Despite recommending that you read Hatchet, we don’t actually recommend that you bring a hatchet (or an ax, for that matter) on your next Boundary Waters or Quetico trip. Although packing an ax might seem like a no-brainer, we feel strongly that much better tools for easy firewood production.
Unless you’re cooking all your meals over a campfire, you probably won’t need enough firewood during your trip to justify the risk that comes with operating an ax in a wilderness area. In 2016, two different groups that outfitted through Tuscarora had to ended their trips early due to injury. Both of those injuries were caused by an ax. Axes don’t only cause bodily harm, when strapped to the outside of portage packs which are then dropped into floating Kevlar canoes, an edge of the ax head often damages the canoe’s foam core.
If you’re gathering firewood that’s dead, down, and wrist-size or smaller as per the Boundary Waters rules and regulations, you won’t even need to split your firewood while you’re in the woods. For the most efficient and safe firewood gathering in the BWCA, your best friend is the folding hand saw.
In recent years, we’ve come to depend on a cadre of Silky brand folding saws for our firewood and brushing needs. As you can see above, we’ve accumulated quite a collection. A Japanese company, Silky is known for producing high quality, efficient, and smooth cutting handsaws.
For Boundary Waters trips, the Big Boy Silky Saw pictured in the middle of the above photo with the orange handle is your most practical option. (In fact, it’s the saw that Amy and Dave Freeman used during their “Year in the Wilderness” back in 2015/16.) The Big Boy weighs less than a pound and folds down to 15 inches. We find the extra large teeth blades work best for slicing through Northwoods brush, but you can choose from extra fine, medium, and large teeth blades as well.
Before this post just turns into an infomercial, let’s bullet point what we appreciate about Silky saws:
- Good ergonomics – the saw is designed to do its cutting when you pull the blade back towards your body which lessens body strain and allows you to make quick work of your firewood gathering.
- Easy open, easy close – While it can feel like you need an engineering degree to assemble some of the lightweight folding saws on the market, the Silky saws simply pull open and shut like a pocket knife.
- Replacement options – You can buy replacement blades for about half the price of the actual saw. You just need a flat head screwdriver to switch out blades.
- Safety first – These saws won’t fly out of your hands and land into your foot. And because the blade is securely tucked into its handle when not in use, you don’t have to worry about anyone accidentally cutting them when it’s not in use.
- Economical – The Big Boy retails at about $70.00. And because they’re easy to safely operate, you might even avoid a few insurance co-pays too!
Here’s a short video of the Silky saw in action: