While I’m no apocalypse prepper, I do love daydreaming about how I could utilize my garage full of gear to survive—and perhaps thrive—if brain-eating zombies were to descend on my hometown of Ashland, Oregon. My Hokas would allow me to run at a just-faster-than-zombies pace for miles and miles. After a long day of undead evasion, I could fire up my Jetboil and make some morale-boosting and delicious Bibimbap from Good to Go. And while just about every piece of high-end camping gear would make the zombie apocalypse cozier, there is one piece in my garage that will be non-negotiable while navigating the end of days: Buck’s Compadre Froe.
This hatchet/machete lovechild is a beast for processing wood at camp (Buck's Froe is confusingly not shaped like a traditional froe, which is L-shaped, but they're used for the same purpose). The Compadre has a 10-inch blade and weighs in at nearly a pound and a half. Coupled with its full tang—the metal runs all the way through the handle—it feels like you are wielding a medieval weapon when you swing it. On top of feeling sturdy in hand, the blade is built from 5160 carbon steel, which has a little bit of chromium added to make it extremely durable, meaning it can handle decades of abuse. Plus, it’s straight badass. The wooden handle and leather sheath make it feel more on-trend when swinging from my belt loop than any other survival tool I’ve tried.
The Compadre has been extremely capable as a camping companion over the four years I have used it. It fits nicely in my car camping bin and has proven worth carrying on trips time and again. Rather than replacing a knife, I look at the Compadre as a substitute for a more unwieldy hatchet. The slight forward-sloping angle of the blade off the oversize handle, combined with the ample swing weight, make the Compadre a kindling-making machine. The nine and a half inches of edge mean it’s tough to miss a target no matter how wild the swing. It absolutely eats up kindling thinner than a couple inches thick, slices shavings with no problem, and can split quarters of wood with the help of another log for leverage. I am a snobby campfire builder—I consider the use of products beyond a lighter cheating—and the Compadre means I rarely have to resort to such measures.
Those characteristics inspire confidence while building a fire but also on the self-defense front. While I wouldn’t know how to defend myself with a four-inch EDC knife to (literally) save my life, I feel like I would be a formidable adversary using the Compadre against a campsite axe murderer.
More realistically, my wife and I were car camping on BLM land miles outside of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon a few years ago when we heard a pack of coyotes surround us and slowly—but quite yippily—kill an animal about an eighth of a mile from our vehicle. My wife was pretty spooked, and while she refused to believe we were safe in the rooftop tent, she perked up when I climbed down and got her the froe. “If they get close, just pop them in the nose with this,” I said. “Oooh, that actually does make me feel better,” she said.
So whether it’s the real morale booster of building a fire to stay warm or the imaginary confidence I’d get from holstering my froe after defending my family from zombies, the Compadre has earned a permanent spot in my camping quiver.