In times of war, it was common for soldiers to rely on small shovels known as entrenching tools (also known as e-tools) to dig trenches, latrines and even to defend themselves in close-quarter combat. However, because of the size and weight of the e-tool, it wasn’t always so easy to transport it to where it was needed in battle.
In order to fix this problem, the e-tool was redesigned after World War 1 to be smaller, lighter, and even collapsible. The collapsible design was perfect for soldiers as it allowed them to easily carry the folding shovel on their pack or utility belt without the worry of it taking up too much space.
Now fast forward to today and you’ll find that folding shovels are commonly used for camping, backpacking, and plenty of other hobbies that may require the use of a portable shovel. And if you’re a survivalist like me then having a folding shovel in your BOB or BOV is basically a necessity if you don’t want to be stuck digging with your hands when SHTF.
Unfortunately, many of the folding shovels currently on the market are more of a toy than an actual tool for survival. To help you avoid buying one of these cruddy e-tools I’ve gone ahead and compiled a list below of the five best folding shovels that are most likely to help you in a survival situation.
Glock Entrenching Tool
While Glock is normally known for their reliable handguns, they’ve also been known to make a few other high-quality products as well. One of these products is the Glock Entrenching tool (E-tool).
This multifunctional e-tool from Glock has a unique design that utilizes an extendable telescopic handle and a 4-position folding blade (0°, 45°, 90°, and 180°) with no welding or rivets. While the folding blade is made out of hardened steel with a durable, black anti-corrosive surface treatment, the telescopic handle is made from the same high-impact resistant polymer material used to make Glock handguns.
The polymer material is a nice touch to the overall design of this e-tool as it’s both extremely durable and lightweight. In fact, the Glock Entrenching Tool is one of the lightest folding shovels currently on the market – only around half the weight of the traditional military version.
Another useful feature that comes included with this folding shovel is the hardened steel saw that is located inside the telescopic handle. Simply unscrew the cap on the end of the handle and you have a 7-inch steel saw ready at your disposal. The best part about this saw though is that it can even be reattached to the end of the handle to make it easier for you to cut roots and small branches.
- Weight: 1.4 lbs.
- Extended Dimensions: 25″ x 6″ x 2″
- Folded Dimensions: 10″ x 6″ x 2″
US GI Military Original Issue E-Tool
Arguably the best folding shovel for survival purposes is the good ol’ US GI e-tool that was originally issued to soldiers in the United States military. The main feature that makes this entrenching tool so useful in survival situations is its trifold design that allows you to use this folding shovel for many other purposes than simply shoveling dirt.
Here below is a cool video I found from Shamar Sherburne that shows you some of the practical uses (and not so practical) that you can get out of the USGI e-tool.
A few of these uses include a platform for cooking, a bipod for steadying your shot, and even a seat for when you’re tired or need to go number two. And if you ever happen to run into trouble you can even use this e-tool as a practical weapon for self-defense thanks to the serrated saw edge and serrated axe edge that is included on the blade of the shovel.
Both the steel blade and the aluminum handle on this shovel are very high quality as well, allowing you to use this military e-tool as a make-shift grappling hook by adjusting the blade to around a 45-degree angle. You can also adjust the blade of the shovel to 90°, 135°, and 180° – giving you plenty of options to choose from.
Unfortunately, this collapsible shovel may be a little too heavy for someone who is hiking or bugging out over a long distance. Now if you don’t mind the weight or just plan on sticking this shovel in a vehicle then the USGI entrenching shovel may just be the best e-tool for you.
- Weight: 2 lbs. 2 oz.
- Extended Dimensions: 23″ x 6″ x 2″
- Folded Dimensions: 9″ x 6″ x 2″
Gerber E-Tool Folding Spade
The Gerber folding spade is the only e-tool in the world that is approved by both NATO and the United States military. This high approval rating is most likely the result of its remarkable durability and functional design.
The durability of this e-tool comes from being made out of high-quality materials such as a powder-coated boron carbon steel blade, an anodized 7075 aluminum shaft, and a lightweight but durable glass-filled nylon handle. Whereas the functionality of this shovel comes from its (somewhat) lightweight design, the serrated edge on the blade, and the convenient placing of the locking mechanism to eliminate any sharp corners from hurting your hand.
However, one of the downsides of using this collapsible folding spade is that there are only two possible locking positions for you to choose from. You can either choose to set the blade at an angle around 170 degrees to use as a shovel or at an angle around 80 degrees to use as a hoe or pickaxe.
While some people prefer the locking positions of this shovel for digging purposes, others find the traditional 90 and 180-degree settings to be a little more effective. This folding shovel is also fairly heavy as well so be sure you can carry the extra weight before buying this shovel.
- Weight: 2.3 lbs.
- Extended Dimensions: 23″ x 6″ x 2″
- Folded Dimensions: 9″ x 6″ x 2″
Schrade SCHSH1 Telescoping Folding Shovel
The Schrade SCHSH1 is one of the most affordable e-tools you can buy that still delivers the performance needed to withstand the demands of camping or bugging out. To meet these demands Schrade constructed the blade out of a 1055 carbon steel that is known for both its strength and impact resistance.
This type of steel is also really easy to sharpen, which is why Schrade made sure the blade came with a beveled, sharpened edge so you could easily cut through roots, chop small branches and even defend yourself in a life or death situation. Also constructed out of the 1055 carbon steel is the square striking surface that is located on the back of the blade.
While the striking surface may not be the coolest survival feature in the world, it can definitely prove useful when you need to hammer in some tent stakes. Just make sure to have the handle fully extended before using this feature as you don’t want to cut yourself on the sharpened blade.
Another great feature about this telescopic folding shovel is that it can be extended to a total of five different positions to allow you to choose the perfect shovel height to fit your needs. All you have to do is use your thumbs to disengage the handle lock and then you can slide the polypropylene T handle to the desired length of your choosing. Once you’ve chosen the perfect height then simply press down on the Schrade logo on the handle lock and you’re good to go.
However, just like every other folding shovel on the market, the Schrade SCHSH1 is far from perfect. For starters, this portable shovel (much like the Gerber e-tool) can only be set to two different locking positions (90° and 180°). And while you may be able to attach the black nylon sheath to your belt or gear bag, I would’ve much rather preferred that the shovel came with Molle webbing instead of the dual loops that come included on the back.
Considering the price of this e-tool though I really don’t think either of these are worthy complaints. Especially when you consider that some of the more expensive folding shovels don’t even come included with a sheath at all.
- Weight: 2 lbs.
- Extended Dimensions: 19″ x 11″ x 2″
- Folded Dimensions: 10″ x 6″ x 3″
SOG Entrenching Tool
Now if you’re really on a tight budget then there is no better folding shovel for the price than the SOG Entrenching Tool. While I’m not going to lie and act like this is the best e-tool you can buy, it’s definitely not as bad as some of the reviews make it out to be.
One of the reasons so many survivalists are attracted to the SOG e-tool is its extremely low cost. You can purchase multiple SOG entrenching tools for the same price as one of the other compact shovels on this list. Another reason you may want to consider adding the SOG e-tool to your BOB or BOV is because of its extremely small and compact design. In fact, the SOG folding shovel utilizes the same trifold design as the US GI military e-tool, but it’s only around 2/3rd of the weight and size.
This folding shovel from SOG is also manufactured entirely out of steel and comes with a tempered steel blade with serrated teeth on one side for cutting extremely small roots and branches. And while the blade may only have the two basic locking positions (90° and 180°), it does come with the addition of a pickaxe that can be used in many different survival situations.
Unfortunately, when creating this folding shovel it does seem like SOG may have cut a few corners in order to save on price. For example, the washer under the lock-nut is made out of extremely soft steel and all of the bolts in the joints are very low quality as well. The black nylon carrying pouch that comes with this folding shovel isn’t all that impressive either, but hey at least it does come with something you can place it in when you’re all done and ready to go.
- Weight: 1.5 lbs.
- Extended Dimensions: 18″ x 5″ x 2″
- Folded Dimensions: 7″ x 5″ x 3″