Best survival hand saw

A well-reviewed hand saw is one of the four edged tools that survival experts believe everyone should have in their kits. Although a saw was overlooked by many preppers in the last decade, a growing number of people are changing their minds and including a folding saw at least in their home supplies, if not their go-bags — thanks in part to the encouragement by celebrity bushcrafters.

Perhaps the main reason why some preppers overlook the hand saw is they plan on using their field knife, bushcraft axe, or survival hatchet to complete the types of tasks you might otherwise do with a backpacking saw.

Even in situations where using a saw is comparable to those wedged tools — like making traps or clearing a camp — using the saw is often faster and safer. These twin advantages of speed and safety are huge in an emergency scenario, where you may be pressed for time, unable to swing a larger tool due to space or physical limitations, or suffering from the effects of sleep loss, stress, fatigue, or injury.

Plus there are many tasks where a saw is just plain better, like in basic woodcraft, where you care about having clean cuts instead of the brute-forced splinters from an axe. Or sawing your way through materials (like metal) where a swinging wedge just won’t cut it.

The saws that come with the best multitools for survival (including Swiss Army Knives) are quite good, and can do a lot of the work that you need a saw for. When thinking through your core four edged tools and how to mix and match them, some experienced bushcrafters will only rely on their multitool saw. That’s fine if you’re experienced, but these saws are limited by their small size, so we still recommend at least a portable folding saw for most people.

Saws are a frequent add-on feature to other prepper products, especially the more novelty products found on Amazon. It’s common, for example, to find a hybrid tool that sort of looks like a hatchet with a bunch of other stuff thrown in, including a saw in the handle. The (rare) quality ones are fine as a backup, but we still recommend a dedicated saw. Think of those all-in-one tools as a backup to your main kit, like something you throw in the trunk of your car.

Quick Pick
Silky GOMBOY 240mm Saw
Best for most people:

Silky GOMBOY 240mm Saw

The Japanese-made GOMBOY saw is a landscaping and gardening staple, with an aggressive folding saw blade that combines speed and safety.

The best survival saw for most people is the popular $35 Silky GOMBOY 240mm saw with medium teeth. There isn’t much controversy with this pick — when this topic comes up among preppers, the Silky GOMBOY is the most-commonly recommended survival saw.

Some of the best products for emergencies are found well outside the “survival” niche. When professionals — gardeners and landscapers in the GOMBOY’s case — use a product every day and still love it, you can feel confident it’ll deliver in an emergency.

The GOMBOY’s locking saw blade is made of high-grade, very strong Japanese steel. This hardness means the aggressive saw edge lasts forever, but the tradeoff is that you have to take extra care to keep the blade from binding up during use so that you don’t break it.

The 9.5-inch, 9.6-ounce GOMBOY model we recommend is relatively large, but we think the extra length is worth it because it allows you to tackle larger cutting projects (and the smaller blades you have in your kit can handle the smaller chores). If you want to go smaller and slightly more packable, however, get the $45 Silky GOMBOY 210mm version.

Also Great
Bahco Laplander Folding Saw
More compact:

Bahco Laplander Folding Saw

Lightweight, compact, and ultra-tough, the Bahco Laplander is the standard bushcraft saw for hikers and campers.

If you’re looking for a smaller package than the Silky 240mm, experts also like the 8-inch long, 7-ounce $25 Bahco Laplander, a longtime staple of the bushcraft and camping communities.

The Laplander is more of a dedicated camping tool than the GOMBOY, which means they assume you’ll be carrying it on foot over longer distances and designed it to be lighter weight and more compact. Its replaceable saw blade is tougher and far less likely to break than the GOMBOY’s under misuse, but it’s also less effective and will dull faster.

Fixed bow saws

We recommend folding saws for preppers because they’re compact and have fewer parts to lose or break. Bow saws are a very popular alternative, but they come with too many tradeoffs for our liking.

Quick Pick
Sven Saw 15"
Best bow saw:

Sven Saw 15"

A camping saw classic, the Swedish Sven Saw is simple, fast, and reliable.

If you do choose a bow saw, the $40 Sven Saw is the standard bushcraft saw recommendation. This Swedish-made saw is well-reviewed and has been featured on a number of survival shows. It’s relative lightweight, durable, and compact, and it won’t let you down.

Bow saw blades are thinner than folding saw blades, so they slide more quickly through the wood without binding up. This makes them easier to work with and they require far less attention to avoid accidentally breaking them under vigorous field use.

A bow saw’s cutting depth is limited by its overall size

The downside to a bow saw is that you’re more limited in the diameter of what you can cut through. The handle (orange in the above picture) will stop the blade from cutting too deeply once it rubs up against the tree, limiting the cut depth to the distance between the blade and handle. If you wanted to cut that tree down you’d have to cut from three or four different sides to meet in the middle.

Pocket survival saws and wire saws

wire saws are not good for preppers
Don’t bother with wire saws

The wire saw was a staple of 80’s era hollow-handled knife kits, and every child of the 80’s knows that these don’t really work. To be clear: It’s not just the cheap wire saw you got with your Rambo knife that doesn’t work — none of them work. So avoid these worthless fake preps.

mini pocket survival saw review
Pocket survival saws are just chainsaw chains with handles for manual operation

The pocket chainsaw is an upgrade to the wire saw and commonly bought by new preppers searching around Amazon. It’s easy to understand why: they’re small and light, usually come in a tiny pouch you can throw in your bags, and you can picture using your hands to saw back and forth.

Most of them are junk. There are a few models that some reviewers claim are usable, promising you a lot of cutting edge in a compact space. But even the very best pocket chainsaws are slow, awkward, and will bind up easily.

A folding saw or bow saw — or even just the saw that’s on your multi-tool — is always better than a pocket chainsaw.

mini prepper saw pros cons

Apart from the fact that they’re just not very effective, these saws have another major drawback as preps: they’re essentially chainsaw chains, with complex and tiny moving parts. That makes them breakable and unreliable.


    • int19h

      Silky also makes Gomtaro, which is a non-folding saw designed to be carried in a belt sheath (but can just as easily be strapped to a backpack etc). So it’s still portable, but fixed blade will likely be more sturdy than folding saws.…

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      • Jon StokesStaff int19h

        IMO their fixed blade saw is more strictly a landscaping tool and not a prep, unless it’s bought as a bug-in prep. It doesn’t make sense to me to go with this over a folder or just about anything else, but maybe I’m missing something.

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      • int19h int19h

        Same reason why you might prefer a fixed knife over a folding knife. In practice, I found the difference to not be as big as it seems (it has a shorter handle than a typical folding saw, although it’s still plenty big to hold even with large hands). And it’s still way lighter than e.g. a hatchet, which many people do use for bug out as well.

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      • John RameyStaff int19h

        If it makes sense for you, sure! There’s no singular right answer. When we update this review in the next round, we’ll look at more fixed blades. But this was in context of the core four blade mix, so we assume people are also carrying a hatchet/kukri/etc in their bag in addition to the foldable saw.

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    • Luke Fowler

      Vaughan Bear Saw is the best saw I have found. Japanese blades will go cut for cut on a comparable sized silky, but can be found for $20 at farm and ranch stores. As a fixed blade saw it is far lighter then most folding saws, especially the heavy silkies. Compactness is generally overrated compared to weight, as long as you have an averaged sized day pack a fixed saw is easily transported. For trail maintenance I carry a small fiskars sliding saw, but when I’m winter camping and need wood processing for a stove a full sized pull saw is very welcome.

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      • John RameyStaff Luke Fowler

        Thanks Luke, we’ll check it out. Is there any common bushcraft need that saw sucks at? What size/model do you carry?

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      • Luke Fowler Luke Fowler

        Nothing common I’d say, it is physically larger of course so theoretically if you are clearance limited some how it could be a problem but I’d be hard pressed to come up with a real world example.

        I use the 13″ BS333C (course) for outdoor tasks and use the 10″ (medium) blade for woodworking around the house. I have had far less luck with the fine and double sided blades.

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    • DocOnes

      I’d like to know a little more about the trade offs that make a bow saw a second choice. I have and use the 21” EKA combi saw quite frequently. There is also a 17” model. These types of packsaws are becoming more popular with many offering a deeper bow, on the distal end, than the EKA. My EKA has withstood a significant amount of abuse. Because it has 3 blade types, I keep it in my car and it has been used hundreds of times. I’ve taken down a full size oak in the middle of a road, many shop tasks and a buddy used it to quarter out an elk.

      The 17” model has almost twice the cutting length of the 9” silky handsaw, has 3 saw blade types for different materials, uses a commonly available replacement blade that can be found at most hardware stores (a handy feature for bugging out), and weighs only 3 ounces more. The EKA takes up a little more pack space, but it is not awkward in shape and that makes it easily managed.

      I do find your only listed reasoning for discounting bow saws as disingenuous and almost ignorant. I would challenge you to justify that a handsaw is anymore capable of cutting down a large standing tree than a bow saw. My EKA has 7” of depth to the bow. This means that, theoretically, your hand saw only gets an two extra inches of depth. I’ve never found that to be true in practice. A hand saw is much less effective at cutting near the tip of the saw blade than a bow saw. Partly because a person can apply pressure to the end of the bow saw and partially because the handles location relative to the blade moves the fulcrum forward and allows for less energy expenditure to achieve the same results.

      I would love to see an actual scientific comparison and would be willing to honestly consider changing my load out based on the results. I realize I’m not the only one who will use my kit in an emergency.

      Thank you and I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

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    • HYDRAE

      I went with a Silky Big Boy over the Gomboy. I like the larger blade for clearing larger diameter trees and debris post emergency or storm, and am not so concerned with the size/weight increase as it’s primarily for home preparation.  I may pick up a Laplander for the BOB though.

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      • John RameyStaff HYDRAE

        Makes sense for home. I carry my Silky in my BOB. If you end up with Laplander, we’d love to hear your thoughts after comparing the two!

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    • JohnM

      There are new curved versions of Silky saws. All my gardening saws are curved, and I think the curve helps. However, for my BOB saw, the straight blade is probably better for fabricating things out of wood. Do you have any comment on curved vs. straight saw blade?

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