Have you ever attempted to dig a big hole without a shovel? It is extremely tasking, dirty and takes ages! In other words, it sucks! If you’re a hunter, prepper, camper or anybody who enjoys the outdoors, you should have a compact shovel close by. Whether it’s strapped to your bergan or sitting in the truck, there really is no reason to not have a Survival Shovel to hand.
You might not find yourself in those extremely dangerous circumstances on the daily, but you never know when the worst might happen. These type of shovels are great tools to keep in your arsenal for whenever you might need them. There are many different shovels you can buy, that come with different heads, accessories and types. This means, that you are guaranteed to find the best shovel for you.
In this article we wanted to create the ultimate guide to finding the absolute best survival shovels in 2020, meaning they are capable of dealing with whatever this year might throw at you. A shovel that will help you dig through ice, snow, sand, dirt or whatever else you need it for. Finding a shovel that has all the essentials and more, such as an emergency whistle, a fire starter, and a portable folding shovel, meaning that come rain or shine, your mind can be at ease knowing you have the perfect survival tools for all weathers.
So in today’s article, I’m going to tell you everything I know about survival and tactical shovels, specifically:
- The 10 Best Survival Shovels On The Market Today
- How To Use A survival Shovel
- 10 Surprising Uses For A Survival Shovel
**Note: If you just want to jump directly to our buy guide, feel free to CLICK THIS LINK.
The Best Survival Shovel
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. Survival shovels are designed to be multi-functional and will often have tools to get you out of the deepest of holes (literally and metaphorically). Some might come with a bottle opener extension, whilst others have various shovel heads to attached.
These shovels are designed to provide a means to help you in your most desperate times, therefore, they are an essential piece of kit. In this review we will also be assessing the practicality of these shovels, were you to find yourself in a very sticky situation. Although some might say that’s unlikely, if it’s able to help you literally survive, then it’ll be great for a camping or fishing trip.
Here is a list of our Top 10 Best Survival Shovels, in no particular order….
1) IUNIO Military Portable Folding Survival Shovel
Item Description: 37.99 x 6.22 x 1.89″ LWH | Weight: 2.2 kilograms
The IUNIO Military Portable Folding Survival shovel is a military grade survival multi-tool. It’s the perfect tool for an outdoor enthusiast who would find this useful in a number of situations.
With so many different tools, it can be hard to find the right balance when trying to accommodate the design for them all. However this one by IUNIO seems to do quite well. It includes a shovel board, hexagonal wrench, a saw, a bottle opener, nail extractor, hoe, fish scaler, fire bar and even an emergency whistle. This means that it has basically every essential item you could ever need to keep yourself alive. Although it is unlikely you will find yourself in a life or death situation, this shovel will put your mind at ease.
One thing this shovel has that I appreciate over the rest is the length. It’s significantly bigger than the other shovels on this list. If you’ve ever used a small shovel you’ll know that’s not as effective as a large shovel, as it impacts your ability to move it properly.
So if your shovels are too small, you’re going to have to get on your knees and dig from there. That position will feel a lot more natural. However, that puts more pressure on your back and leg joints, and in an extremely dangerous situation, you want to conserve all the energy possible.
Most of these shovels are too short so using them while standing isn’t a great idea. This folding shovel is 35 inches in length when fully assembled which makes it long enough to stand and dig.
However if you ever get yourself into a circumstance where you would prefer to dig on your knees, you can always just remove the extension section to adjust your shovels length.
The shovels blade and handle is built from high-carbon steel which is a really strong, wear resistant material. The handle has a rubber grip.
The adjustability options in size, the build quality and the extra features make this shovel a favourite with survivalists, backpackers, preppers, military personnel, hikers, hunters, fisherman, etc.
Plus this shovel folds up so it’s convenient to carry. You can equip it to anything that has a MOLLE system. This just makes it easy to carry.
2) US GI Military Original E-Tool Survival Shovel
Item Description: 9.4 x 7.1 x 2.9″ LWH | Weight: 2.25 pounds
Next up we have another military-grade survival shovel. Yep this US GI Military grade shovel has passed the manufacturers durability tests and field trials.
This shovel has been designed for entrenching and it does that fantastically. It’s even a standard issue for a lot of soldiers in the US. This shovel has been trusted by many in survival situations all the way to the battlefield. So if you’re needing a shovel that you can put your trust into, this is one to seriously consider.
3) SOG Entrenching Tool Folding Survival Shovel
Item Description: 12 x 9 x 3″ LWH | Weight: 24.5 ounces
Sometimes you’re not able to carry a fully sized shovel but imagine there was just a bit bigger than the size of your hand? That’s small enough to carry yet can provide a very useful aid for a survival circumstance.
This SOG shovel can be used to shovel sand, snow, muck or whatever else you come across. It can be used in multiple ways too which is exactly what you need from a survival shovel.
4) Gerber E-Tool Folding Spade, Serrated Edge Survival Shovel
Item Description: 9.5 x 6 x 2.13″ LWH | Weight: 2.25 pounds
Picture this, a simple shovel that can fit into your backpack with ease yet be reliable and incredibly effective? Yep it exists and you’ve found it here with the Gerber E-Tool Folding Spade.
This survival shovel with a carbon steel head by Gerber is incredibly rugged and has been trusted by hunters, members of the military, campers etc.
The shovel as a powered-coated boron carbon steel head. It features a serrated edge on one side which helps significantly when coming across thick roots in the ground.
The blade has been shaped in such a way that it promotes a deeper penetration when you stroke the ground.
Lastly, I’m impressed with the open handle design – this allows for maximum gripping power and will make you more effective with the shovel.
The shovel is only 9.37 inches when in the closed position.
5) Smittybilt 2728 Matte Black Survival Shovel
Item Description: 11 x 6.9 x 2.8 inches LWH | Weight: 2.6 Pounds
This Survival Shovel by Smittybilt is one of the top rated shovels you’ll find online. Made from high quality steel, it’s fantastic for getting all sorts of debris and muck out of the road. If you’re looking for a shovel to store in the car, this is one to consider. It will get you out of a tight spot pretty quickly.
This shovel features a tri-fold system which is a little bit different than the rest. Size wise, it will fold to 9 inches in length! So it’s pretty small too. Confident in their abilities to produce a highly durable and functional survival shovel, Smittybilt even offers a lifetime warranty with this shovel.
6) Cold Steel 92SFS Special Forces Survival Shovel
Overall Length: 20.50″ | Weight: 1.60 lbs.
Some survivalists prefer their survival shovel to function as an actual shovel as opposed to a multi-tool that can do anything and everything. Makes sense right? It’s better to do one thing right than 10 mediocre things. Well that’s the motto Cold Steel seemed to follow with this design.
And I mean you’ve probably got enough fire starters, knives and whistles anyway. So you don’t need a shovel that has all of them too.
Let’s look at this cold steel survival shovel.
It’s a simple, sturdy shovel that is lightweight and robust. It doesn’t collapse or have any fancy addons, it’s just a simple shovel that you can put your trust into.
7) Gerber Gorge Folding Survival Shovel
Item Description: 13.8 x 5 x 2.9″ LWH | Weight: 0.76 Kilograms
Ah the Gerber Gorge. Probably one of the best shovels for campers. This shovel is well respected in the camping community for its ability to act as a solid multi-tool. It can double as a hammer or dig out the mud from under your car.
The ergonomic handle features a rubberized grip. This makes it very easy to hold and will ultimately make you more effective.
Plus the price, god the price makes it so cheap! It’s a bargain, a bargain that can even save your bacon.
It is small though, you would need to kneel down to use this effectively.
8) Fobachi Military Survival Folding Survival Shovel
Item Description: 630mm x 110mm LW | Weight: 670 grams
Fobachi has produced this pretty cool multi-tool shovel to help you get out of a sticky situation. It’s foldable, relatively long, military grade and can be used to dig, saw, chop, pick, cut, hammer or pry. It’s so multi-functional that it even opens bottles!
I took this survival shovel camping with me and loved it! It’s strong and lightweight. It’s big enough to use without it hampering my mobility. Obviously a full sized shovel and spade is always more comfortable but this will do.
The design is pretty good and the materials are sturdy and robust. If you were to compare it to the US army standard issue shovels it’s not as big. This shovel is the perfect companion on a camping trip or as a survival tool.
9) United Cutlery Kommando Tactical Survival Shovel
Item Description: 41.3 x 26.9 x 9.1 cms | Weight: 0.2 Kilograms
The United Cutlery Kommando Shovel features a virtually indestructible nylon handle. It’s built with 30% fiberglass & features nylon reinforcement.
The head of the shove is built with tempered 2Cr13 stainless steel coated with hard, black oxide.
The people that tend to buy this shovel are survivalists and preppers. It’s exactly what they need. The first thing you’ll notice once you’ve got it, is the sharp shovel.
The blade has a partially serrated edge on one side and a concave chopping edge on the other.
I’ve read a few people say that this shovel is pretty heavy but I completely disagree. It’s a lightweight and compact shovel which is fantastic for backpackers or anybody who needs to carry this on foot for a long period of time.
10) BESROY Portable Camping Shovel with Waist Pack
Item Description: 9.92 x 6.85 x 2.52″ LWH | Weight: 2.8 Pounds
This folding shovel is pretty much an all rounder when it comes to needs. The foldable nature of the shovel means that it’s super easy to pack away, and even comes with a waist pack. This means that you can either chuck it neatly in your backpack, or carry it on you for quick use.
This folding shovel can adjust to three lengths – 26.4″, 20.9″ and 15″, accommodating every height. It’s multifunctional, which perhaps makes it one of the best survival shovels on the market.
This BESROY folding shovel comes with the ability to chop, saw, screw, cut fish and even acts as a bottle opener so you can crack open a beer whilst kicking back. The versatility of this folding shovel means that it is a perfect addition to your survival tools.
How To Choose A Survival Shovel – Buying Guide
Before buying a shovel you need to consider the different reasons you need the shovel for in the first place. Are you a marine? Are you a camper? Maybe you’re wanting a tool to keep in the car in case you get stuck in the dirt.
For example, if you want a tactical shovel that can dig through frozen ground then you may want a shovel that also doubles as an ice pick.
Your survival shovel is going to get put through the ultimate test, so you will need a shovel built with strong materials. Materials like high-carbon steel are exactly what you need but these days, and even strong plastics like toughened ABS or TPU can work too.
While some of these may be good, survival experts will swear by three materials that have stood the test of history and time. Therefore, when choosing your shovel, make sure they are made of these materials, or a combination of the best ones, to ensure that they work as intended:
This is by far the heaviest metal used for a tactical shovel. 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. You may want to opt for a shovel that is made from high quality steel, so it will be one of the best survival tools you can add to your arsenal.
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 high quality carbon steel 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. Carbon steel is also lighter than stainless steel, sometimes making it the best lighter addition to your survival tools.
A lot of survival shovels come with changeable shovel heads. These high quality extensions mean that you can adapt your shovel head to the type of climate you’re in. Or, you can use your shovel head to do a lot of other things than just digging a hole. Some types of shovels come with a serrated saw edge, which for example you could use for cutting open a dead animal to eat to keep yourself alive.
Different types of shovel head, such as serrated saw, means that you can expand the use for your shovel.
This one’s key. Are you looking for a shovel for an outdoors trip or a heavy-duty shovel for some DIY? Some survival shovels come with attachable sections so you can vary the handle length between 1 and 3 feet. Others have collapsible handles, often called Tri-fold handles, which only have one length option. The collapsible, Tri-fold shovels tend to have a handle around 1 ft long on survival shovels.
Size And Portability
Size is something that you want to take great consideration in when choosing the best shovel for you. When assessing how portable you want your shovel to be, it might be worth considering if you want a folding shovel, which can also be a portable shovel. These are generally more compact and usually allow for more space in your backpack. Or sometimes, they even come with their own carry case, allowing to wear on the body instead of in your larger bag.
A portable military folding shovel might be one of the best survival shovels on the market, due to how small it can be to fit into your kit.
Just because it’s smaller, doesn’t mean it doesn’t pack as much of a punch. You can still get military folding shovels, so you know they’re up to scratch. Even though they’re more compact, they’re still super high quality and might be the best choice of shovel survival wise.
Similar to size and portability, when choosing your survival shovel, you want to choose a tool that is sturdy, but also not going to bring the weight of your backpack down. If it was a life or death scenario, then you definitely don’t want a really heavy lump of metal attached to you, meaning that you’re losing significant energy.
At the same time, you don’t want something that’s super lightweight that won’t pack any punches during use. For example, stainless steel is heavier than carbon steel. Ideally, you want to find something that is a reasonable weight and something that you can chuck in your bag without too much notice of it being there.
The perfect weight for you will depend on your own height, weight and muscle mass. Before any trip where you need a lot of kit, it is essential to work out what sort of weight you can carry and then tailor your shovel choice to that.
Although you’re interested in finding the best survival shovels around, you don’t really want a shovel that is just a shovel. You want a tool that is going to be a part of the best survival gear. It is worth shopping around to see what sort of extra tools you can get for your shovel. You can get trivial things such as a bottle opener or something more essential like an emergency whistle, a fire starter, a glass breaker, a wire cutter, a belt loop, a safety hammer, a camping axe or another shovel head which could mean the difference between survival and death.
10 Things That You Can Surprisingly Use Your Survival Shovel or Entrenching Tool For in the Wild
1. You Can Dig A Shallow Entrenchment In Just Minutes – Offering You Concealment From Enemies
Trenches have been used in combat since WW1. Why? Well, trenches gives soldiers extra protection but also forces them to sacrifice their mobility. Still, a solid trench can be extremely effective if you have to hold a certain angle.
With a good survival shovel you can dig a trench fast. You could use this thoroughfare to hide in or to simply gain an advantage over your enemy. You could even sleep there if you wanted to. It only takes a few minutes to dig a 6 inch trench.
Obviously this type of warfare isn’t used much these days due to a lot of the fighting being done by tank units or air units. Trench Warfare is superior in infantry heavy locations where tanks would struggle to function in.
If it’s an infantry battle, trench warfare can be used for great success.
2. An Army Shovel Could Be Used As a Deadly Weapon
These type of tools could be used as a weapon of self defense if needs must. If you really needed too, a survival shovel makes for a good mace in self defense. In theory you could do a lot of damage with these tools if you get a good enough swing.
The Soviet Spetsnaz would be trained in shovel combat – to a very high level I should add. It is something to consider when choosing from survival shovels, whether you want it to be good self defense too….
3. Funerals … Burying The Fallen
Not very nice but it’s a reality we might have to face. I hope you never have to do this but many have in the past.
There are a lot of diseases that come from rotting corpses plus visually seeing a rotten corpse can cause many psychological issues. So it’s best you bury them as fast as possible – out of respect too.
And good luck to you if you’re trying to dig a 6 foot hole without a shovel, it will take you ages. And if you were to try to dig without the proper tools, you could be putting yourself at risk by spending ages out in the open and digging a hole.
4. Build Latrines For Human Waste – Proper Camp Sanitation
Small bugs, parasites and diseases can be deadly. You’re more likely to die from one of those than a predator. When setting up a camp, you need to make sure you’ve set up a proper area for sanitation or you run the risk of killing everybody in your team with a deadly disease.
You can dig a latrine with your survival shovels and then put dirt back on top of the waste. This stops bugs from touching it and then spreading it around your team.
5. You Can Cover Your Tracks
Things like burying your waste can mean that you’re harder to track. Human waste in 90 degrees F, as you can imagine, will start to smell… This makes you easier to track from enemies, but having a shovel means that you are more able to pretend you were never there.
You can disguise your campsite and fire pit when you’re done by burying all waste. This will obviously be made so much easier by using a shovel. Bury your trash! Or you could be stalked and tracked down by a predator / enemy.
6. Prevents Infections From Cuts
If you have to dig a hole with your hands, you’re way more likely to get cut or even get bitten by something. Sure you might have some protection from gloves but you can still get an infection or cut with gloves. Further to that, some shovels come with a built in wire cutter, meaning that you won’t be at risk of infection from trying to do it with your bare hands.
If you need to dig anything, use a survival shovel!
7. Your Camp Fires Will Be Safer
If you live in an area where it’s dry and fires happen very frequently, you should always dig a hole for your fire. This way it is less likely to spread to the surrounding area. Especially if it’s windy too! Some sort of crevasse will help protect the fire from the wind and will keep it burning longer.
This can also avoid a whistle fire, which happens when you haven’t set it up properly. This can have other complications as referred to earlier, such as letting enemies know where you are as the smoke travels upwards, taller than the trees.
And while we’re chatting about it, you should make sure that there is nothing around your fire. Clear out the surroundings to increase the safety of your camp.
You should also watch out for any roots from trees in your pit. Fires can start from the roots of trees and work their way up. It will take a few days but it can happen and could destroy your camp.
8. Freeing Your Vehicle From Obstructions like mud
It happens, you’re driving along a wet and muddy road and then boom the wheel gets stuck in the dirt. How are you going to get it out? It would be much easier to get your vehicle out of loose dirt, mud or snow with an shovel tool than it would be with your hands.
Survival gear is essential when literally stuck in the mud.
9. As A Paddle
Imagine you need to get across a small lake and don’t have a paddle? Well you can use your entrenching tool as a makeshift paddle. A lighter steel like carbon steel could act a as paddle in an emergency. Are you going exploring by water? This might be something to consider when looking at survival shovels or survival gear.
10. Starting A Fire
Starting fires can be a bit of a nuisance but they can be an essential part of staying alive. You need warmth, the ability to sterilize water and cook food. Some entrenching tools come with a magnesium rod that allows you to start a fire. A shovel twinned with being a fire starter is one of the best dualities you can get. Even simpler than that, the shovel can be used to dig a fire pit, meaning that it can save you from the blistering cold. Your shovel dual as a fire starter could be the difference between life and death.