Gear Guides

Snow Saws – A Complete Guide

Snow saws were are a piece of equipment I didn’t know existed until I really started learning more about camping in the snow. A snow saw is not something most people carry unless they have a specific reason to, which is mainly for building shelters and testing for avalanche conditions. In this post, we’ll go over some reasons why you should have a snow saw and how to get the most out of them.

What Is a Snow Saw For?

Snow saws are just that, saws for cutting snow. Snow saws are helpful when creating snow barriers when camping, building igloos, and testing snow stability to avoid avalanches. In an emergency, snow saws can be used to cut through wood.

Setting up Camp

Around camp, backpacking shovels can do wonders such as build wind barricades and trenches, but if the snow is hard-packed or frozen over, shovels can have a hard time breaking in. Saws will make cutting through snow much easier.

Making Shelters

If you ever watched a video of Inuits building igloos, you know the only tool they use is a hand saw. It’s pretty fascinating to watch them cut blocks of snow and stack them just right.

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Testing Avalanche Conditions

When traveling in potential avalanche areas, you’ll want to stop and perform a stability test in the snow. Snow saws can make cutting into snow blocks and performing avalanche test much easier.


If there’s ever a need to cut wood for an emergency, a snow saw will get the job done. Ideally, if you backpacking, you should carry a separate saw for cutting firewood.

How Long Does a Snow Saw Need to Be?

If your testing snow columns for avalanche safety, you’ll want to make sure you have a long enough blade. The extended column test requires a snow column 30 cm deep, so you’ll probably want a blade that is at least 35cm long. A few saws on the market attach to adjustable ski poles to help extend the length of the saw. This is quite useful for cutting the back of the snow column where it’s harder to reach.

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Different Types of Snow Saws

Snow saws come in different variations depending on their use. Some snow saws have aggressive teeth and are designed for building shelters and cutting throw ice and wood. Other saws are scientific snow saws with measurements for analyzing snow conditions and snow crystals. Some even attach to the end of ski poles, are foldable, and come in different lengths.

Snow Saw Reviews

The best snow saw really depends on what you will be using the saw for. With most gear choices, a lot of it comes down to personal preference. We went ahead and did some research to help you compare some of the snow saws on the market so you can decide for yourself which snow saw is best.

MSR Basecamp Snow Construction Saw

The Basecamp Snow Saw has a blade of 65 cm that is designed for cutting through snow for building snow shelters and wind barricades at base camps. The aggressive tooth design and curve is designed to cut through snow fast and in both directions. The voids between the teeth help remove unwanted snow.

MSR Basecamp Snow Construction Saw

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The Basecamp saw blade is made from durable, lightweight 7075 aluminum. The blade is also foldable, allowing it to be packed inside a protective sheath, saving space.

MSR Basecamp Snow Construction Saw with Sheath.

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Black Diamond Snow Saw Pro

The Black Diamond Snow Saw Pro has a serrated 35cm stainless steel blade for making clean cuts through snow. The saw attaches to most Black Diamond ski pole shafts (excluding Pure Carbon ski poles) using the three color-coded interchangeable connection pegs for additional reach. When not in use, the blade folds safely into the handle, saving space and the need for a sheath.

Black Diamond Snow Saw Pro

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Backcountry Access Snow Saw

The Backcountry Access Snow Saw has a 35cm blade that is sharp enough to cut through snow, ice, and actual wood, which not many other snow saws can handle. Some consider the Backcountry Acces Saw to be more on the flimsy side, while others consider it adequate. The ergonomic handle makes sawing easier, especially when cutting through wood. The sheath that comes with the saw is cheap, so be careful the blade doesn’t tear up your pack. Because of its versatility, it’s not only great for backpacking and skiing but also for other activities like snowmobiling.

Backcountry Access Snow Saw

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