Before I get into the review, I want to talk a little about the parent company Zippo. Most of you will know the name Zippo from the lighter that is so popular around the world. Founded in 1932, Zippo produced their first lighter in 1933 and not much has changed since. Zippos are know to be extremely durable as well as being “windproof” and have enjoyed their well-earned reputation for being tough. I know there are more than a few of you readers out there that have one in your kit, tucked away in some drawer or in your backpack. While lighters are definitely Zippo’s bread and butter, they have definitely diversified their portfolio. From lanterns to cooking to survival items, the Zippo brand can be found on many items today. This leads me to my review on the Woodsman.
I was fortunate enough to get my hands on a Woodsman over Christmas from my lovely wife. At first glance, upon opening the package I was excited to see that this could potentially solve a few of my needs in on handy package. There are the obvious tools such as the 5″ blade hachet and the 15″ bow saw for use around the campfire. But this handy piece of equipment has a couple of more uses as well. For setting up and tearing down your tent it also has a mallet and a stake puller.
As with all gear that I get my hands on, I want to use it! I want to put it through it’s paces out in the field with some real world experience. Luckily I got to go on a camping trip in the middle of January while there was some cold weather. With cold weather I can build a fire and with the need for a fire comes the need for wood. Obviously as it follows with wood you need something to cut it with! Perfect timing.
After getting camp set up and making myself comfortable I decided to get a fire built before the temps dropped to much so out comes the Woodsman and some firewood that I brought with me. I had a nice mix of tinder, small branches and medium sized logs. The first “tool” I tried was the saw as that’s what looked the most intriguing. I was able to easily get the blade out (packed in with a spare in the hollow handle) and to get it into place. Zippo has come up with a nice way to hold the blade in place using the hachet cover on one end and a hook, for lack of a better term, and lever to hold the other end. I proceeded to use the saw to cut small to medium sized branches and it worked like a charm. It had a nice sharp blade and holding it was very comfortable even with my bigger hands. After seeing how easy it did on the the smaller stuff I moved on to one of the medium sized logs (roughly 6-8″ thick). Again, no issues what-so-ever. It performed quite admirably.
So after setting the smaller stuff aside, I moved on to the logs and the hachet feature of the Woodsman. Now before I go any further, I know that the Woodsman is not meant to replace a good camping axe so please bear with me. After stowing the saw blade back into the handle I hefted the hachet. The weight is nice and evenly distributed and felt good in my hand. However, one problem surfaced pretty quickly. On the bottom of the handle is a “lever/bale” for the saw. When not in use it is folded back against the handle. The problem is that with aforementioned big hands, it began to very quickly start to rub against my palm causing discomfort. I could see how very easily this could get annoying. As I mentioned it was easy to swing and had a nice edge. Using it against the smaller stuff, from 1″-3″ was fine but once I tried it on the smaller logs it just wouldn’t bite. After only 6-8 swings I checked the blade and noticed that I had caused 2-3 knicks on the blade while using the hachet to chop and bayonet the bigger logs. Mind you, I was using oak wood which is a harder wood, but that was still a major disappointment for me. I did use the axe all weekend and found the results pretty consistent. What started out as high hopes for me ended up a bit of a let down. While I feel that it is a good product and has it’s uses; depending on it as a camp axe is not one of them.
I will always have a Zippo lighter somewhere in my gear and while I do have some other Zippo products as well, sadly I returned the Woodsman to REI where it was purchased by my thoughtful wife. While good as a multi-tool type of equipment, it doesn’t quite live up to what it could be.