Picture this: You’ve hiked in far off the beaten path, exploring the wilderness or on a military training exercise, when suddenly you find yourself in need of a sturdy, versatile survival tool.

Whether it’s for digging a fire pit, clearing a path, or even self-defense, the need for a high-quality survival shovel becomes glaringly apparent. That’s when you realize the pain of being ill-equipped for the unexpected challenges that nature or austere environments can throw your way.

The last thing you want is a subpar tool when your life is on the line. Many so-called “survival shovels” on the market simply can’t stand up to the rigors of real-world use. They bend, break, or lack the functionality you need when it matters most.

Despite often being disregarded, a survival shovel possesses remarkable utility in camping as well as in critical survival scenarios.

Best Survival Shovel
An entrenching tool rests on a sandbag barrier built to divert flood waters after a heavy rainstorm at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, November 15, 2018. The flooding came after an unusually heavy rainstorm hit the area, which has already experienced significant rain this month. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Andrew Carroll)

Within the vast array of options available, not all survival shovels are created equal in terms of quality. Furthermore, even among the commendable ones, certain shovels excel in specific tasks compared to others.

Your intended usage will dictate the ideal blade size and shape, handle length, and other necessary features, which may vary accordingly.

Best Survival Shovels at a Glance

Survival Shovel Uses

Digging a Fighting Hole

The survival shovel, often referred to, in military circles, as an entrenching tool or E-Tool, is not just an auxiliary tool—it’s indispensable for creating defensive structures such as the fighting hole.

best survival shovel
U.S. Army Spc. Joshua R. Wood, a mortar man from Pontotoc, Miss., assigned to Bayonet Company, 2nd Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, Task Force No Slack, uses his entrenching tool to fill sandbags for his fighting position on a mountainside overlooking the Ganjgal Valley in eastern Afghanistan’s Kunar province Dec. 10. The TF No Slack soldiers were supporting Operation Eagle Claw II.

A fighting hole serves dual purposes in a combat setting: it provides a low-profile vantage point for observation and shooting and also offers protection against both environmental elements and enemy engagement.

This entrenching tool, designed with a reinforced blade and durable construction, makes quick work of compacted soil, gravel, and even rocky ground.

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Building Shelter

One of the fundamental purposes of a shovel is to construct a shelter.

Regardless of the conditions, a shovel proves invaluable for leveling the ground prior to building a temporary dwelling. Moreover, it can also be highly useful in the actual construction of the shelter itself.

When it comes to specialized shelters, a shovel becomes even more indispensable.

In the case of snow shelters, digging is almost always necessary to compact walls and create the hollowed-out interior of the shelter.

During hot and arid conditions, excavating the ground provides a significantly cooler shelter compared to the surface, effectively shading you from the sun’s heat. Additionally, this type of shelter offers protection against the wind as well.

Preparing Fire

Similar to shelter, fire is an essential aspect of survival, and a survival shovel can prove to be valuable in this regard.

best survival shovel
A U.S. Air Force Airman, Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape (SERE) candidate cuts undergrowth at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland Medina Annex, Texas, Aug. 7, 2015. SERE candidates use entrenching tools to cut down small vegetation and clear grass from their campsite. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Chad Chisholm/Released)

A shovel serves multiple purposes when it comes to fire management. It aids in excavating a fire pit or constructing a protective barrier around the fire, which helps safeguard the flames from gusts of wind and prevents their spread.

Furthermore, a shovel comes in handy for tending to the fire, enabling you to regulate the supply of oxygen as required. This allows you to maintain an optimal burning condition and ensure the fire remains well-nourished.

Should you desire an extra fire source or find the need to transfer your fire to a different location, a shovel enables you to extract a portion of the existing fire and move it accordingly. This eliminates the necessity of igniting a completely new fire from the beginning.

Lastly, when the time comes to extinguish your fire, a shovel provides a swift and effortless means to bury it.

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Waste Management

In addition, a shovel proves to be useful when managing waste.

This includes tasks such as digging a latrine, but it can also serve the purpose of burying any garbage you make.

It is crucial to securely and inconspicuously bury these items in order to prevent the spread of diseases and avoid attracting unwanted animals.

Self Defense

With its razor-sharp and serrated edges specifically designed for breaking through frozen or hardened soil, a survival shovel empowers you to fend off an attacker in just a few swings.

These shovels are constructed with robustness in mind, capable of withstanding immense pressure of several hundred pounds.

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Best Survival Shovel

SOG Survival Shovel

The SOG Folding Survival Shovel stands out as one of the most compact shovels available in the market, easily folding down to the size of your hand for maximum portability.

With its simple three-section folding design, this shovel effortlessly collapses and reassembles to provide a highly dependable survival tool. Crafted entirely from carbon steel, it ensures unparalleled durability, while the shovel head offers additional features.

best survival shovel

The folding shovel head boasts a wood saw blade on one side and a versatile rotating spade shovel blade on the other, allowing you to use it as a pick or hoe. This incredible versatility makes it an ideal companion for camping, digging through snow or sand, and handling various other digging tasks.

When fully extended, this tactical shovel reaches a length of 18.25 inches, making it perfect for camping trips and easy transportation. However, for heavy-duty digging, it may be slightly compact. Additionally, the shovel head is designed to bend, making it more suitable for softer ground conditions.

Gerber E-Tool

The Gerber E-Tool Folding Spade may have a slightly higher price tag compared to most survival shovels, but it is widely recognized as one of the top choices available.

What sets this survival shovel apart from others is its exceptional performance in carrying out fundamental tasks. Gerber has created a shovel specifically designed to excel at being a shovel.

best survival shovel

First and foremost, it is constructed from exceptionally high-quality carbon steel. This ensures outstanding reliability, strength, and durability, and makes it ideal for digging through tough and compacted soil.

Moreover, the spade’s head features an excellent serrated edge that effortlessly cuts through roots that may obstruct your path. This serrated edge is also highly effective at slicing branches or creating a clear passage through dense vegetation.

The handle of the shovel incorporates multiple locking mechanisms to ensure your safety during any task. When folded, it conveniently breaks down into three parts, resulting in a highly portable length of only 9.5 inches.

Cold Steel Special Forces Shovel

The Cold Steel Special Forces shovel is a shovel that is modeled after the original Soviet Spetsnaz military entrenching tool and stands out as an exceptionally durable non-folding survival tool.

Crafted from medium carbon steel, the head of this shovel boasts a thickness of 2mm, ensuring its resilience for heavy-duty tasks. It offers ample space for continuous sharpening, allowing you to achieve the desired level of sharpness.

best survival shovel

The handle, constructed from sturdy hardwood, exhibits remarkable strength. In the event of wear and tear, it can be easily replaced. The only downside to this shovel is its lack of additional features and the absence of folding capability. While it may not fit neatly inside your backpack, it can be conveniently clipped or secured alongside it.

All in all, this shovel proves to be highly reliable for survival purposes, although it solely serves as a shovel without any supplementary functions.

US Military E-Tool

The USGI Military Shovel excels in heavy-duty tasks and is specifically designed for military applications like entrenching. Its steelhead/blade is coated with a black powder finish for enhanced durability.

What sets this shovel apart is its exceptional versatility, with the head capable of being locked into multiple angles ranging from 45 to 180 degrees. At a 45-degree angle, it serves as an ideal grappling hook, while at 90 degrees, it functions as a hoe or pick for digging.

best survival shovel

When fully extended to 180 degrees, it transforms into a robust heavy-duty shovel. Additionally, the head features a sharpened axe and saw edge, providing assistance in cutting through roots and chopping wood when necessary.

Upon arrival, the bolt responsible for adjusting the angles may be tightly secured and may require lubrication. It is also advisable to sharpen the blade upon receiving the shovel, as it may be slightly dull out of the box.

For added convenience, the shovel can be folded into three parts, resulting in a compact size perfect for carrying in your backpack. Overall, this survival shovel proves to be excellent for heavy-duty work, surpassing many other options available in the market.

Rhino USA Folding Survival Shovel

Introducing the Rhino USA Folding Shovel – an essential E-tool for adventurers and preppers. This versatile, compact shovel is engineered to conquer any outdoor task effortlessly. Whether you’re embarking on a camping trip, trekking through the wilderness, or gearing up for unforeseen emergencies, you can rely on this shovel to have your back.

best survival shovel

Manufactured with unwavering durability in mind, the Rhino USA Folding Shovel is constructed from military-grade materials, ensuring it stands the test of time. Its robust carbon steel blade effortlessly cuts through even the most challenging terrains, whether it’s compacted soil, deep snow, or unforgiving ice. Trust in the Rhino USA Folding Shovel to be your steadfast ally in the great outdoors.

Glock Entrenching Tool

Drawing on the same material expertise used in its pistol development, the Glock Entrenching Tool guarantees unparalleled durability and reliability. It’s the ultimate companion for any outdoor professional.

The surface-treated spade blade of the GLOCK Entrenching Tool is a masterpiece of engineering, with no unsightly welds or rivets. It offers the flexibility to lock into three different positions, transforming into either a versatile shovel or a sturdy spade.

best survival shovel

What’s more, tucked away within the telescopic polymer handle, you’ll find a hardened saw blade with a convenient screwdriver tip, ready to be securely attached to the handle when needed.

When folded, the GLOCK Entrenching Tool has remarkably compact dimensions, making it the perfect addition to your backpack or vehicle trunk. Experience the future of outdoor tools with GLOCK’s cutting-edge survival shovel design.

In Conclusion

Selecting the right survival shovel can make a significant difference in your outdoor adventures and emergency preparedness. We have explored some of the best survival shovels on the market, considering their durability, versatility, and overall performance.

Whether you prioritize portability, multi-functionality, or heavy-duty capabilities, there is a survival shovel to suit your specific needs. From compact folding designs to non-folding powerhouses, these shovels offer a range of features to assist you in shelter construction, fire management, waste disposal, and more.

Now, armed with knowledge about the top survival shovels available, it’s time to take action and equip yourself with this essential tool. Consider your intended use, terrain conditions, and personal preferences.

If we had to choose only one of these shovels, we’d roll with the Cold Steel Special Forces Shovel. The runner-up would be the tried and true military E-tool.

Choose the survival shovel that fits your requirements and embark on your outdoor adventure with confidence.

Remember, a reliable survival shovel is not just a tool; it’s a vital companion that enhances your chances of overcoming challenges and thriving in diverse environments. So, invest in the best survival shovel that suits your needs and be prepared for any situation that comes your way.

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