Everyone has their “go to” tools or pieces of gear they take with them on a back country trip. The items that are always close at hand, used often and are trusted to stand up to the rigours of extended travel in the forest. When traveling in the Boreal, there are no two greater tools to have at hand than a belt knife and sturdy axe. Together, you’ll be able to handle any challenges in stride, having the ability to clear downed trees across the portage, limb, split firewood, make kindling and tinder and should emergency situations arise, have the ability to construct a shelter, gather boughs and increase general camp comfort.
Likely the most important of all tools, the belt knife performs so many crucial functions such as notching pot hangers, making feather sticks, batoning firewood, gathering birch bark, cutting cord to length etc… It’s on my hip from sunrise to sundown!
There are several good knives on the market and with the rise in the popularity of bushcraft, a host of incredible choices are now available. Look for knives that offer a “full tang”, that is the knife extends through to the end of the handle. Such a knife will provide incredible strength and stand up to the daily tasks we ask of it while out in the forest. Ensure that your knife choice is durable enough to baton logs up to 8” in diameter. My choice is the Fallkniven F1, made with VG1 steel and Thermorun handle. This robust knife has been a staple of the bushcraft industry for years and has proven itself over and over again as one of the most durable blades on the market. Other top choices would be the Helle Temagami, and the LT Wright Genesis. Keeping your knife sharp is also essential to it’s performance and camp safety so sharpen it before you head out and if on extended trips, consider carrying a pocket stone such as the Falkniven DC1.
A quality axe can act as your best friend when traveling in the Boreal. Truly it performs so many functions and will likely be used several times daily as you travel and make camp. While “any” axe is better than none, this is not an area to scrimp. Like anything else, investing in a quality tool will provide you with years of trouble free service and function as intended. With so many sizes and options on the market it can at times become confusing as to which will perform best. I opt to carry the Gransfors Bruks Scandinavian Forest Axe. With it’s 1 3/4 pound head and 25” Hickory handle, this axe handles everything we can throw at it while traveling in the northern forest. The head weight is such that limbing downed trees and splitting firewood is performed effortlessly, yet it’s not too heavy to carry on a daily basis. It’s minimal wedge design allows for effortless cuts while notching wood for camp craft or removal of “widow makers”, yet also splits wood up to 10” in diameter without issue. The 25” Hickory handle is not only strong and estecthically pleasing, but allows for safe use in all conditions. I tap split my firewood from my knees, allowing me to safely place my axe head where intended and if I miss, the length of the handle allows for the axe head to bury itself into my chopping block or ground, instead of my shin….incredibly important while traveling in the wilderness. This is not a place for short hatchets where “missing” could mean burying the axe head in your flesh!
Other great options include the Wetterlings Forest Axe, the Gransfors Bruks Wilderness Axe and Hultafors Scandinavian Axe. All quality tools, hand forged by master axe makers. A few coatings of Boiled Linseed Oil on the handle 3 times a year will keep your axe handle in good order for years.