weight: 2 lb14.6 oz plus 2.8 oz leather sheath

Dimensions: Overall Length-18 in, Handle Length-16 in Head Width-7 in, Cutting Edge- 4 in Head Thickness-1 in, Handle Width-1.5in.

Materials: Head-Forged Steel 1055??, Handle nylon Vinyl Shock reduction grip, sheath-Leather

Manufactured in USA

Pros:

  1. Cost High Value
  2. Made in the USA
  3. Excellent Leather Sheath
  4. Strength/Durability (Single piece steel construction)
  5. Fit and Finish
  6. Grippy Handle
  7. Comfortable in hand for long periods
  8. After thinning the edge it bites into wood deep

Cons:

  1. Factory edge needs thinned out and sharpened (edge geometry)
  2. Choking up is tricky due to single piece construction
  3. Not a good splitting axe
  4. Factory metal coating has rust underneath it.

Use:

  • Yard clean up
  • Splitting kindling
  • Car Camping
  • Hunting
  • De-limbing trees
  • Backpacking if you don’t mind the weight

 

So What:

The E44A is high value, high quality, USA made, easy to find, well made, durable, works great after thinning the edge, durable enough to pass on to grandchildren.

Rating: 4.4/5

 

How many of you use Estwing axes?

comments

  1. Mike L says:

    I’m lovestruck on Swede steel. Most particularly Wetterlings.

  2. Great review, I really enjoy my Estwing Sportsman hatchet. Like yours, it’s no good for splitting wood, but excels at jobs around the house!

  3. cmeat says:

    i can still hear doug bufone mispronouncing “esswing hammers” during the white sox radio spots, so this is too soon for me.
    i’d grab a kukhri for any of the brush clearing tasks mentioned, but for forty bucks that is a nice tool.

  4. Robert H. says:

    I can’t disagree more on this review. There are probably 10 other hatchets and axes I would choose before this Estwing and some at an even better price. I’ll give it high marks for durability, but the heft the author praises is absolutely wasted in the handle. For clearing small saplings and vines, I think he would find the CRKT Halfchance Parang a better tool. I also clear lots of brush on my property and ditched the hatchet and went with this reasonably priced Ken Onion designed blade. If you really need to stick with a value axe, consider a Fiskars or maybe even a Marbles.

    1. I agree about the Halfachance being a heck of a tool.

      http://www.thetruthaboutknives.com/2014/10/machete-review-crkt-ken-onion-halfachance/

      I am not sure which “camp” I fall in at the moment, Machete or Hatchet. But I think I might have just found a question of the day.

    2. Thanks for the replies. For me this axe is part of a property maintenance tool set. I use it in conjunction with a with a wide range of equipment from a 40 hp Massey Ferguson 240 tractor and 6 foot TRI bush hog to a folding saw. Each has its own range of practical use. Most of the time I carry this an 18″ Ontario machete, a Bahco Laplander folding saw and a pair of lopping shears on my John Deere 48″ zero turn mower to clear near hedge rows or process fallen limbs. My system changes and evolves as the seasons change and as I try out new equipment. I would never recommend this or any other tool as the end-all be-all one tool for every use option because that tool does not exist. It has served me well and I will use it for many years to come.

  5. Joe says:

    If you are doing a lot of chopping, a hand axe with a wood handle is going to be a lot easier on your elbow and shoulder. Ask any carpenter if they would rather use a steel handle hammer or a wood handle hammer. Most are going to prefer wood.

    1. I am not a carpenter by trade but have worked on several Habitat for Humanity builds with professional carpenters. I observed that they use a wide variety of hammers with wood, fiberglass and metal handles. Some even use riggers axes. From those observations many used cheap tools because they had a lot of tools stolen or lost. The other observation was that they use the heaviest hammer they can wield to drive a nail in the fewest swings. All that being said the majority used a nail gun. So if I was planning to do a lot of chopping I would go get my chain saw.

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Estwing Camper’s Axe (E44A) Review: The High Value, Heavy Duty, US Built, Chopping Axe To Beat

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