SHTF blog – Modern Survival

Axe or Saw For Survival – Which is Better?

Over the last several years I have seen a discussion kicked around the survival and outdoor forums surrounding two pieces of gear. The discussion has to do with whether it is better to carry an axe or a saw. When I first came across this question the answer seemed rather straightforward. For me, the answer is an axe. However, the more I got to thinking about it the more unsure I was (maybe I am thinking too much on it and should go with my initial instincts) Either way I wanted to bring this question to this site to see what all of you thought and what you carried.

By Tinderwolf, contributing author to SHTFblog

But before we get to that let me outline my thought process regarding these two pieces of gear. Let me preface this with I know that the word “axe” is sometimes used loosely and that there are number of variations of it. An axe, hatchet, tomahawks, etc. This can also apply to saws as there are wire saws, fixed frame saws, saws that can be broken down, smaller handheld saws the size of a fixed blade knife, etc. For this article and simplicity, lets talk about a full size axe and a saw similar to a Sven saw or a Silky saw.

Axe Pros:

  • Easier to sharpen without a proper sharpener
  • Difficult to break
  • If the handle breaks a new one can be fashioned
  • Process larger pieces of wood
  • Can be used for various cutting tasks
  • Can be used to defend yourself
  • Can be used for digging
  • Helps in processing larger game
  • Can be used to create sparks for fire starting
  • The back side can be used for hammering purposes
  • If the broad side of it is reflective it can be used as a signaling device

Axe Cons:

  • Can be difficult to use one handed if you are injured
  • Heavy
  • Increased chance of injuring yourself when using it
  • More difficult to carry
  • Requires more energy to use when processing wood
  • Generally speaking, more expensive

Saw Pros:

  • Cheaper to buy
  • Requires much less energy to use when processing wood
  • Can easily be used one handed if you are injured
  • Compact and easy to carry
  • Lightweight
  • If the handle breaks a new one can be fashioned
  • Easier to make straight, precise cuts
  • Can be used for processing larger game
  • Safer to use

Saw Cons:

  • Difficult to sharpen without the proper tools
  • If blade or teeth break, it is not very useful
  • Mainly has a singular function which is processing wood

When comparing the positives between the two tools they both do pretty well. If you compare the negatives it would seem that the saw is a better choice. An axe though is much more versatile, tougher and long lasting, at least in my opinion. One of the golden rules for us when it comes to gear is to have items with multiple functions in order to reduce weight or to compensate for the loss of another tool.

I think when trying to answer the question of which is better to carry, it comes more down to the situation in which you are in. And there are really only two scenarios, a survival situation and a non-survival situation. For me, in a survival situation I think an axe and its variations would be more valuable because it can be used for so many things. Its biggest downfall is weight and the safety concern. The saw seems to be a better fit for non-survival situations such as hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, bush crafting, etc. When doing these activities you will most likely only have the need for processing wood. To play the devil’s advocate I realize that non-survival situations can easily turn into survival situations, so therein lies the rub.

So which is better to carry? I am not trying to persuade anyone to carry one over the other, that is not the intention of this article, but if I could only carry one I would choose an axe. Modern saws are lightweight and can be extremely compact, so if the option is available a person could easily carry both. Now I realize I most likely missed some points that could go in the lists for each item but that is why I wrote this article, I need more input from you good people. What are your thoughts?

Photos by Doc Montana, Drew, and Jarhead Survivor.

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