The Most Efficient Backpacking Trowels of 2021: Review and Buying Guide

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What do you do when nature calls while you’re in nature? You use a trowel. That is if you are a responsible hiker.

The best backpacking trowels are lightweight, easy to use, and compact. Our pick for the best backpacking trowel of 2021 is the Rhino USA Folding Survival Shovel. This military-style multitool is a great backpacking accessory because it is small and versatile.

We’ve researched the best hiking trowels for a variety of backpacking styles. Read on to find the trowel that suits your style best. You might find that it helps you do much more than just poop.

IMAGE PRODUCT DETAILS rating  Price
Best OverallRhino USA Folding Survival Shovel Rhino USA Folding Survival Shovel
  • Materials: Steel
  • Weight: 2 pounds
9.7
Runner Upiunio 17” FoldingSurvival Shovel iunio 17” FoldingSurvival Shovel
  • Materials: Steel
  • Weight: 2.5 pounds
9.5
Budget PickCoghlan's Backpacker's Trowel Coghlan’s Backpacker’s Trowel
  • Materials: Plastic
  • Weight: 1.6 Ounces
9.5
TheTentLab DEUCE #2 Ultralight Backpacking Trowel TheTentLab DEUCE #2 Ultralight Backpacking Trowel
  • Materials: Aluminum
  • Weight: 0.46 Ounces
9
Vargo Dig Dig Tool Vargo Dig Dig Tool
  • Materials: Titanium
  • Weight: 1.6 Ounces
9
Wilcox All-Pro 12" Stainless Steel Garden Trowel Wilcox All-Pro 12″ Stainless Steel Garden Trowel
  • Materials: Stainless Steel
  • Weight: 7.8 Ounces
9
Grizzly Peak Ultra Lightweight 11" Backpacker's Trowel Grizzly Peak Ultra Lightweight 11″ Backpacker’s Trowel
  • Materials: Plastic
  • Weight: < 2 Ounces
8.5

Review of the Best Backpacking Trowel

Rhino USA Folding Survival Shovel

Rhino USA Folding Survival Shovel
3,879 Reviews
Rhino USA Folding Survival Shovel
  • ▶ MILITARY STYLE E-TOOL - 2lbs of Powder Coated Carbon Steel, Tough Pickax & Sharp Rugged Saw Teeth
  • ▶ COMPACT & PORTABLE - Full 23" Long Extended but only 9" x 6" when Folded into FREE Carry Case
  • ▶ MULTI-FUNCTIONAL - Shovels = Great Garden Tools, Backpacking Gear and Metal Detector Accessories
  • ▶ GUARANTEED 5-STAR EXPERIENCE - If you aren't 100% Satisfied for any Reason We'll Refund Your Money

First things first, the best overall backpacking trowel is the Rhino USA Folding Survival Shovel. This shovel meets the needs of most backpackers with its durability, portability, and versatility.

You can support small businesses by purchasing this shovel. Rhino USA is a Father/Son business out of California with exceptional customer service. This is proven through their offer of a lifetime warranty on all of their products.

The Rhino USA Folding Survival Shovel is made of powder-coated carbon steel. This 24” shovel folds in on itself and compacts down to 9” x 6” when folded and packed in the included carry bag.

Our favorite feature of this shovel is the triangular handle with an ergonomic design. Unlike the traditional shovel shaft, Rhino USA designed their survival shovel with a handle. This allows you to put more weight on the shovel and gives you more leverage when digging in tough terrain.

You can get the most out of this shovel by using all of its multi-use features. This military-style tool has an attachable pickaxe. Plus, you can adjust the angle of the spade to transform the shovel into a hoe. Saw Teeth are featured along one side of the shovel to cut through roots.

At 2 pounds, this folding survival shovel is on the heavier side for backpacking. However, it carries its weight in versatility.

The Rhino USA Folding Survival Shovel is highly praised among customers.

Pros

  • A military-style tool with multiple uses
  • Compacts into carrying bag
  • Durable
  • The triangular handle makes it easy to use
  • Rave reviews

Cons

  • Somewhat heavy

iunio 17” FoldingSurvival Shovel

iunio 17” FoldingSurvival Shovel
683 Reviews
iunio 17” FoldingSurvival Shovel
  • Portable Folding Shovel (17 inch Length) - It is designed and produced according to self-driving experiences of many experienced outdoor sports lovers and any kind of outdoor enthusiasts: Off-roading, 4-Wheeling, SUVing, Backpacking, Expeditionists, Tent Camping, Pop-up Camping, RV Camping, Cadets, Hikers, Hunters, Fisherman, Gardeners, Gold Digger, Motorcyclists. This folding shovel is assembled practicability, functionality and security in it.
  • Versatile - Features a regular shovel doesn't even have, all in this convenient folding shovel: Shovel Board, Saw, Bottle Opener, Nail Extractor, Hoe, Emergency Whistle, Compass.
  • Perfect Gift for Outdoor Enthusiasts - Ideal gift for camping, hiking, backpacking, self-defense, backpacking, fishing, hunting, gardening outdoor activities. Also great for anyone to use, gardeners, survivalists, hunters, hikers, campers. This Folding Shovel is also an ideal entrenchment tool for Field Survivalists, Disaster Recovery Staff, Truck driver.
  • Sturdy & Durable - The shovel blade and handle are made of high-carbon steel which is high-strength and wear-resistant. The grip on the handle is made of rubber. This shovel has passed the durability tests and our destruction tests.
  • Portable & Compact - This shovel folds up and fits in a convenient carrying pouch with a belt loop to carry at your side. It's easy for you to hang it on your belt to carry after shovel folds up to small part. Iunio folding shovel lasts for life: Our shovels are built to last! You take care of our shovel and we'll take care of you! All replacement requests are supported by our awesome customer service team anytime!!!

Our runner up for the top backpacking trowel is the iunio 17” Folding Survival Shovel. This product is very similar to the Rhino USA shovel being that it is a foldable, steel backpacking shovel.

The main differences are that the iunio is smaller and has a straight shaft rather than a handle. iunio has designed their 17” Folding Survival Shovel with an antiskid handle that allows you to securely grip the shovel.

This shovel is a multi-use tool with several extra features. It has a bottle opener and saw teeth along one side with sharp edges outlining the rest of the spade. It can be adjusted to use as a hoe, and it has an attachable pickaxe with an embedded nail extractor.

Additionally, this shovel has a safety whistle and a compass attachment. I’m not quite sure why you would want a whistle or a compass attached to your shovel, but I guess you can never be too safe.

iunio’s 17” Folding Survival shovel collapses and fits into a carry bag measuring 6.5” x 5.1” x 2.2”. One thing we love about this carry bag is the loop at the top that allows you to hook this bag to your belt or the outside of your pack.

The total weight for this small backpacking shovel is 2.5 pounds, which is admittedly heavy for backpacking. Yet, worth the weight for those who need a multi-use tool.

Pros

  • Collapsible
  • A military-style tool with multiple uses
  • 17” fully extended
  • Durable steel
  • Carry bag with loop

Cons

  • On the heavy side for backpacking

Coghlan’s Backpacker’s Trowel

Coghlan's Backpacker's Trowel
2,071 Reviews
Coghlan's Backpacker's Trowel
  • First, save yourself a ton of time and use the Deuce UPSIDE-DOWN to probe the top 3-4” for rocks or roots that might spoil your poop-hole location; probing like this is a fantastic and unique feature of the Deuce; right-side-up, the scoop is large enough to quickly remove dirt; further into the hole, use it upside-down again to break up hard dirt and pry out rocks; it provides up to a 4x increase in digging power when used this way
  • Three models; #1 is the lightest at .45oz (the weight of just 2 1/2 teaspoon of water) for only the most fanatical weight fanatics; the #2 is the backpacker’s classic, .6 oz (just over the weight of 1 tablespoon of water) for more normal weight fanatics (2.5 X 6.8 inches); and the #3, a .97oz beast; big, strong and most capable of handling truly awful hole-digging situations (2.6 X 8 inches); use the length to gauge the hole depth; full 6” to 8” deep is a proper forest poop hole
  • Made in the US and S. Korea of aerospace grade, US-produced 7075-T6 aluminum that meets the AMS4045 standard (the alloy alone does not guarantee high strength); the go-to aluminum for satellites and aircraft; HIGH STRENGTH aluminum makes high strength products; this grade of aluminum is available in only a handful of countries with technology and quality driven supply chains; manufacturer’s lifetime warranty
  • Tumbled and fully de-burred; smooth, rounded edges and shape is much more comfortable that angular shapes and raw die-cut edges
  • Anodized in fun colors to prevent corrosion and surface damage; prevents dark smudges from bare aluminum on your hands; have some fun, pick a color like you would a lolipop; these trowels really help you doo-doo the right thing; a great Leave No Trace aid

The cheapest backpacking trowel in this review is Coghlan’s Backpacker’s Trowel. Its traditional trowel design is simple and affordable, costing only $5.

This trowel is made of plastic, which isn’t the most durable option on the market. However, the plastic used for this trowel is sturdy and can withstand the force of digging a cat hole. Plastic trowels are happily used by many campers because they are lightweight and get the job done.

This trowel does not have sharp or serrated edges. It would not be a good trowel for digging through roots.

The Coghlan Backpacker’s Trowel weighs only 0.1 pounds and measures 11.02 x 2.76 x 0.79 inches. A hole is designed into the top of the handle to allow you to attach this trowel to the outside of your backpack.

This product has over 2,000 reviews on Amazon with an overall rating of 9.6 stars. This trowel is the perfect tool to use on your outdoor adventures in mild terrain.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Extremely low cost
  • Thick plastic
  • Thousands of positive reviews

Cons

  • Low durability compared to market leaders

TheTentLab DEUCE #2 Ultralight Backpacking Trowel

TheTentLab DEUCE #2 Ultralight Backpacking Trowel
287 Reviews
TheTentLab DEUCE #2 Ultralight Backpacking Trowel
  • Crafted from the highest quality materials
  • Built for performance and durability
  • Made in China

TheTentLab’s DEUCE #2 Ultralight Backpacking Trowel is our pick for the best ultralight backpacking trowel.

TheTentLab is a Colorado-based company that makes many of its trowels in the USA. Others are made in Korea by the renowned tent pole company, DAC. Every Deuce #2 UL Backpacking Trowel says exactly where it is made right on the trowel.

The design of this trowel is ingenious. You can use it on both ends to make digging a cathole easier for you, especially when digging up hard dirt. You can use the handle end to outline and make the initial cuts of your cathole. Then, turn the trowel over to scoop the dirt up and out.

The Deuce #2 measures 6.18 x 2.36 x 0.75 inches and weighs only 0.46 ounces. It is one of the most compact and ultralight trowels on the market.

New Deuces (2018 and beyond) are an improved design with an upgraded handle shape for a better grip. In addition, TheTentLab has added teeth along one edge of the trowel. These teeth help cut out small roots and can be sharpened with a rock.

Pros

  • Ultralight
  • Small and portable
  • Both ends are usable
  • Some are made in the USA

Cons

  • It May be rough on the hands

Vargo Dig Dig Tool

Vargo Dig Dig Tool
1,389 Reviews
Vargo Dig Dig Tool
  • Rugged Heavy Duty 16 Ga. Stainless Steel
  • 2" Wide Blade with Pointed Tip

The Vargo Dig Dig Tool is the smallest trowel in this backpacking trowel review. It measures 8.1 x 1.7 x 0.75 inches and weighs only 1.6 ounces.

Even though this titanium trowel is ultralightweight, it is very strong. The ergonomic, pleated handle provides a comfortable grasp on the handle and even allows you to use two hands for extra force.

Both sides of the narrow spade on this trowel are serrated to help dig through roots and tough terrain. The spade of the trowel comes to a sharp point, which is helpful for digging.

The thin design of the Dig Dig Tool gives you more control when you are digging. The only caveat is that, since the trowel is so small, you will be scooping more than you would with a larger trowel.

The Dig Dig Tool is also designed to be used as an ultra-secure tent stake. However, we recommend you plan on using this tool as either a trowel or a stake, not both. Trying to use it simultaneously could result in a problem for you or your tent.

Vargo is an outdoor company, established in 2002, that specializes in titanium.

Pros

  • Ultralight
  • Small and easy to carry
  • Two serrated edges
  • Can be used as a tent stake

Cons

  • It May take longer to dig a cat hole with this small trowel

Wilcox All-Pro 12″ Stainless Steel Garden Trowel

Wilcox All-Pro 12
2,403 Reviews
Wilcox All-Pro 12
  • Largest single brand of camping accessories in the world
  • Everything you need to enjoy the outdoors
  • Durable, afforadable, practical

The most durable, handheld trowel is the Wilcox All-Pro 12” Stainless Steel Garden Trowel. Wilcox manufactures its durable digging tools right here in the USA.

This trowel weighs in at 7.8 ounces, which is quite heavier than other handheld trowels, however, it offers the durability of a survival shovel. This is because it is made from stainless steel, which is stronger than other trowel materials such as aluminum and titanium.

The Wilcox All-Pro Trowel measures 12 x 0.2 x 2 inches. The extended length of the angled spade is helpful for digging. It will allow you to quickly dig a cathole with ease.

Although not made for backpacking, this durable trowel is a great tool to take on your outdoor adventures.

Pros

  • Long spade
  • Durable steel
  • Easy to grip

Cons

  • Heavier than most handheld trowels

Grizzly Peak Ultra Lightweight 11″ Backpacker’s Trowel

Grizzly Peak Ultra Lightweight 11
262 Reviews
Grizzly Peak Ultra Lightweight 11
  • An indispensable tool for dispensing in the Great Outdoors
  • Tough, single piece plastic construction stays strong in hard, dry soils
  • Features a rubber thumb grip for superior control, and a metric/imperial depth gauge
  • Weighs just under 2 ounces, great for ultralight backpackers
  • Measures 11" long and 3.5" wide

Another budget-friendly backpacking trowel is the Grizzly Peak Ultra Lightweight 11” Backpacker’s trowel.

This trowel is made of hard plastic. The entire shovel is one piece, so you don’t have to worry about the handle snapping off due to too much pressure. In addition, the rounded handle design is stronger than the flat handle design that you see on many plastic trowels. This is another contributing factor to this trowel’s durability.

The wide spade has high, curved edges that allow you to remove a good amount of dirt with every scoop. There is a rubber thumb grip at the base of the handle. And, an attachment loop is designed into the top of the handle for easy carrying.

This Grizzly Peak trowel is small and lightweight, perfect for backpacking. It measures 11 x 3.5 inches and weighs less than 2 ounces.

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Curved edges
  • Durable handle
  • Thick plastic

Cons

  • Plastic trowels are not the most durable

Buying Guide

The Various Types of Trowels

The most popular backpacking trowels in 2021 are folding shovels, handheld shovels, and traditional hiking trowels.

Folding shovels have many benefits. Many folding shovels, like the Rhino USA and the iunio in our review, are designed to be used for multiple uses. These multi-use backpacking tools have features such as saw teeth, bottle openers, pickaxes, and nail removers. The only drawback is that folding shovels for backpacking are rather heavy, weighing around 2 pounds.

Handheld shovels offer the wide, curved spade of a shovel in a more compact form. Almost all handheld shovels fit in the outside pockets of a hiking pack, and they are very lightweight.

Traditional hiking trowels are smaller, have a narrow spade, and are often made of aluminum or titanium. These trowels, like the Deuce #2, are designed to be compact and ultralight so as not to take up much space in your pack.

More: The Best Cheap Backpacking Tent: Complete Buying Guide And Reviews

What size trowel is best for hiking?

Length and width are important sizing factors to consider if you hike in areas with tough ground. If you solely hike in soft terrain, you don’t need to worry about length and width because you could probably dig your cat hole with a spoon.

Longer trowels give you more leverage, which makes digging easier and faster. And, trowels with wide spades allow you to dig up more dirt with every scoop.

Thus, the best trowels to dig with are those with long handles and wide spades. Of course, these types of trowels (garden shovels) aren’t always easy to carry. This is why we’ve named the Rhino USA Folding Survival Shovel and the iunio Folding Survival Shovel as our top two trowels to take backpacking in 2021. These small shovels are easy to use and easy to carry.

More: The Best Cheap Hiking Backpack Under $100

Do trowel edges need to be sharp or serrated?

Sharp edges along the spade of a trowel are helpful for piercing through tough dirt. Even more useful, are serrated edges. Serrated edges can be used to saw through thin roots and breakthrough tough terrain.

If you’re looking for a trowel with sharp edges, look for one that comes with a protective carry bag. This will keep you and your pack from getting cut by the trowel. We recommend Rhino USA’s Folding Survival Shovel or the iunio 17” Folding Survival Shovel.

When shopping for a backpacker’s trowel, also take a look at the edges of the handle. Sharp or flat edges can be hard on your hands even when digging up soft soil. Rounded or folded edges are more comfortable to grip.

More: 7 Best Backpacking Sleeping Bag Under 100 (Reviews and Buying Guide)

The Benefits of Steel, Aluminum, Titanium, and Plastic Hiking Trowels

Backpacking trowels are made of steel, aluminum, titanium, or plastic. These materials each have benefits of their own.

Steel is the most durable of these materials. Steel trowels can cut through tough terrain better than any others without damage. You can count on your steel trowel to be long lasting. Plastic is the least durable trowel material.

Aluminum and titanium trowels are the most lightweight. Titanium, along with thin aluminum, is often marketed as ultralight. This feature is of huge appeal to backpackers. Plastic trowels are often very light as well. And, steel trowels are the heaviest ( a mark of durability).

The least expensive material is plastic. Plastic trowels, like our budget pick, Coghlan’s Backpacker’s Trowel, cost almost nothing. You can find many plastic trowels that only cost about five dollars. Steel, aluminum, and titanium trowels are priced competitively. However, titanium is usually the most expensive trowel material.

FAQ

Why do you need to take a trowel hiking?

You should always take a trowel hiking so that you can properly and respectfully take care of your business in the woods. And by business we mean poop.

In an effort to create a sustainable future for our planet, the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics (LNT) has issued guidelines for going to the bathroom in nature. These guidelines require you to dig a cat hole using a small shovel or garden trowel.

What is a cat hole, and how do you dig one?

A cat hole is a small hole dug into the ground for human waste. Guidelines have been put in place by LNT in order to preserve the beauty of our planet and keep our water sources clean.

A proper cat hole is 6-8 inches deep with a diameter of 4-6 inches. You should dig your cat hole off the beaten path and at least 200 feet from any water source. If possible, dig your cat hole in an elevated area where water will not run off when it rains.

Also, look for an area with dark organic soil and sun exposure. These factors will help the waste decompose. When you’re finished taking care of business, fill your cat hole with soil and cover it to make the ground appear as if untouched.

More: Best Backpacking Knife Review: Top Picks for This Year

Will a trowel damage my hiking pack?

Plastic and ultralight aluminum or titanium trowels rarely cause damage to a hiking pack. These types of trowels are very light, so they don’t have much force when pushed up against your pack.

However, you may want to take caution when packing steel trowels or trowels with sharp or serrated edges. Many of these trowels come with a protective carrying case. We recommend always using the case to keep your trowel from cutting or dirtying your pack.

Packing your trowel in a plastic bag or wet bag will prevent your pack from getting wet or dirty after using your trowel.

So, What Is The Best Backpacking Trowel Of 2021?

The best camping trowel of 2021 is Rhino USA’s folding survival shovel. This trowel is decently sized to do a variety of jobs around camp but collapses into a small carry pouch.

Similar to this product is iunio’s 17” Folding Survival shovel. With a slightly different handle style, it is another great folding shovel that can be used as a trowel and much more.

A personal favorite of mine that I can’t go without mentioning is TheTentLab’s Deuce #2. This trowel is ultralight, easy to use, and effective.

The trowel market of 2021 has so much to offer. Let us help you find your next trowel.

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Tim Fox

Tim Fox

Since the age of 10, Tim, a writer at Outdoor With J, has enjoyed camping in the great outdoors. Although he loves the peace and quiet of the outdoors, he also likes his creature comforts. Tim’s mission is to make camping a fun and comfortable experience for all. You can find more about him here

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