We don’t think about it much, but shovels are a big part of our survival. Without shovels, agriculture wouldn’t have been possible.
Shovels were crucial for building homesteads and cities, and entrenching tools played a big part in warfare.
Heck, shovels are even in the Bible with Cain killing Abel with a shovel!
Thanks to the boom in the backpacking, camping and preparedness movements, shovel technology has come a long way. Now, you can find all sorts of sturdy, lightweight shovels for survival and even EDC (everyday carry).
- 1 Our Top Picks
- 2 Best Survival Shovel Comparison Chart
- 3 Why Do You Need a Survival Shovel?
- 4 Choosing a Survival Shovel
- 5 Best Survival Shovels Reviewed
- 5.1 Gerber E-Tool with Serrated Edge
- 5.2 Cold Steel Special Forces Shovel (Spetsnaz Shovel)
- 5.3 United Cutlery Kommando Tactical Survival Shovel (M48)
- 5.4 BAALAND All-in-One Multifunction Folding Shovel
- 5.5 SOG Elite Entrenching Tool F19-N
- 5.6 Schrade SCHSH1 Survival Shovel
- 5.7 FiveJoy Folding Shovel and Multitool
- 5.8 Voile TelePro Avalanche Shovel
- 5.9 Iunio 11-in-1 Military Folding Shove
- 5.10 Tentlab Trowel
Our Top Picks
The Gerber E-Tool 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.Check On Amazon
Multi Tool Shovel
The Baaland Multifunction Folding Shovel comes with numerous additional tools. Not only are these tools useful they are also well made. If you are looking for a multi purpose shovel then this is one of the best on the market.Check On Amazon
Best Survival Shovel Comparison Chart
|Shovel||Closed Size||Extended Size||Weight||Tools|
United Cutlery M48
Cold Steel Special Forces
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 tent
- Making a survival shelter
- Digging out a car stuck in mud or snow
Choosing a Survival Shovel
Before we get into the best survival shovels, it is important 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 fairly heavy
- High-carbon steel: This is 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 which 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 is going to be very time-consuming!
- Blade edges: Many modern survival shovels have features like serrated edges which can be used for cutting 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 earth 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 just 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 that 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 bodyweight is going to get heavy quickly and be hard to carry long distances.
Thus, weight really matters when choosing a survival shovel!
In addition, pay attention to shovel attachment options. You don’t want to put a dirty shovel in with your other gear, so it’s very helpful 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 actually gimmicks that will break on you quickly!
Best Survival Shovels Reviewed
Gerber E-Tool 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.
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
Cold Steel Special Forces 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 does ever break, 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 (just 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
- Doesn’t fold or telescope
- A bit bulky for a bug out bag
- Edges need regular sharpening
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, it actually delivers on quality.
- 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
- Heavy weight
- Short handle will put strain on the back
BAALAND All-in-One Multifunction Folding Shovel
Type: Folding | Closed Size: 7″ | Extended Size: 33″ | Weight: 3lbs
Material: High-carbon steel, GRN handle
Additional Tools: 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
Here’s another survival shovel which is too heavy to carry in a Bug Out Bag. However, it is perfect for your vehicle – especially since this is the survival shovel with the longest handle length.
If you don’t want to get down on your knees to dig or kill your back, you’ll want to go with this shovel.
- Handle has adequate length
- Adjustable blade angle
- Folds down really small so it is easy to carry
- Included tools are actually useful
- Takes time to assemble
- Could lose one of the many parts
- Complete set is very heavy
SOG Elite Entrenching Tool F19-N
Type: Folding | Closed Size: 11″ | Extended Size: 26″ | Weight: 1lb 14oz
Material: 1075 carbon steel, GRN handle| Additional Tools: Saw
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 a decent handle size.
- Incredibly durable – comes with 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 saw, which is one of the only other tools you really need
- Great price for the level of quality
- Handle could be longer
- Wish the tip were sharper so it could cut through roots better
- Case isn’t MOLLE compatible
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 it doesn’t have any extra features, but that’s what you’d expect from such a lightweight shovel.
- Telescoping means longer handle
- Sturdy material
- Very sharp
- Handle is uncomfortable for some uses
- Not for heavy-duty usage
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 so many tools built into it, but without weighing a ton like other multi-tool shovels. It’s a great addition to Bug Out Bags and for your vehicle emergency kit.
- Lightweight for the amount 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
Voile TelePro 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 of the other survival shovels aren’t suitable for use in the 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 Viole TelePro 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
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 occasionally chop through ice.
- 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
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 shape and strength of the trowel 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
Do you have a shovel in your Bug Out Bag? Which one and what do you love about it? Let us know in the comments!