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Should I carry a shovel on my backpacking trip?

If you are going on an overnight backpacking trip or a thru-hike, you should really carry a shovel with you. You might think that kicking the dirt with your shoe will create a large enough hole for your needs, but in most cases it's almost impossible to create a cat hole (6 inch hole to bury your waste) with only your shoe. A shovel makes digging a hole much easier and reduces unnecessary wear and tear on your shoes.

Paul Bodnar       Educational       7/06/2021
Paul Bodnar
Educational
7/06/2021
shovels being measured

Plastic Shovel

Weight:  1.8 ounces (51 grams)

Blade Length: 6 inches

Pros: Cost, blade length, comfortable handle, easy to see orange color

Cons: weight, plastic more likely to break

 

Coghlan’s Backpacker’s Trowel

Retail Cost: $5

Aluminum Shovel

Weight:  0.6 ounces (17 grams)

Blade Length: 3.5 inches

Pros: lightweight, durable

Cons: expensive, short blade length, uncomfortable handle

 

The Deuce of Spades

Retail Cost: $20

Summary

So is it worth carrying a shovel with you? Yes! If you plan on going on a multiple day backpacking trip, you should carry a shovel with you. For most hikers and backpackers, the affordable orange plastic shovel will work fine. But for long-distance hikers and thru-hikers that want to save weight and are not price sensitive, the aluminum and titanium shovels might be the better choice.


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Showers Lake Vista, Tahoe Rim Trail
Photo courtesy of the Tahoe Rim Trail Association
A lake reflects a nearby wildflower meadow and trees.
Showers Lake Vista, Tahoe Rim Trail
Photo courtesy of the Tahoe Rim Trail Association

Trail guides that get you to places you’ve dreamed of.

As the makers of Guthook Guides, Bikepacking Guides, and Cyclewayz, we help you navigate the most popular trails around the world on your smartphone. Our hiking guides and biking guides work completely offline. Let Guthook guide your next adventure!

Download our popular hiking and biking guides!
About the Author
A man wearing an Arizona Trail baseball cap stands in a field in front of a mountain.

Paul Bodnar

Paul has always liked hiking and thru-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail in 1997 after college. After years of working in chemistry, he wanted to create a career involving the outdoors, so he hiked the Pacific Crest Trail again in 2010 to do research for his guide book Pocket PCT. He realized that creating a smartphone app for navigating the outdoors would make it easier to keep the data current and provide a better way to navigate. While hiking with Ryan (aka Guthook) in 2010, they decided to work together to create the first comprehensive smartphone guide for the Pacific Crest Trail. Now with the help of a team of great people they have created over 50 guides for trails around the world.