Trail clearing gear: tool recommendations? - ClubTread Community

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post #1 of (permalink) Old 09-03-2009, 05:20 PM Thread Starter
Headed for the Mountains
Join Date: Apr 2004
Location: Vancouver, BC, Canada.
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Default Trail clearing gear: tool recommendations?

What would people recommend taking in a kit for doing trail clearing work?

Specifically, I am just thinking about trail clearing and maintenance, not trail building. So brushing out undergrowth, clearing fallen alders, and repairing a bit of erosion. Even more specifically, I am thinking about brushing out the last kilometer or two of old logging road that leads up to the Capilano/Beth Lake trail, so that it's feasable to bike right to the trail head.

For clearing underbrush, I was thinking maybe loppers are the best? Are loppers with telescoping handles useful, or do they just tend to break when used with heavy underbrush? What about those loppers that have the long, straight blade instead of the curved one - are those quicker or are they too weak to cut through must underbrush?

For clearing fallen alders or other small trees (with a trunk size of 2-6", nothing so big that you'd need a chainsaw), is a bow saw or an axe preferable?

For repairing trail erosion, I imagine a shovel is best, although one could move some dirt with a pulaski and combine two tools into one. But is that just going to dull the pulaski and generally just be more work than the convience of not having to haul around two tools?

Anyone recommendations on specific brands or tools or places to shop would be appreciated.
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post #2 of (permalink) Old 09-03-2009, 05:46 PM
High on the Mountain Top
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Location: Whistler, BC, Canada.
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For cutting through downed logs there are a number of Japanese pullsaws (dokogiri) that work particularly well. I have one with a 45cm blade that will cut quickly through 30cm logs. The teeth are designed to cut on the pull stroke, so you can apply more effort to the relatively thin, stainless steel blades and the cutting stroke (blade won't fold on a pull) and make ver efficient cuts. Extremely light to carry, very quick for cutting, but a little pricey. Still worth it, as far as I am concerned.

In this photo, the pull saw is in my summit pack. I'd done some trailwork on the way to the alpine and it's so light I just left it in the pack.

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post #3 of (permalink) Old 09-03-2009, 05:48 PM
High on the Mountain Top
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Sandvik makes some very light but effective brush hooks that can sever slide alder to 12cm diameter with one stroke. A little tricky to use in thicker brush, because a swing is required, but one can use the tool to get most branches and major trunks out of the way and then trim with a pullsaw.
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post #4 of (permalink) Old 09-03-2009, 06:23 PM
Off the Beaten Path
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I use Fiskars lopping shears with the 24" handles (Rona $50). They cut alders up to 2" effortlessly. I tried several types of the rebranded "Rona" lopping shears but none lasted more than a day. Loppers have trouble cutting dead fir branches > about 30mm because the branches are about as hard as steel. I have never tried one with telescoping handles but I would be dubious - the lopper take a lot of force.

I use a 30" bow saw for anything larger.

A machette is useful for putting an initial trail into very thick alder, but it leaves a trail of punji-sticks because it does not cut close to the ground. That would make your bike trail more exciting but might raise liability issues.

I find a pick (or equivalent) much more useful than a shovel because the latter does not get past roots. A shovel is better for ditching though.

Clearing several kilometers of bush is going to take a while. I suggest leaving your tools at the end of the trail (in plastic bags) rather than carrying them up and down every time.

Keep in mind you can rent a 12" chain saw at most tool rental shops. If you clear the small stuff first, you can rent a chainsaw for a single day to cut the bigger logs.

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post #5 of (permalink) Old 09-03-2009, 06:40 PM
Headed for the Mountains
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Location: Squamish, , Canada.
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For dirt work building bike trails I love the pulaski. But a Mcleod is nice for light dirt work also.

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post #6 of (permalink) Old 09-03-2009, 07:26 PM
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These are my favourite for slide alder:,42706,40720

An axe/machette/sandvik is faster if you can cut all the way through in one swing. A bow saw will generally a good choice for 3-6" alder. Get a partner - one person to bend the tree and the other to cut with the saw.
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post #7 of (permalink) Old 09-03-2009, 07:46 PM
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For trail erosion I use my hands with leather gloves. If I need to loosen dirt I use a 6 in nail. I use rock and cedar to repair.
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post #8 of (permalink) Old 09-03-2009, 08:07 PM
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Our trail building group uses a smallish chainsaw, picks, shovels, pruners (one with telescoping handle), a huge bar for moving boulders, and rakes for finishing off. Without a chainsaw you're sentencing yourself to hard labour. We occasionally carry a bow saw. I used one of those Swedish axes for a while but found it limited. Everything gets blunt in a hurry out there, you're always hitting crap that takes your edge off. Heavy work gloves. And a first aid kit. We've had a few injuries, one quite serious.
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post #9 of (permalink) Old 09-03-2009, 09:39 PM
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Fiskars pruners and loppers with hollow plastic handles are very light weight, yet sturdy for small stuff.

I also have a folding Japanese pruning saw and a light weight axe/hammer that are my mainstay's for stuff of up to a foot in diameter.

For bigger stuff, I have a 3 foot long cross cut hand saw, much like the classic fallers hand saw, with the crown shaped kerf cleaning teeth, but short & light enough to carry on my pack. I don't usually bring power tools, as I often am working by myself and also want some peace & quiet. The drawback to cutting a two foot diameter deadfall with a hand tool, is that you need to make that 45 minute long cut count and be sure it's right and not bind up your tool. I'll spend 45 minutes just figuring where to make my cut. Makes for a pleasant day of trail maintenance.

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post #10 of (permalink) Old 09-03-2009, 09:49 PM
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Depending on what brush you get your self into, I find taking welding gloves for pulling thorny things and stuff that normally would wear the skin off your hands, about the best thing to have as they protect up the arm as well. I have a lightweight matic that I use for trail edge and ditches and stubborn roots. The plastic Fiskars loppers cut up to 2" and are very light. The next part of the arsenal is the bowsaw. I do not carry an axe as I don't like the weight or the chance I might see some of my own blood on the trail again.
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