Trowels and Shovels for Backpacking

Discussion in 'Backpacking' started by Faiaoga, Jan 22, 2013.

  1. Faiaoga

    Faiaoga Guide

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    I ran across what may be a useful and inexpensive trowelt for lightweight backpacking and camping. For only $1.49 at the local K-Mart, I picked up a garden trowel to throw into my ALICE pack that sits in my closet. This pack, as most people know, is the one that contains items for "no, I don't really need it immediately, but it COULD be useful when the zombies march down Main Street or for the next typhoon/tsunami/tornado..."

    The garden trowel is made in China for Bond Manufacturing in California. It has a 6 inch scoop blade of black plastic resin, with some metric and SAE scales to show depth. It is black but has some red points on the handle that make it more visible. There is also a lanyard hole. It is lightweight and seems sturdy and comfortable to use. I have not yet used it. but I gave it to my wife for gardening (that will be real "torture testing").

    I do not sell these, and I only want to point out useful gear that does not come from a wlderness camping or survival store. As a good American. though, I should think about adding $50 to price and coming out with a nifty marketing gimmick: Faiaoga signature series with sharpened edges (one sawtooth and one razor sharp for chopping), a built-in siren and GPS, Morse code engraved on the handle, and a photo of me in the Peace Corps planting a garden, Without the marketing hype, the tool should be a good one for latrine holes, trenches and so on. Faiaoga
     
  2. cucumberfly

    cucumberfly Scout

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    why not just use a beveled stick?
     
  3. PineMartyn

    PineMartyn Scout

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    I've read a number of posts on these forums where people mention they bring a trowel when camping. I have never found any use for a trowel when backpacking. On foraging day trips or on long canoe trips (where one can pack more gear and tolerate more weight), I have brought a trowel, but never on a backpacking trip. I have found sharpened digging sticks work almost as well in most instances for shallow-rooted wild edibles or when I need to dig a cathole for latrine use or disposal of grey water. Of course a trowel is somewhat better than a hastily fashioned digging stick, especially when digging up a deep tuber, but I can't justify the extra weight on a backpacking trip, and in very hard ground, the lighter plastic trowels simply won't do as well as a disposable digging stick.

    To those who bring a trowel on backpacking trips (not just day trips), to what uses do you put them?

    Thanks,
    - Martin
     
  4. TheRambler

    TheRambler Scout

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    I am of the same though, what use is a trowel or a shovel in a backpacking type of environment? I mean we arn't trying to entrench ourselves in prep for a firefight. I find that a stick, treking pole, Ti cook pot, boot heel, snow shoe, etc make great improvised digging devices.

    The most common use for me is diging a cathole or digging up roots/tubers when foraging. The best item I have found is my knife handle, and 2nd best is a sturdy stick.

    I have nothing against those that carry a trowel etc, i just don't see the need when i can improvise appropiately and save weight of carrying an additional item.
     
  5. rackem1899

    rackem1899 Tracker

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    I don't bring a trowel or shovel in the summer months. Like you said I can find something else to make a hole with. But in the winter I do bring a small aluminum shovel, it makes quick work of digging out camp.
    Also, my buddies were involved in a rescue last season when a trail runner fell though a snow bridge and was trapped in the freezing stream below (you can read about the rescue here: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/gre...nal-park-snow-franklin-creek-snow-bridge.html) I think back to all the snow bridges I've crossed (checking first that they will hold me of course) and think how that could happen. A shovel would make rescue faster, which is the name of the game when the person is trapped in ice cold water.
     
  6. Fiddlehead

    Fiddlehead Scout

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  7. Iz

    Iz MEMBER of a BANNED Vendor Bushclass I Bushclass Instructor

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    I take a ww2 folding shovel anytime I camp, not for just day hikes though. I use it for all kinds of stuff like, digging a cat hole, knocking stobs out of my sleeping area, leveling my sleeping area within reason, cutting small saplings if I don't have my axe handy, moving coals to extend a fire or cook with etc.
    It's one of the handiest pieces of equipment I carry.
    A trowel, not so much. Not for me anyway. The lack of long handle is a handicap in my opinion and doesn't really save room if you strap you shovel on the outside of your pack. I can see the weight savings but for me a few extra ounces isn't a big deal.
     
  8. Falstaff

    Falstaff Scout

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    I havea metal garden trowel that I take with me. It uses little room in my backpack and weighs very little as well. I use it for digging up interesting rocks and such. I have also used it for digging out seeps I run across now and then.
     
  9. Sgt. Mac

    Sgt. Mac Elder Staff Member Administrator Supporter Bushclass I Bushclass II Bushclass Instructor

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    I like usin a shovel for catholes. Hey Iz remember the first meet in Mo lol!
     
  10. MohaveGreen

    MohaveGreen Guide

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    Campfire permits in the Sierras require you to have a shovel of some sort. I always regarded it as a pain and unnecessary weight until we had a tree root catch fire underground one night while we were sleeping. That little trowel suddenly became very useful.
     
  11. Iz

    Iz MEMBER of a BANNED Vendor Bushclass I Bushclass Instructor

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    You mean the one where Jason earned his big boy pants?
     
  12. Sgt. Mac

    Sgt. Mac Elder Staff Member Administrator Supporter Bushclass I Bushclass II Bushclass Instructor

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    lol yep
     
  13. Long John Tinfoil

    Long John Tinfoil Guide

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    I have one of these http://www.leevalley.com/en/Garden/page.aspx?p=10504&cat=2,51810&ap=1 that I picked up on the clearance table at Lee Valley for something less that half price (returned with a split in the handle - 2 minute fix). I remember to take it about half the time when I'm out for a few nights. Although I've never sharpened the edge, I have used it occasionally to cut brush and roots.

    I suppose if I wore it on my belt anyone I met out in the wilds who thought I might be an available victim would see I wasn't "unarmed".

    In winter I generally strap a light aluminum shovel to the pack.

    LJT
     
  14. Ahnkochee

    Ahnkochee Bushmaster

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    I've been seriously considering getting one of these Japanese Hori hori which is kind of knife/trowel hybrid. They have a knife edge on one side and a saw teeth on the other, and used for Bonsai. They look to be a great tool for me when I go to forage for bamboo shoots or ti roots as well as fern shoots. They are about $20.00 locally with a faux leather sheath.

    [​IMG]
     
  15. Long John Tinfoil

    Long John Tinfoil Guide

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    Yup. That's the one.

    LJT
     
  16. Old Dirty Bushman

    Old Dirty Bushman Scout

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    Exactly! One of my main backpacking cohorts is in the Army so he always has his e-tool handy. Im somewhat of a heavy packer already (relatively speaking) so I don't carry one myself. But when he comes along, the trip definitely shifts more toward "smoothing it" rather than "roughing it."
     
  17. Iz

    Iz MEMBER of a BANNED Vendor Bushclass I Bushclass Instructor

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    Haha. How far he's come since then.

    I forgot about that. Probably one of the most important things I use a shovel for is to put out my campfire. It's nice to have so you can turn everything over and make sure it's dead out.
     
  18. Sgt. Mac

    Sgt. Mac Elder Staff Member Administrator Supporter Bushclass I Bushclass II Bushclass Instructor

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    Didnt you and Terry find my cat hole by accident lol
     
  19. Iz

    Iz MEMBER of a BANNED Vendor Bushclass I Bushclass Instructor

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    I heard a real low growling sound over that way....I didn't investigate any farther than that. :33: And that was after you hand come back to camp.
    p.s. I'm positive it was no animal that was doing the growling. heh.
     
  20. wildmanh

    wildmanh Scout

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    I have a stainless steel folding trowel which I take backpacking with me. It's been used to dig cat holes, dig firepits, clear and contour the ground where I'll be sleeping, stir coals when putting out a fire, moving coals, chopping roots and the like. . . My brother carries a Orange plastic trowel, it's a bit lighter then my stainless trowel and works great for him. :)
     
  21. darodalaf

    darodalaf Guide

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    Everyone who doesn't 'get' trowels lives in places with normal dirt. Dig a hole with your boot-heel, indeed! I need TNT to make a modest cat-hole where I go.

    Seriously, trying to dig a cat-hole with a plastic trowel in the decomposed granite 'soil' and caliche that is common around here is not just pointless, it is comedic. And you don't want to laugh while squatting over a broken plastic trowel with a full colon.
     
  22. supersloth

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    I take a E-tool. When i got to go i got to go NOW !! I ain't taking any time sharpening a stick!:) Plus the shovel come in handy when moving hot coals.
     
  23. ripcurlksm

    ripcurlksm Guide Bushclass I

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    Exactly!
     
  24. gixer

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    I take a small trowel when backpacking, i use it for:

    Latrine package disposal
    On the rare occasion i have a fire i remove the top layer, have the fire then return the top layer, as i absolutely hate seeing fire scars left by lazy campers.
    Also found it was a pretty good splint when a buddy sprained his wrist.

    Many areas where i hike you cannot guarantee there will be any trees or even wood, and there is no way i'm using my knife to dig a hole, so i take a small light hand shovel with me.
     
    Last edited: Jan 23, 2013
  25. Capt. Redbush

    Capt. Redbush Guide Bushclass I

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    I have a small U-Dig-It stainless steel trowel that lives on my belt when I'm out. It's very low profile and I don't notice it at all, even when wearing my pack. I haven't weighed it, but I'm sure it's a matter of ounces. I understand that they all add up, but I don't see it as being too critical. Like Iz and Sloth mentioned, scooping coals can easily be done with a small metal shovel. Less easily done with a stick, though still possible. Not recommended with plastic!

    The other reason I carry and use a trowel is somewhat prissy, but I hate to get my hands dirty, esp. if it's not easy for me to wash them. Using a digging stick is great, but it doesn't scoop the dirt out. A trowel helps alleviate my OCD.
     
  26. perrymk

    perrymk Supporter Supporter

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  27. GrandLarsony

    GrandLarsony Guide

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    Most times out, I carry a big heavy Czech military shovel (24" long, 6.5" wide shovel). Sharpened to knife edge on on all sides. It's sorta like a Cold Steel shovel x2. If I was building my gear pile -- instead of paring it down -- I would probably buy a CS shovel instead due to the weight & size.

    The most common things it does for me is dig cat holes and clear fire pits. It's also pretty good for chopping up branches (90 degree crosscuts up to 1-2" in one chop). This makes short work of fallen deadwood, especially when coupled with a take-down bow saw and a stout battoning knife. That said, the shovel does not come out every trip... More like half the time.

    I frequently camp in areas where there is a designated fire pit or ring. Usually, these are completely overflowing with ash and dirt. I like to clean them out as best I can for the next guy. Not sure it's the right thing to do, but I spread the ash out over a very wide area so as not to choke out any growth.

    I've also been known to "improve" my sleeping area a bit... and it's an absolutely rock-solid ground anchor (vs. tent pegs) when one is needed.

    [​IMG]
     
  28. TheRambler

    TheRambler Scout

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    I completely understand that a shovel is very nice to have on occasion. But, is it REALLY needed? If you put your mind to it you can easily improvise and save yourself from carrying that pound or two of extra weight. But hey hike your own hike, by all means if you want to carry one I won't stop you. I have been backpacking for quite a few years all over the us and have hiked almost 8000 miles, and never once have I wished I had a shovel or trowel. There is almost always a way to do what you are trying to do with an improvised method/tool.
     
  29. PineMartyn

    PineMartyn Scout

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    Up-thread I stated that I find a trowel to be largely unnecessary, except on day trips where I expect to be foraging for wild edibles, or on longer canoe-trips, where I expect to be foraging. The weight and bulk of a trowel is hard for me to justify on backpacking trips where going light is at a premium. But that's for 3-season outings.

    In winter, it's a different matter. I never go camping without a take-down shovel, and even when snowshoeing off-trail, I strap a shovel to my day pack as a precaution against entrapment and because it's such a practical way to make a quick temporary shelter from wind when I want to stop for a break or lunch. For any interested in the risks posed by tree wells or spruce traps in winter, I began a thread about that a while back. Here's the link for those who might be interested in the merits of a shovel for snowy winter outings: http://bushcraftusa.com/forum/showthread.php/82160-Why-I-carry-a-small-shovel-when-snowshoeing-comfot-and-safety?highlight=tree+well

    Hope this helps,
    - Martin
     
  30. Moe M.

    Moe M. Supporter Supporter

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    I wouldn't be without one, mine is a folding stainless steel trowel, it's billed as a folding camping shovel, but it's trowel sized and the handle folds over the blade and stores in a nylon belt pouch.
    There are several companies making and marketing these things, and prices can run as much as $30.00 bucks, the model I use is strong, the handle locks in securly, and it doesn't bend or deform when using it in tough ground, one side can be sharpened and used as a cutting tool for cutting cordage or small roots, or in a survival situation can substitute for a knife or spear point.
    I like it because it's compact, light, and it works, I use it for cat holes, fire holes, and clearing my bedroll space, but it really comes into it's own around the camp fire, try that with a plastic trowel.
    I seldom use a stove, i prefer to cook over coals, preparing and maintaining a cook fire including moving coals from the main fire to a cooking area such as in a key hole fire is so much easier with a metal trowel or small shovel, and if you bake with a small dutch oven or inverting pie pans, the trowel is great for placing coals on top of your make shift oven.

    I now have a few of them in different packs, I get them at Walmart, and the cost is $4.99 each, Why would you not have one ?
     
  31. Scott Allen

    Scott Allen Guide

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    Moe,

    Are they in the camping or gardening section at Walmart? Thanks.

    Scott
     
  32. roweman07

    roweman07 Scout

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    +1 to the little stainless steel trowel from Walmart. I got mine in the camping section. Very handy little trowel.
     
  33. QiWiz

    QiWiz Tracker

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    Lightest cathole trowels on the planet

    I've heard that an even larger version is coming out soon for those of you who are less weight conscious.
     
  34. Chris

    Chris Guide

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    Got a cool little e-tool from Glock that I really dig:
    [​IMG]

    Fiskars also makes a little trowel that weighs almost nothing, is tough as nails, and has a compartment in the handle... also recommended.
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2013
  35. wildmanh

    wildmanh Scout

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    This is the one that I have. Bought one, used it on a backpacking trip to dig a cat hole and help me smooth out my sleeping area [saved my hands, that's for sure]. Bought a 2nd one after that trip for my Daypack, but then my mom needed one for her 72 hour kit so I gave her my 2nd. Will probably pick another one up, the next time I'm down Walmart's way. Foraging for wild edibles is becoming a big thing for some friends and I on our trips. :)
     
  36. ripcurlksm

    ripcurlksm Guide Bushclass I

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    I've been considering getting an e-tool since the summer, and I can see its greatest use for me is moving coals. When I set up camp in the evenings, I like to get a good fire going fast and then pull those big coals to get dinner started asap. I've been using a long stick to push coals around which works, and I'm trying to convince myself why get an e-tool when I already lost all the hair on my right hand? :29:

    an e-tool has been on my list for a few months, just considering packing it in with me just to move coals around. Not sure.
     
  37. QiWiz

    QiWiz Tracker

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    Coal-moving trowel?

    don't know if a MEGA Dig would be another alternative to let your hand get hairy again or not . . . :1:

    http://QiWiz.net/trowels.html
     
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2013
  38. Xtrekker

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    I cant remember ever wishing I had a shovel or spade while backpacking/hiking, and I typically hike in the rocky soil of the AT Mountains. Nothing against them, just not for me. Im sure there is some regions that they may be useful in. And to be honest, most people that I see using them are car camping or just getting into backpacking. Even when I first got back into backpacking I went out and bought a 4lb folding shovel from the camping dept. After the first trip, it got tossed into the closet and has never left since. Another reason I dont bring a shovel is because I try to practice LNT as much as possible. And bringing a shovel on the backpacking trip is pretty much is like taking "LNT" to the edge of the cliff and shoving it over the edge..lol
    But this is just me, we all have our own paths.
     
  39. Tevo

    Tevo Tinder Gatherer

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    Question for the shovel carriers...what sort of distance and elevation gain are you averaging when you're out? I can see having one if we're talking relatively short trips with minimal elevation gain. Longer trips or lots of climbing I really start ounce counting.
     
  40. vakman

    vakman Scout

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    Like any bushcraft tool, substitutes for trowels can be found/made in the wild, it's sort of pointless to question the necessity/utility of it. I have a foldable stainless trowel, I've used it for digging small latrines, handling coals, and small fire pits. Nothing a tree limb and a knife can't accomplish. I won't be using mine anymore. More you know, less you carry.
     
  41. QiWiz

    QiWiz Tracker

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    I can't argue with this, although I find I can dig a cathole much faster and much better with a trowel than a stick. It comes down to individual preference. The titanium trowel I carry is one of my favorite DIY projects. It has been with me for 1000+ trail miles and only weighs a half-ounce. Have also used it for moving coals, for chipping tent pegs out of frozen ground, and for digging out a depression in a seep to get water, to name a few other uses.
     
  42. ninja-elbow

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    Short trips only, or car camping. I have a Cold Steel Spetz Shovel for that. Anything over a few miles of walking and I'm not taking it.

    Have use it for:
    cat holes
    foraging tuber
    limbing
    splitting
    coal moving and fire adjusting
    intricate canal systems to drain a lare camp after a suprise rain storm

    Best Use: for digging in dirt full of rocks.
     
  43. Winterhorse

    Winterhorse Supporter Supporter

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    I used to carry a GI shovel until my buddy made me a beautiful oak walking stick, sixty inches long. I saw a small, child sized shovel at Walmart for ten bucks. It is a very sturdy shovel just miniaturized. I bought it, took off the one foot handle, tapered the end of my walking stick to match the socket in the blade and then drilled a quarter Inch hole through the blade socket and stick all at the same time. I found a clevis pin at the hardware store with a quick disconnect to hold the whole assembly together. The blade weighs about a quarter of the old short handled GI shovel. It's handy to have a long handled shovel for digging cat holes, standing far enough away from the fire to stay comfortable while raking coals or arranging the fire wood. I just remove the blade when I'm using it as a walking stick and pop it back on when I need a GOOD shovel.
     
  44. Canadian Woodsman

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  45. ROCK6

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    It really comes down to efficiency. When I have time, sure, I can improvise a nice digging stick, but when you’re on a trail and time is important that little trowel is a gem. I too have a (overly-expensive) titanium trowel that weights under an ounce. It’s my dedicated longer-distance backpacking trowel, but I can also lash a length of stick to it and use it to move coals around in an open fire if we have one.

    I wish others would pack a trowel as they fail miserably with LNT! Ever run across a pile of poo and TP strung all over the bushes? I much prefer to leave no trace like that around and if time is of the essence, the small trowel is worth it to me. Nope, not a necessity but it’s sure nice when you need it.

    ROCK6
     
  46. finallyME

    finallyME Tracker

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    This is what I use as well. Or, a stick. I used to bring a plastic shovel.....until it broke. The nice thing about using a stake, is that you can also use it as a stake. Double purpose.
     
  47. backwoodstrails

    backwoodstrails Supporter Supporter

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  48. superslow

    superslow Scout Bushclass I

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    Here in California part of the terms of a campfire permit is that you have a shovel available at the campsite to extinguish the fire. Small fire-a trowel is sufficient. Bigger fires require bigger shovels.
     

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