The Quest for the Perfect Backpacking Spork
Frustrated by the burden of carrying a specific utensil for every food medium? Looking for something versatile, something light, or something to add that extra bit of pizzaz to your meal? Look no further than the compound spoon-fork known as the spork. We brought together three of the best models on the market and tested them side-by-side on short backpacking trips in the Sierra. We then brought our contenders to Northern Ontario and ate with them, quite vigorously, for seven weeks straight, evaluating each for comfort, durability and performance. In this review you'll learn which products proved their mettle, and which bent under pressure.
Behold the results.
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Test Results and Ratings
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Analysis and Award Winners
Analysis and Test Results
When we say "comfort", we don't only mean physical comfort. We don't just want to know how it feels in the hand. We want to know how it feels on the eyes, in the soul. We mean elegance. We mean panache.
Considering this, the Snow Peak Titanium is the clear victor. With clean, sleek edges, balanced weight and appropriate heft, the Snow Peak Titanium is delicately refined, without feeling fragile. The runner up? The Sea To Summit Alpha Light. A cleverly designed rib down the middle renders it nearly indestructible, but makes marathon grub sessions ever so slightly less comfortable.
Have you ever bent a utensil during a particularly heavy meal? I know I have. Consequently, I'm concerned about their structural integrity. None of the products we tested exemplified enlightened engineering more so than the Sea To Summit Alpha Light. A rib of aluminum down the center shaft of the Alpha Light gives it unquestionably solid construction. Even conscious efforts to bend it were met with defeat. The Snow Peak Titanium was strong, but the unreinforced Titanium was no match for the Alpha Light's construction. And finally, the Light My Fire was the least durable. It melted on hot cast iron.
For this category, we evaluated each contender on its performance and as a fork and as a spoon. And, by far, the frontrunner was the Light My Fire. The clever design allows for full use as a fork, spoon, and even a knife. (I guess "spornife" doesn't flow off the tongue quite as well.)
The functionality differences between the Alpha Light and the Snow Peak Titanium are barely noticeable. That being said, the Snow Peak Titanium has a slightly deeper bowl and slightly longer prongs.
The History of a Spork
This nifty eating utensil with its surprisingly rich and interesting history, integrates the bowl of a spoon and the tines of a fork for optimal versatility and efficiency; it's neither one nor the other but has the utility of both. It is capable of transporting the slippery ingredients of a Greek salad, as well as scooping the delectable contents of your favorite pint of creamy yogurt, often a difficult task without the belly of a spoon. The quirky name that originated from a blend in linguistics (a portmanteau word) wasn't trademarked until recently, but the designs roots are embedded deep in the Middle Ages. There are several other nicknames such as 'foon', a reversal in order of the latter, and 'splayed', a version that doesn't quite fit the bill, like the name that stuck.
The first known version of this utensil is the Sucket, a double ended tool with one side dedicated to scooping syrup and the other two pronged end for lancing sweets. It was created in the late 15th century and must have been an essential piece of gear for the gluttonous diets of the medieval lords and ladies. The next notable evolution of the design was in the 1800's: suitably named, the terrapin fork was an elegant contraption for eating turtles. In the same time period, the ice-cream fork was created to allow users to dig in to the cold substance that is sometimes frozen solid and sometimes soft and creamy.
In 1874, Samuel W Francis, a Rhode Island doctor, filed a patent for a design that combined the best functions of the three essential pieces of cutlery we're familiar with. Francis made this discovery over a spat with his wife concerning his pot roast dinner which was traditionally eaten in a bowl like a soup. After discovering that his wife had not cleaned any spoons, Francis threw a dirty one at her in retaliation. Luckily, it missed its target and instead hit the oven creating dents in the top of the bowl of the cutlery. As he dug in to his meal with the mangled piece of silverware, he began to notice that he could slurp the soup-like contents as well as pick up the vegetables with the newly created tines. After this revelation, he excitedly turned all of his spoons in to what he called "runcibles" and set out to get the patent for his invention.
By 1909, it had made its debut as a definition in the supplement to the century dictionary: "a trade name and a 'portmanteau-word' applied to a long, slender spoon having, at the end of the bowl, projections resembling the tines of a fork". In the 1960's, the crossbreed gadget became a popular wedding gift as well as an essential tool for buffet's as well as barbecues. They began popping up in fast food restaurants such as Kentucky Fried Chicken, in army mess kits, as well as in school cafeterias.
The hybrid cutlery even made its way in to political speeches. In 1995, during a Radio-TV Correspondents dinner, President Bill Clinton compared it to his political administration: "Now, you know, I don't know how many of you know this, I've been eating off these things for years. I never knew they were called sporks. But that's what they are. This is the symbol of my administration. This is a cross between a spoon and a fork. No more false choice between the left utensil and the right utensil. This is not an ideological choice. This is a choice in the middle and a choice for the future. This is a big, new idea—the spork."
Today the combination cutlery is a popular choice with backpackers and other outdoor enthusiasts as a piece of gear that saves space and weight. In 2003, Light My Fire, a Swedish company known for their colorful and simplistic plastic design, sold over 20 million of their units to as many as fifty two different countries. Various companies offer their hybrid utensil products in numerous different materials such as titanium, stainless steel, silver, aluminum, and polycarbonate plastic. The spork, (or is it a foon?) has had quite the identity crisis on its journey to the multifunctional piece of gear that it is today. From a sweet spearer to a turtle scooper, the all in one, one and done, multifunctional overachiever now finds itself as a regular inhabitant of adventurer's backpacks all over the world. Bon appétit!
— Atherton Phleger
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by OutdoorGearLab Review Team