CUTTING TOOLS OF THE TRADE
A trusted knife is a big help in a myriad of situations. However outdoor tasks come to mind where bigger, more specialised cutting tools are needed. Find out which Great Gear you’ll need to stock such as axes, machetes and saws for field use.
The best way to understand why cutting tools – axes, machetes and saws – are needed, is to imagine what it’s like hunting or camping without them. The means to chop or cut wood for clearing, burning, or building means you can more easily get to your campsite and set to work constructing a fire without having to scout the area for your perfect lumber.
For field dressing game, as well as preparing food, these tools come in handy as well. Setting up a tree stand also springs to mind. You’ll need a cutting tool bigger than your knife to work safely and efficiently. These are only a few examples of where bigger cutting tools come into their own.
Machetes are widely used for a variety of chores. Originally crop-harvesting tools, they are equally well suited for clearing brush and creating paths in dense undergrowth.
As a camping and survival tool, they are well suited for chopping firewood but also useful for food preparation such as butchering animals, cutting up foods, splitting open coconuts and so on.
Last but not least, machetes are fearsome weapons and have been used throughout history for self-defence purposes. Machetes have evolved into many styles, features and adaptations specifically suited for the environments and cultures they are used in.
The traditional, Latin or bush machete is a popular all-purpose machete with an evenly weighted straight-back blade. It can be easily carried around in a sheath. This type is a real do-it-all utility tool that is good for cutting green vegetation.
The infamous kukri knife is native to Nepal. It has gained notoriety across the world as the edged weapon of choice of the elite Gurkha soldiers, known for their fearless military prowess. A kukri is perfectly able to perform the tasks of a machete but is even more versatile. It features an inwardly curved blade featuring three sections. The pointed tip is ideal for piercing, the wide midsection for chopping, and the narrow area near the handle for whittling and carving.
Native to the United States, the Bowie machete combines the length of a machete blade with the clip-point blade of a traditional Bowie knife. Alongside to excellent chopping capabilities, the clip-point makes Bowie machetes ideal for skinning game.
The panga is the machete of choice in eastern and southern Africa as well as in the Caribbean. This blade style features a deep belly, providing weight for chopping moderately thick, woody vegetation and curvature for easy slicing. Its upswept point makes it equally great for stabbing and piercing.
Preferences for one style over another are mostly subjective and, in large part, based on tradition and experience. Be aware that there is no single type of machete that will check all boxes for every situation imaginable. The most important thing when selecting a machete blade type is what feels right to you and will best serve your needs.
BOW AND FOLDING SAWS
There are two distinct types of saws for outdoor use. One is the folding hand saw, a simple saw and handle that folds in half at a central hinge. These are usually shorter in length, but really compact and a good starting point if you only want to have one small tool for cutting firewood. Simple to open and close, you can fit them anywhere in your pack or pocket. Generally, these are fine tools for cutting small to mid-thickness wood. They also shine as a secondary back-up for a larger hand saw. The ultimate in versatility are hand saws with interchangeable, designed for purpose blades. Coarse blades are ideal for wood, fine blades great for cutting through bone.
The second type is a bow saw, which is longer and heavier than a hand saw but it can cut through larger logs and is generally more stable during frequent use. Bow saws offer a lot of advantages that folding hand saws don’t. You want this type of saw for cutting through thick wood. Their larger size may make it unfeasible for ultra-light packing yet there are some very durable bow saws on the market that still fold to a very compact size.
AXES AND HATCHETS
There’s a big variety in axe styles. They may look similar yet here they vary in size. Full size axes with long shafts and heavy heads are used to fell trees and chop timber. They are to be used with both hands. Through their size and weight, these may not be the ideal compact, lightweight companions for a hunting trip.
Hand axes, meanwhile, are smaller, lightweight and portable. They are meant to be used with only a single hand. Not designed for felling trees or chopping large wood, these are ideally used to trim branches, split wood into kindling and chop smaller firewood. Due to their compact size and relatively light weight, they are better suited for outdoor use on the go than full size axes.
Hatchets and hand axes are fairly similar. Yet hatchets are even more compact and more portable than axes. Their shafts are generally shorter. Their heads are narrower with a large cutting blade compared with axes that have a larger head that doesn’t really taper to the blade. Some hatchets also feature a hammer head on the backside of the head, whereas true axes will only ever have a blade, not being designed for hammering. For portability, lightness and capacity to be used quickly as both a self-defence tool and a fast-hacking log splitter, you will want a hatchet.
Think about all the tasks these workhorse cutting tools need to perform. Ideally, they will be able to make do with anything you throw at them. That’s why size matters. When selecting a cutting tool, be it a machete, a saw or an axe, you should think about what is more important to you: performance or portability. Bigger tools are harder to carry around, but they are able to do more in less time.
On the other hand, smaller cutting tools are easier to transport but less efficient. Luckily there are enough innovative products on the market to cater for everybody’s needs.