Best Cathole Trowel? Review of the GSI Outdoors Range

Cathole Trowel

I often wonder if gear companies have left any stone unturned in their pursuit of better, lighter, more durable kit. They’ve clearly put a lot of effort into creating functional, lightweight options when it comes to “poop scoops” and, to be completely honest, I’m glad that they have.

I’m heading out on a multi-day hiking trip in a few days. I realized that I didn’t have a cathole trowel so I popped online and ordered the GSI Outdoors Cathole Trowel/Sanitation Shovel. This is my short review. Let’s dig in.

The good

  • Light – It only weighs 3.1 ounces/45 grams.
  • Strong – It’s a pretty robust piece of equipment. The plastic handle and spade are both thick.
Cathole trowel handle
The slatted handle is very strong.
  • Serrated edge – I’ve not yet come across another trowel that has this feature. The serrations aren’t particularly sharp, but they do make clearing away tough stubble and undergrowth (as well as digging) that little bit easier.
  • Made from recycled materials – Always a plus.
  • Good grip – The slatted handle offers a nice amount of friction and purchase, more so than a “straight-sided” handle.
  • Inexpensive – It only cost me ¬£5/$6.
  • Instructions on the back – I found this quite amusing. If you are in any doubt about how to dig a poo hole, then these will come in useful for you. You also get a little “Leave No Trace” booklet, as you can see from the picture.
Instructions if you need them.
Cathole trowel
  • Depth rule (in centimeters  and inches) – Like the point above, I’m not entirely sure what the point of this is. I think the general advice is to make sure that your hole is at least eight inches deep, in which case you’ve got a handy guide.

The bad

  • It’s big -The main drawback is that it’s big, especially when compared to The Tentlab range. That said, it’s about a quarter of the price.
  • There are weird serrations near the top of the spade¬†– If you look at the picture, you’ll see that there are serrations near the top of the spade, just below the handle. It’s not a criticism as such, I’m just not sure what they’re for.
  • It’s not THE lightest product on the market – Don’t get me wrong, it’s pretty light. But you can get lighter if you’re willing to pay more.

What other options are available?

I’ve come across two main brands sell cathole trowels (leave a comment below if there are more).

Tentlab – The Tentlab Deuce of Spades range is a pretty popular one. They’re probably the smallest and lightest backpacking trowels on the market. They way in at a crazy 0.6 pounds and are made from aluminium. The fact that they’re so small, however, can make it difficult to get leverage.

Sea to Summit – There are quite a few reviews of this one floating about online. Its main USP is a foldable handle, which I thought was quite a good idea when I first saw it. The consensus seems to be that it’s very difficult to get it to fold, however, which is a shame.

Generic plastic (like Fiskars)These are just normal garden trowels. The main draw is that they’re cheap. They tend to be an annoyance to pack.

The verdict

There’s only so much you can say about a poop scoop. It’s a good piece of kit: light, inexpensive and sturdy. The only drawback is the size, but you’re giving up on leverage and strength the smaller you go.

As a side note, I heard that ultralight backpackers sometimes use their trowel as a spoon. If you’ve ever tried this please let me know!

Click here to buy from Amazon! (US and UK link)

Please leave a comment below letting me know about your experience with this trowel.

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