The Best Pole Saws for 2024

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Video best battery pole saws for tree trimming

Removing limbs from a tree is a tricky and dangerous business, but there’s one specialized tool that excels at this job and eliminates the need for you to stand on a ladder while attempting the removal: a pole saw. Think of this machine as a chainsaw on a stick. It’s the fastest, safest, and most efficient way to prune trees and allows you to stand on the ground while the pole saw takes care of business.

Best Pole Saws

The Expert:

Pole Saw Power: Gas, Electric, or Manual

A pole saw can run on gas fuel, electricity, or manual effort. Furthermore, electric pole saws can either use a battery or a power cord that plugs into a standard electrical outlet. In gas-powered models, the power head is at the operator end and turns a drive shaft that runs the length of the pole. At the other end of the pole, the drive shaft turns a small chainsaw head. Gas engine pole saws are heavy-duty machines capable of several hours of hard work sawing off limbs, even up to the saw head’s full working diameter.

Electric pole saws are light- or mid-duty machines (call an arborist for bigger jobs). The battery or power cord and trigger switch are located on the operator end, and the motor is adjacent to the chainsaw head. Manual pole saws have a long pruning blade attached at one end of the pole that uses the manual sawing effort of the operator. Manual pole saws are most often used for light- to mid-duty operations and excel at making clean and precise cuts.

Cutting Bar and Blade Length

The length of the cutting bar (on gas and electric pole saws) or blade (on manual pole saws) dictates the size of the branch you can cut. As a general rule, the cutting bar or blade should be at least 2 inches larger than the branch diameter you’re cutting. On gas and electric pole saws, this additional length prevents the end of the bar from touching the limb and possibly resulting in “kickback,” or the sudden or unexpected upward motion of the bar. On manual pole saws, you might want to add a couple more inches to account for the back-and-forth cutting strokes. The most common bar lengths on gas and electric pole saws range between 8 to 12 inches, whereas manual pole saws are often between 12 to 16 inches long. Remember it takes a lot of effort to saw through a tree limb that’s 10 to 15 feet off the ground, and the bigger the diameter of a limb, the more force you have to apply on your own.

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Weight

To safely and effectively use a pole saw, you need to securely hold, control, and balance it from the start of the job to the finish. Pole saws range between 7 to 25 pounds, and heavier pole saws are more likely to cause fatigue after prolonged use than lighter ones. The saw will also feel considerably heavier the further away the cutting blade is away from your body, so a 20-pound pole saw extended to its maximum working height might feel closer to 40 pounds. That being the case, you should weigh your general level of fitness and the amount of time you expect to use the pole saw against the tool’s weight. Gas-powered pole saws are often the heaviest type, and larger engines often weigh down models considerably. Battery-powered pole saws tend to be the second heaviest, followed by corded electric saws, and finally manual models.

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Pole Length and Working Height

Many manufacturers provide two different lengths for their pole saws: the pole length and working height. The pole length is the actual length of the pole, from tip to tip. The working height is an estimate of how far the average person will be able to reach with the pole, which is the pole length plus an extra 2- to 3-feet of arm length. In other words, a pole that’s 8 feet long has a working height of 10 to 11 feet. Most gas and electric pole saws have a maximum working height of 10 to 12 feet because the saw can become difficult to control at longer lengths. Due to the lightweight nature of manual pole saws, they can have a working height of 16 feet or more.

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Head Type

Most commonly, pole saws have a fixed and straight blade that sits in line with the pole. However, some pole saws have detachable heads, others have a slightly angled blade, and some offer an adjustable blade angle. Pole saws with detachable heads offer the most versatility because you can connect multiple attachments to the end of the pole. This can include a hedge trimmer, string trimmer, or brush cutter on a gas or electric pole saw, or a double-pulley pruner, additional poles, or a hook on manual pole saws. Angled pole saw blades have certain advantages over their straight counterparts. Although a straight blade is most useful when you’re cutting lower branches roughly between the height of your shoulders and waist, blades with a slight angle are particularly beneficial for cutting high and steep branches because they can make contact with the top of the branch and cut straight down through it. At the upper limits of their reach, pole saws with straight blades might only be able to cut through the side of these branches, which can cause the branch to pinch the chain and stop it from moving. Pole saws with an adjustable blade angle allows you to set the angle anywhere between 180 degrees (straight) and 90 degrees for effectively cutting both high and low branches.

How We Evaluated

With more than 40 years of chainsaw experience, the Popular Mechanics test editors take chainsaws seriously, whether they’re handheld, pole saws, gas-engine tools, or electrically powered. I selected the machines below from manufacturers that have a track record with Popular Mechanics staff in testing, took into account custom reviews on sites like Amazon and Home Depot, and researched articles on credible websites like Bob Villa. I have also included pole saws that I either currently own or have used in a professional capacity.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>