Digging will be important to a prepper. Whether you are homesteading, gardening, bugging in or bugging out, the ability to dig, and the proper tools to do it with, should be an important consideration in your planning. So lets take a look at your possible digging needs and the available tools.
Full Sized Shovel
A full sized shovel will be required of a prepper if you are homesteading and gardening. They are also handy to help put out small fires before they become big fires. But there is another consideration that I do not believe most preppers actually consider: Burying the dead. In an extended, serious SHTF situation or even TEOTWAWKI, disposing of dead human and animal remains will be necessary for both moral and hygienic reasons. So a good full-sized shovel (along with a pick) is going to be needed. Just like axes, shovels come with handles made from wood, fiberglass and metal. One full-sized shovel that seems to be popular and has gotten good reviews on Amazon is Fiskars Long Handled Shovel.
Whatever full-sized shovel you select, insure you buy a quality item, as when SHTF, a warranty isn’t going to do you any good.
So for bugging out, what types of digging tools are available for either vehicle carry, or perhaps more importantly, bug out bag carry?
Many Preppers seek every opportunity to lighten the load of BOB (bug out bag). Keeping BOB on a diet is a good thing when you consider that you may have to carry him for a considerable distance. Greywolf Survival, which I consider to be one of the best prepper site out there,
did an article on building a 25lb bug out bag. He uses the Coghlans Backpacker Trowel to save weight. This is actually a good idea if you accept it’s limitations. Light and handy, you can dig a quick hole to bury trash and waste. But for those who want or need more digging capability, there are a number of survival shovels available.
The Folding Entrenching Tool
There are a number of military and civilian folding small shovels that you can consider either for vehicle carry or perhaps your BOB. Glock, of handgun fame, makes a tough little entrenching tool.
I was first introduced to it in 1988 at the Soldier of Fortune 3 gun match in Las Vegas. I led a four man team from Army Marksmanship Unit 6 out of Ft. Ord to compete. Glock also hosted a fox hole digging contest with each team member getting a brand new Glock e-tool. When the whistle blew, we all went at it. That part of the Nevada desert has a few inches of topsoil and it is hard clay underneath. This little shovel held up extremely well. We won the contest (primarily as I was the only team leader to do a range card for the position) and I was impressed with the durability of this shovel. It has a friction held open handle and a saw blade in the butt which can be reversed at the end of the handle. It comes with a carrying case, and can be locked into a pick or shovel configuration.
The standard model of the U.S. Military entrenching tool is also a favorite with many people. It is one on the most compact of the folding shovels, and fits easily in a bug out bag.
I first used one of these in Vietnam. Although the early ones seem to have had a problem with breaking at the lower folding joint, later models seem to have rectified this issue. I have used these for some pretty tough digging over the years and they held up well. If you can get one of the military issue plastic cases to go with it, so much the better.
Gerber of legendary knife fame makes a really great, compact little shovel. I did a brief description of it here,
Called the Gorge, it is one of the smallest survival/camping shovels I have seen. It has a sliding handle held open or closed by two spring-loaded locking pins.
I keep one of these in my bug out bag and although I have not fully tested it, I am impressed with the quality of manufacture. It has a rotating hammer-head attachment for driving tent stakes, and comes in a draw string pouch. I also like the wide top of the handle which makes it easier of the hands to use.
These are some of the best known lightweight shovels useful for the prepper out on the market, but by no means the only ones.
Fixed Handle Entrenching Tools
These are generally military surplus from Europe and follow a design used by almost all European armies since before WW1. There used to be a lot of East German surplus ones on the market and these may still be occasionally found. Many will have a flat end on the shovel blade and some will be pointed. However, a current one in production is Cold Steel’s Special Forces shovel. Originally advertised as the “Spetznatz” shovel, that was a bit misleading as although the Russian Special Forces unit undoubtedly used it both as a shovel as well as a weapon, so did the rest of the Russian Army. As stated before, this is a standard European military design. Having said that though, this shovel exhibits the same high standard of quality one has come to expect from Cold Steel products. It comes with a hard wood handle and tempered steel blade.
There are a lot of options for digging tools and the above are some of the most popular ones.
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