The Best Entrenching Tool For Survival

A collapsible shovel is a major bonus to any bug-out bag or survivalist backpack. If you think this is something for just those “crazy prepper types,” you’re absolutely wrong. Sure, there are people prepping for the end of the world or an all-out war, but the best entrenching tool has a place in everyone’s arsenal.

If you fall into any of the following categories, you’re the perfect candidate for an entrenching shovel:​

  • Hunter
  • Survivalist
  • Camper
  • Hiker
  • Outdoorsman
  • Military personnel

    As you will find out below, a foldable shovel is a versatile and necessary tool that can be kept neatly almost anywhere, including your tactical backpack, without worry.

    Benefits of an Entrenching Tool

    An entrenching tool looks a lot like a shovel, but it’s far more versatile. These are tools that have been in use in the military since World War I, and they’ve been refined and upgraded over time to be more versatile, too.

    The benefits of these entrenching tools, in modern day, include:

    • Size: Large, heavy shovels have no place in a backpack – they weigh you down. The E-tool is meant to be large enough to allow you to dig just like a shovel would, but compact enough to be carried with ease. Sizes for most of these shovels are 9” when folded and 24” when completely extended.
    • Versatility: While these tools look like a shovel – and act like one, too – they offer much more. Many of these models have sharpened ends that can be used as an ancillary weapon. There are some edges that are sharp like an axe and others that have serrated blades used for cutting. When digging a trench, the serrated blades allow you to cut through roots and foliage quickly.

    These are the two main benefits that an entrenching tool has to offer. Weight for these tools can be 1.5 – 3 pounds on average, but it varies from one model to the next. When hiking, I like the lighter ones, but that is a personal preference.

    You’ll also find that many entrenching tools have been designed for the military. Some have even been used by the military. ​Why does this matter?

    The military has very high demand for quality and construction. If a tool is made for the military or has been used out in the field, you know that it passes the US military’s durability requirements – a tough feat to uphold.

    Other Uses for Entrenching Tools

    Survivalists have to make the most out of the tools at their disposal and entrenching shovels are one of those tools that have dozens of overlooked uses. The most common uses outside of shoveling include:

    • Chopping: A sharpened blade can easily be used for chopping wood.
    • Cooking: Durable steel and metal allow the shovel to be used as a cooking surface.
    • Anchor: A “V” or “U” shaped blade allows you to use your shovel as an anchor in shallow waters for your canoe or boat.
    • Padding: In a pinch, extend the shovel and use the blade as a paddle for your boat.

    ​My Top Picks for the Best Entrenching Tool

    Gerber Folding Shovel, Serrated Edge

    The Gerber-E is a folding shovel that has been field-tested and can be used for all outdoor situations, including tactical, survival, military and hunting to name a few. Lightweight and durable, this shovel features an anodized shaft, which makes it ideal for heavy-duty usage. It is also small enough to fit neatly in my Tactical Rush 24 backpack.

    This entrenching tool features:

    • 9.37” length when closed
    • 2-pound weight
    • One side has serrated edges for digging through roots and harder terrain
    • Lock to hold the shovel open
    • Folding design for easy carrying
    • Black design

    One of the best entrenching shovels on the market today, the Gerber-E is able to withstand immense use. The feature that sticks out most – aside from the durable construction – is the serrated edge on the blade of the shovel.

    The edge allows you to cut through roots, thick foliage and numerous other materials with ease.​

    US GI Military Original Issue E-Tool Review

    The US GI Military looks a lot like the Gerber E-Tool, but it does have a few noticeable differences that will allow you to differentiate between the two. And this model is also slightly more expensive than our first option.

    A genuine military issue, this is a tool you’ll find passed the quality and demand of the US military – so it’s well-tested.

    This e-tool also offers:

    • ​Steel blade
    • Aluminum handle
    • Tri-fold design
    • Easy storage
    • Sharpened axe edge
    • Serrated saw edge
    • 2.85-pound weight
    • Extends to 24” in length
    • Folds down to 9” in length

    Made for the military but available to civilians, this is an entrenching shovel that is able to best meet the stringent demands of survivalists and military.

    The added expense also provides an axe edge, which adds an extra layer of protection to the user. Serrated edges further allow for cutting and sawing for those times when digging simply isn’t on the surface.

    For the most universal model, this is a good choice.​

    Personal experience

    I've used both of these folding entrenching tools while camping and hiking and if I was to choose just one I would go with the Gerber Folding Spade. It is durable, light and inexpensive. You won't be disappointed.

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