When you hear the term “survival shovel,” what comes to mind? What specific attributes do you look for in a shovel meant for survival? Believe it or not, people have a put a lot of thought into this, creating a variety of different “tactical shoves” that preppers can use for all-purpose survival applications including leaving one in a bug out vehicle or using it for bushcraft.
Common Tactical Shovel Qualities
To make a shovel “tactical,” it has to differ from the common garden spade or snow shovel found in most everyone’s garage or shed. Tactical attributes include?
- Serves as a Multi-tool
- Serrated Edge
- Compact Yet Purposeful Handle
- Folding for Storage
- Sheath for Carrying
- Sturdy for Repeated Abuse
There may be other attributes you might look for, but those are the most common found in the all-purpose, compact, survival shovels that appeal to preppers.
Why would you need a survival shovel?
Some say the shovel is the ultimate survival tool. Others might dismiss it as borderline useless. But having the proper gear around can certainly lighten the load of our stress levels by allowing us to complete a task with ease instead of struggling. Shovels are critical for some tasks.
Let’s take a look at some of the reasons a shovel could be beneficial to you in the outdoors or in some post-collapse SHTF situation.
Various Ways to Use a Tactical Shovel
- Digging out a stuck vehicle
- Digging a cat hole
- Making a fire pit/hole
- As a gardening tool/hoe
- As a pick axe
- Cut wood (if shovel has that ability)
- Saw wood (if shovel has that ability)
- Start a fire
- As an anchor/weight
- As a shelter stake/pole
Plus whatever else your imagination can conjure. That’s a lot of uses for one tool!
These days, survival shovels have really come a long way. Of course, there are still the standard shovel, some with serrated edges, some that are just a plain ol’ shovel.
The Top 9 Tactical Survival Shovels
It’s amazing how many different shovels there are on the market. It’s hard to sort through them all! Let’s start with the most common types – the folding shovel.
#1 – U.S. Military Entrenching Folding Shovel
One way to look at finding the best tactical shovel is to look toward the masters of tactical – NATO forces. The NATO Military Trench Shovel is the go-to shovel for military forces all over the world.
The military survival shovel is a classic. You’ll see something along these lines at most military surplus stores. They’re hefty and will last a long time. They are great because they fold up for compact storage in your vehicle or pack, and some of them come with a sheath. Coming in at 3lbs, this might be a bit hefty to carry around in a backpack, though not impossible.
This shovel can be purchased at Sportsman’s Guide. You should, however, compare that shovel with the folding shovels that follow. These shovels are also perfect for beach days when you need something for kids (or adults) to dig into the sand.
#2 – SOG Folding Shovel
This SOG folding shovel is similar to the military design. The biggest difference between this one and the military version is this weighs 1.5lbs. A much lighter weight option for carrying around. SOG also stands behind their products and will repair or replace if anything were to ever happen to it.
Available on Amazon here and on Optics Planet here. This shovel is reasonably priced already, but compare prices to make sure you are getting the best deal. As of this writing, it’s on sale at Optics Planet.
#3 – REDCAMP Military Folding Shovel
This is another familiar design and this one weights a bit more than the SOG, coming in at 2.6lbs. However, what I really like about this shovel is the foldable head aspect where it turns into a pick. It even has a bottle opener on the side next to the saw, which could certainly come in handy.
This is probably the most affordable shovel you will find (under $20!) – available here on Amazon.
#4 – Gerber E-Tool Folding Spade
This is a very simple shovel by Gerber. It has a serrated edge, it can fold and weighs about 2lbs. It doesn’t come with a sheath, but it claims that the serrated edge can cut through ice or hard dirt. Its small size allows you to use it in compact spaces which could come in handy.
This shovel is available on Amazon here and on Optics Planet here. As of this writing, it’s slightly better priced at Optics Planet.
Now we move from folding shovels to shovels that break down into different parts. The price increases, but so does the versatility.
#5 – Rothco 5-in-1 Multi-Purpose Tool
This has a short handle but has several attachments. In addition to the shovel, it has an axe head with flat stake hammer and tent stake puller, shovel, saw and pick axe. This is the first survival shovel that I’ve seen with an actual full sized saw. You can also pack some small survival gear inside of the hollow handle such a fire starter, fishing kit, etc. It weighs just 1.6lbs and comes with a carrying case.
This shovel is priced in the same ballpark as the folding shovels, leading one to question its quality. Reviews online reflect that. Available on Amazon here and on Optics Planet here.
We now move into the $100 and up tactical shovels.
#6 – EST Gear Survival Shovel
This one is pretty similar to the F-83 with some slight changes. This one has the nice long handle. This survival shovel includes a knife, hunting spear, axe, saw, bottle opener, fire starter, hoe, wire-cutter, trowel, compass and much, much more. They claim that it’s built to last forever, but if something ever does go wrong that they have a lifetime replacement policy.
Available on Amazon here.
#7 – iunio Off-Roading Survival Shovel
This has a little bit of a spin on the traditional shovel. You can actually change out the heads to fit your specific need. Instead of having the main shovel do all the work, you can switch it out completely for the axe or hoe/pick. The tubes are hollow and can hold a small fishing kit, fire starters or other gear that could fit inside of it.
Available on Amazon here.
#8 – Zune Lotoo Annihilate Tactical Shovel
This is a fancy shovel with a ton of features! One of the best features of this shovel is the long handle; easy on the back and easy to wield. This shovel features acts as a “23-In-One” multi-tool. The reviews are as strong as they claim the shovel is, so it must be decent! The whole thing breaks down nicely which makes it an ideal pack carry.
You’ll pay a premium for this shovel, but if you want the absolute best tactical survival shovel, this one is probably it. Available here on Amazon.
Rothco Stainless Steel Folding Shovel
Okay, I’m adding this one just because it’s cute. I appreciate it for its simplicity and durability. Bonus – it’s really affordable!
That’s right, this one’s on the list. This is a tiny hand shovel that comes in at around 1.6 ounces and 12×7.5×2 inches. I find these to be extremely useful for small projects. I find myself using this shovel more often than the full sized folding survival shovel. It can’t compete or replace a full size survival shovel, but I think this certainly has a place in your pack or even your car.
Available on Amazon here and on Optics Planet here.
Tactical Survival Shovels for Preppers Summary
Shovels are a “nice to have” tool in our preps. For some, they may ratchet up the priority list ahead of other items, depending on personal needs. I’m thinking specifically of people that engage in overlanding or who have bug out plans that might require off-roading.
Like with most things, everything is personal preference. Look through the features of each shovel, look at your outdoor and survival lifestyle and figure out which one is going to be best for you and your needs.