Should an E-Tool Be In Your Bug Out Bag?

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As a Prepper, I am constantly looking to see how my gear can support me in various situations and whether what I have should be rethought or improved upon in some way. Over the years this process of evaluating and reevaluating options has taught me lessons about what works and what doesn’t for me at least personally. My Bug Out Bag has been the main source of churn for lack of a better word in my prepping efforts as I tried various items on backpacking trips. When you haul the gear you think will save your life around for a few days in the woods you learn a lot.

It is similar for my Get Home Bag that goes in my car with me. Like most people I assume, this bag gets used from time to time to supplement normal every day “stuff” that happens and you can count on using some of the items in this bag in ways that you might not have strictly planned, but you are happy to have the resources at your disposal. For example, I have used the food in my get home bag before to stave off one of my kids hunger, lighters have been used to start fires for making s’mores, multi-tools have come to the rescue and my gloves have been broken out to deal with weekend projects around the church. Using the stuff in your bags is a great way to practice with what you have and see if you are really considering the right things with your gear as long as used supplies get replenished.

What is an E-Tool?

One of the tools that I am familiar with from my Army days is the good old E-Tool or entrenching tool as it is properly called. For those who don’t know, an E-Tool is a small shovel that soldiers carry in their packs along with in some cases a heck of a lot of other gear. The modern soldier carries everything on their back into battle that they could possibly need even though in most cases, logistical lines of supply are always present to support soldiers. The days of soldiers roaming for months on their own in the woods or dessert are long gone (for most soldiers) but the E-Tool still has a place in our military to this day and some preppers advocate packing these shovels in your 72 hour bags.

What can you use an E-Tool for?

An E-tool does have a lot of uses not just for soldiers, but preppers too. For the military, these are primarily used to dig holes. Surprise? Digging holes for fox holes, taking dirt out of one hole and putting it into another hole but so much more. You can use E-Tools as weapons provided they are sturdy enough. Some entrenching tools on the market today barely fit the role of shovel, much less skull crusher, but others are very tough and their thick edges can whack a chunk out of someone’s noggin if you are prepared to do that.

Glock Entrenching Tool with Saw and Pouch

Glock Entrenching Tool with Saw and Pouch

You can saw with some of these tools. For instance the Glock E-tool even comes with a steel saw attachment for cutting limbs (tree limbs that is) or chopping wood for a fire. You can use it as a pry bar or machete and again for digging holes. Like when you need to use the latrine (which is a hole you dig) and covering up what you leave there which is doubly important because you will cut down on disease carrying insects if you bury your waste and prevent all but the best trackers from finding you if you are on the run. Hey, it can happen and even if you aren’t worried about someone finding your #2, sanitation is important in survival.

Other e-tools like the Crovel which was actually highlighted on an episode of Doomsday Preppers (like a lot of other prepper business ventures) boasts additional features like a hollow handle that allows for the storage of key survival items (not included).

Is it worth it?

While I can appreciate the value of this tool and can’t knock the abilities you would have with a shovel in your pack; I don’t personally have one in my Bug Out Bag. I do recommend one for my winter car survival kit so I guess you could say I am carrying one, but I don’t pack them in by Bug Out or 72 Hour bag. Why? For me it comes down to philosophy on what that bag is designed to do. Some people come at Bug Out Bags from the standpoint of questioning what items could you possibly need in 72 hours to make your life better. Ridiculous toiletry items come to mind along with books and unnecessary creature comforts.

An e-tool isn’t a creature comfort but it is one of those tools that I can’t see me using. Could I dig a great big hole with it? Of course and I could also use it to whack limbs and open bottles and store my waterproof matches, but I also have to consider weight. Each item adds to the overall load you are carrying and pound for pound, I can’t see me using a shovel.

It could come down to what you have and where you plan on bugging out. Maybe you are planning to hike into the woods, set up a defensive firing position and wait in ambush for your attackers while you are drinking Sam Adams and applying plenty of moisturizer to your hands. I don’t know, but I can’t see me digging big holes. If I need to chop branches I have my main survival knife. If I need to crack skulls I would rather do that from a high-caliber distance if you know what I mean. This is just my opinion.

So, what do you say? Is an E-tool a must-have item in your pack?

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Freedom-loving American doing what I can to help prepare and inform others. Editor and creator of The Prepper Journal 2013-2017, 2020 -

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The only good use I could see for including one is to trench around a tube tent or other emergency shelter to keep rain water runoff out of you sleeping area. Of course if you have a big enough knife you could use that in a pinch.

Jon Smythe

You could also make a slit trench or a fighting position. It’s heavy and metal so can be used as an improvised weapon. You can sharpen the edge and cut limited amounts of wood with it. If I can figure a way to get some of the function out of something lighter, I’ll throw mine in the Jeep.

Man, there’s just got to be a way to get the same functionality and ditch that beast.


I carry mine from my military days because I’m used to it (sacred cow?) but I have found regular uses for it. My primary reason for carrying it is because mine has a serrated edge along one of the shovel’s angles which serves as my saw, and I keep the other side filed so it serves as an axe. Because of its length and heft (I could duct tape a rock to it for more) I can swing it and chop through thicker branches and small trees without having to carry the extra weight of a saw or a hatchet.… Read more »


It’s a heck of a hoot. Serves as good physical exercise if you put effort in (cardio and upper body), it is a creative outlet, and you get to meet like-minded people (history buffs, athletes, and all sorts of other colorful folks). The theatrical shows are cool too. I’ve gone with my wife to Tournament of Kings at the Excalibur in Vegas and it was definitely fun. Nothing like actually getting to be out there though doing it. The coolest part, for me at least, is that the combat isn’t one of those “games” like LARPing where you pretend you’re… Read more »


usmarinestanker: If I or my wife have to end up using a shovel for defense we are dead people walking. We might get a couple of good whacks in but at our age they may or may not even hurt someone. LOL I did think of another reason one might one an Etool is to build a Dakota fire hole.


I served 23 years in the Airborne Infantry and am now a 100% disabled American veteran, back in the day the military had some great and not so great equipment, the e-tool was one piece of equipment that was a great tool. I live on a small farm in the country and I have 2 of them, one in my emergency bag in my truck and one mounted on my MUV (Multi utility vehicle). I used mine all the time, its size and weight is perfect to use on small to medium jobs and it stores well. I have found… Read more »


Familiarity is a great thing. Many have carried and used the military e-tool. Reality is that the outdoors/camping industry has already come up with several good alternatives to the bulky, heavy, clanky e-tool. Yes, clanky. Getting that thing to not rattle when quick-stepping or running through the woods with a heavy pack can be a challenge. Remember OPSEC in your bob assemblage. I believe that a bob still needs a shovel. I think a fixed blade knife can provide more utility than the non-shovel value an e-tool provides. But we still need a shovel. Unless the situation is dire, I’m… Read more »


I recently added in a Gerber shovel/e-tool (model# 22-41578) to my BOB that I think strikes a good middle ground between the small plastic trowel I carry for light weight backpacking to dig cat holes and a full size super heavy true E-tool build for digging a foxhole to defend the Fulda Gap. It’s large enough to easily build the drainage path around a sleep area mentioned above (A must do as anyone who spent any time under a shelter half or poncho with no floor can tell you), create up to a slit trench for multi-use sanitation area, make… Read more »


I keep an older Army E-tool in each of my vehicles. In the Jeep, it stays with the rest of my off-road crap (gloves, winch accesories, ect) and in my wife’s Honda Pilot, it stays stashed away with the jumper cables and tire repair kit. As an EDC in the vehicles, I cannot think of a better all around tool. It is compact and can perform many functions. As others have mentioned, you can chop, hack, saw, and yes, even dig with it. I have even used it as an anchor once for my Kayak when I forgot to bring… Read more »

T. Gene Davis

I carry a shovel in my car all winter long. This compact shovel would make a lot more sense, and take up a lot less room. I’ll have to see if I can fit one into my budget.


You’re bugging out, you make camp and set up security. The E-tool allows you to dig a shallow trench for a defensive position.

H. Nelson

Of all the e-tools out there, my all time favorite is the standard U.S. Army entrenching tool. Nothing beats that oak handle, the pick and nice semi-pointed blade. I’ve wrecked the new fold up jobs, but never the oak handled e-tool. I’ve dug fighting positions, dug outs, snow caves and shelters, cut trees down with it, used it as a pry bar.


You must have been in long before me. When I was in we had the collapsible handle that was steel I believe with a plastic retaining screw. The shovel was tough alright, but the handle wasn’t oak.


Yes absolutely. If you don’t bury your crap you are disgusting.

Jon Smythe

I have one but every time I look at my load out I’m trying to think of a way to replace that dog heavy beast.

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