Camping is tough, and that’s part of what makes it so rewarding for the roughly 40 million Americans who enjoy it. It’s not for everyone, it takes a special kind of person to leave behind the comfort, convenience, and safety of city life to test themselves against the unknown challenges that nature offers.
Let’s take a look at some of the best camping shovels for any situation you may find yourself in. On top of that, we’ll include options for any budget, because there’s really something for everyone. First, let’s take a look at some introductory thoughts about packing for camping in general, and then we’ll dive right into the different types of shovels and how to choose the perfect one for the job.
Top 5 Folding Shovels of 2017
The old proverb “nothing ventured, nothing gained” perfectly describes why camping is such a rewarding, fun, and relaxing experience. Granted, there are many different ways to camp. There are various degrees of “roughin’ it”, and depending on how you like to camp, you’ll need to choose what you bring along with you very carefully.
- Are you parking an RV in a campground? You’ll have plenty of room for everything you could possibly need, to packing lightly isn’t as much of an issue. Even if you park the RV and setup a tent nearby, you still really don’t need to be too worried about trying to save space or packing lightly.
- Or are you going to test your ability to survive in nature? If you’re heading out into the deep woods with nothing besides what you can fit into your pack, things really start to get challenging, with a much greater potential for danger. A shovel may be small but it’s an essential piece of survival gear.
- Or somewhere in between? If you’re an experienced camper and survivalist, but you still want a more leisurely trip, you can choose an experience that falls somewhere in between camping with an RV or completely roughing it out in the bush with nothing but what’s on your back.
Camping can be dangerous…
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it, it just means that you need to put more thought into your preparation. It’s ironic because the less space you have to pack things, the more you’re going to need them.
When you’re in a campground with amenities, you really don’t need all of the extra space and equipment you have in your vehicle, but when you’re hiking and setting up camp off-trail, you’ll actually need a lot of the extra tools and things that you don’t have room to take with you.
The best solution to this conundrum is to simply be careful about what you bring along, and diligent in what you leave behind.
Bringing the right camping tools for any job…
Tools that have multiple uses can be very desirable but only if those extra functions are actually things that you’ll need. The golden rule is to not take along things that you won’t need, but also to be as prepared as possible for anything that you may encounter. Packing for camping can be a full-time hobby, when every extra pound of supplies is going to weigh you down and hurt your performance, it becomes a game of fractions.
We’re going to be talking about camping shovels in particular right now. A shovel isn’t always something you’re going to need
when you’re camping, but it can definitely come in handy. When you need it you’ll be glad you have it, but the trick is making sure it doesn’t get in the way when you don’t need it.
Why did we spend so much time going over the different types of camping, the weight of your pack, safety concerns, and all that?
Because, and it may sound silly, but choosing the best survival shovel can honestly mean the difference between a great trip or a not-so-great one. It’s not hard to choose the best camping shovel for your particular situation, and now that we’ve emphasized how important that choice is, let’s go over some of the options that you’ll come across while shopping for a shovel to take camping with you.
Picking a Shovel for Camping – Initial Considerations to Make
Let’s get the basics out of the way first. If you’re camping and you’ll have a vehicle nearby, you can opt for a bigger, sturdy, heavier shovel. The more you plan on moving around, or the further you plan on being from your vehicle, the lighter you’ll want to pack. It’s just common sense.
If you’re going to be travelling a greater distance, you’ll need more room in your pack for things like food, water, and absolute survival essentials.
Do you really even need to bring a shovel?
A shovel might not seem entirely essential, and it’s true that in some cases you can just use your hand or a flat stone to dig with, but there are situations when you’ll be glad you brought it along.
Ultra-portable and very compact folding shovels for camping
Let’s start with a very compact and light option, and that’s a small foldable camping shovel. The first one we’re going to review is very small, very light weight, but at the expensive of durability and functionality. The second one weights more, takes up more space, but can get a lot more work done.
The Folding Shovel Trowel Tool
The U-Dig-It by Ultimate Survival Technologies is a well-reviewed, sturdy little trowel that folds in half and fits in your pocket. It’s useful for digging a trench around your tent to avoid having all of your belongings soaked in a storm, and it’s good enough to dig out small rocks and to help level the ground before you pitch your tent.
It’s very affordable, and while being sturdy enough, it’s not the most heavy-duty item you’ll come across. None the less, it serves its purpose well. Still, if you’re serious about this, you’ll want to look at our next option because it’s a lot heavier duty, and something you can really rely on when the going gets tough. Best case scenario, you won’t need it. But, what if you do?
Gerber Entrenching Tool Folding Spade for Camping
Next up is the Gerber E-Tool Folding Spade. This one has a serrated edge so that you can use it to help clear out brush, while also digging up larger rocks. It’s a bit larger than the U Dig-It, but not by a lot. Folded up, this Gerber shovel is still less than 10 inches long, and feels a lot stronger and more durable.
You can use it to saw through the undergrowth, grass, and plants. It will also help you get through tough dirt. It weights a little bit more at two pounds, but if you’re doing any even remotely serious digging, you’ll be glad you took it along. You can find entrenching tools for as low as $10, and at roughly five times that price, this one isn’t the cheapest out there – but you get what you pay for. You don’t want to be out in the thick of it, wishing you’d spent the extra few bucks as you sit there with a shovel that can’t handle the job.
Medium-Size Multi-Function Camping Shovels
Now, let’s take a look at a couple of options that are a bit more versatile. There are pros and cons to camping with multi-tools.
- On the one hand, by combining certain things you can save space.
- On the other hand, having functions you don’t need can add extra weight and sometimes these extra features are just kind of forced in, while not actually being quality versions of whatever they’re meant to be.
For example: Having a compass built onto the handle of a shovel can be kind of handy to have, but if you actually need to navigate, you’d much rather have a higher quality and more reliable pocket compass, instead of walking around carrying your shovel in-hand to use a compass worth pennies instead of high-end and better-calibrated one like you’d get from a stand-alone unit.
The Gerber we just featured is somewhat versatile. It has a serrated saw edge, but other than that there aren’t a lot of bells and whistles. If you want some bells and whistles, here’s a cheaper light option and a heavier more expensive option.
FiveJoy Backcountry Folding Shovel
This folding shovel by Fivejoy has so many add-ons it’s crazy. It comes packed with a Shovel, Axe, Hoe, Saw, Hammer, Rescue Knife, Wire Cutter, Bottle Opener, Fire Starter, Whistle, Glass Breaker, and lastly a Paracord. Essentially everything you would need to survive a zombie apocalypse, or camping with your family.
The shovel is ergnomic and only weighs, 1.4 lbs. Don’t worry, we thought the same thing, how is that possible. We put it to the test, and the heat treated carbon steel is very strong and can surely take a heavy beating. This is one of our favorite multi-tools and for good reason. It also has the become a staple in our bug out pack.
Outdoor Folding Shovel for Camping with Many Functions by Pagreberya
The heavier-duty option is made by Pagreberya, has much better reviews, costs about 3/4 of the Fivejoy, and is worth every penny.
This tool includes a shovel (of course), which has a larger serrated edge, a ruler, a pivoting head so that it’s great for digging at different angles.
The handle unscrews to reveal a wide range of extra tools hidden inside such as a screwdriver, a multi-function saw knife, a bottle opener, an emergency whistle, and a magnesium rod to help start fires.
None of these extra features take up a ton of space since they’re all built in. The shovel would be the same size even if it didn’t have them. It can also be used as:
- A wire cutter,
- An axe,
- It has hex wrench cutours and a lot more.
- It’s a very versatile tool, but it may be overkill depending on what your needs are.
A Full Size Shovel For Your Trunk / Camper
Next up, let’s go over one more option. If you’re looking for a real work horse, and don’t care about weight or size or all the extra features, and need to do some serious digging at the campsite, you might as well just go with a full size garden shovel. It will work the best. It’ll make the job so much easier.
Bully Tools 12 Gauge Shovel with Fiberglass Handle
This shovel by Bully Tools is right up your alley if you’ve got a lot of digging to do, and aren’t low on space. It’s got a long fiberglass handle so you get great leverage while digging, but it’s not going to slow you down with unnecessary weight. This shovel includes a limited lifetime warranty. It’s not super practical if you’re backpacking, but if you’re loading up the car or truck or camper, and you’ve got some extra space for it, it’ll make life a lot easier.
Final Thoughts & Recap
At the start of this article, we really wanted to emphasize that choosing the best shovel for camping is really a matter of circumstances, and personal preference. Now, you’ve been presented with 5 different options to meet a variety of needs and budgets. Here are a few guidelines to keep in mind:
- If you can afford a better tool, buy a better tool. Not only will it last longer, it will be easier to use and a better overall experience.
- If you’re on a budget, it’s better to have something instead of nothing. Also, if you’re not putting yourself in any really dangerous situations, and just doing some leisurely camping, you may not need something as durable or reliable. If you absolutely need something you can count of, however, make sure you invest accordingly.
- There’s a certain romance to really roughing it in the nature. But if you aren’t experienced, don’t bite off more than you can chew. There’s no shame in having the right tools at the right time, not everybody has to be Les Stroud from Survivor-man.
Recap of The Best Options
Let’s quickly go over each of the shovels that we recommended in this article. Which is the best survival shovel to pick? It depends…
- The U-Dig It Folding Shovel (Small) – Very small and affordable, good for light work.
- Gerber Entrenching Tool (Small) – Very high quality, folds up nicely, also great value.
- FiveJoy Folding Shovel (Medium) – Extremely versatile and lightweight. Quite possibly our favorite shovel reviewed.
- Multi-shovel by Pagreberya (Medium) – The more versatile shovel on the list, includes a lot of tools. Great if you need them, not so great if you don’t.
- The Bully (Large) – Just a classic shovel for serious digging, very reasonably prices, well-reviewed, and high-quality.