This blog is part of our series honoring ITA’s 10-year anniversary!

By Jeff Halligan, ITA Executive Director

It’s important to have the right tool for the job. These ten items will have any trail cleared in no time!

  1. Crosscut saw- This has been the backbone of trail work for a couple hundred years.  The vintage saws (that is all ITA uses) are hard to find and and a saw filer to make them sharp is even harder.  They are precision tuned to make them sing as they cut through the wood. When used properly they are efficient, fun and probably the true creator of the term “teamwork”.  Special care and caution is taken when using these saws as damage to the saw or sawyer can be catastrophic if mishandled.  

2. Double Bit Axe– The double bit, and Poll axe are a couple of the of the older tools that trail workers cherish.   Sharp axes are a must and ITA prefers the vintage Kelly, Collins and Plumb brands from the early 1900s.  Once sharp they hold and edge and make removing limbs and chopping logs easier and safer.  And they are a must for setting wedges when using the crosscuts.  

3. Shovel– Shovels are a necessity for trail work. They are for cleaning waterbars, and drainage ditches to help control erosion, remove sloughs and fixing tread issues.  They are also used to bury human waste and paper roses in the field.  

4. Pulaski- Probably one of the most recognized fire fighting tools is also a great trail tool.  It is the most abused tool also. The Pulaski is considered a “dirt Tool”.  The axe side is used to cut roots and chop things close to rocks and the ground in case the blade hits something you don’t want it to.  Save your double bit!  The hoe end is used to dig and remove dirt from roots and to clean up areas where you would work with finer tools.

5. Loppers- loppers, nippers, they have many names.  They are the tool to control the encroaching brush and tree branches, clearing width, 13 feet high and 6 to 8 feet wide!

6. McLeod- The “fire rake” is a great tool for trail work.  It has a long blade tuned 90 degrees to the handle for smoothing and moving dirt on the trail tread, the other side is a rake to remove rocks and debris from the trail.  It is a great tool for finishing off the trail to give it a very smooth surface.  

7. Rock Bar- The favorite tool of the ultra-light crowd. Big, beefy and easy to put in your pack for the hike in.  The rock bar is used for exactly what it sounds like- moving big rocks and logs.  A great way to pinch fingers and learn about pivot points and fulcrums.     

8. Pruning saw- A great little saw that fits in your pack and is easy to carry. A must have for limbing trees along the trail, you can do a great job making smooth cuts close to the tree trunk o remove the branches and allow the tree to stay healthy.  

9. Pick Mattox- The brute of trail work, the tool to dig big rocks out of the trail and to really get the dirt moving.  The pick side works to get under rocks and the handle is stout enough to really lean on to wedge rocks and logs.  The Mattox side is used to do serous dirt moving, it is a swinging tool so make sure you are clear of folks!

10. Brain- probably the most important tool in your tool cache.  It is used in all aspects of trail work.  From paying attention while you are hiking to sizing up logs that fell across the trail. This one you want to keep sharp, focused and available.