Axe or Saw? Neither?

My decision was firmly set years ago but I’m interested to hear what other people carry, use, why, and for what.

Consider it a distraction while you’re sitting at home trying to get outdoors.

If you carry a similar item as decoration or for the careless destruction I often see then your views are preemptively dismissed.

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Cooking, warmth over a wood fire. Both are a necessity. Folding silky saw best ever dollar store axe will do for splitting cooking wood and kindling. The real trick is finding standing dead wood the right size 2 inch 3 inch diameter

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if you are cooking over a fire or having a campfire they were both useful in the past. Now a days I pretty much camp in campgrounds and buy already chopped wood there, but truthfully I don’t have fires much anymore. Moving firewood around is a big deal (invasives).

When I took crews of boyscouts out on high adventure canoe trips I would ditch the hand axe (hatchet) when they weren’t looking. The sven saw we took was dangerous enough! The contact method just didn’t work that well and the last thing I wanted was kid swinging a hatchet in the middle of nowhere, miles from a hospital with no radio or cell reception.

If it is pouring the rain, and you want to split wood, a hatchet is real useful in the right set of hands, to make dry kindling. For splitting bigger stuff, you want a full size axe. For shortening to fit in a fire pit, or collecting wood, a saw is useful to get it to a moveable or useful length.

axe- diameter hatchet- kindling saw- length

I carry both. A Swen Saw and an old beater hatchet that my Dad gave me ~60 years ago. I seldom build a fire and never cook over one. Much of my travel is solo and I’m not one to sit by myself around a fire.
Still, I find that the saw takes up nearly zero space in my kayak and is sometimes useful. When I do build a fire I want the hatchet for splitting wood.

If I was to take only one it would be the saw.

If campfire cooking is part of the plan, I take a Silky Sugoi pruning saw. I’ve tried several other saw types and find a quality pruning saw can make quick work of anything appropriately sized to begin with. The pruning saw has a hard case, and no moving parts or anything to lose unlike some folders. On a river, the pruning saw can also be quickly deployed to clear sweepers if necessary, or a portage trail. I have a fancy forged axe, but usually take the small Fiskars splitting axe as I don’t care if it gets chipped, the case isn’t leather, and it doesn’t rust (ugly, but it works). Some trips I take a Trangia stove and forgo cooking fires all together.

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I have used axes and hatchets since childhood and pruning saws the last few years. My vote is a good pruning saw. A good hatchet is great for splitting kindling.

Interesting. Is there a particular size you prefer?

I think it is this one, the 360:

The “Katana Boy” is pretty cool but at twice the price didn’t seem worth it. I’ve had mine for years and if I lost it I would certainly replace it.

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My decision is never firmly set
for the desert and the Florida beaches: none
For the occasional fulfill desire on a trip in a Provincial Park: small forest axe and saw. Solo just the saw. I am less than proficient with axe and to chop my leg while alone seems foolish
For the boreal forest and portage clearing : a chainsaw.

For the Arctic. neither.

I have used a pruning saw but I think it was Gerber and anything over an inch was a problem. Sometimes you need to cut slightly bigger branches. I find the axe mostly handy for splitting… I have never mastered batoning. though
My favorite is a Bob Dustrude saw… a folder.

Mostly neither but sometimes I’ll take a cheap pruning saw along. On our winter overnights we will usually bring firewood down river with us - at least those of us in canoes. Campgrounds tend to be pretty picked over. Otherwise fire is for pleasure and if it is too big to break then it’s too big to use.

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If you’re going to carry a 14" saw, the Silky Big Boy is cheaper and it folds. It provides a much larger handle that’s really helpful at times. That said, any 14" saw is overkill for cutting 3" or smaller wood. I’ve used my Big Boy to clear deadfall on trails that was larger than the length of the blade. For a reasonably priced option that probably makes more sense as a camping saw, the 10" folding Corona saw that Lowe’s sells is the next best thing I’ve found to a Silky.

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I’ve come to like the larger Sven saw - 16" blade if I recall. I like it mostly because it packs well and is reasonably priced. I have an axe I take on longer trips if I think I may want to split something. It’s what I’ve always heard called 3/4 length - about 2 or 2.5’ handle.
I consider hatchets to be pretty dangerous tools to have around. When I was a kid I was on a trip where one of the other kids borrowed a hatchet and split his thumb open down to the bone with it. That experience stuck with me. As it happened we were able to get him to a hospital and get it stitched up, but if that had happened on a river trip or remote location it could have put a pretty serious crimp in the trip for everyone. A person with a thumb like that can’t paddle or carry well and infection is always a worry if you can’t get it patched properly in a day or two… Yes, I know anything with an edge on it can pose a problem and hatchets can be used safely, but I still feel a bit larger axe is a bit safer.
I’ve had a couple hollow ground folding saws and like how they pack but the joints have always failed me eventually and they’re tedious for anything very big. - perhaps there is a quality one that I haven’t yet found though… Even at that, I camp on sand a lot and keeping the joints clean forever is an improbability for me.
I always carry a sturdy belt knife on the strap of my “unhappy bag” that can be useful for whittling kindling, even splitting small stuff with a striker stick, if its really wet out.

I bring an axe for kindling and in case I have to make a paddle. When people start drinking I hide it. I have seen two people put axes in their feet a long way from help.
I just put long pieces of wood in the fire and keep pushing. Saves a lot of work.

I always have a hatchet, I sometimes bring a small folding saw but most firewood is hatchet only.

I carry a pruning saw in the kayak deck bag. Think “jack knife” saw. It has been used a few times to cut my way out of trees in the swamp.

I’d like a video of you making a paddle in the wilderness with an axe please…


It depends on where, when and how I outfit.

Since I have camping gear for all occasions, Solo, Family, Hammock and am well versed on weeklong hike in camp expeditions I have various tools for my needs.

I have a Sawvivor, folding saw, it folds down to the width of a bow-saw blade (basically becomes a rectangle with the blade stored inside. Weighs about 6oz.

I also have a hatchet, that stores a pruning saw inside the handle, axe handle is 20" and saw is 18.

So if I’m somewhere where they may be splitting requred, I’ll take the hatchet/saw combination if I’m just thinking of firewood no larger than 6" in diameter I’ll take the folding saw.

But it all really depends on the outing.

My boat will carry me plus 150Lbs of gear so if boat camping I may take both.

Usually I load the C-Tug in my Aft compartment, with various bits and bob’s tucked in. This take the most space but is there in the event of portages.

Midships will be food/cook gear/water processing. (I only carry 3l of water at launch. I process the rest as I go.) forward compartment will have my tent/ground mat/clothes.

Obviously if i have room other stuff can be sorted into other compartments.

My Cell and wallet, and spare Powerbank live in the cockpit with me, behind the seat in a dry box. My rain gear and Skirt are also tucked in there.

On the Deck Fore Spare paddle. Aft any other gear that can get wet or go in a drybag.

Sure as heck isn’t me but here is Ray Mears & Ray Goodwin doing it. Helps to have a clue stick.


Just curious - Who among us carries a crooked knife? If so, how do you make/acquire one?

Hi, Sparky961

On camping trips outside of protected parks or developed camping areas I bring a good saw and if we’ll be setting up a multi-night base camp I’ll bring an axe. We never cut down live trees and tend not to cut dead trees unless there’s a bunch of standing dead in an area. We prefer to cut up windfall.

The saw is a non-folding 20" professional pruning saw. It’ll cut through 4" to 6" stuff with ease. It’s easy to gather up a bunch of firewood from small dead trees and stuff laying on the ground. I bring some steel wool and a bit of oil to keep the blade clean, especially if it’s wet out or I’m cutting pitchy softwoods.

The axe is a 3-1/2 lb felling head on a 28" handle. It’s very sharp will cut through most anything pretty quickly. I use it to limb and buck up windfall trees and for splitting. If I buck larger diameter trees into 4’ lengths I can split them lengthwise (and lengthwise again if large enough) and then the saw can be used to cut to firewood lengths. The axe works great for final splitting and for kindling.

When we camp in more developed and/or protected areas I just bring a small folding saw and a hatchet to make kindling for our Littlbug Senior stove.