Trail Tools: Digging and Tamping Tools

These are the most commonly used Digging and Tamping Tools with tips on using them safely and effectively.

by Jim Schmid

January 01, 2004

Digging-Tamping Bar

A digging-tamping bar is about the same length as a rock bar but much lighter. It has a small blade at one end for loosening compacted or rocky soil and a flattened end for tamping. They work great for digging postholes and tamping the soil around a post once it is set. Some rock moving can also be done using this bar, although it is not quite as rugged or effective as a rock bar.

Safety tip: Never use to move large rock or logs.

Shovels

Shovels are available in various blade shapes and handle lengths. Fire shovels and round-point shovels are most common for trail work and are used to move loosened dirt, dig holes and trenches, and remove weeds. They can also be used for cleaning waterbars, culvert outlets, and diversion ditches. There are two kinds good for trail work. The long-handle shovel, best for digging holes, is generally 48 inches in length. The D-handle shovel, best for moving soil or digging in confined spaces, is generally 27 inches in length. Shovels can also be used to smooth trail tread. By bracing the shovel handle against the inside of your knee as you scrape the tread, you may be able to accomplish the work by using the strength of your legs rather than the muscles of your arms and back.

Safety tip: The most common injuries when using a shovel are back injuries. Bending from the knees instead of the waist will help prevent injury. Shovels shouldn't be used as a lever to pry rocks.

Post Hole Digger

Used for removing soil from holes for footings or posts the post hole digger has clam like scoops attached to long handles. Soil should be lifted from the hole with leg muscles-not back muscles. Use a digging bar to loosen compacted soil not the post hole digger. The post hole digger works best at removing loose soil. The scoops bend and break easily if used as a breaking tool.

Safety tip: Fingers can get pinched when the handles are closes-leather gloves are recommended.

 

About the Author

During his career Jim Schmid served as South Carolina’s first State Trails Coordinator as well as working for the US Forest Service as a Trails Manager in AZ, ID, and FL and also had the pleasure of managing the Florida National Scenic Trail. Jim is a collector at heart. Check out his collection of trail quotes, terms, acronyms, sayings and more at jimstrailresources.wordpress.com. In addition to updating his website and writing book reviews for American Trails Jim enjoys traveling around the country riding rail-trails and mtn bike trails.

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