I've always been incredibly weary when it comes to any 2-in-1 tools designed for any given purpose. There's just something about sacrificing quality for the sake of efficiency that, in my experience, doesn't always turn out so well. So, naturally, I started out with a skeptical bias when unpacking the Camillus 3-in-1 12" Hatchet/Saw/Hammer combination tool sent to me by the fine folks at Camillus (amazing customer service and warranty policies are definitely worth noting).
The Hatchet (and Hammer)
The titanium stainless steel ax blade is probably one of my only two qualms with the Camtrax 3-in-1. The 2.75" blade is effective in basic applications, but it doesn't necessarily offer much in terms of force and an impacting strike - this could be caused by the fact that the Camtrax sees a more even weight distribution (due to the saw blade and folding mechanisms built into the handle) than most hatchets possess; whereas the head should be heavier, and it is, it's not as heavy as it ought to be, and this translates into a weaker impact with each strike.
Still, the blade is strong and sturdy, and what it lacks in size (it has a comparatively small cutting edge), it makes up for in versatility and agility. Though not a blade to take into the woods if you're planning on actually living out the rest of your days there, it's more than what's necessary for a few days in the wilderness or any kind of temporal excursion.
In a sense, the efficiency saved by combining two tools in one (because, really, it's easy to claim the back of a hatched blade as a hammer - though the grooves are very much appreciated) is felt in the inefficiency after a few swings of the hatchet. However, this is offset by the quality design and the fact that the hatchet will most certainly get the job done anyway. As is my overall point of opinion on this product: the few extra cuts are definitely a worthy sacrifice for the mobility and maneuverability afforded to the trekker.
As someone who's also weary of the folding mechanism of a knife, I had ample doubt that a folding saw (engaged with a lock-back mechanism) would be able to offer a sturdy, momentous and controlled sawing experience. There's something about that sacred and necessary saw structure, whether it's a hacksaw or a bow saw, so my thinking was that any modification to the body of the saw and handle piece for the sake of featuring it as a 2 or 3-in-1 would jeopardize the integrity of the entire piece. Happy to say that I was, to a large extent, wrong.
Folded into the Camtrax is a 7" lockback saw that most resembles a pruning saw, without the curved blade structure. The traditional pistol grip style handle is instead replaced by the handle of the hatchet, which actually and somewhat unbelievably, offers a solid and controlled grip.
The blade has some gnarly and vicious teeth that cut in both directions, making speed the primary wow factor of the blade. And the fact that a pruning saw would be found attached to a survival hatchet is rather fitting. The only catch - pun intended - is that the saw blade tends to catch if not kept perfectly straight.
Fresh 2-4 inch tree limbs could be cut in less than dozen seconds and it's easy to maintain the control of the blade given the grip of the teeth, even easier to get going with a considerably fast sawing motion. Overall, the fact that a folding saw attached to a hatchet handle performed so well in actual use had me ultimately assured that this product (affordable to begin with) is more than worth the buy.
The nylon sheath is brilliantly designed with every detail in mind. The construction reflects painstaking attempts to get everything right, and that's something that should be immediately appreciated when it comes to any outdoor tool.
It offers a reversible belt clip and bottle opener and a molded design that's so snug-fitting that it takes a few attempts to slip back onto the hatchet blade; while this sounds like an inconvenience, I'd much rather have as firm a cover as possible rather than a hatchet rattling around in an overly large sheath.
All in All
It ultimately boils down to what the priority is: if the priority is to cut back on pack weight and gain pack space, to have two modes of wood cutting built into a single tool, this item is a must-buy. If the priority is a more forceful impact and more powerful tool for constant cutting, this item is more of a novelty.
That being said, packs get heavy very quickly. Two of the bulkiest tools that can be brought along have been condensed into one for the sake of convenience but, also, for ample other benefits. Personally, I'm not living in the woods, and I don't need a lumberjacks ax to get by on the daily. Anyone looking for a hatchet would be mistaken to skip over this piece, which offers alternating ways to cut through vegetation without adding weight and bulk.
In this case, the efficiency sacrificed in each swing by the somewhat counter-intuitive weight distribution and the smaller style hatchet blade is well worth the actual convenience of having two (I guess I'll concede and say 3) tools amalgamated into one easy-to-pack-and-carry tool that makes travel and movement in the wilderness all the more maneuverable.
It may come down to just that - if you're looking at a stationary excursion, consider bringing another tool (or set of tools). If you're looking at an expedition with some mobility in mind, this is an astounding product that must be included in every pack.
Some other quick takeaways:
- The quad-screw inlay of the hatchet blade makes for a great reassurance that the head will never separate from the handle
- The glass-filled plastic handle seems discouraging before use but it holds true, keeping everything tight and offering a firm assembly with a solid grip
- The ever-amazing lifetime warranty by Camillus is something to take instant note of and something that goes a long way given that Camillus lives up to this promise without any sort of fuss (in my experience, anyway).