Looking for the best Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) camp saw that you’ve likely never heard of?
In this post we detail the different types of backcountry camp saws available on the market and which we prefer to take on our family BWCA (Boundary Waters Canoe Area) trips.
What is a camp saw?
A camp saw is a simple tool that allows backcountry campers to cut up firewood, clear trails, and otherwise work with wood. We find them invaluable and MUCH safer than bringing a hatchet or an ax (we’ll detail our reasoning in a future post).
What types of camp saws are available?
Camp saws come in two general styles: bow saws and folding saws. Both serve their purpose and excel in different areas.
A bow saw is a traditional saw composed of a thin blade connected to a frame. They are sometimes referred to as a Swede saw, Finn saw or bucksaw. The backcountry camping versions are often made of light materials and constructed in a way that allows them to fold up for storage. Two well known brands are Agawa and Sven-Saw.
- Fast and efficient cutting – Thin long blade lends itself ot quick and efficient cutting of larger logs
- Cheap replaceable blades – Cheaper to maintain a sharp saw and easy to pack a replacement blade
- Sturdy frame – The frame provides tension on the blade, which helps ensure smooth, accurate cuts
- Size – Some can be larger or more cumbersome
- Setup – Folding mechanisms vary in complexity and speed of setup
- Lack of precision – Frame can inhibit cutting angles and locations
Folding saws are more like a pocket knife. They have a thicker blade that folds into the handle of the saw. Once extended there is not a frame that supports the blades tension. The folding saw often has a shorter blade as well. Silky Big Boy is a well known folding saw beloved by campers and canoeists alike.
- Precision cutting – Pruning saws are designed for clean, accurate cuts
- Compact design – The smaller size of a pruning saw and lack of a frame allows access to tighter places
- Setup – Saw functions like a pocket knife, so setup is quick and easy
- Single Hand Use – Lack of frame limits ability to use leverage and two hands
- Blade Length – Shorter blade means more strokes and more fatigue on larger logs
- Expensive Blades – Thicker blades are more expensive and heavier if packing a spare
Which type of saw do we prefer?
We prefer a bow saw, hands down, and for the following reasons:
- Blade – Thinner and longer blade allows for more efficient cutting
- Two hands – Ability to use two hands reduces fatigue
- Replacement Blade – Blades are cheap and light so bringing a spare does not affect pack weight
- Frame – Folding nature and frame provide protection when teaching kids how to operate
What is our favorite BWCA (Boundary Waters) camp saw?
Our current favorite camp saw for Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) trips is the Agawa Canyon Boreal21. This saw is light, efficient, and extremely easy to use.
BOREAL saws are revolutionary folding bow saws that effortlessly unfolds in seconds for easy, high performance cuts. The blade’s length is optimally sized for powerful sawing strokes, and yet short enough for packability. And the 3 hinged trapezium-shaped frame allows large diameter cuts. The blade safely folds into the frame when not in use, protecting you and your gear.Agawa Canyon Website
- Blade – Long,efficient blade and automatic blade tensioning system makes cutting a breeze
- Frame – Trapezium-shaped frame allows for larger diameter cuts than many saws on the market
- Folding mechanism – We can honestly open it up or close it in less than three seconds
- Kid-friendly – Strong frame makes it easy to help teach kids the finesse that comes with cutting wood
- Weight – Slightly heavier than some options on the market
- Bulk – Takes up slightly more pack space than some other options on the market
A note on our second favorite saw
We historically were a Sven Saw family and still love our 15 year old 15″ version. We love the simplicity of their design and the fact that there are zero plastic pieces. Everything is aluminum and can withstand decades of punishment.
That being said it falls behind the Agawa Boreal21 for two reasons. First, the triangle-shaped frame limits the size of logs that can be cut. This is a big issue in the winter when we go through a ton of firewood each night. Second, the setup requires a wingnut which is easy to drop and lose on the forest floor. Both are minor inconveniences and if you can get your hands on a Sven Saw you will not be disappointed!
After about fifteen years of constant use, we’ve semi-retired our Sven Saw. It’s not that we don’t love it, its just that we came across something that fits our needs better. It still gets use occasionally as a spare on group trips or as an addition to my son’s emergency pack.
Agawa Boreal21 for the win!
As a backcountry camper you have a lot of saw options. We urge you to check out the Agawa Boreal21 folding saw. I think you will very quickly learn why we think it is the best camp saw for Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) trips, or any camping trip for that matter! We even use ours at home for yardwork!