I can't tell you the amount of times I've packed, and repacked my bug out bag. I've lost count myself. Because I'm always trying to rotate in new tools and bits of gear that I've heard mention, or been recommended to use by a trusted friend. Often, they're ideas that sound great on paper, but don't actually make it into my long-term packing list. They're either cumbersome, add too much weight, or not something I need in my bug out kit. A luxury instead of a "must have."
Over the years I've gotten pretty good at knowing what works (and doesn't work) for me and my kit. I've hiked thousands of miles with it on my back, and spent many nights under the stars (or hiding from a storm). I know what's what. And it's not often I add new things to the list. It's just not worth the extra weight, which slows me down and puts extra strain on my ageing joints.
But recently I discovered a new piece of gear. One I hadn't personally carried in my pack for ages. A shovel. The last one I had weighed a couple of pounds, and whilst it was a great improvised weapon, the weight alone had me swap it out for a hatchet after a couple of trips. I needed firewood more than the ability to dig holes. And that's where the mini shovel comes in.
At just 230mm when fully extended, it folds up to a miniscule 130mm by 60mm. That's smaller than the new iPhone, and it comes with a handy little case to store it in. It's tiny, lightweight. And practical.
Now you see, when I was a kid one of the pieces of gear we always had to carry on our camping trips with the Boy Scouts was a shovel. Sure, it was a folding one, but looking back, we did spend a lot of time digging. It always felt like it was my task to cut the trench around our tent to ensure any runoff from the rain didn't run through and soak us all. Perhaps our scout leader just didn't like me.
But as a survivalist, a shovel can be a handy tool.
Since adding the mini survival shovel to my kit, here's what I've used it for.
- Latrine. When you've got to go you've got to go, and being able to dig a hole quick smart to bury any waste is one of the best ways you can be a considerate camper. A small shovel makes this task far easier than using your hands, a stick, or your knife.
- Gathering. It's not always possible to yank yams and other edibles out with your bare hands, and a small shovel makes it easy to dig these up to add to your pot. I'm always keeping an eye out for things to eat when I'm hiking, and the faster I can collect these, the faster I'm on my way.
- Bait. I take a small fishing kit everywhere I go, and I'm usually pretty fortunate to catch a fish or two when I'm living off the land. A shovel makes it so easy to dig up earthworms for bait, I'm kicking myself I didn't start carrying this sooner.
- Seafood. I'm also much more comfortable using the blade of the shovel to chip off oysters and dig for clams in the sand, instead of my knife. So, my knife stays sharp for other jobs, and I'm not risking injury from any slips with the blade.
- Trenches. Despite my hatred for digging, if you're caught in a bit of bad weather a small trench is one of the best ways you can divert any runoff from your camp. And I was stuck with this duty just last month. You laugh now, but it did help us stay dry.
And all of these are only what I've used mine for so far.
You could use your shovel to dig a Dakota fire hole to keep the flames out of sight if you're worried about your campfire being spotted during a grid-down event.
You could use your shovel to help you dig out dig a pit trap and catch substantially bigger game, like a wild pig, than what you could catch on your own.
You could use it to dig out your car tires should you get stuck in ice or mud while driving off-road, or to load in rocks and gravel to give your tires a little traction without sticking your hand down there.
You could use it to cut a hole in the ice to actually break through and fish on a frozen lake or stream you previously were unable to reach.
You could use it to dig and hide a cache of supplies, if you're being tracked and want to offload some gear, or if you simply want to leave a stash of supplies for next time.
There's so much you can do with a shovel, and in my opinion it's a key piece of gear.
But is it worth it?
For me, I'd say one thousand percent yes. A tiny addition to my bug out kit makes a world of difference. Primarily because I'm not ruining the edge on my knife or hatchet by using these tools for digging. Which saves me time because I'm not having to re-sharpen them as much in camp. It's also much safer, as I'm using a tool that's been specifically designed for its job. Digging. It's so much easier to cut a trench, dig a latrine and even collect food with the right tools. So, do yourself a favor, ensure you've got a shovel in your bug out kit. It's worth it.