The trailers broke. They broke bad.

The metal ribs that held box to axel snapped clean off Jim’s trailer. In nearly the same place, on my trailer, the welds broke free. One minute, I was rolling over mountainscape, the next minute I was pulling a sleigh.

To Jim’s credit, he thought he could fix his trailer. (I scrapped mine in a cache of hiker, biker, camper detritus–a little monument, it seemed, to those beaten by the trail.) And I must admit, I was a little skeptical of Jim’s plan–and the time it would take–but of all the repair jobs we attempted in the bush, none were more successful.

Jim’s plan was simple: attach spruce poles to the axel, plane larger trees to boards, plank boards in the trailer box and screw spruce poles to the boards. Without proper repair gear, three tools made this possible: a knife, an axe and a saw. This trifecta of backcountry basics saved our tails time and again.

A Knife: The Cold Steel Trail Master


When Cold Steel sent us the Trail Master before the trip, we joked that it was better suited for a samurai battle. At 14.5 inches overall with a 9.5-inch blade, it’s a beast. Yet it was this sheer size and heft that made it so valuable. We used it to split wood–more precise than a swinging axe–and to plane boards draw knife style. We carried the SK-5 carbon blade model, which runs $240, but they also make a $485 San Mai III version. Both have checkered Krayton handles and despite the knives overall size it felt balanced and true in my average to small-sized hands. Before the trip, I would have said it’s too big for a survival knife. After the trip, it’s my go-to knife. It can chop like an axe, but is sharp with fine enough of a point for detail work.
An Axe: The Cold Steel Trail Boss**


Cold Steel also sent us the Trail Boss, which retails around $45. When I showed it to people in the office, when I showed it to Jim, when I showed it to our ride in Whitehorse, when I showed it to everyone, I got a chorus of: “it’s too small.”

And at 23 inches with a 4.5-inch cutting edge, it is small. But unlike the full-sized synthetic handled axe we bought at Canadian Tire before setting off, the Trail Boss was razor sharp and rock solid in the hand. (That big box axe had a terrible wobble on the strike.) It was our Number one tool for the miles of brush we cleared off the trail, for cutting down trees to building the rafts, and for up-rooting roots in the swampy bogs that hooked our trailers and held us under. It did, however, loose its head–a potential deal breaker–but we were able to fix it quickly with a little whittling and an old nail.

A Saw: The Sawvivor


I hadn’t seen the Sawvivor until Jim whipped it out of his pack a few days into the trip. At 10 ounces, this space-age collapsible aluminum saw weighed less than two Mountain House meals in a ziplock. Along with the Trail Boss, it did more work than any other tool we had along for the ride. It’s hard to convey just how light the Sawvivor is, or how well it cut. In the video there are several shots of it zipping through spruce poles. It did this day after day, for 21-days, on a single blade without any signs of slow down. The foam handle wore off, the wing-nuts that attach the blade got harder and harder to turn, but the saw kept cutting. At less than $40 with a lifetime warranty, you can’t beat that.