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Prepping & Survival

Best Mini Chainsaws of 2024, Tested and Reviewed

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I’ll admit that at first I thought a review of the best mini chainsaws was a bit silly. I expected the category to be full of cheap saws from pop-up Amazon brands. I expected for the products to be made overseas and for them to fall to pieces when it came time to get down to business. In other words, I expected the category to be gimmicky. 

I was dead wrong (at least about everything except the overseas manufacturing part). After some serious hands-on testing, I discovered the best mini chainsaws to be excellent tools for the backyard, deer camp, and beyond. The more I used them, the more jobs I found for them. 

First let me define my field of “mini chainsaws.” In this review I included a handful of pruner-style electric saws. These don’t really look like a chainsaw except for their bar and chain, but hey, that’s what people seem to be calling them. For the most part they are meant for light work in the backyard or garden, however I did find one heavy duty pruner-style saw that can handle serious work. I also included two electric top handle saws. This style of saw is usually used by professional arborists for in-tree work. However, for their compact size and lighter weight (compared to a regular chainsaw), they’re also useful for experienced chainsaw users in the backcountry. Lastly, I included one small, affordable, battery-powered saw that I think meets the definition of “mini” because of its light weight, compact design, and 10-inch bar. 

Best Mini Chainsaws

How I Tested the Best Mini Chainsaws

I tested all saws for cutting speed, battery life, ergonomics, and overall utility. Here’s what I did specifically.

Cutting Speed

For this test I timed how quickly each saw could cut through a small log. Since bar length largely determines how thick of a log a saw can cut through, I split the field of saws into two divisions. 

  • Saws with a bar length of 4 to 8 inches cut through a 4-inch diameter oak log. 
  • Saws with a 10- to 12-inch bar cut through a 6-inch diameter black willow log.

For each saw, I timed three cuts and then averaged them to provide a “speed cut time,” which you’ll see in the writeups below.

Battery Life

After the speed cutting test, I continued cutting cookies from each log. I simply counted how many times each saw was able to cut through the log before running out of battery or overheating. 

Ergonomics and Utility

After the initial tests I recharged each battery and then took all the saws to my deer hunting property in northern Wisconsin. There I used them to clear trails and clean up a timber stand improvement area we’ve been working on. I put these saws through a lot tougher work than you normally would while pruning trees in the backyard. It was a chilly 20 degrees and I was out there felling small trees, sawing branches, and making massive brush piles for the entire day. I did my best to beat the everloving snot out of each saw. Again, I ran each one until its battery died.  

Best Mini Chainsaws: Reviews & Recommendations 

Best Overall: Milwaukee M18 Hatchet

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Specs and Key Features

  • Speed Cut Time: 6.7 seconds (4-inch diameter log)
  • Total Cuts: 92
  • Bar Length: 8 inches
  • Battery: 18V; 5 AH
  • Weight (including battery): 6 pounds, 13 ounces; measured
  • Price: $229 (tool only, no battery)
  • Made in China

Pros

  • Very fast and powerful
  • Versatile
  • Compatible with all Milwaukee M18 batteries
  • Automatic oiler
  • Onboard scrench storage

Cons

  • On the heavy side
  • Expensive

The Milwaukee Hatchet was by far the fastest and most capable pruner-style saw in the test. This saw is probably overkill if you want to just trim a few branches in the backyard, but it’s ideal when you want to get real work done. This would be the perfect saw for clearing trails, cutting firewood at a backcountry campsite, or girdling trees for TSI. Even though it is substantially heavier than the other pruner-style saws in this review, it is still compact enough that you can run it one handed.

It’s the one pruner-style saw in this roster that has an automatic oiler — you unscrew a cap and add bar oil just like you would for a regular chainsaw. It’s also the only pruner-style saw that doesn’t have a plastic guard over the top of the chain. This might intimidate some users, but I never felt unsafe while using the saw. It does have a large handguard for protection, which is nice. As long as you grip the saw properly, you should have no issue. 

The Hatchet is compatible with all M18 Fuel series batteries, and I used an 18V; 5AH battery from my Milwaukee cordless drill to power the saw. With that battery it was able to make an impressive 97 cuts through a 4-inch diameter log. The saw never overheated, never got jammed up, and never threw its chain, even while chewing through bigger logs. With its 8-inch bar it had no problem cutting through a 7-inch diameter maple tree, which I bucked for firewood. The only downside of this saw is its price. At $229 for the saw and at least another $80 for the battery and charger, it’s not a budget tool. However, if you already own Milwaukee power tools that run on M18 batteries, the deal gets a lot sweeter.  

Best Value: Saker Mini Chainsaw


Saker Mini Chainsaw

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Specs and Key Features

  • Speed Cut Time: 15.3 seconds (4-inch diameter log)
  • Total Cuts: 22 
  • Bar Length: 4 inches
  • Battery: 20V; 1.5 AH
  • Weight (including battery): 2 pounds, 8 ounces; measured
  • Price: $68
  • Made in China

Pros

  • Cheap
  • Light
  • Surprisingly powerful

Cons

  • Battery overheated
  • Chain kept getting loose

I was fully expecting for the Saker to fail out of the test. It’s a cheap saw and it has all kind of hype online. Usually tools like this are gimmicks. However the little Saker kept on running, no matter what I threw at it and proved to be a screaming value for anyone wanting a handy battery-powered saw capable of light work around home or camp. It’s just about as fast as the Stihl and made significantly more cuts — and costs less than half the price. 

Here are a few important details that I noticed while working with the Saker. Because it’s so light, it’s very easy to run one handed, except the safety is a bit awkward to hit with only one hand on the saw. During the battery test, the saw overheated and stalled out; the battery didn’t actually die. So if you were doing work at a normal rate it likely would have made significantly more cuts. With only a 4-inch bar, you’re not supposed to cut larger limbs with it. I ignored the directions and tried anyway. If I babied the saw, I could get it to cut 6-inch diameter limbs, though it would jam up with too much pressure. But still, I was happily surprised by the performance of this little saw. There is a package option that includes two batteries and an extra chain, and I’d recommend the upgrades. 

Best Top Handle: Echo DCS 2500T


Echo DCS 2500T

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Specs and Key Features

  • Speed Cut Time: 5.7 seconds (6-inch diameter log)
  • Total Cuts: 65
  • Bar Length: 12 inches
  • Battery: 50.4V; 2.5 AH
  • Weight (including battery): 7 pounds, 7 ounces; measured
  • Price: $600
  • Made in Japan

Pros

  • Fast and powerful
  • Compact
  • Can be run one-handed
  • Long battery life

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Only for experienced chainsaw users

Echo’s battery powered top handle saw, the DCS-2500T was pound-for-pound the most impressive chainsaw in my review of the best battery chainsaws. I’m including it in this review of the best mini chainsaws because I think it can accomplish a lot of the duties that the pruning saws are designed for, but it can also take on bigger jobs. It is a fast and powerful saw combining 50-plus volts with a 12-inch bar (this a much larger bar than the pruning saws offer). For a mini chainsaw it’s a little on the heavy end at just over seven pounds, but with its top handle design it can be run with one hand. Its cutting speed and the number of cuts it produced in the test were very impressive — it sliced through the 6-inch diameter log like it was butter.

Before we get too much further, it’s important to note that this saw was designed for professional arborists. Those are the folks who scale trees and cut limbs or fell trees that are too dangerous for the average joe to take on. Top handle saws are more difficult to control and are meant to be used at height — not sawing logs on the ground. I am certainly not a professional arborist, and if you’re reading this story, you’re probably not either. So why might a non-professional want a saw that’s designed for pros? Because it is incredibly handy.

This would be a perfect saw for throwing in your side-by-side, canoe, or on a horse for a backcountry camping trip. Maybe you need to cover a lot of ground on foot to clear the trail but don’t want to haul a 14-pound saw with you. Or maybe you’ve got a bunch of shooting lanes to clear above waist height. The Echo will be your best buddy.  I’ve run my Echo DCS 2500T for a year now on a variety of jobs and it’s performed flawlessly. 

Echo now has a rear-handle model of the DCS 2500, but I wasn’t able to get it for this review. Assuming it uses the same design as the top-handle version, I’d expect it to be an excellent saw.

The Echo has the typical features you’d see on a gas powered saw: handguard/chain brake, bumper spike, and typical chain tensioning system. But it also has a nice on/off button (for safety and battery life). 

If you’re a novice chainsaw user who just wants a simple saw to do yard work, a top handle design is not a good choice (go with one of the pruning saws). But for experienced users who want a compact, ultra-capable saw, this is an excellent option.

Best for Backyards: Stihl GTA 26


Stihl GTA 26

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Specs and Key Features

  • Speed Cut Time: 14.2 seconds (4-inch diameter log)
  • Total Cuts: 12
  • Bar Length: 4 inches
  • Battery: 10.8V; 2.1 AH
  • Weight (including battery): 3 pounds, 4 ounces; measured
  • Price: $180
  • Manufactured in the U.S. with domestic and foreign components

Pros

  • Light
  • Handy, great ergonomics
  • Great safety
  • Nice soft case

Cons

  • Battery died quickly
  • Chain tensioner was touchy

This is a nice little pruner saw for backyard jobs. It had the best ergonomics in the field and an ambidextrous safety that was easy to flip while using the saw one handed. With its smaller battery, the GTA 26 only made a dozen cuts through the oak test log before needing a recharge. But for most backyard users, that will be more than enough. While using the saw I noticed that it worked best while pushing down only lightly and letting the chain do the work (as opposed to the Milwaukee, which I could hammer down aggressively). 

Stihl is known for making quality tools and the GTA 26 is no exception. It seems more well constructed than the Ryobi and Saker pruning saws. It also comes with a nice carrying case which holds the battery, charger, and oil. This saw is also compatible with a 5-foot extension pole, essentially turning it into a shorter pole saw. Stihl sent this extension to me and I gave it a try on some branches in my yard. It worked nicely, and getting the pruner into the extension was literally a snap. The two-for-one versatility helps make the Stihl GTA 26 a better deal.  

Ryobi One+


Ryobi One+

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Specs and Key Features

  • Speed Cut Time: 10.9 seconds (4-inch diameter log)
  • Total Cuts: 27
  • Bar Length: 6 inches
  • Battery: 18V; 2AH
  • Weight (including battery): 3 pounds, 12 ounces; measured
  • Price: $197
  • Made in Vietnam

Pros

  • Fast
  • Light
  • Longer bar for a pruning saw

Cons

The Ryobi saw does a great job of balancing speed and weight. It has a slightly longer bar than the Saker and Stihl saws. So if you wanted a mini chainsaw to cut bigger limbs (say 5 to 6 inches in diameter) but didn’t want to throw down for the Milwaukee, this would be a fine choice. Compared to Milwaukee, it does have a plastic guard over the top of the chain, which some users will surely appreciate. While clearing brush with the Ryobi, I was able to cut through some hefty branches that the Stihl and Saker saws wouldn’t have been able to handle. However the Ryobi did die relatively quickly. For bigger jobs, it would be nice to have a second battery. 

Milwaukee M18 Top Handle Chainsaw


Milwaukee Top Handle

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Specs and Key Features

  • Speed: 5.2 seconds (6-inch diameter log)
  • Total Cuts: 38
  • Bar Length: 12 inches
  • Battery: 18V; 5 AH
  • Weight (including battery): 10 pounds, 6 ounces; measured
  • Price: $678
  • Made in China

Pros

  • Super fast
  • Powerful and compact

Cons

  • Battery overheated quickly
  • Heavy
  • Expensive
  • Only for experienced chainsaw users

This saw is compact but it’s heavy. It’s also wicked fast. It absolutely zipped through the 6-inch diameter log just barely beating the Echo top handle. However, it wasn’t able to make nearly as many consecutive cuts as the Echo. The 18V battery overheated 38 cuts in, well before it was out of juice. If you go with the Milwaukee top handle saw, I would opt for a bigger battery to see if that solves the issue, but you’ll also be adding weight to an already heavy saw. Still, this is a legit top handle saw that can handle serious tree work. 

Worx Powershare 20V


Worx Powershare

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Specs and Key Features

  • Speed Cut Time: 17.3 seconds
  • Total Cuts: 18
  • Bar Length: 10 inches
  • Battery: 20V; 8 AH
  • Weight (including battery): 6 pounds, 11 ounces; measured
  • Price: $130
  • Made in China

Pros

  • Affordable
  • A light saw in a traditional design

Cons

  • Lacks power for bigger jobs
  • Chain tensioner had issues

This little Worx saw has the classic layout of a traditional chainsaw, just in a smaller package. It weighs only one pound more than the Milwaukee pruner and it runs on a single 20v battery. The Worx recorded significantly lower scores than the Echo top handle chainsaw, but to be fair, it also costs about a quarter of the price. This saw is meant for very light work; You will not be bucking firewood with it. But if you are more comfortable with the design of a traditional chainsaw and just want a cheap tool for light jobs in the backyard, this is a fine option. For more capable chainsaws, check out my review of the best electric chainsaws.

Things to Consider Before Buying a Mini Chainsaw

Safety

Small does not mean safe. One of these little saws will rip through your finger or leg just as surely as a big gas-powered chainsaw will — if you do not use them properly. Because these saws are smaller, your hands are closer to the chain. So be mindful of hand placement when you’re working and always wear the appropriate safety gear. Read our review of the best chainsaw chaps and our guide on how to sharpen a chainsaw. 

Design

The pruning-style saws are ideal for backyard and garden work. However, the Milwaukee Hatchet proved itself to be capable for more serious jobs. Compared to the pruning saws, the top handle saws are more powerful and can cut through much bigger limbs.

Bar Size

The saws in this review have a variety of different bar sizes. For the most part, you should not saw on a limb that is larger in diameter than the bar of your saw.

Mini Chainsaw FAQs

Q: What is the best mini chainsaw?

For serious work, the best mini chainsaw is the Milwaukee Hatchet. For a light and incredibly affordable mini saw, you can’t go wrong with the Saker. 

Q: How to oil a mini chainsaw?

The Milwaukee saws, the Echo, and the Worx saws all have automatic oilers. You simply unscrew a cap and add bar oil. The other saws require you to drip some oil between the chain and the bar before use. Simply squeeze some oil along the top of the bar and bottom of the bar. Most of these saws come with a little bottle of oil. 

 

Final Thoughts on the Best Mini Chainsaws

After thoroughly testing this field, I’ve become a believer in the mini chainsaw category. The key to being satisfied with their performance is having realistic expectations for their capabilities. They can all get the job done in the backyard or garden. On the flipside, none of these saws are ideal for bucking logs for firewood. However in a backcountry camp they could saw through decent sized limbs and save you a lot of work with an ax. They are ideal for clearing trails when you have to cover ground quickly and don’t want to lug around a 14-pound gas saw. They could power through a 2×4 without problem. You can use them to girdle undesirable trees with one hand while you hold a squirt bottle in the other. I’m sure there are many more uses for these mini saws, which I look forward to discovering as I continue to use them.

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