What is a Survival Shovels / E Tool?
One of the best pieces of survival gear I’ve come across in the last few years is a survival shovel. I use mine mostly for camping, but they’re super handy for DIY and would be extremely helpful in emergencies.
Survival shovels are much more than a shovel. They come equipped with axes, blades, hammers, screwdrivers, and bottle openers. Some have whistles, fish hook removers, emergency knives, and even harpoons!
In this guide, I’ll outline a few of the key factors you want to keep in mind when you’re comparing the different survival shovels. Plus, I’ll give you a list of the top 10 survival shovels on the market today. I’ll give a quick outline of their specific features as well as the pros and cons of each shovel.
It should help you get a much clearer idea of what’s out there and what separates the best from the rest. By the end, you should have a pretty good idea of which survivor shovel is right for you.
Plus – 10 Surprising Things you can do with a Army Style Survival Shovel/E Tool at the bottom of this article.
Key Features of a Survival Shovel or E Tool
To find the right survival shovel, take a look at the following key features. Whether it’s handle length or weight or specific tools, you’ll want to know how survival shovels vary between models. Keep an eye on each shovel’s specs to guarantee you get the right one for you.
This one’s key. Are you looking for a compact shovel for a camping 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 foot long.
The weight of the survival shovel is a key feature to keep an eye on. If you’re planning on taking the shovel backcountry hiking, you’re not going to want one that weighs 4 pounds. The shovels on this list range between 1 pound and over 4 pounds.
Again, think about what you’re going to be using it for. If it’s to throw in the back of the truck for emergencies, a heavier shovel will be fine. If you’re going to be carrying it long distances, go for a lighter shovel.
The biggest difference between survival shovels is the tools they come with. Some, like basic Tri-fold shovels, have serrated saw blade and nothing else. Other survival shovels come loaded with twenty different tools.
You can get survival shovels with knives, screwdrivers, hex wrenches, and bottle openers. Some have spark rods, compasses, and emergency whistles. When you’re comparing survival shovels, make sure you check out the list of tools that comes with the shovel.
Our Recommended Top 12 Best Survival Shovels & E Tools
These are our choices for the best survival shovels and e tools on the market. Some of them are premium single-mold shovels with 15+ tools to help you in an emergency situation while others are simple, compact, Tri-fold shovels perfect for strapping onto a pack. Some of these shovels manage to include many tool options while still being compact. Think about what you want in your shovel / e tool, then look through this list and see which of these e tools or shovels will fit your needs best.
You’ll see a decent variety of prices, tools, and designs, and I’m sure one of them is the right survival shovel for you.
Take a look at these key points to keep in mind when you’re buying a survival shovel. Whether it’s for a camping trip, DIY, or emergencies, answering these questions will guide you towards finding the right survival shovel for you.
What’s your survival shovel for?
If you’re buying a shovel to take on a backcountry hiking trip, you’re going to need a very different shovel than if it’s for general maintenance and DIY. Articulating why you’re buying a survival shovel is a perfect way to start narrowing down the options.
What kind of handle do you need?
If you want a shovel that can do some serious digging without such serious work, take a look at the long-handled shovels on this list. Longer handles give you more leverage, and this is worth thinking about when you’re buying a shovel.
What kind of tools do you need?
Can you get by with a basic shovel? If all you’re going to do with it is dig a latrine, you probably don’t need a firelighter, compass, and emergency whistle. If the shovel is going to be your main camping, DIY, or emergency tool, you’ll probably want to get one with more than 2 or 3 tools.
Do you want lightweight or heavy-duty?
If you’re going to be carrying your survival shovel long distances, you’ll probably want to get a lightweight shovel. If it’s going to stay in your garage most of the year apart from some heavy-duty yard work, you might want a larger, heavy-duty shovel.
10 Surprising Things You Can Do with a Survival Shovel or Entrenching Tool in the Wild
I’ve heard the following many times when it comes to backpacking or prepping for a bug out: “You don’t need a shovel, just use a stick or stone to dig. Taking a shovel is such a waste of space and it’s too heavy.”
On some days a shovel may not come in handy at all. But there are other days when a shovel can be a life saver and why it’s been standard issue for various army infantries in the modern day. Like it or not, sh** happens. There will be days when an Army shovel can save your life.
Army shovels — entrenching tools — are really important and should be strongly considered for your bug out bag and you should definitely have an Army shovel in your vehicle, whether you’re bugging out or just on a weekend trip off road. (You’ll read why it’s important for your vehicle in a moment … and how to use it.)
History Of The Shovel In Survival
Going back as far as the Romans, shovels were considered important tools of war, war being the ultimate survival situation. When a Roman legion went to a new territory and had to set up camp, they would dig a ditch and fortify all the way around their camp. Whenever they laid siege to a fortress, they would dig in their own fortifications because sieges could last quite some time. They were even known for trying to dig under a fortresses wall to try to collapse it.
I don’t need to go into detail about the use of entrenching tools for digging trenches and latrines in the wars of the 20th century as it’s very well documented and everyone has heard of “trench warfare.” . In fact, Australian and New Zealand soldiers, even to this day are referred to as “diggers” because of their roles in trench warfare.
What Is A Modern Army Shovel, The Entrenching Tool?
An entrenching tool (E Tool) is a souped up shovel in the same way that a Humvee is a souped up truck. They have so many features it’s more of a question of what they can’t do than what they can do. When it comes to E Tools, their primary function is still to dig holes, but they have evolved enormously and offer many other uses as well.
E Tools are also really strong, generally made out of aluminum or steel. They’re lightweight, around 2 pounds and fold up to a really small size so they fit the bill for a survival tool that can be used in a bug out bag or be stored in a vehicle. Below I’ll go over my favorite uses for an entrenching tool, some are obvious, and some are not so obvious.
The Top 10 Uses For An Entrenching Tool / Survival Shovel In A Crisis Situation
1. Digging A Shallow Entrenchment In Just Minutes .. And Hiding From The Enemy
Sun Tzu, the ancient Asian war philosopher said that “All warfare is based on deception”. Make no mistake, if the SHTF and people don’t have food and water, if criminals aren’t kept in check by law enforcement, you will find yourself in a war zone. If the SHTF and people turn into zombies, and are coming after you and your family, you can dig a shallow trench in deep brush off trail quickly, jump in and cover yourself with brush and by doing this you can hide from marauders very effectively. You could even end up sleeping there if necessary. From there, you can wait for the enemy to completely pass you by or you can wait until the time is right to strike. This was very common practice in the Vietnam war and there were many successful escapes that included similar tactics. Every infantryman in the Soviet Army carries an army shovel. If given the order to halt, he immediately lies flat and starts digging a hole beside him. In just a few minutes he can dig a 6 inch trench that he can lie in so that bullets will fly by harmlessly.
2. Using An Army Shovel As A Last Resort Weapon
Entrenching tools not only dig holes, they can be used as weapons. Most entrenching tools these days come with a sharpened side so that they can be used as an axe. That means, that if necessary, you could swing at not only a tree, but someone who’s trying to take your life. Used in this fashion, you’ll be able to cut through flesh and bone easily. The Soviet Spetsnaz units were the first to be really well trained in shovel combat. Now it’s common place for commando forces all across the world to be trained to fight with entrenchment tools. The American soldier, Anthony Kaho’ohanohano killed two Chinese soldiers with his entrenching tool in the Korean war. During the second world war, the Germans and Soviets used entrenchment shovels in close quarter combat. An entrenching tool can be used to thrust as well as chop so it’s like a mini poleaxe (you probably know a poleaxe from images of the Swiss guard). The poleaxe was the pinnacle of close combat weapons until the advent of gun powder. The reason is simple, it had good reach and it could stab, chop and could also be used as a hammer to do some damage against armor wearing knights. A spear could only stab, an axe could only cut. That’s why an entrenching tool that can stab, as well as chop is a handy weapon.
3. Funerals … Burying The Dead With An Army Shovel
Yes, it’s gruesome and no one likes to think about it but you might be in a situation where you have to bury someone and hopefully that someone is a marauder and not someone in your own family. You could cremate someone of course but many people would refuse to cremate or would not want be cremated. One way or another you have to get rid of the body or bodies or you have to move. I don’t need to go into detail about diseases that can come about from a rotting corpse, let alone the massive psychological issues of knowing a dead body is a little too close for comfort. It would take forever to dig a big enough grave without a shovel. Not only that, the longer it takes, you could be putting yourself at risk by being around a dead body, you could also be putting yourself at risk by being out in the open for too long.
4. Sanitation … Digging Latrines For Human Waste
It’s generally not the big pests (whether they be human or animal) that get you but the small ones. Bugs, parasites, disease. If you don’t have proper sanitation you run the risk of disease carrying insects infecting you. Once that happens you’re in a world of hurt. The option below for a camp latrine is far more sanitary, especially seeing as you would be putting dirt over the top of your waste so that no bugs are touching it and then potentially spreading some nasties.
5. Covering Your Tracks
Following on from the sanitation point above, if you bury your waste product you will be much harder to track down in the event that someone is tracking you. What about disguising your camp once you’ve gone, a shovel can make that much easier. What about burying the waste from game so that you don’t attract predators? What about burying your trash to make you harder to find? No one wants to be stalked or tracked down by something hungry or vicious.
6. Staving Off Infections From Cuts
Your much more likely to cut your hands or get bitten by something, even if you’re wearing gloves when your digging a hole with a stick or your hands. There could be spiders or other insects hiding in the scrub you’re trying to clear as well so the further away your hands are from the area, the safer you will be.
7. Safer Camp Fires
If you live in a dry area where fires are common, it’s always best practice to dig a hole for your fire and clear out the surrounding area. That way your fire is far less likely to spread to the surrounding area. It also has the benefit of protecting the fire from too much wind on a windy day which could put your fire out and it also means you will burn less wood which means you have to fetch less wood. Anything that can save energy in a survival situation is a benefit. Just make sure that the dug out hole isn’t close to any roots of trees because fires can start from the roots up. It can take several days, but it does happen.
Note: Learn how to build a primitive fire here
8. Getting Your Vehicle Out Of Trouble Off Road
You could be driving to your bug out location or you could be trying to escape from other people or civilization. The last thing you need is to get stuck in the mud, loose dirt, or snow. If you have to dig yourself out of trouble, you’ll be very grateful you had an entrenching tool in your vehicle.
9. As A Paddle
In a rush and need to get across a small pond, river or lake and don’t have the resources or time to make a paddle, use your entrenching tool. You can tie it to a branch if necessary to get greater leverage, just make sure you tie it on very well.
10. Starting A Fire
Fire is one of the most important elements of survival and it’s one of those aspects that you should have multiple levels of redundancy. Many of the entrenching tools come with a magnesium rod to start a fire. Other features of entrenching tools:
Opening a bottle
As a hoe
As a pick
A hook to climb
As a blade for clearing brush
To dig cat holes
As a weapon
Making fire pits
To use as a stake when making a shelter
Now you’ve got the information as to many of the uses and scenarios you could use an entrenching tool so you can make up your own mind if they’re right for you. I consider them the ultimate back up tool, they’re sort of like a massive multi tool which most people carry. They are relatively inexpensive, small and lightweight and can change a survival situation from one of dire circumstances to one of productivity.