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The shovel may be a modest tool, but it is also an extremely useful one. Historically, it was used as an entrenching tool during the First and Second World War. It often doubled as a slash and hack weapon in close quarter combat.
In the present modern life, a shovel is mostly used in the garden, but it has also found an important place as a backpacking and camping tool. What else will you use to dig holes for tent poles or dig a sanitation ditch or a slit trench? Shovels are an important part of a survival kit and they can help you in a variety of ways when you are in the great outdoors. In this guide, we will help you pick the best survival shovel to carry with you for camping or bugging out.
Best Folding Survival Shovels
Here is a comparison chart of our recommended survival shovels to guide you in your buying decision to get the right shovel for your needs:
At a Glance: Our Choices for The Top 10 Survival Shovels
Click on one of the links to go directly to our overview, opinion, and features of each shovel.
- US GI Military Original Issue E-Tool Entrenching Shovel
- Gerber E-Tool Folding Spade
- Schrade SCHSH1 Telescoping Folding Shovel
- Glock Entrenching Tool with Saw and Pouch
- SOG Specialty Knives & Tools F19-N Elite Entrenching Tool
- United Cutlery UC2979 M48 Kommando Tactical Survival Shovel with Sheath
- SOG Specialty Tools & Knives F08-N Entrenching Tool
- Gerber Gorge Folding Shovel
- Fobachi Survival Folding Shovel
- Smittybilt 2728 Matte Black Tri-Fold Shovel
1. US GI Military Original Issue E-Tool Entrenching Shovel
This is a genuine US military issue entrenching shovel that you can use to get all your digging as well as chopping done. Made of high carbon steel, the US GI shovel is both tough and durable. You can rest assured that it will not bend or break with prolonged use and that this is a tool that will last you many years.
This shovel with a tri-fold design can be folded up perfectly and is very compact and lightweight, making it great for camping and backpacking. It comes with a sharpened axe edge as well as a serrated saw edge. The US GI shovel is considered one of the best folding survival shovels on the market and definitely one that you should consider if you are looking for a high-quality shovel.
Opinion – First off, we think that the US GI shovel is unmatched when it comes to quality and durability. It is a strong shovel that can efficiently perform all your digging and sawing tasks. We like that it is super heavy-duty and is tougher than any other shovel in the market. Another great thing about it is its excellent quality and versatility. It has the ability to cut through dirt easily.
The only thing that we would change is the black powder-coat finish which chips off a little more easily than they expected. Other than that, we really believe that the US GI shovel is a top-notch folding survival shovel that is worth the money you spend and more!
|(+) High carbon steel build||(-) Black powder-coat finish wears off fast|
|(+) Tri-fold design, compact, and lightweight||(-) No added features|
|(+) Heavy duty shovel|
|Our rating:||4.7 Stars|
|Closed Size:||9 inches|
|Full Size:||24 inches|
2. Gerber E-Tool Folding Spade
The Gerber E-Tool is a sturdily-built and durable folding spade that is constructed from reliable, high-quality materials. It has a serrated edge on half the blade to give you that much-needed extra digging power and folds small for easy carry. It has a durable construction that is ideal for heavy duty use. It is made with powder coated boron carbon steel, allowing it to withstand extensive use in all types of environment.
The Gerber E-Tool also has a glass-filled nylon handle featuring an open design that makes it virtually indestructible and gives you a firm grip and more leverage. A locking mechanism keeps the shovel open when you are using it and helps keep you safe and protected when applying pressure. The shape of the blade also helps in making the tool enter the ground more easily. With its marvelous build and awesome features, the Gerber E-Tool is definitely a really good survival shovel to consider.
Opinion – To begin, we think that the Gerber E-Tool is a prolific tool and a great choice for a foldable survival shovel. Those who have bought and used it say that it is sharper and tougher than any other shovel they have used. We like its compact size after it is folded as it is perfect to carry on hiking, backpacking and camping trips and easy to store away.
The Gerber E-Tool is also considered a very strong and durable entrenching tool. Another great aspect to note is the quality materials and construction makes it a marvelous tool that everyone should own. The only thing that we would like to change is the weight as at slightly over 2 pounds, it is a little heavier than most e-tools on the market. Other than this complaint, we have nothing but good to say about the Gerber E-Tool.
|(+) Sturdily-built boron carbon steel shovel||(-) Somewhat heavier than others|
|(+) Glass-filled nylon handle||(-) No additional features|
|(+) Safe operation|
|Our Rating:||4.6 Stars|
|Closed Size:||9.37 inches|
|Full Size:||23.75 inches|
3. Schrade SCHSH1 Telescoping Folding Shovel
The Schrade Telescoping shovel is a well-designed and well-built folding shovel that will come handy in a number of situations. It is solidly constructed with 1055 carbon steel. It looks and feels sturdy and firm. This shovel has a blade that is 7.42 inches in length, which is great for digging, mud, dirt, snow, and so on.
The length of the handle when fully open is 10.8 inches, which is again ideal for comfortable use while performing tasks. It has a PP handle with an aluminum inner tube. Weighing about 2 pounds, the Schrade Telescoping shovel is lightweight enough to carry around in your backpack and is perfect for your bug out bag or survival kit. This is a top folding shovel that has everything you need in a quality e-tool.
Opinion – We think that the Schrade Telescoping shovel has a great design and is very sturdy. The size, weight and the steel it is made of, are what we like about it. We can also say that it is very sharp and an excellent tool for survival. Another excellent feature is its size as it makes the shovel portable and just right to carry in backpacks while hiking, camping, etc.
We believe that it is better than most shovels available today, especially its hammerhead and the adjustable handle. It is versatile and can be used for camping, self-defense, and survival, as well as an emergency car shovel. The only negative that we can mention is that it is a little uncomfortable to use with the blade angle at 90 degrees and its T-handle. All in all, we like the Schrade Telescoping shovel and we recommend it to anyone looking for a high-quality shovel.
|(+) Sturdy 1055 carbon steel||(-) Can be a tad uncomfortable for some needs|
|(+) Lightweight and compact||(-) Not for heavy usage|
|(+) Adjustable handle makes it versatile|
|Our Rating:||4.6 Stars|
|Closed Size:||8.95 inches|
|Full Size:||16.58 inches|
4. Glock Entrenching Tool with Saw and Pouch
The Glock Entrenching Tool is a high-quality E-tool from a reputable brand known for excellence. This is a highly versatile tool that has a vast number of multifunctional features. Lightweight and compact, the Glock E-Tool has half the weight of a conventional E-tool. With this E-tool, you get much better endurance as it does not come with rivets or welding.
Its folding blade can be locked in four positions. It does not have any moving parts. Its handle is made of high-grade impact resistant polymer and contains a neat saw. All you need to do is unscrew the cap and turn the saw around and then screw the cap again and the saw will extend from the handle. When fully extended, this shovel has a length of 25.4 inches. The Glock Entrenching Tool gives you the best value – you get two tools for the price of one. It is definitely a great folding shovel.
Opinion – We believe that the Glock Entrenching Tool is a superb emergency tool and has great features that make it extremely handy. You can use it for digging, sawing, and loads more. We think that this is one tough shovel that will help you in many situations.
Those who have purchased and used this say that it works well for digging snow too. It is also worth noting that it is sturdy and that it is made of the best materials. It is also light and easy to use as well. One thing that we find disappointing is that the saw is backwards – the teeth are oriented for a cut on a forward stroke. Another thing we would like to change is its length, it should be made 2 inches longer to make digging a little easier. Apart from these two complaints, we think that this is a folding shovel that everyone should own.
|(+) Lightweight and compact||(-) Not for casual users|
|(+) Two in one tool||(-) Could be a little longer|
|(+) Sturdy build|
|Our Rating:||4.3 Stars|
|Closed Size:||10 inches|
|Full Size:||26 inches|
5. F19-N Elite Entrenching Tool by SOG Specialty Knives n Tools
The SOG Elite is a folding shovel that is made of high-quality high carbon steel with a hard-cased black finish. The straight edge tool comes with a steel saw blade with teeth for slashing and cutting. It has a well-balanced handle with a hard -cased finish and made with high carbon steel, making it incredibly strong. It also fits comfortably in the hand, allowing you to dig dirt, sand and snow.
When it is unfolded and extended, the SOG Elite’s overall length is 26 inches. The glass-reinforced nylon handle is a great feature that keeps the weight down to 24.8 ounces. Although it is light, this shovel is still tough enough for heavy-duty digging jobs. It also comes with a ballistic nylon sheath that has a snap closure and belt loop attachment. Strong and intrepid, the SOG Elite is an excellent E-tool that you should definitely consider if you are looking for a top-quality one.
Opinion – We like the SOG Elite E-tool as it has loads of great features that allow you to perform all your tasks well. It is strong and designed well and we think that nothing beats the materials that it is made with. We can also add that it is the perfect package and that it is a well-built, compact shovel that is great for camping, hiking or emergency situations.
The shovel head and extension are highly praised by us thanks to its appropriate size for digging comfortably. The only fault we found in the design is the pouch – it is not molle compatible so you have to carry it unsheathed. Outside of this, we can finally say that the tool itself is an excellent product.
|(+) Made of high carbon steel||(-) The pouch could be better|
|(+) Has a durable glass-reinforced nylon handle||(-) Not for light users|
|(+) Versatile usage|
|Our Rating:||4.3 Stars|
|Closed Size:||10.2 inches|
|Full Size:||26 inches|
6. United Cutlery UC2979 M48 Kommando Tactical Survival Shovel with Sheath
The United Cutlery Kommando is a high-quality survival shovel that comes with a high-quality injection-molded nylon handle made of 30% fiberglass and nylon reinforcement, making it virtually indestructible. The shovel head is rather strong too as it is made of tempered 2Cr13 stainless steel which is given a hard, black oxide coating.
The pointed edge of the United Cutlery Kommando is sharpened and has a partially serrated edge on one side and on the other, a concave chopping edge. This well-designed, versatile tool is perfect for camping and other outdoor activities, light chopping or to be used as a defensive weapon in any emergency situation. The United Cutlery Kommando also comes with a strong reinforced nylon belt pouch that you can easily carry it around with.
Opinion – To begin, we can say that the United Cutlery Kommando is a superb product that supersedes other shovels on the market when it comes to quality. It is a well-designed, sharp tool that checks all the boxes for users. We like how versatile this tool is. We believe that is a great choice among the survival shovels available today. Another great thing to like is the size, it is perfect to carry around on camping, backpacking, and hiking trips.
We believe that this shovel comes with a lot of really good features, we think that it has everything you are looking for in an E-tool. One drawback that we can mention is the weight – it is a little heavy for casual backpacking. Another thing that would make it even better is molle webbing on the sheath. Apart from this, we have nothing but high praise for this great shovel.
|(+) Has an injection-molded nylon handle||(-) Somewhat heavy|
|(+) Tempered 2Cr13 stainless steel based shovel head||(-) Not for casual users|
|(+) Strong reinforced nylon belt pouch|
|Our Rating:||4.3 Stars|
|Full Size:||16.2 inches|
7. F08-N Entrenching Tool – SOG Specialty Tools & Knives
When it comes to folding shovels, the SOG F08-N E-tool is another great option in the market. When you have to move sand, dirt or snow, it performs excellently, making it the perfect tool when you are in the great outdoors.
It has an all-steel construction with a black powder-coat finish. It comes with a tempered steel blade on one side with teeth cut into it, giving you a tool for cutting and slashing. It has a strong triangular handle that fits the hand well, ensuring comfort while digging. It weighs 24.5 ounces and is sturdy. This versatile tool is an exceptional addition to camping equipment. It works well and folds up easily. This is an excellent E-tool that you should consider if you are in need of a quality shovel for outdoor activities and emergencies.
Opinion – First off, we think that the SOG F08-N E-tool is a high-quality shovel that everyone should own. It works well for digging and sawing. Its great features make it one of the most useful tools around. For us, it is an excellent tool because it is lightweight which means that you can easily carry it around during hiking, camping, or backpacking. One thing that we would like to change is the size. We feel that it is a little too small for tougher digging jobs. Otherwise, we can say that the SOG F08-N E-tool is remarkable and a shovel that everyone should own.
|(+) Black powder-coat finish, lightweight||(-) A tad bit small|
|(+) Robust All-steel construction||(-) Not for all users|
|(+) Versatile camping equipment, foldable|
|Our Rating:||4.5 Stars|
|Closed Size:||7.25 inches|
|Full Size:||18.25 inches|
8. Gerber Gorge Folding Shovel
The Gerber Gorge is a well-thought-out folding shovel that comes with many great features. It has an industrial-strength blade made of carbon steel. It has an ergonomic glass-filled nylon handle with rubberized over-grip to give you comfort while performing tasks. It is designed with a push button slide mechanism, making it easy and convenient to use.
You can also use it in hammer mode to pound in tent stakes. It is compact and lightweight, giving you great portability. Its fold-down design allows you to save space and pack it easily, whether it is in your backpack or car. This is a highly strong and versatile E-tool that folds down from 16.25 inches to 9.25 inches and weighs 28 ounces. A top-quality E-tool, the Gerber Gorge is definitely a tool you should consider if you are in the market for one.
Opinion – We think that the Gerber Gorge is a great hiking, backpacking and camping tool. It is well-built and very sturdy and portable. It is resistant enough for any kind of use and made with quality materials which, no doubt, makes it a very durable tool.
We can also say that its compact size is perfect for carrying around without any inconvenience. Its weight is also ideal too. However, we find that the digging edge is not sharp enough. That is the only thing that needs to be changed. All in all, the Gerber Gorge is definitely an ideal E-tool to own.
|(+) Carbon steel build, ease of usage||(-) Digging edge not sharp enough|
|(+) Compact and lightweight||(-) Not for hardcore users|
|(+) Ergonomic glass-filled nylon handle|
|Our Rating:||4.2 Stars|
|Closed Size:||9.25 inches|
|Full Size:||16.25 inches|
9. Fobachi Survival Folding Shovel
The Fobachi shovel is a high-quality product that comes with a high carbon steel body and steel handle. This is a well-designed and well-built shovel that can be used for a number of purposes such as digging, cutting, chopping, sawing, prying, picking, hammering, and shoveling and as a bottle opener. This is a fantastic multi-functional tool that features many useful accessories such as an extension pipe, life hammer, thickened spade, saw-tooth knife, fire starter, whistle, and rubber grip handle.
You can use this military issue E-tool straight or at a 90-degree angle. Lightweight and compact, the Fobachi shovel is an excellent tool for camping, hiking, and backpacking as well as emergency situations. It is the perfect tool for your bug out bag or survival kit. If you are looking for a versatile shovel that you can use in any situation or location, the Fobachi is the one for you.
Opinion – We believe that the Fobachi survival shovel is the ideal shovel for camping, hiking, etc. We think that its accessories make it stand out from other shovels on the market. We love the fact that it can be used for more than just digging and cutting. We also like its awesome design and how strong and enduring it is. The only critique that we have is that it is a little hard to get it back apart for storage once you have assembled a tool together. However, all in all, we think that the Fobachi Survival Shovel is a great option to have in mind.
|(+) Carbon steel body||(-) Not very easy to dissemble|
|(+) Multi-functional tool with accessories||(-) Not for amateurs|
|(+) Lightweight and compact tool|
|Our Rating:||4.1 Stars|
|Closed Size:||6.89 inches|
|Full Size:||24.80 inches|
10. Smittybilt 2728 Matte Black Tri-Fold Shovel
The Smittybilt tri-fold shovel is an awesome-looking shovel that comes with quite a few great features. First off, it has a compact and convenient tri-fold design that allows you to store it away easily without taking space when not in use.
It also features two-way multi-adjustments. The handle is made of fiber-reinforced nylon, making it strong and comfortable to use. The Smittybilt tri-fold shovel has a double-serrated edge that is also heat-treated for extra strength and durability. The heavy-duty black powder-coated body measures 26 inches when extended and folds to a neat 9 inches for easy storage. It also comes with a durable, quality storage case to keep it safe when not in use. The Smittybilt tri-fold shovel is rugged and tough enough for the most challenging tasks.
Opinion – For us, the Smittybilt tri-fold shovel is unmatched when it comes to survival shovels. We love the features it comes with, they make it one of the most versatile and strongest shovels on the market. We also like the size and weight as well, it is a great shovel to carry for camping, backpacking, and hiking. And although small and light, we believe that the Smittybilt tri-fold shovel can perform even the toughest jobs, so it will not disappoint.
The only complaint that we have about this shovel is that it rusts a little too easily and we think that manufacturer should do something about this. Apart from this, we can finally say that we would recommend the Smittybilt tri-fold shovel for off-road adventures.
|(+) Convenient tri-fold design||(-) Prone to rusting|
|(+) Black powder-coated body||(-) Not too outstanding for digging|
|(+) Portable and robust|
|Our Rating:||4.1 Stars|
|Closed Size:||9 inches|
|Full Size:||26 inches|
How to Pick a Good Folding Shovel for Survival
A shovel’s primary function is to help you dig. Depending on your condition and situation, you may be digging up soil, dirt, or snow. A majestic shovel should have the ability to penetrate the soil and also, should be able to withstand moderate pressure. When you are buying a good shovel, you should consider the following factors:
- Material and build of the shovel
- Ease of use
- Extra features
Material and Build – One of the first things you should check when buying a shovel is the build quality of the blade. It should be a solid piece of metal rather than a thin sheet that bends when you put the slightest pressure on it. The materials used to make the shovel also play a critical role. The blade can be made of either high carbon steel or stainless steel, which is then spray-painted with black oxide paint to prevent it from corroding. There is a likelihood that the paint will chip off and the shovel will get rusted.
Most shovels will have either a hard plastic or metal handle. Metal handles are undoubtedly sturdier and can last much longer than plastic ones but they are also much heavier. A hinge, which is a moving part, connects the blade to the handle. This part can often come undone or get rusted.
A sturdy shovel should be able to take a lot of beating as all camp requirements are not the same. What will happen if you are digging and hit a stone? Military grade shovels are a prolific choice as they are strong and cannot be easily bent or damaged.
Ease of Use – The simplest shovel is one that has a blade attached to a straight handle. Nowadays, you will find many shovels that are more ergonomically designed with a T or D grip to give you additional support. Shovels that have grips are easier to operate and handle.
Generally, the shorter the shovel’s handle is, the more you have to bend while digging. Choosing a shovel with an adjustable handle is a sagacious idea as you can make adjustments to the handle to suit your height. With smaller shovels, you need to sit down on the ground and dig, which is why they are not recommended.
Portability – As the name suggests, folding shovels can be folded into a smaller size, making it easy to carry around in your backpack. A fabulous survival shovel should be lightweight and compact when folded. Many foldable versions are available when it comes to shovels:
- A three-piece folding mechanism where the D grip and the blade can be folded
- A two-piece standard folding mechanism where the blade can be folded
Naturally, with the three-piece mechanism, you can fold the shovel to a very small size and is much more preferable. The weight of the shovel also plays a crucial role when it comes to its portability. An all-out metal build is heavier when compared to a shovel that has plastic components but an all-out metal construction is also much stronger.
Extra Features – Digging mud or snow is the primary function of a shovel. But this does not stop some manufacturers from adding extra features. Most shovels you see nowadays on the market have some sort of sawing capability, whether it is a compact saw in the shovel’s handle or serrated teeth on one side of the shovel’s blade. Some manufacturers make folding shovels that have extra tools similar to a multi-tool. Others have a fully-functioning compass in the handle. Whatever the features may be, it is an astute buy if you are getting more for your money.
A critical point to remember is to not spend extra cash on the features that you will not be using. So think twice before buying that multi-tool shovel when there is already a pocket multi-tool in your kit. If all you need to do is a little digging, a simple, good-quality shovel with a serrated end is all you need to get your work done.
Uses of a Shovel in Survival Situations
A conventional shovel is made for two things – digging and scooping. However, when you own a survival shovel, you own a tool that can do much more and possibly save your life in a survival or an emergency situation. Here is a look at the top uses of a shovel in survival situations:
- First and foremost, you need a shovel to help you pitch a tent or build a shelter. You need to dig to do either of these jobs, so a shovel is definitely a must. Some shovels have features that even help you drive in stakes to the ground, so you do not need a hammer. This is a versatile tool that can help you get protection from the elements and other dangers in a survival situation.
- When you are in the wilderness, you obviously do not have toilets conveniently available. You need to dig your own. You need a shovel to do this. A folding shovel is a profound addition to any survival kit due to this reason.
- When you are in a survival situation, fire is critical. You need it to keep warm, cook food, and keep wild animals and predators away. To make a fire pit, you need to dig and this is why a shovel is a critical part of your survival kit.
- To make a fire, you need wood. You may not have a hatchet or axe with you. Nowadays, shovels come with multiple tools that allow you to saw, cut, chop, and so on. You can chop firewood with a sharp, high-quality shovel or an E-tool.
- You may also need to dig a rain trench when you are in the wilderness. With a shovel, you can get the job easily and quickly done.
- The ground can be bumpy when you are in the wilderness. To make sure that you sleep on an even surface underneath your tent, you will need to dig out the bumps. A shovel will make the job easy.
- With its sharp blade and features like serrated edges, a shovel makes for a great weapon. If you need a last resort defense weapon, this tool can be extremely handy. It can protect you from all types of predators when you are out in the bitter outdoors.
- You can use a shovel as an improvised paddle. If you are on a boat and find that you do not have a paddle or one of them is missing, you can simply get your folding shovel out and use it to paddle you to safety.
What You need to Consider When Buying a Shovel for Survival and Camping
When you are buying a shovel for camping and survival, there are a number of factors that you need to consider. These are what will ensure that you buy the best shovel for your needs.
- The first thing you need to consider when buying a shovel is the distance you will be traveling. If you are going to travel for many miles, you will need to buy a shovel that is compact and light. This will ensure that the tool does not slow you down with its weight.
- Do you think you will be doing some heavy-duty digging? If you are going to dig large holes and trenches on your camping or survival trip, you should consider a more robust shovel. This will ensure that it does not break just when you are in dire need of it. If you will be using it mainly to dig sanitation holes and scouting, a lightweight shovel will do fine. You can even use a trowel.
How to Maintain Your Shovel so it Remains in Marvelous Condition
Taking care of your shovel is integral as it will prevent rust, help retain their edge, and keep the handles strong. To make sure that you maintain your shovel and keep it in good condition, you will need:
- Cleaning supplies – garden hose, sprayer, detergent, sponge, old towels, or rags.
- Cleaning tools – scrub brush, wire brush, steel wool and a rotary wire brush attachment for your drill.
- Sandpaper – 80 to 120 grit, which can work on both metal and wood.
- Sharpening tools – a fine metal file.
- Lubricating oil – boiled linseed oil, motor oil, tung oil, cooking oil, or lamp oil.
- Safety equipment – eye protection or goggles, gloves, and a dust mask.
Clean Shovel – The first thing you need to do is give your shovel a good scrub and remove any grit and mud from the blade and handle. Dry with the old towels or rags and leave them overnight to dry completely. This will prevent them from trapping moisture.
Remove Rust – Use the wire brush or steel to remove all rust from the metal parts of the shovel. You can get the job more easily done with a rotary wire brush attachment in a drill. You need to make sure that you scrape and grind the steel as little as possible so that it does not become thinner and weaker over time.
Sand the Shovel – Use medium grit sandpaper to smooth wooden handles that have become worn and remove splinters. You can also use the sandpaper to remove any remaining rust on the shovel’s surface. When you are done, make sure you wipe down the shovel thoroughly to remove sanding dust.
Sharpen Shovel – Use the metal file to lightly sharpen the edges of your shovel. Again, remember not to file away too much of the metal. Use it to remove burrs, smooth out nicks, and give it a clean edge.
Oil Shovel – Use a clean rag and apply lubricating oil on the metal blade and wooden handle. Rub oil into the surface and wipe off any excess. This will prevent the metal from rusting and condition the wood to prevent it from absorbing water and also prevent cracking. If you think it is needed, you can apply a second coating of oil to the wood.
Simple! With a few easy steps, you can make sure that your shovel is kept clean and well-maintained, and ensure that it lasts you many years.
A fantastic survival shovel is a must-have. Whether you carry it when you go off into the elemental outdoors or carry in the trunk of your car in case of emergencies, this is one tool that you should remember to include in your survival kit and bug out bag. Your shovel may be what saves your life in an emergency or survival situation.