A beach shovel is a digging tool made for sand. Its scooping section is typically square in shape and mostly flat except for a more rounded portion near the lower part of the handle. This area helps hold the sand in the shovel blade until the user is ready to toss it out. The handle on a beach shovel may be long, short or collapsing.
Collapsing, or folding, beach shovels are made to be compact, yet also extend into a long-handled digging device when needed. This type of beach shovel is made to be lightweight as well as take up minimal room in a tote bag or backpack. It may be used by backpackers to dig holes for tent stakes or to create a trench around the camp area for rainwater to drain off. Folding backpacking beach shovels often have a metal blade that is stronger than a plastic shovel.
Plastic beach shovel varieties are extremely common. Typically, they're made for casual use and are available in fun, bright colors. Children's plastic beach shovels are short-handled with an open section at the top of the handle made for little hands to grip. They're often sold in sets with a plastic pail that features a carrying handle. Larger packages of kids' pail and shovel sets are available for sale to give out as favors at a children's beach birthday party or for use at a child care center's sandbox.
Kids can scoop sand with the shovel into the pail. If the sand is damp and packed down enough, it will form a molded shape when the pail is tipped upside down. The shapes can then be used to create sand castles or other forms on the beach; plastic shovels work well to dig moats, or trenches, around a castle. Adults making sand sculptures for competitions may use several different sizes of beach shovel as well as varied techniques. For instance, the back of the shovel blade is often used to smooth a sand sculpture's surface.
Although some beach shovels have metal blades, most also have some plastic parts. All-metal shovels are typically too heavy to carry around on the beach unless they're made from lightweight aluminum. Besides creating sand castles or holes for tent stakes near the beach, shovels are also used for digging clams when shellfish are in season. Brightly colored, rather than neutral toned, shovels are easier to find on the beach when it's time to pack up and go home.