Best Backpacking Trowel (Buying Guide)

It’s time to talk about an essential piece of backpacking gear, that some campers are reluctant to discuss in public. Yes, we’re talking about finding the Best Backpacking Trowels to dig a hole to poop in. 

When nature calls, and there’s no toilet in sight, the recommended way to do your business is to dig a cathole. Once you’ve dug the hole and done your business, you refill the hole with the original soil, also known as the Leave No Trace method. The Leave No Trace method is recommended by leading authorities such as the National Parks Service, as it. allows human waste to decompose naturally. Plus, by burying your poop, you also ensure it won’t bother other hikers and backpackers.

We’re a big fan of the Leave No Trace philosophy, but there is one piece of gear that is truly essential if you want to dispose of your poop using this method: a quality trowel. The best poop trowel should enable you to easily, quickly, and effective dig a hole – even in tough grounds – when ‘number two’ calls. But with so many options on the market, it can be tricky to determine which trowels are worth the money, and which are – excuse the pun – simply shit. 

Our experts have compiled a list of the top-rated, best-value Backpacking Trowels, that get the job done without hassle. We’ve ensured these lightweight trowels have heavy-duty performance, ensuring they require minimal packing weight, but offer maximum convenience. 

Discover our favorite Best Backpacking Trowels below, and upgrade your backpacking gear with this must-have, Leave No Trace essential!

 

Preview
Coghlan's Backpacker's Trowel
TheTentLab New Improved Deuce(R) Ultralight Backpacking Potty Trowel - Now in 3 Sizes
GSI Outdoors 2010 Trowel- Colors May Vary
Vargo Dig Dig Tool
AceCamp Lightweight Mini Stainless Steel Foldable Garden Trowel, Handy Camping Shovel for Gardening and Potting Multi-Tool with Carrying Case
Title
Coghlan's Backpacker's Trowel
Deuce Ultralight Backpacking Trowel
GSI Outdoors Cathole Trowel  
Vargo Dig Dig Tool
AceCamp Stainless Steel Foldable Trowel
Material
Styrene Plastic
7075-T6 Aluminum
Recycled Polycarbonate
Titanium
Stainless Steel
Weight
2 ounces
0.6 ounces
3.1 ounces
1.25 ounces
6.4 ounces
Price
$5.25
$19.50
Price not available
$24.95
$12.95
Preview
Coghlan's Backpacker's Trowel
Title
Coghlan's Backpacker's Trowel
Material
Styrene Plastic
Weight
2 ounces
Price
$5.25
Preview
TheTentLab New Improved Deuce(R) Ultralight Backpacking Potty Trowel - Now in 3 Sizes
Title
Deuce Ultralight Backpacking Trowel
Material
7075-T6 Aluminum
Weight
0.6 ounces
Price
$19.50
Preview
GSI Outdoors 2010 Trowel- Colors May Vary
Title
GSI Outdoors Cathole Trowel  
Material
Recycled Polycarbonate
Weight
3.1 ounces
Price
Price not available
Preview
Vargo Dig Dig Tool
Title
Vargo Dig Dig Tool
Material
Titanium
Weight
1.25 ounces
Price
$24.95
Preview
AceCamp Lightweight Mini Stainless Steel Foldable Garden Trowel, Handy Camping Shovel for Gardening and Potting Multi-Tool with Carrying Case
Title
AceCamp Stainless Steel Foldable Trowel
Material
Stainless Steel
Weight
6.4 ounces
Price
$12.95

Best Backpacking Trowel – Overview

 


 

Coghlan’s Backpacker’s Trowel

Coghlan's Backpacker's Trowel
  • Largest single brand of camping accessories in the world
Let’s start this overview with one of the most affordable, basic options on the market: the Coghlan’s Backpacker’s Trowel. Simple, yet functional, this lightweight trowel is a no-fuss, no-hassle design for those backpackers that want to spend as little as possible. The ultralight design only weighs 2 ounces and is made of styrene plastic.

The Coghlan’s Backpacker’s Trowel features a classic shovel silhouette with a convenient handle. This digging tool’s handle contains a small hole, allowing you to easily attach it to the outside of your pack if desired. 

The style’s biggest pros are its ultralight appeal and very affordable pricing. Hundreds of 5-star Amazon reviews confirm it is cheap, yet cheerful, and strong enough to use at most campsites. Do note that we say most, as the Coghlan’s Backpacker’s Trowel is not the most heavy-duty and lacks the serrated edges needed to cut through roots. For rocky and challenging undergrounds, its styrene plastic silhouette may also struggle. That said, for the price listed, we reckon that’s a fair trade-off. If basic performance is all you need, this could be your budget-friendly match!

Pro

  • Cheap
  • Simple yet functional
  • Easy-grip handle
  • A hole for lanyard attachment

Con

  • Not heavy-duty
  • Not the lightest
  • Lacks serrated edges
  • Plastic can break

 


 

Deuce Ultralight Backpacking Potty Trowel by TheTentLab  

The Deuce of Spades is an innovative take on the classic trowel silhouette. The Deuce Ultralight Backpacking Potty Trowel can be used from both sides. The broader end is great for scooping out loose undergrounds, whilst the slimmer end can be used as a targeted probe to dig into tougher undergrounds.

According to the manufacturer, for digging in hard dirt/extra digging power, simply turn the Deuce Ultralight Backpacking Potty Trowel upside down, using the slimmer end (handle) to dig a cathole. This gives the design 4 times the edge pressure compared to when you use it scoop-down. Hold it either one-handed or two-handed and use the handle-end to cut the outline of your hole and lift out dirt. 

The Deuce Ultralight Backpacking Potty Trowel is made of top-grade 7075-T6 aluminum, known for its strength and durability. A material even used by the aerospace industry, it’s light yet heavy-duty, allowing you to leverage dirt against the trowel’s spine without it bending. Another plus is that the Deuce Ultralight Backpacking Potty Trowel is available in 3 sizes, allowing you to pick the style best suited to your digging needs. It’s available in a small (0.45oz), a classic (0.6 oz) and a large – suitably named the ‘Heavy Doody’ – (0.97oz) variety. 

The only minor con is that some backpackers report that the Deuce Ultralight Backpacking Potty Trowel is slightly trickier to use due to its lack of proper handle. That said, with dozens of 5-star reviews, most hikers and outdoor enthusiasts give the style a big thumbs up for its quality, digging-ability, and lightweight appeal. And if you’re not convinced, you might be persuaded by the manufacturer’s lifetime warranty, guaranteeing the durability of the trowel and issuing a replacement in case of manufacturing defects. Making this a risk-free choice to scoop a cathole anytime nature calls.

Pro

  • Top-grade aluminum
  • Ultralight
  • Dual-ended functionality
  • Great durability
  • Corrosion-resistant
  • Lifetime warranty

Con

  • The handle may be tricky to hold on to
  • Not the most ergonomic
  • Slightly more expensive

 

 


 

GSI Outdoors Cathole Trowel  

GSI Outdoors 2010 Trowel- Colors May Vary
  • BACKPACKING ESSENTIAL - Catholes are used to dispose of waste or waste water, such as the water from cleaning dishes, by hikers and others engaging in outdoor recreation.
The GSI Outdoors Cathole Trowel is simple and super effective in all types of undergrounds, thanks to its special serrations along the edge. These sharp serrations on the side of the 10.2-inch trowel make digging in tough soil easy and quick. The style comes with an ergonomic, easy-grip handle, making it easy to maneuver and comfortable to hold. The hollow handle also comes with a lanyard loop, making it extra portable. 

Another perk is that the GSI Outdoors Cathole Trowel comes with usage guidelines molded into the back of the design. These allow you to quickly gauge how deep the cathole is, enabling you to dig to the correct depth, as recommended for Leave No Trace human waste disposal. (A ‘correct’ cathole should be about 6-8 inches deep and 4-6 inches in diameter.)

We also like that the GSI Outdoors Cathole Trowel is made of recycled polycarbonate, giving it an extra environmentally-friendly appeal. Not only does this trowel allow you to be kind to nature by disposing of poop in a biodegradable way, but it’s re-purposed material also makes it a ‘greener’ choice. 

If you’re looking for a trowel with a more classic shovel-silhouette, the lightweight GSI Outdoors Cathole Trowel may be your perfect poop scoop! 

Pro

  • Affordable
  • Sharp serrated edges
  • Made of recycled material
  • Environmentally-friendly choice
  • Easy to use
  • Ergonomic grip handle
  • Relatively lightweight
  • Depth guidelines molded on the back

Con

  • A bit bulkier in packing dimension
  • Not the most heavy-duty

 

Vargo Dig Dig Tool

Vargo Dig Dig Tool
  • Crafted from the highest quality materials
For those backpackers that want maximum digging power, the Vargo Dig Dig Tool may be the best backpacking trowel. This design is inspired by the Japanese Hori-Hori Knife, aimed to slice through roots and tough ground with ease thanks to its sharp, serrated edges. This heavy-duty, titanium trowel is slightly expensive compared to other models, but for its premium performance, it is worth the money.

The Dig Dig Tool by Vargo features an ergonomic design with a rolled handle and top end, making it easy to grip and use. The silhouette works like a full-sized shovel, without digging into your hands as other thin metal trowels might. The rounded top also enables you to use two hands to apply even more power and leverage when dealing with tough, solid undergrounds. The Dig Dig Tool also comes with a large hole and cleats for securely attaching guidelines, making it even more versatile as a digging tool. 

This dual-use trowel & tent stake is made of ultralight titanium. This material-choice has various benefits. Titanium is lighter than steel, twice as strong as aluminum, more durable than plastic trowels, and highly corrosion-resistant. The Dig Dig Tool by Vargo Large measures 8.13″ x 1.7″, with a total packing weight of just 1.25 oz.

It may be pricier than basic backpacking trowels such as the Coghlan’s Backpacker’s Trowel and GSI Outdoors Cathole Trowel, but for its extra durability and performance, we think it’s worth the extra dollars. That said, for those backpackers that want a simple and affordable trowel, this may just be a bit too fancy. 

Pro

  • Ultralight
  • First-class titanium
  • Corrosion-proof
  • Very durable
  • Lightweight
  • Ergonomic rolled handle
  • Works like a full-sized shovel
  • Won’t dig into your hands
  • Suitable for every kind of underground
  • Can cut through small roots and tough soils

Con

  • Expensive
  • Too heavy-duty for some

 

AceCamp Stainless Steel Foldable Trowel

AceCamp Lightweight Mini Stainless Steel Foldable Garden Trowel, Handy Camping Shovel for Gardening and Potting Multi-Tool with Carrying Case
  • MATERIAL - Made of durable stainless steel. The shovel is very sharp and can be used for a variety of excavation and digging activities. The handle is sturdy and locks into place well.
If you want a trowel that packs down to minimal dimensions, the AceCamp Stainless Steel Foldable Trowel could be a perfect fit. When unfolded, this pocket trowel is already relatively compact at 9.45 x 2.37 inches. But when you fold it down, it measures just 5.52 x 2.37 inches: ideal for sliding into even the smallest gear storage spaces.

The AceCamp Stainless Steel Foldable Trowel features a classic shovel shape with a foldable handle that locks in place during use. The design is made of quality stainless steel, which is corrosion-proof and very durable. The trowel is on the small side, but still gets the job done when dealing with most undergrounds. Though the design does not come with serrated edges, the silhouette is still reported to be quite sharp, making digging easy and quick.

The Stainless Steel Foldable Trowel by AceCamp includes a carry case, ideal for storing it securely when on the go. Do note that this foldable trowel is slightly heavier than the other styles in this overview, weighing approximately 6.4 ounces when packed. Though this is still relatively lightweight, it’s not as ultralight as the Coghlan’s Backpacker’s Trowel, which only weighs 2 ounces. If you’re super strict on packing weight for backpacking trips, it’s something to consider. That said, if the trowel’s packing dimension is a key buying factor for you, this petite foldable design is about as good as it gets!

Also good to know: the Stainless Steel Foldable Trowel by AceCamp also comes with a 30-day free return or exchange policy, so if you’re not fully satisfied with the design, you can always change your mind and return it (before use). 

Pro

  • Foldable
  • Affordable
  • Compact packing dimensions
  • Comes with carrying case
  • Easy to use
  • Handle locks in place during use
  • Made of stainless steel
  • Corrosion-proof
  • 30-day free return or exchange policy

Con

  • Not the lightest
  • Not the most sturdy
  • Not suited for extreme conditions

 


 

Verdict

Every item on this Best Backpacking Trowel list is a great buy to bury human waste quickly, and effectively. Which is ‘the Best’ depends on the type of trowel you’re looking for, and where and when you plan to use it. If you want the most basic option on the market, the Coghlan’s Backpacker’s Trowel may the best for you. Very affordable, simple, yet functional: it gets the job done, providing you don’t use it on super-tough underground or rocky soil. For a trowel that can deal with any underground with ease, you may have to spend a bit more and upgrade to the Vargo Dig Dig Tool. That said, for most backpackers, this style may be a bit ‘too’ heavy-duty, and a mid-budget option such as the GSI Outdoors Cathole Trowel or Deuce Ultralight Backpacking Potty Trowel by TheTentLab could already offer enough performance, for a more attractive pricing. And if packing dimensions are a key buying factor for you, a foldable trowel such as the AceCamp Stainless Steel Foldable Trowel may be the perfect digger.

Rest assured: you can’t go wrong with any of these trowels. We’ve ensured every product in this overview scores top-marks for value and is highly-rated in Amazon customer reviews. Simply pick the style you like, and start digging those cat holes with ease!

 

Winner

Preview
GSI Outdoors 2010 Trowel- Colors May Vary
Title
GSI Outdoors Cathole Trowel  
Material
Recycled Polycarbonate
Weight
3.1 ounces
Price
Price not available
Preview
GSI Outdoors 2010 Trowel- Colors May Vary
Title
GSI Outdoors Cathole Trowel  
Material
Recycled Polycarbonate
Weight
3.1 ounces
Price
Price not available

Picking a winner is difficult, as each trowel has its unique appeal. That said, we do have a preference for the GSI Outdoors Cathole Trowel. There are various reasons why we rate this as our top choice. Not only is it super affordable, but also highly functional thanks to its sharp serrated edges and easy, a firm handle that provides a solid grip. We also like the inclusion of cathole depth guidelines on the back of the trowel, which can help you gauge whether a hole is deep enough.

Another reason we rate the GSI Outdoors Cathole Trowel highly is its material: repurposed, recycled polycarbonate. This means that not only is it a ‘green’ way to dispose of human waste in nature, but it’s also kinder on nature itself. That’s a win-win for us.

That said, every backpacking trowel in this overview is a fantastic choice, and worth the money. And we’d be just as happy to add any of the 4 other products to our backpacking gear collection!

 

Recap

 

Preview
Coghlan's Backpacker's Trowel
TheTentLab New Improved Deuce(R) Ultralight Backpacking Potty Trowel - Now in 3 Sizes
GSI Outdoors 2010 Trowel- Colors May Vary
Vargo Dig Dig Tool
AceCamp Lightweight Mini Stainless Steel Foldable Garden Trowel, Handy Camping Shovel for Gardening and Potting Multi-Tool with Carrying Case
Title
Coghlan's Backpacker's Trowel
Deuce Ultralight Backpacking Trowel
GSI Outdoors Cathole Trowel  
Vargo Dig Dig Tool
AceCamp Stainless Steel Foldable Trowel
Material
Styrene Plastic
7075-T6 Aluminum
Recycled Polycarbonate
Titanium
Stainless Steel
Weight
2 ounces
0.6 ounces
3.1 ounces
1.25 ounces
6.4 ounces
Price
$5.25
$19.50
Price not available
$24.95
$12.95
Preview
Coghlan's Backpacker's Trowel
Title
Coghlan's Backpacker's Trowel
Material
Styrene Plastic
Weight
2 ounces
Price
$5.25
Preview
TheTentLab New Improved Deuce(R) Ultralight Backpacking Potty Trowel - Now in 3 Sizes
Title
Deuce Ultralight Backpacking Trowel
Material
7075-T6 Aluminum
Weight
0.6 ounces
Price
$19.50
Preview
GSI Outdoors 2010 Trowel- Colors May Vary
Title
GSI Outdoors Cathole Trowel  
Material
Recycled Polycarbonate
Weight
3.1 ounces
Price
Price not available
Preview
Vargo Dig Dig Tool
Title
Vargo Dig Dig Tool
Material
Titanium
Weight
1.25 ounces
Price
$24.95
Preview
AceCamp Lightweight Mini Stainless Steel Foldable Garden Trowel, Handy Camping Shovel for Gardening and Potting Multi-Tool with Carrying Case
Title
AceCamp Stainless Steel Foldable Trowel
Material
Stainless Steel
Weight
6.4 ounces
Price
$12.95

 


 

Cat Hole – FAQ

 

Need some extra tips on where and how to dig a cat hole? We’ve got your sanitary needs covered! Below are a few main recommendations by the Leave No Trace initiative, also endorsed by our National Parks Service. 

Where to dig a cat hole

  • Locate cat holes at least 200 feet (about 70 adult paces) from water sources, trails, and campsites
  • Select an inconspicuous site where other people will be unlikely to walk or camp
  • Pick an elevated site where water would not normally go during runoff or heavy rainstorms.
  • Try to find a site with deep organic soil. This organic matter contains organisms that will help decompose your poop more effectively (tip: organic soil is usually dark and rich in color)
  • If possible, locate your cat hole where it will receive maximum sunlight. The heat from the sun will speed up the decomposition

How to dig a cat hole

  • Dig a hole 6-8 inches deep (about the length of a trowel blade)*
  • Ensure the hole is approximately 4-6 inches in diameter
  • Dispose of your human waste
  • When finished, fill the cat hole with the original dirt
  • Disguise the cat hole with natural materials such as twigs, leaves, or branches

*Do note that if you’re pooping in the desert, a cat hole only needs to be about 4-6 inches deep to help it biodegrade quicker. 

What about toilet paper?

The question of whether or not you can bury toilet paper in the cat hole is often debated by different authorities. This is what the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics writes about the use of toilet paper:

“Use toilet paper sparingly and use only plain, white, non-perfumed brands. Toilet paper must be disposed of properly! It should either be thoroughly buried in a cat hole or placed in plastic bags and packed out. Natural toilet paper has been used by many campers for years. When done correctly, this method is as sanitary as regular toilet paper, but without the impact problems. Popular types of natural toilet paper include stones, vegetation, and snow. Some experimentation is necessary to make this practice work for you, but it is worth a try!” 

So, to summarize: you are allowed to bury toilet paper in a cat hole, though it’s not recommended. 

 

 

Samantha Bos

Samantha Bos

Samantha is an avid outdoor enthusiast who loves exploring the great unknown. She’s traveled all across the globe to sample nature’s delights. And her travels have taken her to all corners of the world: from hiking the famous Inca Trail in Peru to ice-hiking on glaciers in Alaska. Besides hiking, Samantha likes to challenge herself with all kinds of outdoor activities. She doesn’t shy away from testing her limits. For example, navigating Grade 5 rapids whilst whitewater rafting in New Zealand, and avoiding close-encounters with bird-eating spiders and poisonous plants in the Australian rainforest. Currently based in Manhattan, New York, she’s traded in the real jungle for an urban jungle. But she tries to get out and explore nature in the surrounding Hudson Valley, Catskills, and Harriman State Park areas as often as she can. She shares her knowledge of hiking, backpacking, and outdoor activities in handy ‘Best of’ overviews. Bundling the best-value, top-rated products that will no doubt make every reader a ‘happy camper’.