The shelves at your local outfitter are likely loaded with a vast selection of eating utensils designed for use in the backcountry. Sporks, spoons, forks, knives, chopsticks, aluminum, titanium, plastic, lexan… It can be a bit overwhelming to say the least. Which utensil is best? Well, it depends on what your needs are. What follows is a breakdown of some of the more common choices and how they can benefit your load out.

Let’s start by ruling a couple of features out:

  • Forks – Are just not necessary, not to mention that most forks you’ll find hardly function as such. In all of my time hiking, I have not once required a fork.
  • Sporks – Why ruin a perfectly good spoon with a non-functioning “fork”?
  • Chopsticks – Are a niche piece of gear that can only be used for certain dishes. Backpacking wisdom tells us that one-purpose items should be limited as much as possible.
  • Knives – Are very rarely needed (for cooking/food purposes). Plus, it’s likely you have a pocket knife with you anyways. Your spoon will spread peanut butter just fine.
  • LightMyFire spoon/fork/knife combo thing. I’ve seen far too many of these things break to ever even think of using one. Just don’t…

Ok with that out of the way lets take a look at materials, common ones include:

  • Plastic – You may encounter some generic plastic spoons in an outfitter. These tend to be very brittle and are generally about as useful as a disposable spoon from a restaurant (Which would be cheaper and lighter).
  • Lexan – Is a stronger and slightly flexible plastic that actually makes a great material for backpacking utensils. It’s best feature is its price; a lexan spoon can be had for around $2-$3. This could be considered a steal next to the pricier Al and Ti spoons. Lexan tends to flex over snapping, so while it may not break on you, long handled pieces tend to flex a bit. These are generally BPA free.
  • Aluminum – It’s the lightest of the metallic options and offers a light, rigid spoon that is fairly affordable and generally strong. It can bend, however, if left in a pack wrong or subjected to a serious tub of ice cream.
  • Titanium – The strongest option available, at the cost of a slightly heavier weight than aluminum. Titanium is normally the most expensive option, but nearly indestructible and so shiny.

One thing that I always recommend is getting a long-handled spoon. Getting down into the corners of your ziplock, tall pot, Mountainhouse bag, or pasta side bag is so much easier with a long spoon. This serves to keep your hands clean (wouldn’t want to wake up to a critter licking your hand would you?) and allows you to get every last hike-fueling scrap out of your meals. People who transition to long handled spoons are always happy with their choice.

So with all of these choices taken into consideration, what’s the best option? Let’s break it down by backpacker type:

Ultralight Minimalist: If you’re looking for the absolute lightest yet functional item, consider a short-handled lexan spoon. It won’t break on you and it will serve its purpose well. The lack of a long handle is inconvenient, but it does save weight. Bonus: it’s cheap! The spoon pictured below is available through Yogi’s Website. Alternatively, you could just use disposable cutlery to save even more weight, though it will certainly be fragile.

This lexan spoon only weight 0.2 oz (5.7 g)

Thru-hiker: Go with a titanium, long-handled spoon. It will stand up to being shoved in your pack every day and it’ll get into every nook and cranny of that pasta side meal. Mine has survived the AT and PCT and is still going strong (It’s also my favorite piece of gear). Check out my favorite: Optimus Long-handled Titanium Spoon. Bonus: the smooth finish on this one feels like a real spoon!

Optimus’ titanium spoon comes in at 0.7oz (19.8 g)

Weekenders/Everyone Else: Give an aluminum long-handled spoon a try. It may not be as durable as titanium, but you don’t require something so stout. You’ll save a little weight by going with the aluminum. Recommendation: Sea to Summit’s Alpha Light Spoon.

Sea to Summit’s Alpha Light Spoon weighs a scant 0.4 oz (11.3 g)




Joe B.

Joe is a triple crown thru hiker that lives for anything outdoor adventure related. He loves delving into a complex DIY project, testing out the latest and greatest backpacking gear, rock climbing, hiking, and much more.


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