Overland Shovels 101: Hype or Legit Tool?

If you are looking to get into overlanding, a shovel will be your new best friend. Off-Road shovels are versatile, inexpensive and are the cornerstone of vehicle self-recovery. Starting a new hobby is fun, and half that fun is all the new gear you get to buy. Well, to be honest, some of the headaches to a new hobby are also all the gear you may think you need to buy. Fortunately, I have good news! Not only can overlanding be budget-friendly, but the gear you actually need to go Overlanding doesn’t have to be high-end! 

Overland Gear: What’s Hype vs What’s Needed

In fact, you can get away with not buying lots of stuff you see on YouTube and Instagram Overlanding channels. Do you need a Dometic Fridge? Nope. Do you need a rooftop tent? Nope. Do you really need a 270 Degree-Awning? Nope. Now, don’t get me wrong, I either have or want all that stuff, but in reality, it’s just not needed. 

In our opinion, the best overlanding shovel is going to be the classic military entrenching, folding shovel as its budget friendly and an outdoor workhorse. If you want to level up, check out the Krazy Beaver and DMOS offerings below and you will have quite literally the best overlanding shovels that can handle it all.

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Why Is A Shovel for Overlanding So Important?

With all of that said, what you will need is the ability to get yourself un-stuck on a backcountry Forest Service road when your tire is buried 6-inches deep in snow, mud, or sand. Having the ability to recover yourself in the backcountry is an essential part of overlanding. As we always say, “YOU are your own first responder”. Essentially, a good off-road shovel can mean the difference between getting home or not.

You Are The Tow Truck

Let’s face it when you’re out adventuring in the remote backcountry, there isn’t really an option for a AAA tow truck to come to save the day. It’s up to you to have the items needed to recovery your vehicle when your in a pinch. 

Shovels Are Cheap And Effective

Now here is the best part, it’s REALLY not expensive to get the one true item you actually need to recover yourself, and that one item is a shovel. The absolute backbone of any vehicle self-recovery. Sure, winches and traction boards are great, but a shovel is the real hero of DIY overlanding. Speaking of, your gonna poop when overlanding, check out the Best Camping Toilets we could find.

A shovel is an inexpensive tool that can give you the ability to clear a path or your tires when they are slipping to give your vehicle less obstruction in its path and get you moving forward again. For a full-breakdown of overlanding self-recovery, check out this detailed list of what you actually need vs what you don’t in our article Overlanding Self Recovery Gear.

Types of Overlanding Shovels For Overlanding

A normal person wouldn’t expect this to even be a topic, but hey, we aren’t normal and to be frank, all shovels are not created equal. There are all types of shovels that can have advantages or disadvantages from one another when it comes to self-recovery and the shovel you choose to go with. Let’s take a look at each.

Standard Contractors Shovel For Overlanding

You probably have one of these in your shed right now. A contractor’s shovel is no different than the shovel you used to dig a fence post last week. Contractors shovels have a fixed handle that extends from the shovel head and they vary in length although most are around 5 feet. 


The advantages of a fixed shovel are the strength and the increased leverage of pull when working through a tough portion of ground thanks to the increased length and leverage of the longer handle. 


The disadvantages are the size as well, the size being so long limits the mounting and storage options when traveling. Additionally, a standard shovel lacks any serrated edges that can bite into rough terrain, roots, or rocks as needed that you may encounter on the trail.

Collapsible Shovel For Overlanding

A collapsable shovel is ideal in my opinion. Collapsable shovels have the same traditional shovel head but the handle portion and shovelhead have hinges that allow them to be folded and the shovel can be stored in a smaller capacity. 


The advantages of the collapsable shovel are obviously the smaller storage size. 


The disadvantages are the lack of leverage you can achieve when you really need the ability to “dig-in” as well as needing to bend further over since the handle is much smaller.

Serrated Edge Shovel For Overlanding

A serrated edge shovel can come in both standard lengths and foldable compact formations. The big difference between a serrated shovel and the collapsable or contractor style is in the name, the shovel-head has a serrated edge that allows the users to dig easier into terrain or root systems where a traditional shovel-head may be lacking in cutting power. 


The advantage of a serrated shovel is as mentioned, the increased cutting ability of the shovel as well as the fact that most serrated shovels are designed for the overlanding crowd and generally feature some sort of mounting options that traditional shovels have, making it ideal for overlanders to mount on their rigs.


A disadvantage of a serrated shovel is generally the price. Because these are specially made for this crowd, they carry a premium price. However, with that increased price often comes increased strength and durability, so there is that tradeoff…

What Overlanding Shovel To NOT Get

I’m not here to say you need an expensive fancy shovel, I’m just not. However, I know from personal experience what a cheap shovel will get you, and that’s a handle that breaks under any type of actual force. I recently bought a shovel from my local Ace Hardware because well it was fall and I have trees in my yard, so it was time to rake the leaves. 

I mistakenly went with the in-house Ace branded shovel because it was cheap, like $15. I went to work on my yard and within 5 minutes the shovel handle broke in half….lessonlearned on my part. So don’t go grab the cheapest shovel on the shelf, you are likely to end up with a broken shovel in the backcountry and a stuck rig, not fun. 

Overlanding Shovels For Every Budget’s-Self Recovery

So, we have covered quite a bit here. It’s time to take a look at all the shovels that would work well for your off-road adventures. Because I know what it’s like to live on a budget and not be the cool guy with the latest gear, I decided to cover shovels that work for every budget. To be honest, a quality shovel can be had for under $25 that will work better than your back can on your backcountry ventures.

Best Overland Shovel For Under $25

Bond LH015 Mini D Handle Shovel, Limited Edition

2. Stanley Garden BDS8088 Mini D-Handle Square Head Shovel

3. Lifeline Aluminum Sport Utility Shovel

4. Rhino Folding Survival Shovel With Pick

Best Overland Shovel For Under $50

Krazy Beaver Shovel

Root Assassin One Shot Garden Shovel, 43″ D-Handle

2. Military Issue Entrenching Tool

Best Overland Shovel Under $100

Round Point Shovel, 40 in. Handle

2. Seymour SV-DT35 Super Shovel, 29″ Hardwood Handle, Steel D-Grip

3. Tyger Auto Shovel TG-SV8U3217 with 16-in-1 Multifunction

Best Overland Shovel $100 or MORE

1. DMOS Delta Shovel

2. DMOS Delta Shovel – Collapsible, Foldable, 3 Position Survival Tool 

Off-Road Shovel Mounting Options

Once you have a shovel, thats half the battle. Now, its time to determine how you are going to mount your off-road shovel to your overland rig.This is another area to not worry too much about the hype, yes, there are fancy mounting systems and they have their advantages we will cite below, but you can also quite literally just toss your shovel in the bed of the truck, strap it to your roof rack, or just drop it in the truck, it really doesn’t matter. But, for that sake of being thorough, let’s look at all the shovel mounting options.

Mounting your shovel along the roof rack is a good choice when overlanding. With a quality roof rack mount, your shovel will stay out of the way, stay secure, and well, it looks cool. Some of the mounts require certain equipment to be in place, while others are generic universal mounts. Let’s look at the options available to mount your new road shovel.

Rugged Ridge Spare Tire Tool Rack System

End Of Road- Quick Fist

DMOS Shovel Mount With Lock

Warrior Products Universal Shovel Mount

YouTube Video About Overlanding Self Recovery Gear

Final Thoughts

Don’t get too caught up in this one folks, at the end of the day it’s a shovel. Grab any shovel you like and add it to your gear. What matters is that you just unplug and get outside and experience the adventures that surround us all in the outdoors. If you would like to read up further, the guys and gals over at Expedition Portal had a good discussion about this in their forum, check it out here.

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