The Best Axes & Hatchets for Camping, Backpacking, Hiking & Survival - Review & Buying Guide

Best Axes & Hatchets for Camping, Backpacking, Hiking & Survival – 2018 Review & Buying Guide

I love camping, fishing and the outdoors. There is nothing better than sitting by a nice warm campfire and toasting some marshmallows at the end of the day when you are out camping.

Building the fire, however, can be a joy… OR a royal pain in the ….. back, if you have the wrong tools.

I have had a few hiking and camping axes and hatchets in my time. Some were OK, some were crap and a few were really great.

I wanted to write this review of the best axes & hatchets for camping, backpacking, hiking & survival to help others with their buying choices.

So here it is, I hope that you like it. Let me know what you think.

Hatchet comparison table

 

Rating Length Weight Cutting Edge Sheath Make Since Country
Gransfors Bruks hatchet 4.8
Best hatchet for backpacking
14” 1.5 pounds 3” Leather Gransfors Bruks 1902 Sweden
Estwing E24A hatchet 4.6 14” 1.6 pounds 3.25” Leather Estwing 1923 USA
Estwing E44A hatchet 4.7
Best versatile hatchet for backpacking & camping
18” 2.9 pounds 4” Leather Estwing 1923 USA
Husqvarna hatchet 4.6 15” 1.5 pounds 3” Leather Husqvarna 1689 Sweden
Watterlings hatchet 4.1 12.5” 1.25 pounds Leather Watterlings 1880 Sweden
Fiskars X7 hatchet 4.7 14” 1.4 pounds Plastic Fiskars 1649 China
Bear Grylls hatchet 4.5 9.45” 1.4 pounds Nylon Gerber 1939 China
WatchFire hatchet 4
Best lightweight hatchet
10” 13 ounces Nylon WatchFire China
Outdoor Edge Wood Devil 3.9 10” 1.2 pounds 4” Nylon Outdoor Edge China

As you can certainly see from the table listed above, the hatchets are fairly different in weight, length, cutting edge as well as the manufacturer.

All of these, however, are important when it comes to choosing one that suits your needs. Keep reading below for a review of each of the listed models. So, without any further ado, let’s go right ahead and take a look.

 

The Best Hatchets for Backpacking, Hiking, Camping & Survival: reviews

Gransfors Bruks – Best all-round camping, backpacking, hiking and survival hatchet

This is undoubtedly among the most popular options and it is my recommended hatchet for backpacking & hiking. This is a quality tool brought to you by Gransfors Bruks.

The unit is very practical and you can easily carry it in your rucksack for when you need a smaller sized option. However, the Gransfors Bruks still brings quite a lot of power. The blade is razor sharp and it comes like this from the factory. The hatchet is nice to hold with a quality well-shaped wood handle. It is a pleasure to use and chop wood with. I rate this as the top performer out of all of the different hatchet reviewed.

This is a hand-crafted product which undoubtedly brings the artisan, tailor-made appeal on the table. Additionally, you can be sure that the little beast is thoroughly capable and easy to use for lopping off substantial branches and splitting smaller logs for your campfire.

It is the perfect size to use for backpacking and hiking where you know that you will be chopping some wood. It is also sturdy enough that you handle virtually anything.

Gransfors Bruks camping hatchet with knife and folding hand saw

The Gransfors Bruks camping hatchet with a knife and folding hand saw.

This Gransfors Bruks comes with a sheath. The shape of the sheath is quite convenient and it covers the entire sharp edge as well as the top part of your handle. This will help prevent any potential damage when carrying it in your rucksack. This is as good as a hunting solution and it is undoubtedly my personal favorite.

The Gransfors Bruks comes with a satisfaction guarantee. In my personal opinion, the weight in this model is perfectly balanced, which is great when you are swinging it around. This is a well crafted, high-quality tool which is likely to last you a long time. This is my personal choice for a backpacking hatchet.

The Gransfors Bruks is available on Amazon.

The Pros:

  • It’s a camping and survival hatchet
  • Convenient weight
  • Proper and well-balanced constructiont
  • Sturdy design

The Cons:

  • Not large enough for large chopping work

The Gransfors Bruks is super high quality from the best materials. You can see how they hand forge axe heads and fit them with a handle in this video.

Estwing E24A

This is another product which has received massive recognition and splendid feedback. It’s a good sturdy model that you use camping, backpacking, hiking or in a survival situation. You can use it to split wood, to hammer and for a range of different rough uses. This model stands up well under a range of use and abuse.

If you are looking for a hatchet which is going to last you for a lifetime, this is a good choice. The product feels very nice in your hand and the balance is quite good. You would never have to worry about the potential of loosening of the head as the head and handle are forged in one piece.

The design is compact, sturdy and it makes this a flawless hatchet for a range of different purposes, camping being the top priority. The balance as well as the heft are properly thought out and they are the right fit for anyone, regardless of his purpose. This is undoubtedly a great hatchet for your outdoors undertakings and it’s incredible to use it around the house as well.

The axe is also quite strong – it is forged in one single piece all of which is steel and there is a genuine, high-quality leather grip. The tool is entirely polished and the grip and sheath make it even more comfortable. The steel is of the highest quality and it’s going to hold the edge flawlessly. Obviously, you wouldn’t have to worry about the head getting loose. It is very easy to sharpen it also. This is a unit that you might never need to replace and this is definitely something worth accounting for.

You can buy the Estwing E24A here.

The Pros:

  • Quality materials and construction
  • One-piece design for increased durability
  • Perfect balanced for ease of use
  • Great user feedback

The Cons:

  • Might feel slightly heavier
  • Not great for heavy-duty large tree & wood chopping

 

Estwing E44A – best versatile camping and backpacking hatchet

The Estwing is a quality brand. They products have proven to be incredibly durable and reliable and make a tremendous impression on users.

With this in mind, I would like to review another one of their products. The E44A model is a bit different from the previous one (the smaller and lighter Estwing E24A). The main difference is the length, weight and grip. The E44A comes with a rubber, shock-reduction grip. Now, a lot of people may argue which one is better – a leather or a rubber solution. The truth is that both of them have merit and it’s mainly about being able to determine what works better for you.

The E44A is another one-piece forged axe which is made out of high-quality steel. The head and handle are forged in one piece and they are highly polished. The Estwing E44A is renowned for holding its edge and it has good overall feel to use. The weight & length is slightly more than the E24A which makes it a more effective chopping tool but not as desirable to carry if you are taking it backpacking.

Even though some like this model for backpacking I’d stick with using it for camping trips where you don’t need to carry it far as it’s not as easy to fit and carry in a pack. On the other hand, it’s likely to handle most camping and backpacking wood chopping & splitting needs that you may have and this is big benefit making it a good versatile option if you don’t mind a bit of extra weight in the pack if you can get more versatile use from it.

The Pros:

  • Shock-absorbing rubber handle
  • One-piece sturdy steel design
  • Reasonable chopping efficiency for a hatchet

The Cons:

  • A bit bigger
  • A bit heavier than some other options

 

Husqvarna 13-inch hatchet

Brought to you by one of the most reliable manufacturers in the industry, this is a 13-inch hatchet which is designed with simplicity and durability in mind. This Husqvarna option is made out of two separate pieces, one for the head and one for the handle.

Starting off with the handle, it’s made of Hickory wood which is considered as the best wood type for axe and hatchet handles.

It has a splendid look as well as ergonomic feel thanks to the curved handle design. This makes the product feel really good in your hand. At the same time, it’s light but not too light and it provides substantial swinging and chopping power. This makes it a good option for both camping and hiking with a pack.

This Husqvarna model is also quite affordable and it is on the lower end of the price list, giving you splendid value for the money you pay.

The head is hand-forged in Sweden and it’s made out of strong steel which is bound to last for years. The edge is razor sharp and holds its edge well. It is protected by a leather sheath which fits snugly over it for your safety and so that you can avoid cutting up your pack and the stuff that you may have in it if you are taking it hiking. The leather sheath is also included in the price.

The entire unit is great and it manages to bring that authentic appeal which is missing in a lot of contemporary hatchets. Here are some of the pros and cons of the unit.

The Pros:

  • It’s reliable, durable and well-balanced
  • Ergonomic handle provides splendid control and swinging force
  • Quality hand forged head made in Sweden for extra durability
  • Smaller length and lighter weight make it a good option for hiking and backpacking

The Cons:

  • Not great for larger chopping tasks due to smaller size
  • The head might loosen up with time and require maintenance because of the wood handle
  • Over time wood handle can get damaged and break

Did you know that Husqvarna makes some really good quality chainsaws? Check out the different Husqvarna chainsaw models.

Wetterlings hatchet

The first thing that needs to be said about the Wetterlings hatchet is that it’s a straightforward hiking and camping model. It is compact, small in size and easy to store but it’s not going to provide you with all the heavier-duty capabilities that you’d need if you have a lot of wood or large pieces of wood to chop.

This is a hand crafted hatchet and it is made by one of the used-to-be-biggest axe manufacturers in the country of Sweden. It originated all the way back in 1880 and it is well regarded in the industry. However, since they are focused on hand-crafted solutions, they haven’t scaled as much. This only brings more value to their products as each and every one of them is made with precision by artisan craftsmen.

Starting off with the specifications, this is a two-piece traditional camping hatchet. The handle is made out of wood and the head is forged of strong steel. The edge is razor sharp and holds its edge well. It comes with a leather sheath which is included in the purchase price. This is quite convenient, it gives your axe a nice appeal and allows you to store it safely when camping.

The handle is curved in an ergonomic shape which allows you to swing it in a well-balanced manner without tiring out your hand. This is quite useful if you are chopping or splitting wood for a while.

Additionally, this is a small-sized unit which is going to fit within your backpack without any hassle due to its compact size and lightweight. The thing which impresses the most is that you get a handcrafted unit which is unique and of the highest quality.

The Pros:

  • Appropriate design and customized curved handle
  • Leather sheath of high quality
  • Ergonomic handle for enhanced balance

The Cons:

  • Not appropriate for chopping more serious wood
  • The head could potentially get loose

 

Fiskars X7 – The best budget camping, hiking, backpacking and survival hatchet

Fiskars is undoubtedly one of the leading global suppliers of branded products for your home, for your garden and for the outdoors. The company is also amongst the oldest ones in the field of axe making. It was founded back in 1649 in Finland and it is regarded as the oldest company in the entire country. It goes without saying that it’s more than just a reliable manufacturer.

This particular product is one of the fastest selling products in the category and it’s also an award-winning one. The design of the hatchet managed to win the “International red dot” “best of the best” award. The category was garden and the competition was held back in 2010. While a lot has changed since then, this remains one of the best small to medium-sized chopping hatchets. This is obviously a high-performance unit because chopping medium logs requires some serious power.

The handle is made of a synthetic material (not wood like some of the other hatchets) and is very durable. This is the result of using patented Fiber Comp. The handle is super strong and isn’t going to break when used and abused under normal circumstances. If there is one thing that should be emphasized, it’s the seemingly indestructible handle.

Fiskars x7 review

The unit offers great weight balance that results in a good power to weight ratio. That is the weight is all in the right place (towards the head), which increases the chopping & splitting efficiency.

This effectively multiplies the perceived power of this hatchet, much like a baseball bat made out of aluminum. Furthermore, it has a non-slip grip which is specifically intended to reduce hand strain and to enhance your control.

The Fiskars X7 is one of the best axes for the money that you will pay. If you want to clear a bush on the path this particular unit will help you out. Also if you need to chop some medium sized logs for your campfire, this is a model that will get the job done.

The edge is factory razor sharpened but can dull easily. Check out my article about how to sharpen your axe or hatchet. This is still one of the best options that has a very competitive price point.

The Pros:

  • Cheap price
  • Well-balanced and very durable handle
  • Razor sharp blade
  • Perfect for camping and smaller chopping undertakings

The Cons:

  • It might feel slightly longer for your backpack
  • The steel axe head does not retain sharpness well but is easy to re-sharpen

 

Check out my review if you want to know more about the x7 or other Fiskars hatchets, axes or splitting maul.

Check latest price of the Fiskars X7 on Amazon.

Bear Grylls Review

Gerber is a company which has a long-standing history as a successful outdoors equipment company. It is currently a sub-division of Fiskars but it was founded all the way back in 1939. It’s a native USA company established in Portland, Oregon. The name carries the reputation of one of the most famous survival experts – Bear Grylls.

Now, kicking it off directly, you ought to know that this particular small hatchet, the Bear Grylls Survival hatchet, is one of the coolest things that you would want to have in your bug out bag. It is smaller than the majority of hatchets and it is bigger than the regular survival knife. You will be able to handle a myriad of different small tasks easily. You can also use it in reverse as a hammer. However, if you need to cut down a small tree, for instance, it might be a better idea to use a hatchet with a handle that’s longer than this one. Of course, this would also enable you to do so but it would take a lot more effort and time.

The greatness of the product lies within its compact dimensions. It is a compact camping & hiking unit which has a full tang construction with the head and handle forged a single piece (the handle also has a hand grip covering).

The steel handle is wrapped with some kind of very comfortable and particularly ergonomic rubber which is going to give you a stronger grip, even if the axe is actually wet. There are finger notches which are just below the head which help you to safely maintain your grip and chop wood without it slipping out of your hand and causing an accident.

The hatchet is a good little compact tool. You can use it for hammering (with the back of the blade) a range of different things (tent pegs etc…). It’s a good compact model but not really my favorite due to the short handle and slightly awkward weight distribution. This is an ok unit to be used for backpacking and even for hiking as a just-in-case tool rather than something to bring if you know that you will be doing some chopping.

The Pros:

  • Incredibly compact
  • Rather versatile in its purposes
  • Can handle a lot of challenges
  • Ergonomic and sturdy grip

The Cons:

  • Short handle
  • The weight is not well distributed for chopping
  • Not great for chopping semi-larger wood
  • Requires a lot of energy to use because of its small size

 

WatchFire – Best lightweight hiking hatchet

If you just want something small to take with you hiking, just in case you needed it then this is the one that you want.

This is a tiny little hatchet which comes with a stainless steel blade as well as a slip-proof handle. It is best suited as an emergency / just in case lightweight hatchet. That is just packed and forgotten about. NOT a hatchet you bring if you know that you need to chop or split some wood.

When it comes to the quality of the unit, you can rest assured that this is a solid one if only a lightweight one. It is made out of a solid metal one-piece design. The axe arrives incredibly sharp right from the get go and it is known to hold its edge well. It can take quite a lot for you to actually dampen the edge of this hatchet when being used on light tasks that match it’s lightweight.

Going further, the WatchFire hatchet is particularly light and convenient when it comes to backpacking. It is also heavy enough to help enable you to chop smaller size pieces of wood. All in all, the weight balance is ok. It’s a great solution for camping and for hiking. This is a unit which is geared towards those of you who would love to camp out or take on day hikes. This is mainly thanks to the fact that it’s designed to handle quicker jobs and not those heavy-duty longer chopping. It’s not ideal as a heavy duty unit as it’s not going to deliver the necessary weight to enable you to cut serious wood.

If you are looking for something that would enable you to create tinder for your campfire, this is the unit to go. It’s definitely suited for slicing kindling or for cutting smaller branches as well as brushes. The ergonomic grip is quite good quality which is an additional feature that you would want to take into account. Also, it has a sturdy ballistic nylon sheath which doesn’t bring the appeal of the leather but it is durable and reliable. It will protect the edge from getting damaged and it would protect your other gear if you carry it in your backpack. It is very easy to carry and it comes with a convenient belt loop for added comfort and utility.

As you can see, this is a good lightweight option and it is one which is geared towards those who may need to cut wood but are prioritizing lightweight over a more efficient wood cutting tool. It is not my favorite, just because I could not get used to the curved blade. If you think that the curved blade will not worry you then this could be a good hiking hatchet for you.

The Pros:

  • One-piece metal forged reliable axe
  • Enough cutting power for regular camping tasks
  • Razor sharp blade from the get-go

The Cons:

  • Not ideal for heavier-duty tasks
  • The curved blade is not something I could get used to

 

The Outdoor Edge Wood Devil

Right off the bat, this is one of the most compact hatchets out on the market. It measures only 7 inches in length and it will fit in a pocket of your backpack, that’s for sure. At the same time, it also offers splendid control and balance. This is mainly thanks to the thermoplastic rubber handle which has a strong ABS core. This is a one-piece hatchet as a lot of the others that I’ve decided to bring forward and it’s for a good reason.

The main benefit of one piece options is that they are very reliable in terms of overall durability. This particular one is finished off in black color, giving it a nice appeal which, of course, is also something important even though it’s probably not a determining factor.

The grip is non-slip and stable and it would allow you to control it perfectly. In terms of materials, the head and the blade are made out of 3Cr13 steel. The black coating that we mentioned isn’t just for the beauties – it’s also protective.

In any case, the Outdoor Edge Wood Devil is a great option as a hiking hatchet which is also capable of helping you a lot around the camp. Of course, it’s not intended to be used as an everyday household item.

The Pros:

  • Compact yet durable design
  • Awesome appeal
  • Incredibly functional for hiking and camping

The Cons:

  • Can’t deliver substantial chopping power
  • It’s lighter than most

The Best Axes for Camping

The Browning 231 Outdoor Axe – The best car camping axe

Needless to say, browning is amongst the most recognized manufacturers on the market and that’s all for a lot of good reasons.

This particular axe is splendid for a range of different purposes. The only thing that you would have to consider is that it’s a bit larger than the conventional choice. Most of it is the handle but this shouldn’t really stop you from giving it a fair shot as when you start swinging, you’ll see where the magic comes from.

The handle itself is made out of fiberglass and polypropylene. Now, it is not as durable as metal but it’s also a lot lighter, making it better for transportation. At the same time, it will outperform the majority of regular wooden handles without the slightest effort. The edge is particularly extruded and it is guaranteed to last for a lifetime. It is factory razor sharp and it’s protected by a extruded nylon sheath which is going to protect it from getting nicked when you’re not using it. The Browning 231 Outdoor Axe is more suited to car camping than any kind of camping where you need to carry your equipment any distance due to is weight and bulkiness. It can be a really great option if you will need to chop and split a lot of firewood due to its larger size.

The Pros:

  • Substantial swinging power despite the light weight
  • Durable strength
  • Extruded blade

The Cons:

  • Long
  • Dificult to fit into a bug out bag

As you can see, there is a tremendous amount of different choices on the market and the important thing is that you should pick one which is best fit for your needs.

I hope that the information that I’ve provided you with will enable you to make the right call in choosing the right one for your needs.

Additionally, I’ve brought a few particularly well-received and high-ranked options which are priced fairly and provide a tremendous amount of value to your hiking, backpacking, camping or survival kit.

 

Buyer Guide

There are a lot of different things that you ought to consider when it comes to picking the best axe or hatchet for hiking, camping, backpacking or bugout bag but knowing a bit about axes and hatchets can help you understand them better and then understand what makes a good or bad choice for your needs.

If you want a suitable wood chopping tool for your needs, it will help you to understand the different parts, different types and different features of an axe or hatchet. This will leave you better informed when it comes to selecting one that is better for camping, backpacking and survival in general.

The main point of this comprehensive buying guide is to make sure that you are capable of easily picking up the best axe & hatchet designed for backpacking and camping. Therefore, we will leave tomahawks aside as they aren’t something that we are currently interested in.

Introduction

Here we are discussing hiking, backpacking, camping and survival axes and hatchets. If you are going into the wilderness you may well find yourself in need of a fire and therefore firewood. You may also have other need for chopping trees or wood, for example if you want to use branches to make a shelter or for some other camping stuff. In this case you could use a chainsaw or an axe or hatchet. Chainsaws are big, bulky and heavy, they also need gas, power or batteries, which can make them unsuitable for camping and especially unsuitable for backpacking. However, if you want to read about chainsaws you can read here about choosing the best professional chainsaw or here for the best homeowner chainsaw. Excluding chainsaws, you can choose from axes or hatchets. Hatchets are like small axes. Axes are bigger, bulkier and heavier than hatchets but are more efficient at chopping trees and wood. Hatchets are smaller and lighter (easier to pack and carry) but are less effective at chopping stuff.

If you are going camping and will camp near your vehicle you are probably not so concerned with the extra size and weight of an axe compared to a hatchet.  With this in mind, you ought to consider using a reliable axe that’s going to help you chop wood easier due to the longer handle and heavier axe head. In any case, there are quite a few aspects that you’d want to consider. Let’s have a look.

Anatomy of Axes and hatchets 

Important characteristics

As you can see, each axe and hatchet has different characteristics and each one of the axes above perform differently and be more or less suitable for different applications. Some of these characteristics include:

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the Difference between axes and hatchets?

What are the different types of axes?

What are the different types of hatchets?

What are the safe ways (safety tips) to use a hatchet or axe?

What is the recommended safety equipment for when using an axe?

How to Use Your Axe

Before you start chopping about every wood around you, it might be a great idea to know a few things about wood. With this being said, it’s important to understand that different types of wood require different considerations and you should certainly make sure to be well aware of them.

A dry and dead wood is without a doubt the best thing to look for when you want to chop wood to start a fire. You should place the branch and lay it in a stable manner on the ground once you find it. Use both of your hands to hold your convenient camping axe. Get the tool above your shoulder and quickly slide the top hand closer to the actual head of the axe.

As the top hand slides right back conveniently to the base of the handle, you should get the axe right back down. This particular movement will provide you with the necessary accuracy that you need for chopping dry wood. It requires a lot less weight when chopping and it’s certainly something to consider.

Keep in mind that it’s also appropriate to play with your cutting angles in an attempt to carve a convenient V shape in the wood. Once you manage to get through the halfway point of the thickness of the wood, you will be capable of turning it over and deliver a quick and heavy stomp, chopping the entire thing in two.

 

To Conclude…

It’s quite obvious that there are a lot of options that you can take your pick from and this is usually the thing with almost any other part of survival gear.

However, when it comes to the axe, it’s important to make sure that you do a good job when buying it. It is an important piece of equipment which is is difficult to replace with anything else.

Sure, when you buy a machete you could potentially cut down a few small trees and bushes but you would have trouble to chop and split wood for your fire.

The most important consideration is what you will be using it for and what you feel comfortable with. If you need a camping or survival axe where you will need to do some chopping, I recommend that you opt for a unit which is going to be longer, heavier and would deliver additional swinging power and cutting capabilities. For this I recommend the Gransfors Bruks.

If you want a hiking or a backpacking unit, I recommend that it to be compact and mobile so that you can throw in your pack and forget about without it being a pain in the… back to carry. For this, I recommend the WatchFire hatchet at only 13 ounces you will hardly notice it.

If you are car camping and have a bit more room and can take a bit more weight then a full-length camping axe may be the best option for you especially if you plan on having a decent size campfire. In this case the  Browning 231 Outdoor Axe is a great full size axe that will make chopping and splitting a lot of wood more of a fun activity that a chore.

If you are not really sure what you will be using the axe/hatchet for and maybe using it for a wide range of things then the Estwing E44A could be a good choice. It is fairly versatile and is a bit longer & heavier making it suitable for bigger chopping and splitting jobs and car camping but still a fairly compact tool.

Now if you have looked at all these options and got scared off by the price and want a discount option then I suggest that you take a look at the Fiskars X7 it is still a decent hatchet but on the cheaper side.

I hope that this helped you out and if you are still unsure I suggest that you just buy the Gransfors Bruks. I doubt that you will regret it as it is such high quality.

 

Best best hand saws for the outdoors

These days some people prefer to take a hand saw instead of or as well as an axe or hatchet when hiking, backpacking, camping or for survival. There are a wide range of types and even wider range of models to choose from. Some are more suitable for these outdoor activities than others. Check out my review of the best folding, bow, chain and wire hand saws for Camping, Hiking, Trekking, Backpacking, Bushcraft & Survival in the Wilderness here:

Fiskars hatchets, axes & splitter maul review

Fiskars make a whole range of low budget axes, hatchets & splitter mauls, not covered in this article. Read about the Fiskars axe, hatchet and maul range here:

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Comments 4

  1. Hi, great review. I could not decide between the Gransfors Bruks and the Wetterlings so I ordered them both, one for each of my sons. I have a camping trip coming up with my two boys that will put them through their paces.

  2. Post
    Author

    Hi Peter, Thanks for your kind words, I hope that my review helped you out. I am sure that you will be happy with your decision. Both the Gransfors Bruks and the Wetterlings are great choices. Please let me know how you go with them on your camping trip.

  3. Hi, thanks for your review. I don’t do that much camping so I just went with the Fiskars X7. I have some other Fiskars garden tools and they are quite good value so I am sure that it will work out just fine.

    1. Post
      Author

      Hi Donald, Yes, if you are looking for a cheaper hatchet that is good for an occasional camping trip, then the Fiskars X7 is a great choice. Enjoy your camping trip!

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