Building mountain bike trails is a very labor intensive task. Having the right tools can really help the process go a lot quicker and also be less impactful on the environment. A lot of tools that are used for trail building are also heavily used in wildland fire fighting and land management.
In this article I’ve gathered up a pretty comprehensive listing of all the tools you’d need to do most trail work. I’ve included power and manual tools as well as some software and informational resources that should help you greatly when building your next trail.
Lithium Battery Powered
Whenever possible, we now highly recommend lithium battery powered tools. With many of our forests on the brink of fire, we recommend limiting the use of gas powered tools.
While there are great brands out there and some super economical ones on Amazon, we like the idea of picking one brand that has a bunch of different tools that use the same battery type. There’s nothing worse than having to pack 2 or 3 different types of batteries out to the woods.
The brands that come to mind are Dewalt and Makita. For the money and being an American brand, we really like Dewalt power tools.
Any links to retailers from this article provide a compensation commission back to OldGloryMTB.com for referring customers to their site that buy products. This helps keep us out on the trails checking out new gear to write about here on the site.
Brush cutters are a lot like a weed trimmer except they usually have a large blade attached instead of string to do the cutting. They are very handy when trying to clear out thick brush and small saplings. They are expensive for ones that actually work well, but they can quickly clear out dense or thick brush that a weed cutter won’t be able to do. Unfortunately, we don’t know of any good ones that are battery electric powered.
Whenever possible, we recommend lithium battery powered tools to take out to the trails. They’re smaller, lighter, pack a punch, and much safer than gas. Gas in the woods could be a fire hazard, so if we can avoid packing it, we do just that.
Smaller, lighter chainsaws with shorter bars (12″-16″) are easier to pack into the woods than big ones. They may take a little longer to get the job done, but packing them in and out of the woods are super convenient.
We also like going with lithium-battery packed accessories. No dangerous gas to haul or worry about running out. Bringing a huge lithium battery pack for recharges make for super safe work in the woods.
It is an instrument for measuring angles of slope (or tilt), elevation or depression of an object with respect to gravity. It is also known as a tilt meter, tilt indicator, slope alert, slope gauge, gradient meter, gradiometer, level gauge, level meter, declinometer, and pitch & roll indicator. Clinometers measure both inclines (positive slopes, as seen by an observer looking upwards) and declines (negative slopes, as seen by an observer looking downward) using three different units of measure: degrees, percent, and topo.
Folding saws are handy because they’re much smaller than a bow saw and can quickly cut through small limbs and saplings. Check to make sure the blade has a locking mechanism for safety like the suggested Bahco Laplander.
Suggested GPS Devices: Garmin 64csx and Garmin 64s
GPS Devices are a very nice tool to have the woods when setting up a new trail. The more advanced GPS models offer digital 3 axis compass with altimeter and accelerometer readings. Be mindful of cheaper GPS units as they are not as accurate or powerful.
Sunlight Readable 2.6 inch color display; Expanded Internal Memory 4GB
Display type is transflective, 65k color tft; Display resolution is 160 x 240 pixels
DUAL BATTERY SYSTEM Use with 2 traditional AA batteries, or the optional rechargeable NiMH battery pack that can be charged while inside the device.Weight 8.1 ounce (230 gram) with batteries: AA batteries required (best with Polaroid AA batteries)
Receive Smart Notifications* and pair with optional ANT+ sensors, such as heart rate monitor, Tempe temperature sensor, speed/cadence, or use to control your VIRB action camera (64s/64st only)
Wireless upload data to Garmin Connect and view on smartphone, plus share activities as they happen with Live Track (64s/64st only).Display size(inches):1.43 x 2.15
The McLeod and the Lamberton Rake are essentially the same tool (the Lamberton is available in some different varying blade sizes though). It has a hoe like blade on one side and tined rake on the other. There are a variety of uses for this tool during trail building from cutting to grading and even tamping.
The Mattock can come in a few different forms. The head is usually two sided with either a pick on one side and a blade on the other or a head with two blades facing opposite directions. I’ve also seen them with a pick or blade with a rake on the other side.
Tabor Pick Mattock – I like the pick mattock more because I don’t need two blades or a rake
MULTI-PURPOSE APPLICATION. This tool enables users to tackle medium to heavy-duty cultivating jobs well without straining or expending a lot of energy. It is a great design thats easy-to-use for home owners, gardeners and DIY enthusiasts. Great for archaeological projects, onion/carrot harvesting, and preparing flower beds.
DUAL-PURPOSE HEAD. Pick/mattock head combo: use the pick’s action to break up, loosen and soil, or cultivate vegetable gardens. This tool will pick through hard pan soil and cuts through small shrub roots. PLEASE NOTE: Item needs to be assembled before first use. It takes approx. 1 minute to attach the head to the handle (easy); an instruction email for quick assembly will be send upon purchase of the mattock.
LIGHTWEIGHT 35 FIBERGLASS HANDLE. The fiberglass handle absorbs strike shock and vibration to reduce body fatigue, transferring less shock and vibration than wood handles. The fiberglass handles are lighter and stronger than wood and virtually unbreakable! The handles offer high visibility: you will easily locate the bright orange tool in the grass. Handle and head can be easily assembled before use.
COMFORTABLE RUBBER NON-SLIP GRIP. The rubber grip allows for improved handling and control, offering maximum comfort, while at the same time reducing hand and arm fatigue. The insulating grip captures initial strike shock before it can reach your hand
ORDER WITH CONFIDENCE. Customer satisfaction and service quality are the basic criteria for TABOR TOOLS. Good service is a result of flexibility, reliability and trustworthiness. We will fix any problem quickly and answer to your need every time. **CHECK OUT OUR STORE FOR MORE GARDENING PRODUCTS! - Click on the blue TABOR TOOLS link at top of page**
A pole saw is very useful in removing limbs above you on the trail. Sometimes low hanging branches come into the trail or they need cleared out to place a jump. A pole saw with a good sharp limb cutter is a good idea so you can remove small branches quickly to get to the main branch.
Fiskers 14′ tree pruner with power lever limb cutter
Suggested Pry Bar: Mayhew Dominator Pry Bar, 58-Inch
Pry bars are used most often to lift up heavy pieces of wood and rocks. There are several types of pry bars available. Some have pointed ends, curved ends, or flat chisel type ends. I prefer the chisel ended pry bar to get under objects easily and use it as a lever to move them.
Rakes are an essential tool of trail building. They allow you to smooth the trail bed very easily and sweep debris away as you’re building the trail. I like using a metal bow rake for trail building because the tines are stiff and it can easily be flipped over to smooth out dirt.
multiple shapes and sizes – Suggested Hoe: Rogue Hoe/Rake 7 Inch Blade
When you ask about trail building tools this is almost always the first tool you hear people mention. The Rogue Hoe is a grubbing type hoe made in Missouri from agriculture disc blades. The steel used in these blades is extremely tough and durable. Rogue hoes are nice because they come sharpened on 3 sides of the head for excellent bite. Rogue makes a variety of head shapes and sizes and even offers heads with a blade and a rake.
This kind of goes without saying but you need to make sure you’re wearing some protective safety gear when building a trail. At a minimum you should be wearing gloves, protective eyewear, and have a first aid kit near by. Make sure you pack along water and sunscreen too.
A good shovel is an essential piece of equipment for trail building. The uses are innumerable. It’s usually a good idea to have both a round point and a square point shovel on site. Both have their specialty uses.
Having a good topographic map on hand really allows you to see the lay of the land and the grades within the trail building area. You can go with a traditional paper map that can be printed from online sources or found locally or go with a digital version that can be very detailed but usually costs more money for the software. I’ve included some open source solutions that don’t cost anything to use.
Prices pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:
Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on [relevant Amazon Site(s), as applicable] at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.
iunio Survival Off-Roading Tool Kit Folding Shovel Camping Axe Multitool Pickaxe with Carrying Bag
The iunio is really a system that incorporates several hand tools into one unit. It is basically a survival tool but lots of bikepackers and campers find it indispensable.
Multi-tool kit combo gets the job done! iunio tool heads with iunio extension tubes match the needs of a variety of outdoor jobs including firefighting, gardening, hunting, camping, hiking, off-road, disaster clean up, maintenance, camping, backpacking and more. Great outdoor gear with so many uses and every component serves as high quality equipment. No matter the outside conditions or task, get out there and conquer the mission with these tools and extensions!
Survival tools that are simply built! Choose the tool head: shovel, axe, pickaxe, ice pick or trekking pole, to dominate whatever situation you encounter. Match the adjustable handle to the job and youre all set. There are no limits for length so you can adjust your custom tool to any desired length for different uses. The tube sections each have available space for small first aid kit components, fishing gear and tackle, survival gear or anything else you can imagine that will fit!
The molle bag that these tools come with is high quality and well worth the investment! Every component of this set is machined with high quality standards, from the tools themselves down to the sheaths and the molle bag. Each head comes with its own sheath and all of the tools are secured very well in a convenient carrying case for easy handling. Super space saver! Great for the trunk, shelf or storage compartment in your home, vehicle (RV, 4x4, ATV/UTV).
A perfect gift for outdoor enthusiasts like campers, hikers, hunters, firefighters, rescuers, off-roaders, motorcyclist, fishermen, survivalists, preppers, backpackers, archaeologist, or anyone needing tactical gear and practical tools for your car, SUV, truck, van, travel trailer or RV. This set not only looks cool but the tools actually work well too!
Iunio survival off-roading tool kit lasts for life: Our tool kits are built to last! You take care of our tool kit and well take care of you! All replacement requests are supported by our awesome customer service team anytime!!!
Trail Boss – The Trail Boss is a easily packable tool with a segmented handle. The tool has multiple head attachments so you can work with one head and then switch to another for a different task. The system is nice because it is easily packable and can be made easily into short or long handled tools. Made in the USA.
I hope you have found this article useful. If you have any trail tools you like to use let me know in the comments. If you have any other resources for trail building knowledge I’d also love to share those with everyone.