How To: Creating Camp Firewood

A Sven Saw and a Gerber Camp Axe make short work of the chore of gathering firewood where there are dead branches and downed trees.

A Sven Saw and a Gerber Camp Axe make short work of the chore of gathering firewood where there are dead branches and downed trees. Photo by David Shedd

Most roadside campgrounds generate a thriving cottage industry with locals selling little bundles of firewood to campers. That’s good for the local economy. You also have to be careful about transporting firewood these days, when invasive and highly damaging species like the Asian longhorn beetle can get a free ride

But for campsites  more than a mile from the road and hauling in firewood makes absolutely no sense, especially  when you are camped in a forest where there are dead and downed branches and trees around. Don’t ever cut living trees for firewood. First, it’s illegal unless you are on private land and have permission. Second, green wood doesn’t burn well or give off much heat if it does burn.

Turning dead trees  and limbs into firewood takes some manual labor and tools. With the right saws and axes, we can cut, split, and stack a fairly serious pile of wood in short order and have a ball doing it. Over the years, we’ve tested about every variety of woodcutting implement and have settled on what we think is the best.

To cut wood up to the diameter of your fist (which is plenty large enough for campfire use) we use a folding Sven Saw, the original model with the 21” blade  folds to 24″ x 1 3/4″ x 5/8″  with the frame acting as a sheath for the blade, and weighs less than a pound. If you need to save a few ounces you can try the 15” model. A sharp Sven saw feels good in the hand and cuts wood amazingly well. Just make sure to get the blade resharpened professionally, or replace it every couple of years,

To split our campfire wood and pound in our support stakes for fire building (to learn how to build a campfire go here), we’ve settled on the Sport Axe from Gerber. At 22 oz. with sheath, this little axe features a razor-sharp Fiskars steel head and a virtually-unbreakable 14” nylon handle. It’s simply perfect—infinitely stronger, lighter, sharper, better than any hardware-store hatchet.  They also make smaller and larger versions if your needs are different, and one version comes with a pretty good saw hidden in the hollow handle.


About Tim Jones

Tim Jones, Founder and Executive Editor, started skiing at age 4 and hasn't stopped since. He took up Telemark a few years ago and is still terrible at it. In the summer, he hikes, bikes, paddles and fly fishes. In addition to his work at, Tim also writes a pair of syndicated weekly newspaper columns.