For those who hoof it deep into the wilds, or pack their ATV for some serious territory scouting, packing along a blade that has teeth is highly advisable. A well-prepped Jeeper has plenty of room behind the front seats for necessary gear like a shovel, a portable winch or come-along, an axe and a bow saw, but backpacks and smaller single-seat four-wheelers don’t, and a saw usually isn’t included. In my opinion, that’s a mistake.
A good saw is not only handy, it can be a literal lifesaver. Each spring when I crank up the two-seat ATV for the first mountain run of the season, I run into deadfall on a trail somewhere. Winter is hard on trees, as snow and winds tend to knock them over without regard to how many people may be trying to use those trails when the weather warms up. If a tree’s too big to push aside, go over or go around, that’s the end of that till somebody comes along with the right equipment to handle the situation. Which is where having a saw along comes in handy.
For the life-saving part, weather can also toss your carefully constructed excursion plans right out the window with very little warning, and so can mechanical breakdowns. If you’re on a day hike, you probably won’t have your trusty dome tent along when an unexpected squall hits. If you’re too far up the mountainside to walk back out when the machine dies, you’ll need shelter if those dimming skies are delivering rain or snow. Your knife may or may not be up to the task of constructing a shelter with materials at hand, or reducing dead branches to manageable sizes for firewood. And even if it is, a sawblade is typically a much more efficient tool for such purposes.
When stranded, shelter from the elements can be critical, a fire can provide heat to survive and/or cook with, and it can also signal for help. In such circumstances, conserving energy is also important, and cutting through a 3-inch limb with steel teeth can use up less energy and fewer calories than chopping through it with a conventional edged blade. If you don’t have room for a full-sized bow saw, here are six smaller alternatives to consider.
BAHCO 396 XT7 Folding Saw
Starting out at the large end of the spectrum, BAHCO has a solid reputation among those who deal with yard and tree maintenance professionally and personally. The 396 Series of lightweight, folding pruning saws feature a good-sized 7.5-inch blade with the company’s proprietary Hard Point Teeth housed in a well-designed, 9-inch plastic handle with a high-visibility orange body and non-slip black rubber grip. The hinge point can be tightened or loosened as necessary. The blades are user-replaceable and the saws include a very advisable locking feature that secures the blade strongly in place either open or closed, with an easy-to-operate thumb release on the left side near the hinge.
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The saw’s locking joint and slip-resistant handle add a level of safety to a longer blade that can easily process limbs and smaller trees or branches up to 4 inches in diameter. The blade won’t jostle itself open in your pack while carried or fold in your hand in use, and you can choose a tooth option to fit your own locale for hardwoods (like the 396 XT7 shown) or softer woods. (bahcostore.com)
Outdoor Edge Flip n’ Saw
Whether you’re a hunter, homesteader or backcountry adventurer, the Flip n’ Saw should be on your short list of must-haves. It’s the thinnest, lightest, all-metal (except for rubberized grip) folding saw on the market today. The Flip n’ Saw is a low-profile, full-size, lightweight, 7-inch-, high-carbon-steel-bladed folding saw that sports a rubberized aluminum handle that will allow users to grab hold under all manner of conditions—cold, wet, bloody—you name it. Its blade is chrome-coated to prevent rust, and features a sturdy lock design with super-smooth action for easy opening and closing. The smaller size triple-diamond-ground teeth are designed for cutting through the tough bone of a big-game animal and wood. The Flip n’ Saw comes complete with a nylon belt sheath. (outdooredge.com)
Silky PocketBoy 130
Moving down in size, Silky of Japan is another top choice for pro-grade tree processing equipment, and the aptly named PocketBoys offer sizes and tooth styles for folding pocket saws to accommodate the hard- or softwoods you may encounter. Very lightweight at 8 ounces, the PocketBoy 130 shown uses a hard chrome-plated, 5-inch blade with extremely sharp, large teeth that create a very aggressive cut through soft or green wood. Silky offers separate, user-replaceable blades with four different tooth configurations that swap easily, or you can order whichever blade type you think you’ll need the most. Overall length closed is 6.5 inches. The non-slip, red rubber handle makes this one hard to drop and easy to find if you do. There’s even a wrist thong hole for additional retention. The blade doesn’t lock closed, but it does lock open at two different cutting angles. (silkysaws.com)
For many, a dual-purpose tool is a more efficient use of space and weight, and SOG’s ingenious Revolver fixed-blade knives, designed for the company by Robbie Roberson, combine a standard full-sized hunting knife blade with a fully functional saw blade. Using a unique single blade that “revolves” around a large pin at the forward end of the checkered, glass-reinforced nylon handle, the Revolver locks either end of that blade in place with an easily operated, pivoting latch on the right side of the handle. The user decides which function is needed and rotates the appropriate blade out while locking the other one safely inside the handle. Available in two versions featuring 440C steel—the SEAL, with its black TiNi-finished, clip-point blade and partial serrations, or the Hunter, with a non-coated and non-serrated guthook blade—both offer 4.5-inch saw blades, and come with a black nylon belt sheath. (sogknives.com)
Boker Folding Hunter
Combining two functions in one tool, the Boker 4021 Folding Hunting Knife is one of the most impressive “traditional” folders on the market today. Though it may look like a fairly ordinary pocket knife on the page, it’s anything but in the hand. Measuring 5.25 inches closed, 9.25 inches open, and weighing 5.3 ounces, this double-bladed knife rides more realistically on a belt in the leather pouch that comes with it. One hefty chunk of 440C stainless steel and genuine stag, the 4021 provides both a large, flat-ground, clip-point blade for bigger cutting chores and a saw blade with medium-sized teeth for wood and bone applications. This beautifully made knife locks both blades open independently via a standard lock-back design. The design’s 3.125 inches of cutting teeth can easily deal with limbs or branches up to 2 inches thick, and there’s a bonus bottle opener on the saw blade. (boker.de/us)
Victorinox One-Hand Trekker
There are many tools that offer everything from basic functions to enough gizmos to overhaul the engine on a ’49 Studebaker. One of the more practical and affordable models for trailside and general camp use is Victorinox’s One-Hand Trekker. A true pocket knife, this one adds several other functions to a 3.5-inch stainless saw blade all housed in a 4.5-ounce package. The “one-hand” label derives from the locking, serrated cutting blade that can be opened by the strong-hand thumb. Along with the blade and saw, Victorinox includes a slotted screwdriver; a smaller slotted screwdriver; a Phillips screwdriver; bottle and can openers; a wire stripper; a toothpick; tweezers; and a reamer. (swissarmy.com)
Ultimate Survival Technologies SaberCut Saw
How about a chainsaw that rides in your pack or pocket and never runs out of gas? The 24-inch, hand-powered SaberCut from Ultimate Survival Technologies uses self-cleaning teeth that cut in both directions. With black nylon webbing as handles at each end, the SaberCut weighs 6 ounces in its nylon carry case. The black-oxide-coated teeth are aggressive and the chain’s length can cut through thick logs. Keep it dry if possible, oil it occasionally, and when the teeth need sharpening, any chainsaw service can do it—or you can take a standard 1/8-inch chainsaw blade sharpener to it yourself. The SaberCut gives you some real cutting muscle without weight, bulk or noise. (ustbrands.com)
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This article was originally published in The NEW PIONEER™ Fall 2015 issue. Subscription is available in print and digital editions here.