A full-sized axe should be carried, in cold weather, if means of transportation permit. Its head need not weigh over 3 or 3^ pounds, but let the handle be of standard 36-inch length for a full-arm sweep. A single-bitt is best for campers, as the poll is useful for driving stakes, knocking off pine knots, to rive timber (striking with a mallet), and as an anvil (bitt stuck in a log or stump).
With this one tool a good axeman can build anything that is required in the wilderness, and he can quickly fell and log-up a tree large enough to keep a hot fire before his lean-to throughout the night.
If an axe is bought ready handled, see that the helve is of young growth hickory, straight grained,' and free from knots. Sight along the back of the helve to see if it is straight in line with the eye of the axe, then turn it over and see if the edge of the axe ranges exactly in line with the center of the hilt (rear end of handle), as it should, and that the hilt is at right angles to the center of the eye. A good chopper is as critical about the heft and hang of his axe as a shooter is about the balance of his gun. If the handle is straight, score a aj^-foot rule on it, in inches. Get the axe ground by a careful workman. The store edge is not thin enough or keen enough. One cannot be too careful in selecting this indispensable tool: some grades are of the best steel and hand-forged, but many others are just " bum".
Have a leather sheath for the axe-head, to prevent accidents when traveling. Some are made with strap attached for carrying on one's back, but this is needless: in the few cases that you carry an axe that way, tie it to outside of pack with a string.
An axe lying around camp has a fatal attraction for men who do not know how to use it. Not that they will do much chopping with it; but somebody will pick it up, make a few bungling whacks at a projecting root, or at a stick lying flat on the ground, drive the blade through into the earth and pebbles, and leave the edge nicked so that it will take an hour's hard work to put it in decent order again. And the fellow who does this is the one who could not sharpen an axe to save his life. It never seems to occur to him that an axe is of no use unless its edge is kept keen, or that the best way to ruin it is to strike it into the ground, or that a chopping block will prevent that. You may loan your last dollar to a friend; but never loan him your axe, unless you are certain that he knows how to use it.
If a full-grown axe cannot be carried, then take a hatchet with handle as long as practicable (see Chapter X).