Best Folding Saws for Bushcraft and Backpacking
A folding saw is such a handy tool to have with you when bushcrafting, backpacking, or camping. They’re light, take up little space when folded, and allow you to do so many things – make clean cuts in green and dead wood, cut through bone, clear brush around your campsite, build a shelter, prepare wood for burning or transporting and more. This article is an in-depth review of my top picks for the best folding saws for bushcraft, backpacking, camping, and includes budget and higher-end choices. You’ll also find a short buyer’s guide at the bottom, with frequently asked questions answered and folding saw tips given (for example, think about greenwood and drywood blades and teeth!) Finally, if you don’t have much time, I’ve created a handy little comparison table of folding saw models below with the most relevant information and my own comments. Without further ado, let’s get into it!
List and Reviews of Top Folding Saws
At the top of the list is the Bahco Laplander folding saw. This is my pick for overall best all-round folding saw. It’s compact, but not small – people with large hands will be able to hold it comfortably just fine, nor is the sawblade so short that it would be a pain to deal with larger branches or other pieces of wood. The sawblade is 7.5 inches long and the handle is 9 inches, for an overall length of 16 inches when unfolded, and a weight of 7 ounces or 200 grams.
The Laplander folding saw is also well put together and sturdy – the hard plastic handle and folding mechanism are well-constructed and will take as much work as you can put them to without problem. The sawblade has a special anti-rust and friction reduction coating, so that’s another feature that makes it easier to use than other folding saws and means you can worry less about moisture damage.
The only thing I can really mention as a negative is the color of the handle – it’s a dark forest green color and the sawblade is black – easy to lose track of if you’re packing up in a hurry or not paying the closest attention to it. That’s easy enough to solve with some DIY creativity, like bright red electrical tape or something along those lines if you’re worried about it.
Overall the Bahco Laplander is very good value for the money, made by a company with lots of experience in a country known for its saws and axes (Sweden). You can also buy replacement sawblades for it, and blades from other Bahco folding saws will fit on it, too (standardized mounting design) – so if you want a sawblade with finer or larger teeth, you can get that, too.
Coghlan’s Sierra Saw is a very light folding saw that I think is underappreciated. It certainly doesn’t get as much hype as the Bahco Laplander or Silky folding saws, but Coghlan’s Sierra is an “ultralight” folding saw that doesn’t call itself “ultralight” and certainly doesn’t come with the “ultralight” price tag. What I mean to say is that this folding saw, which has a 7-inch blade (overall length 16 inches) and that weighs only 5.5 ounces (155 grams), is excellent value for money for a no-frills folding saw. It has a “one-touch system” that locks the blade in place when open or closed and that’s it. Some people have commented that the saw feels “flimsy” and the blade bends, but I have a feeling that’s because of the weight of the saw itself. The handle is made out of plastic, but then again, so are the handles of almost all other folding saws on the mass market. The same goes for saw blades – as with all saws they will bend with excessive force, but you should not be forcing so much that the blade bends, instead let the teeth do the work.
Overall Coghlan’s Sierra is a great folding saw if you’re looking for something lighter than similar-sized folding saws for half or a third of the price of other saws. You won’t be getting premium cutting quality of the sort that Japanese saws deliver, but for the Sierra performs just fine.
Opinel Folding Saws
Next up is a double-feature of two saws from the same brand, and that brand is Opinel. No. 12 and No. 18 refer to the length, in centimeters, of the sawblades. 12 centimeters is 5 inches and 18 centimeters is 7 inches. Both saws have beechwood handles, which is what I love about them. There’s nothing quite like a wooden handle when working outdoors, for me at least. It feels timeless. Probably romanticizing it a bit, but that’s how it is for me. But it’s not just about the wooden handles. Opinel are also highly-regarded as a toolmaker. They are based in the French Alps and have been making knives and other tools since 1890. Many people in the US and UK remember Opinel knives as the “good” knives from their childhoods. These saws are no different.
The saw blades are made of carbon steel, with a special coating that provides some protection against corrosion and rust. The sawblades are replaceable, and the Opinel No. 18 folding saw has a safety latch that will keep it firmly locked in place while in use as well, while the No. 12 has a Virobloc safety ring. They are both quite light as well – the No. 12 weighs 3.8 ounces and the No. 18 weighs 6.3 ounces.
The main drawbacks to the Opinel folding saws, I’d say, is that the saw blades will get damaged if you let moisture get to and stay on them (and carbon steel can be brittle, so care is necessary when using it), and wooden handles – especially with folding saws, where you have to fold the blade into them – can also behave strangely if they get too wet. Some people have reported receiving saws with misaligned folding (meaning the teeth dig into the wood when closing) – if that’s the case, send it back as that is a manufacturing defect.
Overall, Opinel saws are good if you’re looking for a more traditional-feel folding saw and have the extra coin to spend. If you’re looking for something that will easily take prolonged use in adverse weather conditions without a hiccup, something that is more of a “workhorse”, then I’d recommend picking the Bahco Laplander after all.
Weight: 6.3 oz
Blade length: 7 inches
Folded length: 7.15 inches
Open length: 14.15 inches.
Weight: 3.8 oz
Blade length: 5 inches
Folded length: 6.25 inches
Open length: 11.25 inches
This is a great little folding saw. The 8-inch blade is made from SK5 carbon steel, with triple-cut, hardened teeth that provides dependable cutting for a long time without the need to re-sharpen. When open, it’s just about 17 inches long, with a closed length of 9.5 inches. The EverSaw weighs 10 ounces and comes with a thermoplastic rubber handle for a firm grip and no slippage. The bright orange gear lock fixes the blade in place but also serves as a good visual marker – makes the saw hard to lose around camp and easy to find. I’m not sure where it’s manufactured, but the company is a family-owned business based in the US, and if you have any problems the seller is happy to address them or provide a replacement saw – as can be seen from the Amazon reviews!
Finally, this folding saw is great value – less than $20 – and is used by all sorts of serious institutions, including Texas Parks & Wildlife, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, California State Parks, the US Forest Service, the Bronx and Cincinnati Zoos and more. That has to count for something, right?
This saw gets an honorable mention because even though it is a bow saw, it does fold – so it is a folding bow saw and a very fine one at that. Sven saws have been made in the US for over 60 years, so they’ve got a known track record of stable quality. Unlike other saws, you can be certain that any Sven saw you buy is manufactured in a heartland of forestry in the United States – Minnesota. It’s made of all-metal and the simple, but ingenious design means that when folded, the Sven saw takes up barely any space. The saw blade and backbar slide into the handle when not in use (and the wingnut screws into place to make sure they don’t slide out), and you only have to unfold, fit the backbar into the holes on the handle, and screw in the wingnut to fixate the blade, create the iconic triangle shape, and have an incredibly rigid, sturdy, and ready-to-cut bow saw in your hand.
The Sven 15-inch folding saw weighs 11.1 ounces, which is not that much for what you’re getting – an all-metal tool that folds up to take almost no space in your pack – and can comfortably cut 4 to maybe 6-inch in diameter pieces of wood. Any bigger than that and I’d recommend going with the 21-inch Sven saw model. When ordering the base product, I’d recommend grabbing a replacement blade or two – if you haven’t used a bow saw or if you’re just unlucky you might end up bending the saw blade, and it’s always good to have a replacement at hand.
Overall I highly recommend the Sven saw, in fact if I don’t have my Bahco Laplander on me – if I want to cut bigger stuff – I’ll be carrying my Sven 21-inch saw. It hasn’t failed me so far and the design strikes a great balance between functional and portable – it’s a real bushcraft saw, perfect for extended trips to the woods or the backcountry, reliable and highly-visible, so no need to fear losing track of it. Great piece of kit.
Guide to Choosing a Folding Saw
There are some important things you should keep in mind when choosing a folding saw – such as length of the blade, weight, number of teeth per inch, availability of replacement blades, and so on. Below you’ll find the most important factors to consider when choosing a folding saw.
Intended Use for the Folding Saw
Think about what you want to use the folding saw for. It’s not worth getting a large saw if you’re only going to be cutting up small pieces of wood for the fire or for making simple structures. Likewise, if you’re going on a long hike (say, a section of the Appalachian trail), you’ll want something light, not heavy. Also, if you’re going to be using it a lot, I recommend spending the extra $10 or $20 to get a quality folding saw that you can rely on, as well as making sure that replacement blades are readily available online or in a store near you. Cheaper saws are fine for occasional use and day trips, but you want to have something good and reliable if your folding saw is going to be responsible for processing the wood for a shelter on a multi-day backcountry trip, for example.
Teeth Per Inch on the Saw Blade
This is important to think about when buying a folding saw. Do you want a finer, but slower cut, or a faster, but rougher one?
The general rule is that the more teeth per inch there are on a saw blade, the finer the end cut is, but the slower the blade will get through the wood. The less teether per inch there are, the rougher the end cut but you’ll finish it faster.
Saw Blades and Teeth for Greenwood vs Dry Wood
Teeth per inch is also important because a saw blade made for woodworking, with fine teeth and a lot of them per inch, will be a nightmare to use if you’re going to be cutting hefty greenwood with it in the outdoors. These kinds of saw blades will cut well in general, but may often get stuck and clogged up with the fibers, as tends to happen with green wood. Dry wood tends to flake and crumble, falling out and away as the teeth pass through the cut. Saw blades made for greenwood specifically have less teeth per inch (what some call a “wider rake”), and will often be specified as such on the packaging.
If you’re not sure – after all, the great outdoors contain plenty of green and dry wood alike – just get a sawblade with medium teeth. Go for the Goldilocks approach – not too many teeth per inch, not too little. I’ve found the Bahco Laplander to be very reliable for both types of wood.
Locking and Safety Mechanism
It’s convenient to have a locking mechanism on your folding saw – either single (locks only when the blade is opened) or double-locking (locks when both open and closed). With some folding saws it might be a button that you press, with others such as the Opinel No. 18 it might be a latch that you operate. Either way, it’s nice to not have to worry about the saw blade swinging down when open or out when closed.
Push or Pull?
This one you won’t have to think about too much. Most folding saws cut on the pull (as with Japanese style saws.) This allows the saw blade to be thinner, more compact. A pull-stroke cut gives you more control and allows you to make more precise cuts.
It’s important to remember to pull the saw “gently”! You don’t have to employ a lot of force to make the saw cut. Let the teeth do the work. If you force it, you’ll only get it stuck in the wood or, worse, bend the saw blade.
Replacement Blades for Folding Saws
Sooner or later something will happen that you’ll need a replacement blade. Either the teeth will go dull and you won’t be up for sharpening them, or the saw blade will bend, break, or go rusty from moisture damage – a saw blade is not forever, so you should think about whether it’s possible to replace the saw blade on your folding saw or whether you have to get a whole new folding saw in case of breakage.
Sharpening Folding Saw Blades
It’s possible, if you’re the determined type, to sharpen saw blade teeth, just as it’s possible to sharpen chainsaw chains. If you’re looking to do that, I recommend getting a Japanese saw tooth sharpener (diamond-coated, great for hardened steel) or maybe a chainsaw sharpening kit like this one (will work for a folding saw blade as well) and watching some YouTube videos on how to sharpen saw teeth. It can save you a lot of money in the long run and isn’t hard once you get the hang of it.
Good luck choosing the right folding saw for your needs!