In Gear

Every day, people get stuck when their car breaks down.  Others go camping and get lost.  Or, you may take refuge in your attic during a hurricane.

During a pandemic, it may be harder to get help for these and other situations.  This is why more people are looking at survival tools.  If you are new to this topic, then you may not know what to buy.

A multi-function tool can give you a good starting point.  There are many such devices on the market.  Some are better than others.  One of the best I’ve seen is the EST Gear Survival Shovel.

What Is The EST Gear Survival Shovel?

The EST Survival Shovel is multi-purpose tool made to be used in any setting.   It has a good value in a city or roadside setting as in nature.   You can use it in both short- and long-term emergencies.   Or, you can use it for routine chores.

What is in the Box?

There are 18 tools, some of which can be used for more than one thing.

  • The fish scaler can be used as a striker on the firing rod.  The other side of the fish scaler also has a sharp knife that can be used for many things.
  • The Phillips head screw bit can also be used as an ice pick for light to medium ice.   You can also use the nail puller as an ice pick.

Here are the main tools and features:

* Shovel * Camping Axe * Saw
* Trowel * Hoe * Hook
* Hexagonal Wrenches * Screw Driver * Nail Puller
* Ruler * Hunting Spear * Fire Starter
* Knife * Rope/Wire Cutter * Emergency Whistle
* Bottle Opener * Fish Scaler * Compass

*There is also a roomy waterproof storage area that you can use for other items.  This is an excellent place to keep a small survival kit.

Here are some things I found out about this shovel after trying it out:

First Impression:

The shovel arrived well packed in a compact box.  It is lightweight, and all of the pieces fit into a sturdy pouch.  This pouch is made of ripstop nylon and has belt loops and a shoulder strap that make it easy to carry.

Overall, the tools are well designed and workmanship is very good.  The shovel itself is made of hardened steel.  It cleans up easily and is sharp.

There are three pieces that can be assembled into a custom-sized handle. Each is made of military-grade aluminum.  Although the pieces are lightweight, they are very sturdy and will not crack, break, or bend.

At first glance, I thought the shovel’s weakest point would be the area where the shovel folds into the handle. As such, most of my testing was aimed at seeing if I could make that part break.

I am happy to say that this area did not break while I was testing it.  That said, I am not ready to say it can or will stand up to weeks, or even years of hard work.

Tests Done:

Test Type: Tested Spade for Ability to Chop Through Roots

  • Where it Was Done:  I chose an area that is heavy with Maple tree and Nandina (a type of bamboo) roots.  The soil was also very compacted and hadn’t been disturbed in years.
  • Problems Tested For: I wanted to see if the shovel handle would break or bend.  As mentioned earlier, I also wanted to see if the folding part of the shovel would break.
  • Good Points:   While digging through the roots, I put a lot of pressure on the handle and shovel joint. Neither broke. The tool remained solid and showed no sign of damage when I was done.  The spade also broke easily through the wiry roots common to shrubs in the bamboo family.
  • Challenges:  The spade head is a little bit small.  If you are wearing boots or have big feet, it can be hard to keep your foot from slipping off the shovel while digging fast.
  • Results: Overall, the shovel part is good.  It takes some getting used to because of the small size.
  • Usage or Care Suggestions: Make sure you keep the blade clean and sharpened.

Test Type: Tested Spade as Hoe to See if It Can Break Packed Soil

  • Where it Was Done:  I chose another area that was heavy with Maple, Nandina, and Wisteria roots.  All of these plants and trees develop strong root systems that are hard to remove even with dedicated garden tools.  The soil in this area was also very compacted.
  • Problems Tested For:  Once again I wanted to see if the shovel handle and folding joint would break.  Since the hoe is designed to be driven into the ground, I was also looking to see if the blade would chip.
  • Good Points: Again, the handle and folding joint remained solid.  The blade did encounter hard roots, and a few stones.  It showed no sign of damage.  When used as a hoe, this shovel does make a nice hole or furrow very quickly.
  • Challenges: A longer handle would have been helpful.
  • Results: As with the shovel function, the hoe part works very well.
  • Usage or Care Suggestions: Out of the box, the sharp blade makes this tool very useful as a hoe.  You will need to keep it clean and sharpened to ensure it continues to work well.

Test Type: Tested Ax for Ability to Chop Through Branches

  • Where it Was Done: I chose a small tree stump that had been cut just a few days ago. As such, the stump was still green.  I also tried an older tree stump that is mostly rotted to see how the ax works with a straight downward thrust.
  • Problems Tested For:  Tested for chips in the Ax blade, and also for weakness in the handle joint.
  • Good Points:  Neither the blade nor the handle joint gave way.
  • Challenges: This ax is hard to index.  You have to get used to the way the blade swings so that you can get a decent 45 degree angle.  When you get that, it does chop pretty well.

I did notice that it doesn’t chop well when driving straight downward.  It does need to strike at an angle to get the most from it.

  • The other problem is the ax blade is narrow and it is easy to get it stuck on the hock located next to it.
  • Results:  This tool does function as an ax. You need to practice with it and get used to angling it to get the best cuts.
  • Usage or Care Suggestions – the ax blade is integral to the spade head.  You will need to make sure it is clean, well oiled, and sharpened as needed.

Test Type: Tested Saw on Green Branches

  • Where it Was Done:  I chose green branches and also some old fence post.
  • Problems Tested For: In this test, I was looking to see how sharp the blade is and how easy it is to use the saw.
  • Good Points:  The blade is sharp and it will cut through both green and seasoned wood.
  • Challenges: Saw length is too short.  This is made worse because the cord cutter gets stuck in the wood.
  • The other problem is the saw can be hard to start because of the shape of the shovel head. This problem does resolve with practice.
  • Results:  The saw is OK if you have small things to cut, but it will take some time.  It will cut through green wood.
  • Usage or Care Suggestions: Take your time when using the saw and be patient.  Keep the points as sharp as you can and well lubricated.

Test Type: Tested Fire Starter to See if it Works Consistently

  • How it Was Done: I used the fish scaler, the knife blade, and the nail puller to strike the fire starter rod.
  • Problems Tested For: I wanted to see if the fire starter would make a spark each time I tried it.
  • The knife didn’t work well with the rod, nor did the nail puller. I got excellent results with the fish scaler.  Each spark was robust and would easily start a fire.
  • Good Points: This tool will make a spark under any condition.
  • Challenges:  Some tools you can strike the rod with work better than others.
  • Results: The EST Shovel comes with a reliable fire starter.
  • Usage or Care Suggestions: Practice with the fire starter so that you are used to it.

What About the Other Parts?

With 18 tools to test, there were some that I took more time with than others.  Here is a run-down of the other tools you will find in this shovel, and how they worked for me:

  • Whistle – produces a sharp, loud, and reliable sound.
  • Compass – will give you a general direction in time of need.
  • Nail Puller – It didn’t fit nails correctly, so I couldn’t use it for that purpose.  It works just fine as a spear point, though.
  • Knife – sharp, sturdy, and reliable. It cuts well through rope and other materials.
  • Screw Driver – Use the handle piece that has the screwdriver blade holder.  You can get a good grip on it.  Because of the handle size, though, it may not do well in tight areas.

The bit itself has a Straight flat blade and a Phillips blade that is of good metal and looks like it will last some time.

What About the Other Parts?

With 18 tools to test, there were some that I took more time with than others.  Here is a run-down of the other tools you will find in this shovel, and how they worked for me:

  • Whistle – produces a sharp, loud, and reliable sound.
  • Compass – will give you a general direction in time of need.
  • Nail Puller – It didn’t fit nails correctly, so I couldn’t use it for that purpose.  It works just fine as a spear point, though.
  • Knife – sharp, sturdy, and reliable. It cuts well through rope and other materials.
  • Screw Driver – Use the handle piece that has the screwdriver blade holder.  You can get a good grip on it.  Because of the handle size, though, it may not do well in tight areas.

The bit itself has a Straight flat blade and a Phillips blade that is of good metal and looks like it will last some time.

Taking the Shovel Apart After Use

To begin, I was very impressed at how easy it was to put the handle pieces together.  All of the different devices integrated well with single and multiple handle sections.  The excellent workmanship shows in how well all the pieces fit and the sturdy feel to them.

Initially, I also thought the shovel would be very easy to take apart.   After several field tests, I found out this was not the case.

The handle pieces will lock tightly and can’t be taken apart without a wrench.  You can try lubricating the threads, but that might cause the pieces to come apart while you are using the shovel. It might be best to keep a wrench on hand.

Other than that, getting the shovel and parts back into the bag is very easy. Just make sure you wipe all the tools down and oil them so they are clean and ready for the next use.

Other Suggestions for Future Models:

When you design a tool, there are a lot of decisions to make.  It takes a lot of research to find out what most people want.   It takes even more work to arrive at a tool that will do what it is supposed to do.

The suggestions I make here are based on my own experiences that range from camping to hurricane survival.  Some people might look at these suggestions and agree. Others might think the current tool model is the perfect balance.

  • Put a Sharpened Notch in the Spade Point – As I mentioned earlier, the spade does a good job of cutting through roots up to 1/4” thick.

I believe a notch in the spade point could make a good tool even better.  Over the years, I often use notched shovels, like the Root Slayer, because the spade point doesn’t slide off the roots.

  • The other thing is you could make the notch point a multi-use area for cutting rope and wire. This would eliminate problems with the ax and saw getting caught on those tools.
  • Add a Blade Sharpener – Out of the box, all of the tools are sharp and well made. Even the best sharp surfaces will wear down over time.   A blade sharpener in this kit would make it very easy to keep this tool in good working order.
  • Add a MOLLE to the Carry Bag – The pouch is made of very sturdy material.  A MOLLE system would make it easy to carry other small tools that aren’t in the kit. It also makes it very easy for people to upgrade the kit if new parts become available later on.
  • Include 2 More Pieces for the Handle – Extra handle pieces would make this tool useful as a walking stick. It would also make it more comfortable to use as a shovel by tall people.
  • Make The Handle Insulated From Electricity – You never know what people will do during a flood emergency.  Downed wires may still be live, and can kill if people stick a non-insulated tool into the water.
  • An insulated handle would help reduce this risk and also give people an advantage.  The handle design right now is made of aluminum.   I didn’t test this out, but it seems the handle can conduct electricity.
  • Add a Monocular –   A monocular would be a useful complement to the compass. It would also be of use because there is always a need to see things at a distance in emergencies.
  • Remove Bottle Opener – This survival tool is on just about every gadget you can find.  It is very likely that people already have one or more in their pocket or on their key chain.  This space is better left with nothing there.
  • Remove Hex Nut Holes –  First, small nuts tend to be in tight places.  A shovel head is not likely to fit.  My other concern is that over time, these can weaken the shovel. They are a place where rust can take hold if the shovel is not cleaned and oiled.
  • Add Pliers or a Monkey Wrench – These are easy to adapt to a lot of nuts and other fasteners.  If you fit one into a handle, it would also fit into tight places.  Either of these would also come in handy for taking apart the handle pieces when they get stuck.

Overall Rating

For the most part, the EST Survival Shovel does exactly what it is meant to do. It is very sturdy and did not fall apart on initial testing.

I give this tool a 4.5 out of 5.  When compared to similar tools on the market, it is much better built.  You can expect most, if not all of the parts to last for years as long as you take good care of them.   Since the tool also comes with a lifetime warranty, if parts do break, the company stands behind their product 100%.

This folding shovel is lightweight and compact.  You will find it easy to put together and take apart.    It is also very durable and can be stored in just about any place.  The EST Survival Shovel is an excellent choice for your bug in or bug out bags, a vehicle’s emergency kit, and more.

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