As a backpacking and outdoor enthusiast, I am often gifted outdoor gear come holidays or my birthday. While sometimes the gifts are more novelty than something I would really put in my kit for an excursion, every once in a while, I’ll get something that is really useful and would absolutely get for myself. A couple of Christmas’ back my older brother got my name in our family gift exchange, and he got me a Sven Saw. When I first ripped open the wrapping paper I honestly had no idea what it was as I hadn’t heard of this gem at the time. “Thanks” I said awkwardly, pausing, “what is it?”. The best god damn backpacking saw in the world, thats what it is, or at least that’s what he should have said.
The Sven saw is basically a collapsable bow saw. Made in America, out of aluminum using stainless steel Swedish saw blades, this very lightweight saw weighs in at only 15 ounces in the 17 inch version that I have. You can get a larger 24 inch version that weighs 1lb. 1oz. as well, which is still very light. Compared to my Fiskars hatchet which I used to bring with me backpacking and camping this is a big improvement in weight management. The Fiskars weighed in at 2 lb.s. Packability is another big plus of this saw. When collapsed down it’s dimensions are 14” by 1” by a 1/4” and easily straps to the side of a trip pack. As with the weight this is also an improvement over the hatchet.
So the saw is lightweight and packable, how well does it work? Weight and packability aside I was more concerned with the effectiveness of the saw. I am by no means a ultra-light backpacker or camper, and I am willing to sacrifice a lighter load if the tool is effective enough. My Fiskars hatchet was what I would have called very effective at getting small to relatively large sized timber. If the hatchet was what I call effective, then the Sven saw is backcountry wood gathering perfection. The time it would take to get through a 6” diameter log with the hatchet compared to the saw was no comparison at all. The physical effort exerted to do the same task was no comparison either. The design is sound and the saw blades are quality so it makes processing timber very easy. The saw has allowed me to make big bonfires with half the effort I would need to put in, in order to get the same result with the hatchet.
Another positive that the saw has over is that it is much safer to use than the hatchet. One missed swipe with a hatchet could be really bad news in the backcountry. I’m talking a gash that would require stitches or even a broken or fractured bone. On the flip side the saw would require a conscious effort on the part of the user in order to do any serious harm. Another plus is that over the time that I have had the saw it has proven to be very durable. I have taken it on multiple trips and cut through a lot of wood with it on those trips and I still have not had to replace the saw blades. I have even left the saw out in the rain where it got soaking wet and the blade and handle are no worse off, some minor rusting on the blade but nothing that would take away from the integrity of the steel.
The downsides? Not much. Yes, you will eventually have to replace the blades, but it won’t be very often if my experience is the norm. Also, when compared to replacing the head of an axe or hatchet, replacing the saw blades is much cheaper as well. The only other downside that I can come up with is that it is a very specifically tailored tool. Apart from sawing through things, you can’t do anything else with the Sven saw, where as with the hatchet you can use it for a number of other tasks other than cutting wood. But with the packability and really low weight I have no problem bringing such a specific tool. Apart from the fact that it is effective, packable and lightweight, the saw is also cheap. On amazon.com you can get one for $36 dollars, which is comparable to the cost of the hatchet. Due to these factors I would highly recommend the Sven saw as must have for any outdoor enthusiast, serious adventurer and even once a year campers. One of the best outdoor gifts I have ever received for sure and in that price range it would be hard to top.