Once in a while, there is a product that you come across that you just can’t contain your excitement about. For me today, that product is the Boreal21. When I first saw this product, thanks to Joe Robinet, I thought it would be a useful tool. I never expected to be this blown away.
Agawa Canyon is a Canadian based company that has made their name with something unheard of; one main product. What a product it is! The Boreal21 is a foldable, stowable bow saw that can be used in any condition. It doesn’t compromise the length of the blade in order to fold, and it doesn’t compromise the structure of the bow saw for compact storage. In fact, it has incorporated the best of all traditional camp saws into one.
After having received the saw in the mail I was immediately surprised by the construction. Aluminum rails line the sides, perfect divots to divert the blade into a seated position, and a fairly hefty handle left a strong impression. Sure,
I could find some faults and flaws, but overall, it seems like a strong saw. I also received the Backwoods Kit, which includes a dark leather sheath and second saw blade hidden in the rear of the sheath. I was eager to test this saw out.
Come the following day there was rain and more rain. My hands were itching to try the saw out on anything and if I got mad enough… anyone. Luckily, I ate my Snickers and was ready to just wait until the rain died down. When it did the entire forest was drenched for days. Deciding to brave the glorious mud I jumped into the woods with both feet, determined to give this saw a run for its money.
Before I even began using this saw I have been using a friend’s Fiskars bow saw to set up my camp. It wasn’t the fanciest saw but really got the job done and saved me the effort to go and buy one myself. I wasn’t sure if a bow saw was the way to go. Bow saws really sacrifice packability for strength and speed so I couldn’t justify the sacrifice a bow saw would have on my gear setup.
Before the last drop of rain fell I began to saw. An old Maple tree had fallen near my camp and was now about to add to it. I pulled out the saw, made a quick flip, clicked the handle into place, and began sawing. The Boreal21 came with an All-Purpose blade attached, and Sydney Rach blade in the sheath.
The All-Purpose blade made quick work of the 6″ and 8″ diameter wet log, much faster than the Fiskars; but I’ll say that was due to have a new, fresh, sharp blade.
The Boreal21 worked well. Almost too well. I was having the time of my life, sawing logs. Sure, it got stuck from time to time, nothing will alter the physics of sawing, but overall the saw performed amazingly well. I took a break, eat my lunch, and jumped back to the task of making firewood with the Boreal21, sans gloves. That’s the moment I saw my first flaw in the Boreal21.
Don’t get me wrong, when I say flaw I use the word liberally. It isn’t going to chew up my hands, however, the handle itself is not one, solid, molded piece. It is a handle that is wrapped around one of the most important parts of the frame. Here, where my palm touches the saw, there are three types of metal and plastic materials converging.
It didn’t feel comfortable to use the saw without gloves and I definitely couldn’t use the saw too aggressively. Throwing on my work gloves, the issue was solved but an issue worth mentioning. This has to be the one, and only, a flaw I see in the design.
Agawa Canyon Inc. has devoted a lot of time, and money, into designing the perfect saw for backpackers and survivalists. They took the best parts of a bow saw, the best parts of a foldable camp saw, and put them together. The design team put in a lot of hours trying to make the perfect item for a backpacker.
Made from an aluminum frame, with plastic overlay, and a steel saw blade – it does weigh a little more than a standard bow saw. At least, it weighed more than the Fiskars bow saw. It also felt bulkier than the Fiskars due to the squared off, 1980’s Ford Mustang look. When the arm, I’ll call it the swing arm, comes around to hook to the handle it makes the user wonder how long it will last.
After the saw is put into the ‘bow saw’ configuration it seems beefy, strong and doesn’t have any give.
Pros and Cons
Boreal21 is the first 21″ packable bow saw. There is nothing else like it on the market. While a foldable, packable bow saw isn’t for everyone it can easily become one of the most important pieces of gear a survivalist, or woodsman/woman can have. Folding away into a backpack, day pack, or the sheath allows any user to take this into any part of the world with ease. Even when it is in its packed form it still seems like you could use it as a weapon, if you really had to.
The sheath is cool looking. In my opinion, it lacks one important feature. Agawa Canyon did not integrate a belt loop into the sheath. Rather, they opted for a shoulder strap that can be used to carry the saw independently, or attached to a pack, via some sort of finagling. Carrying the Boreal21 in the sheath seems cumbersome, especially if you’re also carrying a rifle.
The blades they offer will easily fit any need. Since it came packed with the All-Purpose blade it as the first blade I used and really enjoyed it. No need to push down and no worry about having a delicate blade fitting into a taut frame. These are standard blades fit into a custom saw. When closed, the All-Purpose blade did touch the inside of the frame, scratching the frame slightly. While this may not affect the overall performance of the saw it is something to note.
I hesitated to change the blade. The process seemed difficult but was really extremely easy. Only two clips needed to come off and the pins came out. The Sydney Rancher blade really is a modified blade, unlike the All-Purpose. The first and last few teeth are ground down, and in my case, there was an additional hole. This didn’t change how effective the blade was in the slightest.
The shaved down teeth were still extremely sharp, so caution is needed when handling this change. The clips went back on as easily as they came off. We won’t know how long these clips last since only time can tell, yet Agawa Canyon did provide more in the shipment.
Overall, this saw is great! I haven’t ever been this excited to saw down a tree and make firewood. I only have two wishes for this saw. Wish 1; the handle is smoothed out to make it more comfortable to use without gloves. This may be possible by moving the locking mechanism to the smallest section of the frame, but I am not an engineer. Wish 2; the sheath would be modified to have a belt loop.
I rarely carry an entire back into the woods because I don’t want something on my back so I opt to have a large belt kit to compensate for no pack. This saw would make an excellent addition to a belt kit if it had a belt loop.
Agawa Canyon sells them directly on their site. They have a range of different blades available, color options, and different finish styles for the sheath. Yes, it costs much more than a standard bow saw or even camp saw. $69 for the saw itself or $127 for the Backwoods kit is a lot to spend on a saw. Regardless, this saw is worth every penny you put into it.