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Shovels have come a long way since they were just simple tools used to dig holes in the ground or clear snow from driveways. Since outdoor adventurers generally hump everything on their backs, they understand the benefits of having a single tool that can accomplish a variety of tasks. The more functions a tool has and less weight and space it takes up, the more useful it is. The military is also well known for packing everything and anything possible onto a soldier's back; $640 toilet seats notwithstanding, they excel at developing new technologies learned from valuable experience in the field too. Combine all this input and experience and you evolve a one-trick pony into a tool capable of a numerous uses — the modern multi-purpose shovel.
Militaries around the world have developed their own versions of multiuse shovels. Commonly known as entrenching tools, they are used for everything from digging foxholes and trenches to hand-to-hand combat. The most popular and common in the States is the U.S. Military Entrenching Tool, or E-Tool, used not only by American military forces, but also by NATO nations. It is a simple and sturdy tool made of steel that folds into three sections, much like the Gerber's Entrenching Tool. The E-Tool has a spade head with a serrated edge that can be configured in several different ways. It has served many well for decades as a shovel, a hoe, and even as a makeshift axe or saw. The military-issue-version E-Tool is commonly available at surplus stores.
As handy as the Mil-spec E-Tool is, multi-purpose shovels are constantly evolving with more features added to each new iteration. There are models that now include bottle and can openers, picks, and even hammers. With commercial companies, private inventors, and the world's militaries all vying to make the ultimate shovel, it can be hard to figure out which one is best for you. Let's dig deeper and see what these multi-purpose shovels have to offer.