Having the best folding shovel or best entrenching tool in your gear is a must.
Why? Let's take a quick look at just a few reasons. If you can think of other clever uses for a folding shovel/etool, please share them in the comments below.
12 Uses of a Folding Shovel You May Not Have Thought of:
- Filling sandbags and creating tactical trenches
- Creating a fire pit and controlling your fire
- Digging and re-covering holes to hide your gear and valuables
- Redirecting rainwater to collection pools and for crops
- As a grappling hook
- As a boat anchor
- Farming tasks (Hoe/Rake/Pick)
- Cooking shelf for your fire (slap your meat on it)
- A makeshift paddle in the water (or if you're up Shit Creek)
- As a weapon (who suspects being hit by a shovel?)
- To clear vegetation (or replant it where you want it)
- To cut rope or branches (if you get one with a saw edge)
Are you looking for a folding shovel or entrenching tool? This guide will show you how to pick the best one for your money.
Here's the thing...
A folding shovel and entrenching tool are basically the same tool. The terms have blurred together in the last few decades.
The only difference is that some entrenching tools also have picks on them.
A folding shovel makes a great addition to your tools for a survival situation.
I'm sure you've heard this cliche before, but: you get what you pay for. This is absolutely true with a folding shovel/etool.
There are a lot of cheaply made folding shovels and entrenching tools on the market that fall apart after light use.
But that’s not to say you should spend a lot of money to get a good one. For just a few bucks more, you can get a quality tool that will last.
The bottom line is to know what quality you're getting.
Below, I discuss most important factors to consider when selecting one, and I also share my top 3 recommendations. I hope this guide saves you a lot of time and frustration.
Disclosure: Some of the links in this article are affiliate links, where I make a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Best Folding Shovel & Best E-Tool Summary Table
Factors to Consider
When picking a good folding shovel or etool for your situation, it's good to consider the following factors.
Identify Your Situation
One of the first things to think about is your situation. What will you be using the tool for?
Will it be used casually or rarely? Or will it be a tool used for survival? Do you need the best survival shovel available? What are the consequences if the tool fails?
Define your needs clearly by identifying your intent for the tool. Can you go cheap and take a risk with quality or do you need to make sure this tool will perform reliably?
Which One is Best? Folding Shovel or E-Tool
A shovel is used for a lot of reasons. The basic use is obviously digging; however, digging can be done for lots of tasks, including:
- filling sandbags
- controlling or putting out a fire
- digging a defensive trench
- creating/digging a water-way
- digging a latrine (toilet)
- farming tasks
- burying/hiding something
An entrenching tool, or etool, is used for the same tasking. These terms are generally interchangeable. The tool can also be used as a weapon in a pinch.
Weight and Length
Size and weight are important factors to think about too. If your intent for this tool will be casual use, for example in the backyard, then size and weight may not matter to you.
However, If your intent is to use this tool in a survival situation or for hiking/backpacking, then size and weight are critical factors.
If this is the case, you want something compact and lightweight, but without compromising durability and reliability.
Cost is another factor. If you’re getting a folding shovel/e-tool for casual use like in the backyard or for camping, assuming you will be fairly close to other resources if needed, then you can risk going cheaper.
However, if you’re adding this tool to your survival gear, then you want to make sure you get a reliable and durable product, even if you have to pay a little more.
From my research, a lot of the most popular folding shovels and e-tools were very cheap cost wise; however, the reviews indicated that these tools were cheaply made and failed quickly.
If you decide to go cheap, check out the reviews and the frequency of failure for the tool from other customers. Is it worth saving a little money if the tool lasts only a week or leaves you in a bad pinch in a survival situation? No way.
The US GI Military Original Issue E-Tool is my top recommendation due to its quality and proven durability.
It’s by far the best e tool for the money.
It’s a little heavier than the cheaper folding shovels out there (3 lbs vs. 1.5 lbs), but it’s built to be tough.
In essence, it’s a heavy duty tool.
This e-tool is the best survival shovel, but it's also perfect for casual use like backyarding and camping if you want the tool to last for years and not just a week.
The shovel blade is steel and the handle is aluminum. It folds to a 9” length and extends to 24”.
Pros: One of the most durable and reliable folding shovels/e-tools on the market. Built to last. Proven design and reliability. A high quality tool. Also the best camping shovel overall.
Cons: A little more expensive than other options, but it could last you a lifetime. Also, it's slightly heavier than other options out there.
In addition, it doesn't have a pick. If you want a pick on your folding shovel/etool, then this isn’t the one for you.
Gerber is a well known brand and makes an outstanding folding e-tool spade.
The Gerber E-tool folds to 8” and extends to 23”. It weighs 2.7 lbs, so overall, it’s a little shorter and lighter than my top recommendation, making it the best backpacking shovel.
It doesn’t have a pick; however, Gerber makes a version of this shovel with a pick, although it costs a little more.
Pros: Cheaper than the top recommendation. A well built, well designed, reliable tool. Trusted brand name.
Cons: No pick, although there’s a version that has a pick that costs a little more.
The United Cutlery M48 Kommando Tactical Survival Shovel is a great choice if you are looking for a more casual use for a folding shovel or entrenching tool.
United Cutlery makes some cool looking gear. This shovel is no exception. The tool is made with tempered 2Cr13 stainless tool steel. Great for casual use.
It weighs 2.3 lbs, is 7” long folded and 17” long extended.
It’s my 3rd recommendation because it looks awesome. It’s well designed, but not as ruggedly built as my top 2 recommendations.
This folding shovel is perfect for you if looks is important and you plan on using it for light camping duty and light tasking in the backyard.
Pros: Looks awesome! Compact and lighter weight than other options. Perfect for more light tasking and casual use. Solid brand name.
Cons: No pick. Made in China. Not as ruggedly designed as my top 2 recommendations.
In summary, there's a lot of great options when it comes to selecting a folding shovel or entrenching tool.
A folding shovel, or etool, can add a lot of capability to your gear. Whether you’ll be using it for camping or a survival situation, the ability to move dirt offers a lot of advantages.
We discussed some of the top factors to think about when making your selection.
These include knowing what situation you plan on using the tool for, weight and length, and also cost.
There’s lots of really cheap shovels/etools on the market but watch out for ones that are cheaply made and that will break fast.
My top recommendation is the US GI Military Original Issue E-Tool Shovel. It's built to last and is well designed. It costs a little more, but you don't have to worry about it breaking after a week of use.
If you're also looking for a saw, be sure to check out my other guide on selecting the best one for survival.
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