Should I carry a shovel on my backpacking trip?

If you are going on an overnight backpacking trip or a thru-hike, you should 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 is not. It is extremely difficult to create a cat hole that is 6 inches deep with just your shoe. A shovel makes digging a hole much easier and reduces unnecessary wear and tear on your shoes.

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



Retail Cost: $12 to $20


So is it worth carrying a lightweight shovel with you? Yes! If you plan on going on an overnight backpacking trip, you should carry a shovel with you. It is very important to be prepared to dig a 6 to 8 inch cathole for waste if needed. Check out our blog on how to properly dig a cathole. 

For most casual hikers and over night backpackers, the affordable and light orange plastic shovel will work fine. But these light orange lightweight shovels are not very durable and will likely break if used on a regular basis.

For long-distance hikers and thru-hikers that will use the shovel daily a plastic shovel will likely not last. So most thru-hikers choose the lightweight metal shovel for the durability and weight savings. The aluminum or titanium shovels are more expensive but in the long term are likely the better choice because of the durability.