An entrenching tool (small shovel) is often an overlooked piece of gear when packing a survival pack such as a 72 Hour Bag or I.N.C.H Bag.
From digging fire pits, covering up waste, moving materials, hiding supplies, building a shelter, moving snow, or used as a defensive tool, their value and versatility should not be overlooked.
Survival shovels have taken the entrenching tool a step further by turning it into a modern-day multi-tool. The once simple shovel has been given a makeover by adding multiple cutting edges and other tool attachments.
For this article, I will be doing a hands-on review of the EVATAC Elite Tactical Shovel. But first, let’s see what the shovel has to offer.
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EVATAC Elite Tac Shovel Review
When fully assembled this tool is 24 ½” long from the tip of the shovel to the end of the handle with the handle making up 16 ½”.
Removing the extension tubes will result in a shorter configuration of roughly 17 ½” overall length and roughly 9” in handle length.
440 stainless steel shovel head with an aircraft grade aluminum shaft and fittings.
- 440 stainless steel shovel head
- Flathead screwdriver
- Phillips screwdriver
- Bottle opener
- Can opener
- Mini Saw
- Liquid filled compass
- Ferro rod
- 120db emergency whistle
- 2x Hex wrench
- Shovel sheath with two Velcro straps (camouflage)
- Accessories pouch (camouflage)
I have used intrenching tools in the past, but I must admit that multi-tools like this have never impressed me. From the outside, they appear to be all show with subpar abilities.
Since this is the first time that I have used one of these survival shovels I will be judging it and all the tools included based on usability, and its effectiveness.
After securing the shovel in place I went to work on digging a hole. The stainless steel head easily dug into semi-soft soil. I was able to move enough dirt to produce a hole roughly one foot by one foot in just a few minutes.
I like that that the head can be adjusted to a 90-degree angle so that it can be used as a hoe. This makes scooping and moving materials more efficient.
What I did not like about it was the side to side movement between the shovel and the handle. After five to ten impact uses of the shovel the locking mechanism loosened up and had to be retightened. The shovel is easy to use and overall effective.
On one side of the shovel head is a cutting edge meant to be used for chopping. This did great in knocking off small branches and branches that were about the size of my thumb in diameter.
However, when I chopped into something a bit larger, I started feeling slightly uncomfortable. I tried chopping into a large branch only to have the blade produce shallow cuts and skip around on the surface. I then tried it with a completely straight, vertical chop without it skipping.
While chopping, the handle itself was comfortable but it did not feel solid in my hands. With every swing, there was movement in the shovel head and an overall uneasy feeling throughout the handle as though something could break. Setting this up as a chopping tool was easy and it was effective for small light duty tasks. For medium duty tasks it was ineffective.
The Shovel Saw
It works in a pinch, but I would not plan on using this for a lot of sawing. The teeth were not sharp, and a lot of effort had to be expended for a proper cut into wood.
I think this saw would be better used for ripping through other materials like soil, grass and vegetation. It works but I did not find it effective as a wood saw.
It seems like every multi-tool nowadays has a screwdriver bit in it somewhere. And hey, why not, they always come in handy. This setup comes with a duel head screwdriver. One side is Philips and the other is a flathead.
The flathead head worked fine. But when I l flipped the bit to use the Philips, I could not insert the flathead into the handle. Try as I might, that side of the bit would not fit. Unfortunately, if I cannot use one of the attachments as it is intended then it is not user friendly or effective.
The mini saw screws into the end cap, providing a longer handle that fits in the hand.
Personally, I found this setup to be uncomfortable and awkward for finger placement as the spine of the saw doubles as a knife edge.
When I tried using the saw to cut into a piece of wood it did work but it was slow going. I used a similar sized outdoor saw that was able to produce a cut double the size in the same amount of time. After experiencing how much effort had to be put into using the shovel saw, I was disappointed that this saw was not more effective.
Like most knives, this one was advertised as being razor sharp. I first tried the knife using the paper test, which it failed. I then tried to cut a single piece of 550 paracord. The knife was able to cut through the cordage but only after I used tremendous force.
For being a brand new out of the box, I would not say this knife was on the razor’s edge.
Ferro rods, one of my favorite pieces of gear, because you really cannot have too many ways to start a fire. The one included with this tool is easy to handle and produces a good number of sparks, making it effective. I like that the knife/saw tool or the shovel head can be used to scrape the ferro rod.
On the opposite side of the ferro rod is a 120 db signal whistle. Having a signal whistle can be a great aid in being heard when your voice cannot. I think it works great and it comes in a very appealing dark blue color.
Liquid filled compass
Within the top cap of the handle piece is a liquid filled compass. I was glad to see that it was recessed into the cap and not sitting flush with the metal. This should protect it from damage when other tools are being used.
It reminds me of most other liquid filled button compasses. I took it out for a little stroll, and it pointed north every time. Easy to use and so far, effective.
The handle can be setup in a few different configurations which allow for a shorter or longer handled shovel.
One benefit of a hollow handle is that a few extra supplies could be stuffed away inside. Though for them to be held in place the end cap would always need to be on.
Overall, the handle was comfortable, and the textured design does provide a good grip.
It is 9cm long, I double checked the measurements so it will work as intended.
This was the only part of the tool I was not able to test out at the time of my field test.
It worked fine and allowed me to open a cold beverage after putting the tactical shovel through its paces.
For me, the can opener was ineffective to the point of being unusable.
Sheath and Accessories Pouch
The sheath covers the shovel head and is held on by two small Velcro straps. The accessories pouch comes with a belt loop to be carried on the waist or strapped to a pack.
I always appreciate when a product comes with its own carrying case. But I do offer three suggestions for improving them.
I think it would be beneficial to have one carrying case over two. If one of the pouches becomes separated or lost from the other, the survival shovel becomes less useful.
I would have liked to have seen two extra straps on the shovel cover. One on the back side so it could be attached to a pack, and one on the front to hold the handle down and keep it from bouncing around.
Tactical Shovel Pros and Cons
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- Compact and lightweight
- 440 Stainless steel offers corrosion resistance and sturdy shovel head construction
- Chops small diameter wood well
- Digs and moves material well
- Whistle is loud and effective
- Ferro rod throws sparks
- Easy to change between a straight shovel and 90-degree hoe configuration
- All the cutting edges were dull
- Handle pieces lock too tightly
- Shovel sheath and accessories pouch separate
Need To Know
The lockup of the individual handle pieces was too tight. I fully assembled the shovel and used it for thirty minutes to dig, chop, cut and saw. I wanted to move on to trying out the other accessories but ran into a snag. For the life of me I could not unscrew the handle.
I will admit that I am not the biggest guy in the room, but I can certainly open a stubborn jar of pickles. But to disassemble the handle I had to use a Channellock, which I normally do not carry with me.
I thought this was maybe a fluke and after testing I reassembled the entire tool again. After a short bit of using it, I tried to disassemble it only to run into the same problem.
I think this tactical shovel would best be used for short term wilderness excursions that include hikes, hunting, fishing, and camping trips.
At the end of the day the shovel portion of this tool did what it was supposed, dig a hole, and move dirt. While I applaud the innovation and presentation that went into making this versatile intrenching tool, its performance did not deliver what I expect from my tools.
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