by Aaron Payne

Last year I spent the winter sewing and constructing a super-light tarp tent. The first time I used it one of the ends of my new ultra-light stakes came apart in the ground. I tried to dig with sticks to recover the stake-end but they were no match for this ground, nor was scoffing the ground with my feet. The only other tool that might have worked (without the risk of breaking something else) was my knife, which also did not sound all that great. So being that I was packing up to head home, I decided to cut my losses and loose my stake-end.

After this I got to looking into a lightweight digging tools and the more I thought about it, the more it sounded like a great idea to have something that I could dig with… There are many different scenarios where a small digging device may come in handy like burying your doo-doo or digging a small ditch to divert rain from your sleeping quarters etc. But at what cost (monetarily and weight-wise)?

After some research I ended up with “The Deuce of Spades” trowel. Its a very simple and durable design made in the USA (Colorado to be exact), cost is 20 dollars and weights only 0.6 ounces with dimensions roughly around 7×3 inches and made of aerospace grade aluminum. Every time I am out I find more useful things that I end up using it for.

On one of my last trips I used my “Deuce of Spades” to help shield my Estbit cookstove from the wind. And if I do loose another tent stake it could very well take a stakes place.

Here’s how “The Deuce of Spade” compares in size to others

Sure I could have gone cheaper with a typical plastic gardening shovel, but that adds a bit of weight. Or, I could have gone lighter with a titanium trowel but that’s more expensive and the amount of weight you save is hardly anything (as far as my research concluded there was only one titanium trowel that was lighter than “The Deuce of Spades” and it was just a hair lighter at that).

A product like an ultra-light trowel is not super glamorous and I feel a bit weird talking them up so much, although I have found that some of the most handy tools are super simple and that simplicity causes them to be handy in many other ways.

Only disclaimers that I can give on “The Deuce of Spades” are the following:

  • I have not tried to open a beer bottle with it, although they say that it’s designed for that as well, so I assume this works just fine. 😉
  • Mine has held up very well with many instances of digging in various types of ground etc, although it is aluminum and very light… I think as long as you are not jabbing it into rocks repeatedly it will hold up for a very long time.

If you are like me and want to cut weight in your backpack (counting ounces/minimalist) it always becomes a question of balance between size/weight and function. “The Deuce of Spades” lightweight trowel is super lightweight, small and a very useful tool. It is definitely a part of my core gear. You can find them [here]  and here: [Amazon]

NOTE: WenOut received nothing from the manufacturer for my review.


11/11/2019. Update and Editor’s note:

In popular day hiking and backpacking destinations, proper disposal of human waste is an escalating problem. People are doing, quite literally, a crappy job digging cat holes that are 6 to 8 inches deep that thoroughly bury their unpleasant business (and toilet paper). Trying to dig an adequate hole with a stick, trekking pole, tent stake, or ice-axe pick is hard and, without a trowel, people often do a half-ass job that leaves a mess for those who follow. These trowels are the cat’s meow for cat holes because they work, they weigh almost nothing (half an ounce), and they occupy virtually no extra space in a pack (they’ll slip into a ten-essentials bag or most any other ditty bag without enlarging the bag). They may seem expensive for such a wee slice of metal, but they solve two big problems — the human waste problem in the backcountry and the human laziness problem of not wanting to carry much.

The manufacturer now sells three different models of these aluminum trowels. We recommend the Deuce 2 (0.6 ounce, $19.50) for individuals and couples who really aren’t pooping in the woods often yet who need an adequate disposal tool when they do. For families or groups where one trowel will take care of everyone’s disposal needs, get the Deuce 3 (1.0 ounce, $23). Although slightly heavier, it is also bigger, stronger, and  more efficient. You can order either Deuce directly from the manufacturer here.

For more about how to deal responsibly with human waste in the wilderness, read our article The Scoop on Poop.

About The Author


Aaron Payne grew up in the outdoors of the Okanogan County area skiing, hiking, hunting and fishing. Presently, residing in the Wenatchee area and when not glued to a computer running a graphic design business (Awdience) he may be spotted hiking (preferably off trail) shooting traditional bows at stumps or game (depending on the season). He is also becoming very interested in ultra light backpacking aka ounce counting and has turned to the thread and needle to make his own gear. He vows to one day build a full-size tipi and a strip cedar canoe.

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