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It’s often overlooked, but folding shovels are one of the most important and practical survival tools to own.
A shovel is a versatile piece of survival gear because it can serve a wide variety of purposes. It can help you set up camp, dig shelters or trenches, prepare latrines, cut through roots, or even be used for self-defense if necessary.
This guide covers the top qualities to look for in a survival shovel, our recommendations for the best survival shovels on the market, the reasons to consider owning a shovel, and additional survival tools to consider investing in.
Qualities to Look for in a Survival Shovels
Here are the top qualities to look for in a new survival shovel:
There are many things to look for when it comes to the head of your shovel. Ideally, your shovel should come with a serrated blade on at least one of the edges. This can be useful for sawing through wood or for cutting roots as you dig into the ground.
Make sure that the point to the shovel is very sharp so it can dig efficiently into the earth. If it doesn’t come sharp from the factory, be sure to sharpen it yourself.
To ensure that your shovel is as durable as possible, make sure it’s built out of high-quality materials such as carbon steel, stainless steel, or aluminum.
Out of these choices, stainless steel is naturally rust resistant on its own. Likewise, it is also the heaviest. It will resist corrosion the best, which makes it ideal to use in the rain, snow, or a humid environment.
Carbon steel is the strongest option available but also lacks the rust and corrosion-resistant properties of stainless steel. If you buy a shovel made from carbon steel, make sure that it comes with a corrosion-resistant finish such as hard coat anodizing or a black oxide finish.
Even though they are the heaviest, you can make a strong argument that a carbon steel shovel with a rust-resistant finish is the best choice for hostile environments.
Military shovels are often the best choice for a survival shovel for this very reason. They are made from a very durable carbon and come coated or finished in a rust-resistant material.
Aluminum is the lightest option, but it’s also weaker than carbon or stainless. As with carbon steel, an aluminum shovel should come with additional rust- or corrosion-resistant finishes.
Compact shovels are the best choice for survival because they are more portable. Ideally, look for a shovel that folds or breaks down, so you can stash it away in a sheath or backpack for ease of transport.
The weight of the shovel is also important. Aluminum is the best choice if you want the lightest shovel possible. But again, you’re sacrificing strength vs a carbon or a stainless steel model.
There are three primary kinds of handles when it comes to shovels. The first is a steel handle, which is very durable but also reverberates when digging.
The second kind is a wooden handle shovel. These are much less common now than they were before. However, they absorb shock better than steel or aluminum handles.
Conversely, they can absorb water, which will cause the handle to expand. The risk of splintering is also present with wood.
The polymer handle is the third major type. It’s the lightest weight option and is also durable, and absorbs shock better than steel.
Additionally, some survival shovels come with a padded grip for added comfort and traction.
Best Survival Shovels for Prepping
The following survival shovels are our top picks to invest in for prepping:
Overall Best Survival Shovel: Gerber E-Tool Folding Spade
The Gerber E-Tool Folding Spade with the serrated edge of the most popular folding shovels on the market today. It closes down to just over two feet but can extend out to over six feet. This gives it length comparable to that of a normal shovel.
The Gerber’s blade is built out of forged steel, and coated in an anodized finish for excellent rust resistance. The serrated edge is very sharp and makes quick work of sawing through roots or digging through the dirt.
Take note that the Gerber does not come with a sheath. We recommend the GI Military MOLLE II Entrenching Tool Cover. It fits the Gerber survival shovel perfectly and has MOLLE straps.
- The serrated edge on the blade is very sharp.
- Folds down very compactly for ease of transport.
- The hard coat anodized finish is very rust- and corrosion-resistant.
- It can extend to over six feet.
- The durable blade is built out of forged steel.
- It’s a bit heavy at over 2 pounds.
- More expensive than other survival shovels on this list.
- You will have to buy a sheath separately.
Overall Best Value: SOG Folding Survival Shovel
The SOG Folding Survival Shovel is an excellent value for a folding shovel. It’s lightweight, durable, folds easily, and comes with a saw blade on the side.
The SOG folds down easily, but the handle is also quite short and can’t be extended to the length of a normal shovel. However, when unfolded the SOG locks firmly into place so it can begin digging.
Overall, the SOG Survival Shovel is worth checking out if you want a compact shovel that is both affordable and durable.
- Very durable.
- Has a limited lifetime warranty from the manufacturer.
- Very lightweight at 1.5 pounds.
- You can use the sawtooth edge as a saw.
- Comes with a nylon sheath for storage.
- Overall a solid value.
- The handle is a bit too short.
- The point could be a little sharper.
Best Budget Survival Shovel: Schrade Telescoping Survival Shovel
The Schrade Telescoping Survival Shovel is another solid pick for a survival shovel. It’s built using durable rust and corrosion-resistant stainless steel and a black finish.
The blade is quite sharp for a survival shovel. This means it can cut through the earth or roots efficiently when it comes to digging trenches or shelters.
The handle, while built out of durable polypropylene, is admittedly not the most ergonomic for a survival shovel. However, it also extends out farther than most other folding outdoor shovels on the market do.
- Sturdy stainless steel construction.
- The blade itself is very sharp.
- Has a longer handle than most folding survival shovels.
- Comes with a sheath for storage.
- The handle isn’t the most comfortable or ergonomic.
Best Multi-Tool Survival Shovel: Evatac Elite Tactical Shovel
The Evatac Elite Tactical Shovel is an all-in-one survival tool. In addition to the folding shovel, it also comes with an axe blade, serrated saw edge, 120db emergency whistle, can/bottle opener, compass, hex tool, flat & Phillips head screwdriver, and a ferro rod. This is an excellent survival tool combo to include in your vehicle or in your survival kit.
The shovel itself is constructed out of high-quality 440 stainless steel and aluminum. The handle is extendable to over 2 ft in length, which allows for added leverage you may need when digging.
As an added bonus, the angle of the Evatac Tactical Shovel’s blade can be easily adjustable. One of the blades of the shovel is also serrated.
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- The shovel blade comes with a serrated edge.
- The angle of the shovel can be adjusted.
- Comes with a variety of extra tools as part of the pack.
- Built out of high-quality 440 stainless steel.
- Blade and fire starter redundancy.
- Relatively thin, aircraft-grade, aluminum handle.
Best Tactical Shovel: M48 Kommando Tactical Shovel
The M48 Kommando Tactical Shovel is an excellent option for a compact shovel that can be used for both survival purposes and self-defense. The blade is very sharp and perfect for digging into the ground. The right side of the blade is serrated.
The M48 Kommando is built out of very sturdy stainless steel and further coated in black oxide for good rust and corrosion resistance. The injection-molded nylon handle is also very ergonomic.
Just take note that the M48 cannot fold down, and the short handle may put a strain on your back while working.
- The pointed tip is very sharp and perfect for digging into the ground.
- Blade is constructed out of durable stainless steel.
- The black oxide coating is very rust and corrosion-resistant.
- The handle is very short.
- It cannot fold down.
- The handle is made out of injection-molded nylon rather than steel or other metal.
Why Do You Need a Folding Shovel for SHTF?
You may be wondering: is a folding shovel even necessary for survival purposes?
We’ll let you decide, but be sure to make that decision after reading through our list of reasons for why it is:
This is the entire reason to invest in a shovel, right? Digging is more important than you may think in a survival situation. With a high-quality shovel, you can dig holes or entrenchments in mere minutes. You can also flatten out the ground to use for shelter.
The alternative is to use your hands or other less efficient tools such as rocks or a knife, which increases the chances of you injuring yourself.
It’s very important to dispose of waste properly in a survival situation. Always dispose of the waste at least two hundred feet away from your campsite, and be sure to cover it completely with dirt afterward.
If you don’t, it can attract flies or mosquitoes, who then risk spreading disease back over to you. Use your shovel to dig about a foot into the ground before doing your business, and then cover it up afterward.
A shovel is a formidable self-defense weapon in close quarters. It’s even more so when you have a sharp edge on the blade. One hard swing can be enough to cause enough damage to an attacker to stun them and allow you to get away.
Other Tools to Consider
A survival tactical shovel is a highly versatile survival tool, but it’s also not the only survival tool you need.
You should also invest in the following survival tools to complement your shovel:
Fixed Blade Knife
A fixed blade knife is arguably even more crucial to have than a shovel. Use a knife for splitting wood, cutting, carving wood, cleaning game, or attaching to a pole to make a spear.
Make sure your knife is a full tang model, meaning the grip wraps around the body of the knife instead of being hollowed out.
Folded Blade Knife
Invest in a folded blade knife as well, which you can easily carry around in a pocket and use for more precise work where a larger blade isn’t necessary.
Axe or Hatchet
You can use a small axe or hatchet to chop wood (or ice), chop down small trees, hack limbs off of trees, split kindling, or drive stakes into the ground (if it has a hammer on the opposite side of the blade).
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This guide will serve as a valuable resource on the best survival shovels on the market and the top qualities to look for.
Remember that shovels are excellent and practical tools, but they are also not the only tool you need for survival. For example, be sure to invest in a high-quality survival axe or hatchet and other pieces of survival gear as well.
Bonus: Root Cellar That Can Be Used as a Bunker
Do you remember the old root cellars our great-grandparents used to have? In fact, they probably built it themselves, right in their back yard.
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Easy Cellar will show you:
- How to choose the ideal site
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- How to conceal your bunker
- Affordable basic life support options
Easy Cellar will also reveal how a veteran, with only $421, built a small nuclear bunker in his backyard.