As the Northeast finally begins to thaw after a long and perfectly godawful winter, the rest of the country has already emerged from hibernation to take full advantage of the (snow-free) great outdoors: hiking, biking, climbing, rafting, kayaking and pitching a tent for a night or two in the middle of nowhere.

With that last one, particularly if you plan to sit around a roaring fire as a flask of whisky and urban legends get passed around until the wee hours, it’s best to have a trusty, multitasking camp axe on hand for defending yourself against a deranged maniac splitting firewood, driving tent pegs, trimming overgrowth and other tasks.

Those on the market for a special new tool to perform these tasks should look no further than the Explorers Axe, a collection of heirloom-quality camp axes so handsome that you’ll want to display them in your home as outdoorsy objets d’art.

The Explorers Axe collection comes from United by Blue, an eco-conscious Philadelphia outdoor apparel and accessories company — and MNN gift guide favorite — that’s recently started peddling lumbersexual-friendly hard goods and items for the home (think: enamel mugs, Chemex coffee makers, wool camp blankets, organic soaps, etc.) For the five-piece Explorer Axes collection, United by Blue partnered with Council Tool, a venerable North Carolina-based hand tool manufacturer founded in 1886 (and, impressively, still owned and operated by the Council family). Sporting solid hickory handles and 2-pound Hudson Bay-style heads, the 26-inch-long axes are hand-forged, hand-sharpened and assembled at Council Tool’s Lake Waccamaw production facilities.

From there, the unadorned camp axes make the journey to Philly where Christian Cantiello, a lettering artist and traditional sign painter, has his way with them. Each axe handle is individually treated to a multi-step painting process that yields a distinctive colorblock design in a durable finish.

And as for the designs themselves, each of the five unique markings come courtesy of a different United by Blue True Explorer – an artsy ‘n’ rugged collective of “photographers, makers, and travelers who appreciate the outdoors and understand the importance of preserving it for future generations.” The Shea Axe was designed by Vancrafted, Brendan Banks and Kelly Shea’s Rhode Island-headquartered mobile creative studio based out of a 1984 VW Westfalia camper van; the Keegan Axe is named in honor of Pennsylvania-based style blogger and photographer Kat Keegan; the Stewart Axe can thank Kentuckian “Jill of all trades” Bekah Stewart for its hard-to miss handle; the Ross Axe is the camp-ready love child of nature-loving Californians Maggie and Joe Ross; last but not least, the Gram Axe is the tri-colored, mountain-inspired creation of globe-trotting British Columbian photographer Luke Gram.

As with all United by Blue merchandise, each Explorers Axe purchase results in the conservation-minded company pledging to remove 1 pound of trash from our oceans and rivers. Buy two axes, UBB will clean up 2 pounds of waterway-polluting gunk … you get the point. To date, UBB has removed over 203,000 pounds of trash from waterways through 116 different cleanup efforts in 21 different states including Maryland, Texas, Vermont, Utah and New Jersey. Throughout this summer beyond, UBB will be concentrating on the cleanup of several waterways in its own backyard including the Schuylkill River, Meadow Lake, Pennypack Creek and the mighty Delaware River.

Each Explorers Axe sells for $165, which is more spendy than your run-of-the-mill sporting goods store budget camp axe. But taking into considering the American-made quality, hang-above-the-fireplace good looks and do-gooding impact of each tool, the price makes sense. These axes are a cut above the rest.

Sheaths are sold separately.

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Whack your way out of winter with a handcrafted camp axe
With campfire season just around the corner, the Explorers Axe collection will help you chop — and look — smart.