The Quest for the Perfect Backpacking Spork
Dining outdoors? Don't forget your spork. A union of spoon and fork, this utilitarian tool is intended to handle food of all shapes and sizes. Whether you are planning to use one for your weekday lunch, an ultralight backpacking trip, or wolfing down a snack at the crag, the right utensil for the job needs to match certain criteria. We put 8 of the most common and highly rated models through a series of side by side tests to help you find the perfect on-the-go utensil no matter where you plan to break your bread. From backcountry ski trips in the Rocky Mountains to car side meals in Utah's desert, we evaluated each competitor for their ability to help us cook and consume food. We also investigated breakability and the ease of cleaning. The result is a comprehensive review that flushes out the surprising nuances of these utensils and highlights their best uses.
Read the full review below >
Analysis and Award Winners
Snow Peak Titanium Spork
Providing top-notch comfort alongside quality construction, the Snow Peak Titanium has the desired versatility of a spork but handles like a normal utensil. It's easy to forget you are using an oddly shaped piece of silverware, allowing you to enjoy your meal whether on the trail or during a work day's lunch. Its boawl and tines have an ergonomic feel, and it performs well as a multi-utensil. Whether scooping, stirring, spreading, cutting, or stabbing, this model is extremely durable and holds up to regular use. It's also easy to clean, and the titanium resists scratches.
Small bowl size
The many pros outweigh messy fingers, but this spork does come up short when trying to reach the bottom of a dehydrated food bag or a JetBoil backpacking stove. Its small bowl size also makes it a mediocre soup spoon. For the majority of meals, however, this competitor shines and will keep you fed for years and adventures to come. After digging into your first meal, it is easy to see why the Snow Peak Titanium takes the cake.
Read review: Snow Peak Titanium
Best Bang For Your Buck
humangear GoBites Uno
The humangear GoBites Uno provides a low price point without forfeiting durability. Of all the plastic versions we tested, it was by far the strongest model. Its thick design not only lends to its strength but also improves the comfort of the bowl and tines when eating. The material makes it easy to wipe clean when you are on the trail, and the large bowl holds a solid bite of soup or stew.
Burly despite being plastic
Great price to performance ratio
Not the most sanitary
The main drawback to this competitor is the double-ended design. With a spoon on one end and a fork on the other, holding it is far from natural. Discomfort aside, you lose some of the versatility of a true spork and have to pick either the spoon side or the fork side. Once your choice is made you're either committed or willing to swap ends and risk contamination from dirty hands. Overall, this model is great for the price and may be well suited for children with its rounded edges, resistance to breaking, and low price tag.
Read review: humangear GoBites Uno
Best for Ultralight Backpacking
Vargo Titanium ULV
If you're looking to save on weight without sacrificing function, material, or longevity, the Vargo Titanium ULV is the spork for you. This model received high marks across the board in all of our tests. Its low weight and strong material make it ideal for backpacking but comfortable enough to double as your everyday on-the-go utensil. Whether tossed in your backpack, purse, or lunchbox, you will forget it's even there until it's time to eat.
Nice to eat with
Doesn't reach the bottom of dehydrated food bags
Although this utensil meets the weight standards for ultralight backpacking, it's average length does lead to challenges if you're planning to rely heavily on dehydrated food bags. Its thin construction also feels a little unusual in hand, but we found nothing uncomfortable about eating with this model. Unlike the more common plastic ultralight options, it's made of pure grade titanium, but be prepared to spend an extra buck or two for the upgraded material. Coming in as one of the lightest and most durable models we tested made it our favorite for heading deep into the backcountry, but also like it well enough for regular use.
Read review: Vargo Titanium ULV
Analysis and Test Results
Finding the perfect on-the-go utensil for your culinary needs might seem straightforward, but the manufacturers of these products have added a high degree of specificity to each design. This may seem like over-engineering or adding a technical element to a simple utensil, but after putting these eight top-of-the-line models through a slew of testing, we can assure you that certain models excel in particular situations. Yes, eating should be about food, but the vehicle you use to consume your grub can make or break your meal.
How did we get to be so opinionated about cutlery? We cooked and ate a lot of meals in a wide variety of environments. From the backcountry to sidecountry to front country, we used these sporks at home for breakfast, for work-week lunches, for car camping dinners, and as our everything utensils while trekking, backpacking, and ski touring. We also put them through specific tests to evaluate their comfort while eating, how useful they are for cooking, how simple they are to clean, and how likely they are to break. The rest of this review goes into the nitty-gritty of our testing. We discuss the importance of each of these factors, how we assessed them, and which models came out on top in these specific areas.
Reusable sporks cost money, even if it's only a little. With our most expensive competitor coming in under $12, the money is worth reducing our use of disposable plastic cutlery. Think of the sea turtles! But, even if you're not upset by plastic replacing sand on the world's beaches, these reusable products offer superior utility and durability than their flimsy fast-food cousins.
The graph below compares the overall score of the product against its price. The closer the model is to the bottom right-hand corner, the lower the price and the better the performance. Our Best Buy, the humangear GoBites Uno is a whopping $3 and scored above average across the board giving it our best price-to-performance ratio. On the far right, you can see that the Editors' Choice, the Snow Peak Titanium and the Vargo Titanium ULV, were the two highest performing models, but their heftier price-tags of $9.95 and $11.95 respectively put them toward the top of the graph.
The primary function of any utensil is to serve as a vehicle for transporting food from your plate to your mouth. In kitchens all around the world, you will find multiple utensils for the job. Spoons are for scooping while forks (or chopsticks) are for picking up more solid morsels. The spork is the one-man-band of utensils. It provides the functionality of both a spoon and a fork, which, theoretically, makes it the perfect utensil for a multitude of food types when you are on-the-go and space is limited. We tested our products with a multitude of meals and specifically evaluated their ability to handle ramen noodles and stab meat. Fashion may often be sacrificed for function, but comfort should only be abandoned as a last resort. After all, your food should be the star of the meal, not your utensil. How comfortable the model was to use, how well it handled different food types, and how much liquid the bowl could hold all factored into our eating metric which contributed 35% to the overall product score.
The top dog in this category was the Editors' Choice Award winner, the Snow Peak Titanium, but the Vargo Titanium ULV came in at a close second. The Snow Peak model takes the cake with its familiar design. It feels normal in your hand which makes it easy to forget you are using an unconventional utensil. The bowl is a similar shape to a standard spoon which makes it comfortable in your mouth and the tines offer a smaller imitation of your classic fork. The Vargo Titanium ULV is not your typical piece of cutlery with its thin metal design to reduce its overall weight. Even though it doesn't exactly feel normal, it's enjoyable to eat with and easy to overlook the difference.
One of the best things about a hybridized spoon and fork is its unique ability to deliver the broth and the hearty bits at the same time when you're eating soup. All of the models with a single-ended combination design excelled with ramen. In fact, if you are a die-hard lover of ramen and either lacking in chopstick skills or just trying to streamline your ramen eating experience, sporks belong in your cutlery drawer. If you are a ramen traditionalist and chopsticks are a must, get the best of both worlds with the GSI Outdoors Kung Foon spork and chopstick combination.
When it comes to stabbing dense food, like meat, the metal products with larger tines handle more like a conventional fork. The Snow Peak Titanium and the Vargo Titanium ULV performed this function well, as did the Sea to Summit AlphaLight.
To determine just how much liquid each product can hold, we used a syringe to fill each model's bowl with water until the surface tension broke. It shouldn't come as a surprise that the greatest volume was held by a double-ended model with a true spoon on one end. The Light My Fire Original held an astounding 8.5 cc's, followed by the Vargo model with 5.75 ccs and the humangear GoBites Uno with 4.5 ccs.
By combining multiple utensils into one, these products inherently act as multi-tools, but if you plan to use yours on a backpacking trip, it also needs to boast the added utility of just about every culinary gadget except the kitchen sink. We used each of the competitors to prepare and cook multiple meals with a backpacking stove to evaluate their ability to spread, slice, and stir.
The back of the bowl works great to spread things like nut butter, and all of the models did well at this task. Slicing is best accomplished by using the thin wall of the bowl of the metal products like the Vargo Titanium ULV, the Snow Peak Titanium, and the Sea to Summit AlphaLight. The thicker metal and plastic models caused our block of cheddar cheese to crumble.
Stirring may sound like a simple task, but the depth of the pot plays a considerable role. Your typical silverware, as well as the majority of these products, measure 6.5" from tip to tines. This length is perfect for eating but leaves your fingers barely above the surface when stirring a pot of soup. Fortunately, none of the handles became hot with normal use, but try to reach the bottom of a dehydrated food bag or a JetBoil stove, and you can forget about keeping your fingers out of the meal. This is the unfortunate case for all of our competitors save one. Enter the Sea to Summit AlphaLight Spork - Long. It's 8.5" profile provides just the right amount of bonus length to make it eclipse all of the other models in this category of testing. It also features an angled bowl that is deliberately designed to facilitate scooping and stirring. The Sea to Summit does sacrifice some comfort for its practicality, but if it's going to be your everything utensil on a backpacking trip and you plan to live on dehydrated food bags, its functionality makes it worth it.
Sauteed veggies with eggs is a fundamental camp meal - just poke your head around the Yosemite Search and Rescue camp, and you'll discover that this team is fueled by almost nothing else. While all of these products were successful at sauteing, we want to note a few caveats. First off, the thin plastic models, such as the LightMyFire Original and the MSR Folding, were prone to melting after many uses. No significant deformity occurred, but the edge of the bowl that touches the pan became blunted from the repeated contact with the hot pan. Second, if you're planning to use a non-stick pan, beware! All of the models we tested except one scratched our GSI Pinnacle Frypan's Teflon coating. The LightMyFire Original sparred the non-stick surface, but the other two plastic models left notable scratches. The GSI Outdoors Kung Foon consists of extra-thick stainless steel so expect some deep gouges if you let this product scrape a non-stick surface.
Cleaning options are limited when you are on-the-go, so we tested each product to determine how involved the cleaning process needed to be to keep it looking spick and span.
While not the most hygienic, the simplest means of removing food from your utensil is to wipe it clean. This action can be accomplished in a variety of ways depending on your standards, thus to accommodate even the dirtiest of dirtbags, we investigated each model's ability to be wiped clean by mouth and with a dry towel. Eggs and other proteins stuck a little more to the plastic models, but the titanium versions looked shiny and new after a thorough wiping. It's a useful technique, even in the front-country when you want to toss it in your bag before returning to work. It keeps your bag clean and lets you wait for the dishwasher to do the heavy cleaning once you're back at home. All of the models we tested are dishwasher safe except the Sea to Summit AlphaLight.
Dried sticky food can be a challenge to remove. We made up a pot of mac and cheese, dipped each product into the sauce, and let them sit out until the sauce formed a nice crust. We then set out to rinse them first with cold running water and no additional tools other than our fingers. The Snow Peak, the Vargo, the humangear, and the Sea to Summit were the easiest to get clean. The two folding models from Toaks and MSR required the addition of a sponge to get the folding joints free of gunk. The spork portion of the GSI Outdoor Kung Foon was quick and easy, but the chopsticks have tiny holes on the backend which were almost impossible to clean out entirely and required an unfolded paperclip.
The last thing you want when many miles into the backcountry is to be stranded without any reasonable way to cook your food and shovel it into your mouth. Entropy, the thermodynamic principle that all things undergo gradual progress towards disorder, is an unfortunate given in this world and everyday use speeds up the process. But, how quickly these utensils bend, deform, or break with normal use depends on the design and the material.
The Snow Peak Titanium is practically bombproof. One of our testers has had five years of adventure meals with this model and doesn't look any worse for wear than the day she bought it. The Vargo Titanium ULV showed no signs of bending or other weathering throughout our three month testing period. The humangear GoBites Uno showed surprising brawn for its plastic construction. It felt sturdy in hand and wasn't phased by any of the thick, sticky meals we threw at it. The other plastic models, however, were prone to bending while stirring and had an insubstantial feel with use. The LightMyFire Original snapped in half early in our testing period while being used to stir breakfast potatoes. Fortunately, it was our only in-use casualty.
To make sure these products were able to stand up to even the most robust culinary experience, we purposefully set out to test their limits. Using a c-clamp, we fixed the handle to a table just up from the bowl where your hand would normally grasp the handle. With the bowl hanging off into space, we hung a water jug filled with weighted amounts of water ranging from 1 lb to 10 lbs and watched for signs of warping.
The Snow Peak, humangear, and the GSI Outdoors models held up to 10 lbs with no signs of flexing. The Sea to Summit and the Vargo showed some give with 10 lbs, but when the water jug was removed, there was no visible change. The Toaks didn't break, but the folding joint released with just 1 lb of weight. The MSR showed no lingering signs of damage, but 5 lbs caused it to bow so severely, the water jug fell off.
Spork Buying Advice
Using tools with our opposable thumbs is one of the defining characteristics of being human. Be it a spoon, fork, knife, or chopsticks, these instruments are designed with the sole purpose of facilitating our consumption of food. Your silverware drawer at home likely contains a variety of those utensils. After all, few want to eat soup with a fork. But what happens when you want to eat on-the-go? Carrying a set of classic silverware is both bulky and heavy, and single-use plastic utensils are wasteful and might leach toxic chemicals. Enter the spork. It's the perfect combination of utility and portability. Most models are lightweight, ranging from 1.8 oz all the way down to 0.3 oz and offer the versatility of both a SP-oon and a f-ORK.
Electing to forgo a more formal table setting (sorry Mom, those etiquette classes aren't useful here!) and adopting a hybrid utensil for your travel eating needs, may seem like a no-brainer, but picking the right model isn't as simple as it sounds.
Where you plan to use it, what you plan to use it for, and how dependent you are on its survival for your own are a few of the main factors to take into consideration. To answer these questions, we tested the most popular models on the market to determine their performance as eating instruments and cooking tools. We also evaluated how easy they were to clean and their ability to withstand sustained use without breaking or deforming. We pushed these utensils to find their limits so when you find yourself eating somewhere deep in the Andes, you don't have to.
Location, Location, Location
Where you plan to use your spork plays the biggest role in determining the necessary requirements. Like most things, the more technical the equipment, the higher the price tag. These products range from $3 to $12, and for the most part, the more expensive models have more activity-specific features.
Weight & Durability
For backpacking, your primary concerns are durability and weight. A lightweight model won't serve you if it only lasts part way through your trip. Reliability counts if you are planning an extended thru-hike on the Pacific Crest Trail or even a week-long trip in the Adirondacks, but so does reducing the total weight of your gear. While a few fractions of an ounce might seem insignificant, when all of your possessions are strapped to your back for mile after mile, every little bit counts.
Comfort in the backcountry is no small luxury and eating should be about food, not the vehicle you use to transport it from plate to mouth. With exceptional scores in durability and comfort as well as a reasonable weight of 0.6oz, our Editors' Choice, the Snow Peak Titanium, is a great option no matter where you plan to take it. Lighter models, like the Vargo Titanium ULV and the humangear GoBites Uno, scored above average in comfort and durability. The former is one of the pricer models but won our Top Pick for Ultralight Backpacking due to its super lightweight, resistance to breaking, and decent resemblance to a normal utensil. The humangear GoBites Uno, on the other hand, is a resilient plastic alternative that boasts an exceptionally low price tag which earned it our Best Buy Award.
Front Country Dining
While most of the models suitable for backpacking perform well in the front country, car camping and workday or school lunches lead to more flexibility. Comfort can become a top priority, and for that, the Snow Peak Titanium takes the cake as it most closely resembles what's already in your kitchen but brings the added versatility of a hybrid. When it comes to kids, sending a more expensive and pokey titanium model to school with your child might be a bit of a risk. The humangear model offers the safety of plastic, and its low price tag makes it a bit easier to replace if it magically grows legs and wanders off on its own… or so says little Johnny.
Keeping it Clean
Where and how you plan to wash your dishes will suit some models better than others. Fortunately, all of the models we tested are dishwasher safe except the Sea to Summit AlphaLight. While this may seem like a bummer for that particular product, its long handle and angled bowl make it best for backcountry cooking where we're pretty sure you won't have a dishwasher handy anyways.
The material and design also affect the utensil's cleanliness. The titanium models are easier to wipe clean and/or rinse with cold water than the plastic alternatives. Folding models also have extra grooves at their joints where bits of food are prone to linger. Last but certainly not least, the products with double-ended designs are a recipe for dirty hands and contaminated dinner unless you are committed to using either a spoon or a fork but not both.
The Multi-Tool Utensil
When backpacking, your spork has to double not only as a drawer full of silverware but also as your cooking gadget. If you're planning to cook with a non-stick, beware. Every model except the LightMyFire Original scratched our "extra durable" Teflon coated pan during testing.
Dehydrated Food Bags & JetBoils
If preparing dehydrated food in its bag or cooking with a JetBoil stove is your style, a long-handled model comes in handy. While the standard is 6.5-inches from tip to tines, the MSR Folding is 8.5-inch long when extended, and the Sea to Summit AlphaLight Long boasts a 10.5-inch profile. This added reach keeps your fingers out of your food and far above the flame when cooking. The Sea to Summit also has a small bowl with a sharp angle which excels at stirring even if it feels a bit odd to eat with.
The beauty of these hybrid utensils is in their ability to handle a variety of foods better than a spoon or a fork can alone. Once you've eaten spaghetti with a spork, you'll be asking the Italians why this wasn't invented decades ago. The double ended models, however, lose out on this new found pasta-perfect identity.
While none of these products are as ideal for slurping soup as a deeply laden Asian soup spoon, most of them hold enough liquid to be sufficient. To test their soup carrying capacity, we used a syringe to load the bowl of each model to its maximum. Not surprisingly, the double ended models without the slots of the tines performed best, but after eating countless bowls of ramen, chili, and chicken soup with these products, we found this measurement to only minimally impact our preferences.
Nylon and other plastic models, like the MSR Folding and LightMyFire Original, are prone to deforming with repetitive use in a hot pan. While none of the plastic models outright melted during testing, the edge that touches the pan becomes deformed over time. The thick walls of the plastic models also rendered them less useful for slicing. This might not matter if you bring a pocket knife, but in that case, avoid the temptation to slice over anything other than a hard surface. Otherwise, use the thin-walled edge of one of the metal versions to slice through cheese while sparing your thigh the need for stitches.
Titanium is a high-grade material that is resistant to wear and tear. This means that it will not only withstand the harshest of adventures, but it will also keep its particles to itself and not wind up leaching chemicals into your food. Stainless steel follows a similar suit. Aluminum, on the other hand, is a heavy metal that has been known to contaminate food when in contact with heat. While this applies more so to aluminum pots and pans, it's still something to be aware of.
When it comes to plastic, the main concern is BPA (bisphenol-a), a toxic chemical linked to cancer growth in humans. Fortunately, all of the models we tested are BPA-free, but it is only one of many potentially harmful chemicals found in plastic. As research continues to emerge about the dangers of these petroleum-based polymers, it's wise to proceed with caution. The white plastic silverware you find at places like Taco Bell comes with no guarantee and whether you elect to buy one of the plastic or metals products we tested, you can at least be sure that you are not adding BPA to your meals.
Whether you are eating a summit snack at 10,000ft or last night's leftovers in the office breakroom, a spork is your ideal on-the-go utensil. The versatile design of a spoon-fork hybrid maximizes eating efficiency, and the lightweight material makes them great for travel. Everyone's got to eat, and this technical piece of cutlery is an essential part of every adventurer's mealtime kit. From big walls to lunch boxes, these tools keep you fed and save your fingers for the more important things, like hand jams and puff paint. Check out our individual product reviews to find your perfect mealtime match.
— Leslie Yedor
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