Does the Perfect Spork Exist? One Backpacker’s Epic Quest to Find Out.
From a gadget that’s a fork on one end and a spoon on the other to a titanium utensil that will survive the apocalypse, there are dozens of different sporks on the market. But which is the best?
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In Edward Lear’s poem “The Owl and the Pussycat”, the titular couple celebrate their marriage with a dinner of mince and slices of quince, which they consume with the aid of something called a “runcible spoon.” As a child I remember being fascinated by this mysterious spoon, which could at once scoop up minced beef and spike slices of quince. It sounded like the perfect utensil.
It turns out that Lear entirely made up the “runcible spoon”, and that his only illustration of it looks more like a ladle. Nonetheless, the seed of my fascination with sporks had been planted. I began to incessantly bother my parents about our family’s total failure to provide me with a single runcible spoon of my own.
These days, I am handsomely outfitted when it comes to sporks. I have literal dozens, scattered around my garage, kitchen, office, and backpack. While I am more than happy to sleep on a piece of construction Tyvek under a tarp, and I quiver at the thought of having to find new boots when my Vasque Sierras eventually die, I have somehow convinced myself that I need a spork for every possible situation.
The thing about sporks is that they’re cheap enough and small enough to just give a new one a try, but they’re also important enough to a good camp meal that I am constantly left wondering if there’s a better one out there. The only way to answer that question and rid myself of the spork-shaped monkey on my back? Try every spork I can get my hands on.
Light My Fire Spork ($4)
Like many people, I began my sporking journey with the plastic Light My Fire Spork. It is not, in the purist’s sense, a spork at all. Rather it is a spoon, with a fork on the other end of its handle and a serrated blade on the side of the fork. This might sound appealing: One of the biggest challenges with a spork is that the tines are rarely long enough to effectively eat, for example, noodles.
But let me run through a couple of scenarios with you. Imagine you’re out in the woods enjoying a smear of peanut butter on a cracker. Delightful! Then, it’s evening, and you set about making and eating your dehydrated meal. Wait, what’s this? It’s that peanut butter from earlier, but now it’s all over your hand. That’s not all: The only way to reach deep into a MRE packet with one of those bad boys is to grab it by the tines, simultaneously poking yourself in the hand and spreading whatever germs you’re carrying on your grubby palms all over the fork you’re going to put in your mouth later.
They also break: I like to use an elastic band to hold my spork to my MSR Titan pot, but the contours on the LMF spoon-fork make this next to impossible to do without accidentally snapping it. More than once, I have been reduced to the ignominy of holding the bowl of the spoon in my fingers.
Forclaz Trek 500 Folding Spoon + Fork ($2)
Not unlike the owl and the pussycat, who start off the poem by going to sea in a “beautiful pea-green boat,” I decided to travel across the ocean in search of my next spork. (All right, I bought it online.) For a whopping two United States dollars, this folding plastic spork from European direct-to-consumer giant Decathlon is a solid choice for these inflationary times. Overall it’s not a bad spork, and it’s still one I go to for ultralight excursions.
The problem is that, over time, the hinge wears out. Eventually, it breaks, and you’re left on a mountaintop, with your oatmeal in your lap and a tear in your eye. This is still an acceptable travel spork and a solid EDC option, but it’s not one I have always been able to rely on in the backcountry. Despite this, when I see they’re on sale (for a single dollar), I still order a few.
Snow Peak Titanium Spork ($10)
Finally, it was time to go luxe. I got a full-time job recently, complete with health insurance and a steady income, so I decided to treat myself to a fancy spork. Where better to look for something pricey and titanium than Snow Peak, the Japanese brand that created and marketed a $160 plate for people to use outside?
I invested in one of Snow Peak’s titanium sporks mid-pandemic. It looks nice and it’s very light. It’s certainly strong: I’ve carried it on three continents, and I’ve sat on it, and it came out of all of that much better than I did.
But an all-metal spork can get a bit too warm to the touch for my liking when I stir a hot stew for a while, and the metal-on-metal screech when I try to get the very last of my oatmeal out of the pot is not really the way I want to start my day. Currently, I have wrapped the handle in cloth tape to prevent the heat issue, but the tape gets covered in goop when I reach deep into the bottom of a Mountain House meal.
We’ve only scraped the surface of my spork collection.. We’ve yet to discuss the brown plastic spoon that comes in MREs (good length, free, prone to breakage, still a decent backup) or the entire subgenre of extra-long sporks (tend to poke you or your stuff inside your bag, but the undeniable GOAT for deep meal pouches). But my journey isn’t over: I’m still searching for the do-it-all spork, one that can plumb the depths of a dehydrated meal, stir a backcountry stew without burning my hand, and stand up to the speed with which I shovel food into my gaping maw after a long day on the trail. It’s been 30-something years since I first heard Lear’s poem, and unlike the owl and the pussycat, I’m still searching for my life partner.