Gerber Folding Axe
The Promise: A heavy, full-size axe is overkill for most weekend campers, who usually only need a blade that is big enough to accumulate campfire kindling. By taking cues from the world of multitools, the Gerber Kick Axe promises to pack enough power to chop branches, and to fold shut in order to save precious backpack space.
In Practice: The axe's folded size is less than 7 inches long by 2.5 inches wide—so small that we actually managed to stow it in our back pocket during a hike. When unfolded, the axe is a little less than 1 foot long, with a 4-inch-by-2-inch head. It has a blackm oxide-coated metal body frame, and the whole thing weighs just over a pound. When it's chopping time, the axe unfolds and the blade locks into place. We used it to chop wood in the forest, then brought it indoors for some overkill package-opening assistance (it's far more fun to use than a box-cutter). One problem we encountered: The locking mechanism is a little unwieldy, and novice users will want to double-check that the blade is locked up or it could come loose during rapid-fire chops. Additionally, the mechanism for closing the axe isn't intuitive—if you don't already know how to do it, you could be stuck with an open axe for longer than you'd like.
Bottom Line: Useful in remote backpacking, where a small axe proves to be far more practical and less cumbersome than a saw for gathering firewood. It's a bit pricier than the smaller Gerber Back Pack Axe, but it is more compact for carrying (since it collapses) and almost exactly the same weight. If you can get used to the unwieldy locking mechanism, the Kick Axe is a great tool. —Seth Porges