SectionHiker Best LNT Trowels 2017

Packing a top-notch Leave No Trace trowel is one of the most responsible things you can do to preserve the backcountry for others to enjoy. While there’s nothing quite as satisfying as having a good bowel movement outdoors in the crisp morning air, surrounded by white-capped mountains and wild flowers, it’s important to leave no trace of your “passage.” In order to preserve that wilderness feeling for others, you should bury your poo, so it can biodegrade properly and not become an eyesore. But many Leave No Trace trowels sold today are too flimsy for use in backcountry terrain.

That’s why I put together this list of the best Leave No Trace trowels on the market. I’ve spent years researching and testing the best leave no trace trowels, digging cat holes in national parks and forests, and teaching Leave No Trace awareness sessions to narrow this list down to the very best of the best. I’ve heavily factored characteristics like price, weight, digging ability, and durability.

I hope this post helps you find the perfect Leave No Trace trowel to burying your poop in the wilderness for years to come. For more of my top gear recommendations, have a look through these popular SectionHiker Recommended Gear links:

CRITICAL TROWEL FEATURES

PRICE – You shouldn’t have to spend a fortune to get a great Leave No Trace trowel. That’s why this list contains an array solid options in a variety of price ranges. If you backpack a lot, it probably makes sense to spend more for a quality product that will get many years of use. If you’re on a limited budget or unsure how much you’ll enjoy backpacking, you might want to try camping at a site with an outhouse before you invest in buying a trowel.

WEIGHT – A few ounces here and there might not seem like a big deal, but keeping pack weight down is critical for enjoying backpacking trips. Lightweight trowels make hiking more fun, and that’s what it’s all about. Every gram saved is a gram that can be used to hike faster and with less effort.

COLOR – Trowels should be brightly colored so you don’t lose them in wilderness settings. It’s easy to put down a trowel and lose it against a background of green or brown, but less so if it has a garish color that’s not normally found in nature.

MATERIAL – The material that a trowel is made from matters. If preserving the wilderness is your goal, it doesn’t make much sense to buy a product made from petrochemicals that won’t decompose if you throw it in a landfill.

DIGGING EDGE – A good Leave No Trace trowel needs to be able to dig through a variety of different soil types from ones with dense root networks to hard-packed soil and mud. Having a durable edge, capable of busting through tough soil conditions and levering out rocks is a must.

LENGTH – The recommended depth of a Leave No Trace cathole is 6-8″ deep. To dig that deep, you need a trowel that has a long enough handle and blade.

DURABILITY – A trowel is a critical piece of backcountry gear that should be able to withstand years of harsh use, UV damage, and when you accidentally drive over it with your car.

MADE IN USA – Let’s face it, the United States is on the way to becoming a third world country because we’ve off-shored our manufacturing base. If remaining the most powerful nation on earth is important for you, you’ll buy products made in the USA.

BUYING ONLINE – Check the seller’s return policy before you buy, but you can almost always return an unused trowel within a certain timeframe after purchasing. I recommend buying your top choice, testing it at home, and returning/exchanging it if it doesn’t feel quite right. I’ve been buying lightweight trowels online for years and I’ve yet to have a single problem.

BEST LEAVE NOT TRACE TROWELS

QiWiz Big Dig

WEIGHT: 0.6 oz (15 grams)

FEATURES: Brightly colored so you can’t lose it with a sharp end that’s capable of cutting through roots, chopping through packed mud, and levering out stones. A full 7.25″ long, you can easily dig a cathole that’s the requisite 6″ deep and verify its depth using the trowel. An added lanyard hole makes it easy to clip to your backpack. The painted handle is not sharp and easy to hold.

BEST FOR: UL Backpackers who want a hand-fabricated titanium trowel made by a one-person cottage gear company in the USA.

Trowels320

The QiWiz Big Dig (pronounced “chee-wiz”) is a handmade titanium trowel made by Leave No Trace Master Educator, Rob Kelly. Considered the “Yoda of trowels”, Rob, who’s trail name is QiWiz, is passionate about teaching people how to minimize their impact when backpacking and camping. A chronic tinkerer, Rob made a titanium trowel for himself out of scrap metal for his personal use. When other hikers saw it on the trail, they offered to buy one from him and now he’s sold hundreds to backpackers and thru-hikers. Super hard and durable, but ultralight, the titanium Big Dig will last a lifetime and can serve double duty as a tent-stake.

MORE: QiWiz sells two other handmade titanium trowels. The “Original” weighs less than 0.4 oz and is 6″ long and the MEGA DIG which weighs just under 1 oz and is 8.25″ long.

View at QiWiz.net

The TentLab Deuce of Spades

WEIGHT 0.6 oz.

FEATURES: Featherweight aluminum is durable and long lasting. Available in multiple bright colors so you won’t lose it. Lanyard hole lets you clip it to your backpack. Sharp and tough enough to cut through roots and lever out stones.

BEST FOR: Budget-oriented UL Backpackers.

Deuce of Spades

The Deuce of Spades (clever name) was designed by Michael Scherer, one of the most respected backpack and tent designers in the USA. Made using DAC aluminum, the Deuce was designed in the US, but is manufactured in Korea (South Korea, I presume). This cleverly designed 6.8″ tool can be held at either end, depending whether you need to dig with the narrow end or scoop with the wide end. The edges are a bit sharp however, so it’s best to wrap the handle with duct tape for added comfort.

View at REI  View at Amazon.com

DutchwareGear Deuce Scoop

WEIGHT: 0.75 oz. (22 grams)

FEATURES: Titanium trowel with a comfortable handle. Includes a lanyard hole so you can clip it to your backpack.

BEST FOR: Backpackers who want a titanium trowel with a conventional shape.

DeuceScoop

The DutchwareGear Deuce Scoop is a 7″ long x 2″ wide trowel made from Aerospace Grade 5 Titanium. Precision cut,  they are run through a vibratory tumbler so the edges are smooth and then bent on a specially-made jig to increase strength and optimize scooping power.

View at Amazon.com  View at DutchwareGear.com

Vargo Titanium Dig Dig Tool

WEIGHT: 1.25 oz (36 grams)

FEATURES: Titanium LNT Trowel with serrated end for cutting through roots with a comfortable, rolled-edge handle.  Can serve double duty as a sand, snow, or tent stake. Has a lanyard hole so you can clip it to your backpack.

BEST FOR: Backpackers who you need to dig through thick roots or rocky ground and need a trowel with a serrated cutting edge.

Vargodigdig320

The Vargo Titanium Dig Dig Tool is a multi-purpose titanium trowel designed by Brian Vargo, a backpacker and titanium manufacturing specialist who’s probably designed more titanium backpacking gear than anyone else on the planet. While heavier than the other titanium trowels listed above, the Dig Dig is by far the easiest to use as a tent stake or snow anchor, a dual-use benefit that is seldom realized by other Leave No Trace trowels.

View at Amazon.com

GSI OutDoors Cathole Sanitation Trowel

WEIGHT: 3.1 oz

FEATURES: Serrated edge helps cut through vegetation. Measurements on blade help measure cathole depth. Lanyard on handle lets you clip it to your backpack.

BEST FOR: Budget oriented backpacker that digs catholes in less challenging soil conditions.

GSI Cathole Trowel

The GSI Outdoors Cathole Sanitation Trowel is one of the most popular and least expensive backpacking trowels sold today and often used by Leave No Trace educators when teaching LNT awareness sessions. It’s made from recycled plastic, making it strong enough for the less demanding soil conditions found in many designated campgrounds and recreation areas. A full 10.3″ long, it’s easier to dig with than shorter trowels, especially for children.

View at REI  View at Amazon.com

MORE INFORMATION

If you enjoyed this review you’ll probably like my other gear lists as well. Here are some popular resources from the SectionHiker.com

Disclosure: I have received some of the products listed above from manufacturers while purchasing others with my own money. I am a Leave No Trace Master Educator and teach Leave No Trace awareness classes.

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