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 anything else really… and if you do try, you’ll soon learn how much it sucks. Human hands aren’t built for digging through the earth and not many other tools in your hiking gear are going to do the trick like a survival shovel. But, which one is right for you?
The best survival shovels are the ones that incorporate some critical tools for survival, such as saws, flashlights and weapons. Here are highly recommended options so you can buy the best:
Top 5 Best Survival Shovels
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For more details and complete product reviews, benefits and features, keep reading.
11 Best Survival Shovels On the Market
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 ax 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 are a worthy investment.
- 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
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.
- Lightweight and sturdy design
- Durable hardwood handle
- Medium carbon steel shovelhead
- 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 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.
- Open handle design maximizes grip power
- Shovel is made of powder-coated boron carbon steel
- Serrated edge
- Sharp 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
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.
- Appropriate for light chopping (thanks to the concave edge for chopping and serrated edge of sawing), digging, and other menial tasks
- Pointed tip is excellent for digging into the 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
- Heavyweight 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
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.
- 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
SOG Survival Shovel is a combination of a shovel and saw in one compact package. It can be used in all manner of situations like in a garden or for shoveling snow.
This tool has a three-way folding design that makes it versatile and easy to transport. It has a triangular ergonomic handle and comes with a nylon sheath for storage.
High-Carbon steel construction can withstand a lot of impacts. It can be used to carry out heavy tasks without sustaining damage.
A durable locking mechanism keeps it in place when it is folded. It is lightweight and has a black powder coat finish.
- Can be used for numerous activities
- Can be folded into three parts for easy storage and transport
- Made of durable, high-carbon steel
- Head might get bent easily
Rhino USA Survival Shovel is a rugged tool that was built for heavy-duty work. It can be used to dig into snow or sand and for most outdoor adventures.
This tool has a sturdy shovel plate that can easily dig into any surface. The sides of the plate are serrated and can be used as a saw for cutting into wood.
The shovel head can be rotated 90 degrees to form a hoe on one side and a pickaxe on the other side. This tool is a powerhouse packed into a 2.7 pounds frame.
It is made of powder-coated carbon steel and can be easily folded together. It has a carry bag that can be used to store and carry it around.
- Can be transformed into a hoe and pickaxe
- Made of powder-coated carbon steel
- Very light
- Paint might wear away during use and it might begin to rust
Iunio Folding Shovel is a military-grade multitool that will serve as an addition to your outdoor gear. It is highly practical and functional, a tool that can be used even in emergency situations.
The tool has extension bars that you can add and remove as you wish. It has a full height of 31 inches when it is unfolded, allowing you to feel comfortable as you carry out heavy-duty tasks. Weighing just two pounds, you can use this tool for a long time.
It comes with a lot of additional useful tools, which are all embedded in the frame. These tools include a saw, bottle opener, hoe, whistle, fire bar, shovel board and a hammer, among others.
The shovel blade and shaft are made of high-grade carbon steel, which is wear-resistant. The handle has a rubber grip that makes it easy to get a good hold of.
- Can be extended to a full height of 31 inches
- A lot of additional tools that can serve multiple purposes
- Handle has a rubber grip for easy handling
- Joint connecting the shovel head to the handle might break during use
Tyger Auto Shovel has a lot of features that make it an ideal tool that should be in the gear of any person that carries out a lot of outdoor activities. It can be used for both light and heavy-duty work.
It is made of high-grade solid carbon steel and anodized aluminum tubes. It is a sturdy and durable tool that can last for a long time.
This tool comes with up to 16 extra attachments, some of which are a fire starter, an ice pick, screwdriver and a knife. It can also be converted into a hoe, saw or hammer.
A unique switch mechanism allows you to switch between modes within seconds. This folding shovel can be easily stored in your vehicle or backpack in case of emergencies.
- Strong and sturdy
- Has a lot of features that are necessary for survival
- Can be easily converted into different modes
- Locking mechanism for the shovel head might not function properly
TAC9ER Tactical Shovel is a tool that combines every feature that a person might need to survive outdoors. Having this tool makes you prepared for any type of emergency that might arise at any time.
The 15-in-1 multitool has a serrated knife, wire cutter, fire starter, bottle opener, compass and a safety hammer. It can be used to cut, chop, saw, hook and dig, making the ultimate survival tool.
It fully extends to a height of 29 inches after it has been assembled. Weighing just 2.2 pounds, you can carry out tedious tasks without using much effort.
It is made with carbon steel and aluminum and it is strong and durable. It comes with a small carry pouch that can be folded for easy storage.
- Multipurpose tool
- Lightweight and easy to use
- Comes with a carry pouch for easy storage
- Handle might bend when digging
Yodo Folding Shovel is a compact tool that has a lot of features built into its frame. It can be used in a vast number of settings, including emergency situations.
This multifunctional tool can be used as a shovel, hoe, hammer or pickaxe. It has an ergonomic handle that makes it easy to use.
It can be used while the handle is straight or at a 90-degree angle. It has a tri-fold design that reduces it into a portable tool.
Made with high-quality steel, it can withstand a fair amount of impact. It has a carry bag that makes it easy to store and transport.
- A lot of functional features
- Trifold design
- Ergonomic handle
- Shovelhead might be too small
What Is a Survival Shovel
Ages ago, a shovel was mostly used for gardening and construction. However, due to its many improvements, it has become an indispensable tool people carry along, especially when camping, hiking or for any activity that involves exploring in the wild.
These days, there are heaps of choices, most of which are engineered to accommodate entrenching and other types of heavy work. What’s more, they are made compact so you can easily bring them along everywhere, even in the harshest environments.
Benefits of Using a Survival Shovel
Useful for Cutting Branches or Digging a Fire Pit
When enjoying the peace and quiet of the outdoors, a shovel can be especially useful in digging out a fire pit, makeshift latrine and even cutting small branches or twigs to use for a fire. The uses for such a tool are endless when you are camping out. Some of them also have a tool that sharpens your pocket knife.
Helps You Dig Out Your Tires From the Mudd
Even if you are going cross country in a vehicle, having a handy survival shovel, aside from an air mattress for camping that fits your needs or bringing a camping power supply that’s portable, can be the difference between being stranded or getting out of a tight situation. An example is when you have to dig out your tires from a muddy rut or a sandpit when a tactical shovel will surely come in handy.
Helps With Tent Set-Up
Bear in mind that although a tactical shovel can be a great tool for digging, using them for anything heavy-duty can be challenging. However, they are instrumental when leveling out the ground when pitching a tent. When the soil is leveled, you can make the best cold weather tent to handle anything that the elements might throw at you.
While a camping pack may miss out on lighters that are windproof or having the best survival watch, a tactical shovel will always be included. A shovel, whether full sized or a foldable one, is handy for digging, and depending on whatever add-on there is on survival or a tactical shovel can be used pretty much for anything, including for self-defense.
Short History of a Survival Shovel
Shovels have been around for thousands of years and the earliest shovel-like tool found in history was used some 5000 years ago. However, as usual, it was during the first and second world wars that they were immortalized. In these wars, warfare is more focused on foot soldiers and thus, the war was mostly fought in trenches dug in by the opposing sides on frontlines.
The ground gained in these trenches is dug in by none other than the humble shovel. Aside from being the primary tool for digging trenches, the trench digger displayed a considerable potential as a close-in weapon when ammunition ran out.
From these two significant uses have sprung a wealth of ideas. Thus, the survival shovel was born and has become part of any respectable army’s equipment, along with the usual guns and ammunition. Later on, it became incorporated into the popular civilian hobby of hiking and camping. The survival shovel has gone on to become a mainstay in outdoor camping equipment all over the world.
The shovel is also clearly a competent tool in a home garden and was also still a mainstay in any garden shed worth its salt. Nowadays, you will find the old shovel at home, in camping types of equipment and it’s still being actively used in the military.
Their versatility made them virtually indispensable in any outdoor activity, so much so that when you pack a hammock in your backpack a survival shovel is sure to follow.
How Does a Survival Shovel Work
A shovel, whether it is a tactical or a full-sized one, is a digging tool at its core. The difference lies in the fact that survival or tactical shovel will have more uses than that of a full-sized one in a very similar manner to that of a Swiss knife with all its implements.
A survival shovel can be used to dig up trenches before you stake a tent to the ground and there is nothing like the great outdoors when you come prepared. If you manage to bring an outdoor folding bag chair and a comfortable camping cot with a hammock underquilt that keeps you warm, then your day is pretty much made.
Survival Shovel Materials
The manufacturing processes present a variety of exotic materials, alloys and plastic. Arguably, plastics now, especially toughened ABS or TPU, can take a beating and some alloys are comparatively strong compared to high-carbon steel. Most of the tactical shovels available are made up of a combination of these materials.
While some of these may be good, survival experts will swear by three materials that have stood the tests of history and time. Therefore, when getting your shovel, make sure they are made of these materials or a combination of them to ensure that they work as intended:
By far, this is the heaviest metal used for a tactical shovel and the main advantage is that it will not easily succumb to corrosion, which makes it ideal for use in a wet environment such as ice or temperate forest.
This material is perfect for those that have a concern about the weight but is relatively the weakest among the three metals. It is lightweight and also resistant to corrosion but takes a little extra care when using it.
This metal is what knives are made of and is the strongest of the three materials, making it suitable for heavy-duty use. The caveat is that this steel needs a special coating of oxide paint to prevent it from corroding to an unusable state.
Survival Shovel Uses
If you love the outdoors, then you must know that its virtually impossible to enjoy it fully without a tool like the survival shovel. Primarily used for digging, this tool is usually augmented with a plethora of ingenious add-ons that, when combined or folded a certain way, transform the shovel into something capable of so much more than digging.
Building a Shelter
Pitching a tent or building a shelter from scratch will both require the use of a shovel.
Digging Your Own Latrine
Just because you are in the jungle doesn’t mean that you can be unsanitary. There are no toilets around so digging one up by using your shovel is one way to go.
Building a Fire Pit
A shovel is an absolute must if you want a fire pit to make sure you are warm.
Your Own Propulsion
While in a survival scenario, building a raft can be ideal where you can use the blade of the shovel to build a raft and use it as a paddle after you are done.
The tactical shovels serrated edge is more than enough defense to incapacitate an attacker.
How to Choose the Best Survival Shovel
There are a lot of options out there and we have scoured high and low to get you the specific things that you will need to look at when faced with the daunting task of choosing just one among hundreds if not thousands of choices.
Before anything else, one must determine as to how and where he will be using the shovel. If it is a part of an emergency kit or a bug-out bag, it should contain all the bells and whistles. If you will just use it around the house or if you will be using it for a camping/road trip, you need a different kind of shovel.
The head of the shovel has a direct impact on what it can do and the choices would be narrow, pointed, wide and a flat shovelhead. Each of these corresponds to what use one intends with them. For instance, a wide shovel can dig shallow holes faster and a narrow and pointed one can easily dig trenches around a tent more quickly.
This will determine how easy it is to use when actually digging. Fortunately, many of the offerings now have collapsible handles that transform into a full-length shovel when fully extended. Check out how far the handle extends when looking at this particular feature.
Blade Edges, Size and Shape
As for these characteristics, most tactical shovels will have one side of the head with a serrated edge capable of cutting through roots or twigs and anything that needs rough cutting.
The size needs to be checked according to what you will be using it for, where, the bigger the size the more natural it would move dirt and the smaller it is, the more delicate tasks will be made easier. Shape selection is, once again, defined by how you would be using the shovel.
Size and Portability
Because you would be lugging these around on your backpack most of the time, they need to have just the right balance between how big they are and how heavy they should be. There is no direct correlation between size here, as these are mostly collapsible. The usual design is a foldable handle, but there are some that get away with locks and even telescopic construction.
The weight should be kept well within 4 pounds. Many of them will also have a carrying pouch and these are what one should watch out for. This number is the ideal weight ratio that can be an allocation for this tool in your backpack.
This feature differs across multiple brands, there is an endless combination of add-ons and you can choose which ones are most beneficial to you. The most common attachments are a pickaxe attachment, a saw blade inside the handle. Other combinations may include a host of other accessories, such as a fishing line and hook or an LED flashlight.
Going back to the materials we have gone through, the best bet as the material for the shovel head would be high-carbon steel as this part would be taking the most abuse. A combination of materials on the handle and grip is okay.
Material and Build
Check for loose parts and poor quality workmanship on the handle and how they are welded or bolted together. How these are done is quite telling on how the item would perform in real-world situations.
This is important because the price has no direct proportion to the quality of the shovel. Cheap does not mean bad and vice-versa. Look for the right balance between being a bang-for-the-buck or just plain expensive because of gimmicky add-ons.
Survival Shovel vs Regular Shovel
The shovel that comes to our mind is a big shovel used for sand and digging up soil, and thankfully, that is nowhere near what a survival shovel looks like. The main difference of a survival shovel is that it is usually a multi-tool in one and that it collapses into a smaller and more portable package.
It is not only collapsible, but it also contains a myriad of other implements, usually having five or more other functionalities embedded other than its usual trench digging function.
How to Use a Survival Shovel
There are two popular ways to transform a survival shovel into its full extension and length. One is a handle that folds down and snaps on a lock to form a fully extended and usable shovel.
The other method takes more time but is more secure where you screw a couple or several parts of the handle together to get at the desired length. Testing each one and finding out which is most comfortable for you to handle would be best.
The survival shovel is essential in an emergency kit when you go camping or hiking, and one of the most common add on for a tactical shovel is a pick add-on that turns the shovel into a more efficient digging tool and essentially becomes a shovel and pickaxe in one. When camping, you can already achieve a lot with a shovel, but with a shovel and a pickaxe, you can practically build a cabin.
Okay, maybe a cabin is overdoing it, but you can use it to considerably level and prepare the ground before pitching a tent, as well as very quickly dig a trench around it. Most of these survival shovels have serrated edges that double as cutting tools.
Some actually completely breakdown to become saws, pliers and sharp knives, all of which will have a variety of uses when in the outdoors camping. When on the road, they can be especially helpful in digging out a stuck tire.
Below are the steps on how to use a survival shovel:
Step 1 – Assemble the handle
Fully assemble the shovel and depending on how you will be using it, unfold or attach the implement that you will use. Carefully follow the instructions and never play around with it.
Step 2 – Clean the shovel and let it dry
After usage clean the shovel of any debris that may have been stuck with water. Let the shovel dry and stow it on its pouch.
How to Maintain a Survival Shovel
Most survival shovels available are built rather solid and can take a fair amount of beating as they are being used, but it does not mean that they are indestructible. A little TLC will go a long way in making sure that they last for years.
Step 1 – Keep the shovel clean
After a camping trip, make sure that you clean all the soil, dirt and debris from the blade of your shovel. Pat dry with towels and allow it to completely dry.
Step 2 – Watch out for rust
Rust is corrosion and it is essential that you keep it off the metal parts of your shovel as fast as possible. Use metal bristle brushes and spray some WD-40 (or its equivalent) to make sure it doesn’t come back.
Step 3 – Oil is your friend
Rubbing on some lubricating oil on the metal parts of your shovel will go a long way in protecting it from oxidizing and prevent the build-up of rust.
Step 4 – Sharpen the edges
It will do well to sharpen the edges just to make sure that it retains that bite for when you need to start hacking roots and small branches for kindling.
Step 5 – Don’t lose your pouch
If your shovel comes with a pouch (most of them do), make sure that you do not lose it. This pouch will make carrying your shovel easy and also prevent them from being damaged or damaging other equipment.
Does More Spending Mean More Quality
We have gotten so used to the idea that you get what you pay for and that is somewhat true as well for survival and tactical shovels, however, it does not mean that the cheapest is the worst and that the most expensive is the best.
As we have mentioned before, the price is actually not one of the criteria when choosing your survival shovel but rather the compromise between being useful and genuine features.
There are a lot of gimmicky features that jack up the price and it’s good to stick to the game plan when choosing them and answer how you will be using it first. This will help you determine whether or not the particular shovel is too expensive or priced just right. Just remember that the price is never directly proportional to the quality.
Do’s and Don’ts With a Survival Shovel
Although operating a survival shovel is pretty much a straightforward endeavor, there are some things that you can and cannot do wit it:
- Do keep the pouch that came with the shovel and always use it.
- Do keep the shovel well lubricated.
- Do make repairs before they worsen, such as paint chips on a high carbon steel shovel’s head.
- Do keep them in a cool and dry place when not in use.
- Do keep them out of reach of children.
- Do not store the survival shovel when dirty, you won’t be able to use it again.
- Do not leave the shovel wet and exposed while you rest during an outdoor camping.
- Do not let children play with them.
- Do not just put them into a backpack, use the included pouch instead.
FAQ About Survival Shovels
Is survival shovel a multi-tool?
Survival shovels are considered multi-tools as even the most basic one can perform multiple tasks on its own. Competition among manufacturers now guarantees that every shovel available will have some sort of multi-functional feature as its selling point. These usually fold up or break down into several tools and this way you get a lot of functionality out of one single item.
What is the ideal weight of a survival shovel?
The ideal weight should be between 3-4 pounds as anything above that may already be too much, especially if you are planning a backpacking trek across a particular mountain or terrain.
Best way to care for the survival shovel?
It is highly recommended to keep the shovel in its own carrying pouch (which is usually included) to avoid damaging it or the shovel damaging your other equipment. It is best to keep it as dry as possible and clean it as frequently as you can after use to avoid corrosion.
What is the ideal material for the survival shovel?
This would be dependent on what you intend to use it for. If you intend to do a lot of digging, a shovel with a high-carbon steel head is recommended. If its a general purpose shovel, aluminum or stainless steel option can be used instead. Or you can play it safe and use a shovel with a combination of these materials.
What can a survival shovel do?
Aside from saving your life in case you get lost in the wild, a survival shovel can handle tasks such as cutting logs or ropes, shoveling, clearing a campsite in preparation for pitching a tent, digging trenches and hunting.
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.
It all boils down to how one will use this tool and when you determine this, everything else that you need will fall into place and it will make it easier to make decisions on the other features. Consider the weight, materials and the build quality above all.
Make sure that the added functionality stays true to what you intend it to be used in the first place. A tactical shovel is an indispensable tool for those who stay outdoors, campers, hikers and survivalists. It’s also quite useful around the house and on road trips as well.
Photos from: Abdulaxxx / depositphotos.com, [email protected] / depositphotos.com, P.Kanchana / depositphotos.com and Tverdohlib.com / depositphotos.com.
- Top 5 Best Survival Shovels
- 11 Best Survival Shovels On the Market
- What Is a Survival Shovel
- Benefits of Using a Survival Shovel
- Short History of a Survival Shovel
- How Does a Survival Shovel Work
- Survival Shovel Materials
- Survival Shovel Uses
- How to Choose the Best Survival Shovel
- Survival Shovel vs Regular Shovel
- How to Use a Survival Shovel
- How to Maintain a Survival Shovel
- Does More Spending Mean More Quality
- Do’s and Don’ts With a Survival Shovel
- FAQ About Survival Shovels