If you have been following Case Knives the past few years, you have likely noticed their American Heroes Knife Series. It is a collaboration between Case, Winkler Knives and an American veteran with experience in what works and what doesn’t. Their latest collaboration, the Case Winkler Pack Axe is a solid example of this collaborative effort.
The Case Winkler Pack Axe
The latest addition to the series is the new Case Winkler Pack Axe, designed with the help of U.S. Navy SEAL and elite member of the U.S. Special Operations Kevin Holland. Although intended for field work, the influence from someone who knows hard terrain and the rigor of combat is obvious.
While more akin to a hatchet in size, the Pack Axe can tackle larger chores than most typical hatchets. Let’s take a closer look at the details.
Big Things, Small Packages
As with everything Daniel Winkler touches, his influence is obvious in the overall design and construction of the Pack Axe. The beauty lies not in custom finishing or intricate details but in the hard use, brutal applications this axe begs for. You will most likely never put a Winkler in a safe or on a wall. Because when you pick one up, you just want to start hacking at something, not waste time looking at it.
The 14.25-inch overall length of the Pack Axe provides enough length to achieve a solid swing. All the while remaining small enough to take up little space in/on your pack. The construction of the full-tang pack axe is 80CrV2 high-carbon steel. It features a distal taper (0.375 inches thick at the head and 0.125 inches at the knob) and skeletonized construction. This helps keep the weight forward at the head, where it should be.
Black canvas laminate handle scales run 8.625 inches of the haft, starting at the knob and continuing up towards the head. The skeletonized final 4 inches of the haft features a paracord wrap. This provides additional comfort when choking up on the shoulder for finer work. The haft itself is straight the entire length, save for a very small throat just before the knob for retention. At the knob is a hexagonal lanyard hole so you can add a lanyard for additional retention during hard use.
The head of the Pack Axe is 5.3125 inches long from bit to poll and features a hammer poll that is 0.75 inches tall and 0.375 inches thick. The cutting edge of the bit is 2.57 inches long and features a conservative beard. This prevents the heel from sticking in whatever medium you are chopping.
The entire Pack Axe features Winkler’s black oxide coating. Which really shows use easily but shows no signs of wearing off any time soon.
The kydex sheath has a very interesting design that I have not seen before. A typical pancake-style sheath, there are only two connection points, at the poll and the top. Also, it is not molded tightly to the profile of the Pack Axe, losing the typical snap-in style retention.
The sheath has a felt lining for smooth draw and re-sheath. It utilizes a piece of shock cord that starts at the poll and wraps around the underside of the head. Continuing around back to the top it locks in place by a knot in the cord, fitting into a notch at the top of the sheath. Once secured, the shock chord holds everything tightly together and in place.
The sheath attaches to your gear via two nylon straps, with Pull the Dot snaps on both front and back. This makes it possible to access the straps from either side of the sheath, or remove them completely. Surrounding the rear and top of the sheath are a series of eyelets for additional lashing options.
The Proving Grounds
Typically, when you get out into the woods it is nice to have a trio of tools to help build and maintain your camp. I like a saw, sheath knife and camp axe of some kind. But, for this review I decided to use the Case Winkler Pack Axe exclusively to build an expedient couple-hour camp. Which is perfect when you are running out of daylight and need a camp quickly.
It might sound a little trivial for a tool like the Pack Axe, but one of the first things I typically do when I get to my selected camp area is hang my pack so it is off the ground and easier to access. I’m sure it is no surprise that I was able to establish a pack hook in under a minute. Now I could get started.
Although the Pack Axe has a hammer poll, I felt it was a little narrow for hammering tarp stakes into the ground and opted to create a dedicated camp hammer. Not only is the camp hammer good for hammering stakes into the ground but it proved useful to baton the Pack Axe for splitting wood and stop cuts for notch carving.
Although it is not as clean as the camp hammers I create with a dedicated knife, the Pack Axe did a great job, held up well to cross-grain batoning, was comfortable and had a lot of control.
Setting Up Camp
I then moved on to creating six tarp stakes (although I ended up needing a couple more later for my entryway) and cut six pieces of maple to length. Once I had the stakes cut to length, I sharpened one end of each into a flat point. I went with the flat point because it helps hold the stake in place more firmly. To finish, I took my hammer and batoned a couple stop cuts into the sides of the stakes and carved out my notches.
Next, I harvested a couple of saplings for the cross poles of my A-frame lean-to. I was able to down the trees with just a few cuts and little effort. Once I had my cross poles cut to length, I cut notches in them to help them hold together in adverse conditions. Finally, I lashed the two cross beams together to form my A-frame and affixed them to the front of my tarp.
Using my camp hammer, I hammered my tarp stake at the rear of the tarp. I then came around and lifted my A-frame to stand my tarp up, using a length of paracord to anchor it to the ground. I finished up by going around the perimeter and staking down the rest of the tarp.
Time to Eat
It was time to move on to the kitchen area and my fire. Having found a large tree that had fallen some time ago I began harvesting the dead, dry limbs from its sides. The limbs were approximately 3 inches around and even though they had been dead for some time, and were quite hard, the Pack Axe had no issue cleanly removing them from the tree.
I then took the tops from the saplings I had harvested for my A-frame poles to create my cooking tripod and pot hanger. As with everything else, the Pack Axe was able to handle every part of the construction of my cooking area, even the small notches in the pot hanger, with no issues at all.
Although using a saw and dedicated sheath knife would have been a little more expedient and refined, the Case Winkler Pack Axe did an outstanding job building an entire camp, on its own, in relatively little time.
Over the past few years Case Knives has really stepped up their game when it comes to expanding their line into different categories. Teaming up with Winkler Knives and the introduction of their American Heroes Knife Series have proven to be a huge win in their bushcraft department.
As I mentioned, I typically like to carry a saw, sheath knife and camp/pack axe with me into the woods. With a full trio like that you can build anything you need for a robust and comfortable camp. But, after using the Case Winkler Pack Axe to build an entire expedient camp, I feel that you would not be in any trouble if you found yourself in a bad situation and it was all you had.
It is a very no-nonsense, straight-forward design with no frills and all performance. It was very comfortable the entire time I was using it, and I suffered no hand fatigue or hot spots. Every task I put it to, from large to small, was tackled as if it was designed for that task. The team over at Case Knives, Winkler Knives and Kevin Holland really knocked this one out of the park. For more information, visit CaseKnives.com.
Case Winkler Pack Axe Specs
Blade Length: 2.57 inches
Overall Length: 14.25 inches
Blade Steel: 80CrV2
Blade Thickness: .375 inch
Finish: Black oxide Caswell
Handle Material: Black canvas laminate & paracord
Weight: 26 ounces