Choosing a Good Chainsaw for Camping


A good chainsaw makes all the difference in the world.

Chainsaws are the fastest way to cut wood. We may imagine ourselves out there in the woods with a hatchet or saw felling fuel for the fire while the theme of “Davey Crockett” runs through our heads, but when it’s raining and you have to get wood fast or the fire dies, that little scenario disappears pretty quickly. We’ll go over survival, or pocket chainsaws in a separate post

My brother has owned chainsaws for 20 years, and this is his advice:

“Get quality, first and foremost. Husqvarna or Stihl. They can sit for long periods of time without any complications. I’ve owned the same Stihl for the past 15 years and there is no problem; I’ve pulled the sparkplug and changed it once. I generally use a higher octane fuel, 92 octane fuel, because when a chainsaw sits for a period of time the fuel loses octane and the oils have a tendency to settle.  With a Husqy (Husqvarna) or a Stihl you can give your chainsaw a shake to mix the oils and generally few problems result.

I use up the gas in the engine every year or so. It’s also easy to get parts for those two brands, so if something goes wrong with it out in the bush even up in places with little towns they’ll still be able to repair it or have parts for it, which is less likely with an unknown brand.

What size chainsaw do you have?

“I have a 36cc with an 18″ bar.

I prefer it over a shorter bar because the 18” has more teeth. So you can cut more wood without having to stop and sharpen them; I would recommend it for campers as well because they don’t want a lot of fuss and bother when they’re camping.

Even so, I still carry a maintenance kit–a chainsaw file, extra sparkplug, socket and wrench (whatever socket size you need to loosen or tighten the bar); a slot screwdriver may also be needed, depending on the model you operate.

Invest in a second chain.

“If you don’t mind spending the money, it’s easy to put on the new chain instead of sharpening the old one when camping. Once you’re home you can sharpen both and you’re good to go for the next trip.

“Quality chainsaws aren’t cheap, but you can reduce the price considerably by shopping for a used one in pawnshops or classifieds. Husqys and Stihls last forever. Just be sure when buying a used one that the motor runs strong, it revs high and doesn’t smoke. It’s easy to replace the smaller stuff on it, chains and things like that. Make sure the breaker bar, that is, the chain break, works on a used chainsaw; kickbacks on a running chainsaw are extremely dangerous.

You don’t need two-stroke motor oil.

“I would also recommend using ATF (automatic transmission fluid) as opposed to the recommended two-stroke motor oil. It has a small amount of detergent in it so it keeps the working parts clean, and it is cheaper than the specialized motor oil.

Ed”–(my brother’s friend)–“has used ATF in his two-stroke engine since the mid-60’s, the same engine; only serviced the engine for the first time recently. When the service guy looked at the motor, he asked Ed if it had been serviced in the last year or two. That tells you something about ATF. So I started using it in mine.

“It maybe smokes a hair or two more, hard to say, but I’ve never had a problem with my chainsaw. I even use it as bar oil; it saves me the fuss and bother of different kinds of oils.”

Straight from the horse’s mouth.

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7 thoughts on “Choosing a Good Chainsaw for Camping”

  1. Good site and interesting idea about using ATF fluid. I also use 92+ octane on my chainsaw as lower octane fuels, (89 and less,) tend to have Ethanol which is bad for 2 stroke motors long term.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Ken. Incidentally, my brother was at a Stihl dealership the other day and the repairman that works there mentioned that the Stihl Premium two-stroke engine oil (50:1) can also be safely used in the older Stihl motors that normally require lesser mix, say 20:1 or 30:1. He uses the 50:1 for them and says everything works just fine.

  2. I never thought a chain saw was a big deal. If I did buy one (hurricane season), it was what was on sale. I guess the $59.99 isn’t always the best deal. Thanks for the tips especially from Ed.

    1. Ed has a wealth of knowledge and I pick his brain regularly. We camp with him constantly and he always seems to have something new to say. Same with my brothers–I wouldn’t know half the things I do now if they weren’t around to teach me. Thanks for the comment!

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