Gear Review: SOG F08-N Entrenching Tool

IMG_0482   “Well, THAT’S gotta be too good to be true.” I thought. I was searching Amazon for a good Entrenching Tool, a small collapsible shovel, for my BOB/truck. I was really looking for a Glock E-Tool, but as I was scrolling through the results, this baby popped up for a mere $9 plus shipping. It was an SOG F08-N E-tool, and it looked like a pretty decent piece of gear for the money. SOG Knives  have always been pretty decent blades for the money, and I know they generally don’t put out crap. So, knowing that, I added the SOG E-tool to my shopping cart, and had it winging my way in no time. I figured for $14 all tolled, even if the thing sucked I wasn’t out too much money. I arrived a couple days later, and I was reasonably impressed. The first thing you notice is the size. It’s pretty damn tiny. All folded up, it’s really not much bigger than a package of ramen noodles, and it only weighs 1 1/4 lbs. All unfolded, it it is 18 1/4″ long. Not huge, (GI E-tools are much bigger), but a good useful size. IMG_0485   The shovel part is stamped steel, sporting a really kinda useless-looking root saw serrations on one side, and a pick-axe that can be deployed opposite the shovel. The shaft of the handle is aluminum tubing, the locking collar ring is plastic, and the handle is rolled steel, very well made. The hardware is all zinc-coated washers, nuts, and nylon lock bolts (and therefore not optimal for long-term corrosion resistance…I will likely change these out with stainless hardware.). The case it comes with is very cheap nylon, with what passes for a belt loop on the back. I’m guessing it won’t exactly hold up as long as the E-tool will. But what do you want for $9? IMG_0483   I wanted to put it through its paces. This was NOT a tool I would keep with me for digging trenches and foxholes; and believe me, it’s not gonna hold up to that. But, within its ruggedness niche, it should be perfect for what I wanted: a tool to fill sand buckets and sandbags, to dig out a stuck car or truck…not fighting zombies and excavating.   1   With tons of melting snow and freezing runoff, I needed to go to the town sand shack and get some sand for traction aid. So I grabbed a coupla buckets and the E-tool for its first test. I know it’s not a big one, but it would be pretty approximate for a planned job. It worked great, even chunking through the semi-frozen sand with no hassles. Now I know I could be the most badass sand castle builder on the beach!   I got home deployed the sand on the walkways with it, and noticed that one of our snow shovels had been frozen into a snowbank, where melting roof snow runoff had created a 12″ thick swatch of ice in front of my house…and MAN, was that snow shovel stuck. Next test! I loosened the lock collar, turned the E-tool shovel blade 90 degrees, and pulled out the pickaxe blade. With a snugging up on the lock collar, we were good to go. I used the E-tool to chip away the ice rather forcefully…wouldn’t be much of a test if I babied it, right? 2   3   In not much time at all, I had a lovely collection of ice chips (who brought the whiskey?)  and a freed snow shovel. The handle wasn’t really optimal for pick-axe duty, with no real place to grip it comfortably, so I had to grasp it where the handle met the shaft, and it lessened the leverage I had with my swing. But It worked pretty well. The pick-axe attachment proved plenty rugged for chipping away roughly a cubic foot of ice. 4   So, all in all, it seems like a pretty decent piece of emergency gear, especially considering what I paid. It’s not a seriously rugged do-all E-tool like the old-school GI ones, but as an emergency stow-away piece of gear for a Bug Out Bag that doesn’t take up much room at all, it certainly has a welcome spot.  The lock collar doesn’t seem like it would hold up to a ton of tightening, so I really just snugged things up…and like I said, I’d much rather have stainless hardware on an emergency tool. But digging out stuck vehicles or making a snow shelter would be no problem for this SOG E-tool, so it’ll stay right in my BOB. Good gear is always welcome there.   Do you guys run an E-tool in your Grab N Go gear? What do you keep with your for digging purposes?   Stay safe! -TRW

12 comments… add one
  • Michael March 17, 2014, 10:52 am

    I keep a Glock E-tool in my car. It stows away nicely in the same compartment as my car jack.

    I had to do a little work in the shovels edge on a grinder, but other than that it seems reasonably well made. It’s just there to help dig out a stuck car and should work fine for that.

  • smokechecktim March 17, 2014, 11:25 am

    I have a german surplus trenching tool with wooden handle that stays in the truck. All heavy metal construction not exactly a lite tool.

  • ThatGuyinCA March 17, 2014, 11:45 am

    In my car I keep a 17″ D handled 8″ wide blade shovel (living in CA I rarely ever need it but I keep it in there just in case). I’ve been backpacking with it before as well (strapped to the outside of my pack). Yeah it adds a little extra weight but not that much and it gets the job done better than any folder and is a hell of a lot tougher (and more durable). I’m not anti-folder, there are some good ones out there but I just found that they are only necessary when space is REALLY limited. It doesn’t hinder movement much more than wearing the full fullsized pack. It is sized perfect for my full sized backpack but it does seem a little big for the GHB and does hinder movement a little more than just the full GHB bag itself. Maybe I’ll downsize for the GHB but I don’t think I’ll be going folder.

  • irishdutchuncle March 17, 2014, 12:23 pm

    I think it would be just right for digging “cat holes”, or a snow cave…
    worth the price, even without the pick.
    for the car, I’d want a real e-tool. (German or US MILSURP)
    in my experience, I have been able to move more dirt, and hard packed snow with the handle bent, as opposed to a straight shovel.
    (of course YMMV)

    • irishdutchuncle March 17, 2014, 1:06 pm

      …for “Grab N Go” use I’m still undecided.
      I had a garden trowel in my “day hike bag”. I was given (Christmas gift) a tool similar to this one, but not “heavy duty”. one version of these has a pruning saw in the hollow handle. (might have been Gerber or Glock, I can’t remember)
      the tri-fold shovels in regular stores look like complete junk. (worse than useless, in a real emergency)
      some guys are fans of the “spetznaz”, I haven’t tried one yet.

      • Michael March 17, 2014, 2:53 pm

        I had one of the junky tri-folders. And yep, they are junk.

  • j.r. guerra in s. tx. March 17, 2014, 1:58 pm

    Those E-tools are just the thing for filling sandbags when alone, their small size make it easy to manipulate when filled. Larger shovels throw sand around the mouth of bag, so you are fighting the size of the shovel holding the bag mouth and get fatigued easier.

    I own a folding E-tool (Stansport ?), but the collar rusted very quickly and folding it got to be a real hassle. Yes – I was (am?) lazy. Take the time to clean out the hinged areas out and oil them after using it – much easier.

    Irishdutchuncle, I can recommend the CS Spetnatz without reservation. Pretty tough little non folding tool, I screwed a steel washer onto the handle end for impact use if it comes to that. I saw some Youtube video of someone drilling the handle end it out for small kit – hmmm, not sure how that will work long term.

    • irishdutchuncle March 17, 2014, 3:03 pm

      thanks j.r., I’ll look into it.
      I know the Russians are experts in the use of the spetnatz as a weapon. I never had a lot of upper body strength so I believe the extra length of the the US e-tool makes it easier for me to swing.

  • R.C. March 17, 2014, 3:08 pm

    I bought a Gerber E-tool once with a paddle/oar type handle on it. Went to dig in the dirt to give it a run, and SNAP! Needless to say, I have been without an E-tool since then.

    That was until recently when I found a sale on the triangle handled, tri-fold e-tool for $5. I bought 2. Completely made in china, but I will suck it up, and if they fail during one of my excursions, I will probably end up buying the non-folding Cold Steel e-tool. I should have just bought them, but I always think to myself “If I can just get by…” instead of “buy the better one the first time around, save yourself the heartache later. LOL

  • Chuck Findlay March 18, 2014, 11:31 pm

    I don’t backpack any more so that looks too small to be nearly as useful as the regular military folding shovel that I keep in the truck.

    For digging a hole in the wild I use a Cold Steel Bushman, it’s only $23.00 and as tough as they come. and it adapts to a longer handle if I need it to.


  • Trinity Groen May 29, 2016, 10:53 am

    Serviceable discussion . Incidentally , if your business requires to rearrange two PDF files , my assistant ran across text here

  • Christopher January 1, 2017, 5:37 pm

    The SOG e-tool is decent, but I’d rather get the Glock, or a non-folding shovel if I was ‘serious’ about a shovel. For $9 plus shipping, I don’t think SOG can be beat, but that was obviously a special sale. If I had to go for a folding shovel (e-tool), Glock would be my first choice. If you were going for a U.S. made e-tool, try to find an older AMES tri-fold. The newer ones are not as well made.


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