There are some people who like to take as many gadgets and tools as possible with them when backpacking. Not all of them are going to be useful and you may be wondering if it’s worth taking a backpacking saw with you when backpacking.
How useful is a saw when backpacking?
If you wanted to make a shelter, create a long-burning fire or complete some trail maintenance, a backpacking saw can be very useful. For casual backpacking, however, it’s probably not required.
When to use a backpacking saw
There are going to be a few key scenarios where you can use a backpacking saw. Here we take a quick overview of them.
If you wanted to create a camp fire then in most situations you’d be perfectly fine just snapping off branches or collecting broken branches from the floor. In these situations, the fire would burn quite quickly and you’d likely need to keep adding to it.
Thicker logs burn for a lot longer and are required if you wanted to have an overnight fire. Trying to get these using your bare hands or even a hatchet can be very difficult. A saw will be able to give you the logs that you need to create a fire that will burn until the morning.
If you’re going to be on a long camping trip or hiking journey where the temperature is going to drop at night then you’ll need to carry a saw to make these fires.
Love hiking along trails? If you do, you have a duty of care to your fellow hikers to try and keep it clear. This can include simple things such as clearing litter or casting aside broken branches that have been blown onto the path.
Sometimes there will be something a lot bigger blocking the path such as trees that have been blown over. In many situations, a backpacking saw can be just the tool you need to clear the path. You can just saw off the broken tree and move it to the side for the benefit of you and everyone else.
If a large tree is blocking the path that is too big for your saw then even cutting off branches so people can transverse over it can be a huge help.
Creating a shelter can be a challenge when you’re out in the wild, especially if you’ve not got the right tools. A backpacking saw will allow you to get the right-sized branches and logs in no time at all. This can be especially important in emergency situations.
This could be creating tent poles for your regular tent, using poles to create a teepee with your tarp or creating a simple A-frame shelter. Without a saw the job can take a lot longer as you have to scavenge high and wide for the right materials.
Even if you don’t plan on making a shelter, if you’re on a potentially dangerous trip, it can be very useful in many emergency situations.
Before taking a saw on a backpacking trip, it’s important to know exactly what type you should be taking. Here we look at the three main types.
Pocket chainsaws can be good for cutting large logs but are limited in their usability. They are effectively just a chain with handles on either end which will then be pulled back and forth. They don’t take up a lot of space but aren’t ideal for cutting smaller branches.
These are often the most popular choice and usually work in the same way as a switchblade where the saw will fold out from the handle. They are very convenient and usually not too heavy. With folding into the saw, they are quite limited in length.
A bow saw can vary a lot in size but you can buy a compact one which will fit comfortably into your backpack. There are others that now have the ability to be folded out. As with the folding saw, you can be limited in the length of the blade and therefore the size of branch/log you can cut.
What To Look for in a Backpacking Saw
With any saw, you want to look at its sharpness and efficiency to be able to cut quickly. The factors that come into play here are how comfortable the handle is and the material of the blade.
Not only should it saw effectively but it should do so without any pain or discomfort.
Weight and size are features that have to be closely considered for a backpacking saw. If it’s too bulky then it’ll be difficult to carry. Before buying one, you need to know exactly how it’s going to fit in with the rest of the gear you need to carry.
Frequently Asked Questions
How heavy is a backpacking saw?
This will often depend on the type of saw. Some folding saws will weigh as little as 7oz but can be quite small. Other backpacking bow saws will weigh over a pound and are a little bulkier. You need to think about the size of saw you want and balance this against its weight.
What type of backpacking saw is best?
If you need to cut down trees or very thick branches then a pocket chainsaw would be the best idea. If you’re packing light then a folding saw would be the most suitable but for a little more cutting power, a bow saw would perform very well.
How big should my backpacking saw be?
A little bit bigger than what you’re trying to cut. Trying to cut a 7″ wide branch with 8″ saw is feasible but in reality, you’d be left with very little wiggle room. Ideally, you want a saw at least a couple of inches longer than what you’re trying to cut.
What is the best backpacking saw?
The answer to this question is going to be a little different for everyone. If you need to pack light and build a long-burning fire then a high-quality pocket saw would be great.
If you struggle with hand cramps then an ergonomic handle is a must. It’s about noting down what you need and getting a high-quality saw to match it.