An entrenching tool ( e-tool for short) is a compact digging tool which is a good thing to have in your backpack. It can be used for a variety of purposes, -digging a toilet pit, digging a shallow trench around your tent to channel off rain water, digging for roots, mundane construction projects or to shovel soil onto the remnants of your camp fire to keep it from flaring up after you’ve left. The entrenching tool however has its origins in the military and is used for digging foxholes, latrine pits and probably for burying the dead as well. I’m sure it has more uses than what I’ve listed here.
Some of these e-tools have their edges sharpened or serrated to be used as field expedient weapons or as a cutting/chopping tool for small branches.
Cold Steel makes a variant of the shovel allegedly used by the Russian Spetsnaz. This could be/was used with deadly accuracy for throwing at people or probably for hunting for food in survival situations as well.
Searching for an entrenching tool should give you a lot of hits, from militaria to production models. Among the lot, the Gerber Gorge, Cold Steel, the NATO e-tool and the Glock e-tool, I chose the latter. Among these available models, the two variants are the shovels with a wooden handle (or shovels which don’t fold) and the folding shovels. Some of them have a pick as well which has its own uses. For e.g. a pick is better suited for digging up tubers. The Glock unlike the others has a telescopic folding handle and a saw which narrowed down the choices for me. Of course there was also the Glock name and it would become my only “made in Austria” piece of equipment. The added advantage was that the shovel blade locks in three different positions which enables it to work either as a spade, a shovel or a hoe [ See the second photo from the top].
I had read somewhere that someone had a problem with dirt interfering in the locking mechanism of the e-tool. I had no such problem. It held well as I dug with it. Maybe the polymer handle helps as it slips when you put too much pressure on it, especially when your hands are wet. The locking mechanism on the handle is simple too. You pull out the telescopic handle, and holding the part of the handle attached to the blade still, turn the telescopic part of the handle counter clockwise till it can turn no more. Turn it clockwise and it unlocks and can then be pushed and shortened.
It fits in sturdily and without any wiggle or wobble. However I did not get a chance to put it to the test. I will do so at the next opportunity and post the results. The saw has staggered teeth which is important in creating the right clearance for the saw when cutting through wood. I have no doubts whatsoever that it can cut through bone too!
- Very high build quality
- Innovative 3 in one design, can be used as a spade, a shovel or a hoe
- I like the telescopic design more than the other folding shovels available on the market
- Integrated saw blade
- Compact to carry
- Relatively slippery handle, if you have blood or other slimy stuff on your hand, you can forget about using this tool. Maybe the same can be said about shovels with wooden handles?
- If the locking knob or handle locking system fails in the field, it is going to be more or less useless, unlike the non folding shovels for which you can fashion a new handle.
- Susceptible to heat damage, if you leave it near a fire or if it catches fire for some reason, you can kiss it goodbye. I don’t think it can be used to shovel coals onto the lid of a pot for baking or browning either.
All said and done, I like this babe and I highly recommend it. I might buy the cold steel version for my bug out bag though, as it is good to have tools which can be repaired or weaponized in the field if required. I’ll use this baby for regular backpacking and camping though.
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