Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
cutting firewood
Display Avatars Sort By:
Robert Blean
(blean) - MLife

Locale: San Jose -- too far from Sierras
Re: cutting firewood on 05/16/2010 20:11:48 MDT Print View

I had heard, saw, or read somewhere that standing wood was the way to go. I guess the source was unreliable.

Perhaps just out of date. There are two issues here:
*) What makes the best fuel?
*) What is acceptable behavior, both individually and collectively?

Frankly, standing dead wood and the dead branches of trees make the best fuel. They will probably be dry and not rotten. Push over one dead snag, cut it up and split it, and your fuel needs are taken care of. Break of some dead dry lower branches and you'll have a nice cheery fire going in no time. "Dead and down" may well be the poorest quality fuel, because it is apt to be damp and/or rotten.

The more important thing to consider, however, is acceptable behavior. That is affected by several things, such as:
*) What impact, including visual, would you have on others?
*) What impact would there be if everyone who came here did that?
*) What proportion of the dead wood nature produces in a year would you (or everyone collectively) be burning?

When I was growing up I was taught to use standing dead fuel, and that is what I did. A lot fewer people then, and I was in heavily wooded less traveled areas.

Today, most people are traveling in areas where a lot of others also travel -- and if everyone did that the result would be (at best) ugly. We have all seen campsites where every lower branch within visual range has been stripped from the trees. We have also seen areas where there are no longer any scenic snags.

Furthermore, much of the travel is in areas where people doing that would overwhelm nature's ability to generate more dead wood. (As one example, that is why fire bans above treeline, regardless of how wet/dry it may be.)

Hence LNT, and the "dead and down" rules -- that would have made no sense where/when I grew up, but that make a great deal of sense in the areas many people go today (especially our mountain parks).

The chances are you are not the only person in a huge wilderness, and in an area where nature is producing lots of dead wood every year, so it would be wrong to behave as if you were.


Hendrik Morkel
(skullmonkey) - MLife

Locale: Finland
Wood burning stove? on 05/17/2010 01:32:28 MDT Print View

If you really want a fire, why not use a wood burning stove like the BushBuddy, Bushcooker LT or the Ti-Tri Inferno? The Inferno makes for the best "Campfire" experience in my opinion, while the Bushcooker is Multifuel and the BB is the most fuel efficient.

Using one of these also means you don't need to carry a hatchet or saw into the outdoors and can use the small dead twigs found on the trail.

Thomas Burns
(nerdboy52) - MLife

Locale: "Alas, poor Yogi.I knew him well."
a light saw for wood cutting on 05/17/2010 10:04:49 MDT Print View

Another very light saw (Japanese Flush Cut Saw at 2.6 oz):

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Wood burning stove? on 05/17/2010 10:47:49 MDT Print View

I find the best dead wood pieces for my wood-fired Ti-Tri are the diameter of a pencil up to the diameter of my thumb. If those are dead and dry, I can normally break up the lengths by stomping on a stick set against a rock, because I am striving for chunks 2-4 inches long. If the stick is too large or too strong to be broken that way, it isn't going to work so good in the stove.

If no wood is available, I will fire it on alcohol or Esbit.


tim hower
(jeepcachr) - F

Locale: Great Lakes
light weight saw on 05/17/2010 11:40:06 MDT Print View

I have one similar to this- mine weighs 1.4 oz. It works really well, especially when you manage to find some good solid dry wood.

I only take it when I'm going somewhere I know they have designated fire pits. I used to carry a fixed blade knife with a full tang which was really good for splitting wood but I let my light side win and have swapped it out for a lighter knife. I'm not willing to give up having a knife(yet).

Keith Selbo
(herman666) - F - M

Locale: Northern Virginia
Wire saws on 05/17/2010 11:50:30 MDT Print View

wire saws can be hard on the hands

You can fix this by sticking objects through the rings to use as handles. Thumb diameter sticks work well as does my closed swiss army knife.

Mike Whitesell
(madgoat) - F

Locale: Ohio
wood on 05/17/2010 14:39:28 MDT Print View

I have found that the easiest way to get wood at popular backcountry campsites is to hike up the trail a bit. Put some distance between you and the campsite and you will find plenty of downed wood.

When you are within a 1/4 mile of your campsite, it is a good time to start collecting. By the time you get to camp, you could have a good armload of select firewood. Certainly not enough to burn all night, but who needs that anyway.

Heath Pitts
(heathpitts) - F

Locale: Nashville
Sawvivor on 05/17/2010 14:56:07 MDT Print View

I use this one. 9.1 oz on my scale

Peter Longobardi
(paintplongo) - F

Locale: Hopefully on the Trail
Sven Saw on 05/17/2010 14:59:18 MDT Print View

I'd buy a Sven Saw. Made in USA, lightweight and very affordable.

Brian Vogt
(slickhorn) - F
sven vs sawvivor on 05/17/2010 15:14:59 MDT Print View

I've used both, and while I don't know the weight difference, I have to say I've found the sven saw more stable and easier to pack.

The sawvivor seems to want to buckle the saw blade in use. Also, it uses little spring loaded clips to help hold the blade when dissasembled, and I've had terrible luck with those falling out while packed, and being a bear to reposition.

much less stuff to fail or get lost on a sven saw. if I'm not mistaken, there's one nut, and everything else is pretty much permanently attached. Good saw. and can handle some good sized wood, bigger than anything I've ever needed it for.

Heath Pitts
(heathpitts) - F

Locale: Nashville
S on 05/17/2010 15:53:50 MDT Print View

I haven't had any of those problems with the sawvivor that I have fwiw. It has worked well for the past couple of years

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Re: sven vs sawvivor on 05/17/2010 16:24:22 MDT Print View

I own (and use) a Sawvivor that'll be 11 years old in July. No problems with it ... zero. Holds the blade well and the original spring clips are still there.

Brian's comments make me wonder if there've been changes in how the newer ones are built.

Fast Bucksaw seems to be highly regarded ... but I haven't used one myself. A bit heavy though (16oz) ... it's the larger model that weighs 30oz..

edit: correcting the weight.

Edited by jcolten on 05/17/2010 16:27:19 MDT.

Juston Taul

Locale: Atlanta, GA
Sven on 05/17/2010 16:26:44 MDT Print View

I've used the Sven Saw on several trips back in the day. It's an amazing tool. I still have a few unopened replacement blades. It's just not how I do things anymore.

I love having campfires, but I can make do with alternate wood gathering techniques.

I'm pretty up front about LNT, I simply don't abide by it. I don't cut down trees, I don't litter, I pick up litter left by others, I don't leave anything behind, I don't take anything that's not mine besides the litter mentioned earlier. However, if I want a fire... i'm going to have a fire. I camp where I want to camp, and I would gladly push over a dead standing tree if able to use as firewood. I use good judgement. I won't be hypocritical. It's impossible to LNT. Your daily lives away from the woods has far more impact on our environment than backpacking/camping activities do. Flame suit on.

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: Sven on 05/17/2010 16:37:12 MDT Print View

Well, as far as pushing down a dead tree, that is more LNT than cutting one down. Why?

If you cut a tree down, you're going to leave a nice, clean-cut stump that says, "hey, a human cut me down!" If you push over a tree, who's to tell the difference between that and if a strong wind blew it down? Or a bear. I've seen them push trees over.

Kind of like the question, "if a tree falls in the woods and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound?" If a Juston Taul pushes over a tree and nobody is there to see it, did he actually do it?

And yes, of course, good, solid judgement is key. If you're going to push down a tree and its going to crush a dozen saplings, wreck some bird nests, land on a baby deer, then pushing down that tree might not be the way to go.

BTW, true brother stepped on a fawn once. We were walking through a cornfield, and he just stepped on it. Seemed to be ok though. I also almost ran over one while riding an ATV. Stopped just in time, but the mom who was in the area seemed to be not too happy with us. We daintily rode around it.

Edited by T.L. on 05/17/2010 16:50:47 MDT.

Juston Taul

Locale: Atlanta, GA
Mmm! on 05/17/2010 16:48:00 MDT Print View

Baby deer. Sounds tasty. :D

Robert Blean
(blean) - MLife

Locale: San Jose -- too far from Sierras
Re: Sven on 05/17/2010 17:08:34 MDT Print View

However, if I want a fire... i'm going to have a fire. I camp where I want to camp, and I would gladly push over a dead standing tree if able to use as firewood.

Not enough context to have an opinion on whether that makes sense, or is just plain selfish. What you choose to burn, and even whether to have a fire, is situational. In some cases it is just fine. In other cases it is a really poor thing to do.

If you camp where few others do, and where nature grows a lot of wood, then fine.

If behave that way when camping where many others do, or where nature does not replenish the wood supply rapidly enough, then shame on you.


Monty Montana
(TarasBulba) - MLife

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Re: cutting firewood on 05/17/2010 21:15:23 MDT Print View

One consideration that is being left out of the discussion of whether or not a snag is appropriate firewood is that it is one of the most improtant habitat providers for myriad species of forest dwellers and whose survival depends on an abundance of snags.

In the areas where I hike/camp in the PNW fires are now banned. But even before that I gave up having a campfire because I got tired of coming across the increasing proliferation of campfire rings and seeing the degradation of wilderness areas due to the low-information camper.

Push over a snag just because...indeed!

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: Re: cutting firewood on 05/17/2010 21:18:33 MDT Print View

Monty, just to be clear on terminology.... snag=dead tree?

Monty Montana
(TarasBulba) - MLife

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Re: cutting firewood on 05/17/2010 22:21:25 MDT Print View

10-4 on that Travis. It's a term that you would here often in Forest Service and logger circles, where I spent the first part of my adult life. The value of snags to wildlife wasn't clearly understood until about the mid 70s.

Andy F
(AndyF) - M

Locale: Midwest/Midatlantic
Re: cutting firewood on 05/18/2010 08:00:47 MDT Print View

If the wood on the ground is wet, use standing dead wood which is only sort of standing: branches sticking off of the ground on down trees or which have fallen only partially to the ground. Unless the wood is soaked, peeling the bark or splitting it by batoning a knife will often produce enough wood to get a fire going. Dry out the other wood by placing it near or on the fire before it is needed as fuel.