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Lightweight and cheap hand saw for your bug out bag

In a forum post that I can’t seem to find now, a member shared the World’s Lightest Backpacking Saw. Coming in at only 3.95 oz (112g) this minimalist collapsible saw would be a great addition to throw in a bug out bag. However, this commercial product is no longer being made. So if I wanted one, I was going to have to make one myself. 

I am going to share two designs that I came up with so this type of saw will be accessible to those on a tight budget with no tools to work with or if you want some additional features, you can take it to the next level. Video of completed product at the end of this post.

Design #1 – Cheap, quick, and minimal.

Design 1 parts

For this first model, you will need to get a 9” or 12” sawzall blade from the hardware store ($4-$8), a 9.25” long ½” diameter PVC pipe ($3) (they can help you cut it at the hardware store or you can use your saw blade), a piece of paracord, and a small stick the length and diameter of your finger.

This is really easy. Thread the paracord through the hole in the saw blade, stick the paracord through the pipe, tie a knot at the end, thread the stick through the hole of the paracord knot and twist until the blade is firm in there.

design 1 threading

Design 1 assembled

That’s it!

Design #2 – Slightly more expensive, requires more tools, but has more features

Design 2

This design does require a bit more work, but is far superior in my opinion. One of the things I didn’t like about the commercial product and Design #1 is that you had to store your blade next to the handle and it had potential for cutting up other gear in your pack. I wanted a larger diameter tube in Design #2 to be more comfortable in the hand, and offer a storage space for the saw blade inside. 

With the larger diameter tube however, the saw blade would just slip through. To fix this, take a ½ inch diameter 1” long piece of PVC pipe, sanding down the outside until it fits snuggly inside the ¾” pipe, and apply some PVC glue to keep it secure. By doing this, it creates the necessary diameter for the saw to sit in while still maintaining the ability to store the saw inside the handle. An additional modification that I did with Design #2 is to cut slits in the ½ inch pipe so that the blade has a secure slot to sit in and won’t spin around when you are tightening down the rope.

cuts

You can just stick with threading the paracord through the hole in the blade, or go with the cotter pin attachment that the commercial version uses. I don’t really see the benefit of the cotter pin besides being able to remove the rope without having to untie the knot, or maybe distributing the tension between two points instead of one. I probably wouldn’t bother buying the cotter pins again, but if you want to I’ll show you how to bend and use them.

Get some ⅛” X 1” cotter pins ($1.25/pack of 5) in the nail and screw aisle of the hardware store, thread it through the hole of the saw blade, pinch slightly up on the cotter pin with some pliers and bend the legs of the cotter pin over the pliers teeth.

cotter pin

cotter pin assembly

The finished product will look like this.

Another modification I made with Design #2 is to sand little ridges in the base to lock in the stick better than a smooth surface. The commercial product gets around doing this by just really cranking the line until it won’t move and holding the stick while you saw, but I like the grooves better. You can recreate this by wrapping a pencil in sand paper and running it back and forth over the end of the pipe.grooves

Comparing the DIY version with the commercial product.

To be honest, I like the PVC pipe version much more than the commercial product because of the low cost, and additional features.

chart

Comparing Design #2 to the top recommended hand saw in The Prepared’s Best survival handsaw article, the Silky Gomboy costs and weighs three times as much and doesn’t have cheap easily replaceable blades.

The commercial product uses a better rope called Zing-it that is lighter weight, stronger, and doesn’t have any stretch. I couldn’t find Zing-it anywhere cheaper than $27 for a roll and the paracord works perfectly for me, so I am sticking with that.

For $1 more, I could have gone with the superior saw blade that the commercial product uses, the Diablo carbide teeth blades. The reason I went with the Milwaukee blade is because that fits inside the ¾” PVC whereas the Diablo blade was just slightly too wide. In the future, I would like to get the Diablo blade and grind down the wide spine so that it will fit inside the handle. The commercial product also went with a long 12” blade which is much faster at cutting with its longer draw length, but for this compact version I stuck with a 9” blade. Here’s a short video showing what the Diablo blade can do compared to a similar sized Fiskers saw.

There is enough room inside the handle of Design #2 where you could have both a wood and metal saw blade. Perhaps you have this in your bug out bag and use the wood blade to cut firewood or build a shelter with, and the metal blade could be used to cut a chain link fence or padlock if you are stuck somewhere and need to get through during SHTF.

Video of completed Design #2

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  • Comments (15)

    • 2

      And for all that work you have a poor quality saw.  I have used those blades and they are not very good at cutting.  use the saw on your multitool or get a Silky or similar brand and then do some real cutting.  There is a big difference 

      • 2

        I don’t know, this video seems to show otherwise. 

        At least I thought it was a fun and cool project. 

    • 3

      Hi Gideon, quite creative.  I was the one who mentioned the cottage industry saw.  I’m glad you included a test run in your video.  This is probably just how the design of the purchased one started – with this sort of prototype that they improved upon – I just don’t know how much improvement it made over your design.  How do you think yours would hold up over time?  For example, they and another saw design both used ZingIt instead of paracord because it doesn’t stretch.  One thing I liked is that I could get a variety of blades for about the same weight of the one blade saw that was recommended:  Dry wood, green pruning like the silky , metal, small tooth for bone, etc.  It’s not as fast in deploying as a fold out pruning saw, but the lighter weight for a bit less volume and double the versatility (or more depending on number of blades) was worth it for me.  I did successfully use the carbide wood blade on a very dry, 30yo redwood 2×4.  I’ve not tried the metal blade yet. I’ve not got a green pruning blade yet.  

      • 2

        Thanks for the nice words! And thank you for giving me the idea for this project. 

        I like that pruning saw blade that would work with this saw! I’ll have to add that to the wish list.

        As for durability of paracord, I don’t see any wear on it so far and if it did break eventually I always carry more with me as it’s a good piece of cordage. The Zingit is the superior cordage though being lighter and stronger.

        You also make the good point that this saw isn’t as fast to deploy as other pruning saws that just fold out. 

      • 2

        and for full disclosure/fairness, they use the carbide blade that costs a bit more, but probably worth the extra durability.  

      • 2

        And I You Tube pointed me to another similar make.  From black steel – needs metal cutting tools, but would be strong (and heavier)!

    • 3

      I have several folding saws, some pocket sized designed for cutting bone such as the opinel15 and the SpyderCo spyder saw feather light made from Aus6 steel and FRN. Then I have several folding saws for wood the Bacho laplander is cheaper than the silky and less bulky.

      If you remove the blade from a pruning bow saw the frame can fit into a corner of a rucksack while the flexible blade can be coiled like a clock spring and put inside a metal billy can to store it for transit.

      • 1

        The SpyderCo saw is no longer made.  That’s a sweet looking blade.  And I have really liked other SpyderCo knives.  Light and sharp as the dickens.  The cottage made saw is a self assembled bow pruning saw with a couple blade options to keep it small and light.  I wouldn’t have considered coiling up a blade though.  I could see myself opening up the tin and the sharp blade spronging out just where I didn’t want it to go.  LOL!  

      • 1

        Yes, you do need to be a little bit careful but you get the knack of doing it before you lose too many fingers.

      • 2

        The SpyderCo has never been used and is mint, it’s in my bag with a matching lock knife (also with the FRN handle) I use the much cheaper Opinel 8&15 for cleaning game day to day.

      • 2

        My thought was an eye or part of an ear 🙂 Seriously though, it doesn’t affect the performance when placed in the saw? As in the blade may retain a curl when trying to saw straight?  I know it’s under tension, but also know that metal can have memory.  I am not really seeing an advantage to coiling it versus wrapping the long, thin blade in tyvek which is also lighter.

      • 2

        Nope, it fits right back into the saw frame with no trouble. It’s a pretty old technique that some bushcrafters use. They often just use a bent branch and two metal pegs to make the saw frame.

    • 2

      Its a cool idea. How is the durability?

      • 2

        There are always more branches 🤷🏻

    • 2

      Thanks to underprepared raccoon for finding this cheap source of zing-it cordage. $5.50 for 25′.

      Zing-it/Lash-It

      • 3

        Thanks @gideon and @underpreparredracoon. I have Zing-it on my list to update/improve my BOB tent/cape.