Thursday, 23 June 2011

The sh*tting trowel

Wild camping is made up of a series of activities that either make or break your enjoyment of the trip. One of my first trips was a cycling trip around the Ring of Kerry (No sniggering at the back!). That's where I was introduced to the fine art of taking a dump in the great outdoors. An activity akin to that other bastion of a good trip- wild swimming, and so the label, 'wild shitting' was born. A stout saxon label that described it perfectly. On that trip, we used our spoons to dig the hole, the ultimate ultralight implement, but so enjoyable was the activity, I soon upgraded to a real trowel. So of course, what to call it but a shitting trowel. (The companions to the shitting trowel were my piss sandals, used for midnight calls of nature). I'm not the only person to find it a peaceful and contemplative activity. 'Made in England by gentlemen' detailed a trip up the CDT where the author took a photo of every 'poo view' for the entire 6 months.
My first trowel was a good old folding mini entrenchment tool. It dug nicely, cut through heather roots well and had a nice big blade. The handle was always stable but I was a bit nervous of it folding back. It also weighed 150grams. When I began to lighten up I traded it in for a plastic B&Q garden trowel which I bought as a pack of three for a pound. I took the slimmer trowel, reduced the width even further, shortened the handle and drilled holes in it to reduce the weight to a much more acceptable 50 grams, the same ballpark as the legendary orange coghlans trowel.
This was still pretty heavy, however. A snow stake weighs 25 grams and is certainly usable as a trowel. There are tradeoffs here, however. The width of the blade is not so efficient as it's so narrow. It's not so comfortable in the hand and I tend stab a hole in the ground rather than scoop. The rounded end is no good for cutting through heather roots. It does, however double as a tent peg, especially for high tension guys such as the main guy on the Gatewood.
Then I saw the Rob Kelly potty trowel (Americans are much more polite than us Brits about bodily functions it seems). For 10 grams, you can get a fully functioning trowel with a nice wide blade. I splashed out and in a couple of weeks it was here. Stright away I was out to dig a hole in my lawn. It feels nice in the hand despite the thin nature of the titanium. You can use it like a normal trowel and it scoops well. It is certainly very strong, amazingly so for the weight. The main downside of it is that the extremely short nature of it makes it much more difficult to get to the bottom of the required 6 inch hole. Rob also does a 'Big dig' which is bigger and comes in at around 25 grams. I think as a trowel, that it's probably better to get that size. On the other hand, I generally only use the trowel for 5 minutes in a weekend, but I carry it for hours. A little faff doesn't bother me, it's still a step up from the snow stake and much cooler to own!

Which is my best trowel? The B&Q, without a doubt- comfortable, useful, efficient but 5X the weight of the potty trowel.

P.S- apologies for the frequent use of the word 'shit', but I'll leave you with a quote from an American (Stephen King I think?)
"If he stepped in Sh*t, then write that. 'He stepped in sh*t.' don't work around it. but also don't make a habit of overusing it." (Although I suspect I may be guilty of the latter!)


Anonymous said...

Wow! That is a small trowel! I made the Colin Ibbotson / Phil Turner conversion which is okay, does the job (so to speak) as the MSR stake is given a padded handle, but yes, the blade is narrow. Cool review, I've shared via Twitter :)

minimalgear said...

Cheers! Glad you like it!

zoompal said...

haha..funny post. That is a pretty small trowel.

Great review. Thanks!