There are hundreds of survival shovels on the market right now, and you could spend hours researching your options only to end up with a poor-quality tool that will let you down when you need it most.
Or, you could let us do the hard work.
We’ve continuously researched and tested dozens of shovels over the past 3 years, and here are the best options for your consideration.
Table Of Contents
The SOG folding shovel with Serrated Edge is a simple, strong, and affordable shovel. This tool will handle most survival jobs without a fuss. It is very compact, ideal for any bug-out bag.
Well designed and surprisingly light given the number of extra tools supplied. Feels balanced in the hand and has a versatile adjustable locking mechanism.
Best Survival Shovel Comparison Chart
At a Glance – 15 Best Survival Shovels Available Now
- Gerber E-Tool Folding Shovel with Serrated Edge
- Cold Steel Special Forces Survival Shovel
- FiveJoy Folding Shovel and Multitool
- SOG Folding Shovel with Entrenching Tool
- Schrade SCHSH1 Survival Shovel
- United Cutlery Kommando Tactical Survival Shovel
- Birdrock Avalanche Shovel
- Iunio 11-in-1 Military Folding Shove
- Zune Lotoo Folding Tactical Shovel
- Sahara Sailor Survival Shovel
- Tentlab Trowel
Best Survival Shovels Reviewed
1. SOG Folding Shovel with Entrenching Tool
Type: Folding | Closed Size: 10″ | Extended Size: 18.3″ | Weight: 24.5oz
Material: High carbon steel | Additional Tools: None
Simple in design yet great in functionality, this survival shovel is one of the lightest weight shovels you’ll find while still having adequate strength and decent handle size.
- Incredibly durable – comes with a limited lifetime warranty
- SOG is a very reputable name for tools (I love their cheap survival knives too!)
- Folds down really small so it is easy to carry
- Lightweight without losing strength
- Includes a sawtooth edge and hoe
- Great price for the level of quality
- Handle could be longer
- I wish the tip were sharper so it could cut through roots better
- Case isn’t MOLLE compatible
2. FiveJoy Folding Shovel and Multitool
Type: Folding | Closed Size: 5″ | Extended Size: 19″ | Weight: 15lbs
Material: 420 Carbon steel
Additional Tools: Axe blade, serrated saw edge, hammer, rescue knife, whistle, bottle opener, and firestarter
I love this survival shovel because it has many tools built into it without weighing a ton like other multi-tool shovels. It’s a great addition to Bug Out Bags and for your vehicle emergency kit.
Note: This shovel is very small; check the dimensions and understand that you are getting a very compact tool.
- Lightweight for the number of tools it contains
- Lock adjusting mechanism means you can adjust the angle of the shovel
- Great design – feels comfortable to use
- A bit long even when folded
- Higher price
3. Gerber E-Tool Folding with Serrated Edge
Type: Folding | Closed Size: 25″ | Extended Size: 75″ | Weight: 3lbs
Material: Forged steel blade, glass-filled nylon handle | Additional Tools: No
This is one of the most popular survival shovels because it is very portable.
The serrated edge also gives it some more functionality. For removing lots of dirt at once, the deep scoop of the shovel blade is helpful.
For more on this shovel, check out our in-depth Gerber E-tool review.
- Serrated edge good for cutting through roots
- Affordable option
- Not as durable as some options
- A bit heavy
- Users report the coating chips, leaving it susceptible to rust
4. The E-tools little brother – Gerber Gorge
5. EST Gear
6. Cold Steel Special Forces Survival Shovel (Spetsnaz Shovel)
Type: Fixed | Closed Size: 19″ | Extended Size: 19″ | Weight: 1lb 10oz
Material: Medium carbon steel | Additional Tools: No
Our Readers Favorite!
I hadn’t tried this shovel until some readers put me on to it. I’m glad they did! As a shovel, the Cold Steel is great. Tough as a tank, you don’t have to worry about the shovel breaking on you. In case the handle ever breaks, it is easy to replace.
Note that the product image is a bit deceiving. The edges are a lot sharper than they appear. This makes it great for cutting through tree roots (remember to hone the edge!).
My main complaint is that the shovel doesn’t telescope or fold. You are stuck with the 20-inch handle, which means your back will hurt like hell from stooping over.
- Very durable
- Hardwood handle
- Includes MOLLE compatible sheath
- It doesn’t fold or telescope
- A bit bulky for a bug out bag
- Edges need regular sharpening
8. Schrade SCHSH1 Survival Shovel
Type: Folding\Telesopic | Closed Size: 16″ | Extended Size: 26″ | Weight: 2lbs
Material: 1055 high-carbon steel| Additional Tools: No
Here’s a great survival shovel for removing lots of dirt at once, such as if you need to make a trench, shelter, or dig out your car wheels.
It isn’t the largest and doesn’t have any extra features, but that’s what you’d expect from such a lightweight shovel.
- Telescoping means a longer handle
- Sturdy material
- Very sharp
- The handle is uncomfortable for some uses
- Not for heavy-duty usage
9. United Cutlery Kommando Tactical Survival Shovel (M48)
Type: Fixed | Closed Size: 16″ | Extended Size: 16″ | Weight: 3lbs
Material: Nylon handle, tempered stainless steel blade with black oxide coating
Additional Tools: Concave edge for chopping, serrated edge, and pointed blade for self-defense
Not only does this survival shovel look completely badass, but it also delivers on quality.
While it might not fold down, it will be ready if you need to use the shovel to whack an attacker on the side of the head for self-defense.
- Very strong – virtually indestructible
- Suitable for multiple tasks, such as light chopping
- Pointed tip is great for digging in hard earth and dirt with lots of roots
- Short handle will put strain on the back
10. Birdrock Avalanche Shovel
Type: Telescopic | Closed Size: 5″ | Extended Size: 39″ | Weight: 1lb 14oz
Material: Aluminium| Additional Tools: No
Don’t forget about winter survival!
Most other survival shovels aren’t suitable for snow and bugging out in winter. They corrode too quickly, and their blade shape isn’t meant for making snow caves.
By the time you dug out your cave with one of those other shovels, your hands would already be frozen. The best thing about the Birdrock is that it is very lightweight, so you won’t kill yourself while scooping heavy snow.
- Handles can be removed from scoop for easier packing
- Very strong
- Wide scoop good for moving snow quickly
- Not suitable for tasks other than shoveling snow
- Won’t break through ice
11. Iunio 11-in-1 Military Folding Shove
Type:Telescopic | Closed Size: 9″ | Extended Size: 38″ | Weight:5lbs
Material: High-carbon steel
Additional Tools: Saw edge, pickax, whistle, flint-magnesium rod, fish knife, ice axe, bottle opener
Because of its weight, you won’t want to carry this survival shovel in your Bug Out Bag. However, it is a great multi-purpose shovel to have in your vehicle, especially if you need to chop through ice occasionally.
- Lots of tools!
- Long handle reduces back strain
- Durable shovel that won’t break
- Shovel blade shape is suitable for various types of digging
- Very heavy – you’ll only want this one for keeping in your vehicle and not BOB
- Lots of parts that have to be put together; could easily lose one of the parts
Alternatives to the Iunio:
12. Sahara Sailor Survival Shovel – Cheaper multi-function folding shovel
13. Tentlab Trowel
Type: Trowel | Closed Size: 8″ | Extended Size: 8″ | Weight: 6ozs
Material: 7075-T6 aluminum| Additional Tools: No
Finally, here is a backpacking trowel for people who don’t need a shovel often. The trowel’s shape and strength make it a heck of a lot better than trying to dig with a stick, and it won’t weigh you down or take up space.
- Incredibly durable – comes with lifetime warranty
- One of the lightest yet toughest backpacking trowels on the market
- Great for summer Bug Out Bags
- Is only suitable for digging small holes and trenches
Why Do You Need a Survival Shovel?
One of the first steps in emergency preparedness is to build a Bug Out Bag. While there is no one “right” way to build a Bug Out Bag (See our BOB list), virtually no BOB would be complete without a shovel.
Shovels serve multiple survival purposes. Here are just a few of the most common:
- Digging a fire pit
- Digging a latrine
- Making a trench
- Leveling ground when pitching a tent
- Making a survival shelter
- Digging out a car stuck in mud or snow
How To Choose The Best Survival Shovel
Before we get into the best survival shovels, it is essential to know what to look for. Survival shovels come in many different types and with various features, and not every shovel will be suitable for your needs.
How Will You Be Using the Shovel?
- Will you be carrying the shovel for long distances? Then you need a lightweight shovel with a carrying case.
- Will you need to dig large holes, such as trenches or shelters? Then you need a sturdy survival shovel with a longer handle. Military-style shovels are great for these tasks. It is also nice to have sharp blades for cutting through thick roots.
- Will you mostly be digging small holes, such as for sanitation? Then a smaller shovel or trowel should be adequate.
- Will you need to dig through snow or make a snow shelter? Then you’ll need a snow or avalanche shovel.
First off, avoid plastic shovels at all costs. Yes, they are cheaper and lightweight – but they break quickly and are unreliable.
That leaves you with various types of metal to choose from.
- Stainless steel: Won’t corrode but is pretty heavy
- High-carbon steel: Stronger than regular stainless steel but must be covered with oxide paint to prevent corrosion. The problem is that the paint often chips off.
- Aluminum: This material has the benefit of being lightweight but isn’t as strong.
Don’t forget to look at the shovel handle material. Many cheap survival shovels have plastic handles that break easily.
The way the survival shovel is built will affect its function. The main things you want to pay attention to are:
- Handle length: The longer the handle length, the easier it will be to use – but the length will also add weight.
- Blade size: Bigger blades can make tasks go faster but also mean that you’ll have to put forth more energy. Those big blades can also make it tough to dig around rocks and chop roots. On the flip side, digging a trench around your tent with a small blade will be very time-consuming!
- Blade edges: Many modern survival shovels have serrated edges, which can be used to cut through roots.
- Blade shape:
- Narrow: Good for tasks like digging a sanitation hole and pitching a tent.
- Wide: Good for tasks like leveling earth, making snow pits, or digging large fire or latrine pits.
- Pointed: Good for digging in hard dirt or making small, deep holes (such as sanitation holes or holes for shelter stakes).
- Flat: Good for wider, shallow holes such as fire pits or digging snow caves.
Ease of Use
The most popular style of survival shovel is folding handles.
Folding handles mean you can flip the handle, and it is ready to use. However, the downside is that the handle is usually very short.
Another option is to get a shovel with a handle that screws together. This means you can have a much longer handle – but it takes time to screw those parts together. You also risk losing one of the parts.
Have you checked your Bug Out Bag weight?
Anything above 15-20% of your body weight will get heavy quickly and be hard to carry long distances.
Thus, the weight matters when choosing a survival shovel!
Also, pay attention to shovel attachment options. You don’t want to put a dirty shovel in with your other gear, so it’s beneficial if your survival shovel is MOLLE compatible or has a carabiner attachment option.
Multi-Tool Survival Shovels
Many modern survival shovels are also multi-tools with saws, picks, and blades built into them. These are great for adding functionality without adding much weight.
Just be careful – many multi-tool shovels are gimmicks that will break on you quickly!
Our top recommendation for most preppers is the Gerber E-tool, a simple and effective shovel with very little to go wrong. If you want the added functionality of a multi-tool shovel, we recommend the Fivejoy.
Leave a comment
What about Cold Steel
Special Forces Shovel (With Sheath)
Not seen that one. Would you recommend it?
I would recommend the Cold Steel shovel over any listed actually, and it’s been around for a long time. It’s built like a tank, just able to handle a tremendous amount of abuse. Could also do some chopping work, and of course self defense. Think of it as a much better version of the M48 from the list.
Will try and get a review up for that one – in the meantime you can see it here on Amazon
I agree with Brian’s comments.
I bought the Cold Steel shovel years ago from a local military store. Those folding shovels are OK as long as you didn’t use them hard.
I broke numerous e-tools by just digging, cutting small trees, etc. They all failed at the junction point. I used to be in the Infantry (75-80). They would get loose alot during use and it was a pain keeping them tight. Most of the failures were the small tube of metal that was inside the locking ring/knob. I think this is the weak point for that type of shovel. It just doesn’t hold up in hard use.
For the others that screw together; another weak point is the reduced amount of metal from tooling the screw lines into it.
I did buy a couple of these small ones just to see how they were made. Great concept/poor application. I will keep them to augment my BOB’s.
My keeper; the Cold Steel 1-piece with a wood handle. Like the e-tool, I keep the edges sharp for cutting small trees or bushes. The metal piece of it is beefy; well made for a compact shovel.
You could even drill a hole in the top of the knobby handle to store small emergency items such as a fire-starter (smallest one I saw at firesteel.com; ultra thin – only 3/32 of an inch). if you can’t find a screw-cap to close the hole, just plug it with some silicone sealant. No need for a striker; the shovel edge would do.
The only drawback I see is that is won’t fold to use as a hoe. That is a minor thing to me since I am looking for reliability. I’m sure you could fashion something in the field to be able to use it as a hoe.
The cover is very well made. I think it’s cordura.
I read some things on the Cold Steel style before I bought it; that it is used by some military forces.
With the beefy design, past experience, and use by the military, I agree, this is be my top choice.
Great write up Kozzy – thanks for the insight. All these shovels have their place – depends what you are trying to achieve.
What about the cold steel special forces shovel, I have owned and used one for many years,. Light weight, durable, great chopper and digger, works well as defensive weapon, even balanced for throwing, affordable, cons: does not fold, cannot turn blade 90 degrees for use as a trowel.
Yep seems to be a favorite of Primal Survivor readers. We will add it to the review.
If you plan on sheltering in place, make sure you have a round nose #2 shovel. One of your greatest enemies will be dysentery.. Digging a tiny little hole in the backyard or a series of them may allow for the spread of this dreaded killer. Heavy rain or spring melt may have feces escaping. Before you discharge dig a reasonably deep hole. I have read where one expert recommended two feet. Some friends began outfitting in a western state . They began by telling clients to cover their waste with a rock. it didn’t take long before “clean” rocks were hard to come by.
I get pretty skeptical looking at all the so called “survival” shovels that have tons of extra tools. The Baaland All-in-one shovel above is a perfect example. It has a flashlight, screwdriver, emergency charge converter, rescue knife, USB charging cable, rope, ice axe, whistle, hemostatic hose, light filters, nail puller, and handle also serves as a hammer. There’s more on the website, but the long and the short of it is what quality are these tools if you can get all of them for $75 new? Plus, If you’re counting on your shovel to be your flashlight, knife, screwdriver and ice axe (for god’s sake, an ICE AXE, really?) you’re underprepared, and asking too much of one tool. Lastly, these kind of additions tend to increase the number of failure points dramatically, meaning you shouldn’t depend on the tool in a survival situation. I understand a lot of them will be used for recreational camping, but if that’s the intended use then they’re not really survival shovels are they? My choice is the WWII era entrenching tool. No, it’s not fancy but the two I own have seen extensive use since their birth upwards of 70 years ago and are still going strong. Mine were made by Ames in 1945, and are known as the M-1943. They can be locked into three separate positions for use as a shovel, pick/hoe, or “axe”, though the axe function is probably closer to a machete than a proper axe. Avoid the type with the added pick on the back. It’s not that useful, adds weight, and is easy to hurt yourself with on the backswing (ask me how I know). Specs are roughly 3lbs weight, 20″ folded, 29″ unfolded. Since it has only one (very strong) locking hinge the failure points are decreased compared to many of the above models. 3lbs is within the range above, though heavier than ideal for a BOB, but it’s an incredibly solid choice for an INCH (I’m Never Coming Home) bag. You can generally find them on eBay or army surplus stores for $20-$30. If I’m going to add a heavy tool to my BOB it’ll probably be a pry bar of some type for forcing doors/windows and destroying walls to create a door where there is none. Most digging that needs to be done in a BOB timeframe can be accomplished with your knife or sharp stick, and your stainless camp mug.
Lots of readers agree with this sentiment. The cold steel special forces shovel reviewed above, seems to be the choice if you are looking for a simple, effective workhorse.
The new Cold Steel Trench Shovel is even better, though a bit larger in size. Won’t fit inside the pack, but beside the pack is not a problem.
I have a pair of them, one for the pick-up, the other for home uses. I like them a lot, but still very new. The older CS shovels are fantastic too.
I’ve a Vietnam war era US Army entrenching tool with the Pick head and Spade. This tool comes in a canvas boot which fastens to the old web pistol belt as issued to our troops back in the sixties. I like it because the multiple angles you can tighten the collar down on the heads; the Spade and the Pick. I can make a shovel, hoe, a pick or a maddox simply by tightening the collar down once I’ve the heads angled the direction I desire. Granted, its probably heavier that the examples you’ve listed here but, it fits into its canvas pocket and hangs from the pistol web belt… Pretty comfortable to carry.
Ah, now that I’ve “Dug” it out (pardon the pun) I’m surprised to discover that my e-tool is a WW2 vintage item. Thanks!
I grew up with my dads WWII folding shovel. Not light but it lasted and was a workhorse. I’d buy and carry that. Should start looking for another one. My last one was stolen. 🙁 good tool. 🙂
He and I used it on the camping trips. It was in the car for digging out if we get stuck on poor back country roads. It dug our camp latrines and even the compost pit he dug by every garden.
I learned to dig with it before I could handle the short or long shovels for the garden. So a three year old can use it and so can a 70+ great grandma.
Sounds similar to the Cold Steel reviewed above. There seems to be a definite preference for the simpler shovels. Less to go wrong and stand up to a lot of abuse. Interesting comment, thanks clergylady.
One might want to consider the “Crovel”, although a bit heavy and pricey for a BOB, it does combine shovel/crowbar/defensive-offensive capabilities. The crowbar is especially useful for urban situations i.e. forced entries.
Interesting product – will try to get review up. Thanks for the heads up.
I have spent 13 years digging ditches for sprinkler systems near two feet deep in SE NM and we have about 4-7″ of topsoil before 3-5 feet of bedrock most everywhere around me.?I have dug in pine forests with much rock and no rock, aspen root infested forests, red sandy hellpits of gravitational debasement, and regular ole dirt and a PRYBAR was useful for all of them. Except the red sand, nothing is useful in red sand. +1 misneac’s prybar paragraph. https://roganusa.com/ makes a great run of prybar oriented belt and pocket tools, think ‘knives you dont break tips off of’. I have a 3/4″ square 36″ steel prybar by my bedroom door. A BUG OUT BAG means you might come back, and you probably dont need a shovel for that, an INCH bag means ‘this place is done being safe for me’ and you gassin on out where the cold steel shovel will never cease to shovel. It will get dull, yes. It may stop scraping ferro rod sparks, sure. THE COLD STEEL SHOVEL WILL NEVER CEASE TO BE A SHOVEL. Until you break the handle, but if you plan to ‘survive’ where there is no access to woods, even soft woods, you’re behind. Desertous region here and there are copses of elm between businesses in a ditch in at least one spot in my town.
Yep lots of love for the cold steel here.
Just restored a “U S, WOOD, 1945” Army folding shovel. I would like to know if “Wood” is a forging company. Also, were these tools forged? Very hard steel. My theory is that steel was heated to between 1300 and 1800 deg. F, then stamped. Please help.
I would like to see this tool, weapon on Forged in Fire as an “Iconic Weapon”, they were also used in combat against German Soldiers.
Not sure but if any readers can help they can chime in here.
Came back to this article as I wanted to say I got the Gerber E-Tool for Christmas. Played around with it a little so far and I’ve liked it. I’m going to give it a bit of a workout come spring as we work in a new smaller garden and see how it goes from there.
My Cold Steel shovel is still going strong too, so no changes there.
Thanks for the update Brian. We should have an in-depth review of the Gerber going up soon.
Hello from Yank in Ukraine. The Cold Steel shovel is simply a copy of the standard MPL-50 Soviet infantry shovel. It is a true, robust digging tool, not a “survival” gadget. Remember also that this shovel was used to dig while kneeling, sitting or even prone (e.g. when under fire), never by bending over to break your back using such a short shovel. None of your readers seem to know this.
Wonder what my Russian titanium shovel weighs? Ordered and shipped directly from Russia.