This week, our family went camping at the lovely Cook Forest State Park. It’s not far from here, and it has some of the oldest trees in the eastern United States. We were staying in a rustic cottage, but cooked all our meals outside. For managing our firewood, we chose this handsome Snow & Nealley Hudson Bay Camping Axe. We were eager to find out: what’s it like to unbox one of these Maine icons?

We had carried in a small lot of mixed-quality firewood, with the permission of the park staff. Most of it was rather too large for starting fires, so the Hudson Bay’s job was creating kindling. Chopping kindling became a treat for Anne and I, but I can offer several observations:

The Hudson Bay is not primarily a splitting tool.

We found that, with small or straight-grained pieces, the axe did well. Swinging with one hand was a effective—and for my untrained arms, more accurate. But the light, tapered head is designed to be more nimble than muscular. For heavy splitting work, a maul such as the Fiskars will be much more effective. And for those who regularly split small chunks, Snow & Nealley’s Mini Maul is worth considering.

The Hudson Bay shines at what it’s designed for: limbing and chopping.

We weren’t about to test the Hudson Bay axe on the virgin forests that lay behind our campground. I did try my hand at chipping away an old hunk of dry hardwood beside the fire. I quickly realized that using this axe to handle trees, limbs, and brush would be a far less frustrating experience than my childhood attempts at being Paul Bunyan with a dull, heavy single-bit.

This one is easy to on-board.

The well-tapered head was sharp from the manufacturer. Although the experts speak of putting a finishing edge on their new Snow & Nealley axes with a grindstone, it really wasn’t necessary for our purposes. The lacquer Snow & Nealley uses to protect the head from rust during storage and shipment quickly comes off during use. This is good, since the lacquered edge is a little duller than the bare steel.

Use with care.

Snow & Nealley’s classic Hudson Bay style means that this axe is nimble and fun to use. But that doesn’t mean that technique is unimportant. My poor aim battered the hickory handle a few times.

Using an axe is a skill, a bit like fly fishing. Expect to enjoy the practice.

The edge is your friend.

We couldn’t resist trying the dutch oven cinnamon roll recipe recommended on the Adventure Parents blog. We can affirm, as the Adventure writer warned that “too much heat will kill the rolls.” Our dutch oven is smaller than theirs, and our fire was less perfect. The rolls held their shape, but not their goo.

I realized that we had a tool with a fire-tempered edge that could find whatever was edible inside those rolls. We all had a little warm roll, and the chipmunks ate what we declined.