As we saw in our article on the best folding saws, a pocket chainsaw is another popular tool for cutting some wood for a campfire or making a shelter or clearing a trail. Pocket chainsaws are extremely compact, portable and lightweight. And they are flexible enough to be used with extensions to clear high limbs and branches from the trees.
Because of their lighter weight and small packing size, pocket chainsaws are also an excellent item to have in your bug out bag or a car emergency kit.
But which are the best pocket chainsaws for camping, backpacking and survival?
In this article, we look at answering exactly the same question and share the list of best pocket chainsaws available in the market for camping and survival. We will also share some of the most important factors to consider while picking the best pocket chainsaw for your needs and share our top picks.
Do not forget to check out our article on folding saws or hatchets, if you feel those tools more suitable for your needs.
Best pocket chainsaw listSome of the best pocket chainsaws for camping, backpacking and survival are listed below:
|Picture||Product||Size & Weight||Features|
|UST SaberCut Chainsaw||24”; 4.3 oz.||- High-quality pocket chainsaw with a bi-directional, non-binding chain. - The flexible chain has a self-cleaning design. Requires minimal maintenance and can be re-sharpened using a 1/8-inch saw blade sharpener.|
- Beefy wrist straps that work well with all types of gloves on. Extendable by adding extra cordage.
- Available with or without a carrying case. The carrying case has a hook-and-loop closure.
- Backed by a limited lifetime warranty by the manufacturer.
|Sportsman Pocket Chainsaw||36”; 5 oz.||- Best-selling pocket chanisaw featuring a high-carbon heavy -gauge chain that can be re-sharpened with a 5/32 round chainsaw file.|
- Oversized cross stitched handles that are attached to the chain through metal brackets.
- Comes with a Nylon front snap storage pouch with a belt loop.
- Comes with a Magnesium Fire-Starter as an additional bonus.
- Backed by a limited lifetime warranty.
|SOS Gear Pocket Chain Saw||24”; 5 oz.||- Camo-design pocket chainsaw with a bi-directional cutting carbon steel chain blade.|
- Comes with a handy carry pouch with a belt clip.
- Comes with a Magnesium Fire-Starter+ Compass as an additional bonus.
- Backed by a limited lifetime warranty when purchased from the manufacturer.
- Also available in 36” chainsaw size.
|Chainmate Survival Pocket Chainsaw||24”; 6 oz.||- Pocket chainsaw with bi-directional, self-cleaning, heat-treated carbon steel chain blade. Original versions made in the US.|
- Every link has a blade for fast, efficient cutting.
- Features black or red oversized nylon handles for easy operation.
- Comes with a Nylon carrying pouch with a belt clip.
- Backed by a limited one-year warranty. Ensure purchase from authorized Green Mountain Products to avoid counterfeits.
- Also available in 36" and 48" sizes.
|Nordic Pocket Saw||25.6”; 4.7 oz.||- High-end, pocket chainsaw with a heat-treated carbon steel chain and nylon handles. Designed in Sweden and made in China.|
- 33 Bi-directional cutting teeth on every major link provide efficient operation.
- Comes with a soft nylon carrying case.
- Available in three colors - red, green and orange.
|Pocketech High Limb Chain Saw||48” chain + 25-ft. rope; 16.5 oz.||- High limb rope -and-chainsaw kit with 48-inch carbon steel chain with blades on both sides of the links. Chain upgraded to have more teeth per link.|
- Bi-directional cut with minimal friction and binding.
- Suitable for cutting tree limbs and branches up to 25-feet high.
- The kit comes with the chainsaw, ropes a throwing weight pouch and extra-handles.
|Sumpri pocket chainsaw||36”; 5.5 oz.||- Standard pocket chainsaw that features a high-carbon heat-treated steel chain with blades that cuts in both directions. The blades are self-cleaning|
- Over-sized, flexible nylon handles are attached to the chain through triangular metal brackets.
- Comes with a convenient carrying pouch with an attached belt loop.
- A Magnesium fire-starter is added to the kit as a bonus.
- Backed by a 30-day money back guarantee.
|Canadian Shield Camping Pocket Chainsaw||26”; 6.0 oz.||- Pocket chainsaw with bi-directional, self-cleaning style cutting teeth made of carbon steel. Blades can be resharpened using chainsaw file.|
- Has heavy-duty oversized nylon handles with strong metal brackets.
- Comes with a belt-loop carrying pouch for easy carry.
- Backed by a limited lifetime warranty and money back commitment.
What is a pocket chainsaw and why do I need one?
A pocket chainsaw is a compact wood cutting tool that essentially consists of a wood-cutting chain with handles attached on each side. The chain is similar to the one used in a motor-powered chainsaw. The chainsaw is powered by your effort by pushing-and-pulling the chainsaw across a log with a combination of your hands and torso.
Pocket chainsaws are available in different lengths and cutting lengths. Standard 24-inch chainsaws can cut logs up to 3-inch in diameter, while bigger chainsaws can handle logs up to 8-10 inches in diameter. Some chainsaws such as the PockeTech High Limb Hand Chain Saw even have a rope attached to the chain to allow cutting of bigger logs and high tree limbs.
Most pocket chainsaws cut in both directions, so they are very efficient in cutting through the wood. Most pocket chainsaws are also advertised to work with bones and soft metal, though they are generally not very functional in such circumstances.
Pocket chainsaws are also very compact and considerably lighter than folding or bow saws. They are, however, one level up over the ultralight wire saws which you find in the emergency kits.
Some of the things you can do with a pocket chainsaw are:
- Cut a deadwood log to collect firewood
- Cut lumber at ground level for shelters
- Clear heavy brushes and trim branches in tight places.
- Clear a trail or campsite
If you are going to use a pocket chainsaw to cut through a standing tree, you need to be wary and careful about which side the log would fall on. So if you are in doubt, use a high-limb chainsaw like the PockeTech High Limb Hand Chain Saw or add additional rope to your pocket chainsaw.
The major pros and cons of the pocket chainsaws are summarized below:
- Extremely lightweight and compact. Do not take a lot of packing space.
- Bi-directional cutting produces precise and faster cuts.
- Available in different lengths to handle bigger logs. Improvisation by attaching a rope to reach higher limbs is also possible.
- Unlike folding saws, most chainsaws can be re-sharpened using a standard chainsaw sharpening file of the correct size.
- Most models are cheaper than folding and other types of portable saws.
- Require some skill and effort from both hands.
- Because of the design and operation, the chain can bind as the cutting angle decreases.
- Durability can be an issue with cheap models. So go with standard models listed here.
Unless you are going to do serious wood cutting during your outdoor trip, or process bones and limbs after hunting that warrants carrying a folding saw, you can consider carrying a pocket chainsaw with a knife for the cutting activities that you would need to do during a camping or backpacking trip. Such chainsaws are also a perfect backup for an axe or hatchet if you prefer to carry one.
In the next sections, we will look at some of the major factors to consider before picking the best pocket chainsaws for camping, backpacking or other outdoor activities and share our top picks.
How to pick the best pocket chainsaw for your needs?
Whether you are looking for a pocket chainsaw for rigorous use or as an emergency tool in your bug-out bag, you need to pick a saw that is efficient in cutting wood, durable, lightweight and compact. Before picking the best pocket chainsaw for camping and survival, you should consider the following major factors:
- Chain design and build
- Size and Weight of the chainsaw
- Handle design and build
- Additional features and considerations
Chain Design and build
Needless to say, the cutting chain of a pocket chainsaw is its most important part. So, the build quality and design of the chain is the first thing that you should look at, as it governs the performance and durability of the tool.
Most of the options that we listed have a heavy-duty chain made with high carbon steel and having blades around the links (every second or third chain strand, with the exception of LivWild Camping Pocket Chainsaw which has blades on each link). The best chains are the ones coated with a black oxide coating to reduce corrosion and minimize friction. Furthermore, the chains in most pocket chainsaws can be re-sharpened.
Most chains have blades that are aligned alternatively towards one of the sides. The only exception is the PockeTech High Limb Hand Chain Saw, which has blades on each side of the link so you get more blades in the chain irrespective of the side the chain lands on the log.
The best chainsaws are bi-directional and designed to cut in both pull and push motion – making them pretty efficient in cutting through bigger logs. Moreover, the cutting angle on the blades defines whether they are self-cleaning, so pick an option which is self-cleaning as they would require less maintenance.
We especially liked the chains in our top picks – UST SaberCut Chainsaw and Sportsman Pocket Chainsaw. The chain in the UST SaberCut looked and felt most like that in any other motorized chainsaw and can be re-sharpened easily.
Check out the building material of the chain, the thickness of the chain and the design and alignment of the blades to pick a chainsaw which can provide an efficient cut with minimal effort.
Size and weight of the chainsaw
The size of a pocket chainsaw is expressed in terms of the length of chain. The longer the chain, the more cutting power it has and the bigger diameter-wood it can handle. Just remember that if you get a longer chain, you would need to apply more effort in each stroke to run the chainsaw through the wood. Moreover, longer chain means a heavier chainsaw.
Pocket chainsaws with a 24-26-inch chain are good enough to handle wood up to 3-3.5 inch in diameter, while 36-inch chain chainsaws can handle 4-5 inch logs while larger chains can handle bigger logs. So, depending upon the size of wood that you expect to process, you can pick the suitable model. Pocket chainsaws such as Chainmate Survival Pocket Chain Saw and SOS Gear Pocket Chainsaw are available in different sizes, so you can pick the appropriate one from the same manufacturer.
Handle design and build
The other important part of a pocket chainsaw, except for its chain is the handle. Ensure that the chainsaw has high-quality, oversized nylon handles that are durably attached to the chain through metal brackets. Extra-large size means that you can operate the chainsaw even with winter gloves on. Moreover, beefy hand straps such as those in UST SaberCut allow you to extend the length of the saw by attaching an additional rope to the handles.
Many cheaper models have flimsy fabric handles which cannot withstand the rigors of continuous push-and-pull and hence should be avoided.
Check out the design and build of handle straps before picking a specific pocket chainsaw. You can generally get some details on this from the videos of the product or the product Q&A section.
Additional features and miscellaneous considerations
In addition to the major criteria discussed above, there are some other miscellaneous considerations that can make a particular purchase more suitable for your needs.
The reputation of the manufacturer, customer service and warranty on the chainsaw is probably the most important additional consideration. Most options that we have listed are established names in the market and provide excellent lifetime warranties and after-sales services, so you can pick any of them without a worry about quality and reliability of the product. Just make sure that the product that you get is actually from the advertised manufacturer. (This is the primary reason why we did not list the Chainmate Survival Pocket Chain Saw as our top pick as many people reported of getting a counterfeit model.)
Another factor to look at is the quality of the carrying case that comes with the pocket chainsaw. Most of the options that we listed come with a Nylon carrying case with a belt loop or buckle for easy transportation. While all the chainsaw covers did have a not-so-royal look-and-feel, we did like the sheath that comes with the UST SaberCut Chainsaw. It is made of ballistic Nylon and features a belt buckle and loop both.
Finally, the availability of additional accessories such as fire-starters (Sportsman Pocket Chainsaw) and blankets can sweeten the deal.
You can look at all these additional factors to determine if they make a pocket chainsaw a better choice for your needs.
Which are the best pocket chainsaws for camping, backpacking and survival?
UST SaberCut Chainsaw review – Editor’s pick for the best pocket chainsaw for camping
If you are looking for a lightweight pocket chainsaw that is both efficient and durable, then you should look at the SaberCut chainsaw by Ultimate Survival Technologies (UST).
The SaberCut features a 24-inch flexible chain that is made of high-quality carbon steel and looks very much like the chain of a motorized chainsaw. It is made in China, but under strict quality control, so you would not see any quality issues with the build of the chainsaw. The chain is coated with black oxide to prevent corrosion and also reduce friction while cutting. The chainsaw on its own weighs a mere 4.3 ounces, which is lighter than some other pocket saws in the market.
The chain is bi-directional, meaning it cuts in both pull and push motion and the blades are advertised to be self-cleaning and non-binding. That essentially means that it does bind while cutting, but much less than some other pocket chainsaws.
The SaberCut features comfortably-sized Nylon wrist-straps that are attached to the chain through metal brackets. The straps are designed to take some abuse and the saw is extendable by adding some extra cordage to each handle.
The pocket saw is designed to cut limbs and branches at a variety of angles without a fuss. And one of the best features of the SaberCut chainsaw is that it can be re-sharpened using a standard 1/8-inch saw blade sharpener.
The UST SaberCut pocket saw is available with or without a carrying case, though we recommend going with the carrying case. The cover is made of Ballistic Nylon and features a hook-and-loop closure and a belt buckle. It is not exactly the fanciest sheath, but it is much better than most other carrying cases.
The UST SaberCut is backed by a limited lifetime warranty by the manufacturer, a testament to its superior quality.
- High-quality bi-directional, non-binding chain made with black oxide coated carbon steel.
- The chain is self-cleaning and requires minimal maintenance. Can be re-sharpened using a chainsaw sharpener.
- Oversized Nylon handles that are securely attached to the chain.
- High-quality Nylon sheath comes with a hook-and-loop closure and belt buckle.
- Backed by a limited lifetime warranty and superior customer support service.
- Thicker blade requires more effort and re-sharpening after 8-9 uses.
- Costlier than some other pocket chainsaws.
Sportsman Pocket Chainsaw review – Editor’s pick for the best pocket chainsaw for camping and survival
The pocket chainsaw by the Sportsman Industries Ltd. is another excellent pocket saw for backcountry activities especially wilderness survival camping.
The Sportsman Pocket Chainsaw features a 36-inch cutting chain that is made from high-quality heat-treated carbon steel. The chain is designed to provide bi-directional cutting on all the three sides of the wooden limb. The chainsaw can be sharpened with a standard 5/32-inch chainsaw sharpener.
A longer chain means that more teeth run through the wood resulting in faster cutting times. However, a longer chain also means that you have to apply more effort while cutting. It weighs an ultralight 4.8 ounces without the carrying case.
The Sportsman chainsaw comes with heavy-duty rugged nylon handles which are reliably attached to the chain through triangular metal brackets. The default handle color is black, though a Camo-print option is also available.
The Sportsman Pocket Chainsaw comes with a Toughed Nylon front snap storage pouch with a belt loop. And to sweeten the deal, a magnesium fire-starter is also included in the package.
The Sportsman Pocket Chainsaw is backed by a lifetime money-back guarantee by the manufacturer and a superior customer service.
- Decent quality chainsaw with a 36-inch heat-treated carbon steel chain.
- Longer chain allows it to cut larger logs. The chain cuts bi-directional and can be re-sharpened using a chainsaw sharpener.
- Oversized tough Nylon handles that are securely attached to chain through triangular metal brackets
- Comes with a nylon sheath and a magnesium fire-starter.
- Backed by a lifetime money-back guarantee and an excellent customer support service.
- Longer chain means more effort is required during cutting.
- The chain binds a little more than the UST SaberCut chainsaw.
As mentioned above, there is another type of pocket saw which is lighter and more compact than the chainsaw – the commando wire saw. These tools are commonly found in most emergency survival kits. These wire-saws can cut through wood, bones, and soft metals such as aircraft aluminum. Another advantage of these wire saws is that they can be used to build a makeshift bow saw. However, they are not as efficient or durable as the pocket chainsaws that we listed above (the wire has a tendency to break and bend).
Still, if you are looking for an ultralight sawing tool, we would suggest the following which are some of the best wire saws. Avoid picking up any other cheaper wire saws as they are not as durable or efficient:
- Best Glide ASE Adventurer Spiral Wire Saw: The best commando wire saw. Made in the USA stainless steel wire saw with a 24-inch spiral cutting wire. Can cross-cut through wood, bones and soft metal. It’s a heavier version of the pocket wire saw used by the US military.
- Rothco Commando Wire Saw: Another popular wire saw that can cut through softwood and bones.
Recommended accessories to use with pocket chainsaws
Now that we have looked at some of the best pocket chainsaws for camping and survival, let us look at some of the accessories that you might consider with such tools.
Considering that you need some skills and use of both hands to process wood using a pocket chainsaw, it is necessary that you wear cut resistant protection gloves which cutting wood to prevent one side of the chainsaw injuring your other hand. 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 chainsaw blades sharp, wipe it with a microfiber cloth, apply some WD-40 machine oil and let it air dry. You can also use a brush to remove the wood chips and moss from the chainsaw. If the handle of the pocket chainsaw shows signs of wear or the chainsaw blades become irregular or blunt, you can use a standard chainsaw file sharpener to sharpen it. You would just need to check which size of file would be best suited for your chainsaw (1/8, 5/32 etc.)
Final thoughts on the best pocket chainsaws for camping, backpacking and survival
Processing wood is one of the most integral activities for a backpacking, bushcraft or survival camping trip. You may have to clear a blocked trail or cut wood to build a shelter or to burn a fire for cooking or warmth. There are a lot of tools available for processing wood, each with its own advantages and disadvantages – hatchets, knives, machete and saws.
In this article, we looked at one of the lightest tool for processing wood in the wilderness – the pocket chainsaw. A pocket chainsaw is efficient yet extremely compact and lightweight tool. We focused on only listing out the options which are durable and efficient and stayed away from the cheap stuff available in the market. The options we listed are also lightweight and reliable enough to be part of your bug out bag or car emergency kit.
We hope that this article would help you pick the best pocket chainsaw for your next camping or backpacking trip. Do let us know your feedback by providing your valuable comments below. Until next time, happy camping!
2 thoughts on “Best pocket chainsaws for camping, backpacking and survival in 2021”
Are all these reviews independent or sponsored as my details seem to come up automatically without me putting them in so there must be a common link somewhere ?
The most important aspect of a pocket chainsaw [as with any saw] is that it does NOT bind. Cutting branches 12ft up a green tree is made impossible if the saw binds so you can’t get through the branch. Please make this a top feature of your editor’s choice
The reviews are indeed independent, though the content writers do refer to high-quality content and videos in the posts. If there is any content that is not properly attributed to you, drop us a note and we will act accordingly.
Regarding binding of saws, you are absolutely right. Binding is the primary reason why not all chainsaws are not made equal. Some bind lesser than others. We will review the content and update it to cover this information in as many words.