One of the problems with being embarrassed with certain outdoor topics is that you tend to then forget necessary equipment to make your camping and hiking experiences complete. If you’re going to be camping a lot at rustic campsites, setting up hunting camps in the middle of nowhere, or doing some serious through hiking then you will want to make sure you have the right equipment to get the perfect camping bathrooms set up.
A camping trowel is a critical piece of outdoor equipment. There are many good ones to choose from. Whether you’re a long distance backpacker and thru hiker, a rustic camper, or a survivalist who doesn’t want to be caught realizing you need a tool you don’t have in a practice survival situation, there are many great reasons to make sure you have one of these quality trowels in your pack.
Not the least of which is digging a cathole or latrine hole when a portable camping toilet simply isn’t an option.
Read on to learn our top choices for this outdoor tool to add to your gear!
|Trowel Name||Our Rating (Out of 5.0)||Click for Up to Date Pricing|
Coghlan's Backpackers Trowel
|4.6 out of 5||CLICK HERE TO BUY ON AMAZON|
Grizzly Peak Ultra Lightweight Backpacker's Trowel
|3.9 out of 5||CLICK HERE TO BUY ON AMAZON|
The Tentlab Deuce of Spades Trowel
|4.8 out of 5||CLICK HERE TO BUY ON AMAZON|
HTS 220F8 Folding Stainless Steel Camping Trowel
|4.0 out of 5||CLICK HERE TO BUY ON AMAZON|
SOG Entrenching Tool F08-N
|4.1 out of 5||CLICK HERE TO BUY ON AMAZON|
GSI Outdoors Cathole Trowel Shovel
|4.5 out of 6||CLICK HERE TO BUY ON AMAZON|
Camping toilet checklist:
- Actual camping toilet(if using more than a latrine hole)
- Backpacker’s trowel
- Biodegradable toilet paper for camping
- Privacy tent (optional but nice to have)
Our Picks for Top Camping Trowels
This has long been one of our favorites. In fact the first time we reviewed camping trowels and backpacking trowels, this was actually #3 on the list, mostly because we needed to make sure that it stood up to the test of time.
Sure enough – our first impressions of this uniquely designed and outstanding trowel held up and the ones my brother and I bought three years ago are still the favorite anytime either one of us heads out to isolated backpacking country.
Plus, what a great name, right?
Sporting a very different and extremely unique design, the Tentlab Deuce of Spades trowel definitely sticks out among the competition and that’s not only because of its unique design but because of a variety of other specific traits that make it really look difference from the rest of the competition that is out there.
Made from aerospace aluminum and designed so both ends can be used for digging or removing dirt, depending on how much it needs to be broken up, the Deuce of Spades gets especially high marks when it comes to dealing with tricky ground where you need to be able to cut through roots in order to get a good solid hole dug.
The special aluminum material used in construction means that these are super lightweight in addition to being extremely tough.
Unlike the occasional cheap plastic trowels, these aren’t just going to snap at random – they are going to last the test of time over and over again. This is a great option for backpackers, campers, or even gardeners.
We actually had this one up on the list before they took off, and since then our experiences have been confirmed because this trowel has lasted the test of time and still performs as well as ever!
One of the most highly rated backpacking trowels on any list, Coghlan makes an extremely good ultra lightweight model (molded from high impact polystyrene) that comes in at a mere 2 ounces yet is firm and study enough to break through most soil types for when nature calls and you need to dig a decent sized cat hole fast.
Generally orange in color and also available in three packs, these trowels are also very inexpensive making them very popular with various outdoor enthusiasts.
Having the right tools when out in the wild is crucial. You want to always dispose of waste properly when camping or out in the wild. This inexpensive trowel is reliable for a wide variety of soil types, even hardened desert soil like what you find in Arizona and Texas during the height of summer.
While it might have been dethroned by the Tentlab trowel with its specialized design for backpackers and long-distance hikers, Coghlan’s trowel is still a very solid model and design complete with lanyard hole in the handle to give versatile carrying options. If you want to go with a more traditional design, you’re still going to be happy with Coghlan. This is like 1B to Tentlab’s 1A.
However, there is one potential downside to this model. While good for tough dirt and soil, these do not have serrated edges or the extra sharp points or sides that can be critical if you’re cutting through soil thick with small roots from grass, weeds, and small plants in the area. That is pretty much the only downside to this lightweight and classic camping trowel option.
Very budget friendly, this sanitation trowel is made of molded plastic which can sometimes be a red flag but in this case GSI delivers a surprisingly effective trowel. The design mold creates serrated edges which are perfect when you are dealing with thick roots or other tough stringy material in the soil.
There are measurements right on the trowel which is definitely handy when you use it for the garden or other times where knowing depth is important.
This is a very lightweight option at a mere three ounces, which is a very important factor when picking out the right one for you.
This is a trowel that is obviously made with backpacking in mind, and we’re thrilled to see just how much this company emphasizes the importance of leave no trace behind when enjoying the wild. This is a trowel made to build cat holes and latrine holes.
The design is excellent and although we usually have a bit of hesitation with plastic models, when the plastic mold is kept really high quality then this one is sure to remain really highly rated.
This is a great outdoor trowel and it is really surprisingly affordable for the quality it brings to the table.
Grizzly Peak Ultra Lightweight Backpacker’s Trowel
Available in black & green or orange & gray color combinations, these inexpensive but well designed plastic trowels are near the top of the list when it comes to the best cheap backpacker trowels. The Grizzly Peak company manages to create a good backpacking (or gardening) trowel that gets the job done even in especially hard soil while taking it easy on your pocketbook.
In fact, this is one of the most inexpensive options, making it the top rated budget option for a backpacking trowel.
Weighing just a sliver under two ounces, these are built to be as sturdy as possible without weighing down the pack. Considering that long distance backpackers are going to need this tool as much as anyone, it’s refreshing to see certain pieces of outdoor gear that are designed to work for the audience that needs them most.
Measuring 11″ long and 3.5″ wide, these trowels are strong and designed to cut through hard dry ground without an issue. A rubber thumb grip and good handle design means that you can hold this tool easily and get to the bottom of some hard soil to set up the perfect cathole or even dig deeper for a self dug latrine that needs to work for several days.
UPDATE: Well this happens from time to time. You have a great experience with a piece of equipment and someone else doesn’t, or you test it but miss something obvious, or otherwise. For loose soil or easy to dig soil, the Grizzly still rates up there as a truly outstanding option that is really budget-friendly.
However, as some of our readers and other outdoor reviewers have pointed out, when dealing with actual thick weed roots, rocky soil, or other similar challenging soil situations, then the tip of this trowel tends to bend or even break. In other words, it doesn’t hold up and that’s why we’re dropping its rating down the list.
HTS 220F8 Folding Stainless Steel Camping Trowel
Some people are perfectly fine with the inexpensive plastic trowels, while others want aluminum at an absolute minimum.
Then there are the group of campers and hikers who simply believe in the power of steel and that’s where the HTS 220F8 comes in as a high quality camping trowel made from stainless steel that is not only well designed and constructed, but also won’t throw off the weight of a pack or bust your budget.
This trowel weighs 4.7 ounces and it comes with a nylon pouch that allows for easy storage and carrying, as well. While used mostly as a digging tool the use of steel allows it to be versatile, as it can even be used to scale fish or be heated to work for cooking in a limited capacity.
There are many outdoor enthusiasts who really like this particular model, but there is one serious potential flaw that a few buyers have reported: on some models the handle has not held up well when dealing with a particularly weighted load of dirt and stone, which would definitely cause some legitimate frustration.
Also because this is metal, if it’s sitting out on the open of your pack while hiking it can definitely heat up – which isn’t a great situation when you suddenly need to get off trail to dig a quick hole!
Created from high carbon steel this entrenching tool and folding shovel isn’t your conventional backpacker trowel, but it works great for this purpose.
Perhaps even better in some situations, but this high carbon steel folding shovel isn’t exactly backpacker friendly but at 18.25 inches and a mere 24.5 ounces, this is still a high quality tool that can move dirt, sand, and snow.
This is definitely a quality tool. Not only is there the obvious shovel, but a serrated edge with tempered steel means cutting and slashing is possible with this particular tool. This tool can be used as a hoe or pick, as well, adding to its sheer versatility and helps explain why these types of tools are favorites among survivalists and many outdoor enthusiasts who like the ultra rustic camping side of things.
The tri-fold design makes them especially easy to fold up and pack, and a lifetime warranty helps buyers rest assured that they are covered no matter how often they use the tool. This is designed to hold up against the test of time.
Plan Your Camping Latrine Setup
This is really an important part of the process. Whether you are on an epic through hike like on the PCT or CDT and need to create a new spot to do your business at each one, or set up a camping bathroom that is going to work the weekend for your small rustic site, there are just certain tools that you will need in order to set up everything the way you want it.
You will want to plan your campsite whenever possible. Any outdoor bathroom whether you’re setting up a latrine for multiple uses or just setting up a one time use cat hole, you need to make sure you are at least 200 feet away from any trail, campsite, or water source. Keeping nature as pure as possible is critical, and you don’t want cross contamination.
Beyond that, leaving an area as close to pristine as possible should be every outdoor adventurer’s goal.
What to Look for in a Camping/Backpacking Trowel
While a backpacking trowel is not a piece of gear that I use very often. After all, not very many rustic campsites in Iowa and not any of the major three thru hiking trails. However, when I am somewhere where digging a latrine hole is a necessity, I don’t want that piece of equipment to fail me when it really matters the most.
There are several different things I look at when making a choice. In fact, this “top rated camping trowel” review article is filled with the options that meet my standards on multiple points.
This is a huge one for me. Nothing makes me angrier than what I refer to as “Wal-Mart quality.” Cheap garden trowels that crack, break, or bust just piss me off. When I buy a piece of outdoor gear, I want it to last the test of time.
For me personally, this is the single most important factor when it comes to picking out the right backpacking trowel.
Personally I don’t mind having a few extra ounces coming from my trowel to make sure I have a good one, but this makes sense to me. If I’m camping at a rustic site, the shovel will do. When you’re on a long thru hike in the middle of nowhere you need to really watch the weight.
In long thru hiking situations like hiking the PCT, CDT, or AT, where every single ounce matters, this becomes even more important when making a choice.
By functionality, I mean how good does it dig? Does it work in especially tough soil? Can it slice through clay? Cut through thick weed roots? How does it work in those challenging situations?
Some trowels are better for average soil while others will be much better for cutting through really challenging ground. I’m all about the ones that are the latter and ready for any situation.
When I need to dig a hole quickly I want a solid grip and the ability to get to that all important depth. Cramped hands and wrists are the last thing I want to deal with during those situations.
While I’m always budget conscious, this is less important to me because even the most “premium” backpacker trowels for digging catholes are going to be relatively inexpensive pieces of gear. However like with anything else there are
Which Material Should You Go With?
There are many materials that are popular to make backpacking trowels with and it is important to note that they have their pros and cons. While it’s not necessarily the main indicator of which trowel you should go with, this is a factor that is definitely worth considering when deciding between various options.
Plastic has the advantage of being lightweight and inexpensive. This is a good combination, and with advanced plastic molds many of these designs can actually be really solid, too.
However, plastic also tends to be the weakest material. It is most prone to damage or breaking, and most plastic trowels are going to have a really hard time with extremely thick root systems or very rocky soil. Depending on where you are, that can be a serious problem.
If you go with plastic, make sure to focus on getting one that is a proven plastic mold – high quality and as durable as plastic can get.
Aluminum is an extremely popular material option when it comes to camping trowels, and for good reason. It is light, strong, and many of the best trowels use specialized aluminum to get the best of both worlds into one product. If you’re looking at an aluminum hiking trowel chances are you are looking at some serious potential quality.
As a metal option, it’s also far more common (and cheaper) than titanium.
If you want the highest end materials, admittedly you can’t go wrong with titanium. Strong, durable, and able to cut through the harshest of ground, if you are going with titanium you are going to pay more but you can feel pretty confident about the quality.
Generally this type of material is found with larger shovels and trench tools. While not optimal for most backpackers, especially when dealing with ultralight backpacking or long-distance crowd, if you’re simply camping rustically this can open up the possibilities.
Why Plastic Trowels Over Metal Trowels?
This might seem strongly counter-intuitive at first and there was definitely a time not all that long ago when going with a metal trowel would have made sense. That being said, plastic doesn’t necessarily mean plastic anymore.
There are types of plastic that are incredibly hard, just as good as metal, and without the issues that come with metal like rusting or weight (which is a huge one if you are backpacking long distances).
With these specially formed plastics the design can be changed and altered to be more lightweight, more streamlined, or in some cases even look completely different from what you would see from a traditional metal trowel design. These different designs have been shown to work really well and it is now even possible to get trowels that specialize in pulling up a certain type of soil or dirt.
The key is getting the high quality molds that are also well designed to deal with challenging situations.
While digging a proper cat hole and setting up your perfect outdoor latrine are not sexy topics by any stretch of the imagination but this is a very important topic and making sure you have the right tools is crucial to setting up everything correctly so you can take care of your business, not threaten your campsite or any local water supplies, and pack out easily.
This starts with having a high quality backpacking trowel that will help you cut through the dirt, because these aren’t the types of holes you want to dig with bare hands when nature is calling and the dirt needs to be moved quickly. Always have a good backpacker’s trowel on hand and you’ll be a lot happier.