Ever taken a long log and hacked it up with a hatchet, and it took forever? I know I have, and there’s a better way. If you go camping and collect your own firewood, this is for you or a friend you’re trying to convince. My goal is to convince you that hand saws are underrated and should make it standard with your camping gear. If you have only ever brought an axe with you, then I bet you could make your wood collection easier and faster than you realized.
Should you have a camping saw?
When I worked for the conservation corps in Minnesota, we were sent into the boundary waters to clear the Pow Pow Trail after a fire had gone through and devastated it. I was expecting the forest service to send us in with crosscuts and felling axes. Instead, they recommended bow saws. I went with it, a bit surprised but after clearing 6 miles and hundreds of trees, I was convinced that I needed something like this in my pack whenever I hit the trail.
The right saw in the Canadian wilderness
In 2018 my wife and I went to guide canoeing trips in the Atikaki Provincial Wilderness in Manitoba. That summer, I added new gear to both of our packs. We guided separate crews, so we each needed one. Early season, when the trails were grown over from seasons of wear, they were used for clearing camp and trials and collecting firewood. We took an axe, and the bow saw, and the bow saw way more action. After our initial trips, we both came back to base and agreed. How have we never taken these on trail before? They should be standard issue.
There are several reasons that I am gushing about our saws, which were 7.99 at Fleet Farm, by the way. One is how little effort and skill they take to use well. You can hand off to someone who has never used one before, and they will figure it out. Yes, you will be exhausted after using it for a bit, but the amount of work you get from that effort is considerable. Another reason is that they leave a clean edge when you’re finished, which is key for splitting with your hatchet. Trying to split wood the long way after cutting it up with an axe can be done, but it is a pain, to say at the least.
Other saw types for the trail or canoe
They make versions of these that fold flat and tuck the blade away that are pretty sweet. I did have that; I made a leather blade cover and stuck it on the side of one of our packs. The price was awesome too, I mentioned it earlier, but I also got replacement blades for 3 bucks or something too. The weight of them varies but is usually not terrible; ultralight backing will disagree with me here. Mine was around a pound.
Silky saws or folding saws work great, but they are only meant to be used on the pull stroke, so the blade tends to bend or snap if you push with them.
The overall benefits of a simple bow saw far out weight the bit of extra weight included with including it in your pack. That is why I prefer the bow saw version. If you have thoughts or opinions, share in the comments section. Check out the page on picking the perfect axe if you need to pair it with your new piece of trail gear.