The camping market is seriously oversaturated with some fine, if very expensive, tools these days. Which is fine if you have the budget to pick up a nicer hatchet or camp axe. But it's unfortunate for campers who are just starting out, or for those who just want to get into the woods on a budget. There's a ton of lower-quality pocket knives, survival axes, and multi-tools on the lower-priced end that just aren't up to snuff. Indeed, we suspect many people end up purchasing lower-grade tools that end up not lasting more than a season at the most. I recently got the chance to test out a couple of more-affordable camp axes from a relatively new brand called REAPR and found them to be of nicer quality than many other axes of the same price on the market today.
The REAPR 11000 TAC Hawk axe and the REAPR Versa Camp are likely to have different fans for each. But both are built with a lot of extra functionality beyond just splitting up your campfire wood at night. What's more, because they come in at under $50 each, they're not going to totally break your wallet, and you'll feel comfortable being rougher with these tools than you might a more-expensive camp axe.
REAPR Versa Camp Axe
- 420 stainless steel
- Full tang
- 3-inch axe head with hammer back
- 4 mm thickness
- Three wrench set (10 mm, 13 mm, 16 mm)
- Nail puller
- Bottle opener
- Nylon ballistic belt sheath
- 10¾" overall length
- 8½" handle
- Nonslip TPR molded handle
- Black powder coated
- Best for splitting only with the baton method
- May require you to carry a sharpener
We'll start with the Versa Camp. For the purposes of my testing, I took both axes to my wood pile out back, which had already been split. That ended up being better for testing purposes because it made it more challenging to split those smaller pieces. The Vera Camp came out of the package nice and sharp. For the trimming of small limbs and for taking the bark off branches, this thing is a breeze to use. In fact, I may start packing this for my trail camera checks and for those first visits to my treestand during hunting season. It's going to help thin out those extra small branches quite easily.
Buyers who select this axe for splitting wood should know what they are getting into. The 3-inch head is small. While I had no problems splitting wood with it, this is an axe that was made for the baton method of wood splitting. I will mention that I did manage to split some smaller pieces without batoning. However, for most people, you're going to need to baton every piece of wood with an axe this small. Which is just fine, as it is highly effective using that method. We like this for people new to wood splitting, as it's a good way to learn the safest basic technique of batoning. The precision cast hammer head makes for a perfect spot to strike the axe with another piece of wood.
Where this axe is really going to excel are the other types of bushcraft. This is the perfect tool for building an emergency shelter, as it makes it quite easy to de-bark branches and cut notches for a walls or a roof. For emergency traps, this axe is going to give you the control to make those precision cuts to make a figure-four deadfall or other type of trap work efficiently every time.
I think the two primary users of this axe will be backcountry campers and those prepping a bugout bag for a SHTF scenario. For backpackers planning a long hike in the wilderness, the Versa Camp is delightfully light. I appreciate that REAPR gave the nylon belt sheath MOLLE attachments that are going to be compatible with a wide range of backpacks.
For those building a bugout bag, I think this is going to be a better blade option than a machete or larger axe. It's compact enough to stow in the bag or on the outside. If you have an emergency, the pry bar end could be used to wrench open a stuck door or a window in a building that's on fire. It also makes a handy tent stake puller for campers. Plus, you've got three different wrenches built into the axe head. It's not going to be as easy to use as a regular wrench, but it will do the trick in a pinch.
I did want to take one moment to mention the handle of this axe. It is incredibly ergonomic. It's one of those handles that just feels natural in the hands, and it allowed me to swing with a ton of confidence and control every time. If you're looking for a good first camp axe for an older child or teenager, this isn't a bad option. The handle is small enough to be easily handled by people with any hand size.
Because this axe is 420 stainless steel, it's also very corrosion-resistant, which is an important factor in any survival tool. While 420 isn't really known for its edge-retention capabilities, I was rather rough on this axe during testing. I was pleasantly surprised by how sharp it was after dozens and dozens of hard blows while splitting. I'd still carry a sharpener in your camp or bugout bag just in case. However, for $39.99, you're going to be hard-pressed to find another axe as nice as this one on the market.
REAPR 11000 TAC Hawk Axe
- 2Cr13 stainless steel
- 7?...?" black oxide blade and spike head
- Nylon fiberglass handle with bolt reinforcement
- Overall length 15¾"
- Handle length 14½"
- Lanyard handle hole
- 1680-denier ballistic belt sheath
- Ultra-cool looks on this tactical tomahawk
- Dual-sided head that's well-balanced
- Handle is extremely ergonomic
- Easy wood splitting
- We wish the steel quality was a little higher
This was the second REAPR axe I tested, and this one offered up about the same quality and durability I saw in the Versa Camp. However, I see this axe being popular mostly with the hardcore prepper and survivalist type who wants something that's a bit beefier than the Versa Camp. I'll get the talk about the steel quality out of the way right now. I already know some steel snobs are going to turn up their noses at 2Cr13. For the unfamiliar, this is a Chinese steel, and this axe head is going to have less carbon and chromium than 8Cr13MoV. If you absolutely must insist on the highest quality steel in all your tools, the TAC Hawk is not for you. That's not to say 2Cr13 is a bad steel either. It's still very tough.
In fact, I'll argue there's something to be said for using a less expensive steel in a tool like this. That's mostly because you're not going to be afraid to subject this axe to a little extra abuse. After all, it only costs $49.99. This axe is built to work and be effective while doing it. Like the Versa Camp, just make sure you keep a sharpener with you. That said, I'm very pleased with the edge retention I experienced while testing the TAC Hawk. For the average camper, I think this steel will work out just fine.
In my opinion, the head of the TAC Hawk has just the right amount of heft to it. The ergonomic fiberglass handle is extremely comfortable in the hands with gloves or without. I never felt as if I was going to lose control of this axe. I found the head swings easily and splits efficiently.
Obviously, the spike head doesn't lend itself to the baton method, but this axe isn't built for that. It's a slightly more advanced axe for campers who are already experienced splitters. REAPR says the spike head is good in breaching scenarios, and I can see that. You could probably also use it to quickly bust a windshield to pull someone out of a burning car or escape one that's sinking on an icy lake.
I wouldn't recommend this axe for a younger or first-time camper because of that spike end, though. That's simply because I think it takes some practice and experience to become efficient at swinging any sort of axe or hatchet, and there's potential to hurt yourself if you don't know what you're doing.
When gathering the specs, I noticed many customer reviews online mention using the TAC Hawk as a throwing axe and having the fiberglass handle break on them. I don't know a ton about axe throwing, but I do know REAPR markets this axe as a tactical and survival tool. It's not marketed as a thrower. Remember, this axe is not a full tang. It features bolt reinforcement in the fiberglass handle. I suspect those who have broken handles are exposing the TAC Hawk to abuses it was never meant to withstand.
As a tool for chopping and splitting firewood, however, I had no issues with the TAC Hawk and found it an extremely durable tool. This would be a great option for a survival kit or bugout bag where you have a little extra room and want something slightly larger than your average camp axe. At $50, it's hard to find another axe that looks this cool and has this kind of functionality in the field.
The Bottom Line
REAPR has produced some very nice products in the TAC Hawk and Versa Camp that we'll be looking forward to using more in the field in the coming year. These axes prove that you don't need to spend a small fortune to get a quality, efficient axe for your next big adventure. Plus, we just love the fact that REAPR sneaked a little extra functionality into both of these axes, essentially turning them into multi-tools that can be used for a plethora of uses in the field. We'll be keeping an eye on REAPR to see what other new blades and tools it develops in the coming years. Check out the REAPR website for more information on the company and its full line of outdoor products.