BEST SHOVELS | NOVEMBER 2017
A shovel is an essential tool for your garage, garden shed, or camping backpack, with a number of practical uses and applications. There is a great deal of variety when it comes to styles and uses, however: a pointed shovel intended for gardening and breaking through dirt and rocks, for example, is a much different tool than a wide, square-headed shovel made to haul coal or snow. We looked at several different styles and use cases to determine the best-performing shovels in a number of different applications, looking for well-designed and built shovels that can stand up to a rigorous workload. Read more about our methodology.
This trenching shovel is an excellent choice if you want a more precise blade and lightweight design. It excels at creating a thin and more even trench, perfect for running pipes or underground wires.Read full review.
For general digging jobs around the garden or yard, this affordable shovel offers great performance in a lightweight design. It offers a relatively basic features, but is sturdy enough for everyday use.Read full review.
If you want a shovel that’s easy to carry and fits into tighter spaces, this compact budget shovel is a great buy. It’s surprisingly sturdy, with a comfortable grip and a small, but versatile, design.Read full review.
Shovels BUYING GUIDE
Every job requires a specific shovel: you wouldn’t use a trenching shovel for clearing snow, while a full-sized shovel doesn’t lend itself particularly well to hiking and camping. When choosing a shovel, it’s important to consider exactly how you intend to use it and choose a shovel that will provide you with the best performance. If you’re primarily planning to keep a shovel in a shed or garage, then portability is less important, while a square shovel won’t be the best buy for someone taking on a landscaping project.
Material strength is one of the most important factors in choosing a shovel. Whether you’re buying a shovel to clear wet, heavy snow or a traditional shovel to dig holes though rocks and soil, you’ll want a shovel that can withstand impact and weight without bending or breaking. It’s also important to balance strength with weight. A fiberglass handle, for example, will reduce overall weight but may bend more than a solid steel handle.
While choosing a shovel, it’s also worth considering what kind of ergonomic features a particular model offers. A shovel with a D-shaped handle or foam grips may be more comfortable for all-day use, while shovels designed for lifting heavy loads may incorporate a curve to reduce back and arm strain. These are important features to look for, since you may often find yourself working with a shovel all day, and these will help avoid fatigue, blisters, and aches.
Head Design and Foot Platform
With any style or type of shovel, the design of the head and foot platform are very important considerations. With a traditional shovel, you need a shovel with a hardened and well-pointed head, along with enough of a foot platform to really drive the shovel into the ground. A foot platform is less of a consideration when buying a snow shovel or a flat shovel, but the head design is still a very important consideration if you don’t want to drop materials or have to shovel the same spot multiple times.
Shovel prices range from about $15 to over $50, with the vast majority of shovels falling in the $20 to $40 range. Within this price range, there is significant variance when it comes to price, quality, and style, so it’s largely a question of what jobs you need a shovel to complete and the performance and design of a particular shovel. Generally, a decent shovel for everyday and heavier-duty use will fall in this price range, so features like head and foot platform design and tensile strength become more important considerations than price alone.
Certain specialty shovels may fall outside of the $20 to $40 price range. A compact folding shovel, for example, might cost slightly less, but offer somewhat limited performance compared to a full-sized shovel. A survival shovel, on the other hand, may cost a bit more, but offer added features like a saw and pick to justify its higher price point.
FULL product reviews
We research hundreds of products in order to bring you a final, unbiased list of the very best. We also use a proprietary algorithm to score each product in terms of quality, value, and brand reputation. These subscores are then weighted to calculate our overall scores. Read more about how we calculate our scores.
The Fiskars Long Handle Digging Shovel is a simple, but extremely effective shovel that delivers excellent performance on packed and rock-filled dirt. It offers welded steel construction, which means it’s not the lightest weight shovel available, but it won’t bend or break when you put it through its paces. The extra-long handle is also a great feature, since it’s puts less strain on your arms and back while digging deep holes or difficult soil.
Why We Recommend It
- Steel build is very rugged. Reviewers love the steel construction of this shovel and the extra strength it provides. They particularly praise its performance on hard and rocky soil, saying that it easily cuts through the ground.
- Comfortable handle. Several users also like that the handle of this shovel is teardrop-shaped, rather than round. This provides extra comfort, especially if you’re using the shovel for an all-day job.
- Longer handle reduces strain. In addition to its teardrop shape, the handle on this shovel is very long (nearly 5 feet), which users like for reducing back strain and fatigue while taking on bigger jobs.
- Larger foot platform enhances digging performance. Several reviewers also praise this shovel’s large foot platform, which gives it a big edge over competitors. You can put more weight on the shovel, giving you added leverage and digging power.
- Steel construction adds weight. If there’s one consistent user comment about this shovel, it’s that the steel construction adds a lot of weight. While it’s powerful and well-built, the steel body means this shovel is definitely not a lightweight tool.
Truper’s Tru Pro California Trenching Shovel balances excellent digging strength with a lightweight, but durable, design. The fiberglass handle can withstand heavy use, while the pointed 4-inch blade excels at digging long and level trenches in almost any type of soil. While it doesn’t have the same level of versatility as a general-use shovel, it is a perfect shovel for irrigation, planting, or running wires and pipes.
Why We Recommend It
- Pointed blade works on many soil types. Many users praise this shovel’s performance on a wide variety of soil types, from clay to gravel, which lets you tackle a wide variety of trenching jobs.
- Lightweight design helps reduce fatigue. This trenching shovel uses a fiberglass handle, which helps reduce overall weight. A number of reviewers mention that they’re able to use this shovel for extended periods of time without feeling as much fatigue.
- Size and width are ideal for pipes and wires. With its 4-inch width, this trenching shovel is a perfect size for laying underground wires or PVC pipes. Multiple reviewers mention the width in particular for running cable, sprinkler systems, and underground pipes.
- Has a tendency to bend. Because of its fiberglass handle, some users run into issues with this shovel bending due to excess weight or strain. This can be an issue if you’re working with very compacted or rock-filled ground.
- Not the best for scooping. While this shovel digs trenches very well, users say it’s not the best at scooping rocks, dirt, and gravel from those trenches. You may find that you need a second shovel to actually remove debris.
True Temper’s Forged Round Point Digging Shovel is a simple, straightforward digging shovel at a price point that makes it an easy addition to anyone’s tool shed or garage. It features a long wooden handle to make big jobs easier, while the sturdy head does a solid job of cutting through rocks and dirt. For first-time homeowners or gardeners, is an excellent and well-priced shovel for taking on everyday digging projects.
Why We Recommend It
- Pressed steel head easily cuts through soil. This shovel features a pressed steel head, which reviewers like for digging through soil and sod. Several users particularly like this shovel for planting in gardens.
- Larger rounded head moves a lot of dirt. Users appreciate that this shovel can haul a lot of soil and rocks out of holes. The head is wide and deep enough to carry larger loads, which makes clearing holes much quicker.
- Long, cushioned handle reduces strain. Several reviewers like the lightweight wooden handle. It’s both cushioned to reduce blisters and splinters, and extra-long to reduce back strain.
- Not as dependable on hard or rocky soil. Several reviewers feel that this shovel falls short on hard or rocky soil. If you live in a rocky area, then this shovel may quickly bend or break during use.
The Ames Green Thumb D-Handle Round Point Mini Shovel is a handy compact shovel that offers performance far above its price point. While most users probably wouldn’t want a shovel this small as their primary digging tool, its portability and comfortable handle means you can bring it with you to take care of smaller jobs, while the full-sized head does a great job of digging and clearing holes.
Why We Recommend It
- Compact design. This mini shovel is only 26 inches long, which is about half the length of most shovels. Several reviewers say this makes it a perfect size for smaller users, while many others like the ability to keep it in a vehicle.
- Comfortable D-grip handle. The plastic D-grip handle is another great feature, since it helps provide leverage when pushing the shovel into the ground as well as extra stability when carrying soil and rocks out of a hole.
- Surprisingly sturdy build. While it is a small shovel, the Ames mini shovel is very well-built. Users report successfully using it on hard soil, rocks, and even concrete without it bending or breaking.
- Can cause back strain for taller users. Because it’s so small, taller users may have issues with back strain after prolonged use. For these users in particular, a full-length shovel would probably be a better buy.
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Best Garden Shovel
Gardeners and landscapers who need a shovel that can cut through roots and withstand the wear and tear of hard-packed dirt and rocky soil will get a lot of use out of a garden shovel. These shovels tend to have a more pointed head to cut through the ground and sever old roots. They also have a somewhat thinner profile and trowel-shaped head is excellent for digging holes that fit bulbs or root balls.
The Radius Garden Root Slayer is designed for serious gardeners, with a wide range of added features that make gardening projects much easier. The most noteworthy features are on the shovel’s v-shaped blade, which has a very sharp point and saw tooth blades which can both be used to cut through thick roots and hard soil. It’s a heavier shovel than most, but it performs exceptionally well.
Why We Recommend It
- V-shaped blade cuts through hard soil. Reviewers tend to really like the ease with which the Root Slayer digs through hard and rocky soil. The sharp point gets in and easily breaks up clumps of dirt.
- Saw tooth blades cut through small and medium roots with ease. The integrated blades are by far one of the biggest selling points of this shovel. Users report cutting through smaller and medium-sized roots very easily while digging holes.
- Well-shaped for transplanting. Another user-favorite benefit of the v-shaped blade is that it makes transplanting much easier. You can quickly shovel an entire root ball out and move it to a new spot.
- O-shaped handle takes some getting used to. Many users find that the O-shaped handle takes some getting used to. While some users end up liking this design element, others find it uncomfortable.
- Heavier than other shovels. One recurring complaint from users about the Root Slayer is that it is significantly heavier than a regular shovel, which can cause exhaustion during a larger gardening project.
Best Folding Shovel
Campers and hikers can both benefit from a highly portable folding shovel. Whether you’re digging a latrine, creating a fire pit at a campsite, or burying compost, you’ll want a shovel that can easily fold to fit in a backpack or pouch, along with quick and easy set up and enough strength for any job you might encounter. These portable shovels are also perfect for keeping in an emergency kit, since they can be folded and packed to go anywhere.
Ames’ US GI Military Original Issue E-Tool Entrenching Shovel is a sturdy, military grade folding shovel that offers several features that make it an essential addition to a backpack or portable tool kit. The lightweight carbon steel head effectively cuts through packed or difficult soil, while the serrated side of the blade serves as a saw for cutting brush and firewood. It’s simple to fold and only weighs 3 pounds, which makes it easy to pack and carry.
Why We Recommend It
- Durable construction withstands frequent impact. This is a solidly-constructed shovel, made of durable materials that resist rust and corrosion. Reviewers love that they can use this shovel for almost any type of ground without risking damaging it.
- Portable and lightweight design is great for backpacks. Reviewers like this shovel’s lightweight construction and very portable design, which fits well into pouches and backpacks without adding excessive bulk.
- Multiple tools provide extra versatility. The included saw blade and sharpened edge are also great additions to this shovel, with users saying they can help with chopping firewood while out for a hike.
- Easy to accidentally fold. Some reviewers also report that it’s easy to accidentally fold this shovel while using it. This is especially the case when trying to use the shovel in an L-shaped position as a pick.
The MEET Y Portable Folding Shovel is a great choice for campers and hikers who don’t necessarily need military-grade construction and want a more lightweight shovel for backpacking. It stays locked in position while digging, and can fold into a pick and right-angle scoop for added versatility. It also includes a handy carrying pouch, which can clip on the outside of a backpack or pouch.
Why We Recommend It
- Extremely compact folding. This shovel folds down even further than most of its competitors, which users like for saving space in a pack or storing in a vehicle between uses.
- Versatile options give you tools for various situations. Reviewers also praise the ability to quickly fold this shovel into a variety of digging tools, including a pick and a right-angle digger. This helps to quickly break up and remove debris from holes.
- Great balance of lightweight and durable design. Several reviewers note that this shovel is surprisingly durable, especially considering that it weighs so little.
- Smaller shovel size limits use. While the various tools are excellent for digging holes on campsites and in nature, users find the shovel too small to be practical outside of these situations.
- Blade is not very sharp. Reviewers also mention that the edge of the shovel is not very sharp, which can make hard and rocky soil difficult to work with.
Best Square Point Shovel
If you’re looking for a versatile shovel that can haul dirt and rocks while also doubling as a snow shovel, a sturdy square-headed shovel is a great addition to your toolshed or garage. A well-made square shovel can be useful in any season, since it’s designed for hauling heavyweight materials, from snow and soil to coal and stones. While square shovels aren’t as great at breaking through the ground, they’re great if you’re trying to clear an area quickly and efficiently.
The Bully Tools 82520 14-Gauge Square Point Shovel excels at hauling rocks, dirt, and debris. It has a durable steel head that can hold a large and heavy pile of material, along with a strong fiberglass handle that resists bending and breaking. That handle is capped with a very solid D-grip handle, which is great for balance and controlling the flow of soil and rocks when you’re spreading them on the ground.
Why We Recommend It
- Steel construction is incredibly strong and versatile. For both hauling and spreading applications, the steel blade provides an excellent balance of strength and versatility. It’s perfectly shaped for lifting and distributing dirt, gravel, and sand.
- Well-built and long-lasting. Users agree that the Bully 82520 is an incredibly well-constructed shovel, with multiple reviews stating that this shovel is built for years of heavy use.
- Excellent strength for prying heavy materials. Reviewers also like the welding between the shovel’s head and handle, which is perfect for prying heavyweight materials like concrete and stone.
- Heavy weight may be difficult for some users to handle. Because it’s made of heavy steel, this shovel has significant heft. This may may it difficult for some users to effectively handle.
- Slightly angled head makes some jobs more awkward. Some users find the angle between the head and the handle somewhat awkward, which can make certain jobs more difficult and give this shovel different performance than flat shovels.
Best Survival Shovel
Users looking for a more versatile and durable digging tool can get a lot of use out of a military-style survival shovel. These dependable and well-built shovels tend to incorporate several added features, including picks and saws, that can cut through roots and rocks to help make digging easier in any terrain or adverse conditions. They also tend to either fold or quickly disassemble for added portability, which makes them a perfect addition to an emergency kit.
The Friendly Swede Entrenching Multi-Tool is a collapsible survival shovel that packs loads of emergency tools into a portable design. In addition to being a rugged and dependable camp shovel, it also includes several saws, a glass breaker, a knife, and a fire starter, all of which can help in an emergency situation. It’s also surprisingly lightweight at under two pounds, which makes it easy to carry in any situation.
Why We Recommend It
- Longer handle than folding shovels. While the collapsible design makes this shovel as portable as a folding shovel, it has the advantage of having a longer handle. Users find that this helps provide extra leverage.
- Great variety of included tools. Reviewers love the wide array of included survival tools, particularly the knife, saw, and glass breaker.
- High quality materials and construction. Several reviewers also mention that this multi-tool is very well-built and made of high quality materials. This helps it stand up to outdoor use and less-than-ideal conditions.
- Feels slightly too small. Several reviewers mention that the shovel itself feels slightly too small. While it may work well in an emergency, it’s not very practical for everyday use.
- Assembly takes some time. Some users found that assembling this multi-tool took longer than expected. Many reviewers noted difficulty unscrewing certain tools, with several specifically mentioning the fire-starter.
Best Snow Shovel
The True Temper 18-Inch Ergonomic Snow Shovel is a great choice for removing light to heavy snow. It features a handy metal edge on the blade that helps tackle packed snow, along with a blade design that works for both lifting and pushing snow. While you may need to make some minor adjustments to get the best performance out of this shovel, it’s an excellent buy for regular snow removal.
Why We Recommend It
- Works well for both pushing and lifting snow. The True Temper’s blade features high sides, which reviewers say provides a lot of versatility in removing snow. You can either lift snow and toss it away, or push snow straight off of surfaces.
- Great balance of lightweight design and effective snow removal. The ergonomic design is ideal for a long day shoveling snow. Users like that it doesn’t put too much strain on backs and arms, even when dealing with wet, heavy snow.
- Perfect edge for scraping packed snow. The metal edge on the shovel’s blade is a very useful feature, particularly when it comes to breaking up ice or scraping packed-down snow that has been walked or driven over.
- Connection between blade and handle tends to get loose. The most prevalent complaint about the True Temper snow shovel is that the connection between the handle and the blade often feels loose. Several reviewers fixed this issue by adding extra screws, but not every buyer would want to do this.
- Excess snow sometimes clings to shovel. A somewhat minor complaint that several users express is that snow occasionally clings to the shovel due to the blade’s high sides. This is primarily an issue if you’re trying to lift and toss snow, however.