The modest shovel is a historic tool that was used as an entrenching tool during the two world wars. It often doubled up as a hack and slash weapon in close quarter combat. In today’s modern life, you will see a shovel being used in a garden but it has also found its place as a camping, backpacking and survival tool. How else will you dig holes for your tent poles, dig a cat hole to cover your poop or remove the snow around your vehicle’s tires? It is also a perfect item to carry in your car emergency kit.
In this article, we look at some of the best folding shovels for camping, backpacking and other outdoor activities. We will also discuss the factors that would help you pick the best folding shovel or trowel that should be part of your camping gear list. So buckle up and read on!
Best camping shovel and trowel comparison listSome of the best camping shovels and trowels out in the market are listed below:
|Picture||Product||Length and Weight||Features|
|US GI Military Original Issue E-Tool Entrenching Shovel||9"|
|- Best-selling carbon steel shovel with aluminum handle.|
- Tri-fold design that extends to 24".
- Has a sharpened axe edge with serrations on side.
|Glock Entrenching Tool||14"|
|- High-quality shovel with three-position design.|
- Extendable telescoping handle to 25" length.
- Comes with a black nylon belt pouch.
|FiveJoy Military Folding Shovel Multitool||14.5"|
|- Shovel multi-tool with carbon-steel heads and aluminum handle.|
- Hidden survival tools including knife, whistle and fire-starter.
- Comes with a shovel head case and carry pouch.
|2.7 lbs.||- Lightweight shovel with powder-coated steel head, aluminum shaft and glass-filled nylon handle.|
- Folded design, that extends to 23.7 inches.
- Half-serrated edge to cut through vegetation.
- Sheath not included.
|SOG F08-N Entrenching Camping Shovel||8.5"|
|- Entrenching shovel with half-serrated steel head.|
- Trifold design that extends to 18.25".
- Comes with nylon carrying case with gear loop.
- Lifetime warranty.
|Schrade SCHSH1 Telescoping Folding Shovel||16.6"|
|- 1055-carbon steel shovel with telescoping aluminum tube handle.|
- Extends to 19-inches.
- Comes with a black polyester belt sheath.
|- Lightweight entrenching shovel with a wide serrated head.|
- Trifold design that extends to 18".
- Comes with a nylon carrying pouch.
|Coghlan‘s backpackers trowel||11"|
|- Budget backpacking trowel made of styrene.|
- Ultralight single-body construction.
|The Tentlab Duece of Spades Trowel||7"|
|- Best-selling trowel made of 7075, aircraft-grade aluminum.|
- Available in multiple colors
- Lifetime warranty.
|Grizzly Peak backpacker‘s trowel||11"|
|- Another popular trowel made of plastic.|
- Has a rubber thumb grip for better control.
- Available in two-colors
How to choose the best folding shovel or trowel for camping?
The primary function of a shovel is to help you dig. Depending on your condition, you may be digging up soil, dirt or snow. A good shovel should be able to penetrate the soil and should be able to withstand moderate pressure. Before picking the best camping shovel or trowel, you should look at the following major factors:
- Build and material
- Design and Portability
- Ease of use
- Extra features
Build and material
When buying a shovel, check the build quality of the shovel blade. It should be a solid piece of metal rather than a thin sheet which bends on the slightest pressure. The material used also plays a very crucial role. The blade can be made either of stainless steel or high carbon steel. These are then spray painted with black oxide paint to prevent corrosion. There are chances of the paint getting scratched and the shovel getting rusted.
Most shovels will either have a metal or a hard plastic (GRN or FRN Nylon) handle. Metal handles are generally made of aluminum sturdier and can last longer than the plastic ones but plastic ones are much lighter. The blade is connected to the handle via a hinge which is a moving part. This part can often get rusted or come undone, so need to pick one which has a reliable corrosion-free, powder-coated hinge.
A good shovel should be able to take a good beating as not all camp digging are equal. What happens if you hit a stone while digging? Military grade shovels are very strong and are not easily bent or damaged and are hence the best entrenching tools to use.
Trowels are generally ultralight and made of plastic polymers or metals. A single-tang construction is often a good indicator of durability and reliability.
Check the building material of the shovel head, handle and shaft before picking the best camping shovel for your needs.
Design and Portability
Folding shovels, as the name suggest, can be folded into a much smaller size and carried around in a backpack. A good shovel should be compact when folded and easy to carry around. There are a variety of foldable versions available:
- A three-piece folding mechanism (Tri-fold) where the blade, as well as the D grip, can be folded
- A two-piece standard folding mechanism where the blade is foldable.
- A telescoping design in which the shovel can be extended using a handle shaft.
Naturally, the three-piece mechanism renders the folded shovel to a very small size and is preferable. The weight of the shovel also plays an important factor in terms of its portability. An all-out metal build is heavier compared to a shovel which has plastic components but an all-out metal construction is also sturdier. To save weight, some cheap shovels use a cheap plastic handles instead of the aluminum or polymer handles, so you should stay away from such shovels.
Ease of use
The simplest form of shovel consists of the blade attached to a straight handle. More ergonomically designed versions have a D or T grip for added support. Shovels with grips are easier to handle and operate.
Generally, the shorter the handle, the more you need to bend down when digging mud or sand. A shovel with an adjustable handle comes useful here as you can adjust the handle to suit your height. Smaller shovels need you to sit on the ground and dig and hence they are not really recommended.
Keep these design features in mind before picking the best camping shovel or trowel for your next wilderness trip.
The primary job required of a shovel is digging mud or snow. That doesn’t stop come manufacturers from including extra features into the shovel. Most shovels you see in the market comes with some sort of a sawing capability, be it serrated teeth on one side of the shovel blade or a compact sized saw in the shovel’s handle. Some manufacturers have folding shovels with extra tools akin to a multi-tool. Some brands have a fully functioning compass in the shovel’s handle. Whatever the features maybe, it is a good buy if you are getting more bang for your bucks.
A point to remember is to not spend extra money on the features if you will never be using them. So think twice before you purchase that multi-tool shovel when you already own a pocket multi-tool. If you just need to do some digging, a simple shovel of good quality with a serrated end should be more than enough to get your work done.
Which is the best folding shovel or trowel for camping?
If you are looking for a shovel which does more than acting just as a trowel shovel, then check out the US GI Military Entrenching Shovel. The US GI Military Entrenching Shovel is a genuine military grade folding shovel which will get all your digging and chopping done with.
The shovel features a carbon steel blade with an aluminum handle. The shovel has a black powder coating and is very durable. It won’t break or bend on the prolonged use and you can rest assured that this is the shovel that is going to last you for many years. When expanded, the shovel can attain a length of 24 inches. It is reasonably lightweight at 2.8 pounds, though you can always get some lighter options.
This shovel has a tri-fold design that folds up perfectly and gets very compact. It has a sharpened axe edge for any chopping and a serrated saw edge for sawing of any small branches or trunks.
FiveJoy Military Folding Shovel Multitool review – Editor’s choice pick for the best camping shovel multi-tool
If you are looking for a shovel that can not only help you in digging holes or cutting branches but also serve more tactical purposes, then the FiveJoy Military Folding Shovel Multitool is the option to consider.
This all-in-one survival tool comes with an aerospace grade aluminum handle and detachable carbon-steel heads for the shovel (with a serrated saw edge), sharp ax blade and hammer. And that is not all! This versatile shovel also has a hidden rescue knife, paracord, emergency whistle, bottle opener and a magnesium Ferro-rod fire-starter.
This portable shovel is reasonably lightweight at 2.1 pounds and can attain a shovel length of 14.5 inches. The shovel is foldable to a compact size to fit in your backpack. The spade-head is adjustable at 4 angles using screw locking system to act as a hook, hoe or shovel. Its rust-resistant construction allows it to be used for years.
The Glock entrenching tool is a quality shovel from Glock. This shovel is very lightweight at a little over one pound. It is very durable and gets most digging tasks done. It has no moving parts and the blade can lock in four positions. The handle is made of high-grade impact resistant polymer.
This shovel has a total length of 25.4 inches when fully extended. It has a neat little saw that is stashed in the handle. Just unscrew the cap and turn the saw around and screw the cap again to have a saw extending from the handle. It can be used to cut down branches or plant roots, ropes etc. You get two pieces of equipment for the price of one.
The Coghlan’s backpackers trowel is made from high impact polystyrene and comes in orange color. Constructed as a single piece of durable plastic, it carves through the tough ground without breaking or cracking and is incredibly strong for its 2 ounces of weight. It is only 11 inches long, so can easily fit in any backpack. It also features a depth gauge to be sure you can use it without ever leaving a trace. For these reasons, it is an ideal hand shovel and digging tool for ultralight backpackers.
How to care for your folding shovel?
Shovels like any other camping tool should be taken care of to prolong its life. Generally, the blade of shovels are painted with black oxide to prevent corrosion but it can come off with rough use. These sections can then start rusting. The hinge between the shovel blade and the handle can also rust and result in it breaking and rendering the blade useless. Follow these steps to take good care of your shovel.
- Always make sure that you wash off any mud or dirt from your shovel. Wash it off but do not scrub it as you will risk scraping the paint off. Dry the shovel.
- If your spade has serrated teeth which have become dull, you can sharpen it using an industrial file.
- If you see an area with the paint scraped off, apply a coat of black paint or spray it with black oxide. This will prevent rusting and corrosion.
- Apply a coat of lubricating oil or if available spray machine oil like WD-40. This will prevent further rusting.
With proper care, your shovel will be with you for a long time and you will not have to worry about digging up another cat hole in the outdoors.
Final thoughts on the best folding shovel or trowel or camping
Buying the best camping shovel or trowel is not just a matter of walking into a hardware store and picking the first shovel you lay your eyes on. It is important to consider the purpose for which you need the shovel, the build, compactness, and portability and if the shovel offers any extra features.
In this article, we took a look at some of the best camping shovels and trowels available in the market. We listed out the factors to consider before picking the best folding shovel for camping and other outdoor activities and shared our top picks. We also shared some tips on how to clean your shovel after a field-trip.
We hope that you found this article useful and hope it helps you to buy the best folding shovel or trowel that will suit your needs. Do let us know your feedback by commenting below. Until next time, happy camping!
Shop related products to best camping shovel or trowel
Image credits: Amazon.com