A few years ago, I watched a survival show host use a wire saw (sometimes called a commando saw) on an episode of his show, and the ring on one side pulled off with the first tug or two.
After seeing that show, I decide to test my wire saw out. Although the ring did stay on mine, after only cutting two small pine branches, the wire became so bent, twisted, and kinked up that I could not cut completely through a third branch with it. My conclusion: the wire saw is a nice idea in theory, but doesn't really work in reality.
So, I traded up to a survival pocket chain saw. Its a chain saw blade with two nylon hand straps, and comes with a pouch that can be worn on your belt. Its too big for a Altoids survival kit, of course, but small & light enough (less than one pound including the pouch) to easily carry in a bug-out bag, tackle box, or keep in the glove compartment of your vehicle.
After the failure of my wire saw, I decided I need to test out the pocket chain saw. I cut down a dead cherry tree in my yard with it (see the pictures in this article of that tree and the pocket chainsaw I used).
The pocket chainsaw worked extremely well. I was able to cut down and cut up a 9+ inch diameter cherry tree with nothing but my pocket chainsaw and my own muscle power. I did learn a few things: 1) A gas-powered chainsaw would have been much easier and faster, of course, but a real chainsaw and a can of gas won't fit in your bug-out bag. The pocket chainsaw is a viable alternative. 2) You need to have a lot of strength and stamina to really use this - fitness matters. By the way, using a pocket chainsaw is a GREAT upper body workout! 3) Wear gloves (you should include a pair of work gloves in your bug-out bag anyway), otherwise the hand straps will eat into your hands.
Since then, I've also successfully used the pocket chainsaw to cut up several smaller trees and large branches. The handles have not ripped off, and the chain hasn't knotted up. Using it is hard work - again, fitness matters - but it is definitely a better option than the useless wire saw. I keep my pocket chainsaw in my bug-out bag.
The pocket chainsaw is on Amazon for about $20, and currently comes with a free fire starter.
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