This 22.5-inch tool permits the shovel blade to be folded back along the handle much like the old GI entrenching tools. Made of strong, high-carbon 1055 tool steel, the blade will stand up to hard use. The shaft is also made of metal, so it can’t rot or develop splinters like wooden ones can. The orange highlights along the handle also make it easier to spot on a dark night. The blade is serrated to help you cut through roots or other vegetation.(<a target=blank href=http://www.browning.com/products/catalog/knives/detail.asp?cid=322&tid=919&fid=105G>http://www.browning.com</a>; 800-333-3288)
If this Entrenching Tool made by Glock holds up as well as the company’s handguns do, it will take a lot of abuse and keep working under some pretty tough conditions. Sure, it will help you dig a hole, but it also comes with a saw stowed in the handle, making it a real cutting tool as well. The shovel blade is heat treated and can be locked in three different positions to make digging that hole a little easier. The handle telescopes to increase or decrease length, and the whole unit folds up and fits in a pouch that can be carried on a belt or backpack. (<a target=blank href=http://us.glock.com/products/outdoor#entrenching-tool-details>http://us.glock.com</a>; 770-432-1202)
At only about 20 inches in length, the Special Forces Shovel from Cold Steel weighs a minimal 26.6 ounces. Its un-foldable design adds strength and eliminates a feature that could bind or become frozen with rust or debris. This hardwood-handled shovel is based on the shovel used by elite Russian Spetsnaz forces, so it is robust and built to stand up under hard use. The carbon-steel head is heat treated to increase strength, and the edges are sharpened to help cut through wood. The owner can easily sharpen the edges even more if desired. There is also a sheath that allows for belt carry. (<a target=blank href=http://www.coldsteel.com/Product/92SFS/SPECIAL_FORCES_SHOVEL_W_SHEATH.aspx>http://www.coldsteel.com</a>; 800-255-4716)
Gerber makes some tough, serious tools, and its Entrenching Tool is no exception. Gerber designed it to be tough enough for military use by equipping it with an aluminum shaft for strength and a light weight of 2.3 pounds. The handle is glass-filled nylon, which is tough and won’t rot or rust when it gets wet—and an entrenching tool will get wet. With a forged steel head, the Entrenching Tool is built for digging in all types of terrain, yet it can be folded to reduce its length for carrying and stowage. When folded, a pick is exposed that can be used for loosening soil. If you’ve ever tried digging hard soil with the average entrenching tool, you’ll appreciate this feature. (<a target=blank href=http://www.gerbergear.com/Military/Gear/Entrenching-Tool_22-01062>http://www.gerbergear.com</a>; 800-950-6161)
This foldable entrenching tool from SOG carries the same durable materials and design as the company’s knives and multi-tools. The blade is made of blackened 1075 carbon steel for strength and durability, and the overall length is 26 inches when unfolded and extended. The SOG Elite comes with a saw blade and a pouch, so it can be used for cutting wood, digging holes or getting your vehicle unstuck. When not in use, the pouch has loops so the pouch can be carried on a belt. A glass-reinforced nylon handle keeps weight down to 24.8 ounces, yet the unit is still strong enough for tough digging jobs. (<a target=blank href=http://www.sogknives.com/elite-entrenching-tool.html>http://www.sogknives.com</a>; 888-405-6433)
The average person would call them small shovels, but entrenching tools can be lifesavers. One thing is certain: They make life easier for the person who finds him or herself in a survival situation. They’re small and lightweight, so they can be easily stowed or carried. Every ounce makes a difference when you’re humping that ruck, after all. And that little shovel can be pretty important to survival—just ask the soldier who carries an entrenching tool to dig a hole for protection from incoming fire.
An entrenching tool can be used to dig a slit trench or a sanitation ditch, to bury trash, or to clear a spot to pitch a tent. It may be small, but it sure works better than bare hands or a stone. And because it’s small, it can easily be stored in the back of a vehicle to help dig out if you’re stuck. Some designs have serrated edges for cutting, others have a pick for digging in hard soil, and more than one has been used as a last-resort weapon in a desperate fight. So, little as it may be, an entrenching tool can serve an important purpose in your kit. Here’s a look at some of the best around.
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This article was originally published in SURVIVOR’S EDGE ™ Winter 2015 magazine. Print and Digital Subscriptions available here.
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