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Field Shovels & E-Tools

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A good field shovel is an absolute must for some rock and mineral hunting trips, but shovels can often be bulky and heavy. If you have to haul a shovel around with you all day you definitely want to make sure it’s one that designed for the job.

My favorite field shovel that I would recommend to anyone is the USGI Military Issue Entrenching Tool. This shovel is super versatile, lightweight, and it folds up to easily fit inside your backpack. I have used this type of shovel in countless ways while working in the field and on camping trips.

Field shovels, commonly referred to as E-tools (short for entrenching tools) are super handy when rockhounding. In order to find the specimens you’re looking for it is often necessary to do quite a bit of digging, so having a shovel is an absolute must. But that’s not all the shovel is good for!

Why I Love This Shovel

  • Size – This shovel is the perfect size for a field geologist. We often have to hike quite a ways during a rockhounding trip and it’s just not practical to haul a full-sized garden shovel with us. This shovel is tri-fold and collapses down into a size that easily fits inside your backpack. When fully extended, it’s also big enough to move quite a bit of dirt without having to hunch over too far. The spade is wide enough to allow you to use your boot for added digging pressure, too.
  • Weight – This E-tool weighs about 2.5 pounds. It’s not nothing, but it’s not much weight considering how much use you will be able to get out of it. It’s much lighter than a full-sized shovel. Since it is more sturdily built than some similar tools on the market it is a little heavier and therefore more durable.
  • Versatility – You might think that a shovel is only good for digging, but an E-tool is so much more. You can position the spade at a right angle to the shaft and use it as a pick to break up rocks and dirt. You can use the sharp bladed edge to chop small branches and the serrated edge can be used to saw wood and rope. My favorite ‘extra’ use for this particular E-tool is as a makeshift seat – if you fold the spade to 90 degrees you can sit on it at a comfortable height. If you position it to one side you can even use it as a toilet seat! Then of course when you’re done you can use the shovel to cover up your business. And finally, while I’ve never had occasion to use it like this, you can use the shovel for self-defense in a pinch.
  • Durability – This E-Tool is made of pretty high-quality steel and it has handled everything I’ve thrown at it with ease. I don’t see it quitting on me any time soon. It is recommended that you oil the joints every once in a while but if I’m being perfectly honest I haven’t done that yet and mine doesn’t appear any worse for the wear.
  • Comfort – One of the things I like most about this tool is the handle. Some E-Tools have straight shafts, while this one has a triangular-shaped shaft that allows you to grip the handle at an angle perpendicular to the ground. This makes it much more comfortable to use because you can apply a lot more pressure through your palm without having to grip super tight.

Uses For an E-Tool

  • Digging holes
  • Use as a pick to break up rocks and dirt
  • Chopping small branches
  • Sawing wood and rope
  • As a make-shift seat
  • Making a latrine
  • Self Defense