It's hard to find a sexier piece of gear than a trowel right? Ok, maybe the trowel isn't the most exciting piece of your kit, but when its time "to go," you want something that can dig a cathole effectively and efficiently. Plastic trowels can't get the job done and titanium trowels are super expensive (and honestly just don't seem worth it). This leaves us with the old and reliable aluminum trowel! The aluminum Backpacker's Trowel is a creative take on a classic tool. What makes this trowel so special? Lets check it out!
Features of the Backpacker's Trowel:
As previously mentioned, the Backpacker's Trowel is made out of 100% aluminum. It weighs just .7oz, and is 7.5in long. The trowel itself has 2 main sides for digging: a wide end great for moving larger amounts of loose earth, and a narrower end great for piercing through tougher soil and rocks. Since the sides of the trowel are also straight, you can use them to scrape the sides of the hole to increase the width.
Most uniquely, the trowel has 10 small circular holes. Along with making the trowel a fraction lighter, these holes (when laced by the piece of 5.5ft chord that comes included) allow the user to securely attach a stick or trekking pole to act as a handle. This gives you greatly improved leverage when trying to dig deeper holes, and it makes getting through tough earth much easier.
In a pinch, the Backpacker's Trowel also works as a stake!
Pros of the Backpacker's Trowel:
Double end digging: Creating a trowel with both a wide and a narrow digging end is genius. It's something I never knew I needed until I had it, but the narrow end is INCREDIBLE at piercing and breaking up tough ground, and the wide end is great at moving everything out of the hole once its dislodged. The combination makes it easy to dig holes quickly in most terrains, and sometimes speed is of the essence! It truly is a fantastic "one-two" trowel punch.
Leverage: The addition of a stick/trekking pole handle isn't a gimmick. It actually works! While you do have to make sure that the chord is securely fastened around the stick/trekking pole, once you've got that taken care of, it does function as a small shovel. It doesn't work quite as wonderfully as an actual shovel, but it'll do the trick. Plus there is a wonderfully "caveman-y" feeling when you attached a stick to the trowel. Feels spearlike and primal. Everyone's goal right?
While a trekking pole certainly works as a handle, I found greater success with a stick. It's a little bit thicker and more course, and that results in a tighter connection between trowel and handle.
Weight: Its pretty hard to complain about .7oz. Sure there are trowels on the market that weigh .6oz, but show me someone who can tell the difference between .1oz and i'll show you a liar! Its got no extra frills, and the only additional creative functionality that the Backpacker's Trowel has (its ability to add a stick/trekking pole handle), results in holes. AKA less weight.
Things to note about the Backpacker's Trowel:
Lacing: While not necessarily difficult, lacing the stick properly to the trowel takes a little bit of practice to get perfect. Once you've got the lacing pattern down you can get everything set up in just 1-2 minutes. However even a minute can feel like an eternity when you're "prairie dogging it", so make sure you practice a little bit before nature really starts calling!
If there is something that this trowel fails to do (and is typically expected of a trowel) then I'm not sure what it is. Matt (the creator of the Backpacker's Trowel) has actually thought of it all, and it would take a great deal to convince me to take a different trowel out into the backcountry. If you currently have a heavy trowel or a plastic trowel, now is the time to upgrade!