Forget the Axe! 4 Reasons Why a Folding Camping Saw is a Better Choice

Folding Camping Saw

If there’s one piece of backcountry gear that’s often overlooked it’s a folding camping saw. That’s because, for some reason, saws aren’t usually listed in camping checklists.

More often than not, axes and hatchets are listed as the “must have”. It’s surely because axes are synonymous with camping and “roughing it”, and have been glorified in popular culture.

However, seasoned backcountry campers tend to prefer bringing a folding camping saw instead of an axe for a variety of reasons.

In this article, I outline why you should reconsider bringing an axe camping and the reasons why a foldable camping saw is a better choice in the backcountry.

1. Axes & Hatchets Waste Time and Energy

When you’re camping in the backcountry, saving time and energy is extra important. That’s because you don’t want to be burning precious calories, especially if food or water is limited.

And, since collecting and processing firewood can be deemed a critical task, doing it efficiently as possible is paramount.

Realistically though, you’re probably not going to be chopping down large diameter trees in the forest. More likely, you’ll be cutting down standing dead trees or fallen trees and branches less than 6 inches in diameter.

Properly processing fallen trees into useful firewood using an axe requires repeated, accurate cuts. If not performed correctly, this can result in unwanted energy expenditure and excessive time consumption. And it goes without saying that time and energy in the backcountry is a precious commodity.

Axe Chopping Mechanism

During an axe strike, the blade simultaneously cuts and creates a wedge between the grains of the wood. With enough force, the wood starts to splinter and splits. With repeated strikes, more and more wood is separated. Eventually the large piece is cut into two smaller pieces.

For an axe to cut effectively, both the cutting action of the blade and the force of the strike need to be large enough to disrupt the wood fibers. If the wood is particularly thick or dense, this can take a lot of more effort.

Folding Camping Saw

2. Saws are Efficient Cutting Tools

Although axes and hatchets are great for more “rough” wood processing, saws are a much more refined and precise tool.

They can cut through wood in no time, without wasting much time or effort!

Saw Cutting Mechanism

A saw is intrinsically designed to cut and remove wood on both the “forward” and “backward” stroke.

This dual action is what makes a saw so efficient. With each stroke, wood fibers are continuously cut and removed by the blade teeth.

Very little “down” force is needed since the cutting action advances the blade into the remaining wood automatically.

Once the blade creates the cutting groove, there’s no need to maintain alignment. The saw will keep to the groove and cut parallel through the wood.

3. A Folding Camping Saw is Safer to Handle

Here’s a quick question for you: What tool would you be comfortable handing to a child, an axe or a saw?

Well, I hope you’re sane like me because the obvious answer is a saw!

Handling an Axe

Compared to an axe, a saw is much safer to handle, both for the individual using it and everyone around them.

The safe and consistent swinging action of an axe requires a lot of practice. It takes an elevated level of hand-eye coordination to effectively lift, strike, remove and repeat the axe cutting motion.

Sure, once you get the hang of using an axe it it’s a breeze but there’s a steep learning curve and the margin of error is a lot tighter compared to a saw. If used improperly, the risk of sever injury due to an axe is far greater than a saw.

Additionally, an axe requires the use of a sheath for safe carrying and transport. If that sheath is lost or forgotten, the blade is exposed. 

It can damage other equipment when packed, become damaged (chip or rust), or injury someone when it’s handled.

Handling a Folding Camping Saw

A folding camping saw on the other hand requires very little training compared to an axe.

There is basically no learning curve to using a saw. Anyone can pick one up and become an advanced user fairly quickly. So much so that you can easily demonstrate safe and proper sawing techniques to a child and not have to worry [too much] about their safety.  

They can start cutting wood and being productive around camp right away!

Because of the folding aspect of the saw, you can also safely pack and carry the saw anywhere!

The blade, which is tucked away in the handle portion, folds out and locks into place during use. When it’s not required, if can be folded back into the handle and locked in place to prevent accidental opening [Bahco Laplander Folding Saw described].

That means you can toss if into a pack or strap it to the outside and not have to worry about damaging other equipment or risk injuring yourself.

Compact Folding Camping Saw

4. Save Weight and Space in Your Pack

When camping, especially backcountry camping, a lightweight pack is very important. That’s why carry lightweight, compact and essential gear helps keep your pack size and weight down.

So, what’s better to pack from a weight and space saving aspect – an axe or a saw?

Drawbacks of an Axe

For an axe to be an effective tool, two things are important:

  1. The axe head needs to be heavy enough to generate a large impact force, and
  2. The handle needs to be long enough to give the user leverage when striking.

These two aspects of an axe make it heavy and bulky to carry in a pack.

If only there was another tool that was both light-weight AND compact… [You see where I’m going here, right?]

Advantages of a Saw

A folding camping saw is the complete opposite of an axe. Yes, it’s both light-weight and compact making it the perfect companion for any backcountry adventure. 

It’ll take up far less room in a pack and weighs very little in comparison to an axe or hatchet.

So, save yourself the effort and space and just carry a folding camping saw!

Types of Camping Saws

Although there are several types of camping saws on the market, only two are consider staples of the backcountry.

Bow saws and folding saws are used ubiquitously by campers and praised for their versatility and robustness.

Bow Saws

Like the name implies, a bow saw looks and works similar to a bow (minus the arrow, of course). A thin, long blade is held under tension by a bow structure, which incorporates the handle.

  • The blade or cutting portion of a bow saw can be quite long, making it great for cutting larger diameter logs [up to 10 inches for certain bow saws].
  • To deploy a bow saw, the blade must be affixed to one end of the bow and then pulled under tension at the other end. Sometimes this requires using a mechanical lever to apply tension. Although a bit cumbersome, blade tensioning can be done fairly quickly.
  • Bow saw blades can be replaced or exchanged at any time. For instance, you can swap out a wood cutting blade for a bone blade for processing game, if required.
  • Bow saws tend to be larger than folding saws, however they do not weigh much. And some bow saws fold down into a very compact profile making them fit perfectly into a backpack.

I would recommend a folding bow saw for hard-core backcountry enthusiasts due to their size, weight, and cutting ability.

Folding Saws

Folding saws are designed to be as compact as possible. The blade folds neatly into the handle, keeping it protected from damage as well as preventing it from damaging other equipment.

  • To deploy a folding saw, simply press the unlocking mechanism and fold out the blade until the blade locks into place, which takes about 2 seconds. The same action and time is required to close the saw.
  • This quick deployment makes using a folding saw extremely handy, especially when foraging for wood in dense forest. You can toss the saw folded into your pocket, walk through dense vegetation and then open it to cut down the next log without much effort.

For beginner and average campers, a folding camping saw is all you need!

The Best Camping Saws

When it comes to camping saws, I can honestly only recommend two products which I whole heartedly love using:

  • The Bahco Laplander folding saw, and
  • The Agawa Canyon Boreal 21 folding bow saw

Now, a lot of other bloggers typically have a laundry list of saws they recommend. But odds are they haven’t tested any of them!

Hopefully you see value in the saws that I recommend because these are the best camping saws I’ve come across.

Folding Camping Saw

Bahco Laplander Folding Saw

Personally, I’ve been using my Bahco Laplander folding saw since 2011 and it hasn’t failed me. I’ve taken it on all of my camping trips, both car and backcountry.

  • It’s compact enough to slip into my pack, measuring 8 inches folded and 15.5 inches unfolded
  • It’s super light-weight, weighing only 190 grams
  • The 7.5-inch blade is made from stainless steel with an anti-rust coating
  • The handle is made from durable plastic with a non-slip coating

I’ve used it around the house to clean up fallen branches and trim overgrown tree limbs. I’ve let newbie campers use it will little anxiety and even let my niece give it a try. She was 7 at the time!

I would highly recommend this saw to any new or seasoned camper looking for a compact tool for processing wood. For the price, you can’t beat it.

Agawa Canyon Boreal 21 Folding Bow Saw

Although I haven’t bought one yet, the Boreal 21 folding bow saw is next on my list of purchases!

I first tested out and fell in love with this product at the Outdoor Adventure show in Toronto where I got to meet and interview the inventor himself, Graham.

Not only did Graham let me demo the product, he basically showcased the Boreal 21 in all of it’s glory [which I recorded and made a YouTube video].

  • It folds completely into itself making it extremely compact and safe to carry
  • It deploys in under 10 seconds and feels completely solid in the hand
  • The large, 21-inch cutting surface makes getting through large diameter logs easy
  • You can change the blade from a wood blade to a bone blade quickly and easily

I would recommend the Boreal 21 for hard-core campers, hunters and outdoor enthusiasts.

It’s the perfect tool to increase your productivity while in the woods!

Agawa Canyon Boreal 21 Folding Bow Saw

2 Replies to “Forget the Axe! 4 Reasons Why a Folding Camping Saw is a Better Choice”

  1. Splendid article as usual, love the Boreal versatility

    1. Yes! It’s very practical yet compact and makes a great addition to any pack. I’m surprised it cost so little too.

Leave a Reply