Folding shovels, or entrenching tools (E-Tools), date back as far as humankind, or at the very least, as far back as early warfare when combatants needed a modular way to dig. Until the world wars happened, these items were very basic and rudimentary, usually consisting of a plate of metal, a very simple hinge, and a handle. They were subject to rust, especially in the hinged mechanism, and weren’t much better than a standard shovel when it came to weight and mobility. Only since the German’s created their Klappspaten entrenching tool during WWII has the world of folding shovels gotten the notice of campers, hikers, hunters, and outdoorsmen of all types.
Modern folding shovels are made with long-term EDC in mind. Built to be carried indefinitely through the most arduous of circumstances, good folding shovels now appear on the back of every nomad and complete more than a few gardening tool sets. Thanks to their enhanced versatility as shovels, weapons, camp tools, and even emergency axes and saws, the modest folding shovel has become a staple of life outside. So you’re never digging with an inferior model, we found the 7 best folding shovels for all purposes.
Schrade SCHSH1 Shovel
Pro: Highly mobile and lightweight
Con: Extremely short
Ground and Pound: For a small shovel, this packs a lot of power into a small package. It’s too small even when telescoped to its max length for standing and digging, so it works more like a trowel than a real foxhole excavator. The 1055 carbon steel is an unusual choice for shovel material, but it adds a little more bite to the edge of the blade for easier picking through tough terrain and dealing with roots or other flotsam underground. It’s tiny nature gives you a lot of room to move and swing, even when working on your knees, so it’s good as a garden shovel as much as one for burying your campfire.
Pro: Chops through ice
Con: Coating chips leaving metal to rust
All Terrain: Start off with a boron carbon steel blade, attach it to a 7075 anodized aluminum shaft, and then finish it off with a glass-infused nylon handle and you’re cooking with gas. Tack on a serrated edge for when you need to saw through branches or roots and put on that reliable Gerber name that has been a mark of quality since it was Gerber Legendary Blades back in 1939 and you have a folding shovel that’s meant for serious work. It disappears into an astoundingly small bundle that can ride on your hip rather than your back. Outfitted with secure locking mechanisms that ensure you’ll never be working with a collapsing piece of equipment, the Gerber E-Tool is dressed to impress.
SOG Specialty Knives & Tools F19-N Elite
Pro: Aggressive saw blade is made for wood
Con: Included case is not MOLLE compatible
Hack & Slash: Utilizing a high-carbon blade with a mean edge on it, you can use this to chop through jungle like a machete, or pull out the included saw, stick it on the handle, and you have yourself a serious way to get through thicker logs in a hurry. The handle also bears a large quantity of carbon which reduces the overall heft of the shovel’s body, while also allowing the entire thing to balance handily and feel good when you use it. With the SOG name and the limited lifetime warranty that is attached to the F19-N, you can be assured that you’re getting a tough piece of hardware that’s going to be with you for many trips to come.
US GI Military Original Issue E-Tool
Pro: Meets true military benchmarks of quality
Con: Requires care to prevent joint rust
All American: When you’re looking for quality, keep in mind that the United States military spends far more money than any other part of the government. That means they’re usually buying quality (when they aren’t buying jets that don’t work) and the E-Tool proves that point. A simple steel blade and an aluminum handle make up the body. A black powder finish help keeps the whole apparatus from rusting since it needs to work everywhere from the frozen wastes to the Mid-East sandbox. A sharpened axe edge and serrated saw give it a little broader use than just going deep, but when it comes to digging fast before the enemy starts firing, you’ll see it’s the actual shovel that’s the star of the show.
Glock Entrenching Tool
Pro: Handle includes removable saw
Con: Dull blade and no mattock makes some digging tough
Small and Simple: If something isn’t broken, then there’s no need to fix it. The Entrenching Tool from Glock doesn’t do anything flashy. Instead, it just folds up without any fuss and can deploy just as quickly. You won’t be fiddling with peculiar handles, just a high-quality telescoping grip made from impact resistant polymers that can do its job mashed down or extended to full length. An easy holster lets it stick to your belt for quick draw action, all while weighing ounces when compared with comparable competitors. Lock it in any of 4 positions depending on whether you’re going down fast, or need more scoop for moving loose dirt. Home or away, this belongs in your trunk if not at your side.
German WWII Folding Shovel Klappspaten
Pro: Nearly impossible to break
Con: Wooden handle can shatter or splinter when used improperly
Deutschland Engineering: The first official folding spade was made in Germany in the year 1938. Prior to that time, folding shovels were home-grown and homemade, making their quality dubious at best. This is a high-quality replica built using more modern materials for easier work, but the style is 100% battle ready and tested in the harshest, most blood-soaked soil in the world. The blade is tempered steel which adds a little weight, but also gives it more power and heft. The use of a wooden handle tells you how much faith the makers have in the blade, since this way you can replace your grip without tossing the whole thing. It’s a throwback, but use it once and you’ll be asking why no one makes them like this anymore. Then you’ll complain about the kids and their music.
Multi-Tool Survival Folding Shovel
Pro: Surprisingly compact
Con: Lots of pieces (some easy to lose)
Survivalist’s Multi-Tool: There’s a lot to love about this shovel, though the name “shovel” hardly captures what this is all about. You have a fire starter included in the mix, high carbon steel construction, tourniquet, glass breaker, hoe, screwdriver, and plenty of other ways to put this to work, all in a body that breaks down into many disparate parts for simple packing, cleaning, and use. Give it a few twists and turns and it becomes and extension bar. It’s an axe when necessary and you have both a hand saw and a serrated edge on the shovel blade itself. Yes, it requires a little extra sweat since you can’t really unfold it and go, but the way everything fits together adds utility no matter how you’re employing this “shovel.”