Wednesday, 23 Jul 2008
This post will cover the US Army Entrenching Tool or e-tool. The e-tool is one of those pieces of gear that you don’t know you need, until you really need it. I think every outdoor enthusiast should have one. I am not advocating carrying it with you on every trip, but if you are “car camping” as opposed to primitive camping, then throw one of these e-tools in your trunk. If I plan on making a new campsite, I take the e-tool with me. If I visit an old campsite for the first time in the season, I take the e-tool with me to clear out new growth, and remove old ashes from the fire pit.
Entrenching tools come from many different manufacturers and from different decades. You can find an older type, with a wood handle, or the most common I see today, is the tri-fold metal handle. There are many cheap fakes from Asia, and many decent “replicas” as well. There is an excellent guide on eBay “U.S. Entrenching Tool Identification — Spot a Fake!“. According to this reviewer, my newest e-tool may be a fake. While comparing it to my old e-tool, I cannot tell any physical differences, except for stamped markings. Overall design, weight and “feel” are the same. There are several types of entrenching tool carriers; the newest type is a MOLLE pouch with buckle closure in the front. I use old-school rubber ALICE carriers with snap-ons to secure the lid. In my situation it makes no sense to pay more for the MOLLE carrier, but a soldier, who may have to hit the ground hard, the snap-on ALICE pouch can come open easier than the MOLLE carrier with buckle closure.
I have used the e-tool in the field as a shovel and a spade. I think for chopping branches, a machete or hatchet are best. The e-tools weakest points are it’s hinged parts, and chopping violently stresses them much more than digging. Size of the blade is good for camp chores like digging a fire pit, or getting rocks out from underneath the tent. One could use the e-tool as a weapon in some situations, it certainly has the weight and the edge to damage flesh and bone.
A few words about using the entrenching tool… There are several hinges, and one plastic nut on the last hinge. Twist this nut counter-clockwise to allow the hinges to work. Once this is done, unfold the e-tool into desired position, shovel, pick, or closed. Twist the nut clockwise till it stops. This will lock all the hinges, and you can use your e-tool.