As more and more people take up backpacking, many of whom find it essential to include a shovel among their gear, a growing number of different shovels, which have been specifically designed with backpackers in mind, are appearing on the market.
Obviously, when backpacking, it is important to make your gear as light and compact as possible and a shovel may at first seem an oversized, overweight, unnecessary addition.
However, due to backpacking shovels being specifically designed to be compact and lightweight, they are worth a second thought.
The number of tasks a shovel can be used for is numerous, of which many cannot be foreseen, and so although one may not be absolutely essential, most backpackers that have carried one are glad they did. So, despite the additional weight and size, never leave them behind again.
The Best Backpacking Shovel
As mentioned earlier, there are a wide variety of backpacking shovels available to buy today.
As with most backpacking or camping equipment, personal preferences play a big role but here are 10 which seem to be amongst the most popular.
Gerber E-Tool Folding Spade
Gerber has been making quality tools since 1939 and that experience is evident in this shovel.
With a weight of only 2lbs this spade is lightweight but although it can be folded for easier carrying, unfortunately, it does not come complete with its own special case.
Although slightly larger than many other folding shovels, this is capable of tough tasks with a glass filled, nylon handle and steelhead. The spade also has a serrated edge for chopping and sawing roots, tasks for which it is strong enough to achieve.
Although coming with a higher price tag than some other shovels, it is tough and made from quality materials and so is good value for the money.
SOG Folding Shovel
This is a small shovel that can handle big tasks. It has a folding handle for ease of portability. As well as an excellent tool for backpackers it is also sturdy enough to handle jobs at home, such as snow clearing or gardening.
The SOG folding shovel has a rotating spade with one edge doubling as a wood saw and so is versatile as well as strong. Made from high carbon steel but weighing the only 24.5ozs, this is perhaps one of the best really lightweight shovels on the market today.
The ability to fold makes it compact for stowing in a pack and is smaller in size than some of the other backpacking shovels.
Otplore Folding Tactical Camping Shovel
Although this is a compact size ideal for fitting in your backpack, it has a strong, anti-slip handle and a multitude of accessories which makes it a ‘must-have” if you are camping as well as hiking.
Its accessories include a screwdriver, hammer, fire starter, whistle and even a compass which makes it useful whether backpacking, fishing, camping or any other outdoor activity.
This shovel’s smart design is enhanced by coming complete with an equally smart carrying pouch and a cover for the spade.
aiMaKe Super High Strength Military Folding Shovel
This multi-purpose shovel can be used for opening bottles, prying, hammering, cutting or chopping and is made from high-quality steel, even its handle and therefore is strong enough to reliably complete any of the tasks.
The military strength of this shovel, combined with its versatility and durability makes this a useful tool for any backpacker or camper to have on hand and is designed to be compact, yet easy to put together.
FiveJoy Military Folding Shovel Multi-Tool
Although this shovel may be more expensive than some of the others, it is made by an American company that has plenty of experience in making these types of shovels and so many think it is worth any added expense.
Made of top quality materials this shovel is lightweight and has many of the features you would expect with the experience behind it and the price.
The shovel is able to be transformed into a hoe and extensions for its handle are available for purchase.
Tyger Shovel Military Heavy Duty Compact Tool
This shovel, which is made by an Australian company which is known for making indestructible tools, is thought by some to be the créme-de-la-crème when it comes to camping shovels.
Not only is this shovel made from military-grade steel but also from aerospace-grade aluminum to ensure it will not break regardless of what it does, which can be a lot as it incorporates tools for 16 different functions.
You may have to dig deeper into your pockets for this shovel but it will, in turn, allow you to dig deeper and will last a lifetime.
Gerber Gorge Folding Shovel
This is a popular shovel as it is relatively inexpensive even though it is made with carbon steel with a glass-filled nylon handle with rubber grip overlay.
Another factor that makes this shovel as popular as it is is that it has an ergonomic design and sliding, a push-button mechanism allowing easy use.
With a weight of just 28ozs, it is compact and easy to carry.
Rhino USA Folding Survival Shovel with Pick
Weighing 2lbs, this shovel is specifically designed for outdoor use and is strong enough to cope with most tasks.
The shovel can extend to 23” but is easily retractable for easy storage and carrying. To facilitate multi-purpose functions the blade is serrated and can also be used as a pick.
Made in the US this shovel rivals many of the others and has a durable, strong construction. If not for its fiddly locking mechanism this could be the most popular shovel on the market today.
BlackPig Backpacking Shovel for Camping
This shovel is designed with multi-purposes in mind and so can be used to open bottles, saw, chop or hammer as well of course as a shovel.
It is also designed to last long with carbon steel handle and body which also makes it tough. To make it easier to pack, the shovel can break down into 2 parts making it very compact.
Although very versatile, compact and tough, its smaller size has resulted in some users referring to it as more of a trowel than a shovel.
There is no doubt though that if you are looking for a tough but small, compact tool, this is probably the right choice for you.
THE PRAIRIE DOG – Ultralight Camp Shovel Trowel
This extremely light tool which weighs astonishingly less than 1oz is made from aluminum which makes it strong and durable.
This tool has a double-ended blade, one end designed for digging whilst the other is designed for chopping any roots which may come across. The blade fits snuggly in the hand and has an optional handle that can easily attach to a walking cane or even a branch.
The only drawback with this shovel is that it will have to be attached to something in order to carry out any heavy work.
Best Backpacking Shovel Buying Guide
Whilst backpacking it is important in order to stay healthy, sometimes it is necessary to dig holes in order to secure any waste otherwise may be blown or washed away into your freshwater source, contaminating it.
For this purpose and many other tasks, a backpacking shovel makes life easier.
The first thing you need to do when deciding which shovel will be best for you is to consider what you envisage it will be used for and choose the correct one for those purposes.
For example, if you think you only need one for digging poop holes then a backpacking trowel, which is lighter and smaller than most shovels, might be all you need.
A backpacking shovel can be used for far more tasks and bigger tasks than a trowel and so often is the preferred choice for backpackers.
Having decided you need a shovel and not a trowel, here are other factors you should take into consideration:
Type of Shovel
You obviously will not want a garden shovel as that is too big and heavy however, you may decide that you need nothing big and so trowel would suffice.
If you decide however that you need a backpacking shovel, will you need it just for digging?
Many of the backpacking shovels today come with a multitude of additional feature but these features may add to the price and they will certainly add to the weight and so do not pay for additional features if you do not think you would ever use them.
Type of Handle
- Wood is nice looking and is durable and so is the traditional handle material for many tools.
- Steel is often used for backpacking shovel handles, as the extra strength is often needed.
- Plastic is inexpensive and so shovels with plastic handles are often the cheapest.
- Rubber is comfortable on the hands when used as a handle.
You will want a shovel that is lightweight as although you may not need it that often, you will have to carry it the entire way.
Although some backpacking shovels can be attached to your backpack, many can’t and so you will want to buy one which is compact as possible but remember, it also has to be large enough and strong enough to perform the tasks you think you will need it for.
You don’t want to buy a new shovel each time you go backpacking but fortunately many are very durable and so consider reading user’s comments to see how well they endure use.
Easy to Use
Most shovels are straight forward but some may need assembly each time you use them.
The objective of buying a backpacking shovel is to make your life easier and also avoid having to carry additional tools.
To this end the shovel you buy should be able to complete any task you think you may need it for and yet easily fit or attach to your backpack without adding too much weight.
For some, the price may also be a concern but there is no price you can place on avoiding not having a shovel in the middle of nowhere when one is really needed.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are questions which are regularly asked about shovels for backpacking:
Why do you need a shovel when backpacking?
Many experienced backpackers consider a shovel an essential addition to their gear as they can be used for a multitude of tasks like digging a hole for a campfire, poop or other purposes.
They can also be used for digging a drainage trench or clearing rocks from a tent site, plus of course many come with additional features.
Can you clear snow with a backpacking shovel?
You can, however, due to their relatively small size, it may take a while to dig a car out from snow so a snow clearing shovel should perhaps be carried in a car.
What is the best way to maintain a backpacking shovel in order to take care of it?
You can lightly spray gun oil on the metal parts and then wipe it off but most backpacking shovels are made to last without special maintenance.
Why do some backpacking shovels have a serrated edge?
A serrated edge can help with cutting branches or roots which may be in the way of your digging.
Why isn’t the edge of a backpacking shovel sharp?
Although a backpacking shovel can be used for a multitude of tasks, especially if it has additional features, the shovel itself is not designed to replace the need for a knife.