Review: Trucker’s Friend Demolition/Survival Tool
Jon Stokes 08.08.16
I get pitched a lot of preparedness items here at AllOutdoor, but one of the best to come across my desk recently is an item called the Trucker’s Friend. A look at the picture above gives you the general idea. It’s basically a large emergency/survival multitool that functions as a hatchet, prybar, hammer, nail remover, all-around zombie-slaying melee weapon, and other things. Yeah, it does a lot.
I’ve had this item in my review backlog for a few months, so I’ve had the opportunity to take it out in the field and beat on it. I also took it on a week-long road trip, although I thankfully didn’t have occasion to do more than pack and unpack it.
Here are the basic stats, from the website description:
- All-in-one hammer, nail puller, pry bar with ‘V’ slot and lever, wire twist, tire chain hook, grapple hook, hose spanner, and fully resharpenable 4.5″ curved axe head
- Shock-absorbing PowerGrip
- Materials: cast alloy steel blade and shank, heat treated for extra strength
- Non-conducting fiberglass handle
- Rust-resistant matte finish
- Temporary blade guard included
- Dimensions: 19.25″ x 5″ x 1.25″
- Weight: 2.24 lbs.
- Made in the USA: City of Industry, CA
Let’s take a closer look at what this thing is and how it works.
I Heart Demolition Tools
I lived in San Francisco for five years, right in the middle of town, and one of the big things that everyone does there is earthquake preparedness. In San Francisco, disaster preparedness isn’t a “prepper” thing. It’s an everybody thing. People keep food, water, and other items in an earthquake kit, and if you’re really smart you keep demolition tools and slip-on shoes scattered throughout the house in various rooms.
The shoes are for after the earthquake hits and glass is everywhere. You don’t want to be caught barefoot in that, so you want to have a pair of shoes that you can quickly get to from anywhere in the house.
The demolition tool is for freeing yourself or a loved one from earthquake wreckage. Maybe the room you’re in partially collapsed, or maybe the damage to the house’s frame is such that a door is jammed shut and impossible to open.
(Note that the demo tool plus shoes combo is also good for folks in tornado country, since tornados also often result in broken glass and jammed doors.)
I had a decent collection of small to medium-sized demolition tools, like the Stanley Fatmax (solid), Dead On Annihilator (avoid!), and various prybars, tucked under beds and in closets. My favorite demolition tool, though, was my US Tape Truckman’s Axe with the fiberglass handle. Take a look at this bad-boy and you’ll see why.
I used to have a recurring nightmare where an earthquake happened, and I was trapped in a room with only a crappy prybar, and my Truckman’s Axe was somewhere across the house and I knew I’d never get to use it.
If I had known about the Trucker’s Friend when I lived in SF, I’d definitely have added one to my collection. This thing is a beast, and at $79.95 it’s less expensive than the Truckman’s Axe and some of the other boutique tools.
The TF seems to be a direct descendent of the el-cheapo survival hatche/prybar/hammer that many of us bought of the backs of Boy’s Life for a few bucks back in the 80’s. It’s like the Innovation Factory, the company behind the Trucker’s Friend, looked at one of these and thought, “we could definitely make a better version of this.” And better it is. Here’s how it performs.
The first thing I did when I got this tool was to try and snap it in half. With my safety glasses on, I wedged the TF into a fork in a large oak tree so that it the handle would stick straight out, and I proceeded to hang from it and yank on it. I weigh about 225lbs, and the tool barely flexed.
I’m sure if I got my tractor in on the act I could’ve broken the handle, but short of such extraordinary measures this thing isn’t going anywhere.
I pulled a few nails with the nail puller, and while serviceable, I’d rather have my hammer.
I also did a bit of hammering, both hammering nails and just beating on concrete to test the shock absorbing handle. Again, an actual hammer is better, but this thing works well enough that I’d be comfortable using it in a pinch. The shock absorbing handle works and is comfortable. It’s easy to use this thing without getting blisters or discomfort.
The final, main test I did with the TF was chopping. Now, having chopped a bit with the Truckman’s Axe, I basically knew how this was going to go. So let me set up the situation up-front so you have some context.
A real bushcraft hatchet has a different edge shape and profile than a demolition axe. This is because a bushcraft hatchet is for processing wood, and a demolition axe is for taking things apart. With the latter, you can’t afford to have it lodged into some material. It has to not get stuck, and if it gets stuck then it has to be easy to pull free.
The bushcraft hatchet, like the Gransfors Bruks Wildlife Hatchet in the picture below, has a much less curved edge than a demolition tool axe, so that more of the edge makes contact with the wood at any given moment. In contract, the TF’s hatchet’s half-moon shape makes it much less handy for wood processing chores because a very small segment of the blade makes contact with the wood on each hit.
The edge on the Gransfors hatchet is also thinner, which you can see below. This causes it to bite more deeply into the wood. Again, biting in deeply is great for a hatchet, not so great for a demo tool.
For whatever reason, when I took the picture below I left the hatchet in the notch that it cut, but if you look to the sides you can see that the hatchet’s notch is far deeper than the TF’s notch. This is after the same number of hits with each tool.
Now, this is obviously a deeply unfair comparison because I’m comparing a $30 demolition tool to a $120 hand-crafted Swedish hatchet. So of course the hatchet chops circles around the demo tool. But I included the GB as a baseline.
For what it’s worth, I’ve compared the Truckman’s Axe to the GB before, and the latter does a little better than the Trucker’s Friend strictly because there’s more weight behind its head. The Truckman’s Axe suffers from the same edge geometry and shape issues, though, so it’s clearly not made for wood processing.
I didn’t try any grappling hook maneuvers with this, nor did I test some of the other features listed (i.e. hose spanner, tire chain hook, wire twist). I mainly just went through the basics mentioned above: prying, chopping, nail pulling, and overall toughness.
Overall, I found the Trucker’s Friend to be a solid, sturdy demolition tool that should be part of anyone’s earthquake or general disaster preparedness kit. It also works great as an emergency road trip tool that can be tossed in the spare tire well of a car, just in case disaster strikes while you’re on the road and you need to do some impromptu camping (or zombie killing).
In all, the Trucker’s Friend is definitely an upgrade over the old-school survival hatchet/prybar/hammer mentioned above, and it’s cheap enough that you have no excuse not to pick one up and toss it in your trunk or under a bed.