Having a proper shovel handy can make life a lot easier. When digging out cars and trucks we’ve used windshield scrapers, snowboards, and even the lid of a cooler. Off-road life can be made much easier with the right shovel.
An off-road shovel is an essential piece of recovery gear, along with recovery ropes and jacks. It can mean the difference between spending your time recovering a vehicle and spending it cruising the trails if you can shovel away a buried wheel or high-pointed axle by shoveling away the offending substance, whether it is snow, sand, or mud. Overlanding for multiple days or weeks also requires a shovel for other tasks, including digging latrines, fire pits, or putting out fires.
You can find off-road shovels in a wide variety of styles, from classic wood-handled shovels from hardware stores to exotic multi-tools with interchangeable heads. Those options come with a wide variety of price tags, so your budget will in part dictate your choice. Over the long run, cheap shovels are more likely to break or rust than high-quality shovels. So you should invest in a high-quality shovel if you plan to go off-road and overland for years to come.
As with camping axes, shovels are useful in camp and on the trail, helping dig latrines and put out campfires.
The following factors should be considered when selecting an off-road shovel.
How to Choose an Off-Road Shovel
A variety of materials are used to make off-road shovels nowadays, such as wood, fiberglass, stainless steel, and aluminum. Wood shovels, which are usually adequate for most jobs, are less durable, while fiberglass and aluminum shovels offer the advantage of being lightweight and strong. While heavier, stainless steel shovels are extremely durable and weatherproof.
Length of the Shovel
It is impossible to dig under your vehicle if your off-road shovel is too small; it can be difficult to stow and can be difficult to get into tight spaces. Generally, we’re skeptical of off-road shovels that fold up, because they tend to be too small for the strenuous work of recovering a vehicle. If it’s too long, it is difficult to stow on or in your vehicle. We prefer one that comes to about hip height from the tip of the blade to the handle. DMOS’s collapsible shovels (see below), however, have an ergonomic length, are sturdy, and are easy to stow.
It’s best to get a shovel with a spade-shaped blade, something that can penetrate dirt, sand, ice, mud, and maybe even chop some roots or tree branches. Square shovels are generally limited in their use. Off-road shovels with sharp points (or multiple sharp points) can be particularly useful for challenging obstacles, such as roots or hard clay.
However, we prefer shovels with D-shaped or T-shaped grips on the end of their handles. We find this to be more ergonomic and functional than an off-road shovel with only a straight shaft.
Our Picks for the Best Off-Road Recovery and Overland Shovels
Delta Shovels by DMOS are the Excalibur of off-road recovery shovels. This shovel is lightweight, durable, collapses down to a small size, and can be used both as a shovel and a hoe. A 3mm-thick blade is made from aircraft-grade steel. These are top-quality American-made products made in Oregon. They are pricey, but they are a good investment.
Former search and rescue members from New Mexico designed the Krazy Beaver Shovel. The shovel’s gnarly teeth make it easy to cut through hard ground, ice, roots, and other tough objects. The teeth of the shovel are sturdy because the head is made of thicker steel than most shovels. Fiberglass is used for the handle and plastic is used for the grip. The grip can be removed with a lock pin to provide small storage space in the handle. When the shovel is not in use, a safety guard covers those fierce teeth.
A mini off-road shovel like this might be the most luxurious ever created.
Despite its name, it is 23 inches in length and has a powder-coated wrinkle-black finish. The blade is wider than average, so the Agency 6 Mini Shovel will be able to pull more material with each pull.
Mounting brackets are included for utmost convenience when attaching the shovel to a roof rack.
Due to its superior construction and materials, this is the most expensive shovel on this list.
The quick access feature of the shovel was what sold us on it. It has a mega mount that allows you to unscrew the core from the mount in less than 30 seconds.
As a bonus, mounting it to a roof rack makes it look really clean.
As it’s powder-coated, you don’t have to worry about it rusting in the rain, shine, or snow.
Your recovery tool kit might benefit from the Bond mini, as it is a classic all-around great little companion.
It doesn’t look like much, but it is a well-made, quality shovel that does the job every time. Sometimes that’s all you need in a shovel.
A tempered, heat-treated steel blade provides enhanced strength and extended service life while you dig away at the focus with this mini D-Grip fiberglass handle.
When breaking up tough dirt, this round point shovel’s sharpened edges will reduce the amount of effort required.
As a result of its size, you can work much closer to your rig and even get under it if the occasion dictates.
Whether you are looking for an add-on shovel or a second shovel for your kit, this is a great option.
A shovel like this is extremely affordable, coming in at just $20.
Despite the name, most of Rhino USA’s products are manufactured in China, not California.
Our favorite thing about this foldup shovel is that it comes with a lifetime warranty.
Its heavy-duty tactical appearance gives it the illusion of being a weighty shovel. When you pick it up, it weighs only 2.65 lbs, making it delightfully lightweight. It also gives it better flexibility, especially when dealing with complex situations that require more calculation and maneuvering.
This shovel can fold down to the size of an ARB deflator pouch, as well as include a pouch of nearly the same size.
With a swivel of a dial, this off-road shovel can convert from a shovel into a pickaxe for breaking through hard compacted surfaces.
The shovel is good for its price, but it does have some flaws that you should know about before buying it.
The main advantage of this shovel is that it folds into a small pouch and can be stored in a recovery bag. Other than that, other shovels like the Bond mini have better build quality.
Off-road shovels like the Bully Tools Round Point Shovel are an affordable, yet hardy option. This shovel was designed as a gardening/construction shovel, but it can also be used for Overlanding. The blade is 15 gauge steel, and the handle is fiberglass reinforced with wood. The handle grip is polypropylene. It’s not as high-tech as the other shovels listed below, but for around $50 it’s a good deal.
In addition to serving as a shovel, the Handle-All Multi-Purpose Tool from the makers of Hi-Lift Jacks has four different working heads, including a shovel, an ax, a pickaxe, and a sledgehammer. Despite our skepticism, it’s a legitimate multitool that’s built to last. It has a carrying case so you can store it when you’re not using it. The metal handle telescopes for extra flexibility.
This shovel is perfect for everyone, from gardeners and landscapers to off-roaders and overlanders.
Radius Garden’s stainless shovel has a round point and a larger blade than most of its class. It also has a deeper cup than most in its class.
This blade shape is extremely useful in loose soils, muddy terrain, sand, and light snow.
Unlike the average cheap transfer shovel on the market today, this shovel works well in all conditions, is very robust, and can be used day in and day out by professionals.
The Radius PRO shovels are made of reinforced stainless steel and feature a raised forward kick with an additional width for increased balance and decreased strain.
Radius Garden’s stainless steel shovel is ergonomically designed to minimize stress on your arms, hands, and wrists.
When working on a trail, it’s great to have a shovel around 40 inches to avoid straining your back with smaller, mini-length shovels.
This tool features stainless steel working ends, a unique handle design, and more than adequate stepping edges.
A dynamic interchangeable system of off-road tools, Mag-Lok is similar to the Handle-All by Hi-Lift. Whether you’re searching for a few-piece kit or multiple stages, the Mag-Lok Off-Roader’s Shovel Kit is broken down into multiple stages, so you can choose from many different packages and styles on Amazon.
Although their interchangeable and connectable tools are aimed at reinventing the off-road industry, they have yet to make a serious impact. It’s not for everyone, like the Handle-All kit, but I think it’s great for someone who needs all the tools in one place.
One of the greatest benefits of this shovel is that its patented components can all be replaced and exchanged.
Mag-Lok Off-roader’s Shovel Kit is worth a look if you are an avid off-roader/explorer who needs all the tools in this kit.
Made in the USA, this shovel was created and designed to withstand years of heavy use.
A Mag-Lok Off Roader’s Shovel has been designed for easy storage and organization, so you won’t be caught unprepared in a survival or recovery situation. It also features a Heavy-duty Carry Bag for additional storage convenience.
The rugged design ensures maximum functionality in the most extreme environments.
In general, we prefer longer shovels when off-roading and Overlanding, but smaller, more compact shovels can be more versatile in certain situations. For instance, if you want to carry the shovel in a backpack or bug-out bag, a folding survival-style shovel will work for that purpose and will serve as your off-road recovery shovel as well. Currently, there are many survival shovels to choose from, many of which are, frankly, crap. An excellent option from a reputable brand is the Gerber E-tool Folding Spade.
It’s important to be prepared for everything when you’re out on the trail.
You should check out the Shovel Tec shovel if you are interested in off-roading, Overlanding, or just a day at the beach.
The Shovel Tec lineup is pretty solid, and it’s also perfect for camping as well as a variety of other uses. With this universal recreational tool, you can mount it on your roof rack or store it conveniently and compactly alongside other recovery tool accessories in your kit.
There are many different styles, colors, and blade types offered by Built Right Industries. They also offer a unique mounting clamp that couples a Built Right Industries bracket with a Quick Fist clamp.
Our first impression of these shovels is that they are incredibly well built, well designed, and highly respected in the industry.
Designed for the toughest conditions, the Shovel Tec line features all components that are sourced and manufactured in the U.S.A.
What is the difference between Overlanding shovels and off-road shovels?
There is nothing special about Overlanding shovels. They are just off-road shovels used on Overlanding expeditions. One thing to consider is the weight of the shovel. If all things are equal, take a lighter shovel, since Overlanding trips require more gear than a day out on off-road trails, which can quickly exceed your cargo capacity.
What is the best way to mount an off-road shovel to my vehicle?
For some shovels, such as those from DMOS, dedicated mounts are available. Usually, these are very expensive but will fit the shovel perfectly and be very secure. Rack manufacturers that cater to off-road and Overlanding enthusiasts, including Garvin, Warrior, and Front Runner, also offer shovel and ax mounting options. As mentioned above, Quick Fist Clamps are a more general mounting option and can be used on a variety of roof and bumper racks.