The QiWiz Big Dig Ultralight Titanium Trowel is an ultralight 0.5 ounce (15 grams) titanium cat hole trowel for digging holes in hard, rocky, and root-filled soil. It’s much sturdier than the cheap plastic trowels made by GSI Outdoors and much lighter weight too.
Whenever I teach people how to dig a cat hole, they’re always amazed at how hard it is to dig one, especially in New England, where the ground is full of roots and rocks.
Now imagine you’re in a hurry to get a cat hole dug. The last thing you want is a trowel that’s not sharp enough to cut through tough soil and roots, or snaps when you need to lever small rocks out of the way. That’s pretty much all of the time in New England, and I’ve had some funny and not-so-funny experiences with cat hole trowels that can’t even scratch the surface of the ground because it’s so hard and compacted.
That’s one of the reasons why Rob Kelly, founder of QiWiz UL Gear, developed the Big Dig Ultralight Titanium Trowel. He’s an ultralight backpacker and a Leave No Trace Master Educator, who’s passionate about teaching people how to minimize their impact when backpacking and camping.
A chronic tinkerer, Rob made a titanium trowel for himself out of scrap metal for his personal use. When other hikers saw it on the trail, they offered to buy one from him and now he’s sold hundreds to backpackers and thru-hikers.
Rob sent me the Big Dig model to try out (a smaller “Original” is also available) and I’m a convert. Truth be told, I don’t really care that it’s made out of titanium or that it only weighs 0.5 ounces (15 grams). All I care about is the fact that it makes it easy for me to dig a cat hole just about anywhere on the first try.
Compared to other commercial trowels, the Big Dig is a no-frills tool. It’s about 7 inches long, which makes it easy to size the depth of a 6″ deep cat hole. It comes with a small hole in the handle so you can easily clip it to the outside of your pack and the handle is painted yellow to make it easier to locate on the ground after you’ve finished “your business.”
I think the effectiveness of the Big Dig stems from the thinness of the digging blade, which can cut through roots easily, even though it doesn’t have a sharp edge. The titanium makes the trowel more durable than the plastic that a lot of other commercial trowels are made out of and helps the trowel maintain its shape when you need to lever small stones out of a cat hole.
The only potential gotcha with the Original and Big Dig trowels are their cost: $29 and $36. That’s a bit on the expensive side compared to the plastic trowels they sell at REI for $5-$21. Of course, those trowels have a tendency to break in harder soil or fail to penetrate hard ground when you can’t wait. They also weigh several more ounces if you’re counting.
Perhaps another perspective is to think of a titanium trowel as a finely honed tool (it can also be used as a tent or tarp stake), that will last a long time and be a joy to use. Let’s be honest: you’re far more likely to use a finely crafted tool like the Big Dig when you need to take a dump than you would a trowel that works only part of the time. If you care about reducing human impacts in the backcountry or setting an example for others, then owning a titanium trowel seems like it would be a very worthwhile investment to make.
Who knows, maybe Trowel Envy will convert the people who don’t bother to dig cat holes in the backcountry into model citizens.
The QiWiz Big Dig Titanium Trowel is the best cat hole trowel available…and I’ve field-tested them all!
Disclosure: QiWiz provided SectionHiker with a Big Dig Trowel for testing and review.SectionHiker is reader-supported. We only make money if you purchase a product through our affiliate links. Help us continue to test and write unsponsored and independent gear reviews, beginner FAQs, and free hiking guides.
No, the lack of a point is a non-issue. First, the thinness of the titanium allows it to dig and cut through dirt, roots, etc., without a sharp point. Second, the rounded front end allows you to scoop more dirt out of the hole. The Big Dig is truly the best cat hole trowel out there!
The Big Dig is a much better digger, cuts through roots much better, and scoops out much more dirt per scoop.
Plus it weighs less.
your comment in the video ” if you gotta go sometimes you don’t have a lot of time to try different sites for digging a cat hole” Just go then dig the hole.
JJ – the problem is that you need a jackhammer to dig a hole in the Whites. The soil is full of rocks and you need something that won’t bounce off of them. It’s a far more time consuming process than you might imagine and you often need to search for a place where you CAN dig a hole.
> Just go then dig the hole.
Seconded. :: applause ::
It’s a shit job, but I’m glad I brightened up your day.
When you gotta go you gotta go can’t waste time digging a hole
Great. Pack it and we can share it. Need one of those long term.
Great tool. Nice post. Another “continuous” user.
This just popped up on facebook this morning. My first thought – “ya don’t need a trowel, just use a tent stake (dual use and all that stuff)”. But, as mentioned in the post, replace one of the tent stakes with this – dual use.
Thanks for the great tip (except for the pricetag $29-$36!?!?).
Might be pricier, but worth every penny — I first bought this trowel because of the lightweight nature, but as mentioned above and in comments the sharp edges and nice scalloped shape make it a much better digger in tough soil than I have found with cheaper plastic trowels (in addition to metal trowels I’ve tried like the U-Dig-It Stainless Steel, $18, and the Sea to Summit Pocket, $22). Used the Big Dig on a five month thru hike of the PCT with my wife and it was our favorite piece of gear. Plus you are supporting a small manufacturer! I have always been miffed by the suggestion of using one’s tent stakes or one’s boot/foot to dig — very ineffective and I feel like a lot of the TP I saw blowing in the wind in Southern Caifornia can be blamed on such methods (or perhaps, someone having no method at all!).
Amen brother. Having a trowel signifies your intent to bury your dodo. That’s half the battle.
Plus you can use a titanium trowel instead of an ice axe for self arrest on the PCT, so I hear. :-)
After reading about it here, I just had to get a Big Dig. I’ve gotten to use it on one hike and it worked very well in rocky soil with plenty of roots. I was able to dig half way to China in a few minutes. It works much better than any plastic trowel or my iPood.
Here in Texas, it’s all the ice axe I need for self arrest.
I dig my hole after I set up camp. In the morning after coffee I just find my hole.