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I have to admit I was surprised at how many uses a lot of the entrenching tools on the market today can offer the prepared person. The prices of the tools that follow varies a bit but I would go as far to say that they are all pretty budget friendly.
Uses For An E- Tool
Main Tool For Bug Out Bag
An entrenching tool is a good thing to have as part of your bug out bag. There are countless reasons why you may need to dig or chop through something small. Many of the tools on this list have a variety of survival gear built into them so they might be able to fill in a lot of gaps in your current bag.
A shovel can be a big help if you are stuck. An entrenching tool with an adjustable head can be used to help you climb up something steep. They an be used to break glass if you need to escape your car.
Those with special features like a compass can help you navigate the best way to get home if necessary. Firestarter features can offer you an option for heat if you find that you have to wait for help.
The E-Tool as a Formidable Alternative Weapon
E- tools can also be used as a weapon if necessary. Many of the spade style blades and pick sides could be fatal. That is always some thing to remember about “Non Lethal Weapons“, they are only non lethal up to a point. Technically a baseball bat falls in the category of non lethal but they have caused plenty of fatalities over the years.
E- tools have been used by soldiers as a weapon for a long time. During the Vietnam conflict, my father mentioned that entrenching tools were a very common weapon for hand-to-hand combat if that is what you had. They are extremely effective.
Entrenching Tools Top Picks
IUNIO Military Portable Folding Shovel
Gerber E-Tool Folding Spade, Serrated Edge
FiveJoy Military Folding Shovel Multitool
CHINLIN Entrenching Tool
The Chinlin Entrenching Tool folds up to a small size and fits into a sheath that can be attached easily to a pack or a tactical belt if you prefer. Any pack utilizing the Molle system would work great with this quality entrenching tool.
- High alloy steel with surface rust prevention coating
- 0.07 inch shovel board thickness offers the strength you need without being bulky.
- Hammer function is capable of breaking glass. From what I could gather, the hammer is strong enough to drive a few nail or break auto glass
- Acts as a shovel, hoe, or pick depending on what position you set the shovel too.
- Emergency whistle can be used to send a distress signal or help deter wildlife
- Pick can be used to scale fish
SOG Folding Shovel High Carbon Steel Handle
This entrenching tool is for you SOG fans out there. Like a lot of SOG products, you are getting a lot of tool for very little money.
- Overall length: 18.25-inches
- Weight: 24.5 ounces
- Lifetime Warranty
- Folds up for easy carry and storage
- Serrated side can be used as a saw.
- Blade can be rotated 90 degrees to function as a pick or hoe
Gerber E-Tool Folding Spade Serrated Edge
I have been pretty happy with the Gerber products I have owned over the years. They normally do a good job of offering a strong product that even those on a tight budget can afford. Our Gerber hatchet and knife combo has been with us for more than 12 years and is still going strong.
This e-tool offers a strong blade with wide serration on one side. You can rotate the head to use it as a hoe. I like the shape of the handle because the triangle design offers more strength and you can hang up your shovel to get it briefly out of the way.
This shovel does not come with a sheath included so you need to purchase one separately if you care to use a sheath with any regularity. I recommend getting one because these types of tools can cause damage when just thrown in a bag. The sheath below will fit.
GI Military MOLLE II Entrenching Tool Cover
Iunio Military Portable Folding Shovel and Pickax
The graphic below pretty much sums up the many uses of this tactical entrenching tool. I like that the head can be positioned at several angles depending on what you are doing. The saw function looks a little easier to use then some shovels that just expect you to use a rough serrated edge if necessary.
You could actually saw through a smaller sapling pretty fast with this but like any tool I would check it out and see how sharp it is straight from the factory.
You can use a serrated knife sharpener to make it more useful. I have found that a lot of tools come fairly dull from the factory. I imagine part of this is a liability issue with companies concerned they will get in trouble for selling you something too sharp. If you sharpen it yourself, they are not liable.
Cold Steel 92SFS Special Forces Shovel
This is the most basic little shovel on the list. For those that just want a small basic shovel with a traditional wood handle, Cold Steel delivers. Personally, I think it costs a bit for the functionality you get. This shovel doesn’t have an option for changing it into a hoe or anything like that.
It really is just a small quality made shovel with a sheath. It does not break down to a smaller size. While this e- tool is not for me, I think this list of entrenching tools should have one quality option for those that really just want a small shovel.
FiveJoy Military Folding Shovel
This is a mean looking little shovel in a way. The sharp spade tip and serrated side can be used for cutting or chipping away at wood or a variety of other materials.
Here are a few more of the standout features of this quality entrenching tool:
- Ruler on side of shovel.
- Spade can be adjusted to 40°, 90° or 180° angle and used as a hook, hoe or shovel.
- Hidden rescue knife and saw in the handle
- Emergency whistle, fire starter (magnesium rod), and bottle opener helps you be even more prepared for a survival situation.
- Weighs only 1.2 lbs making it a tool that offers a lot of function without weighing you down
- Good value for what you are getting. While this is one of the more expansive entrenching tools in this post, it is made of high-quality solid Carbon Steel (Blade and Knife) and Aerospace Grade Aluminum (Knife) so it is very strong despite the low weight.
- Includes a paracord lanyard because you never know when you might need some cordage when out in the bush.
- Sheath and included strap can be used to carry or attach this tool to your bag for easy access.
Bluedreams Multi-function Military Folding Shovel
The Bluedrams e- tool offers a beefy solution for those that want a very solid handle and some weight to the spade end. At 2.65 lbs, this tool may not be the best choice for those wanting to go light when packing up. For an emergency tool for a car, utility vehicle, or bug out location where you have staged supplies, it is a tool that will serve you well.
- 20.87 inches overall
- Functions as a hammer, axe, saws, shovel , or hoe
- Strong and sharp survival knife/saw in handle
- A compass, magnesium rod flint, wire cutter, whistle, ruler, and bottle opener round out the survival tools that this tool can be used for
- Carbide tip glass breaker
- Heavy duty tactical bag with strap for carrying across your shoulder. The bag appears to be made in a Molle style for attaching to a pack or tactical belt if desired. With the shovel weighing 2.65 lbs, it is not the best for belt carry.
- Made of strong stainless steel and aluminum
Wohous Military Folding Shovel
This tool first off is the heaviest one on the list. If you don’t need it for packing then this is a reasonable option that has a lot of features. It has a long length that may be more comfortable for some users.
- Heavy duty shovel works as an axe blade and also features a serrated edge.
- Handle contains an emergency whistle, magnesium fire starting rod, and survival knife. It appears the survival knife also features a spork for meals and a bottle opener
- Has a handy screwdriver
- 3.2 lbs total weight and an overall length of 26 inches
- Non slip handle
- Lifetime Warranty
- Carbon steel for strength and easy sharpening
Overmont Military Multi Purpose Tool
For the price this is a tough entrenching tool to beat. The handle can be adjusted to a length of 15.7 inches to just over 29 inches by detaching or adding some of the tool sections on. I like that it has such a range of lengths so you can have a shovel or hoe that is more comfortable to use. There are also times when you have to work in a smaller space and a shorter handle allows it to happen more easily.
- Made of carbon steel and aviation aluminum for strength and ease of sharpening if needed. This tool will not take as long to sharpen as stainless steel.
- Compass in handle
- Blade sheath and tactical pouch with strap allows for wearing on a belt, attached to a pack, or over your shoulder.
- Magnesium firestarter rod, bottle opener, knife, and saw make this a very useful tool for a lot of survival situations
- Adjustable head can be put into position for use as a hoe or to aid in climbing out of a ravine even
- Emergency glass breaker tip
Columbia River Knife and Tool Trencher Folding Shovel
Columbia River Knife and Tool delivers the same high quality with this entrenching shovel as they do with their knives and hatchets. This is another company that has been part of my household for a long time. There are CRKT products in our house that have been in pretty constant service for 14 years or more.
- Saw blade and a well beveled edge make this a useful entrenching tool for cutting if necessary
- Head can be put in three positions so it is useful as a hoe too. The threaded locking color allows you to securely lock your shovel into position for a solid feel and no warping or loosening under tough conditions.
- Handle is made of a blend of steel and polypropylene. The thickness and strength of this handle is something that is immediately noticeable, especially when compared to other brands of entrenching tools in the same price range.
- Comes with a heavy duty sheath that will stand the test of time
- Measures 20 3/4″ folded, and 27 1/2″ fully extended
- Features a wirecutter
Get Out And Practice With Your New E-Tool
A quality tool is important when learning and gaining skills but no tool can make up for a total lack of experience.
You do not want the first time you get out your e- tool to be during a survival or emergency situation. It is best to learn how to use a tool during calm times so you can be on top of your game in a more dire situation.
Take it out in the woods or the yard and use it. Make a point to know all the various functions and take note of anything you need to do like sharpen an edge.
Some of the e- tools above have a lot of different parts and functions to familiarize yourself with while others really are just a small foldable shovel, hoe, and pick that just require adjusting the head position.
Do you have a favorite e- tool that we didn’t mention? Do you have any experience with the tools mentioned? Any stories about when an entrenching tool helped you out? Did I miss any uses for these handy tools?
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5 Responses to “Best Entrenching Tools For The Prepared”
As a U.S. Paratrooper for 24 years, I believe I can speak with a little authority on E-tools and agree with the contributors above. (KISS) Keep it simple stupid! Avoid all the bells and whistles. This is a tool for digging holes and chopping/cutting roots…nothing else! If I’m going out for a hike, a hunt or on a patrol, I’m not going to grab an E-tool pouch as my survival kit. That may be good as part of an aircraft kit but not on my back!
The Tri-Fold G.I. is excellent and I’ve never seen a broken one.
The older wood handle G.I. is very good BUT… I have broken a handle on them (the spade/pick version). Yes, the handle is replaceable but not very quickly at the time you’re using it.
I’ve read good reviews about the Russian E-tool but have never used one. (another one with a wood handle) The solid straight handle is something I wouldn’t want to have to carry on my ruck if I could avoid it or had a folding model to choose instead.
I have at least three of the issue G.I tri-folds, 2 Ames and 1 Gerber (US made), a couple of the WWII wood handled (in my WWII collection but would use them if needed) and I wouldn’t hesitate using any of those that I have but what I carried for 15 years, but only when I had too…lol (and its not listed above) is… the Glock E-tool. It’s half the weight, the temper of the spade is excellent (have never bent the tip) and it comes with a root saw in the hollow handle. My only complaint with the Glock is that the root saw is supposed to be ‘plugged’ into the hollow handle to use, which is very awkward. The saw doesn’t have a handle, only a short plug, so using it w/out the E-tool, you must wear a glove for a comfortable grip, which you should have as part of your kit anyways. Other than that it’s a great tool.
The best entrenching tool is a post WW2 style with the shovel and pick head. Just check the wooden handle – these can be replaced if needed.
Some FYI on US GI entrenching tools, The 1st GI early WW2 folding entrenching tools do not have a pick head on them. Any US GI entrenching tool with a pick head on it is very late WW2 and post WW2. The new tri-fold entrenching tools are not as good as the old design. So I would look for a real US GI entrenching tool with the pick head and wood handle and cover. They can be cleaned up, edges and shovel edge re-sharpened to remove nicks and repainted.
I have a 1960’s GI entrenching tool. basic shovel and pick head and canvas cover. It cost me $12.00 at a yard sale. I used a file to sharpen one edge to use as a chopping edge and cleaned up all the nicks on the shovel edge. I also have a Swiss Army shovel too. That one is close to the Cold Steel shovel but much thicker steel. After filing and sharpening it is a good tool/weapon to have in your gear.
If you read the history of WW 1 trench warfare you will find a very feared weapon in hand to hand trench fighting was a shortened sharpened shovel.
Here’s the thing…..let’s talk ‘entrenching tool’, which more appropriately today should be known as, a little shovel. Now….a few points. Point one; the more points of assembly/disassembly/attachment, the more points of potential tool failure. Point two; the more ‘functions’ you begin to rely on from one tool, the more danger you are in to fail at many functions….with the loss (intentional/unintentional/accidental), of one tool. Yes, redundancy is survival….yes, multiple options to accomplish one task is important but, putting all your eggs in one basket, so to speak, could leave you starving.. Stick with a BASIC but effective shovel…entrenching tool if you prefer…..but make it a good rugged and solid one! CARRY ON..
I really enjoy reading Samantha’s articles, I look forward to reading them and all the articles this site has to offer; please keep up the great work! Now regarding the “best” e-tools, I must agree with the previous post reply that simple to me is better. I don’t need a whistle and compass on my e-tool. They are in my kit. It really is hard to beat a good old G.I. themed e-tool. Just my opinion. Thanks again for your wonderful work! J.J.