The 10 Best Emergency Shovels
This wiki has been updated 25 times since it was first published in December of 2015. Like a good Boy Scout, you'll always be prepared for any situation if you carry one of these emergency shovels in your car or keep one in the garage. They'll let you clear a walkway of snow or dig tires out of a drift, but are compact enough to slip under a car seat. Some can even help with survival in the wild, since they come with features like fire starters and saw blades. When users buy our independently chosen editorial choices, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
May 06, 2021:
It ended up being a busy round of updates for us, as a variety of availability issues led to the removal of nearly half our previous picks. The choices we wound up eliminating were the Bond LH015 Mini D, Klim Back Country, Power Products USA Foldable and Lotoo Annihilate F-A1. Most of those options weren’t major losses, since our list still contained comparable alternatives, but let’s talk about that latter model for a minute.
The Annihilate F-A1 is a tactical shovel from one of the most respected names in that niche space. It’ll do you well in a snowstorm, but where it really shines is on a camping trip, where more of its implements – like its fish descaler, wire saw and fire starter – will get a chance to shine. Because it’s priced so expensively (and the upgraded model that I would've included cost even more), I decided against including another option from the company this time around, but I did identify several budget-friendly alternatives that offer many of the same features.
The Yeahcool Camping and Adventurist Supply Co Tactical can both double as a pickaxe or a spear for fishing, and while the former comes with a compass, the latter includes a multi-bit screwdriver. The Rhino USA Survival includes no pickaxe function, but is equipped with a bottle opener and backed by an unlimited lifetime warranty. All three have opposing sharpened and serrated edges on their blade, to allow for chopping and sawing, and we also added the compact CO-Z Mini, for users looking for a small option with a proportionate price tag.
Folding Shovels and emergency shovels like the ones on this list are great to have on hand, and can definitely help get you out of a lot of tight situations, but for regular driveway maintenance and less urgent circumstances, you’ll likely be better off with something from our list of snow shovels or snow shovels with wheels.
January 20, 2020:
The SubZero 17211 Auto may have a wide shovel head, but it is known to collapse in use, making it, perhaps, more aggravation than it's worth. For this reason, we've opted to remove it, along with the Tabor Tools J35 E-Tool and the Fobachi Multi Purpose Military, which present some availability issues at the present time. But there remain plenty of excellent choices, including the Cold Steel Special Forces and the Voile Telepro Mini Avalanche, a new addition. The former is simple but sturdy, while the latter boasts two holes that allow it to be used as an emergency rescue sled or as an anchor in a pinch. We don't think most users will need this functionality, but for some, it's nice to have. Overall, though, it's robust and a good choice thanks to its strength.
There's also the Glock Entrenching Tool, which has a hidden saw blade, much like the Zune Lotoo Annihilate F-A1. The Glock model is the winner in terms of durability, though, and it is simpler, which could be a plus or minus depending upon your needs. Finally, we kept the Power Products USA Foldable, even though the handle feels a little floppy. It's a good choice for a folding shovel you won't need to use all that often, especially since it stores neatly out of the way in the included pouch.
October 17, 2018:
Expanded list to include new and best-selling items, and in general made sure the selection contained models useful in a wide range of situations.
Gorilla Suprplus While this company might be best known for their paintball and airsoft equipment, they also stock a lot of camping gear. As far as emergency shovels, they've got more than a dozen to choose from, and they're priced pretty reasonably, too. gorillasurplus.com
Zune Lotoo This company's offerings probably cost a little more than you'd like, but if you're looking for a high-end survival shovel, they make some of the best, feature-loaded models on the market. Their top option even comes in a sleek hard case, and includes everything from a wire saw to a first aid kid. zunelotoo.com
What To Do If You're Stuck In The Snow
Set the carpet or sprinkle the litter behind your rear tires if you're trying to back out, or ahead of the front tires if you're trying to pull through.
You rev the engine, you turn the wheel, and...you don't go anywhere.
Congratulations — you're stuck in the snow.
It's a horrible feeling, especially when you realize that you're going to have to get out in that nasty weather to free yourself, or that you're going to drop a bundle on a tow truck. If you know what to do, however, you've got a good chance of freeing yourself quickly and cheaply.
The most important thing you need to do is stay calm. While pounding on the steering wheel might make you feel better, it'll also elevate your heart rate, and shoveling snow is tough enough on your ticker as it is.
Also, don't keep spinning your tires. If you're not getting out, trying to go faster won't help, and in fact will have the opposite effect. Not only will it dig you in deeper, but it can damage your tires, which just adds another unnecessary expense.
Shift into your lowest gear, and try to back up — slowly. Once you can't go any further, let off the gas, and let your car rock forward. Keep rocking back and forth, and see if that will free you, occasionally turning the wheel while you do it.
If none of that works, you're going to have to get out and dig. Bust out your trusty emergency shovel, and dig around the tires. You may need to clear out underneath the car, as well, in case you get high-centered. Try to dig out a path for you to get back on the road, or at least where you can back out and leave the way you came.
You should keep some carpet or kitty litter in your trunk for situations like this. Set the carpet or sprinkle the litter behind your rear tires if you're trying to back out, or ahead of the front tires if you're trying to pull through.
Once you're free, keep an eye on your engine's temperature. If the radiator's air flow gets blocked with snow, your car can overheat. Also, if the steering wheel is vibrating, there may be ice lodged in your wheels that you'll need to dislodge with that shovel.
If you can't get out, though, call for help — and stay in your car until it arrives. Wandering off in a blizzard is a great way to make sure you're not found until the snow melts.
How To Drive In The Snow So You Don't Get Stuck In The First Place
While getting out of the snow is possible, it's much easier to just avoid getting stuck in the first place — which is why it's imperative that you learn to drive in the snow if you're going to live in a frigid climate.
Obviously, the best thing to do is avoid going out in nasty conditions at all. Check weather reports, and stay home if they tell you to stay home.
Check weather reports, and stay home if they tell you to stay home.
Of course, that's not always feasible — people have jobs, after all, and bars need customers.
If you absolutely have to drive, check your car before you leave. Your tires — they're all-weather models, right? — should be properly inflated, and your chains should be on, if you have them.
Think about how slow you should drive if you wanted to be really careful, and then subtract about 10 mph from that. Do the same with your idea of a safe following distance.
Don't use cruise control if you're driving on slippery surfaces, especially if you're prone to slamming on the brakes to disengage it. Be careful on sharp turns, and don't stop when you're going up a hill, or else you'll find you can't stop as you're sliding down that same hill.
With a little practice, you'll be an old pro in no time — and then you can yell at all the other idiots on the road who don't know how to drive.
Must-Have Emergency Gear To Stash In Your Car
Regardless of where you live, if you drive, you should have some emergency gear in your car just in case your trip out west goes south in a hurry.
By far, the most important thing you can carry nowadays is a smartphone. Not only can you call for help with it, but you can also get online and find simple solutions to whatever problem you're facing (thank God for YouTube tutorials).
Jumper cables are a must-have, as well as road flares, an ice scraper, and a gas can.
You won't always have a signal (or any battery life), though, which is why you'll need more than an iPhone to stay safe. You should pack an emergency kit and keep it in your trunk. Include first aid gear, some non-perishable food, blankets, and a flashlight.
Don't forget your car accessories, either. Jumper cables are a must-have, as well as road flares, an ice scraper, and a gas can. If your vehicle won't run, you're going to have a bad day — so do whatever you can to keep it on the road.
If you can, keep some cash in your glove compartment or console, as you never know when you'll come across a gas station or tow truck driver who doesn't take plastic (and you're more likely to encounter these people when you really need their help). Have a phone charger handy, as well as some books, magazines, or playing cards, just in case you have to kill some time while waiting.
Hopefully, you'll never have to use any of this stuff, but it's a lot better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.