Alrighty then. The holiday season is upon us, and I am getting out into the back of beyond less than usual. I thought that I would throw some thoughts on common outdoor gear and skills out here for discussion. Let's start with the Axe, for no particular reason. We've all seen the "Well equipped" off road vehicle tooling down the road with the safari basket on top, an axe, shovel and Hi-lift strapped to the basket and gas cans on top or on the back. Looks cool at the mall, and tells everyone within sight that you are serious about getting out into nature. Now about that axe. Axes come in many flavors. Falling axes, limbing axes, splitting axes, chopping axes, competition axes, throwing axes and battle axes. Single and double bit axes. Hickory handles, plastic handles, one piece steel handles and high tech composite handles. Expensive axes and cheap axes. Here's my thoughts on axes. I used to be pretty militant about having a Michigan pattern axe with a good hickory handle and made with good American steel rattling around in the backs of my trucks and crummies when I was out in the woods. It's a very useful tool to have when you want to clear small stuff from a trail, or rustle up a little firewood for a lunchtime fire. The local hardware store had them in the rack by the gross, and they were relatively cheap in the grand scheme of things. You could use them and abuse them without a guilty conscience. I haven't found a decent axe in a hardware store in awhile. The steel is either too soft, or too hard / brittle. The eye is shaped wrong, so the handle gets loose quickly. Replacement handles have the wrong geometry, the wrong shape and are often not straight. Wedges, steel and wood, are getting harder to find. Awhile ago I stumbled upon a Fiskars axe from Finland. Totally different shape than I was used to and totally different construction as well. I needed a new axe, the price was right, so I laid down my hard earned cash and took it home. The model that I purchased was a 3 1/2 pound with the splitting head. It has a high tech composite handle right at 24" long that wraps around the head instead of going into an eye and being wedged tight. Now the Finns have a little different take on the mechanics of chopping, so be more careful than usual the first few times out with it. This thing works great! Keep it sharp (you sharpen your axe, right!?) and it will do a days work clearing small stuff and whacking up a little firewood. Not everyone needs an axe along, but if you find one useful, check out a Fiskars axe. The splitting axe is very good at chopping and splitting.