5 Best Pocket Chainsaws – for Bushcraft & Camping 2023

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What Is a Pocket Chainsaw?

That’s a common question, well a pocket chainsaw could be one of the most useful bits of bushcraft kit you did not know you needed.
So what is it? Well, it’s a length of chainsaw chain around 24-36 inches with a handle at both ends that will fit in your pocket, to put it simply. That simplicity does not mean it’s not a performer when it comes to cutting ability. 

A pocket chainsaw will happily chew its way through an 8-10 inch log with ease. With a larger 36 inch saw and two people, logs of around 14 inches are achievable, so for their size, these little hand chainsaws certainly pack a punch. Read on to find out more about these great portable small saws.

Who Needs a Pocket Chainsaw?

To put it broadly, anyone who enjoys going out in the outdoors may have a use for a hand chainsaw. If you are into bushcraft, you will find no end of use for a hand chainsaw.

A hiker may also like to carry a pocket saw for emergency use. Pocket chain saws also make great survival saws due to their size they will easily fit in most bugout bags with ease. They are also great to leave in a vehicle as a backup. Hand chainsaws can also be used around the garden.

Are There Other Types of Small Pocket Saws?

Yes, the most common being the folding pruning saw – see our guide on folding saws HERE.

There are also the fixed blade silky type saws. Another option if you go for some of the smaller models are bow saws – see our guide on bow saws Here

After that, I think you are down to saws you may find on other tools such as a swiss army knife, if that’s not your thing and are still looking for the best hand chainsaw take a look at some of the points below.

What to Look for When Buying a Pocket Chainsaw? – Some Key Points

Everyone is different in what they look for in the bushcraft/camping kit they buy, some may want super lightweight, some may not care about weight but instead just want a budget-friendly option others may just want the best pocket chainsaw money can buy. Whatever it is you are going for I will try to cover it below here.

  • Weight

Most pocket chainsaws weigh around the 150g mark so are a great option over heavier saws such as folding saws that are closer to around the 500g mark, bow saws at around 600-800g depending on the model. So as you can see, a pocket chainsaw is a great lightweight option for a pocket saw.

  • Size of Chain

The size of chain you go for will depend on the jobs you have in mind for your saw, if you are only cutting up small limbs and branches a 24-inch chain will be fine, but if you plan to tackle larger jobs, I would definitely go for a 36-inch chainsaw. A 36-inch pocket chainsaw also gives you the option to use it with two people for larger jobs easily.

  • Handle

This is down to the individual. I personally like the paracord/nylon handles that you can put your hands through this gives a much firmer grip of the saw and avoids grip fatigue during more extended periods of use. The paracord/nylon handles also pack down much smaller and more manageable than plastic handles if space is an issue.

  • Direction of Cut

Some pocket chainsaws have bi directional blades will cut in both directions, and this can be a great advantage as it will speed up the cutting process and avoids wasted energy. So this may be something for you to look out for when picking a pocket chainsaw.

How to Use a Pocket Chainsaw?

pocket chainsaw

A pocket chainsaw is easy to use and comes into its own when the branches are still attached to the tree, as you will not need to steady them to make the cut. You can still use the saw on loose branches with no problem with the correct technique.

To use a hand chainsaw on a loose branch, you will need to first find or cut a small log of around 4-5 inch diameter to use as a rest; this is to keep the loose branch up off the floor to allow you to make the cut. Start with your rest log at 90 degrees to your body, then lay your log/branch over it to the size you want to cut. 

Wrap the saw blade around the log and place your foot on the branch to steady it, begin pulling back and forth with the saw and watch as your pocket chainsaw chews through the log with ease. Rinse and repeat, and you will have enough wood for your fire in no time.

When cutting branches from trees above you, be mindful of the branch falling down onto you as the saw does require both hands to use, so you will not have a free hand to steady the branch to prevent it from hitting you. I tend not to cut anything above shoulder height if I can help it; this is the safest option as it prevents head injury.

Can You Sharpen a Pocket Chainsaw?

YES. I see no reason you can not sharpen a pocket chainsaw, as it’s the exact same chainsaw blades used on the larger petrol chainsaws. You will need a set of chainsaw sharpening files and a vice to hold your chainsaw blade steady for sharpening. Here is an excellent video of how to sharpen a chainsaw blade.

How to Maintain a Pocket Chainsaw?

Again if we look at its bigger brother the petrol chainsaw, they use oil during the cut to continually keep the chain lubricated. This is not so much of a problem on a pocket chainsaw as it’s not getting the same amount of wear. Regular Maintainance of any tool is needed to keep them in tip-top working condition for when you need them most, a hand chain saw only needs some basic Maintainance to see it last you for years to come.

After every other use just careful clean with a stiff brush to remove wood chips, then give the whole length of the blade a good coat of quality oil, I like to use Ballistol for all of my tool maintenance.

Anything to Avoid When Buying a Hand Chainsaw?

  • Wire type commando saws – in a pinch they could be used, but for the most part, I find them almost useless as they jam up in the cut quite a lot and end up frustrating to use, so I tend to avoid them there are much better hand chainsaws out there.
    Also compared to a pocket chain saw, you stand more chance of starting a friction fire with a wire saw than cutting wood!  
  • This is a personal choice, but I’m not a fan of saws with large plastic handles as I said above.
    You can get grip fatigue when using them for long periods, and they can also cause blisters in some cases, not what you want out in the woods.

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