Not many survivalists, hikers, and general outdoorsy types tend to think about the significance of a shovel. However, shovels play a huge part in survival. Without a proper tool for digging, not even agriculture would be possible. Let's face it, you can't go digging trenches, wells, or what have you...and if you do try, so soon learn how much it sucks. Human hands aren't build for digging through the earth, and not many other tools in your hiking gear is going to do the trick like a survival shovel. But which one is right for you?
Choosing a Survival Shovel
Before getting into some things to consider when choosing which survival shovel to purchase, you need to ask yourself a couple of questions. After all, not all shovels are created equal.
- How long and far will you be carrying the shovel?
- How big are the holes will be you are digging? How deep are the trenches?
- Do you need to make smaller holes, such as for sanitation?
- Do you need to dig through snow or make an ice shelter?
Depending on how you answered these questions, you might have a specific hammer that fits your needs best.
If there is one material to avoid like the plague, that would be plastic. Sure, you might save some money with a plastic shovel, but they are also lightweight and will undoubtedly break extremely quick.
That means you choose from these types of metal:
- Stainless steel – heavy, but it won't corrode, even when exposed to extremely wet conditions often
- Aluminum – a lightweight material that is more durable than plastic but not as strong as either steel variation
- High-carbon steel – stronger than regular stainless steel but needs a special oxide paint to prevent corrosion.
Aside from the type of metal a shovel is made out of, there are other things that will affect the function:
- Handle length – longer the handle, the easier a shovel is to use. Yet, for those who want ultimate portability, this can also mean adding more weight than necessary.
- Blade edges – modern survival shovels have specialized edges, like serrated edges.
- Blade size – the bigger blade, the faster you can dig; you can also work around tough obstacles, like heavy rocks and thick roots.
- Blade shape – shape can be be broken down into four types: narrow, wide, pointed, and flat.
Top 5 Best Survival Shovels
The best survival shovels are the ones that incorporate some critical tools for survival, such as saws, flashlights, and weapons. Here are highly recommended survival shovels so you can buy the best:
1. FiveJoy Compact Military Folding Shovel
- Includes a number of additional features that make it perfect for the survivalist
- Available in two sizes
- Constructed from heat-treated high-quality carbon steel (blade and knife) and aerospace grade aluminum.Rust, water, and fracture resistant.
- Can adjust shovel angle by using the unique 40, 90, or 180 degree angle settings.
- Great design, including a non-slip, comfortable handle
- Higher price than other models
- Even the handle on the compact version is a bit long, even when folded up.
For an excellent addition to your gear, you should select the military-grade folding shovel that includes all kinds of survivalist goodies. The FiveJoy compact survival shovel has a number of tools that make it more than just something to dig trenches and latrines with like a bottle opener, emergency whistle, ruler, paracord, fire starter, serrated saw edge, and a sharp axe blade.
There are two sizes to choose from—the C1 compact version or the RS heavy duty version. This is certainly the real deal when it comes to folding shovels that is a worthy investment.
2. Cold Steel Special Forces Shovel
- Lightweight and sturdy design
- Durable hardwood handle
- Medium carbon steel shovel head
- Weighs approximately 1 pound 10 ounces
- Includes MOLLE compatible sheath
- Too bulky for a bug out bag
- Doesn't fold or telescope
- Edges need to be constantly honed to be effective
The Cold Steel shovel is fantastic. It doesn't look like much, but you certainly do not have to worry about the shovel breaking while you are at work. The edges are much sharper than they appear, making Cold Steel ideal for cutting through tree roots. Lightweight, robust – this is a pure survival shovel that will not lead you amiss.
3. Gerber E-Tool Folding Spade with Pick and Serrated Blade
- Open handle design maximizes grip power
- Shovel is made of powder-coated boron carbon steel
- Serrated edge
- Sharpe blade penetrates hard ground easily
- Extremely compact
- An affordable option
- Not as durable as some options, as users have reported some chips in the coating.
The Gerber E-Tool with a serrated edge is one of the most popular survival shovels on the market currently. The reason being is the portability. Since the shovel folds up into half of its original size, it is excellent for your gear.
Plus, the serrated edge gives it more functionality than some other folding shovels. The extended size reaches up to 75 inches, while it is merely 25 inches when closed; and the entire shovel weighs only 3 pounds.
4. United Cutlery M48 Kommando Tactical Survival Shovel
- Appropriate for light chopping (thanks to concave edge for chopping and serrated edge of sawing), digging, and other menial tasks
- Pointed tip is excellent for digging into earth that is hard, rocky, or with a lot of roots
- Very strong design
- Weighs around 3 pounds and is 16.25 inches.
- Stainless steel is covered in a hard, black oxide coating
- Heavy weight not ideal for backpackers
- Short handle will put a lot of strain on the back, so it might not be best for those who lower back issues or frequent pain
- Doesn't fold or telescope
With a name like Kommando, you know this tactical survival shovel is going to have something special about it. Despite the simplicity of the design, this shovel is extremely sturdy. The handle is virtually indestructible, since it is full of injection-molded nylon and has 30 percent nylon and fiberglass reinforcement.
Overall, while the shovel doesn't come with any extras like other models shown on the list, the Kommando not only looks incredible, it is perfect for digging, light chopping, or even defensive measures in an emergency.
5. Schrade Telescoping Folding Shovel
- Telescoping, longer handle
- Non-slip grip
- Made out of sturdy carbon steel
- Sharpened head
- Overall blade length of 7.41 inches and an overall telescoping length of 19 inches maximum
- Entire shovel only weighs 2 pounds
- T-grip handle may be uncomfortable for some people
- Not for very heavy duty usage, as the blade is not heat-treated
Because this model has a telescoping neck and a sturdy T-grip, the Schrade survival shovel is excellent for when you need to remove a large amount of dirt at once, like when digging out a trench, shelter, or digging out the wheels of your vehicles.
While the Schrade folding shovel isn't exactly the largest shovel and doesn't come with any extra features, it is a dependable lightweight shovel (only 2 pounds) that will do what it is designed to do.
No matter what you need to dig or why, there is a survival shovel with your name and purpose written on it. Don't get caught in a fix without something to dig your way out of trouble. Having one of these survival shovels ready to go means you have planned ahead successfully. All that is left is to find the folding shovel that meets your needs and fits into your objectives.