Camping Gear ReviewsCold Steel Inc.GEARKnivesTechnology

Cold Steel’s Frontier Hawk Review

8.2tech score

Suitable for re-enactors from any period stretching from the French and Indian War clear up to the final settling of the West in the late 1800’s. The authentic, good looking Frontier Hawk is one tough customer you’re sure to appreciate.

Comes standard with 19 inch (43 centimeters), and a drop forged, medium carbon 5150 steel head. The head is differentially heat treated. This means that the cutting edge is fully hardened, while the balance of the head is left relatively soft to absorb the shock of striking blows. Photos are available on Cold Steel’s Website.

Cold Steel’s sales pitch includes such colorful language as, “Conjuring up images of the American frontier from the French and Indian Wars to the setting of the West”, “modeled after a classic”, and “authentic and effective”. Consulting several histories on the subject reveals that this is all marketing hype. The history of the tomahawk is the history of an iron tool introduced to stone age people. The term ‘tomahawk’ is taken from the Iroquois word that described a similar native stone tool at the time iron trade axes were introduced by settlers. The shape of the head, while efficient, does not resemble any sample of work from the period.

The Frontier Hawk is produced by:

Cold Steel Inc.

Phone: (800)255-4716 or (805)650-8481

Year of Manufacture: 1998?
Materials: Drop Forged medium carbon 5150 Steel,
Straight Grain Hickory Handle
Warranty: Head guaranteed for life. No warranty on handle.
Handle Length: 19 Inches (43 CM)
Head Length: 5.5 Inches (14 CM)
Primary Edge: 3.25 Inches (8 CM)
Listed weight: 20.4 Ounces (.57 KG)
Weight as delivered: 20.7 Ounces
Item #: #90F Frontier Hawk
Listed Retail Price: $29.99
Country of Manufacture: Taiwan

Available Options:

Langetes (#L90BA Retail: $9.99)

Optional Handles:
19″ (43 CM) (#H90RH Retail: $6.49
24″ (61 CM) (#H90T 24″ Handle: $8.49)
30″ (76 CM) (#H90BA 30″ Handle: $12.99)

Buy now $41.99

Impressions & Use:

I originally purchased the Frontier Hawk from Cold Steel after being impressed with other Cold Steel products. The Frontier Hawk was eight ounces (28 grams) lighter than the tomahawk I was using at the time. At first glance, the Frontier Hawk is a small camp hatchet. In practice, it is a very useful tool that is more versatile than a ‘regular’ camp hatchet. The head is easily removed from the handle and works surprisingly well as a skinning and fleshing tool. The ease of head removal also provides the option to leave the handle at home, and to fashion a handle from a stick found on the trail whenever the tool is needed. (I never exercise this option, but it is possible.)

I use the hickory handle, but I have shortened it. The Frontier Hawk is designed and marketed as a weapon, and the 19 inch handle would work well for this purpose, but is too long for general trail work. I shortened my handle to 15 inches (38 centimeters), which is ideal for me. Do not be afraid to experiment with what length is right for you, and to cut the handle once you have discovered this length. If you ruin the handle by cutting it too short, or break the handle, spares are available as indicated above.

In practical use, I find the Frontier Hawk to be superior to other tomahawks I have used. The 5150 steel retains a sharp edge very well, and edge sharpens well with a diamond hone. It is important to keep a sharp edge, because if the edge is allowed to become excessively dull work with files or a grind stone will be necessary, and the 5150 steel is very hard.

The Frontier Hawk’s head is coated with an unspecified kind of black paint. This paint is not durable, and after driving a few stakes with the back of the head, the paint started to flake off. There is little of the paint left after several years of use. This is purely a cosmetic issue, however, and the performance of the tool is not reduced. I have not experienced excessive rusting, although if the tool is not used for a few weeks, a little red dust does appear. Cleaning and oiling the exposed steel eliminates this problem.

The Frontier Hawk comes without sheath or head cover of any kind, which is a little disappointing. I fashioned one simply out of leather. I have carried it in my pack, lashed to the outside, and in ice ax straps when I have worn a pack so equipped. The traditional methods of tucking a tomahawk into your belt, or making a pouch for the specific purpose of carrying it do not work well for me on the trail.

My primary use of the Frontier Hawk is to prepare wood for use in my ZIP stove. (See other reviews on this list.) The Frontier Hawk serves this purpose well, splitting small logs and scraping dry chips with ease. I have used it for hundreds of different tasks, from driving tent stakes to digging cat holes, and from dressing game to use as an improvised ice axe. It has always served me well.



Light Weight Retains sharp edge well
Very versatile
Lifetime Warranty


No sheath or edge cover provided Paint durability

Thank you for your time.

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Victorinox Classic Swiss Army Knife

9.1tech score

The Classic is available in a wide variety of shades, and even two special designs (Shamrock and the Star of David). In keeping with the minimalist approach, the warranty and care instructions are printed on the inside of the sleeve cover. The Victorinox website does not seem to list weights, but the weight listed in the Cabell catalogue is one ounce, while REI claims it is 1.3 ounces. According to my scale, the measured weight was 20 grams (0.75 ounces). The stated size from the website is 58 mm (2.28 inches); my measurements agree. The tools selection is quite simple – 1. Small blade 2. Scissors 3. Nail file with screwdriver tip 4. Toothpick 5. Tweezers 6. Key ring.

Product Details Provided by Manufacturer:

  • Colors Available:Red, Black, Cobalt Blue, Gray, White, Hunter Green, Pink, Purple, Yellow, Navy, Shamrock Green, Star of David, Translucent Sapphire, Translucent Ruby, Translucent Emerald, Translucent Onyx . (Color Tested-Yellow)
  • Price in USD: $16.00
  • Model #: 53008
  • 58 mm/2.28 inch
  • Features: Small blade, Scissors, Nail file with screwdriver tip, Toothpick, Tweezers, Key ring

Swiss Army Classic Knife arrived via UPS today. Item was shipped in an cardboard box packed with paper. The knife is packaged in a small gift box (suitable for wrapping, I’m sure). A packing list was also included.

Company background, contact information, maintenance and warranty information are printed on the inside of the outer gift box. Be careful when opening the outer box to read this information as the glue may cause some of the print to removed.

The knife is in perfect condition and in the color requested.

After reading the enclosed information, I was ready for a day of cutting, filing, tweezing and picking. I will have to admit I really didn’t want to disassemble the outer sleeve of the box. I usually prefer to keep original packaging intact. A separate instruction sheet would have been preferred but I’m sure there is a cost savings to using the packaging. The only real instructions besides the warranty process was how to apply oil. I kept the Classic handy all day for any use that might pop up.

The Swiss Army Classic Knife is small and thin. You hardly know it is in your pocket. The small stainless steel blade as well as the scissors had a very good edge right out of the box. The scissor movement was smooth. Both features cut standard paper with no problems. The nail file did just that, filed a sample finger nail. We’ll have to see just what else it will file! The tweezers and tooth pick were the standard swiss army variety. The tweezers are made of two bent thin pieces of metal molded into a plastic piece at on end. The toothpick is all plastic and made quick work of a few stranded bits of Alpha Bits after breakfast!

My test plan will be to use each feature as it was intended but to also try to determine some limitations for small tool. I don’t anticipate anything radical but I’m sure MacGyver would be proud!

The Classic has accompanied me wherever I have gone over the past 60 days. Weighing only 0.7 ounces dripping wet, it is by no means cumbersome to carry. In fact it may be easy to lose. Just to make it multi-functional, I attached a whistle to the key ring.

The Classic has performed well. I have used it while packaging and shipping mail order auction items. Both the scissors and knife blade have worked great on paper, plastic wrap, string and standard cardboard. The knife blade did reach a limitation on heavy corrugated cardboard and molded heat sealed plastic packaging. In both instances the knife folded back when more force was needed to make the cut. I don’t hold this against the Classic as it was an extreme condition, in my mind.

The scissors came in particularly useful during sewing tasks. Besides the obvious cutting thread task, the scissors were very efficient in removing the stitches around a uniform patch. This is mainly due to the sharp edge which has been very keen during the entire test period.

The tweezers and toothpick have only been used a couple of times. The nail file/flat screw driver has been the least used tool during the test period. I’m just not much of a nail filer, I guess! The file did do a fine job for the removal of that annoying dirt under the finger nails from spring garden chores.

If you are looking for anything more from this knife, you might as well upgrade to one of the many other featured models. The only feature I can think of adding that would make this model stand out would be a clip that could be used as a pocket or money clip.


I’ve begun carrying the Classic around everywhere I go, and it simply disappears into my pocket, something I’ve never been able to say about the larger Swiss Army knives I’ve owned. All tools work quite well; the file for example really seems to take the rough edges off my nails. The screwdriver head has served well when used on screws reasonably close in size to its blade. The knife blade and scissors are nicely sharpened, though both are smaller than I’m used to. I especially like that the tweezers and toothpick seem to fit more snugly than they have on other models I have owned. Since I’ve had a tendency to lose them in the past, this is comforting.

To give the Classic a fair test, I have left my larger, bulkier multi-tool at home when I hit the trail, and have taken the Swiss Army knife instead. So far, it has performed admirably, meeting all of my needs in the backcountry. I would not wish to rely upon the Classic alone in a survival situation, but neither have I traveled to an area remote enough to require a larger, stronger blade. For typical use in well-traveled areas within a day or two or civilization, I have wished for little more. For more versatility I feel that the addition of a small multi-tool with pliers to one’s gear list might be advisable, but otherwise the Classic provides full functionality without unnecessary weight.

Field Information:

Location(s):The locations for this test period were primarily in Eastern Pennsylvania.


Description of Location(s):

Terrain-The terrain varied from flat rolling grasslands to moderately and densely forested mountain areasElevation-The elevation ranged from 400 to 3000 feet (122-914 meters)


Weather Conditions:Temperature/Humidity-This test series was conducted from March to August. Temperature and humidity were normal for the area (70°F-90;°F;/21°C-32;°C; in summer with periods of high humidity and 50°F-70;°F;/10°-32;°C; in spring ).Precipitation-A majority of the region, excluding base camp north, is currently in a drought emergency and there isn’t anything to suggest that it will be ending soon. So extended wet weather conditions were rare. That being said there is usually at least one day out of a cabin trip that wet weather is encountered.Wind-Wind was not a factor for this test.


Style:Recreational camping, mid-weight backpacking, day hiking, flat water paddling and canine search and rescue activities


Product Experience:

I am happy to report that my Swiss Army Victorinox Classic pocket knife is still in my possession, in fine working condition, and has all of its removable accessories. The slim profile and barely noticeable feel in your pocket had me worried that knife would be misplaced or lost. As far as maintenance goes, I did touch up the knife edge on a sharpening stone once during the test period. The Classic has settled into two roles for me, the “Sunday-Go-To-Meeting” pocket knife and the universal kit item.

On more than one occasion, while attempting to cut with the blade, the slightest change in the force angle resulted in the blade folding back toward its storage position. Of course, this was due to forgetting the Classic does have limitations (thick cardboard or plastic) and the fact that the blade does not lock. Since I have become a multi-tool dependent person in recent times, I did not see a reason to carry both on me while hiking. The multi-tool would handle everything the Classic could and then some. But when just lounging around the cabin, or when heading out on the town (where sporting a multi-tool on your belt may be frowned upon), the Classic steps up to the task.

The Classic becomes part of my first aid kit (day trip) or sometimes my backcountry repair kit (longer trips) when packing for a trip. It fits in either of these small zippered pouches with no problems, due to the small size. No need to carry it on me as I prefer to hike with empty pockets but I still want it along on the trip.

The Swiss Army Victorinox Classic pocket knife lives up to its name but the small knife does have its limits.

1.  The small size and light weight makes it easy to carry.
2.  The Classic has been very dependable with little maintenance.
3.  The toothpick has been very useful while camping or even after dinner at a local restaurant.
1.  The small size makes the Classic very susceptible to loss.
2.  The tweezers are not extremely useful due to an inability to grip objects.
3.   Not surprisingly, due to its small size, the Classic is not a great tool for preparing meals or cutting larger diameter objects.
Summary:  As I previously reported, for the “minimalist” who really doesn’t need to use a knife for chores such as cutting thick rope or slicing large diameter objects, or who doesn’t need the comfort and security of a larger blade or multitool, the Classic is a dependable, light weight option.  For those of us who prefer a full size knife or multitool, the Classic is a great “pocket” knife for daily use and a good backup.
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