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Some of you may be buying your very first shovel and don’t know a thing about them.
A number of you have as solid gardening experience as I do, and now you need help choosing an upgrade.
Even if you are a professional, you must be aware that there are hundreds of different models, sizes, shapes, and materials so you’re maybe looking for the next best shovel in your arsenal.
This article aims to help all of you so, let’s dig in!
Top 3 Shovels
[BEST FOR THE MONEY]
[BEST GARDEN SHOVEL]
Choosing The Best Shovel For Your Needs
A good shovel is an essential tool for digging, lifting, and moving most soil, mulch, sand, dirt, snow, or any other material from one spot in your garden or yard to another. It’s also essential for loading and unloading wheelbarrows.
Try to find a quality, reliable and durable shovel because, in the long run, it will save you time, money, and, most importantly - your back!
A shovel or a spade
According to our research, some people seem to get confused with the difference between a shovel and a spade so they often buy a spade, when they actually need a shovel.
A spade is usually designed with a pointy sharp edge which is used only to break rough materials which can then be lifted and moved by a shovel. Some people use spades to move materials as well, but not as efficiently as when a shovel is used.
Shovels generally have broader bottoms so that you can move loose materials more easily, while spades tend to have a flat but much sharper bottom edge for better digging. Also, a shovel has angled blade while a spade usually has a straight blade.
Length of the shovel handle
Why is this important? If you think it isn’t, you may have a problem and end up buying the wrong product for your needs in terms of handle length.
The handle which is just the right length for you will make the job at hand easier and your back safe and less prone to aches and pains as results of injuries.
A long-handled shovel will give you more leverage and you’ll be able to apply more strength efficiently. The downsides are that they are a bit more expensive and that they might break more often due to the sheer fact that they’re longer.
A short-handle shovel is an excellent option if you are working in a limited space. They are also far more convenient to carry around or store away. Another advantage is that they are cheaper. However, they tend to go harder on your back and will hold less material in general.
The design of the handle
You will also need to choose between the three most common handle types which are the “T”, the “D” grip and the classic, No-handle grip. Now, this is not necessarily a question of performance as much as it is of personal preference.
If you work more comfortably with a D grip shovel, get one of those. If you are used to the classic shovel, I don’t see why you should switch to other types and go through an adaptation period. If you find that the T grip suits you most, go for it.
The very fact that there are different handle designs is very reassuring: it shows that shovel manufacturers have ergonomics in mind but also think of individual preferences. If you’re not sure which handle design to go for, grab your neighbors or your in-laws’ shovel and give it a try.
The overall durability
Most shovel blades are made of forged or stamped steel blades, but there are also those of manganese steel and hardened steel.
A forged blade is made of a single piece of steel, which is heated and then pounded into shape. A stamped blade is cut out from a large sheet of steel, honed and heat-treated for durability.
Both methods provide durable and reliable blades for a variety of yard and garden jobs.
There are also other materials for the blade such as aluminum or plastic but both are mainly used to lift lighter materials, such as mulch, sawdust or dry snow.
The handle material
Handle (or shaft) materials vary from classic wood to modern fiberglass. Wood is softer to touch but heavier while fiberglass is much lighter than wood but also stronger and more durable. Hence the difference in price, folks!
This aspect depends on your own height and level of strength and fitness.
If you are taller and strong, go for bigger size. If you’re below average height and not that strong, a good choice would be a smaller size.
But then again, there are exceptions to these general rules as there are ultra short, foldable or multi-part portable shovels which have their own pre-set purposes, such as being easy to carry with you on a camping or fishing trip. These are defined by their purposes and although one size may not fit all, these handy but powerful models will be of great help to all, given the circumstances.
Also, if you need to move a lot of material, and I do mean a lot, it’s logical to go with the bigger size blade and a reasonably long handle. You’ll do more work while not ignoring your own strength and size.
Other than the features we mentioned, there are a few interesting ones, such as multi-functionality, useful reinforcements of certain parts or serrated blades on some models.
For more specific details, read on!
2017 Shovels Of The Year Reviews
Spear Head Spade - Reinforced Fiberglass Gardening Shovel is a hybrid shovel and spade tool invented and patented by Daniel Mathieu as an ingenious means to a noble end – his love for gardening.
In his eighties, this life-long inventor by nature and a gardener by passion had his hips and knees replaced. Having recovered from the surgeries, he went straight back to gardening only to find that it has become increasingly difficult for him.
In order to replace a traditional shovel with a more efficient tool which would enable him to continue living out his passion for gardening, he engineered this hybrid super tool which has multifunctional purpose combining the best a shovel, a spade, and even a garden ax.
Some call it a shovel, some call it a spade, and to avoid confusion, we’ll simply call it the Spear Head!
Being amazingly easy to work with, the Spear Head became a favorite shovel of many of his friends who were keen gardeners. The ladies were especially impressed by the amount of hard work they could do with one-third of the strength they needed when using traditional tools.
The demand increased and Daniel asked his son, Julien, to patent this amazing tooland soon they started manufacturing it. So instead of giving up his favorite hobby, he was able to continue enjoying gardening but also helped thousands of fellow gardeners to make their garden chores easier and more enjoyable.
This is a classic example of a need-driven invention which has turned out to be a great success. The design which utilizes angles and critical edges to cut through roots and penetrate the tough and rocky soils with significantly less effort is now a welcomed tool across the US.
The Spear Head has a scoop made of high carbon manganese steel which is 33% thicker and 25% harder than regular shovels. It is powder coated with epoxy resin.Other notable features are a sharply pointed tip and outward-curved, 35-degree beveled edges, and robust footrest.
All Spear Head Spade blades are designed from the ground up to handle reduce the effort needed for tough digging conditions by up to 80%. The unique blade profile gives it the Spear Head an impressive ability to “auto-seek” the path of least resistance and then ease, wedge, and finally cut through the most challenging soils.
The models vary in size and weight and our featured model, the SHFD2, is 41” long and weighs 3.8 pounds. Apart from great precision, it offers unsurpassed leverage given its size and weight.
It has a light-weight cushioned polymeric grip, designed to make the tough jobs easier and more comfortable. The grip also features UV inhibitors which allow for more durability. It will definitely stand up to the harshest outdoor conditions.
As we pointed out, all Spear Head shovels have blades made of carbon manganese steel which is thicker and harder than traditional shovels. They are also sharpened from tip to tail at a 35-degree angle, which gives them an effective and durable edge.
The Spear Head shovels are powder coated with an epoxy resin for durability but also for easier cleaning. The wide and strong forward bent footrest makes digging more comfortable. It addition, it prevents entanglement with roots and enables the blade to hold more soil.
This shovel comes with reinforced fiberglass handle which is among the lightest and strongest shovel handles on the market. They are also highly weather resistant, low maintenance, and non-conductive. Nevertheless, we recommend extra caution when working around electricity.
Overall, this is a really great tool, a must-have for its efficiency and quality and it won’t break your bank. More importantly, it will go easy on your back, joints, and muscles so that you can keep on gardening for a great many years.
Things We Liked
- Multi-functional hybrid shovel and spade
- Great for rocky, compacted soils, and clay
- Guaranteed to greatly reduce your digging efforts
- Reinforced pultruded fiberglass handle
- Efficiently separates and divides highly rooted perennials
- Great for lifting established plants when transplanting
Things We Didn't Like
- You can move less material due to the pointed top
Fiskars Long Handle Digging Shovel will make it easier for you to dig into the tougher soils without much back strain from bending and your knees won’t be aching from kneeling.
The welded steel construction is more durable than wood and if you mind the flex you can get when using a fiberglass handle it will be perfect for you. A sharpened blade will cut into the tough soil easily. Some might find it not sharp enough for the resilient roots.
The teardrop-shaped shaft profile ensures exceptional comfort and control. This is because it fits the natural shape and motion of your hand. The extra-large footrest will help you maximize force to break up hardened soil clods.
This shovel is really robust and has proven itself against the tough jobs. It’ll be of great help even on the rock-hard ground and it will speed up most jobs. Where cheaper and lower quality shovels crack without even penetrating the ground, Fiskars Long Handle Digging Shovel will hold up.
On the plus side, this shovel is rigid enough not to give in to pressure like a wood handle or even fiberglass-handle shovels might. However, you should know that it's heavier than a regular shovel so you may get tired quicker compared to lighter models. Another note is that this is not your sharpest shovel ever.
The powder-coated steel, however, resists rust and ensures easy cleaning. The manufacturer is so sure of the durability of this shovel that they are offering a lifetime warranty.
Things We Liked
- Robust build for tough jobs
- The extra-large footrest maximizes the force you apply
- It will handle any pressure due to the steel construction of the shaft
- The powder-coated steel will resist rust and make cleaning easier
- A lifetime warranty from Fiskars
Things We Didn't Like
- It could be somewhat sharper for those who plan to cut through a lot of roots
NATO Emergency Military Grade Shovel is a multifunctional tool which can be used as a garden shovel, a pick or a hoe, a cutting tool, a snow shovel, a rescue shovel on a camping or survival adventures, and even a tool you can utilize to anchor a smaller boat or a raft on a fishing trip.
Made of carbon steel with aluminum bolts, this is probably the best folding shovel and a reliable and durable tool overall. You’ll find it convenient for winter snows, gardening, and survival tasks.
It really is lightweight and easy to carry and store. You can keep in your garden shed but also in the trunk of your car for emergencies, or carry safely attached to your backpack when you’re hiking or mountaineering.
The handle design ensures an excellent and sturdy grip and the spade isn't too small for most tasks except moving larger quantities of different materials. For this purpose, you’ll need a regular size shovel.
For light work in the garden, and in different situations on the road or while fishing or camping, however, the size and the fact that this military-grade shovel is foldable make this shovel a perfect tool.
Other than gardening chores, think of all the times in the wild or on the road when you could’ve made use of such a handy and sturdy shovel, especially in case of emergency. When challenged by the great outdoors, the serrated side of the blade would help you cut through the underbrush or get enough wood for a nice fire during a chilly night.
As for its multi-purpose features, it can also serve as an improvised paddle should your boat or raft motor die on you. It can also be used as a light boat or a canoe anchor or even fish cleaning tool.
Its lightweight carbon steel with handle with a modified D grip will let you tackle seemingly difficult tasks with ease.
Considered to be the best survival shovel and made of carbon steel, this military-grade shovel has so many useful applications, that you'll probably want a few of these great tools: one for your home and garden, one for your car or SUV and one as a handy addition to your camping or fishing gear.
Things We Liked
- Carbon steel with aluminum bolts for reliability and durability
- Compact size and folding design
- Convenient to carry with you on camping or fishing trips
- A sturdy and reliable emergency shovel
- The serrated edge is a great survival feature
- D-grip handle ensures a strong and convenient grip
Things We Didn't Like
- So many purposes that you’ll probably end up buying a few of these shovels
Root Assassin Shovel will shatter all your doubts about hybrid tools. Some people think you need a special tool for each job and think that a multifunctional tool will have a mediocre performance at best at each individual job. Well, this shark-like, double-serrated furious mutant of a shovel will prove the skeptics wrong!
It’s sturdy, durable and efficient. Do you need to cut through plenty of roots? No problem! You need to do a lot of digging in the clay, or rocky soil? No sweat! Are there occasional branches to saw off while you’re digging? Done!
This is the perfect tool for numerous jobs at a good price and with really good performance feedback from happy diggers. Simply put, this shovel lives up to its name. It is a ruthless tool when it comes to poor roots which are in the way.
This shovel is a great tool for clearing-out an overgrown area of your garden. The “bone structure” design adds amazing strength while the curved sharpened tip cuts roots easily and in no time.
The unique shape of the serrated teeth located on both sides of the shovel blade will perform even the toughest jobs. Over time the teeth can just as easily be sharpened with a wheel or grinder.
The secret power of this shovel is the ability of the teeth to cut roots when pushing the shovel in as well as when pulling it out. The Root Assassin Shovel is made of solid structural carbon steel and then overlaid with a sleek silver-color powder coat.
The ergonomically designed steel shaft is topped by with durable solid rubber coated handle for your comfort. Weighing 4 pounds, this tool is light enough to be carried around easily. At the same time, it’s strong and dense enough to provide the leverage needed to get the job done. In a nutshell, a must-have tool in your gardening arsenal!
Things We Liked
- 16 serrated steel teeth on each side
- Easily slice through roots
- Cuts the roots while digging both in and out
- Weighs only 4 pounds, which makes it easy to lift and easy to use
- Lifetime replacement guarantee with no questions asked
Things We Didn't Like
- A thicker and firmer blade would be a welcomed improvement for tougher jobs
AAA 4004 Sport Utility Shovel is a lightweight, compact and sturdy shovel. Made from aluminum and weighing only 1.3 lbs this shovel is built to be portable, adjustable and a handy tool.
Proudly made in the USA, this shovel is the tool to take with you on skiing, snowboarding, camping or fishing trips. These are the circumstances when you will appreciate the portable and easily carried and conveniently adjustable tool, rather than a heavy, full-size shovel.
If you spend a lot of time in the backcountry, or if you want a reliable shovel you can disassemble, this compact shovel is just what you need. You can also keep it in your car trunk in case of an emergency on the road, especially in winter.
Most shovels are way too large to simply and conveniently throw in your car or SUV but this is not the case with this little but robust tool. It can be easily disassembled into three parts to fit your car trunk or already cluttered garage or shed at home.
This shovel is easily adjustable. You can get a little more length if you’re taller and give you the much-needed flexibility so you don’t have to hunch over when you use it. You can adjust the length between 25 and 32-inches. It’s a nice little feature that you wouldn’t normally find in such a compact and affordable shovel.
Things We Liked
- A compact and sturdy tool 16 serrated steel teeth on each side
- A truly portable shovel with adjustable length
- A convenient T-grip handle
- Lightweight and adjustable
- Disassembles in 3 parts
Things We Didn't Like
- A storage bag included in the purchase would be a cool extra