SWAMP uses a variety of tools to build and maintain mountain bike trails in Florida. We maintain around 100 miles of single-track trails and each system has a variety of trail types to manage. The tool examples below, along with gloves, shovels, garden rakes, water and snacks, allow us as volunteers to quickly build or clear and repair trail sections. SWAMP provides tools to borrow during our trail workdays.
Pruning shears, also called hand pruners, or secateurs, are a type of scissors for use on plants. They are strong enough to prune hard branches of trees and shrubs, sometimes up to two centimeters thick. They are used for close-in light trimming, where fine-scale habitat management is required.
Loppers are a type of long scissors used for pruning twigs and small branches, like pruning shears with very long handles. They are the largest type of manual trail trimming tool. They are usually operated with two hands, and have handles typically between 12 inches & 36 inches long to give good leverage.
The word lopper can be used in the singular or the plural, with precisely the same meaning. The plural form, most common in speech but less so in print, seems to be on the model of a pair of scissors.
Loppers are mainly used for the pruning of bush and tree branches with diameters less than 2 inches.
Specialized or heavy-duty tools
The McLeod rake is a two-sided blade on a long, plastic, fiberglass or wooden handle. It is a standard yet esoteric tool during trail building and restoration. The combination tool has a large hoe-like blade (for cutting) on one side and a tined blade on the other (for raking). The large flat blade is also used for tamping.
The McLeod can remove slough and berm from a trail, tamp or compact the trail tread, and can shape a trail's back-slope.
Because of its shape, the McLeod is an awkward tool to transport and store. Ideally it is carried with the tines forward and pointing toward the ground for safety, with a sheath over the cutting edge. However, the mass distribution makes it difficult to carry in this orientation consistently.
The Pulaski is a special hand tool that is well adapted for trail construction. The tool combines an Axe and an adze in one head, similar to that of the cutter mattock, with a rigid handle of wood, plastic, or fiberglass. The Pulaski is a versatile tool for constructing trail, as it can be used to dig soil, remove palmettos and chop roots. It is effective for digging holes in root-bound or hard soil.
Raising the tool above head height while swinging is discouraged as this wastes energy and creates a safety hazard. Ideally, when transporting, it should be carried low, to the side, with the sharp edges in front and pointing down.