Tree Surgeon Equipment – What Equipment Do Arborists Use?

“Tree surgeon equipment is necessary for any arborist to carry out their works safely and efficiently”


Tree surgery is not simple. In fact, it can be extremely dangerous. It is a job that requires a lot of skill as well as a lot of key equipment to make the job both safer and easier. It really is not just a case of climbing a tree with a saw in your hand!

Arborists, or tree surgeons, are frequently putting themselves into situations that are potentially life-threatening. It is imperative, therefore, that they have all of the necessary skills and expertise to climb trees and use heavy and high-powered equipment to do the task in hand.

It is also vital that the equipment they use does not fail as this could result in serious injury or even death.


Tree Surgeon Equipment: What Do Tree Surgeons Use?

Tree Surgery Equipment Used By Tree Surgeons

It does not matter if a person is the best tree climber in existence, an arborist also needs to be proficient in using the appropriate tools and machines to carry out their work. Let us take a look at a selection of tools that tree surgeons use in their work:


Tree Surgeon Equipment: Axes

Axes are perhaps the oldest of tools that tree surgeons use and are probably the most frequently used tool of all time. It is believed that the first-ever axes date to around 6000 B.C. Until the middle of the 19th century, the main use of the axe was for small tasks by self-sufficient farmers and their communities or by craftsmen. Industrialisation brought aggressive logging with it and introduced axes to new customers such as specialist forest workers and forestry companies. This increase in demand meant that axes started to be produced commercially for the first time.

Nowadays, the axe is still used in the same way – for chopping wood. Although they are rarely used to chop tree limbs these days and are mainly used to cut wood that has already been felled to be used as firewood, for example.

Using an axe is pretty straightforward and simple and they are easy to manoeuvre and grip.

There are many different types of axe. A felling axe is used to lop off the tree limbs, cut down trees and create tree stumps. A splitting maul, however, can deliver strikes that are more powerful and will not get stuck inside the wood.


Tree Surgeon Equipment: Hand Saws

A hand saw is most often used for trimming trees and often goes by the name ‘Silky Saw’. It has a shape that is slightly curved, which helps the tree surgeon to reach limbs and branches that are not easy to reach.

Another type of hand saw is the pole saw. This has a medium-sized blade that is on the top of an extended pole. This helps the tree surgeon to reach high branches from the ground.

A crosscut saw is used when you need to cut the tree across the grain. You can get single-person or two-person varieties of crosscut saws.


Tree Surgeon Equipment: Chainsaws

This tool is arguably the most frequently used tool by tree surgeons. Chainsaws are compact and lightweight and are run on petrol. You can get electric chainsaws, but these are rarely used by tree surgeons as most trees rarely have plug sockets nearby! It is rare to find a tree surgeon that does not carry a chainsaw.

There are different types of chainsaw, but they all have a chain that rotates and teeth on the chain to cut the wood. The chain rotates around a guide bar and is one of the most powerful garden tools used.

As well as the saw blade, the chainsaw has a one-cylinder petrol engine (or electric motor if it is an electric chainsaw). Usually, petrol chainsaws are used for tree felling and electric chainsaws are more often used for tree pruning or cutting shrubbery.


Tree Surgeon Equipment: Stump Grinders

A stump grinder is a machine that has a rotating wheel on the front that is used to grind a tree stump into mulch. Sometimes, a tree surgeon’s job might be over when the tree is felled, and the tree stump is simply left in the ground.

Landowners might choose to remove the stump themselves or leave it in the ground. In woodland, tree stumps are often left as deadwood for habitats for wildlife. If stump removal is required or desired, a stump grinder is needed.

This is because tree stumps will have roots that are thick and run deep into the ground. A stump grinder is a really powerful piece of equipment that has rotating teeth. There are stump grinders that are as big as a truck or as small as lawnmowers.


Tree Surgeon Equipment: Woodchippers

Woodchippers are also known as tree chippers. A woodchipper is a machine that is used to turn tree trunks or limbs into wood chips. These are often portable and come on frames that can be towed by a truck or a van.



Sometimes, tree surgeons need to use cranes to help them remove a tree safely without causing damage to the landscape.

A crane can be used to reach the parts of trees that need to be felled and they are also used to help direct where the tree should fall. Sometimes there just is not enough space to take down a tree with rigging equipment and techniques and so a crane is essential.

Cranes are also useful for situations where the ground around the tree needs to be kept untouched or if there is a large amount of timber.



As well as cranes, ladders are used frequently for tree surgery and alongside a chainsaw, you will see ladders being used frequently by tree surgeons. They are most often used when the tree surgeon is climbing up trees or when working on branches that are mid-level.

Ladders for tree surgery can be made of either fibreglass or aluminium and will have legs that are adjustable.


Other Equipment

There are many forms of tree surgeon equipment. Many tree surgeons also use communication equipment like radios. This is essential when working as a team on a large job as it allows clear communication to pass between the different people working on the job.

Communication is vital in the field of tree surgery and having a radio means that every step of the process is communicated clearly. Radios are an absolute must for everyone’s safety. The radio should be weather-resistant, durable, and easy to operate.

If the job is large-scale, you might see a log loader truck when the job is finished. This truck will remove huge logs as well as debris when the job is done.


Rigging Equipment

As well as a ladder and a crane, many tree surgeons make use of rigging equipment to help them climb larger trees. This equipment can also help them to lower down large cut limbs as well as transporting heavy equipment and tools up and down the tree. Some frequently used rigging tools include:

  • Blocks and pulleys – these are similar but are used for different things. Blocks are designed to withstand heavy loads and have a locking mechanism and a bushing where a sling can be attached. Pulleys do not have this bushing and they are lighter in weight. Pulleys are used for different things but are often used to remove slack.
  • Cable hoists – these are used to lift heavier loads.
  • Rigging karabiners – these are easy to use and are fully reversible. They stay in place to maintain the utmost safety of tree surgeons. Usually, they will be connected to two rigging ropes or components.
  • Friction brakes – this gives the arborist control when lowering things down the tree.
  • Light and heavy-duty slings
  • Rigging plates – these make sure that all of the ropes are easily accessible and well organised when tree surgeons are climbing. They act as an anchor in order to provide tension when necessary and to manage the system of pulleys.
  • Rigging thimbles – these are used to help protect the rope and cable eyes from abrasion as they provide a steel barrier.
  • Ring slings – these are used for raising and lowering equipment
  • Swivels – these are used to stop rigging from spinning.
  • Winches – these make the job easier and quicker for the arborist to complete as they allow heavy loads to go down and up the tree in a very controlled way.


Tree Surgeons and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

As well as using tools safely, it is also imperative that tree surgeons protect themselves using personal protective equipment (PPE). There are many aspects of PPE but essentially, it is any piece of equipment that is held or worn by the tree surgeon to protect him or her from health and safety risks.

In the United Kingdom, tree surgeons are encouraged to buy PPE that is ‘CE’ marked so that it complies with the 2002 Personal Protective Equipment Regulations. CE marked products satisfy basic requirements for safety and, depending on the product, will have been independently tested and certified.

There are many considerations when choosing PPE and managers have to consider the demands of wearing PPE as well as the needs of the job. For example, they need to consider visibility requirements, physical effort, and the length of time that the PPE will be worn. It is also important that different elements of PPE (e.g. helmet and eye protectors) are compatible with each other. All of this is decided through thorough risk assessments.

When climbing a tree and using a chainsaw, tree surgeons need to wear:

  • A safety helmet (it is recommended to wear a mountaineering-style helmet that complies with British Standard EN 12492)
  • Eye protection (that complies with British Standard EN 166 or 1731)
  • Hearing protection (that complies with British Standard EN 352)
  • Gloves that are appropriate to the task
  • Protection on the legs/groin (that comply with British Standard EN 381-5). For aerial work, Type C protection is recommended as it offers all-round high protection from chainsaw cuts.
  • Boots that have a good grip and are protective (they should comply with British Standard EN ISO 20345)
  • Outer clothing that does not snag
  • Hi-vis clothing where appropriate



A hard-hat helmet is required for tree surgeons. This helmet will protect the tree surgeon’s head from any debris that falls while the tree is being worked on. A helmet should be worn for groundwork as well as work up in the tree. Even if the tree is dead, tree surgeons must never underestimate the weight of tree branches.



A harness is a vital piece of kit for tree surgeons while they are up in a tree. A harness comprises of loops, rings and belts that can withstand the surgeon’s weight. The tree surgeon will understand how to use a harness just as well as a rock climber or mountaineer.

The harness should have a waist belt that is wide and slightly rigid. This will give the tree surgeon the most support and best safety. The harness will have loops and rings so that other tools can be accessed easily from the belt.



Tree surgeons need to wear protective boots when out working. They will be made with a thick fabric that is able to protect the leg and foot from cuts from a chainsaw. They will also be waterproof and resistant to chemicals like petrol and oil.

These are similar to steel toe-capped boots but have an added layer of fabric on the front surfaces. This fabric is what makes them protective for chainsaw use. These boots will protect tree surgeons from being cut on the front or the sides of their legs with their chainsaw. You can get these types of boots in the form of a rubber-wellington-style boot or a lace-up leather-type boot.

A tree surgeon will probably have access to climbing spikes too in order to help them climb trees. Climbing spikes penetrate the tree trunk which means that they provide more support and adherence.



This includes lots of things that need to be replaced and replenished as they get used. Some examples of tree surgery consumables include:

  • Lubricants (2 Stroke Oil, Chain Oil)
  • Reels
  • Sharpening tools (metal files)
  • Chain loops (Carabina/Carabiner)
  • Petrol Fuel (for the chainsaw)


First Aid Kit

As we have already said, tree surgery is dangerous. Even the most experienced tree surgeon can have an accident, so it is vital that there is a first aid kit to hand. This should have plasters, bandages, sterile wipes, gloves, and face shields, for example.



As you have seen, tree surgeons need a wide variety of equipment to be able to do their job – not to mention a lot of skill! A failure of this equipment might result in serious harm or even death, so it really is lifesaving for the arborist!


Article was written by Conner D.

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