Perhaps the simplest piece of camping gear most people forget until they are in the woods and need it is some type of shovel. Far too many realize they messed up when they don't have something to dig a fire pit or a latrine and they're more than ten miles from the nearest road or vehicle. Fortunately, most gear companies offer a plethora of quality camping shovels that fold down to compact lengths and are easy to stow in a backpack or RV storage area until you need them. Camp shovels are multi-purpose tools that hold value not just as a camping implement, but as something that could potentially help save your life in a survival situation if you need to construct a shelter or construct an emergency fire. Fortunately, manufacturers have improved the design of the classic military folding shovel quite a bit the last few years, and today's models offer a bit more versatility and are more ergonomic than ever before. Today we'll highlight some of the best camping shovels on the market. We'll also note who can benefit the most from each of these options based on his or her distinct styles of camping.
Products featured on Wide Open Spaces are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.
OAKVUE Survival Shovel Multitool
This high carbon stainless steel shovel is one of the pricier options out there, but that's because it comes with some useful survival gear that packs into the handle as a bonus. At 2.5 pounds, it's slightly heavy for backpacking and hiking, but you'll have some peace of mind knowing there's an included fire starter, camping knife, compass, screwdriver set, and survival whistle included. It would also make a great emergency shovel for a vehicle because it folds down to a small size, perfect for behind a seat or in a trunk. This shovel is for anyone who hates those tiny, tri-fold military-style shovels and wants a longer handle. The OAKVUE shovel adjusts to between 19 and 37 inches, which is going to make it much easier to use. It even has a bottle opener for the end of a long day of hiking when you just want to enjoy a cold one.
REDCAMP Military Folding Shovel
At 2.7 pounds, this offering from REDCAMP is slightly heavier than most camping shovels on the market today. We picked this one over some of the other offerings because it's made of a slightly higher quality manganese steel, as opposed to the hundreds of carbon steel offerings on the market today. At $21, it's also extremely affordable. This shovel includes a foldable pickaxe head on the back side which gives it a little more functionality as an entrenching tool. The head of the shovel also has a hex wrench, a bottle opener, and a saw edge. This is a good option for car or RV campers who just need something simple every so often in camp. It's also a solid survival tool for a vehicle, especially if you do a lot of driving in winter. The sharp edges will help cut through packed ice and snow well if you're trying to un-stuck a vehicle.
Schrade Telescoping Folding Shovel
Made from 1055 carbon steel, Schrade gave this shovel's head some sharp, beveled edges which will help cut through the toughest of dirt, making your tasks simpler overall. This one is a solid option for just about anyone, regardless of the type of camping trips you like to take. At two pounds, it's more manageable for backpackers and it's a breeze to store for RV or car camping enthusiasts. The shovel head can also be positioned at a 90-degree angle for more leverage on furrows or a small trench around your tent to keep the water out. It also has a telescoping action that allows the user to unfold it to 19 inches in length. It just makes it a little more usable with less back strain than shorter shovels, especially for taller people. Schrade includes a nice Polyester belt sheath to carry it while you're walking, or to keep it protected while in storage. It usually goes for about $40, but you can get it for $25 if you catch a sale at the right time.
We've been using Gerber products for years because they make heavy duty, quality equipment at an affordable price. This folding camping shovel also includes a pick end. This is a good option if you're rough on equipment. It has a glass-filled nylon handle that makes it extremely durable, and the shaft is made of an anodized aluminum. The strength in the handle and shaft allows you to put a good amount of leverage on the shovel head in tough, rocky ground. It also has a serrated cutting blade for light trimming or firewood preparation. This is another solid option for keeping in a vehicle in case of an emergency. Most retail outlets have it on sale for about $55, which is a little more expensive than most options on the market, but it's worth it in our eyes.
UST U-Dig-It Light Duty Aluminum Shovel
This is more of a spade or a trowel than a full-on shovel. Still, it is a great option for backcountry campers and through-hikers on major trail systems for one simple reason: the digging of catholes to dispose of human waste. You could also use it for a fire pit in locations that allow them. It's a solid piece of aluminum, so it's not going to rust no matter how much rain and moisture it is exposed to on your journey, and the orange color means it's easy to spot again if you accidentally drop or misplace it on a trail or in some rocks. If you're doing a through-hike of any kind, this is the lightest option you can add to your pack. It also comes with a carabiner for easy attachment. The one downside to this one is it does have extremely sharp edges which could damage a pack or other fabrics it brushes against. We recommend finding something to keep the blade enclosed when not in use.
For more outdoor content from Travis Smola, be sure to follow him on Twitter and Instagram For original videos, check out his Geocaching and Outdoors with Travis YouTube channels.