The Best Survival and Tactical Shovels For When SHTF

Tactical Shovel

In a survival situation, a tactical shovel can be one of the most important tools in your arsenal.

With a shovel, you can dig a hole (for a latrine or whatever), use it as a weapon as a last resort, shovel your vehicle out of the snow, use it for trenching, or even use it as a paddle.

With a tactical shovel, you have vastly more uses at your disposal.

A tactical shovel will allow you to saw, chop, trench, dig, start fires, find your direction, open bottles, use screwdrivers, whistle for help, use paracord, break glass, ice pick, and much more.

What Is A Tactical Shovel

Primitive Survival Shelter
A Primitive Survival Shelter

Tactical shovels are tools shovels that are lightweight, easily packed and provide you with many of the basic tools needed for a survival situation.

These shovels will typically weigh from 1.5 – 4 lbs and pack down into a 6″ x 6″ storage pack.

These shovels aren’t just mean for survival situations either, they are great to pack for backpacking, camping, RVing, emergency car shovels, hunting, fishing, gardening, 4 wheeling, and even self defense. Anything you are going to be in the outdoors, these shovels are great to have in your pack.

The most common tools that you will find on a survival shovel are magnesium sticks (fire starters), knives, saws, whistles, and bottle openers.

Occasionally you will find a few different tools such as screwdrivers, paracord, pick axes, wire cutters, and more.

One of the most useful features of a tactical shovel is that the heads will often adjust to allow you to shovel traditionally, turn the head down like a hoe and use it as a trenching tool.

The head of the shovel is usually made of high carbon steel, which is harder and more durable than stainless steel. The tools, such as the knife are often made of stainless steel or adonized aluminum.

Tactical Shovel Buying Notes

When you do start looking for a tactical shovel to purchase, you’re going to run into a lot of different terms that companies will use in their marketing. The goal is for each company to use as many clever terms to make their shovel sound like the best on the market. You must know what these terms mean and which are legit and which are marketing mumbo jumbo.

Military Grade: Military Grade means absolutely nothing. It is purely a marketing term. No different from saying “super strong”.

Carbon Steel: Carbon steel is basically non-stainless steel, but can be a good thing for shovels. The higher the carbon content, the more potential for strength through heat treatment.

Stainless Steel: Stainless steel is an iron that has a minimum of 11% chromium that prevents the steel from rusting. Stainless is also more resistant to corrosion and pitting, but has less carbon content and is not as strong as regular or carbon steel.

Anodized Aluminum: Aluminum that has a layer of aluminum oxide that protects the aluminum and provides more abrasion and corrosion resistance.

Aerospace Grade: Another meaningless term. Simply put they are implying it could be used in airplanes. There is no governing body that determines this though and is purely a marketing term.

The Best Tactical Shovels

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Last updated on April 7, 2020 2:54 am

Tyger 16 in 1 Tactical Military Shovel

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The Tyger 16 in 1 tactical shovel is one of the highest quality survival shovels on the market. This shovel is made from solid carbon steel which has more durability than stainless steel (although more prone to rust).

The shaft handles are made of anodized aluminum, which is harder and more durable than normal aluminum, yet lightweight.

Finally, the number of high-quality tools included in the Tyger makes it easily one of the best choices for a tactical shovel.

Size, Weight, & Packability.

The Tyger weighs in at 3 lbs and when packed, is roughly the size of a spread open adult hand. Three pounds isn’t much and make this shovel great to pack in a bug out bag, keep in your survival storage, or use on camping trips. Three pounds is probably too much to take on backpacking trips or other trips where weight is crucial.

Tools Included

  • Shovel
  • Knife
  • Ice Pick
  • Screw Driver
  • Fire Starter
  • Saw
  • Hoe
  • Bottle Opener
  • Whistle
  • Axe
  • And More

As with any tactical shovel, the Tyger includes the necessities for survival. The knife, shovel, fire starter, and whistle are all great and replace a lot of gear in your pack.

The shovel does make for a poor axe and not so great saw. A good survival pack should include a good folding saw and camping axe.

Pros

  • 1 Year Manufacturer Warranty
  • Solid Carbon Steel
  • Anodized Aluminum Handles
  • Pro 4

Cons

  • Prone To Rust
  • Bolts on Shovel Head can Break
  • Con 3
  • Con 4

SOG Folding Survival Shovel

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The SOG Compact Folding Shovel is barely bigger than your hand when folded up. While this shovel doesn’t have as many built in tools, or as long of handles as the other shovels on the list, it makes up in price, size and weight.

Easily the lightest tactical shovel on our list, the SOG is the perfect choice when you don’t need the extras. Use this for shoveling snow, dirt, sand, gravel, and not much else.

Size, Weight, and Packability

The SOG weighs in at 24.5 oz, roughly 1.5 lbs, and is barely bigger than the average hand. This makes the SOG perfect to pack on camping trips, pack in your bug out bag, or literally take anywhere.

When fully extended the shovel comes to 18.5 inches, so you will need to get low on your knees to properly use the shovel.

Ideally, this is the shovel for people who need ultra lightweight. If weight is of no concern to you, there are better shovels for your needs.

Tools Included & Their Uses

  1. Shovel
  2. Saw
  3. Multiple Head Angles For Hoeing, Tranching, and shoveling.

The SOG folding shovel is not the shovel for you if you are looking for lots of features. This is simply a lightweight, small packing shovel. Perfect for shoveling.

Pros

  • Light Weight
  • High Carbon Steel
  • Very Packable

Cons

  • No Extra Tools
  • Short Handle

IUNIO Portable Folding Tactiacal Shovel and Pickaxe

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The IUNIO shovel is a combination fit of price, usefulness, and durability.

The shovel is made of high carbon steel, has sharp cutting and serrated edges, and all the extra tools a survivalist needs.

Size, Weight, & Packability

The IUNIO shovel folds down into a small 5.5″ x 6″ pouch that attaches onto a belt loop (if so desired). The weight comes in at about 2.5 lbs making it a light but not too light tactical shovel.

Tools Included & Their Uses

  • Shovel
  • Fire Bar
  • Safety Hammer
  • Pick Axe
  • Whistle
  • Saw
  • Bottle Opener
  • Compass

The shovel, as usual, is the best part of this product. With its high carbon steel, you should have a shovel that holds up for many years.

The fire bar, compass, pickaxe, and saw are all vital survival tools and a welcome addition to an already great shovel.

Pros

  • High Carbon Steel
  • Small Pack Size
  • Light Weight

Cons

  • Prone to Rust
  • Head Lock Can Become Damaged

Five Joy C1 Tactical Folding Shovel

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The Five Joy C1 Folding Tactical Shovel is one of my favorite survival shovels and for good reason.

Another, high carbon shovel that offers all of the additional tools of most of the other shovels on the market, but Five Joy takes it up a notch by adding in some simple extra tools that go a long ways.

The ruler, wire cutter, and paracord are all welcome additions that add no real extra weight but yet can be extremely useful in a survival situation.

Size, Weight, & Packability

The Five Joy tactical shovel is the lightest of all the survival shovels in our list coming in at 1.2 lbs. This makes it the ultimate shovel to pack for backpacking, camping, bug out bags, and anywhere that weight is of high importance.

The packed size is roughly the same as the other shovels in our list at about 6″ x 6″ making it easy to pack or even wear when in a survival situation.

Tools Included & Their Uses

  • Shovel
  • Whistle
  • Fire Stick
  • Saw
  • Bottle Opener
  • Paracord
  • Hammer
  • Ax
  • Wire Cutter

Along with the normal tools you get on a tactical shovel, the Five Joy C1 also provides you with a few clever extras.

you can never have enough paracord in a survival situation. The wire cutter can come in handy in many situations and the ruler is a simple, yet handy add on.

Pros

  • High Carbon Steel
  • Extra Tools Not Found On Other Shovels

Cons

  • As With Other Shovels, The Locking Mechanism Can Be A Weak Point

Pathway North Survival Shovel

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The Pathway North Tactical Shovel is unique in that it is the only shovel that also includes the ability to switch the shovel head to an axe head. This creates a vastly more useful survival tool that replaces even more items in your pack.

The axe is made of a mix of chromium and carbon, making it a high carbon stainless steel. This means that it retains its durability while being rust and erosion resistant.

With three extension handles, you can use both the shovel and the axe at the same time. The shovel has a maximum length of 32″, while the axe has a maximum length of 22″.

Along with the axe, the Pathway North includes the common accessories along with screw drivers, and a hammer.

Size, Weight, & Packability

Because of the included axe head, the Pathway North tactical shovel is the heaviest shovel on our list coming in at 4.4 lbs. But if this extra weight allows you to eliminate your normal camping axe (or more likely a hatchet) from your pack, then in total, you will be carrying less weight.

Total packed size is also a bit bigger but is again due to the extra axe head.

The extension handles are hollow, which allows you to store extra fishing wire, hooks, matches or small first aid items in the handles of the shovel.

Tools Included & Their Uses

  • Shovel
  • Stainless Steel Axe
  • Fire Starter
  • Whistle
  • Knife
  • Hex Blot Spinners
  • Phillips & Flat Screw Drivers
  • Window Breaker
  • Saw
  • Bottle Opener
  • Hammer
  • Compass

As mentioned above, the Pathway North offers extra tools that are not commonly seen on tactical shovels. If you do need an axe, then this is likely the best survival shovel for you.

However, if you do plan on chopping a lot of wood, a bigger camping axe may be the way to go.

Pros

  • Includes an Axe
  • Maximum 32″ Length

Cons

  • Quite Heavy at 4.4 lbs

The Difference Between Tactical, Survival, and Camping Shovels

As we wrap up, I wanted to quickly go over the main differences between tactical, survival, and camping shovels.

First, tactical shovels and survival shovels are quite interchangeable. The definition of survival is to continue to exist in spite of something. So a survival shovel is a tool that helps you keep existing in hard circumstances. A tactical shovel is a carefully planned tool (with extra tools) designed to get you to a desired end, usually survival.

Camping shovels, on the other hand, are more basic. They are meant to be lightweight, easy to pack and provide basic digging functions (such as digging latrine).

Tactical and survival shovels usually have many additional tools, while a camping shovel is a basic shovel that often folds small.

In conclusion

Admittingly, a tactical shovel is oftentimes a great example of a jack of all tools, master of none.

Are you better off carrying a camping shovel, camping axe, quality knife, folding saw, and all the other tools separately. Yes, you are.

But, the weight and packing space of all of those tools combined is going to be 10x that of a tactical shovel multi-tool.

So if you need to conserve weight and space, consider purchasing a tactical shovel for your survival gear collection.