Shovels are one of those tools most people don’t think about till they need one, then they can’t stop thinking about them. Survival shovels are designed to give you a lightweight and packable tool for small scale excavation and digging. They’re great for preparing a campsite or unsticking your car in the mud. We searched high and low for the best survival shovels on the market today to help you find the tool that does everything you need it to do and more.
- 1 Best Survival Shovels
- 1.1 SOG Folding Survival Shovel – Entrenching Tool
- 1.2 SOG Elite E-Tool Folding Camping Shovel
- 1.3 Gerber E-Tool Folding Spade
- 1.4 Gerber Gorge Folding Shovel
- 1.5 FiveJoy Military Folding Trenching Shovel Multi-tool
- 1.6 IUNIO Emergency Portable Folding Survival Shovel
- 1.7 Schrade Survival Shovel
- 1.8 BAALAND Military Folding Shovel
- 1.9 Lifeline Aluminum Survival Snow Shovel
- 1.10 The Tent Lab Ultralight Shovel
- 1.11 Zune Lotoo Annihilate Tactical Folding Survival Multi-Function Shovel
- 2 Best Survival Shovel Buyers Guide
- 3 Final Thoughts
Best Survival Shovels
What makes for the best survival shovel?
Depending on how you intend to use it and how you plan to get it there you’ll likely have wildly different needs. We decided to look at high quality ultralight and foldable shovels as well as larger models.
Many of these shovels provide you with a lot of extra tools and equipment for a survival situation. Others have a minimalist design that saves on weight yet gives you a very functional shovel.
Lets see how they compare.
SOG Folding Survival Shovel – Entrenching Tool
SOG is well known for the durability and innovative designs of their products. The SOG Folding Survival Shovel is no exception to this. It’s 18.25 inches long when fully extended but folds down to a package little larger than your hand.
It actually combines three useful tools in one. A standard stainless steel shovel, a sawtooth edge on one side, and a small hoe you can flip out when needed. All of this with a total weight of just 24.5 oz.
The whole thing works using a screw locking system. You can deploy the shovel or hoe at any angle you like then lock it firmly in place with the locking ring. This lets you adjust your shovel’s positioning to work harder and faster.
The hoe lets you easily break up tough plots of ground then switch to the shovel and clear the area. The saw blade isn’t sharp enough to be a real threat to you but is great for cutting through small branches.
Overall the SOG Folding Survival Shovel is a very well made product at an attractive price.
SOG Elite E-Tool Folding Camping Shovel
If you’re looking for something with a little more working room the SOG Elite E-Tool is the shovel for you. It uses a combination telescoping handle and swivel shovel blade to go from just 10.2 inches closed to 26 inches fully extended. Despite this large size it weighs just 24.8 oz.
The handle is made from coated stainless steel and hides a 7 inch saw blade inside it. To use it all you have to do is unscrew the bottom of the handle and flip it over.
That gives you a very well sized hand saw for cutting through several inch thick branches. The locking system allows three different choices for shovel or hoe angle. This lets you adjust your shovel for the job at hand.
The Elite E-Tool is on the larger side for a true survival shovel but gives you a ton of useful features for that extra space. It’s a bit pricey but provides you with lots of value for your money.
Gerber E-Tool Folding Spade
The Gerber E-Tool is a folding survival shovel that extends out to 23.75 inches long when in use. It has a glass-filled nylon handle attached to a powder coated shovel blade. This makes it both lightweight and incredibly durable.
The whole thing weighs just 2.3 lbs and is under 10 inches long when folded up. One edge of the shovel has a built in saw blade to allow you to cut through branches, ice, and other materials.
Ther Gerber E-Tool uses a screw design that allows you to lock the blade either open or closed. It’s a quality tool but it does lack some of the features found on similarly priced folding spades.
Gerber Gorge Folding Shovel
The Gerber Gorge is the smallest folding shovel Gerber makes. It’s just 9.25 inches when folded down but extends out to a full 16.25 inches. It uses a stainless steel shovel blade with a glass-filled nylon handle.
One thing we really liked about the Gorge was the rubber overlay put on the handle. It made it much more comfortable to use. It weighs just 28 ounces, making it one of the lighter folding shovels on our list. It comes with a small nylon carry pouch that can be attached to your bag or belt.
The shovel lacks any saw blade or serrations but does have the option to use it as a hammer when folded away. If you’re looking for a lightweight and very small folding survival shovel the Gerber Gorge is a definite contender.
FiveJoy Military Folding Trenching Shovel Multi-tool
The Military Folding Shovel from FiveJoy is designed to be a true survival tool in the field. It’s 18.5 inches when fully extended but folds down significantly. It gives you 7 different tools, including:
- Emergency Whistle
- Fire Starter Rod
- Bottle Opener
The shovel is made from hardened carbon steel while the handle uses anodized aluminum. The handle doesn’t fold down as small as on other tools but it does contain all kinds of goodies inside.
There are technically two saw blades on this FiveJoy product. The shovel itself has a serrated section down one side and the knife blade within the handle also has a saw on the other side of it.
You can screw the various handle tools into place along the length of the shovel to get more use out of them. If you’re looking for a true multi tool survival shovel at a reasonable price the Military Folding Shovel from FiveJoy is a great option.
IUNIO Emergency Portable Folding Survival Shovel
The IUNIO Survival Shovel is a 17 inch long stainless steel shovel that packs a ton of useful tools and features into its small size. It provides you with tons of functions in 7 different tools, including:
- Emergency Whistle
- Bottle Opener
- Nail Extractor
The shovel weighs under a pound and a half yet is remarkably durable. The compass is located in the butt of the handle and is easy to use with the shovel open or folded. The saw blade is located along one edge of the shovel and worked well for cutting brush and branches.
The whistle was located in a screw in compartment within the handle. The bottle opener was actually built right into the shovel blade itself. It looked funny at first but worked well enough at popping open beer or soda. It comes with a small nylon carry bag.
IUNIO offers their survival shovel in two larger sizes, each with a slightly different tool loadout. We found the compact 17 inch version to be the best combination of portability, usefulness, and included tools. Overall this is a great folding camping shovel at a very reasonable price.
Schrade Survival Shovel
The Schrade Survival Shovel is a very focused product. It gives you a 20 inch long folding shovel, and nothing else. For that though you get a very well thought out shovel with a few features not found in some other survival shovels.
The shovel itself is made from sharpened stainless steel while the handle is polypropylene. It uses a t-shaped design for better control and more power transfer when using the shovel itself. The blade of the shovel fits down in an included nylon sheath while the handle hangs out.
The entire shovel weighs just under 2 pounds and folds down to 10 inches. It uses a screw lock system to hold the shovel blade in place and is honestly one of the most attractively designed shovels on this list.
If you just want a useful and well made folding shovel without the extras the Schrade Survival Shovel is definitely one you should consider.
BAALAND Military Folding Shovel
The BAALAND Military Folding Shovel is one of the largest and most comprehensively tooled survival shovels on this list. It doesn’t fully fold down like many of the other shovels. Instead it’s 33 inches long at full extension with the ability to fold over the shovel head. For this decrease in portability you get a truly impressive amount of tools, including things like:
- Bottle Opener
- Emergency Whistle
- Fire Starter Rod
- Bit Driver and Four Bits
- Glass Breaker
- Red Light Cap
- Tactical Rope
It uses a screw off handle design to pack all these tools into the shovel. As you move down the handle you expose different tools and sections.
Some are loose within, like the flashlight, while others are designed to screw back into other portions of the handle. The flashlight itself qualifies as a multi tool. It comes with a small charging cable and can be used to charge your cell phone for an emergency call.
The shovel is made from stainless steel while the handle is aluminum. This makes the whole thing lightweight and very sturdy. If you’re looking for a true emergency kit within a survival shovel the BAALAND Military Folding Shovel is the one for you.
Lifeline Aluminum Survival Snow Shovel
If you’re looking for a car or RV survival shovel the Lifeline Aluminum Snow Shovel has you covered. It uses a takedown design that breaks the shovel and handle into 3 easy to store pieces.
The whole thing is made from aluminum and is 32 inches long when fully extended. It has a broader and more upswept shovel blade than most other survival shovels but for its intended purpose this is perfect.
It’s great for digging out your car, campsite, or recreational vehicles like ATV’s or snowmobiles. It’s available in a variety of bright colors and is quite lightweight, weighing just over a pound.
The Lifeline Aluminum Snow Survival Shovel can’t be used for serious digging but is absolutely essential if you live in a winter prone environment. If you deal with frequent snow drifts you should definitely consider throwing one of these into your car or truck.
The Tent Lab Ultralight Shovel
If you’re looking for the lightest hiking shovel available you’ve come to the right place. The Tent Lab Ultralight Shovel is designed to be as light as the materials will allow and still function. It’s available in three different weight classes, #1, #2, and #3.
The #1 is only for the strictest of ultralight hikers. It weighs less than half an ounce but will bend or break if used incorrectly. The #2 and #3 are each under an ounce in weight but give you a more substantial feel overall.
This shovel is designed with only a single task in mind, digging a cathole in the backcountry. It does this task very well. If you’re looking for an ultralight hiking shovel this is the one for you.
Zune Lotoo Annihilate Tactical Folding Survival Multi-Function Shovel
The Zune Lotoo Annihilate is a 29.7 inch long folding survival shovel that uses a screw off handle design. It weighs just under 3 lbs and provides you with more than 10 different useful survival tools, including:
- Shovel Saw
- Hand Saw
- Knife Blade
- Bottle Opener
- Wire Cutter
- Fire Starter Rod
- Camera Support
- Emergency Whistle
The shovel is made from stainless steel while the handle is comprised of several anodized aluminum tubes. Within each tube are different tools such as the knife or saw blade.
The shovel itself is a pretty good size and can be locked into place using a screw lock system. If you flip the shovel blade back in the top part of it is designed to be used as a hammer. It’s great for pounding in tent stakes and other similar tasks.
The camera support was one we hadn’t seen on another survival shovel but was surprisingly effective. You just drive the shovel blade firmly into the ground then screw your camera on top. If you’re out in the boonies and want to take some nature shots or shoot a vid for your channel it’s a great multi purpose solution.
The Zune Lotoo is definitely on the pricey side for survival shovels but it does give you a good bit of value for your money.
Best Survival Shovel Buyers Guide
Picking out a survival shovel isn’t too difficult. You pretty much just need to figure out how you plan to use your shovel and what you’re willing to spend. If you’re looking for an ultralight but strong shovel you’ll have to pay more than for one that’s more basic and heavier.
Survival shovels aren’t particularly expensive. You can get a quality shovel for about $20 or spend up to around a $100 for a really premium one.
The biggest difference will be the size of the shovel and the number of features. Cheaper shovels will be just that, a shovel. They’ll most likely fold down in size and lock in place at about 25 to 30 inches or so long.
More expensive survival shovels will have extras like a saw blade, fire starter, and even things like whistles and hammer points. They aren’t necessarily better or worse quality than the cheaper ones, they just do more things.
How Will You Be Using the Shovel
One of the most important questions to ask yourself before making a purchase is how you want to use your survival shovel. They’re great little tools but they aren’t cut out for any heavy duty digging.
If you’re doing real yard work or clearing land you’re going to want a full size shovel without a doubt. Survival shovels are great to have in emergency kits or to take with you on a camping or hiking trip.
Camping you can use them to help hammer in tent stakes, dig out a fire pit, or dig for clams. You can also put out a fire with earth, cut through small limbs or use them to help you dig out stuck tires.
They’re also essential to take when practicing leave no trace principles in the backcountry. They’re perfect for digging a cathole when nature calls.
With survival shovels you have a lot of material options available. If you want to go for something old school there are a lot of surplus Soviet and Warsaw pact military entrenching tools available.
These are generally wood handled shovels that either fold over into themselves or are just small enough to carry easily. From there you have lots of other choices.
Many have a handle made from anodized aluminum or wood and a blade made from aluminum or stainless steel. You can also find quality camping and survival shovels using plastic in the handle.
For longevity your best bet is going to be a combination of the two. Stainless steel is heavy and only really needed for the actual shovel blade. Combining a lightweight aluminum tube handle with a stainless steel blade is a great compromise between strength and weight.
Is it a Multi Tool?
There’s a huge variety of feature sets among different survival shovels. Some actually break down into multiple tools while others are basically just small folding military style shovels.
We would argue that both varieties meet the criteria for multi tools. They’re a lot like axes in that their multi function appeal comes from how many ways you can use a shovel.
Even the most basic entrenching tools can be used to dig a hole, cut vegetation, clear ash, and help in building a wilderness shelter. That’s a lot of functionality out of a single tool.
Portability and Weight
Survival shovels need to be small and light enough for you to carry them easily. We know, we know, most survival shovels are probably going to be kept in a car or a box of emergency supplies.
It’s still very important that you be able to easily pack in and out your shovel. Folding shovels are the gold standard for this. They let you quickly extend your shovel to a useful length then fold it back down.
Try to get a shovel that weighs under about 3-3.5 lbs. That’s enough to carry without too much strain in a properly arranged pack. If your shovel comes with a carry pouch that’s all to the good as well.
As you can see above you’ve got a lot of great choices in the survival shovel market. Picking the best survival shovel really just depends on what you’re willing to spend, how you’re planning to use it, and how you’re carrying it.
You want it to be as functional as possible for your intended task while still easy to carry and store.
Make sure you always consider the materials and design features so you don’t end up with a lemon of a survival shovel.