Section 508 Navigation
National Trails Training Partnership Header Skip Navigation
HomeAbout usTrailsWhat's hotCalendarTrainingResources & libraryPartnersJoin usStore

Tools for Trails
Hosted by

Intro | Working safely | Safety tools | Brushing tools | Sawing & chopping tools | Grubbing & Raking Tools | Digging & Tamping Tools | Pounding & Hammering Tools | Lifting & Hauling Tools | Bark Peeling Tools | Survey, Layout & Measuring Tools | Power Tools | Miscellaneous Tools | Sources for Tools & Supplies

Power Tools

Part Nine of an illustrated compendium of trail tools by Jim Schmid

-- download a printable version in Word: text and cover

Chainsaw: Chainsaws with 16 inch blades are generally adequate for most trail work. Models should be obtained with chain brakes, vibration damped handles, and high quality mufflers. Chainsaws can be used to cut medium to large size blowdowns, clearing heavy sapling growth during trail construction, cutting trees into logs for wood construction projects such as bridges or shelters. Required personal protective gear includes leather gloves, ear muffs, eye protection, hardhat, and Kevlar (or similar) saw chaps.

Safety tip: Chainsaws should be used only by experienced workers who have undergone training and are certified for chainsaw use.


Power Weed Cutter (Brushsaw): Generally, a power weed cutter with an engine of 35cc to 80cc and bicycle-type handlebars is recommended. Trail work requires a more powerful unit than one (weed whacker) that is used for lawn trimming. Trail work requires a saw type or a universal grass-brush bladeÑnot a string cutter. The brushsaw is supported by a shoulder harness, but can still become very tiring. Be sure to work in a team and switch positions regularly. When not cutting, the other person can remove brush from the trail.

Safety tip: The open blade is on the end of a wand, and can snag and swing violently to the side, making it more prone to injure other workers rather than the operator. Other workers should stay clear.


DR Field and Brush Mower: This sturdy mower is an excellent choice for cutting heavy grass, weeds, briars, and even saplings from 1 to 2 inch diameter. A DR Field and Brush Mower is simply a walk-behind brush-hog that is useful during trail construction and trail maintenance. It comes in 9, 11, 13, or 17 horsepower models. The 17 HP is the best for trail work with its heavy, 30 inch wide blade capable of powering through saplings up to 2 inches thick. It is more useful than a sickle-bar mower because the material is chewed up and does not need to be removed from the trail as much as with a sickle-bar mower.

Safety tip: The mower can throw objects and injure others. Other workers should be kept at a safe distance away from the mower.

brush mower

Stump Grinder: A gasoline-powered portable stump grinder is handy when you have lots of stumps to remove. They are powered by a chain saw motor and have carbide teeth that can be resharpened or replaced. They can grind through a stump in much less time than it would be needed to dig it out.

stump grinder

Motorized Carriers (Power Wagon): Ideal for hauling stone, gravel, and dirt motorized carriers are useful for extra-heavy or frequent hauling needs. These come in various configurations and typically feature a small engine with a dump body.

power wagon

Rock Drills/Breakers: Single use or combination rock drill/breakers or rotary hammer drills are available to drill holes in rock or concrete. They have many applications for blasting or splitting rock. They can be used break concrete or rock as well as cut asphalt. They can also be used to drive pipe, signposts, or ground anchors as well as chipping and shaping rock. Electric rotary hammer drills are lower in cost, size, and weight than gas powered models and the availability of lightweight gas generators has made it possible to use electric tools at project sites distant from roads. Some models available include: gas (Pionjar 120, Pico14) or electric (Kango).

Rock drill

rock breaker

Miscellaneous Tools

Flexible Post Tools (Post Driver, Pilot Driver, Post Puller): A special driver must be used when driving fiberglass trail posts into the ground. A special pilot driver helps when you have to drive a post into hard or rocky soil. The post puller is specifically designed for easy extraction of flexible posts. It eliminates the need of digging out the post.

post tools

Hydraulic Jack: Jacks are used to raise heavy weights such as a corner of a shelter that has settles, or a bridge beam so that shims can be places or the abutment built up. Can also be used to level heavy stone steps or any other structureÑas long as room can be created to insert the jack under the object.

Safety tip: When working under heavy objects, there is always the danger of having it fall and crush whatever is under it. Extreme caution should be used when my part of the body is beneath the structure until it is securely in place.

hydrulic jack


MAX Multi- Purpose Axe: Incorporates seven basic hand tools into one compact, versatile unit: A Hudson Bay style axe head permanently attached to a 36" fiberglass handle, with six quick-attach tools: shovel, mattock, pick, broad pick, fire rake, and hoe. Each component slips into a specially designed socket on the axe head and is secured by either a hitch pin or thumbscrew tightener. All components are drop-forged from high quality tool steel and fit into a compact canvas case that can be carried on a belt or strapped to a pack. Weights only 12-1/2 lbs.

multi-purpse axe


B.O.B. YAK Trailer: The YAK trailer also known as the Beast of Burden (BOB) seems to be the most prevalent single-wheeled trailer being used by trail crews. This versatile cargo carrier attaches to the hub of the rear wheel of a mountain bicycle by means of a special quick-release skewer. It can be used to carry hand tools, chainsaws, and day gear very well. BOB Trailers ( offers a holder that zip ties to the inside of the trailer for carrying hand tools more securely.

yak trailer

Tool Repair and Sharpening

Tool handles crack and break all the time. Any tool that has a damaged handle should be condemned from use until a replacement is installed. The same is true for tools whose head is loose or cutting edge is broke. Serious injury can result from tools that need a new handle or have a broken head. Be sure your tools are in good shape before use.

Files: A 10- to 12-inch flat mill or flat single-cut bastard file is the simplest tool for shaping a bevel or giving a blade a fast edge. Because of the tooth design, files cut in only the forward direction. Dragging on the backstroke quickly dulls the file. If the file becomes clogged with filings, clean it with a wire brush or file card.

Safety tip: Make sure you file has a knuckle guard and a handle. Also good idea to wear gloves.


Related topics:

More resources:

page footer

Contact us | Mission statement | Board of directors | Member organizations | Site map | Copyright | NRT | NTTP