TOP 13 Best Shovels for Camping and Backpacking Reviewed 2019

What do you think of when someone mentions a camping shovel?

Admittedly, the first thing that came to my mind was that’s what you use to hide the poop.

Upon reflection, I discovered that a good folding shovel is much, much more.

It has almost endless uses and has often been considered the ultimate survival tool – no matter what outdoor activity you happen to be involved in.

And they’ve come a long way since the basic entrenching equipment of WW1.

So, even if you’re not in the market (or you thought you weren’t), take a look at these beauties, and you just might find that you end up walking away with the best camping shovel available.

A buyer’s guide and FAQ will follow the review.

TOP 13 Best Camping Shovels of 2019

Coleman Folding Shovel with Pick

Review: Starting us off at the budget end of portable shovels is this entry from Coleman, one of the best camping tent brands out there.

Made from durable steel, this multi-use tool offers a serrated edge for sawing as well as pick and shovel options. Measuring just 7 inches, it folds out to 16.25 inches when required and is super compact and lightweight. A carry pouch is included

Pros

  • Great price.
  • Highly portable.

Cons

  • Very basic.

Takeaway

A fine budget camping shovel that is great as a backup for minor emergencies. If you need something more heavy duty you might need to look elsewhere.

Blackpig Camping Folding Shovel

Review: This effort from Blackpig packs in as many features as possible so you really get your money’s worth. It could almost be included in a multi-tool guide.

As well as offering digging and sawing capabilities, it also includes a bottle opener, a pick and a built-in compass.

The shovel breaks down into two parts that would fit in the palm of your hand. If you’re looking for something super-compact then you could do a lot worse than this.

Pros

  • Great price for what you get.
  • Multi-use extras.
  • Portable.

Cons

  • Will be a little on the small side for some.

Takeaway

Not a bad option if you need a handy multi-tool that packs away to nearly nothing. Think trowel rather than a shovel.

UST U-Dig-It Folding Shovel with Pouch

Review: Another super portable device that will barely take up any room, this simple folding trowel is made from durable, stainless steel and can fold on itself with an easy-to-use mechanism.

Like most of the entries so far, it’s not going to be able to dig your vehicle out, but for helping to pitch a tent, dig a campfire pit or clear your campground, this will do the business.

UST have been around for over 80 years making survival camping equipment, so you know you’re getting a quality product here.

Pros

  • Lightweight and portable.
  • Easy to collapse.

Cons

  • Make sure you order the ‘PRO’ model made in the USA – there are cheap knock-offs on the market.

Takeaway

A handy, lightweight camping aid that won’t set the world alight – but it will do the simple tasks with aplomb. Don’t be conned by cheap imitations, however.

SOG Folding Survival Shovel

Review: We’re starting to move into the more heavy-duty products with this entry from SOG. They’re a company based out of Seattle who specializes in knives and multitools.

The high carbon steel construction of their folding shovel ensures that it is super-durable while being lightweight at just 24.5 ounces. Even though it’s still compact, this shovel will handle the tougher jobs, too.

Pros

  • Solid build.
  • Includes sawtooth and hoe.
  • Ballistic nylon sheath.

Cons

  • Still might be too small for some.

Takeaway

A popular product from a reputable company, this has a good chance at being the best lightweight camping shovel in this review.

Rhino USA Folding Survival Shovel with Pick

Review: A very similar model to the SOG, this Rhino entry weighs 2 lbs and is constructed of powder coated carbon steel.

It extends to 23 inches long but folds down into a compact carry case. A tough pick tool and sharp serrated edge offer multi-functional capabilities, while the whole package is just really well made and put together.

Pros

  • Durable construction.
  • Good price.

Cons

  • Locking mechanism can be fiddly.

Takeaway

A solid rival to the SOG, this tough, Rhino USA product will get the job done.

The Prairie Dog Ultralight Camp Shovel Trowel

Review: Weighing an astonishing 0.7 ounces, the unique and unusual design of the Prairie Dog is almost certainly the best backpacking shovel on the market.

Made from incredibly strong aerospace materials, the shovel comes with cable ties to attach it to hiking poles, sticks or anything else you’re carrying that will literally dig you out of an emergency or help you in and around your chosen camping location.

It will fit into anyone’s hiking backpack with ease and it would barely register as being there.

Pros

  • Easily the best ultralight camping shovel.
  • Tough and durable.
  • Simple to use.
  • Did I mention how light it was?

Cons

  • You really need to attach it to something else.
  • Could be fiddly in certain situations.
  • Takes time to set up.

Takeaway

A real polarizing camping shovel that some people will love and others might find utterly useless. Regardless, it’s still a great idea for backpackers or those on the go.

Kejih Foldable and Heavy Duty Military Shovel

Review: This military-grade survival tool has more features that you can shake a stick at. It can extend with extra handles to 37.4 inches, making it the first shovel in my list to actually feel like a proper shovel.

Multiple, useful tools and attachments are incorporated, including a fish knife, safety hammer, fire bar, and whistle. It all packs down into a sturdy carry-pouch making it ideal as a great kit bag for your car.

You never know when all those features might come in handy.

Pros

  • Multi-function.
  • Good size.
  • Smart, practical design.

Cons

  • Potentially quite time consuming to use.

Takeaway

Offering loads of tools in one handy system, this camping shovel will be useful in a variety of situations – both at home and on the road.

AceCamp Lightweight Collapsible Snow Shovel

Review: While not strictly a camping shovel (although there’s no reason it couldn’t be), I’ve opted for this collapsible snow shovel because it’s still a super-handy device when the weather is bad.

It’s ideal for digging out your vehicle if you’ve been caught out, and it’s sturdy, aluminum construction will ensure it’s durable enough to be up to the task.

It might not be the best backpacking snow shovel, but for emergencies or with car camping – this isn’t bad at all.

Pros

  • Wide head.
  • Easy to collapse and set up.

Cons

  • Not as portable as other shovels.

Takeaway

All but essential in snowy areas – this is a great tool for when the powder falls. It might be advisable to look elsewhere for any other season, though.

Otplore Folding Tactical Camping Shovel

Review: Just to give you another option when it comes to the multi-purpose, military style, survival shovels – I’ve included this product from Otplore.

It includes a foldable shovel, backpacking saw, screwdriver, fire starter rod, whistle, emergency hammer and compass – all housed within thickened, detachable poles for extra comfort.

You’ll find plenty of extra goodies throughout, and it comes with a smart carry pouch and spade cover.

Pros

  • Loads of functions.
  • Thickened rod.
  • Smart design.

Cons

  • Again, might be frustrating or time consuming to find and use certain tools.

Takeaway

Another quality survival camping shovel that would be useful for many outdoor pursuits and activities.

Gerber E-Tool Folding Spade, Serrated Edge

Review: For anyone who has ever spent time in the great outdoors, Gerber will need little introduction.

This US company has been developing top quality knives and tools since 1939, which is why you’re likely to pay a little more for the standard.

While still not much larger than other foldable shovels, this is more of a beast – as it is stronger and more durable. If you want a compact yet a heavy-duty piece of kit for those tougher jobs, you’ve come to the right place.

Pros

  • Quality construction.
  • No fiddly, gimmicky parts.
  • Lightweight.

Cons

  • No carrying pouch included.
  • Pricey.

Takeaway

Probably the best folding shovel for camping available. There are much cheaper versions out there – but you get what you pay for and Gerber makes quality stuff.

Liantral Folding Shovel & Survival Axe Set

Review: Alright, so admittedly this looks like something the Vikings would have used, but this really is a beautiful and practical survival set that would certainly show it’s worth in any situation.

Made from top quality carbon steel, it packs loads of features with the added inclusion of a proper axe head that looks absolutely badass.

The best thing about it is that it can all be packed away into a handy shoulder bag, making it a great all-purpose, all-weather survival kit you can keep at home or in the car.

Pros

  • Beautiful set.
  • Well made.

Cons

  • Perhaps a bit superfluous for casual campers or backpackers.

Takeaway

A gorgeous looking survival set for the great outdoors – but if all you’re looking for it a lightweight trowel you should really scroll back up.

FiveJoy Military Folding Shovel Multitool

Review: A US company producing outdoor kit, gear and apparel, Fivejoy are pretty handy at making some of the best hiking shovels out there.

This is a lightweight and practical tool that offers so many features while being of the kind of build quality you would expect when paying these sorts of prices.

You can purchase extension handles if you want to increase the length of the shovel, which can also be converted into a hoe.

Pros

  • Top quality construction.
  • Plenty of features.
  • Extension handles available.

Cons

  • On the expensive side.

Takeaway

If you’re willing to spend a little more, this is a top drawer, multi-use shovel that will be with you for some time to come.

Tyger Shovel Military Heavy Duty Compact Tool

Review: When it comes to the creme-de-la-creme of camping shovels, this one from Tyger sets the bar pretty high. The Australian based company is famous for its indestructible tools, and this product is no exception.

Made from military grade solid carbon steel and aerospace grade anodized aluminum tubes (which is basically a posh way of saying this won’t break), this shovel incorporates 16 other functions and tools that will ensure you survive camping with your kids.

Pros

  • It doesn’t get better than this.

Cons

  • Ridiculously expensive.

Takeaway

This shovel will last you a lifetime and then some. But you’ll have to dig a bit deeper into your pockets for the trouble.

How to Choose the Best Camping Shovel

Deciding on which portable shovel set is the best purchase for your needs can be a little tricky, so I’ve put together a handy guide to help you make your decision.

As ever, an FAQ section will follow. Here are some of the things you need to be looking out for.

What is the Shovel Going to Be Used For?

Perhaps the first thing you’re going to want to consider is what exactly is your new tool going to be used for?

Only then can you take a step forward and decide what style of shovel will fit the purpose.

So, you need to understand what that purpose is. Are you going hiking or backpacking? Are you going to be out in bad conditions? Is it going to get a lot of use or just for emergencies? Who is going to be using the shovel?

Once you figure that out and ask yourself some questions – you can move on to deciding the…

camping in the mountains

Type of Shovel

As you can see above, portable shovels come in all shapes, sizes and styles.

If you’re only requiring it to clear the ground before a tent pitch – one of the smaller, trowel designs will be all you need.

Likewise, if you know you’ll be needing all the bells and whistles, then the survival shovel kits will be more for you.

Or, perhaps a happy medium somewhere in between.

Material

You might have also noticed that none of these shovels are made from plastic.

That’s because plastic shovels are sh*t.

Invariably, the above products are made from one of three types of material – or sometimes a hybrid.

  • Stainless steel.
  • Carbon steel.
  • Aluminum.

Each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Stainless steel is tough but heavy, aluminum is light but not as durable and carbon steel sits somewhere in the middle.

Remember – cost will also play a factor when choosing the material you’d prefer your shovel to be constructed from.

shovel on ground

Size

Shovelheads also come in different dimensions.

And once again, it’s going to be what you’ll be using it for (or might potentially be using it for) that will impact your choice.

Digging your car out from sandy sludge is going to be impossible with a trowel.

Portability

Now, this might seem like something of a no-brainer, because surely the best backpacking shovel will be super portable, right?

Yes – it should be.

But it’s worth mentioning so you make an informed choice depending on how you’re going to be transporting your new kit.

If you’re strapping on a pack and setting out on the trails, you need something compact and lightweight.

If you’re going vehicle camping you can go crazy and pack the heaviest, bulkiest shovel available if you so desire.

All the shovels in the review are portable (otherwise I might as well have just reviewed normal shovels) but bear in mind that some are much more portable than others.

group of people camping

Extra Features

It sure looks good when a shovel offers 20 other tools all incorporated into the handles. They’re well designed and can be incredibly useful.

But ask yourself if you really need all that?

Personally, for example, I wouldn’t ever use a bottle opener on a shovel to open a bottle.

There’s already one on my multi-purpose knife.

Nor would I use the built-in compass to find my way back to camp.

I have a professional hiking compass for that job.

I guess they’re kinda cool as backup – but if I want to buy a camping shovel – I’d buy a camping shovel.

It’s your personal preference if you think you’re going to get any use out of any of those extra bells and whistles.

FAQ

What do You Need a Camping Shovel For?

While not absolutely essential items of camping gear (certainly ahead of a tent and sleeping bag) camping, hiking or backpacking shovels are still very useful in the great outdoors.

men next to his tent

You can use them for a variety of purposes, including clearing rocks from your pitch site, digging a campfire hole, putting in a rain trench around your tent, freeing a stuck vehicle from sand, dirt or snow…

Or yes – digging a place for the poop.

It’s certainly better than doing it with your hands.

But that list isn’t exhaustive – there are hundreds of camping shovel uses. You can even cook with them!

And although as I mentioned above I’m not a massive fan of all the extra tools – they can all still come in handy for multiple situations when you’re in the wilderness.

Summary

I hope I’ve provided enough information there to help you choose your best camping shovel. They are extremely useful items of equipment and I recommend anyone passionate about the outdoors to invest in a good one at some point in life.

Please feel free to leave me your thoughts or comments below on which product you would consider and why.

Happy digging!

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