The 10 Best Folding Shovels

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This wiki has been updated 32 times since it was first published in September of 2015. Perfect for camping, military use, survivalists, or as a handy tool to have around the house, these folding shovels pack a lot of utility into very small packages. They come in various sizes with features including screwdrivers, fire starters, saws, axes, and even bottle openers — because you know you'll be thirsty after digging that ditch. Most include a pouch or sheath, as well. When users buy our independently chosen editorial choices, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.

1. Ames US GI Original

2. Glock Entrenching Tool

3. Gerber Folding E-Tool

Editor's Notes

October 29, 2020:

Coming out on top are still the Ames US GI Original, the Glock Entrenching Tool, and the Gerber Folding E-Tool. These are well-regarded, trusted tools for a reason; each is sturdy enough to help you when you need it, and none of them are painfully expensive, despite being crafted to high quality standards. Any one of them would make a great addition to a survival backpack or kit.

As for options even more affordable, we kept the Smittybilt 2728 RUT, but removed the Outdoor Anywhere Stainless Steel. We added the Coghlan's Steel, instead, which comes from a big name in camping and outdoor gear, and is arguably the more durable of the two. Plus, it doesn't suffer from unwanted collapsing the way that some super-low-cost models do.

If you're looking for a model with more features rather than less, there's the Antarctica Military or the Iunio Tactical. They boast plenty of add-ons that might help you out in a pinch, such as an emergency whistle. This does mean, however, that they have more pieces to deal with than most, so if you seek a one-piece, quick-opening model, these probably aren't what you need.

December 14, 2019:

Because of availability issues, we've had to remove the Wolfwill Military and Vivo E-Tool at this time, but fortunately, there are still plenty of great options. In fact, we still like the Ames US GI Original and Gerber Folding E-Tool as top choices. They're made for heavy-duty work, and not just to function as a novelty you might throw in your car's trunk and never use. Both are fairly simple to unfold, too, so you don't need an engineering degree to figure out how to operate them. This is in contrast to the Schrade SCHSH1 Telescoping, which is a little more complicated, and to many, not quite intuitive. If you aren't the patient type, you might skip this one. As for new additions, we've selected the Glock Entrenching Tool thanks to its rugged construction as well as the handy saw tucked away in the handle. We also opted to add one folding snow shovel, the Orientools Snow Shovel. To be clear, this is not the type of shovel you'll rely on for clearing your driveway on a day-to-day basis. Instead, it's a piece of emergency gear that might just help you out in a pinch.

Special Honors

Army Surplus World US GI Military E Tool If you'd prefer an authentic item with a little history, the Army Surplus World US GI Military E Tool should be just the ticket. Each is a used, genuine U.S. Military issue tool, which means you can expect strength, durability, and longevity.

Evatac Konnex ET15 The Evatac Konnex ET15 is more expensive than most by quite a bit, but it is a heavy-duty option that boasts everything from a magnesium fire starter rod to an emergency whistle. A great choice for bug-out bags, it even has a compass, something not many other models offer.

4. Coghlan's Steel

5. Antarctica Military

This item has been flagged for editorial review and is not available.

6. SOG F19-N Elite

7. Schrade SCHSH1 Telescoping

8. Orientools Snow Shovel

9. Smittybilt 2728 RUT

10. Iunio Tactical

This item has been flagged for editorial review and is not available.

The Versatility Of Simplicity

They can be constructed of either lightweight plastic or steel with a tri-folding design that makes them easy to carry.

The idea of moving dirt with a crude instrument doesn't always strike a person's fancy. After all, the use of a shovel often carries with it the burden of hauling and tossing heavy things that aren't always the most pleasant to see or smell. However, the shovel also serves many different purposes with respect to construction, horticulture, and landscaping. That being said, there's no reason not to modernize the tool, provide it with additional versatility, and make that manual labor a bit easier on your body. If you have a shovel capable of folding and with additional attachments to perform other tough jobs, then the tool has served its purpose well, regardless of how you may feel about it. It's also something you'll need, particularly if you do a lot around the house and outdoors around your property.

Also referred to as an entrenching tool, a folding shovel is a particular type of spade used for digging and construction, and it can even serve as an ancillary military weapon. Some folding shovels are also capable of being sharpened and used as cutting tools. They can be constructed of either lightweight plastic or steel with a tri-folding design that makes them easy to carry. Today, the folding shovel is used for a variety of activities that include camping and gardening among others. They can also be used for digging fire pits, and they're often powerful enough to double as hammers for driving stakes into the ground.

Many modern folding shovels feature a fixed handle with a folding shovel head. Unlike their conventional and bulkier counterparts, folding shovels are a compact and welcome addition to a professional's tool arsenal, especially when being forced to lug around a lot of other heavy-duty equipment. The entrenching tool takes up the same amount of space as a stack of paper plates, so it's never really a burden to travel with or store away.

Choose Your Shovel Wisely

With a tool as compact and versatile as the folding shovel, one must think about the specific types of tasks they plan to use it for. This will accurately determine the kinds of attachments that work best.

On that same note, if you're worried about damaging the shovel, do your best to find one that includes a protective sheath or carry pouch with purchase.

For example, if you plan to use a folding shovel as a cutting tool, you'll want to make sure it features serrated edges that are easy to sharpen. If you're a big camper, many models of folding shovels offer multifunctional designs with screwdrivers, whistles, and even fire starters, all of which can come in very handy when you're out in the wild among the elements. Such a tool will keep you safe and well-equipped.

Finding a shovel with a sturdy handle is also very important. Many shovels feature lightweight, yet sturdy, bodies with handles made from aircraft-grade aluminum and polypropylene. Some shovels also provide a black powder-coated finish, which will help to maintain the shovel's durability if you plan to use it in the field. On that same note, if you're worried about damaging the shovel, do your best to find one that includes a protective sheath or carry pouch with purchase.

If you're looking for a shovel that can do it all, then a folding head is integral since you'll need to use it at different angles for various jobs.

A Brief History Of The Folding Shovel

The concept of the shovel has been around since neolithic times when humans would use an animal's shoulder bone as a crude scraping apparatus.

The entrenching tool dates as far back as the time of the Roman legion and Julius Caesar with documented use of the spade as a tool of war and for digging trenches.

By 1870, the US army introduced the spade bayonet into the individual soldier's arsenal.

During the Napoleonic Wars between 1803 and 1815, spades were used as entrenching tools to dig trenches around protective fortifications. The problem with these types of spades is that they were rather long and heavy, forcing soldiers to store them in supply carts. This made it difficult for infantry to have quick access to the tools when they were needed.

By 1870, the US army introduced the spade bayonet into the individual soldier's arsenal. This item could be used as both an entrenching tool and a weapon, leading to the eventual construction of small, one-handed tools that were easy to carry as part of a solider's equipment bag. The use of such small implements would also allow the individual solder to dig his own entrenchments in the field.

During the twentieth century and around the time of World War I, the modern entrenching shovel was developed and it made a significant impact on trench warfare. These tools began appearing with differently-shaped handles, blades, and even pick spikes for use as spades. The entrenching tool could be used for digging latrines and graves with a compact design that allowed soldiers to fight in close proximity, which was a common occurrence in the trenches.

After World War I, the entrenching shovel was further developed to incorporate folding designs with a fixed handle and folding shovel head.

Melissa Harr
Last updated by Melissa Harr

Melissa Harr is a language-obsessed writer from Chicagoland who holds both a bachelor of arts and master of arts in English. Although she began as a TEFL teacher, earning several teaching certificates and working in both Russia and Vietnam, she moved into freelance writing to satisfy her passion for the written word. She has published full-length courses and books in the realm of arts & crafts and DIY; in fact, most of her non-working time is spent knitting, cleaning, or committing acts of home improvement. Along with an extensive knowledge of tools, home goods, and crafts and organizational supplies, she has ample experience (okay, an obsession) with travel gear, luggage, and the electronics that make modern life more convenient.

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