The Gerber 23.5″ Axe is easily one of the best all-around camping and vehicle axes: Its price-to-value ratio is fantastic. Its head is heavy enough to bite into downed trees. The handle is long enough for some serious chopping but short enough to remain packable.
Of course, there are many great axes available these days, including hand-forged works of art that are paired with perfectly shaped hardwood handles. It’s hard not to appreciate a good Hudson Bay Cruiser.
But those wood handles are what led me to the Gerber 23.5″ Axe: I wanted a synthetic handle.
Why? I need an axe I can abuse and ignore for years, usually by leaving it inside a vehicle on hot summer days again and again. Same goes for leaving it in a hot pickup box.
My primary criteria was a handle design that would not dry out and loosen over time. I wanted an axe that I could count on for those few times I truly need an axe — a couple camping trips, hunting camp, and for that one day every two or three years where a blowdown tree is blocking a backwoods road.
Gerber 23.5″ Axe Review: Why You Need an Axe
If you travel on backwoods roads, far away from cell phone coverage and gas stations, one day you might experience a storm or come across a blowdown before someone else has.
On one trip several years ago, I was taking a cut-off gravel and rock road over the mountains in Idaho — basically, taking the scenic route. I had a pickup, passengers, fishing gear, food, and another guy in a pickup following along behind. After a good 40 miles in, we were stopped short by a blowdown.
This was a fir tree, still rooted at the cut bank side of the road, so it was impossible to drag. The portion that we needed to cut was just eight inches in diameter, maybe six inches if we really wanted to squeeze by on the edge of the road.
I didn’t have a chainsaw, axe, or even a hatchet. The same for my traveling companions. Surely I must have had a folding handsaw under the seat, right? Nope. I couldn’t even remember where I left it last.
We had no choice but to turn around. Adventure over.
Now I always have an axe and a handsaw. If you travel anywhere where there might be a fire, into the woods or wilderness, you need an axe, too. And this is why the Gerber 23.5″ Axe is one of the best gifts for campers and makes a great gift for hunters. Any outdoor adventurer who travels where there are trees needs an axe.
Meanwhile, what about the Gerber 23.5″ Axe specifically?
Gerber 23.5″ Axe Review: The Specs
The Gerber 23.5″ Axe has an overall length of 23.6 inches with a blade length of 3.5 inches. It weights in at about 3.3 pounds. I’m not sure how much the head itself weighs, but the glass-filled nylon handle seems pretty light.
The blade is stainless steel, hardened and forged, but Gerber doesn’t provide much in the way of detail here.
So why is the head black? The head is coated with a PTFE coating that creates a low-friction surface that helps the head bite deeply into wood without getting stuck: Gerber claims this axe will chop up to three times deeper than average. I’m not sure what the average competition is, but in my relatively light usage so far, the Gerber 23.5 Axe is a good chopper.
Gerber 23.5″ Axe Review: The Fiskars Connection
Interestingly, the Gerber 23.5″ Axe with the bright green handle looks suspiciously like the Fiskars X15 Chopping Axe with the bright orange handle. In fact, the head of the Gerber Axe is inscribed with “Fiskars.”
So what is going on here? While Gerber is headquartered in Tigard, Oregon — and manufactures some of its knives in the USA — Gerber is actually owned by Fiskars of Finland.
I’m not sure if Fiskars designed the Axe or if Gerber designed the Axe and Fiskars manufacturers it. Either way, other than the color and branding, they’re essentially the same axe. So buy whichever version you want.
All-in-all, the Gerber 23.5″ Axe is a fantastic camp and vehicle axe. It’s a great all-around chopper, but it does, of course do some light-duty splitting of firewood. If you want a longer-handled axe for more power, Gerber makes the 36″ Power Splitting Axe, which also has a head designed more for splitting than chopping — think splitting stacks of firewood while you wear a kickass red flannel shirt.