Entrenching tools have been around for thousands of years, and they have a whole range of applications. Plus they have many different names like Intrenching tool, E-Tool and Trenching tool.
They were famously used as far back as the Roman Empire. The Romans Army were expert engineers and would build fortified camps with spades every night they stopped for camp if they were not near an established camp.
In more recent warfare they were a vital bit of kit in World War I due to the development of trench warfare.
They are still used in the military today and they are always evolving. Usually being made with lighter and stronger materials. The most commonly used one nowadays it the NATO Military Shovel.
In modern times, they are used for many more things and by many more people that just the military, they are now widely used by survivalists, preppers, campers, hikers, and a whole range of different outdoor groups and enthusiasts.
An E-Tool is essential kit for any beginner or more advanced survivalist, and is an excellent multi-purpose tool for any successful Bug Out bag, but what are the best entrenching tools for survivalists?
What are the key things to look for in an entrenching tool?
To understand what makes something the best entrenching tool for survivalists, you must consider what features make a good intrenching tool.
A good e-tool is primarily a spade for digging, but they have much more to them than that.
And there are a huge range of modifications making them useful in many situations.
So, you should envision the things you are likely to use it for before deciding on which one to buy, as that will dictate which is the best trenching tool for a survivalist like you.
For example, it is useful to have one that comes with flint and other fire-starting materials. These are usually found/stored somewhere within the handle.
They rarely come with a flat head nowadays, like you would imagine a traditional garden spade.
A good trench tool will have a triangular head. Which makes it easier to dig through a range of terrain quickly, for example, the pointed head allows you to break into hard or rocky ground.
The best types of entrenching tools in my opinion will have sharp edges, as it allows you to dig more easily through different of terrain. And you should maintain that sharp edge through the tool’s life, so that it doesn’t fail you when needed.
Some entrenching tools come with at least one serrated edge, which opens up the uses of the tool. For example, it could be used to saw through stubborn roots or prepare small pieces of wood for things like kindling.
The best E-Tool for survivalists will get the right balance of being compact enough to fit in various locations like you backpack or car but be big enough to be fit for purpose.
They can have attachable handles, but most come with a tri-fold handles nowadays. This reduces its storage size but folds out into a practical and sturdy piece of equipment for a whole host of survivalists needs.
Along with the size, the weight is also important. It should be light, but durable enough that it does not fail you when you need it the most. So, it is not always the case that the lightest tool is the best entrenching tool for your outdoor survival needs.
You should consider what you will mainly use it for, if it is for preparing a base camp you will probably need a more sturdier trench tool, than if you were just going out for a day camp or an over night wild camp.
Advantages of an entrenching tool
The versatility of a well-made intrenching tool is amazing.
It can be used for simple things like hammering in pegs/stakes, making a safe fire pit, digging a toilet, or for more unexpected things like freeing your car from snow or mud.
The handles are usually multipurpose, meaning they can lock into different positions allowing you to dig different types of holes at different angles depending on where you are and what you need the holes for.
Plus, the sharp and/or serrated edges will allow you to work around and through different types of soil and small rocks. They can also be used for self-defence against animals and other humans if the need arises.
It is truly a great piece of kit for a whole host of situations, whether that is a piece of equipment in your natural disaster emergency box, bug out bag, or simply to keep in the boot of your car.
It is one of those items you don’t realise how important it is, until you need it and don’t have it!
Disadvantages of an entrenching tool
Its versatility can also be its downfall because the more things they are designed to help you for the more problems you may encounter.
For example, the more angles and fold points the handle can have, may mean there is a greater chance of it failing.
Also, the more things an intrenching tool can do, you might become to rely on it too much. By this I mean if you rely on your E-Tool for too many tasks, then if it fails you then it could put you into danger.
A survivalist needs to have a range of tools that they have mastered for a range of situations, they should not be over reliant on one tool for a series of tasks.
The Best Entrenching Tool for Survivalists
Considering what we have listed to be the key things to look for in your Intrenching tool…
Our Top Pick is the:
SOG Entrenching Tool – F08-N folding shovel
Why is this our top choice?
This is a beautiful spade to look at, with a stylish dark coating finish. It is primarily a shovel, but can also be used as an awl, pickaxe, and saw.
It has a triangular shaped head made from Carbon Steel. Which we found to be extremely hard wearing and has performed excellently on various tough terrain.
The point of the spade is nice and sharp, and one side of the head has a sharp edge. This means you can make quick work of the hardest ground as well as snow and ice.
One side of the spade has a serrated edge, which in our opinion is a must have key feature of any E-Tool that makes it to the top of our “best of list”.
Having a serrated edge allows you to use the tool as a saw, which increases the list of things you can use it for by a lot.
Let’s not pretend it is as good as a top quality bushcraft saw, but we are looking at these products with an eye on what is the best entrenching tool for survivalists.
And under survival situations or trips, this trenching tool it very effective at sawing through roots and processing wood for the fire.
The blade length is 16 cm, which is a great size for all your survival needs. It also packs down to a tiny 18.5cm, which is amazing.
Yet you never feel like it is a kid’s toy, when it folds out to its full 66cm you have a versatile and robust survival tool in your hands.
The handle locks into different angles, which is what allows you to increase it’s functionality. It can be quickly turned from a spade to a pickaxe by a loosening of the latch and an easy tilt of the blade.
The size and the materials it is made from aka the Carbon Steel makes this E-Tool come in at a very light 695 grams. Meaning it can be carried and stored almost anywhere.
It can be a meaningful part of a survival box or can be taken on any quick survival or camping trip. The trade-off of weight to function is just right in our opinion.
We have had trenching tools, that seemed so light that you were scared that one pebble would break them.
And we have had ones that were just too heavy, so they limited when you could use them. They were great for keeping in the car, but when you had to carry them in a backpack, they became a problem.
Other noticeable features
- Comes with a lifetime manufacturing warranty against defects, which is always useful and gives you some piece of mind.
- Comes with a pouch which has a belt loop, which gives you multiple options in how you carry it.
- It is made from carbon steel which isn’t corrosion resistant. It is the black coating that makes it corrosion resistant. This means you will not be able to do your own sharpening maintenance on the sharp edge as you will expose the metal to the environment allowing for possible rusting. That said we have yet to notice a dulling of the head, and we have used it on multiple trips.
- The black coating means you cannot engrave or personalise it.
If you were only to own one E-tool we think this is the best bet, it hits the sweet spot of a reasonable price, low weight, but it is also sturdy and multifunctional.
We have given you what we think is the best entrenching tool for survivalists with the; SOG Entrenching Tool – F08-N folding shovel.
However, there is a massive range of intrenching tools you can choose from. As every survivalist will use there’s for different purposes, and not only are E-Tools different sizes and weights, so is every survivalist…
This means different trenching tools may suit different people.
Someone may prefer a light and thin blade head but with a short thin handle. Someone else might prefer a long and thick handle.
There are no right and wrong answers, you need to find a trench tool that suits your needs.
With that in mind, we have used and can recommend some alternatives for you.
Gerber E-Tool Folding Spade
- The aluminium shaft is very robust.
- Easy to fold out handle and has an effective carbon steel head.
- Shovel can also lock to a 90-degree angle.
- Pretty heavy at 907g, which may limit the places people are willing to take it.
- The locking mechanism does suffer from wear and tear.
- If the coating comes off the carbon steel, you will need to treat it to avoid damage such as rusting.
REDCAMP Military Folding Camping Shovel
- Made from excellent materials such as High-Carbon.
- Multiple uses such as a pickaxe and a saw due to the serrated edge.
- Folds up nice and small meaning it can easily pack into any backpack.
- At 1133g we think this is on the heavy side, even though it fits well into most backpacks… is it the sort of weight you want to be carrying on your back for multiple days.
- Due to the heaviness, it puts a strain on the locking system which can be fiddly to lock in.
- The steel handle makes it a bit unwieldly and difficult to handle, it would have been better making it from aluminium in our opinion.
Yeacool Tactical Survival Folding Shovel
- Waterproof storage tube means you can keep the shovel out of the elements on any trip or location which will extend its life.
- Adjustable handle which goes from 16 to 40 inches. This gives you a huge range of digging options in various situations.
- A host of additional features like a bottle opener, wrench, screwdriver, compass, and whistle.
- Possibly too many features meaning it can be a master of none.
- Very heavy but very robust, it depends on the trade-off you are willing to make.
- This is at the top end of the price range, it is expensive, but you get a lot for the money. Sometimes buying cheap means buying twice, whereas this shovel could last you for the rest of your life.
Every survivalist should own at least one trenching tool and they should take the time to master it.
However, there is rarely a tool that is perfect for everyone and every situation. So, before you go out and buy an intrenching tool, you need to consider when you will use it, how you are likely to use it, what other tools do you have, and what are you prepared to spend on it.
Finally, you should consider outside the norms of use, what else could you use it for in an emergency or survival situation.
To clarify we believe the “SOG Entrenching Tool – F08-N folding shovel” is the best entrenching tool for survivalists but there is a load of great options out there.
So, really the best entrenching tool for survivalists is the one that best suits your needs.