When a crisis hits, you’re going to need more than your guns…
That’s why I urge you to listen closely as we talk about…
First, you should know that I really don’t like folding shovels for any situation.
The reason I don’t like folding shovels is because folding simply isn’t something a shovel should do. Think about it: you use folding shovels for digging. Digging puts a lot of stress on a tool. I can’t count the number of inferior digging tools I’ve snapped while gardening or working with landscaping. The ground simply doesn’t abide weakness.
You can imagine my skepticism when I encountered a tri-fold shovel from the knife company, SOG. Their entrenching tool folds up into a great little package that even has a compact nylon cover. That’s wonderful if you don’t want a tool like that taking up a lot of space in your go-bag, but there’s a reason that most military entrenching tools have just a folding head and a wooden handle. That’s because a folding handle isn’t reliable!
I’ve used cheap folding entrenching tools that just folded right up against the resistance of the ground when you tried to dig with them. Nothing is more frustrating than trying to dig with a shovel that doesn’t do it.
The key to the SOG entrenching tool is a retaining ring that you loosen or tighten to facilitate folding and unfolding. Unfolded, with the ring tightened up, the shovel feels a little wobbly. I figured it would collapse as soon as I put it to the test… but I was wrong.
The SOG entrenching tool, as it turns out, digs really well. I didn’t try to dig an entire foxhole with it (I don’t have that kind of time in my day), but if you had to, you eventually could. The shovel stays open and performs well when digging.
It has a section of saw teeth that aren’t very sharp, but you could sharpen these if you wanted to. I don’t see much reason to do that because digging will just make them dull again, and I don’t need my shovel to also be a saw. But as a survival tool the option is there if you needed to find a rock to hone up the teeth in between digging tasks.
The only problem I had with the entrenching tool was that when dirt and grit get in there under the retaining ring, it can be hard to move the ring in order to collapse (or extend) the shovel. You’ll want to keep this ring clean and keep an eye on that to make sure the shovel is properly secured when you open it. I could see tightening it with dirt in there and failing to get it tight enough to keep the shovel open.
Ergonomically, the handle and the little horizontal end handle work well and are comfortable enough for digging. Again, with a little honing, you could also use this tool as a makeshift hatchet or even a hammer.
There’s a video floating around the internet of a super duper Chinese military shovel that is supposed to do everything, and the video shows these little Chinese military dudes climbing mountains, building shelters, sawing pipes in half, and generally using their shovels to do everything in the world. About the only thing I want MY shovel to do is dig, and the SOG entrenching tool does that and does it well.
Overall, especially given the cost, this tool is a good buy. The compact way it folds up doesn’t hurt, either, once you have to stow it away. This might be a little heavy in a bug out bag, depending on what else you may carry, but it’s perfect for throwing in the trunk of a car or truck along with your other survival and recovery gear. To be honest I always keep a shovel of some kind in my vehicle so I can dig myself out if I get mired in snow or mud.
The utility of a shovel should be obvious. The utility of a shovel that can be folded up but still perform is even more so. While I will never prefer folding shovels to shovels that don’t fold (I really like the Cold Steel shovel, for example), this SOG entrenching tool goes a long way toward restoring my faith in folding tools of this type. It’s worth considering if you’d like a digging tool to keep in your car or your bug out bag.
Best of all, you can buy one for less than $20 on Amazon right here.