Jeep Shovel, by Pat Cascio

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have some kind of compact shovel in my vehicles. Some are better than others. Today, we’re taking a close look at the “Jeep Shovel” from Major Surplus. It is quite the little tool.

Haunting Army-Navy Surplus Stores When I Was a Kid

I grew up haunting army-navy surplus stores back in Chicago, IL when I was a kid. I could, and I did, easily spend hours and hours in those stores. Two, in particular, were just a couple of blocks away from one another in downtown Chicago, so it was easy visiting both surplus stores. Back then, almost all the surplus in those stores, was USGI. Today, it’s hard to find genuine U.S. military surplus gear and equipment. Instead, we find a lot of foreign military gear. While, in most cases, that military gear, even used, is better than most civilian camping/outdoor gear and clothing though not always better but in many cases, I’ll take military gear over civilian gear for survival.

Though I don’t remember the name of one of the army/navy stores in downtown Chicago, it was at the south end of “The Loop” on State Street, and I recall that it was fairly small. It had a great selection of bayonets and other USGI military equipment. The other store, called Bailey’s, was just a couple of blocks away. I believe they’re still in business. They were a much larger military surplus store with a lot of military uniforms upstairs and other military gear and equipment downstairs. I was in heaven when I visited those two stores.

Military Surplus Stores Today

Today, one of the best military surplus stores back in Chicago is called Charley’s Surplus. They have a real decent selection of genuine USGI and foreign military gear and clothing. I order from them a couple times per year and try to steer clear of foreign-made copies of USGI gear whenever possible. To be sure, much of it isn’t made to USGI specifications, and it isn’t not made nearly as well as the genuine article. I’ll take used USGI military gear and clothing over the imported copies. Still, Charley’s has a good selection of stuff. Check out their website.

Another great place to shop is Major Surplus. They are in southern California, and they have a huge operation. Unfortunately, much of the military gear they carry is from foreign militaries. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but just be advised. Major Surplus does carry a lot of “Mil-Spec” gear, and this stuff isn’t honest-to-goodness USGI mil-spec stuff. Instead, it is made to U.S. Military Specifications. In some cases, it is even better than surplus mil-spec gear and clothing.

U.S. Military A.L.I.C.E Web Gear

I just wanted to alert some of our readers to a couple of companies that still provide USGI mil-spec gear, or as close as you can get to USGI gear. To my way of thinking, as a life-time prepper, I’ll almost always choose military gear over commercial gear. Then again, I still prefer the old U.S. military A.L.I.C.E. web gear over what the U.S. military uses these days, where everything is carried on your load-bearing vest/body armor. I’m old school and always will be, I guess.

I have a couple friends who are currently serving in the U.S. military in one branch or another, or who are recently retired from the military. When I show them old school A.L.I.C.E. web gear, they comment on how much better it is than the stuff they are now using or have used in the recent past. Go figure, eh?

A Shovel For My Vehicles

Back to what I started talking about in this article, and that is a shovel for your vehicle. My wife drives a full-sized SUV, and I drive a pickup truck. We could easily carry a full-sized shovel in our rigs, if we wanted to, but we don’t. Over the years, I’ve tried many different types of folding shovels, some mil-spec and some really poor Chinese-made copies that broke easily. I much preferred the old school USGI single fold entrenching tool over the newer ones that are tri-fold, which is one more thing to break if you ask me.

The old entrenching tool, or e-tool as they are called, were really well-made and designed and could sure help you dig a fox hole. Does the military still do this these days if called upon? Still, they weren’t perfect for all jobs.

Mil-Spec Jeep Shovel

Enter the new Mil-Spec (the name of the company) Jeep Shovel. Much of what they produce is made to USGI mil-spec or even better. Now, we all know that the U.S. military no longer uses the old Jeeps from WWII, Korean War, Viet Nam police action, and other military wars/actions. Instead, we transitioned to the Hummer, and now it is being retired. Still, I’ve always liked the old WWII Jeeps. They came equipped with a spare tire, spare gas can, and what was then simply called a “Jeep Shovel”.

Major Surplus has been carrying the Jeep Shovel for a couple of years now, and I always wanted one. I just never got around to ordering it. Last year, I purchased a used but like-new Jeep CJ5. It was a fun vehicle, but it leaked when it rained, like most Jeeps CJs do. I finally traded it off. Still, I put together an emergency box, and in that box I added a Jeep Shovel. I also put one in my wife’s SUV.

Jeep Shovel Description

The Jeep Shovel is a one-piece shovel; it doesn’t fold up. It has a “D” metal grip on the end so you can really get a great grip on it when the digging gets tough. The spade itself has a rounded/pointed steel blade with a turned step. The blade is riveted to the wooden handle, as is the “D” metal grip. I don’t know what the wooden shaft is made out of other than it is listed as a “hard wood” of some type, and the entire Jeep Shovel is painted OD green. Oh yeah. That’s right up my military mind for military gear. Also, the entire shovel is compact; it is only 28 inches in length overall, which is about half the size of a full-sized shovel. See the pics I included with the Jeep Shovel next to a full-sized shovel. The entire Jeep Shovel only weighs 2.22 lbs too.

Compact Enough For BOB

Yes, I know, the Jeep Shovel isn’t as compact at one of the folding e-tools or a tri-fold shovel. However, it doesn’t take up all that much room in my e-box. If need be, I could stick it in my BOB or attach it to the outside of the BOB with no problem at all.

Of course, the Jeep Shovel isn’t quite as good of a digging tool as a full-size similar shovel. However, when you are on your knees digging, you will certainly appreciate the short overall size of this compact shovel, and with the “D” handle you can really dig deeper and faster than you can with the old military e-tool. With it being a one-piece set-up, there is less concern with it breaking, too.

Test

My rural homestead’s front yard has rocks under the dirt. We are only talking a couple inches of dirt covering these big rocks. They are huge rocks underneath. I tested the Jeep Shovel in several areas of my front yard, and it did fine until it hit those huge rocks. After that, it would take a front end loader to get those rocks up. I also tested the shovel in some of my thick underbrush, where there weren’t any big rocks. It worked extremely well. I needed to find a clean out for our septic tank. We have several clean outs for the rooter guy, but one always gets covered with dirt and weeds. Even though I try to mark where this clean out is, the marker manages to get lost. The Jeep Shovel made quick work of uncovering the hidden clean out. I also used the Jeep Shovel to cut down some blackberry vines. While not intended for this task, it did an okay job if I swung it downward at an angle when hitting the vines.

Impressed

All things considered, I was more than a little impressed with the WWII-style “Jeep Shovel”. It was everything I expected it to be and more…and it sure does smack of WWII military gear. I don’t know if you could find a genuine WWII Jeep Shovel these days. If you could, it would cost you a lot of money, as do most WWII collectibles. The Major Surplus Mil-Spec Jeep Shovel sells for $25.95, and it is worth every red cent, if you ask me. Be sure to check out their website, and I’m betting you’ll find a whole lot of other prepper gear you’ll want.




30 Comments

  1. ALICE gear better than MOLLE? I don’t think so.

    I remember those metal ALICE clips digging into me when in the prone, or fidgeting around in a fighting position, etc. (Army Rangers used to replace those clips with short lengths of 550 cord).

    Or the bulky ammo pouches, and the fact that each one oz. canteen sat right behind each kidney.
    The MOLLE system was WAY overdue for load-bearing equipment. It’s like the computer USB of gear compatibility. While I still have large ALICE rucksacks (OK, I’m old school), I’m more of a MOLLE fanatic, attaching MOLLE to MOLLE, etc. I even have a MOLLE tank vest for my KLR 650 motorcycle.

    1. Couldn’t agree more Jerry! I was in during the time where the transition from ALICE to MOLLE was taking place, and what a relief it was not to have those stupid clips digging into me every which way, or the pain-in-the-rear canteen holders messing up every movement I tried to make. I HATED ALICE setups….

  2. I concur about MOLLE being better than ALICE. Consider that ALICE was a 1950’s design with some modifications along the way. The belts, canteen covers, suspenders, compass pouch all were made of heavy duck canvas they they were updated to nylon. The improvement in Molle also offered a lot more pouches and a lot more versatility in where those pouches can go.

  3. Pat…didn’t leave the Army with much but 2 items stand out. My entrenching tool. Yes it folds, but it’s built like iron. Takes a lickin and keeps on tickin. I love it. The other is my “Bag Mountain Sleeping”. It’s a mummy bag (not my favorite), but it keeps you toasty warm. Got to agree. USGI stuff is made right and it lasts. Always on the lookout but it seems real surplus stores are getting few and far between.

  4. I’ve kept the Cold Steel Spetnatz shovel in my truck tool box for a long long time, its never let me down. Also makes for a pretty decent ‘melee’ weapon in an emergency, just short enough to tuck into my GHB if I have to hike around sheeples.

    That Jeep tool appears to be very useful – I’ll check it out. Thank you for the review.

    1. @ Anon, I too, keep the Cold Steel shovel in my vehicle. The price is great and I find that it often comes in handy. I also like to take a bastard file to it every so often to keep a decent edge on it. Just used the shovel last night to make a mock scrape for whitetail.

      Great article, Pat. Short/military shovels can really come in handy.

  5. TexasScout – Yes, you can pick up $10 D handle shovels at the hardware store. They have all had plastic handles. Over the years I’ve bought several. It will ride around in the back of my truck, soaking up the sun and then when I really need it the plastic D handle breaks apart.

    At $30, a metal shovel looks like a bargin.

    elgin

  6. We have two stores up here in our berg in Alaska; G.I. Joes and 907 Surplus. Both offer a lot of USGI gear, and a little bit of non GI stuff. The quality of the non GI stuff isn’t bad, but in both stores everything is vastly overpriced. Maybe because we have three major military bases up here and the guys come in to buy stuff they’ve lost … and the cost of heating is outrageous as well. Either way if your ever in Fairbanks, Alaska check out these two places; they’er right across the street from one another.

    G.I. Joe’s is owned by a retired American Army guy and his Russian wife; 907 is a chain outfit but the guys there are all vets and know the gear well. Sometimes you can dicker on the price of items with 907 but the other store doesn’t give an inch. 907 has occasional “crazy day sales” and that’s the time to buy … and if you are looking for quantity they will make deals as well.

    There used to be a place called “Prepper Daves” but the store in North Pole closed; he may be on-line yet? He always had nothing but USGI gear, good condition, but again, his prices were too high.

    Arctic gear, USGI system III is good stuff, but pricey. At 50 to 70 degrees below you don’t want your gear to be cheap failures ….

    1. Overpriced in Alaska… strange. 😉 I lived on an Alaskan island for 4 years.

      I have the Cold Steel too, and wonder if this article would be more useful for truck and crossover suv. I’ll check one out.

  7. I got a deal on WW2 E-tools years ago and have carried them in my jeeps since and have used them repeatedly(not just for digging if you know what I mean),they don’t measure up to a real spade but carry so much better. Used Alice gear until was ordered to use the molle and found it to be unnecessarily complicated(some couldn’t get it right with instructions and help) hard to reconfigure for missions prone to failue(snaps broke,seams ripped,packs were junk-every frame broke),couldn’t drop gear when not required.

  8. the little shovel has gotten me out of a tight spot on a dirt road more than once.

    “I also like to take a bastard file to it every so often to keep a decent edge on it.”

    repeated for emphasis, makes digging a lot easier.

  9. When we transitioned from ALICE to MOLLE I thought I’d lost a third of the weight of my gear, a full load out with MOLLE was a walk in the park compared to dragging ALICE around kicking and screaming (and poking).

      1. I carried both for more miles than I care to remember but carrying the same gear with the MOLLE system was much easier. The ALICE pack would dig at you and make your collar bones feel like they were on fire. The MOLLE was much better at distributing the weight. YMMV.

  10. Eat your heart out. My M38A1 (1954, still green, still a crappy fuel system, still 24 V) has the original shovel on the under hood bracket. A real Willys shovel, not jeep.

    BTW, the plastic versions can be life extended by simply painting the plastic parts. My 24 y.o. Ace special is fine after a life in Arizona heat and sun in the back of my pickup. Opaque paint on any exterior plastic is mandatory here.

  11. When I was a kid back in the late 60’s early 70’s I inherited a trenching tool from my father. I remember it had the spade and a pick that would fold out and lock with the screw lock. Anyway that thing was tuff and lasted many years. I have no idea where it got to. As I became a driver I looked in our Military surplus stores to find one of these for my truck, but ended up with a tri-fold shovel. I liked shoving it between the tool box and the bed side wall of the truck. I still have this shovel, but retired it as it is a little bent likely from me hacking at small trees with it. I got another one at a gun show about 8 months ago that is U.S. stamped and it came with a digital green camo MOLLE pouch. It rides under my truck seat next to a (Chinese) survival shovel I got through Amazon. I had a D handle garden shovel I got from the Home Garden store that lasted about three years. The handle broke this year as it rode in the back of the truck under the tool box, but was exposed to the weather. I need another (non-folding) shovel and will likely invest in the Jeep Shovel Pat covered here. I may find a spot for it in my tool box to keep it out of the weather. I already have a little OD Green pick/Maddox in there (another gun show find). So I’m sure a little shovel will fit. It is all about redundancy with me I guess. I like having more than one for a backup in case of failure. I think my truck is a rolling survival store at times. I can lay my hands on three machetes, multiple fixed and folding knives, several flashlights, and several umbrellas. This is not even counting what’s in my get home bag. Maybe I’m a hoarder.

  12. I enjoyed reading this article very much. Thanks. I have a d handle shovel that has been in my tool box for many years. I think it was made by True Temper. I don’t remember the price but it has lasted many years and is still in good condition.

  13. Hardwood D-Handled shovels are still very much available. They’re still made by Ames (since 1774, the oldest shovel / tool company in the U.S. per wiki) and avail at most hardware stores, you just have to look harder for the wood handled ones. A can and several carefully applied coats of OD Green spray paint (or Coyote Brown for you so.west desert dwellers) will give you the earth tone color and weather protection you need.

    While in Afghanistan, going through a large box of donated supplies from various countries, this one in particular, from the U.S. I came across WWII dated Ames mfg’d E-Tools. Needless to say, several went home with me :>)

    ALICE vs. Molle??? After 24 years, all in combat arms, 15 yrs in Airborne. I can go either way. MOLLE is very versatile, ALICE is too but not as much but a lot cheaper at gunshows and surplus stores. Toss the sadistic ALICE clips, use heavy duty zip-ties (with the cut & melted ends facing the piece of equipment and not the body) or 550 cord, just know how to tie tight and secure knots! I like Butt-Packs which don’t seem to be avail in MOLLE but are in ALICE, also, I feel naked w/out my canteen cup (or 2 for winter ops, 1 for melting snow, 1 for drinking) so I will always have canteen pouch’s, but since “WATER IS LIFE” I will also have a CamelBack, either on my back or in my patrol pack / rucksack.

    1. “use heavy duty zip-ties”

      thanks.

      “MOLLE is very versatile”

      the whole point of alice was to limit the amount of gear (and thus weight) that could be pushed onto a combat soldier. molle seems to be prone to overloading. is that the case?

  14. Overloading can be the case of untrained Privates and Specialist who want to look like SEALs or SF. But without a good NCO as a mentor, little things like too much crap on their web gear will just wear them out making them physically ineffective to say the least. In the civilian / prepper world they’re called “Mall-Ninjas”. An example of too much was when you had a commander that wanted every soldier to look exactly the same (hence the term ‘uniform’). So every ‘Joe’ had his E-tool on his left hip his 1st aid pouch on his left shoulder strap, etc,etc. When I finally went to a ‘smarter’ unit, we only carried 1 E-tool for every 2-3 soldiers while the others carried other mission essential equipment.

    Like we used to say in Recon… “A hundred pounds of light weight high-speed equipment is still…a hundred pounds”

    Your point of ‘Alice’ limiting the amount of gear / weight a soldier carried is arguable for sure. One example of improved gear / equipment is the MOLLE IFAK (Indv. First-Aid Kit). It is hands down a 150% improvement over the old ALICE 1st aid pouch which held 1 battle dressing and 1 triangular cravat. The MOLLE IFAK is a complete ‘Blow-Out Kit’ with room for addition items. It is NOT a first-aid kit, it is for severe battlefield trauma and has proven itself to be life saving. First-aid is something you carry in another pouch or pack.
    When I was in one of those ‘smarter units’, we wore ALICE (before MOLLE) and we used to carry a second 1st aid pouch w/ an ACE elastic bandage in it to use as a compression wrap. In addition to that I used to vacuum pack a 5 pk (+-) of large and larger antibiotic treated band-aids for the quick application of the endless boo-boo’s you get when out in the field. In my Butt-pack I had a small but fairly complete 1st aid kit for the more mundane boo-boo’s, being quite the admitted tenderfoot, I also had a dedicated blister kit w/ moleskin, athletic tape, sissors and a tube of Neosporin ointment. Blisters are one of the most debilitating injuries a foot soldier can have (think of foot soldier if you plan to Bug-Out.)…still have both kits 20 years later, along with lots of foot powder…lol

    1. ‘preciate the first aid listings, thanks.

      the better first aid in a molle bag is not a comment on alice, it’s a coment on changed attitudes towards casualties and changed realities regarding medical evac and care.

      “smarter unit”

      no reason a prepper can’t be smart too. but it seems to me the molle set-up encourages overloading – mounts everywhere – while alice simply is deliberately limited in load-bearing capacity.

      1. The point of the multiple load points on MOLLE isn’t to allow more equipment to be loaded, but to encourage greater versatility in loading equipment. Not that some individuals or units don’t try to feel every attachment point. They’re just doing it wrong. On my third deployment, our CSM…a slick-sleeve even after 10 years of war… tried to push that “uniformity” nonsense on the unit. As the BN S3, I and my OPS SGM squashed that silliness fast. It’s called “modular” for a reason.

  15. While dropping off some cleaned out garage junk at the local dump I spied a brand new box with a USGI marking in a 30 yd. roll-off container and sure enough, a brand new collapsible shovel was inside. Fits perfect inthe storage box in the SUV and also great for a BOB. Seriously, why would anyone ever throw an item like this away?

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