Finding the right camping shovel is easy. They are all the same. That was my attitude when I came to look for a new shovel for my adventures out in the wild. After an exhaustive search, 3 broken handles and a lot of wasted money – I realised I had made one big, bad assumption. All camping shovels are not the same, and are definitely not equal!
Finding the right shovel for camping and hiking will save you time, money and give you a piece of equipment which has loads of uses beyond digging holes. The best shovels will be flexible, strong and long-lasting. Furthermore, they will have cool ‘secondary’ functions – such as built-in saws, or cutters which make the right pick a diverse and well-rounded tool.
Before diving in, you should ask yourself: do I really need this piece of kit? This piece of kit is not essential, and isn’t suitable for all occasions. So, before you buy you should think about whether you would be better served with a backpacking saw or multi-tool.
If you decide that a camping shovel is definitely what you need then this article has you covered.
Quick buy options for the best camping shovel
Sometimes we overcomplicate things. Often, we get distracted by the ‘extras’ rather than finding out whether a product does the fundamentals well. That is why I love this camping shovel. It is so basic, so easy, a low-maintenance option which does everything you need – and does it well.
This folding camping shovel is ideal for those looking to conserve on space and, being made from alloy steel, will last you an age and then some. Furthermore, at 2.5lbs this shovel is ideal for those who are wary about weight and need something light enough to shove in a backpack.
Overall, this is a perfect option for those who want a top-end camping shovel at a price which cannot be beat!
- Weighs 2.5lbs
- Made from alloy steel and carbon steel
- Can be used for digging, sawing, cutting, hammering, shoveling
- Can be used either straight or at a 90°angle as a shovel, hoe, pick or saw
- Folds down to become extremely compact
This camping shovel multi-tool is a beast. It really is suitable for any and all conditions with loads of added ‘extras’ and cool functionality. Furthermore, this shovel is built to last, being made of alloy steel and having over-sized parts so that it can cope with even the toughest conditions.
Even with all the added extras and oversized parts, this tool is extremely compact and is ideal for campers and backpackers who need a robust and reliable camping shovel to fit into their hiking backpacks.
If you need an all-in-one camping shovel multi-tool then this is the right option for you.
- Made from alloy steel
- The shovel is only 9.84 inch when folded, meaning it is lightweight and portable
- Multi-tool functions include shovel, stick, wrench, cutter, saw, hoe, screwdriver, bottle opener, whistle, fire starter, ice piton, scraping fish scales, and compass
- Perfect for digging, chopping, sawing, cutting, picking, hammering, and bottle opening.
If you are someone who doesn’t mind spending a little more to get a lot more back – then this survival shovel is definitely for you. Although it is more pricey than others on our list, it really is a stand-out option in terms of durability, construction and overall usefulness.
This survival shovel is compact, making it perfect for travel and is made from aluminium steel, making it a long-lasting, durable tool which will get you through even the toughest conditions. The manufacturer is certain about the quality of their product, so much so that they offer a lifetime replacement guarantee if anything goes wrong!
If you don’t mind paying a little extra for a lot of added quality – I highly recommend this survival shovel.
- Made from aluminium steel
- Lifetime guarantee
- Small, lightweight and compact
- 18-in-1 multi tool option offering great versatility
- Comes with a waterproof storage pack which has room for other essentials such as waterproof matches
This versatile hiking shovel is ideal for those who need a light, compact and easy to use option for when they are out on the trail. With fully adjustable, and removable handle sections this shovel can be as big, or small as you like. Furthermore, it comes with a compass, fire-starter, emergency whistle (and many other useful functions) which are ideal for hikers and walkers specifically.
Perhaps a slight downside with this tool is its weight. It is slightly heavier than other options in this list and that could be a problem if you are especially conscious about the weight of your backpack.
- Made from stainless steel
- Includes seven different tools in the shovel extension bars
- Comes with adjustable rods so you can alter it for your needs
- Comes with a compass, fire starter and many other useful tools
If you need an ultra-lightweight camping trowel then Coghlan’s offer a fantastic option. Unlike the others in list, this shovel has only one function – to be a shovel. It is ideal if you need something small and light for your backpack. This camping trowel is light, plastic and has a sharp edge to cut through the dirt/soil – even in wintery conditions.
- Less than 2 ounces
- 5 inches of handle and 6 inches on the blade
- Very, very cheap!
How to choose your best camping shovel
What will you be using it for?
There are loads of different options when choosing your camping shovel, and the right one for you will depend on what you intend to use it for. If you are looking for a quick and easy option for those trips away with the family, then picking a folding camping shovel is probably going to be the best option for you. The folding shovel will conserve space, allowing you to focus on bringing other items along to make your camping trip more comfortable.
If you are trekking into the wilderness in rough, or wintery terrain then you may need to consider a more robust option such as the best survival shovel. These shovels have loads of ‘added-extras’ and different functions which will be of use to you in a variety of circumstance – not just digging ditches.
If you are backpacking and are space conscious you could either opt for a folding shovel or a camping trowel, although the latter is only suitable for digging holes or latrines.
A quick word of caution. A shovel with 18 different functions may seem like a great idea but experienced campers will already have separate items which cover many of the uses (e.g., most people already have a specialist compass). Therefore, you should really think about what it is you need the camping shovel for before deciding which one is the right one for you.
What material is best?
Camping shovels come in a variety of shapes, sizes and materials. The most common materials are:
Now, plastic shovels are lightweight but can be flimsy and will break under heavy usage or when using them on tough terrain. If you are after a cheap, lightweight option then I would consider a plastic shovel, but only if you are expecting light usage. Otherwise, you should stick to the other materials.
Steel is obviously a strong, durable option but can weigh slightly more than aluminum or carbon. However, it will be a heavy duty option which will withstand tough punishment.
On the flip side, aluminum is lightweight but is not as durable as the steel option. Whereas, Carbon steel is a middle-ground between aluminum and steel but can be expensive.
Ultimately, the best material for you depends on how often you intend to use the shovel, how often and (more importantly in many cases) how much you are willing to spend.
You may think that all camping shovels would be portable and compact – but this is not always the case. You need to be careful not to pick a shovel which is entirely unsuitable for your needs. If you are a backpacker and need to make every inch count, you should look at a folding shovel as your pick for the best camping shovel.
A folding camping shovel will be extremely portable, and will fit nicely into your bag. Also, check the weight of your shovel and remember that the more functions, the more bits and pieces the heavier your camping shovel will be.
Why do I need a camping shovel?
A camping shovel can be a great tool which offers you loads of different functions for your camping trip.
The most obvious function is the ability to dig holes, which is great if you are wild camping, or have few modern facilities (like a toilet!) so you need to dig a hole for your poop!
Another reason why you may need a shovel is for defensive, or survival purposes. If you are in snowy, or wintery conditions the ability to dig a hut-like structure to get out of prevailing winds may be the difference between life and death – trust me on this as I once had to spend 3 hours in an ice hole (igloo like structure in the side of a mountain) when the weather turned bad.
If you opt for a best survival shovel then you will also be getting a tool with lots of different functions, from fire starting kits to a compass – obviously these are great options which can help your trip go more smoothly.
What's the difference between a survival shovel and a camping shovel?
The main difference between a survival shovel and a camping shovel is the number of functions that the former has. Usually a survival shovel has more to offer, including a saw like-sharp edge for cutting logs, wood or as a defensive tool if faced with a large animal (I would like to stress that we do not encourage using a survival shovel as a hunting tool and should be used a last resort option if you are in imminent danger).
Whether you need a camping shovel or a survival shovel is down to what you intent to use the shovel for (see above).
I would bear in mind that whilst a survival shovel has a lot to offer, this comes at a cost of space and weight so you need to carefully consider whether you need those extra bits and pieces on your shovel.
Are survival shovels compact and portable?
In a word, yes. Most survival shovels have screw on handles which can be adjusted, removed or increased depending on whether you need a long or short handle. Equally, this makes survival shovels nice and compact for your bag, with most coming with a fancy pouch to keep everything together.
Just make sure you double check this though as you don’t want to be caught out with a huge shovel which cannot be easily transported.
Are folding shovels long-lasting and durable?
The best folding camping shovels should be as sturdy, durable and long-lasting as any other shovel. Even better, it will save space and usually weighs less than your typical camping shovel.
A folding shovel is ideal for all your hole-digging needs, but the cost usually comes in the form of a lack of extra functions or add-ons (especially when compared to a survival shovel).
My personal shovel of choice is a folding camping shovel.
The best camping shovel may not be the first thing you think of when you are planning on what to take with you on your hiking or camping trip. Nevertheless, it will become an absolute lifesaver (possibly literally) if you find yourself in a trick situation or tough spot.
The best camping shovel is more than just a tool for digging holes. Many come with useful ‘added’ extras and functions which make this an all-round great tool to have.
In this list we have covered all the options you will ever need including: folding camping shovels, survival shovels and backpacking shovels. So whatever you need your shovel for – we have you covered.
A final word from me is to remind you that the best camping shovel for you will be the one which does everything you need at the right price. There is no point spending a fortune on a shovel if you are barely going to use it, instead opt for the folding shovel which is extremely well priced. Equally, don’t do for a cheap, plastic option if you expect to be trekking through rough, wintery terrain as that dog just won’t hunt!
Whichever you choose, we hope you love your best camping shovel!
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