Reviewed by: Alex Johansen. Modeled by: Carolina.

Large mauls and axes do an excellent job of splitting tough logs. But they cost more, and making lateral swings is a hard slog. Yard work, like pruning tree branches at head height, is exhausting with the wrong tool.

For more versatility, you need something smaller like the Gerber 17.5″ Freescape Hatchet. It’s made for chopping jobs like lopping down saplings, pruning tree branches, and light wood splitting. 

This tool looks like a beast on paper, but how does it perform in the real world? We tested the Gerber 17.5″ Freescape Axe to highlight its features, strengths, and weaknesses.

Overview of the Gerber 17.5″ Hatchet

The Gerber Freescape is an impressive-looking chopping axe. It’s incredibly light, making horizontal swings easy for most people. Those looking for a portable hatchet with a blade that bites deep will get excellent value from this tool.

The Gerber 17.5″ Hatchet is the mid-sized option in the Freescape range:

  • It is smaller and easier to carry than the 23.5″ Freescape axe, which will appeal to outdoor adventurers looking to reduce pack weight.
  • It is larger than the 14″ Freescape variant, making it possible to swing with two hands and deliver surprising power for its size. 

This hatchet is great for jobs requiring small, accurate swings. Clear brush, chop tinder, clean up limbs, and take care of general yard work without lifting a cumbersome axe. Odd jobs around the property or work site are less energy-sapping.

Infographic showing Gerber 17.5" hatchet data
Important stats about the Gerber 17.5″ hatchet.

Toss this hatchet in the truck, and it uses up minimal space. It’s durable and puts up with hot weather better than wood axes. Keep it on hand to clear blowdowns on backwood roads, or use it on your next hunting or camping trip.

Splitting wood with this sized hatchet is possible, whether you prefer swinging with one hand or two. However, it’s best for small logs and kindling. Split large logs if you’re in a pinch for the right tool, but a maul or heavy-hitting splitting axe will do a much better job.

Quick Tip: Check out all our axe reviews here.

Important features

The Gerber Freescape 17″ has some innovative, exciting features that enhance comfort and performance. Grueling jobs are less energy-sapping. Owners of wood axes may be surprised at this hatchet’s weight, power, and durability.

  • Easy-to-maintain blade that’s sharp and corrosion resistant.
  • Flared handle end to prevent the handle from slipping.
  • PFTE blade coating is heat resistant to 600°F (315°C).
  • Plastic FiberComp handle is light, durable, and non-slip.
  • Patented system securely attaches the handle and head.
  • Plastic sheath protects and makes carrying safe and easy.
Features of a Gerber Freescape 17.5 Hatchet
Gerber produce feature-packed tools.

How does the Gerber Freescape 17.5″ perform?

The Gerber Freescape 17.5″ Hatchet is an outstanding companion for general yard chores. We tested it straight from the store on various everyday tasks and were impressed. Its ergonomic design feels comfortable in hand. The combination of balance and a sharp bit makes most chopping jobs easy. We delimbed some over-zealous olive tree branches, chopped kindling, and messed around with some simple carving.

The hatchet makes easy work of felling saplings. Its hollow handle reduces the overall weight significantly, making it easy to swing and reducing impact shock. After testing this tool for the best part of a day, there wasn’t much hand and wrist pain.

As expected, this hatchet doesn’t have the same power as a full-sized felling axe. A bigger axe for felling trees and bucking logs is better. That’s not to say this axe is a pretender. The bit chops logs hard and deep, popping out large chips aggressively. But anyone who regularly deals with tough wood and big trees should invest in a full-sized axe.

To illustrate this point, we attempted to split a large, rock-hard log of seasoned elm. The Gerber didn’t have the power to chop this kind of log. With enough swings, you’ll cut through, but you’ll have sore hands and wrists unless you’re a super-human.

Overall, we think the Gerber Freescape is superb value for money. It performs as well as similar-sized hatchets but doesn’t have the premium price tag. While this tool may not appeal to wood-loyal traditional hatchet lovers, its performance is hard to deny.

Parts of the Gerber Freescape

Like all Gerber tools, the Freescape axe has many valuable features. Let’s look at the tool’s components to see what it offers.

Axe Head

The head weighs just over 20oz, almost two-thirds of the axe’s 32.6oz total weight. Traditional wooden hatchets often have a higher proportion of weight in the handle, but this isn’t the case with the Gerber range.

A Gerber 17.5” hatchet has an impressive factory profile with a thin edge that deeply penetrates wood. It is best for felling, limbing, splitting, and wood shaping. If you like a razor-sharp bit that cuts paper, it’ll need some sharpening before getting to work.

Closeup shot of Gerber hatchet bit
Closeup of the Gerber’s blade.

Gerber hatchets have permanent molded heads that are almost impossible to break. Even repeated overstrike won’t detach the handle.

The head’s poll can be used for hammering wooden stakes and tent pegs. For a longer-lasting axe, avoid driving in heavy metal stakes or other hard objects.

Zoomed in image of the Gerber hatchet's poll
The poll can be used for hammering.

Gerber heads are constructed with hardened forged steel, so they should last many years if looked after. The blade is coated with PFTE, which reduces binding in the wood. It is a noticeable improvement on regular axe heads, although the coating wears off in time.

Axe handle

At 17.5″ in length, the Gerber Freescape Hatchet is long enough to strike hard. While many talk about using this tool one-handed, we found it just long enough to comfortably swing with two hands when needed. The handle is also light, so people will have no problem using it one handed.

While this axe is compact, those looking to shave pack weight in the outdoors may want to read our review of the Gerber Pack Hatchet. It’s under 10″ and is light as a feather.

Holding an axe vertically with a label showing the hatchet's length
The right size for one or two hands.

Gerber tools have an eye-catching black and bright green color scheme. Many will find them a nice-looking tool for including in the shed. It won’t appeal to everyone, so we’ll leave that decision in your hands.

Spotting a hatchet in long grass or anywhere out in the forest isn’t easy. But this tool is easier to see than most, thanks to its bright green color. If you often lose equipment in the outdoors, consider getting a vibrant orange Fiskars axe. They are much easier to see from a distance. 

Gerber axe handles have hollow insides and are made from advanced FiberComp material. They are uber-light, durable, and absorb shock efficiently. That means you can work longer without hand and wrist pain. Chopping into crotches, tough knots, and seasoned wood causes less vibration and jarring.

Showing the inside of a hollow Gerber hatchet handle
Hollow handles mean less weight and reduced vibration.

The handle isn’t affected by water or other liquids. Rain or blood from processing meat and poultry won’t make the haft slippery.

If you’re an experienced axe user, the Gerber may take a little getting used to in hand. Its design, balance, and weight ratios are worlds apart from regular axes with wood handles. Some will prefer the feel of hickory when swinging, but this comes down to personal preference.

The handle end tapers out, stopping the axe slipping loose during use. This flare also allows excellent control through the swing.

Image showing the flared end of a Gerber 17.5" hatchet
Hanging the hatchet from a pack is easy.

There is also a lanyard hole for easy hanging up after use. Attach it to the back of a pack during treks.

Tool tinkerers may be disappointed that modifications aren’t possible like you can with wooden tools. The use of composite materials means you can’t thin the handle.

Blade cover

A hard, plastic sheath protects the head of the hatchet and is removed with the twist of a lever. This handy cover will prevent the blade from getting chipped. It also stops people from injuring themselves.

Gaps in the cover allow water to escape easily. This feature stops mold and rust from developing on wet axes.

The sheath also makes a helpful carry handle that allows for safe and easy transporting.

Features of a Gerber hatchet sheath
Parts of the protective head cover.

Strengths of a Gerber 17.5″ Freescape

  • A versatile tool for chopping and odd jobs.
  • Sharp blade that bites deep into wood.
  • Light and easy to use for people of any size.
  • Constructed using highly durable materials.
  • Hardened forged steel has great edge retention.
  • Tactile grip improves control during each swing.
  • Made in Finland by a reputable company.
  • Limited lifetime warranty

Weaknesses of a Gerber 17.5″ Freescape

  • Not for big felling or splitting jobs.
  • Axe maintenance isn’t possible.
  • Bright color design may not appeal.
Holding a Gerber 17.5" hatchet in the bush
The Gerber 17.5″ hatchet is a versatile tool.

Commonly asked questions

What is the best alternative to the Gerber 17.5″ Axe?

If you’re looking for an alternative within the Gerber axe range, consider their 14″ Hatchet for a smaller, lighter option. The 23.5″ is a better choice for additional power, although it’s harder to swing vertically, and you’ll lose some portability. Check out our review of the Gerber 23.5″ Axe here.

Gerber 23.5" axe and 17.5" hatchet next to each other
The Freescape 23.5″ and 17.5″ only differ in size.

Does the Gerber 17.5″ Freescape Hatchet make a good splitting axe?

The Gerber 17.5″ Axe is great for light-duty splitting of firewood and kindling. We recommend a specialized maul or splitting axe for larger logs and tough wood. If you want to stick with the Gerber brand, consider buying their 36″ Power Splitting Axe.

How do I sharpen a Gerber axe?

Sharpen Gerber blades like a regular axe using files, sandpaper, or an electric tool. Sharpening removes some PFTE coating, causing the edge to get stuck in wood more readily. The Fiskars axe sharpener will help maintain the tool’s correct blade profile.

Is Gerber a trustworthy manufacturer?

While Gerber is an American manufacturer with a solid reputation, its axes are manufactured by Fiskars in Finland. This Finnish company has been making tools since 1649, building an excellent reputation for quality, long-lasting products. Finland’s oldest private company forges its tools locally under strict quality guidelines.

Gerber vs. Fiskars – What’s the difference?

The Gerber and Fiskars axe ranges are essentially the same axes with different color schemes. Gerber axes are made in the Fiskars factory, and each axe head is inscribed with “Fiskars.” A Gerber 17.5″ Axe is the equivalent of a Fiskars X10.

Specifications

VariableImperialMetric
Overall length17.5”44.45cm
Handle length15”38.1cm
Blade length3.13”7.95cm
Total weight32.6oz924g
A vertical collage of various Gerber hatchet images
Vertical compilation of Gerber hatchet pics.

Summing up

The Gerber 17.5″ Hatchet offers great value for money. Those with large back yards, campers, hikers, and hunters will get a ton of use out of it.

It’s lightweight, so you needn’t be an experienced forestry professional to feel comfortable using it. Vertical and lateral swings above the head will be possible for most. Its handle length is a good size for one or two-handed swings.

The best use for this hatchet is light chopping jobs. Those looking to split wood should look at axes or mauls built for this job. It is too small and starts to suffer when splitting big rounds.

The Gerber 17.5″ is a good allrounder for jobs like limbing, pruning, carving, light splitting, and carpentry. If you want a tool that can do it all but excels at light-duty tasks, few will argue with the Freescape’s performance.

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