Rarely does a piece of gear come along that can replace a whole range of other necessities. But that’s exactly what a survival or camping shovel does.
I understand a shovel might not seem like much, but it can be a life-saving piece of gear when you’re on the outdoors.
It’s a versatile tool, and perhaps the ultimate survival tool you need when camping.
A camping shovel is a multi-tool playing more than the role of a traditional shovel. It can be used just about anything you want to thanks to the ingenious new uses of this old-age tool.
Whether it’s building an emergency shelter, chopping wood, clearing the bushes, digging a fire pit, or channeling moving water, a camping shovel is an important tool for your trip.
Now, it’s easy to think having one is an unnecessary addition to your already bulked up gear. But that’s not true.
Camping shovels, unlike the traditional shovels, are lightweight and compact. Some are even foldable, so they won’t take much of your space.
And while they shovel won’t automatically make you a survivalist expert, it can come in handy when spending a night in the wilderness, or even in your backyard.
However, with plenty of options in the market, choosing the right camping shovels can be intimidating.
Fortunately, we’ve prepared a guide, reviewing the top 6 options. We’ve also included a handy buying guide to help with the selection.
Table of Contents
The Best Camping Shovels For The Money
#1 Tac9er Collapsible E-Tool Shovel - EDITOR'S CHOICE
Topping our list of the best camping shovels is the Tac9Er Collapsible E-Tool Shovel.
There’s a lot to love about this tri-fold shovel from the reputable brand Tac9Er, but what eventually won over our hearts is how it strikes a perfect balance between strength and portability.
When fully extended, it measures 23 inches, the perfect length for the tall users.
Even better, it can be compacted to a measly 9.5 inches, enhancing the overall portability. Furthering the portability is the presence of a shovel carry bag, making it easier to stow the shove in your bag or backpack.
Folding is a cinch and effortless. The threaded lock system compacts the shovel to a nifty tool. Moreover, it doesn’t require any lubrication and can be used as-is straight from the box. The threaded lock system is also secure, and unlike other systems that tend to loosen up after some time, this option still holds up impressively.
A weighty shovel is likely to fatigue you, especially when carrying it for long-distance, but not this shovel. The entire thing weighs a measly two pounds. It’s feather-light, meaning it won’t wear you out. It’s not too bulky, either, and feels great to hold.
With a lightweight design, it’s easy to think Tac9Er Collapsible E-Tool Shovel is a flimsy tool. We also thought so, but to our surprise, it doesn’t take shortcuts, especially when it comes to reliability and strength.
The carbon steel construction is meant to be used and abused. It’s a premium material, a durable type that can easily handle whatever you throw at it without compromising its integrity.
The shovel is also comfortable to use, thanks to the open D-handle, with a matte finish. It offers an ergonomic grip, allowing for a proper grip, without twisting your hands. It’s so comfortable that even if you’ve an injured hand, it’s still possible to swing the toll with the other hand and still manage some serious digging.
Performance-wise, few shovels can match the capability of the Tac9Er Collapsible E-Tool Shovel. It’s a versatile option that works through various terrains, including rocks, mud, and dirt. However, with time, the black oxide material coating the spade starts to chip, though it doesn’t affect the performance.
It’s also a multi-tool, doubling up as an entrenching tool. Though it was quite disappointing, it doesn’t incorporate a hoe; the shovelhead is pointed and capable of heavy-duty entrenching. You simply need to adjust to 90 or 45 degrees, and you’re good to go.
But the head is also serrated, which is a good thing as it makes cutting and chopping small pieces of wood a lot easier. The chopping performance might not match a machete or ax, but it’s quite reasonable, especially when the shovel is sharpened.
Overall, Tac9Er Collapsible E-Tool Shovel is a masterpiece that seems to tick all the boxes. It’s foldable, compact, and durable. It’s also a multi-tool, making it a handy option for use in different situations. More importantly, its pricing is reasonable.
#2 Gerber E-tool Folding Spade - Premium Choice
Our runner up shovel tool is Gerber E-tool Spade, yet another folding and compact shovel.
It’s also a robust option and comes with a richness of features, including a unique locking system, angular handle, and serrated edges.
Like the Tac9er Collapsible E-Tool Shovel, Gerber E-tool Spade is a tri-fold shovel. It means it’s easy to compact the shovel for easier storage and portability. The handle is equally adjustable, meaning its easy extending the shaft length to match your height.
However, rather than incorporating an all-metal construction, the folks at Gerber have opted for an aluminum shaft and glass-filled nylon handle. The material combination on the Gerber E-tool Spade Shovel is lightweight, yet sturdy enough to handle the harshest environments.
Uniquely, Gerber E-tool Spade comes with a textured, angular handle. While it does look intimidating, it has a nice grip to it. And despite the squarish shape also feels comfortable in your hands, perfectly aligning to the contours of your hand.
Of note is Gerber E-tool Spade doesn’t feature a sharp head, at least compared to other shovels on our list. It might not be the best option for the tasks requiring a hoe or pick. Conversely, however, it’s a fantastic option if you need to cover large areas. Still, it’s a less powerful option, especially when compared with the Tacner Shovel, we had reviewed earlier, especially as far as digging and entrenching are concerned.
Adding to the wonderful list of features of the Gerber E-tool Spade are the serrated edges. Sure, serrated edges aren’t a novel feature anymore, but unlike the “bark and no bite” options, the serrated edges on this shovel will easily take care of the branches and shrubs with no hitch.
The biggest flaw with this tool is perhaps the pricing, which is nearly double to that of the Tec9ner, which offered more or less the same features and performance.
But overall, Gerber E-tool Spade is a wonderful shovel, hitting the right spots for the best camping shovel. Our only wish is it came with a sheath for the price.
#3 GSI Outdoors Cathole Trowel - Best Trowel
Sometimes, you need to access the narrow spaces where the regular shovels can’t.
Trowels, like the GSI Outdoors Cathole Trowel, however, are easier to use and can access nearly any space.
In particular, this option features a long, scooped blade, which makes it easy and quick to dig up the loose soil.
It’s easy to brush off this trowel’s benign size, but to our surprise, it scoops large volumes of soil.
It’s also a comfortable trowel, with the large rounded handles feeling comfortable to hold, even for extended periods.
Though not as performance-oriented as the full-size shovels, it fares respectably even on the harder ground. Of course, it won’t slice through the roots and tough soil as smoothly as the full-size shovels; it still gets the job done.
It’s also versatile in performance; though it’s not technically a multi-tool option, the slight serration on the blade’s edges allows you to use both the twisting and sawing motion to drive the trowel deep into the grounds.
It’s a plastic made trowel, and this might get you thinking it’s a flimsy option. However, unlike other plastic trowels with durability issues, this option is quite sturdy, and the hard plastic construction makes it feel burly and tough. Some of the users even claim to have used it even on the rocky ground.
It’s a lightweight option too and doesn’t take much of your space in your backpacking bag.
And for the price, I would say it’s a comfortable and durable trowel that digs surprisingly well.
#4 FiveJoy Military Folding Shovel Multitool RS - Best Multi-Tool
Five Joy RS Shovel is the true definition of versatility.
It’s an ingenious shovel coming in with various handy design features and customizable for different uses.
Five Joy RS Shovel comes packed with various tools like saw, hoe, ax, and hammer. As such, it offers plenty of versatility, especially in the overall performance, allowing you to handle different tasks with a single tool.
At the same time, it saves on space, since you don’t have to carry individual tools for every task.
We like the adjustable shaft, coming with three lengths on offer. While the handle extensions are sold separately, it’s a nice option to have, letting you tailor the length of the shovel depending on your shoveling needs and height.
Adding to the already awesome benefits of the handle, you’ll love the hollow handle, preserving space. The hollow space can store other survival accessories such as the rescue knives, emergency whistle, bottle opener, and fire starter.
The handle is built with comfort in mind, with the gripped handles allowing you to use the shovel without slippage. It’s also sweat-proof, enhancing the overall comfort and usability.
Another awesome feature on the shovel is the unique lock structure, which can transform the tool into a hoe or a shovel, depending on the angulation.
Regarding reliability, Five Joy RS Shovel is one of the durable tools in the market. The heavy-duty carbon steel is among the premium materials for shovels and can easily withstand water and rust. It’s also reliable, allowing you to dig the hardy and rocky ground without compromising the shovel’s integrity.
The shovel head also features an extra surface area, which not only makes the tool a fantastic entrenching tool but makes digging a lot easier.
It’s a potable option too, and we like how it folds up easily for transport. Additionally, it weighs just over two pounds, so it’s a lightweight option, further underlining it’s overall portability.
Overall, it’s a great option for a wide range of users, ranging from campers, survivalists,s and anyone who needs to spend their time outdoors.
Coming in with plenty of features and extras, it’s the perfect solution for outdoor enthusiasts.
Unfortunately, it’s a premium option that doesn’t come cheap. Understandably, it’s made from some of the best materials the industry has to offer, and its versatility makes it an appealing option for anyone who needs an all-in=one shovel.
#5 JunHo Folding Shovel - Best Folding Shovel
If you need durability for your shovel, none beats the JunHo Folding Shovel.-both the shovel head and the handle is made from high-carbon steel, making it resistant against the tough terrain.
On the other hand, the handle grips are made from rubber and are described as “no-slip,” offering maximum safety and security.
Subtly hidden in the handle is a tactical knife, a wonderful tactical addition. The knife storage is modest and won’t require you to use additional space on our backpack.
Along with the tactical knife, the JunHo Folding Shovel also includes other accessories such as a bottle opener and hook line feature.
Combined, it means the JunHo Folding Shovel lets you carry fewer items, and instead have the convenience of them all being housed in your shovel.
Portability is also a cinch with the shovel, thanks to the carrying pouch and belt loop.
However, portability is mainly promoted by the folding design. Even when fully extended, it only measures 9 inches. The foldability makes it quite compact, an ideal option for those searching for a lightweight and compact shovel.
It would also be worth considering whether the 9-inch size of JunHo Folding Shovel would be advantageous to you since it’s not adjustable and can’t extend. The lack of adjustability limits its usage to the harder to reach areas, and it’s also not the most multifunctional shovel.
#6 Cold Steel Spetsnaz Tactical Camp Shovel - Best Tactical Shovel
The Cold Steel Shovel is among the best tactical shovels for wilderness survival.
It’s a fixed option, featuring a hardwood handle and a carbon head for the insanely difficult jobs. Unfortunately, it’s not foldable, with the rigid design making it a tad harder to store.
However, it has awesome performance, with the wickedly sharp edges great for cutting sticks, roots, and wood without a hitch. More like a tomahawk, you must store the shovel with a sheath or cover it; otherwise, it’s easy to injure yourself.
Next, we’ve a fixed hardwood handle; it’s both a pro and a con. The biggest benefit of the handle is the insane sturdiness. The shovel is comfortable and feels solid. It’s also well balanced, so easy to use. It also lacks any moving or hinged parts, so integrity with the shovel should be the least of your concerns. Though the wood comes with a smooth finish, it can still café your hands after extended use.
The obvious drawback to the wooden shaft is the lack of portability. It doesn’t fold into a compact size, so hard to store or carry. You can unscrew the whole thing, but that brings a whole new set of complications.
The fixed handle is also not the best option for grip. Unlike the open D-handle that tends to redistribute your force of digging, this option is quite rigid, limiting the overall performance.
Overall, if you value portability a lot, you might want to skip the Cold Steel Spetsnaz Tactical Camp Shovel. However, if you’re looking for an option with wickedly sharp edges, doubling up as a hatchet, this option is a solid choice.
Best Camping Shovels Buying Guide
With plenty of options and features to consider, you would think it’s hard to buy a portable shovel, right?
Well, it’s not, provided you know what to look for, and in the text below, we highlight some of the factors we consider the most necessary in a shovel.
Factors to Consider When Purchasing a Camping Shovel
For a tool that will be used in the harshest environments, you need your shovel to be reliable and strong.
At all costs, avoid plastic shovels. While they’re inexpensive and lighter, they’re cheap and flimsy, and their reliability and rigidity can’t be guaranteed.
Instead, consider shovels made from metals. However, not all metals are equal, and here a broad breakdown of some of the popular metal options:
- Stainless steel is a bit heavy but reliable and resistant to corrosion.
- High carbon steel is more robust than regular steel and coated with oxide paint to prevent corrosion.
- Aluminum is lightweight, but not as strong as steel.
- Military-grade alloy is equally robust and gives you value for your money.
Of note is the shovels made from the durable metals might cost a little higher than other materials but worth every penny.
Build and Function
There’re several aspects to consider when looking at the build and function of a shovel
A crucial aspect is the shovel handle.
Ideally, a handle should be ergonomic, allowing comfortable shoveling without causing fatigue. It should allow you to hold the shovel naturally, without arm-twisting or awkward holding.
Secondly, the handle offers some grip; it should feature some form of anti-slip, allowing you to hold the shovel firmly for maximum output.
Finally, you need to consider the type of handle.
Wood is aesthetic for a handle and durable, too. Steel is a heavy-duty option, which adds extra strength. Plastic handles are lightweight but flimsy. Rubber is comfortable, offering maximum grip and probably the best handle material.
Another crucial design feature is the type of blade. Blades with serrated edges are far better than those with smooth blades in terms of performance. The serrated blades give you more function and can handle a variety of tasks.
Size and Portability
Survival shovels need to be small and lightweight to allow for portability.
Folding shovels are the gold standard for portability. These tools let you quickly extend your shovel to a useful length and compact it back for storage.
When it comes to weight, try to get a shovel weighing under or 3 -3.5 pounds. That’s enough to carry around without much strain.
Camping shovels should be adjustable in length for a customized fit.
The frame should extend in length to match your height.
This way, it should be easier to use the shovel without too much strain.
There’re huge varieties of feature sets among the different camping shovels.
Some are simply modest military-style shovels, while others break into multiple tools.
While most of the camping shoves are versatile, others meet the criteria for multi-tools. They’re double up as axes, blades, or knives, with their appeal coming from the different ways you can use them.
Easy to Use
A majority of the camping shovels are simple to use, but some may need assembly before use.
Now, the objective of any camping tool is to make your life easier in the wilderness. A camping shovel, in particular, saves you the need to carry additional tools.
To this end, you should find a shovel that is easy and convenient to use.
For starters, it should be lightweight and portable. Speaking of portability, it should come with some form of a hook, allowing you to attach it to your backpack for easier transport.
It should also complete any task you may need it for with ease.
Does the price matter?
Yes, it does.
Though cheap might be appealing, the cheapest shovels might not be the best because of the flimsy construction.
If you need a reliable survival kit to take you through the wild stay, then you should be willing to spend a little more.
The premium shovels are made from durable materials, are reliable, and some even have long lifetime warranties.
No matter what you plan to do with a camping shovel, there’s always the right for you.
In the above text, we’ve looked at some of the popular options in the market, and hopefully, you’ll find one suiting your needs.
If you’re still unsure of the shovel to choose, you can use our buying guide as an inspiration.