Published: August 29th, 2021
Sporks combine the traits of a spoon and a fork into one utensil. They are a popular choice for many backpackers because of their versatility for both eating and cooking on the trail. In this article, we’ll break down what to look for in the ideal spork and review some of the most popular options on the market.
Combining a spoon and a fork into one lightweight package for both cooking and eating gives sporks dominance over other types of utensils. Long-handled spoons come close but can’t grab ramen noodles. Chopsticks can stab and grab but can’t be used to slurp soup. Eating with only a knife might impress your fellow hikers, but it won’t help you when cooking or scooping.
|Brand & Model||Weight||Length||Material||Price|
|Snow Peak Titanium Spork||0.6 oz||6.5 in||Titanium||$10|
|Sea to Summit Long AlphaLight Spork||0.4 oz||8.5 in||Aluminum||$11|
|TOAKS Titanium Ultralight Spork||0.4 oz||6.4 in||Titanium||$10|
|UCO Titanium Spork||0.6 oz||7 in||Titanium||$13|
|Vargo Titanium ULV||0.3 oz||6.5 in||Titanium||$12|
|humangear Gobites Uno Travel Spork||0.5 oz||6.5 in||Nylon||$3|
|Light my Fire Titanium Spork||0.7 oz||6.7 in||Titanium||$22|
|MSR Folding Spork||0.4 oz||4.5-8 in||Nylon||$4|
|CRKT Eat'N Tool Outdoor Spork||1.5 oz||4 in||Steel||$10|
The spork was designed in the 1800s as an ice cream fork. The first recognizable spork by today’s standards was patented in 1874 by Samuel W. Francis. It wasn’t until 1951 that the name “spork” was trademarked and in 1970 the spork design we know and love was patented. A few years later, Kentucky Fried Chicken was the first major chain to offer plastic sporks with its meals. Since then, they’ve been widely adopted around the globe.
There are a few basic requirements that a spork has to achieve to make it worthy of carrying into the backcountry.
To achieve full functionality, a good spork must be able to hold a decent mouthful of liquid while also being able to impale a chunk of food and deliver it to your mouth. Designing one utensil to perform two tasks is a delicate balance. Pay attention to the size of the bowl and the sharpness of the tines when choosing a spork. It’s also important for it to be easy and comfortable to use. Ideally, it should perform as closely to frontcountry cutlery as possible so you don’t have to relearn how to eat.
Unless you plan on cold-soaking your meals, a spork must also hold up to heat. Since this is the one utensil you’re taking into the backcountry it needs to be good for cooking as well as eating. Most materials hold up well against the heat with plastic being the biggest exception. If you plan on lots of cooking or sauteing best to grab a metal spork. Along with resistance to melting, it’s good to note the conductivity of the material. Aluminum can heat up quickly making the handle hot if cooking for long periods of time.
Vargo Titanium spork stirring boiling ramen in cook pot
As your only eating and cooking device, your spork must be durable. Make sure it’s strong enough to hold up under pressure and repeated use. The tines should stay sharp and not bend. It shouldn’t become brittle in colder weather or melt when it gets hot. These are important considerations when using and also for storage and transport in your pack. Metal construction, especially titanium, is generally more durable than plastic options.
Snow Peak Spork (left), CRKT Eat'N Tool (middle), UCO Titanium Spork (right)
Weight is always an important consideration, even for a small item like a spork. Most sporks weigh roughly 0.5 oz. Those on the heavier side, 1 to 2 ounces, often blur the line between spork and multitool. Sporks on the lighter side, as light as 0.3 ounces, feature a minimal streamlined design.
Sometimes it pays not to reinvent the wheel (or spork in this case). The Snow Peak Titanium Spork is a great example of that. With a classic spork shape and a standard 6.5” length, it feels like you're eating with frontcountry cutlery. Made with titanium, this spork is durable enough to last a long time. And the tines are strong enough to stab chunks of food without breaking or bending. The simple design and titanium material keep this spork competitively lightweight at 0.6 ounces. One drawback for some users is the length. If you are eating out of freeze-dried meal bags this spork will be too short for many common bag depths.
At 0.42 ounces the Sea to Summit AlphaLight Long Spork is not only the longest on our list, but it’s also one of the lightest. Measuring 8.5” this spork gets to the bottom of your meal packaging or your JetBoil without issues. The extra length comes in handy when cooking, keeping your hand a bit further from your heat source. This spork is made of an aluminum alloy, which is strong but can bend more than titanium. The long length can take a bit of getting used to and its smaller spoon bowl means more bites to feed your body.
What sets the TOAKS Titanium Ultralight Spork apart is the dual-textured design. The bowl of the spork is smooth and while the handle is textured. This gives the feel of eating off a standard spoon while still providing the grip of other models. The smooth bowl also cleans up easily. Holes in the spork’s handle reduce weight, and the TOAKS weighs in at 0.4 ounces. Durability is slightly worse than similar models, it can be prone to bending. At 6.4”, like other sporks of its length, the TOAKS won’t reach the bottom of many dehydrated meal bags.
The UCO Titanium Spork’s “three in one” design allows it to have a more robust fork and spoon on each end of the utensil. The third tool in the design is a serrated edge of the outside tine of the fork giving you a bit of cutting action. But be careful to mind your mouth when eating. Being titanium gives it strength, durability and it won’t melt when cooking. At 0.6 ounces it’s comparable to other titanium models and is slightly longer at 7”. If you’re switching between spoon and fork functions over the course of a meal it can mean messy hands. It also increases the risk of ingesting something undesirable if your hands aren’t clean.
At 0.3 ounces this is the lightest spork in our review. Its shape and design are similar to the Snow Peak Titanium Spork, but it achieves its lighter weight by using a thinner design. The tines are slightly shorter than others. But since they come to more of a point it still allows you to pick up food with ease. At 6.5” it will be tough to reach the bottom of taller freeze-dried food bags. The thinner material can make this spork feel fragile but rest assured this durable utensil will hold up on your trip.
The humangear Gobites Uno Travel Spork holds its own against its metal competitors weighing 0.5 ounces and measuring 6.5”. The nylon material is durable and surprisingly rigid, maintaining its shape without much bending. Made of temperature-resistant nylon, it will also hold up well to heat. The biggest differentiator with the Gobites Uno is cost, about one-third that of titanium models. The double-ended design can be awkward to eat with, not to mention potentially messy and unhygienic.
At 0.7 ounces the Light my Fire Titanium Spork weighs slightly more than most sporks in its class. However, it makes up for it by being thick, robust, and durable. This will last for ages. The serrated outer tine cuts much better than plastic versions. Buyers might get sticker shock when shopping for this spork. Its cost is quite high, almost twice as much as other single-ended sporks. As a double-ended design, it can be slightly awkward to use, messy, and potentially unhygienic.
The MSR Folding Spork is designed with space and weight in mind. It folds down to 4.5” in length and its hollow handle gives it a feather lightweight of 0.4 ounces. When extended it sports an 8” length making it a good option for reaching the bottom of deep dehydrated food pouches. If doing extensive amounts of cooking be aware that the nylon construction is prone to melting. Durability is an issue; the hinge can be a point of bending and breaking.
The CRKT Eat’N Tool blurs the line between a simple utensil and a multitool. It also functions as a bottle opener, a screwdriver, and a hex wrench. Using it to eat is a unique experience. It’s designed to be held with your index finger through the spork itself giving a better grip to shovel food into your mouth. It’s made of steel, very durable but heavy at 1.5 ounces. The stubby design makes it difficult to eat out of any type of packaging. The large bowl of the spork is a plus for soups and stews.
LENGTH: Do I Need a Long-Handled Spork?
Sporks generally range from 4” to 8.5” in length.
Longer handled sporks allow you to get all the way to the bottom of a deeper dehydrated food pouch. For example, brands like Backpacker’s Pantry and Mountain House come packaged in 7” to 8” deep pouches.
Longer handles can also help when cooking, keeping your hand farther away from the heat while stirring and frying.
Many longer-handled sporks attempt to save weight with a smaller bowl design. This makes them less efficient getting food into your mouth at the end of a long day.
Shorter-handled sporks often have a nicer feel for eating, as they are more similar to standard-sized cutlery. And they will be a better fit in your pack and cooking pot.
DESIGN: Folding vs Non-Folding
Non-Folding sporks are the most common. They are one solid piece without any moving parts.
Folding sporks fold in the middle have the benefit of fitting in a smaller space. This can be a great solution if you want to fit your spork into a small cookpot while not in use. Some models also fold to shield the tines from poking delicate items in your pack.
Folding options weigh about the same as non-folding options.
Durability is a concern with folding sporks as the hinge is a weak point. It can bend, break or lock up making the spork unusable.
Overall, unless you’re in need of saving space, go with a more reliable non-folding option.
Sea to Summit Spork is great for Freeze-Dried Meals because it's longer than CRKT Eat’N Tool
BOWL: Large Enough to Pick Up Liquids
The spork’s bowl helps with scooping liquid and other soft foodstuffs. Make sure the bowl is large enough in diameter and depth to scoop an adequate amount of food. If it’s too small in either direction it can lead to only being able to take tiny sips of soup.
A larger bowl is also nice for cooking, giving you more efficiency to stir.
From a mouthfeel standpoint, a polished bowl feels akin to using a spoon at home. It also makes it easier to clean due to the smooth finish.
TINES: Look for Sharp Tines
The role of a spork's tines is to pick up a solid piece of food either by impaling (think stabbing a piece of meat) or by grabbing (think picking up ramen noodles).
Spork tines are shorter than a traditional fork to make room for the bowl. To make up for this, it’s important that the points on the tines are sharp enough to assist with picking up the food. Take extra care how you transport your spork. Sharp tines can puncture or scrape against delicate materials in your pack.
Sea to Summit AlphaLight Long Spork vs. MSR Folding Spork
ENDINGS: Single vs Double Ended Sporks
Single-ended sporks have a handle on one end and a bowl with tines on the other.
This is the classic spork shape you know and love from all your favorite fast food joints. Single-ended sporks function similarly to cutlery you’d use at home. Having both the bowl and tines on one end can be a compromise. Make sure the bowl is deep and large enough to hold liquid and the tines are sharp enough to pick up food and grab noodles.
Double-ended sporks have a spoon on one end and a fork on the other.
Technically, they aren’t a true spork because the spoon and fork aren’t combined as one. However, they are often marketed as sporks and serve the same purpose as dual use utensils.
A big plus of double-ended sporks is that they offer a full spoon and a fork. However, they can be awkward to use
The advertised way is to eat holding the center which can take time getting used to. In practice, it’s more natural to use by holding the end of the spork that you aren’t eating from. This does mean if you are switching between the fork and spoon ends during a meal hygiene and cleanliness are concerns.
EDGE: Serrated vs Not
Some sporks, especially double-ended sporks, come with a serrated edge on the outermost tine. This serrated edge helps with cutting and slicing. It works in a pinch to cut softer meats and cheeses but falls short of being an actual knife.
If you’re planning on doing any chopping or slicing while on the trail be sure to pack a better blade. It also won’t be enough to replace a knife in a survival or first aid kit.
While most serrated edges aren’t super sharp they can pose a risk of cutting your mouth if you aren’t careful while eating.
TITANIUM: the 'Premium' Option
Titanium is one of the most durable and strong materials on the market. It’s hard to bend, let alone break most titanium sporks. On top of that, it’s also very lightweight. It is easily cleaned, especially if it has a polished or smooth bowl. It doesn’t rust or give off a metallic taste when eating. If you have a coated pot or pan, be extra cautious using titanium on it as the hard material can scratch surfaces. Along the same lines, the metal pointy tines can poke your expensive fabrics. Take care how you store it when not in use. Titanium is expensive. Luckily, for a small item like a spork, it should be within your budget.
ALUMINUM: Conducts Heat and Can Give Off a Metallic Taste
Aluminum is another very light metal and slightly cheaper than titanium. Aluminum sporks can be manufactured very thin, keeping them some of the lightest options around. But the thin material can bend if too much pressure is applied. Aluminum conducts heat more than titanium which means the handle of the spork can become hot if using it for cooking. Some users complain about a metallic taste when using aluminum utensils. Like other metals, the tines can be sharp so make sure it is stored safely.
NYLON: a Good Bang for the Buck
Nylon sporks are often as lightweight as metal versions but at a fraction of the cost. They also clean off easily. Often these are made out of very durable and rigid nylon that holds up to bending and breaking. However, plastic is susceptible to becoming brittle with UV exposure so try to avoid keeping it in the sun too long. Nylon is designed to withstand heat, but if you’re doing large amounts of cooking a metal option will hold up longer.
LEXAN: Good for Avoiding Scratches on Cookware
Lexan is another form of plastic that is even cheaper than nylon. Often you can find Lexan sporks under $1. And the good news is these sporks are found at most major retailers and small outdoor stores. They are more durable than disposable sporks but not as good as nylon. If you have a coated pot or pan, Lexan is a good option to avoid scratching. Like other plastic materials, UV damage can make them brittle.
PLASTIC (Disposable): If You Have No Other Option
Free, ultralight, and found in most trail towns it’s hard not to have a soft spot for the go-to hiker trash utensil. This material is not durable. It’s easily snapped and the tines get bent out of shape quickly. We can’t recommend cooking with this material either. However, if you’re in a pinch or have zero budget it’s always an option.
Other common materials include metal, wood, and bamboo. Metals like stainless steel are heavy and, despite the name, can rust over time. They are not a good option for the backcountry. Wood or bamboo are eco-friendly options, but they snap easily and also are harder to clean. Food can linger in the pores of the wood meaning repeat use without a thorough cleaning can be unhygienic. Other eco-friendly materials, like bio-disposable plastics, are made for single use only and won’t hold up over time.
📸 Some photos in this post were taken by Jonathan Davis (@meowhikes)
By Justin Sprecher (aka "Semisweet"): Semisweet is a Wisconsin-based thru-hiker, adventurer and digital storyteller. You can find him exploring the upper midwest on foot, in a canoe and on a bike.
About Greenbelly: After thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, Chris Cage created Greenbelly to provide fast, filling and balanced meals to backpackers. Chris also wrote How to Hike the Appalachian Trail.
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