We've seen some shovels with a few extra functions before, including the AceCamp Survival Multi-Tool Shovel, the Crovel and the K2 Rescue Shovel. In terms of sheer function count, the Chinese-designed Shen Ao line of shovels blows them all away. The latest, the 3.9-foot (1.2-m) Z3, uses Shen Ao's modular handle and multipurpose blade to light up camp, cut wood, start fires and charge your phone. And it can even dig a hole.
Similar to AceCamp, Chengdu Duoji Outdoor Products Co realized that it could add a lot more tools to the basic shovel if it relied on the handle for storage. But rather than just storing a few extra items inside a hollow handle, Chengdu broke the handle up into multiple threaded modules. It then expanded that design out into a lineup of shovels of different sizes and functions. The DG is pictured at the top, and the larger, newer Z3 is pictured and described below.
A flashlight, itself a versatile multitool, serves as the butt end of the Z3 handle. Unscrew it and you have a four-mode, 320-lumen handheld torch to light the way. The IPX7 waterproof aluminum design includes a magnetic end that can be used to hang the flashlight above work areas, such as on the underside of a car hood. The magnetic end removes to reveal an emergency USB charger that lets you tap into the 2,200-mAh battery for charging up gadgets.
The flashlight design also includes red and white diffusers to give the torch some flashlight-lantern functionality and better emergency lighting capabilities. There's also a seatbelt cutter end that can be swapped in for the magnetic end piece.
That light is a pretty impressive multitool all on its own, but it's only the tip of the iceberg for the Z3. Next down the handle is a high-carbon steel knife with serrated edge and built-in bottle opener. Inside its handle, accessible via a removable end piece, the knife holds a magnesium fire-starter rod with built-in emergency whistle.
Moving farther down toward the shovel blade, extension segments add length to the handle, and an ice pick assists with snow and ice navigation and doubles as a spearhead. It fits neatly in the final section of handle, which really, truly is just handle.
It wouldn't make too much sense to pack all those extra features into the handle and then just have a simple, one-dimensional shovel blade. The high-carbon steel blade doesn't just dig; it also has a serrated edge for cutting and chopping. The blade also unscrews and folds 90 degrees, locking in place to work as a hoe. The hinged pivot that adjusts the blade position can also cut wire, and there's even a ruler on the blade.
Not that it really needs to add any extra functions, but Chengdu also mentions other uses, such as using the blade as a hammer to knock down tent pegs, using the hoe as a sort of grappling hook, and using the shovel to break a car window in an emergency.
And just in case you were itching for just one more tool, Chengdu packs it in the form of a handheld chainsaw. This stainless steel wood saw carries separately and doesn't ride in the handle. A tactical-style carry bag neatly organizes all the individual pieces.
The Z3 also features an upgraded segment connection design, which relies on a combination of self-locking ring and toothed ratchet mechanism to lock segments snugly in place.
Chengdu began selling its line of multifunctional shovels in China about four years ago and through select US retailers in 2014. They're currently available under a number of brand names, and Chengdu plans to market them under the "Shen Ao" brand in the United States. It will be showing the new Z3 and other models at next month's Outdoor Retailer show. It tells us the retail price for the Z3 is US$234. If you can forego the ice pick, seatbelt cutter and upgraded self-locking system, the $147 DG offers the other major tools in a shorter-handled package.
Gizmag plans to attend Outdoor Retailer Summer Market, beginning on August 2, and we hope to get a closer look at Shen Ao shovels. We're guessing there won't be any dirt to dig in or branches to saw, but we hope to get a feel for how solid that segmented handle is.
Source: Chengdu Duoji