For a serious camper, backpacker or survivalist, cutting some wood for a fire, making a shelter or clearing up the trail is an integral part of the backcountry adventure. In some of our previous articles, we have looked at a bunch of tools that can help in this task – fixed blade knives, axes, hatchets and saws. So far we have looked at a couple of type of saws – folding saws and pocket chainsaw.
In this article, we look at another type of portable saw for camping and other wilderness adventures – the folding bow saw. These saws are most similar to the saws you would find with everyday woodsmen, with the difference that they are portable and lighter in weight. Bow saws provide better control and efficiency while handling bigger logs of wood, but are heavier than other portable saws and require more space. We will also look at some of the factors to consider while picking the best option for your needs and share our top picks.
Do check out our detailed article on the best folding saws if you are looking for a primary wood processing saw for your needs.
Best folding bow saw listSome of the best folding bow saws for camping, backpacking and survival are listed below:
|Agawa Canyon BOREAL21 Folding Saw||C: 23" x 1.8" x 1.8"|
|17 oz.||- Innovative folding saw with an anodized aluminum frame and stainless steel hardware. Made in Canada.|
- Unique triple-hinged trapezium-shape that opens in seconds and does not require blade tensioning.
- Glass-filled nylon handle that is durable, weather resistant and ergonomic.
- When disassembled, the blade is completely concealed in the handle for safe carrying.
- Available in multiple color combinations - black-green; clear-green and black-yellow.
- Saw body is backed by limited lifetime warranty.
- Can work with standard 21” blades.
|Sven Folding Saw||C: 17" x 1.5" x 0.56" |
O: 17" x 15" x 13"
|14 oz.||- Popular hybrid folding bow saw with an anodized aluminum alloy frame imported Swedish steel blade. Made in the US.|
- Unique triangular design with the frame extending below the blade to provide superior grip. Provides two cutting angles.
- Easy to assemble and extremely portable. The blade folds into the handle, which acts as a protective sheath.
- Limited lifetime warranty on the frame.
- A bigger, 21" blade version is also available.
- Requires special Sven Saw blades.
|Gerber Freescape Camp Saw||C: 13.8” x 1.8” x 1.1”|
O: 14.5” x 7.0 x 1.1”
|14.8 oz.||- Small-sized folding bow saw with a skeleton CR-13 steel frame.|
- Unique trapezoid design with four pivot points provides effective sawing even on large diameter logs.
- Features an all-weather, rubberized, ergonomic glass-filled Nylon handle.
- Easy to fold. The blade is protected in the handle.
- 25-year warranty on the frame.
- Can work with standard 12" blades.
|Filzer Buckster Bow Saw||C: 19" x 1.4" x 1.4"|
|17.6 oz.||- Uniquely designed bow saw with an all-aluminum frame and stainless steel tensioning system.|
- Collapses down to a self-contained cylindrical tube.
- Features an insulated rubber handle.
- Needs special Buckster blades with plastic ends.
|Coghlan's Folding Saw||C: 22.5" x 2.8" x 1"|
|16 oz.||- Budget folding saw with a rugged anodized aluminum alloy frame and plastic set screws. Made in Canada.|
- Integrated triangular design with no loose parts. The blade folds completely in the frame, which has space for additional blades.
- Features a polymer plastic handle.
- Backed by a one-year manufacturer warranty.
- Can work with standard 21" blades.
|Outdoor Edge Pack Saw||C: 17.8” x 2” x 1.2”|
|14 oz.||- Standard trapezoid folding bow saw with a steel frame and polymer plastic covered blade holders. |
- Features a Nylon glass polymer handle with steel tubing.
- - Comes with a Nylon storage bag and 3-replaceable blades for wood, bone and metal.
- The frame has a limited lifetime manufacturer warranty.
- Can work with standard 12" blades.
|Zippo AxeSaw||C: 20.3” x 8.6” x 1.6”|
|32 oz.||- A 4-in-1 woodsman tool that is a 13.5" hatchet, saw and tent stake puller and hammer.|
- Features a 5-inch full tang 420 stainless steel axe blade. The axe-head sheath also acts as a saw handle.
- The axe handle can securely store the blade when not in use.
- Heavier weight means sawing would require some extra effort.
- Limited lifetime warranty.
- Requires a special 15" stainless steel replacement blade.
What is a bow saw and why do you need one?
A bow saw is a special type of cross-cutting saw that consists of a durable metal frame with a long, blade attached between the sides of the frame. The blade is tensioned to provide precise, deep cuts in each stroke. It gets its name from the common bow shape these saws generally have.
Foldable bow saws are portable and can be disassembled and reassembled quickly for transportation. Moreover, since the blades are replaceable, you can carry specialized blades to handle different types of woods (green vs dry wood), bones and materials.
Bow saws provide more control and are generally faster and more efficient in handling bigger diameter wooden logs than folding or chainsaws. They can also work well with bones, plastic and soft metal sheets.
The bow saws are probably the heaviest types of saws for backcountry activities and hence should be considered only if you expect to process some large diameter logs and bones during your trip such as cutting thick logs for setting up a base camp, clearing fallen trees and branches from the trail or cutting through bones of a hunted game animal.
For most other softwood processing, you are better off carrying a folding saw like the Bahco Laplander or a hatchet.
To summarize, the major pros and cons of folding bow saws for camping and survival are listed below:
How to pick the best folding bow saw for your needs?
While there are only a limited number of decent folding bow saws available in the market, picking the best one for your needs requires you to keep the following factors in mind, in addition to the budget considerations you might have:
- Frame build and design
- Tensioning mechanism
- Size and Weight of the saw
- Replacement blades
- Warranty and additional considerations
Frame build and design
The frame of the folding bow saw is its most important part. After all, you need a bow saw that is sturdy enough to work like a regular bow saw and be still light and compact.
In order to keep the weight to a minimum, the frames of most folding bow saws are made of anodized high-strength aluminum alloy. The exception are the Gerber Freescape Camp Saw, which has a skeleton CR-13 steel frame, and the Outdoor Edge Pack Saw. We especially liked the build of our top pick Agawa Canyon BOREAL21 Folding Saw which boasted of a high-quality aluminum frame with stainless steel pivot hardware instead of polymer or plastic, making it extremely sturdy.
In addition to the frame, you need to check out how the handle is built. A glass-reinforced Nylon handle makes operating the saw in wet weathers a lot easier. All models except for the Sven Saw do provide a Nylon, plastic or foam handle to make it easier to hold the saw when operating. The Sven has a unique frame, wherein the aluminum part acts as the handle.
Closely related to the frame build is its foldable design. The folding bow saws are either triangular-shaped, like the Sven, or trapezoid like the Boreal21. Both these shapes offer ample differential tensioning of the blades.
In order for the bow saws to be portable, they have to fold easily and assemble quickly. All our picks, except the Filzer Buckster Bow Saw, fold into themselves with the blade securely concealed in the frame. This makes transportation easy. Assembling is not an issue with most saws, though the Boreal21 and Gerber Freescape are probably the easiest to deploy quickly.
Check out the frame material and folding design to determine its durability and ease of use.
Considering the fact that a bow saw has a blade tensioned between two ends, how well such a saw would cut depends upon the ability of the blade to stay tensioned between the frames.
To provide tensioning, most folding saws provide a tensioning system with a wingnut screw that can be tightened without using a tool. This loose part may sometimes become a hassle in case you lose it in the field. The Boreal21 Saw stands out in this regard as it is advertised to provide automatic tensioning. Another nice tensioning system is provided by the Filzer Buckster, which uses a separate stainless steel wire to control tensioning of the blade.
Check out the tensioning mechanism in the saw to ensure that your blade would be tightly aligned in the saw.
Size and weight of the saw
The size and weight of the saw are also an important criteria to consider. There is often a trade-off between the functionality desired and the size of the saw.
The folding bow saws that we listed range from ones with a 12-inch blade to 21-inch blade. The larger the size, the bigger diameter log the saw can process. The most popular size among backpackers and survivalists is the 15-inch as such saws are capable of handling most of the wood-sizes you would need to deal with in the wilderness and not need to carry a bigger, heavier saw.
The folding size of the saw is also important. While most saws are compact, the popular Sven Folding Saw is probably the best in this category as it can fold down to a minimal, easy-to-store size.
Closely related with the size of the saw is its weight. The weight of folding bow saws varies anywhere from 14 ounces to 18 ounces (the Zippo AxeSaw is, of course, an exception as it is a saw + hatchet)
Bigger the frame, heavier the saw will be, so unless you expect to process larger logs of wood or bigger animal bones, consider picking a 15-inch bow saw.
The availability of different types of replacement blades – wet wood blades, coarse cut blades, meat blades etc. is also something to look at, especially if the model requires manufacturer specific blades.
Model-specific blades are generally costly and more difficult to find. For example, the Sven Saw requires special Sven Saw blades only (because of the popularity of Sven saw, such blades readily available online and in hardware stores), while our other top pick, the Boreal can work with any standard 21-inch blades as well.
Make sure you check what type of replacement blades your saw would require. If it requires model-specific blades only, consider getting an additional one with the saw itself.
Warranty and additional considerations
The reputation of the manufacturer, customer service and warranty on the folding saw is probably the most important additional consideration to look at. Most of the options that we have listed are established names in the market, with the top picks- Sven Saw and Agawa Canyon Boreal21, offering an excellent lifetime warranty on the frames. We also liked the personalized attention that their customer services are famous for providing.
The color combination of the bow saw is also something you may want to consider if you are worried about losing them on the trip. A vibrant color combination is easily noticeable, so you would not miss the saw around your campsite.
Another factor to look is if the saw comes with any additional accessories that are available in the market such as sheath and replacement parts etc.
You can look at all these additional factors to determine if they make a specific folding bow saw a better choice for your needs.
Which are the best folding bow saws for camping and survival?
Agawa Canyon BOREAL21 Folding Saw review – Editor’s pick for the best folding bow saw for camping
If you are looking for a bow saw to add to your camping or survival kit, it is very likely that you need something that works really well with different types of wood 6-inches or more in diameter, while being portable enough to carry around in your backpack. If so, Agawa Canyon Boreal21 Folding Saw is exactly what you should check out for such needs and more.
The Agawa Canyon Boreal21 Folding Saw came out of a successful Kickstarter program and is now one of the top selling folding bow saws available in the market. It is manufactured in Canada.
This innovative folding saw features an anodized aluminum alloy frame which is triple-hinged with three pivot points. All the hardware points in the saw are high-quality stainless steel. This means that you do not need to worry about the rust setting in the joints after years of use.
The Boreal folds down to a small rod, about 23-inches in length. It takes a 21-inch blade and weighs a reasonable 17 ounces.
When opened, the saw creates a trapezoid with the frame, blade and handle. The handle is Glass-filled Nylon (GFN) and feels solid and comfortable in hand and is suitable for use in all weather conditions and with or without gloves on.
Assembling the saw is especially easy – simply swing the blade around to unfold the hinged components and tighten the end point lever. They are no external parts. And another nifty design feature is that the blade is tensioned automatically as you tighten the lever. Pretty neat!
When folded down, the blade is securely concealed in the frame, so it is convenient to carry around. The manufacturer also offers a bundled option that comes with the saw, an additional blade and a shoulder leather sheath.
The Boreal comes with an all-purpose blade includes which is high-quality carbon steel. The manufacturer provides two other options – a dry wood blade or the more aggressive Sidney Rancher blade. You can also use any other standard 21-inch blade with this folding saw. Because of its 21-inch blade, the Boreal21 can handle pretty big logs, up to 10+ inches in diameter.
The Boreal21 is available in three vibrant color combinations – black-green; clear-green and black-yellow. And the saw body is backed by a limited lifetime warranty which is a testament to its exceptional quality.
Sven Folding Saw review – Best value pick for the folding bow saw
If you are looking for a compact, lightweight saw which performs like a bow saw but packs like a folding saw, then you should consider getting the hugely popular the 15-inch Sven Folding Saw. Despite not being the cheapest, it is our best value pick. After all, this saw has over 50 years of experience behind it.
This made in the US (it is assembled in Minnesota) saw was originally designed as a 21-inch saw, but later a smaller 15-inch version was released to cater to the demands of outdoor backpackers and bushcrafters.
The Sven saw features an anodized aluminum alloy frame with stainless steel fittings. The 15-inch version weighs as little as 14 oz. and packs up almost flat. The blade is securely stowed in the frame when packed and there is enough space for an additional blade.
The saw relies on a high-quality, Swedish steel blade that is precision-made in Denmark. Each blade has a uniquely shaped bolt attached to it. One of the limitations of this saw is that it only uses special Sven Saw replacement blades. The blade can be attached in one of the two holes provided in the frame and tightened using a wing nut. This wing nut is the only external part that you would need to take care of. In case you lose it, you can get a 5/16 inch-18 thread wing nut from the local hardware store.
The Sven saw has a smart triangular design with the frame extending below the blade to provide better control. It does not have a separate handle and the shorter aluminum side acts as a metallic handle. It is designed to handle even the toughest sawing jobs with ease – the 15-inch saw can easily cut logs up to 6-7 inches in diameter.
Each Sven Saw is backed by a limited lifetime warranty and an excellent customer service, so you can expect one to last for a long time.
Recommended Accessories to use along a folding bow saw
Now that we have looked at some of the best folding bow saws, let us look at some of the accessories that you might consider with such tools.
The most common accessory you would need with these saws is replacement blades. Most of the manufacturers that we listed above offer their own branded replacement blades, though you can always pick some generic blades online or from your local hardware store for folding saws that do not require specialized blades.
Considering that you need some skills and use of both hands to process wood using a bow saw, it is recommended that you wear cut resistant protection gloves which cutting wood to prevent any injury. Some of the best budget options to consider are listed below:
You should also wear goggles while cutting lumber and logs to prevent the saw dust from ending up in your eyes. Some of the best budget options to consider are:
In order to keep your saw blades sharp, clean it up after every use by wiping it with a microfiber cloth, applying some WD-40 oil and letting it air dry. You can also use a tooth-brush to remove the wood chips and moss from the saw blade. And if you are going to stowaway your bow saw for a long time, consider covering the blade of the saw with a discarded cloth or a piece of old garden hose cut down in half.
Final thoughts on the best folding bow saws
Processing wood is one of the most integral activities for a backpacking, bushcraft or survival camping trip. There are a lot of tools available for chopping and cutting wood, each with its own advantages and disadvantages – hatchets, knives, machete, and saws.
In this article, we looked at the heaviest, yet the most efficient type of saw for processing wood – the folding bow saw. These saws are most similar to the saws you would find with everyday woodsmen and are very efficient at handling larger logs of wood. They are perfect for setting up a base camp, clearing felled branches and cutting through bones and plastic. The options that we listed are compact and can be disassembled for transportation.
We hope that you found this article useful in picking the best bow saw for your needs. Do let us know your feedback by providing your valuable comments below. Until next time, happy wilderness exploration!