Best Survival Shovel
You can never take any situation for granted, can you? When you are camping, backpacking, or on in the general wilderness, you never know what situation may arise. This is why survival tools come in handy as they are optimized to be versatile and practical. But, instead of discussing all of them, this guide is being narrowed down to talk specifically about survival shovels.
In addition to serving their purpose as shovels, these tools are often equipped with plenty of other critical survival tools. They typically will be optimized for travel, as well. From brand to brand, though, they can vary a little bit. Most top-end models will implement similar features, however, which makes your search a bit easier. But, there will be differences here and there that can make or break things for you.
In a Hurry? The test winner after 8.75 hrs of research
Backed by a limited lifetime warranty
Equipped with a reinforced steel tip
Built incredibly well
- CRKT Folding Shovel
- M48 Kommando Survival Shovel
- Gerber E-Tool
- FiveJoy Military Multitool
- SOG Folding Shovel
- US GI Entrenching Shovel
- Smittybilt Tri-Fold Shovel
- Cold Steel Special Forces Shovel
- Glock Entrenching Tool
- Schrade Telescoping Shovel
- Criteria Used for Evaluation
- Expert Interviews & Opinions
- Frequently Asked Questions
OUR TOP PICKS FOR THE BEST SURVIVAL SHOVELS
1. CRKT Folding Shovel
Backed by a limited lifetime warranty
Equipped with a reinforced steel tip
Built incredibly well
The buttons on the sheath can rust
At the end of the day, you just can’t go wrong with a survival shovel that is built as well as this sucker is. Its carbon steel core is incredible and when coupled with the glass reinforced nylon handle, you can see why it raves for its build quality.Read more
In addition to the fact that the blade has been made with 1050 carbon steel, it has also been coated with a protective finish for enhanced protection and durability.
This bad boy is loaded with extra functionality as it sports a wood saw on one side of the blade. The other side sports a beveled edge. Additionally, there is a wire cutter built into the grip.
Not only is the handle designed of glass reinforced nylon but it is also ergonomically designed. As is advertised, it feels the handle is literally made for your hands.
For the record, a sheath is included with your purchase and it is designed with black polyester fabric. However, one user did note that the metal buttons can succumb to rust if you are not careful.
The main feature of this model is the three-position head. It is also designed with a threaded locking collar.
Be careful with the sheath as you do not want it to rust but other than that, this model is as good as it gets. Consider it one of the standard bearers for survival shovels.
2. M48 Kommando Survival Shovel
Ideal for camping and other activities
Packs a powerful punch for such a small blade
Superbly designed in almost every way
It does not fold down for storage
Just by looking at some photos of the blade on the M48 Kommando, you can tell how practical it is. This makes it literally perfect for camping and general outdoor use.Read more
The blade really looks like a tactical defense weapon, quite frankly. It is made of tempered steel and is protected with a black oxide coating.
Due to the concave chopping edge on one side of the blade and the serrated edge on the other side, this is useful in a variety of ways for many different situations.
The handle is textured and built to last (with fiberglass and nylon reinforcement). With that said, though, it is a tad bit short which may be an issue for users with larger hands.
While most survival shovels will fold down for storage, this one actually does not. However, it does come with a nylon belt pouch for both safety and portability.
Outside of the different features designed into the blade, there are not too many outside features to speak of here.
The M48 Kommando is brilliant in many aspects but it does not fold. Even though this is somewhat odd, the durability and practicality of the blade make this model worth it alone.
3. Gerber E-Tool
Only weighs 4.6 ounces
The build quality is just phenomenal
It will fold down for easier transport
The locking mechanism is not the best
In addition to the fact that this survival shovel can be folded down for storage, it is equipped with an anodized aluminum shaft, glass-filled nylon handle, and carbon steel blade that has been powder coated.Read more
Yeah, as was just alluded to, this is built like a tank. This is evident with the carbon steel blade (topped off with a powder coating), glass-filled nylon handle and anodized aluminum shaft.
When you fold the head of this shovel back, you will gain access to a pick and this can be used to loosen up rocks and other such tasks. The blade also sports one serrated edge.
This actually sports a polygon-shaped handle and some of you will definitely appreciate this. Also, as noted, this handle is made with glass-filled nylon.
Okay, so you do need to purchase a case for this separately. But, the good news is it only weighs 4.6 ounces and can fold down to 9.3 inches in length.
One of the features that would have helped put this over the top is a superior locking mechanism as the one present is not the best.
This is more of a folding spade and it is an excellent one at that. It is built with incredible quality, can be folded down for transport and sports a uniquely designed handle. Not too shabby at all, huh?
4. FiveJoy Military Multitool
It is an all-in-one survival tool
The blade is extremely well-made
Designed with a unique locking adjustment
It is quite small
The handle could be better
To say this is an all-in-one survival tool is putting it lightly. When you think about all that you are getting and the quality as a whole, you realize just how good the value is for this option.Read more
When it is claimed that this is virtually indestructible it is not an exaggeration. After all, the blade is forged from solid carbon steel and the knife from aerospace-grade aluminum.
Even though this is smaller than it appears to be, it can be used in several different ways with its serrated saw edge, paracord that is equipped at the handle, and sharp axe blade.
Alright, so the rubberized handle does not exactly hold up well. However, the handle itself is ergonomically designed and sports slip-proof foam cushioning for enhanced grip and comfort.
There are several reasons why this is a portable model. Firstly, it only weighs 1.2 pounds. Secondly, it can be folded down compactly and, thirdly, it comes with a carrying case.
Due to the unique screw locking device, you can adjust the angle of this shovel to account for different situations. For the record, the angle can be set to 40, 90, and 180 degrees.
This really is the ultimate survival tool and even though it has its flaws, it is more than well-designed as a whole. The practicality and construction are proof enough of that.
5. SOG Folding Shovel
It can be used as a bottle opener
It is built to last
The blade is made with 1075 carbon steel
The handle has been criticized
While there have been some previous buyers who have not been crazy about the design of the handle, it is safe to say that (overall) this folding shovel from SOG does its job with flying colors.Read more
Due to the fact that this is made with tough 1075 carbon steel, you can take comfort in knowing that the blade is not cheap in the slightest.
All in all, this can be used as a hiking shovel, wood saw, or even a hoe. Oh yeah, it can also be utilized as a bottle opener. The blade, for the record, is also 26 inches in length.
Even though the handle is made out of plastic, it is telescoping and contoured for an easier grip. It is also the portion of the device that conceals the seven-inch wood saw.
The ballistic nylon shovel case this comes with is more like straight nylon (though it is still heavy-duty). Additionally, the device itself is designed to collapse down to 10.2 inches in size.
This can be locked in one of four ways which not only makes it extremely versatile but also practical, as was documented earlier.
From top to bottom, this is just a fabulous design. There are not too many areas that are flawed which, clearly, says a lot about the overall quality of this particular model.
6. US GI Entrenching Shovel
Can be used as a shovel, axe, saw and mattock
It can fold down compactly
Sports a powder coated finish
It has a tendency to on its own
Some design flaws are present
This is not flawless and many buyers have noted that it is a knock-off (though it is certainly a very good one). It is very practical, however, and can be used in a plethora of different ways.Read more
Having been engineered with an aluminum handle and a steel blade (that has been powder coated for protection), it is safe to say that this was well built.
As you can see from the photos, the blade is equipped with serrations and straight edges alike. Overall, it can be used as a shovel, mattock, axe, and saw.
Overall, the aluminum handle of this shovel is comfortable. However, there is a metal piece at the base that you need to be wary of (as it does have pretty sharp corners).
Due to the fact that this is another design that has been equipped with a tri-fold construction, it can be folded down to an extremely compact nature (nine inches).
Unfortunately, this has been known to have a tendency to fold in on itself. Oh, for the record, the blade can be locked into two different positions.
Can you really go wrong with a survival shovel that is built like a tank that can fold in three separate ways? Think about that question long and hard, ladies and gentlemen.
7. Smittybilt Tri-Fold Shovel
It has been heat-treated
It is as compact as it gets
Not hard to lock into position
Not ideal for heavy labor
If you are looking for the most compact model on the market, you may have found it right here. This is designed with a unique tri-fold body that allows for extremely compact storage.Read more
There are two reasons why this blade is built to last. Firstly, it sports a carbon steel core. But, secondly (and more importantly) it has been finished with a powder coating for enhanced protection against the elements.
At the end of the day, this is really optimized for light tasks. There are two serrated and two straight edges present, for the record.
Being equipped with a polygon-shaped handle, this is going to be easy for you to grip and control while you are working.
Indeed, this bad boy is as compact as it gets. Thanks to its tri-fold body, it can be folded down to nine inches. Oh yeah, a durable storage case is also included with your purchase.
Thanks to the built-in twisting shaft, it is fairly easy to lock this sucker into position when you get ready to use it.
This is one of those survival shovels that will either suit you or it will not due to its limitations with its practicality. It is built extremely well and is very compact but it is also not going to tackle large projects efficiently.
8. Cold Steel Special Forces Shovel
Sports a tough and sharp blade
Comes with a well-designed sheath
The handle can be removed
Some buyers never received a sheath
The wooden handle has its imperfections
Though some survival shovels come with sheaths that are poorly designed, this is not an example of one of them. The handle is also made of wood, which is a bit unique.Read more
In addition to the fact that the blade is made with heavy-duty carbon steel, it has also been finished to add an additional layer of protection.
In spite of the fact that the edges have been pre-sharpened, one of the most common complaints with this blade is the lack of an edge it has. This hurts its practicality a little bit.
Right from the get-go, the wooden handle you probably noticed. It is one of the most unique features of this model. However, it has some imperfections and does need some work.
So, this is supposed to come with a well-designed sheath. There have been a few instances, however, of buyers who have reported that they never did.
The handle can actually be removed. It is not threaded inside the blade and is fastened with a single screw. It was engineered this way to be replaced in light of an emergency.
Really, the best way to describe this survival shovel is by claiming it is flawed but still great. The major thing to remember is the flaws present do not make this invaluable, as a whole.
9. Glock Entrenching Tool
The blade can be locked in four positions
A hardened saw is located inside the handle
There are no rivets or welding
Some users never received the advertised pouch
The saw is inserted backward
What is really nice is this survival shovel is optimized for longevity. First off, this is designed with no rivets or welding and, secondly, the blade has been surface-treated. Not bad, huh?Read more
It was just documented why this blade is built so well. As mentioned, it comes down to the fact that it is surface-treated and designed without rivets or welding.
The good news is this comes with a hardened saw inside the handle. However, the bad news is the saw itself is backward (for whatever reason).
The telescoping handle is extendable and is also made with high-impact resistant polymer. It can handle some abuse while also being adaptable to different hand sizes.
Let’s just get this out of the way; the included pouch (if you even receive it which has been an issue for other buyers) is junk. On a lighter note, this is very light in weight and can be folded down compactly.
You can lock this blade in four different positions to account for several different tasks and situations.
It is not too difficult to see why this has been the most beloved model. For the most part, it should satisfy the needs of most of you reading this currently.
10. Schrade Telescoping Shovel
The blade is well-constructed
Sports sharpened edges
It can fold down for storage
The finish is a little cheap
Too much plastic is implemented
Overall, there is a bit too much plastic implemented into this survival shovel but the blade is more than reliable. It will also fold for easier transport, which is a staple of this technology.Read more
The carbon steel blade does not have the best finish but is still really good. However, overall, there is too much plastic implemented in this design.
No, this is not the most versatile model on this list but it still gets the job done with its sharpened edges.
Some thought was put into the design of the handle that is for sure. Not only is it made with polypropylene but it also sports a “T” shape that easily fits in your hand.
Past the fact that a polyester sheath comes with your purchase (which is well-made), this can be collapsed to only 10 inches in length.
The component that keeps this locked is made of plastic (which is concerning). As this is a critical stress point, you will want to keep an eye on this.
Yes, the plastic componentry does hurt the overall value of this survival shovel. Everything else is well-constructed, though, and the handle is thoughtfully designed.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
You really do not want to skimp on the model you buy.
When you talk about the durability of survival shovels, it all starts with the blade. This is the most prominent piece of any shovel, quite frankly, and will almost always be made out of steel. Now, the type of steel can vary but is typically either stainless steel or carbon steel. Out of the two, carbon steel is more durable and stronger. However, it also lacks the corrosion and rust-resistant properties of stainless steel.
To combat this issue, you will ideally want to look for carbon steel blades that have been finished with a powder coating. This is a special finish that provides a layer of protection to the metal. Thus, this will make the steel less prone to scratching, chipping, corrosion, and general wear.
However, it is not all about the blade as you also need to assess the handle and shaft. Most of the time, the shaft will be made with aluminum (sometimes anodized aluminum) and you really can’t go wrong here. Now, as for the handles, some models may have plastic ones. Even though metal handles are more durable, they also tend to weigh more. And, there is high-quality plastic (such as polypropylene) in the world.
Not only are the best models versatile but they are also practical, as well.
The level of practicality that a specific survival shovel has oftentimes comes down to the manner in which you want to use it. At their cores, though, all models will be able to carry out the basic functions of shovels. However, this is then where models can differ in their designs. You may see some with serrated edges or wood saws tucked away, picks that can be used to loosen rocks and even additional implementations.
But, how do you choose the model for you? After all, if you never use any of the other tools that a specific model incorporates could it end up being a waste of money? Indeed, yes it could so you need to prioritize what you need. If you need a survival shovel with all the gears and gizmos then get one that has them.
To offer some more help with this section, let’s talk about some of the situations in which this type of tool can come in handy to you. And, the best example is if you need a fire. With the use of a multi-functional model, you could dig up an area to have a fire, cut and chop wood for the fire, and so on.
Ease of Use
The handle of the model you buy should be optimized for comfort to say the least.
If the blade on any type of shovel is the most important component then the handle is probably the second. Earlier, the materials in which the handle can be made with were documented. But, now, the shift focuses on the actual design of the handle. And, this all starts with the grip you can achieve and the manner in which the handle is designed. Some handles will be T-shaped, others D-shaped and others just straight.
Ergonomics will also come into play, as well, as you may want the handle of the model you pick to be ergonomically designed. In short, this basically just means that it will be optimized to fit in your hand naturally and comfortably. This can really make all the difference in the world for longer sessions.
And, lastly, let’s about the physical size of the handle. If you are someone who has larger hands then you may not want to settle for a smaller handle. As simple as this sounds, the last thing you want is for your hand to cramp up every time you go to use the shovel. Also, some survival shovels will be equipped with telescoping handles. These handles will be able to be adjusted to better fit in your hand.
The best models out there will be able to be folded and will also come with sheaths or carrying bags.
Survival shovels will generally be used for outdoor adventures and not at your home (even though they can be used in this fashion). Unless you do not plan to travel with the model you buy, you will need to place an emphasis on its portability. Now, this comes down to three incredibly important variables, so to speak. The first of which is if the shovel can be folded. For the record, most models will be designed in this manner (and will typically either be two or three-piece designs).
You also need to take the total weight into consideration. Oftentimes, this is why you will see some models designed with plastic handles (as this can cut back on the weight). The blade just needs to be made of steel, though, so come to terms with that.
The last variable is if the seller includes a sheath or carrying case with your purchase. An included sheath can be used to cover the blade for protection and safety. A full-fledged carrying bag, though, can be used to safely and securely transport the entire shovel. But, even if neither of these accessories is included, you can always account for stuff like this yourself.
This section is not too complex but does cover one important feature.
For the most part, there really is not too much to cover in this section. So, go ahead and take a breather for a second. All joking aside, with that being said, there is one feature that you may want to pay attention to as it could be a game changer. Outside of the ability to be used as different tools, some survival shovels will also be designed with blades that can be adjusted to different angles.
Okay, so you may be pondering yourself why you would ever need the blade of your model to be at a certain angle. For the record, just to get this out there, a plethora of designs that do incorporate this functionality will be limited in the number of angles that can be utilized. However, no matter, even one different angle can make a certain task easier. Typically, when you are buying any type of manual tool, the more versatile it is the easier your life is going to be.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
Anything that is preceded by the word “survival” should be pretty durable. The same is the case here and there are a few factors that you should keep in mind. Firstly, ensure that the blade of the shovel is made with an ideal material (such as carbon steel or stainless steel). Next, look for a handle that is not going to break very easily. Lastly, keep the quality of the shaft and other componentry in mind.
This section comes down to how versatile and practical you want your model to be. The two characteristics really do go hand-in-hand here. After all, survival shovels will function as traditional shovels at their cores. But, they typically will offer even more functionality such as the ability to be used as saws. Basically, this can enhance their capabilities as survival tools.
It does not sound very fun to work with a shovel that is uncomfortable, does it? Now, that is not to say that this type of tool needs to be padded like a pillow (as that is just silly). Yet, it should come with a handle that is practically designed. So, you may want to look for handles that are ergonomically designed, those that are shaped in a certain manner, and possibly even those that are telescopic.
Frequently Asked Questions
q: Can you use them with metal detectors?
Just because these tools are dubbed as being ideal for survival, it does not mean that you can’t have a little fun with them. In fact, a great way to do so is to use your model with a metal detector. But, if you do this, you need to ensure that the model you have can handle digging into the terrain that you are on. For the most part, most models on the market will not exactly be workhorses.
q: How do you care for carbon steel?
If you know your science well then you know that steel has the potential to rust. Even if it is protected, it can still rust. And, this is a legitimate concern with carbon steel. But, you should also know that rust is going to form when iron, oxygen, and air moisture combine. So, to prevent your carbon steel blade from rusting (and even your stainless steel blade as this can rust too), you need to ensure that it is fully dried before storing it. Also, do not store it in a humid environment.
q: Can they be used in the winter?
Just to be clear, survival shovels are not snow shovels and should not be treated as such. This is simply not what they are optimized to handle so do not utilize them in such a manner. However, in theory, the blades could be strong enough to chop away some ice. But, do you really want to expose the blades to ice? The safe bet is to just avoid winter use altogether.
q: How do you fold them?
Clearly, some designs will differ from one another (as some will be two pieces and others three) but folding these types of tools should not be too tricky. For most models that require more than one fold, you will want to fold the handle in first and then the blade. Also, if it is becoming really hard to fold, you may need to lubricate the tightening nuts. Just a few drops of light oil should do the trick just fine for you.
q: Can you sharpen the blade?
The short answer to this question is yes, you can sharpen the blade on your survival shovel. Yet, this question deserves closer analysis. For starters, you can easily do more harm than good when you go to sharpen the blade. So, watch a tutorial video beforehand to ensure you have the right equipment and knowledge to do so.
But, things get more complicated if you need to sharpen the serrations on the blade. Each individual serration will need to be sharpened separately and you may want a special tool that can handle this. For the record, the reason why you would want to do this, in the first place, is if the blade has become too dull to perform.
q: Do survival shovels compare well to regular hatchets and spades?
When you talk about multi-purpose tools, in general, they will typically never be better than the individual tools that they implement. A Swiss Army knife is a great example as when you look at the tools individually, they will be good if unspectacular. However, collectively, the tool is amazing.
That is really how survival shovels work as you can probably find several different shovels, axes, saws, and hatchets on the market that are superior. But, collectively, the convenience of having all these tools in one package is often worth sacrificing the quality just a little bit.