There was a time when shovels were only used in the gardens, backyards, construction sites and farms. Of course, the shovel had long been a staple military tool.
Except for its military connection, however, the shovel had been fairly domesticated. Now shovels are more adventurous and outdoorsy; it’s fairly common to find them among campers, climbers, motorists, backpackers, hikers, hunters, doomsday preppers, among the more exploratory and survivalist types of people.
And why not, anyway? Shovels are, in fact, very practical tools for people away from the comforts of home.
Benefits of a good shovel
A shovel gets two very important things done – digging and scooping. You dig and scoop when building trenches, getting stuck vehicles off the mud, removing obstruction, leveling a campsite, or digging a rain gutter around tents.
When nature calls and you’re in the middle of the woods, the humble shovel is your only companion.
Since shovels have become one of the main tools for survival, they have evolved in their looks, size and construction.
The best collapsible shovels are carried around a lot of times, so they have become lighter and more compact, some are foldable, too.
They have also “hybridized,” to make them more practical to carry around. Manufacturers tried to find ways to give more function to the shovel than the basic dig-and-scoop function inherent to the shovel.
Thus, shovels have combined with the crow bar, axe, hoe, saw or other tools to produce the ultimate survival tool.
But what combination exactly makes the best survival tool?
The answer to that depends on what you intend to do with the tool, aside from its main dig-and-scoop function.
Always consider, though, the materials used, construction and weight. The bottom line, again, depends on every person’s peculiar needs and situation.
United Cutlery UC2979 M48 Kommando Tactical Survival Shovel
The shovel’s blade is sharp at the tip – perfect as a digging tool and defensive weapon.
One side of the blade is serrated for light sawing activities; the other side is a sharp concave edge for chopping and cutting.
The handle is injection-molded fiberglass and nylon. The shovel head uses tempered stainless steel, coated for that black tactical finish.
The tool is relatively lightweight, without being flimsy and useless; it is compact and durable; the handle is solid due to its molded construction; reinforced flanges and the sharp blade make it easier to drive through hard ground.
It’s fairly small considering the multi-purpose uses it can handle, and it packs away neatly in a nylon belt sheath.
As expected, trust SOG to bring its own version of the survival shovel to the market with the F19-N.
SOG’s Elite 26-inch folding e-tool incorporates a saw that can be screwed onto the shovel’s handle.
The saw can be hidden in the handle when not in use, and the whole thing folds down to 10.2 inches – just about the size of the shovel head.
The tool packs strength in its 26-inch length with high-carbon steel shovel blade. The fiberglass-nylon handle is ergonomically constructed to give the hand a good grip of the tool. The blade and saw have high resistance to rust and have good edge-retention.
This is not often included in the tool’s description, but a very useful feature, nonetheless.
The shovel blade’s angle with the handle can be adjusted from straight to several degrees, depending on what the job calls for. The e-tool weighs around 25 ounces, actually very light for its size.
It is covered by limited lifetime warranty. It has a belt-attachable nylon sheath.
Expedition tactical do-it-all tool
Let’s veer away from nylon-reinforced fiberglass handles, and look at Expedition’s highly tactical do-it-all Combat Survival e-tool with a steel-secured hardwood handle.
This foldable e-tool can cut and saw wood, open bottles, pull out nails, and dig ice or compact earth.
It can also be used as a hunting tool and weapon, Russian-combat style. The handles fold on the side to the blade’s length of about 10 inches.
This burly multi-tool stows away in an inconspicuous black pouch that looks more like a gadget sleeve than an e-tool sheath.
This is an impressive tool that is not only versatile but also very well-executed. It weighs heavier than most survival shovels, but that’s a trade-off for the multi-functions it offers.
Does a survival shovel make the best camping shovel?
People buy survival shovels for a variety of purposes and uses – the very reason that the market is filled with the most brilliant, and the most absurd, products.
To make a sound choice, know what you really need. If you’ll be doing a lot of chopping, don’t buy a shovel just because it features an added axe; buy a heavy-duty axe, instead.
Survival shovels have a special niche because they are awesome at digging and scooping, and they do other things on the side – chop, cut, or paddle in the water when there’s no paddle.
With the right perspective, you’ll know what to look for.