Prepper Chainsaw

One item often mentioned on lists for prepping is a chainsaw. A chainsaw can be used to cut firewood, clear paths or roads blocked by fallen trees from tornados or hurricanes, and general cleanup around the home, farm or bugout location.

Just buying a chainsaw isn't all you need. You will need spare chains and bars, bar oil, sharpening files, saw adjustment multi-tool, and good gasoline with oil mix. You will also need ear and eye protection. You can obtain a helmet with eye screen and over the ear headphone type mufflers. This helmet prevents you from being slapped in the face by a branch or getting an eyeful of sawdust. I use this helmet for weed trimming too. Keeps the flying debris like rocks and twigs out of my face.

If you've never operated a chainsaw you should find someone that can teach you safety and proper cutting techniques. A chainsaw is very dangerous and can kill you in just a few seconds, either from the sharp chain cutting an artery or a tree or branch falling on you. It is also a good idea to have someone around to assist you but not too close.

There are many brands and sizes of chainsaws. I prefer the Stihl brand. It is professional and built to last. Parts are readily available. The model I prefer is the MS170, 14 inch chainsaw.


It costs around US$170. It states that this model is designed for light to medium duty and branch trimming. I find that this model is very robust and can handle some serious cutting. In fact I use this model to cut all my oak and hickory for firewood every season. I have two of them and if I'm in a hurry and one chain gets dull I just pick up the other one. I generally cut over 15 cords a year. The MS170 seems to hold up quite well even with 20 inch diameter logs. It might be slightly slower cutting but with a good sharp chain you can cut easily all day. It is lighter than my standby Stihl 036 20 inch saw which to me is quite heavy. I fall back on this if I want to cut a lot of big logs quickly but for me it's just too heavy to hold onto all day.

Just having a chainsaw isn't going to do any good if you don't have all the supporting accessories. A chain can break if you accidentally touch a rock or if it gets hung up in a branch or gets pinched. Hitting a rock or touching the ground can dull the chain in less than a second so you must know how to keep the chain sharp at all times. I can cut a whole season of firewood with one chain. It is beyond the scope of this page to show you how to sharpen a chain but you must know the correct way to get the best performance. To tell if it's sharp you should see large chips of wood flying out from the bottom of the chain. If you see fine sawdust or if the saw seems to speed up when cutting your chain is dull and needs sharpening.

When stockpiling chains, make extra sure you are stocking the correct chain. Sometimes the pitch is different from saw to saw or bar to bar. Also keep a good number of correct bars for your saw. A bar should be changed every 20 or so times you replace the chain. If you hit a rock with the tip of the bar you could damage the sprocket on the end. Also note that if you keep running out of oil the sprocket bearings can burn up in no time.

Having good bar oil and 50:1 oil mix for your gas is important to keep the chain functioning properly. Always  use ethanol free gas. Ethanol can dissolve rubber hoses and gaskets and draw moisture into the gas tank. The moisture will form water that will damage the carburetor and your saw will not start.

Personally I stay with all Stihl parts especially bar and chain oil and 50:1 gas mix. When mixed, your gas should be clear with a blue or gold tint and with no sign of cloudiness. If it is cloudy, throw it out! It's contaminated with water and will cause all kinds of problems and damage your carburetor.

The carburetor is the weakest link in keeping the chainsaw operating properly and is the primary reason for the saw not starting or running smoothly.

If your saw won't start easily or has to be heavily choked in order to run, the carburetor will need to be replaced. It can be rebuilt but you really have to know what you're doing and even then it is usually unsuccessful. Read my page on carburetor repair. It is better to just purchase a few spares for prepping purposes. Keeping a spare ignition module is a good idea too.

It is possible for an EMP to destroy the solid state module and render the saw useless so keep a few stored away tightly wrapped in aluminum foil or in a hardened container.

You can purchase carburetors and ignition modules at your local small parts dealer or buy them on ebay pretty cheap. There are ebay sellers that sell a carburetor and ignition module, fuel lines, air filter, oil filter, gas filter, sparkplug, wires, all for just US$14, and free shipping from China. Don't be worried about cheap Chinese parts. Even the original equipment carburetors and ignition modules are from China. Probably made in the same factory.

The multi-use adjustment tool is a necessity. It is used to open and close the gas and oil caps, adjust the bar tightness, adjust the chain tightness, and to remove the sparkplug. Keep a few spares. They easily get lost in the woods. Paint them yellow or orange.

Gasoline, bar oil, and 50:1 oil mix are going to be needed in large prepper quantities. Oil will last a number of years but gas, preferably ethanol free will be needed in greater supplies. Unfortunately you cannot store gasoline for very long but gas treatment such as Sta-bil Storage may prolong its shelf life by a year or so. If you store your chainsaw over a season it is best to empty the tank and purge the gas out of the carburetor by pulling the starter cord a number of times. Lately it has been said by mechanics that this is not a good idea and good gas should be kept in the saw and run at least once a month to keep it in good condition. This however might not be feasible in many conditions and it's easy to forget.

I recommend staying away from any of the big box store brands. They are usually cheap and light duty and can't hold up to hard use and spare parts are often hard to find. Most cheap chainsaws are designed to be replaced in a year or two rather than being repaired.

You can browse the web for help in owning and operating a chainsaw. Here are some examples:  Geekprepper

Copyright 2022 Rick C. Ver 0.7 4/4/2022