Survival Gear photo

With origins dating back to the Roman Legion, the familiar entrenching tool—or E-tool—came into its own digging trenches during the Great War. Today’s collapsible military version, along with its varying civilian counterparts, fulfills a lengthy list of outdoor duties other than digging fire pits or latrine holes and freeing bogged-down tires. Here are five.

1. Anchor Points
With the blade at a 90-degree angle, the tool morphs into a makeshift canoe or rowboat anchor. Attach a rope to the handle and drop overboard. It may not catch the first time, so be patient. Folded the same way, an entrenching tool can secure a tent corner should you happen to lose a stake.

2. Take a Seat
Configured into a U shape, the tool becomes a suitable chair. It’s small and uncomfortable, but it will get the job done. Place it handle down, and you can sit on the blade; a cushion is a good idea. Or with the handle and blade point both on the ground, the shaft becomes the seat.

3. Chop to It
There’s a reason why one side of the blade is serrated and the other roughly sharpened. Fully extended, the tool doubles as an ax for cutting firewood or chopping brush, or as a machete for clearing vegetation. The knife edge makes short work of rope. Behead and gut a salmon? Sure, in a pinch.

4. Up a Creek
Say your outboard stalls, and there’s no getting it started. Not a problem…if you have your E-paddle. Sure, it will be slow going, but it’s still much better than floating, stranded, in the middle of the pond. Dedicate some space in a rod locker to one.

5. Cook Top
Extend the handle 90 degrees in one direction, the blade in the other, and presto, you have a quick cooking surface. Secure the handle to the ground with a rock or pin it with a forked stick. A single-burner stove or Sterno under the blade provides the heat. You can also straighten the handle and simply hold the blade over a small fire.