The Vault Regulars

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

MYOG toilet trowel. Simple, cheap and effective.

Quite often when i’m walking locally i come across mountain bike rear mudguards that have snapped off at the bolt boss. I see many of these, so who ever designed them didn’t do a very good job. Another "unfit for purpose" piece of kit.

But on the other hand i thought it such a shame that this lightweight, tough, rigid plastic was going to waste. I think i am right in saying it's made from the same material as car bumpers which is Polypropylene.
I had an idea that i could make a backpackers toilet trowel from it and maybe a few other things.

It was so simple i don’t know why i hadn’t thought of it earlier. Anyone can make a trowel. Yes anyone.

  • First of all it’s cross section is an ideal curve.
  • Its very strong with little deflection.
  • The spine doesn’t bend due to a reinforcing flat section on the inside.
  • Only tools needed are a tape measure, hacksaw, file and a drill with 8mm drill bit.
In the past i have used another homemade trowel, made from 50mm diameter domestic waste pipe and it worked fairly well but one of the problems i had with it was the initial dig. As luck would have it, most of the areas i seem to pick are heather covered or branch infested. Breaking through tiny root systems can be quite difficult and time consuming. Sometimes time is at a premium isn’t it.

 Instead of shaping a “recognisable” trowel handle i decided to cut a V shape that will penetrate the ground easier than the normal curved end.
Once the ground is broken up i use the scoop end to create the hole and repeat as required.

I found the broad end of the mudguard had a reinforcing bead of around 3mm thick running along its edge. I removed this with a file to create a sharper edge.

Then i drilled a hole in the trowel so that i could attach it to a small carabiner in my rucksack top pocket.

(The image below shows 2 holes. I drilled the one nearest the end first but found the middle area was best suited to my rucksack pocket and so drilled a second hole.)

Toilet trowel
 Dimension 200mm long
 Trowel curve and edge bead. 
(Trowel resting against a tape measure to enable the edge and curve to be viewed).

Weight is 25grams. I could make it lighter by adding a series of holes but i’m happy with the 25 grams.
It would also make quite a handy tent stake for the snow, the holes used for guy line attachment.


  1. Ingenious, sir! A finely engineered piece of kit.

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  3. Innovative Alan. See you have now got the Chinese folk interested?????? Are going to patent your design and flog it to them at a huge profit!!!!!??????????????

  4. Can you see those £ signs Dawn. Ha

  5. Interesting concept for making a digging tool. Have you tried it out in the field yet? Plus, how does it handle rocks/gravel?

  6. I have proved it digging in my local woods prior to doing the post. It worked well in small root systems. I haven't used it to clear gravel or rocks. I must admit that in all my years I cannot recall having to dig a cat hole in rocky ground. But I suppose there is always a first for everything. If o can find an area with such terrain locally I will give it a go and report back. Thanks.


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