Sure, you can eat with your hands. But who wants to do that all the time? Whether camping, surviving, or just taking a snack break on the trail, having handy, easily carried portable utensils can enhance your dining experience.

A quick story: During a multi-day rifle marksmanship course, the Tier 1 instructor took one morning to explain how to maintain the AR-platform rifle. During his demonstration, he field stripped the bolt carrier group on a sample rifle that had seen several thousand rounds since its last cleaning. For all to see, he held up the tail of the bolt, which had collected caked-on carbon and other fouling. He pulled a knife from his pocket, flicked it open, and showed the class how you could use it to scrape the bolt tail. He stashed the knife back in his pants pocket. Later, we broke for lunch. The seasoned, snake-eating instructor ambled over to a table and produced a loaf of bread, mayonnaise, and lunch meat from a grocery bag. He dipped into the mayonnaise and started spreading it on a slice of bread — with the very same pocketknife.

If this sounds like something you might do, then perhaps you can happily use some rusty nails as skewers and your dirty knife to cut your meat. But even those whose five-second rule is more like five minutes must admit that it’s often easier to eat with utensils than your hands, especially when food is scalding hot. While they aren’t strictly necessary, we suspect many of our readers would appreciate the luxury of purpose-built utensils. Plus, during tense and difficult situations, being able to feel a little more civilized with some comforts of home can provide much needed psychological benefit and boost morale.

So we collected a wide selection of portable utensils with varying design philosophies for your reading enjoyment. We tested them with different types of foods and took them on the road.

Evaluation Criteria

In particular, we assessed the following:

  • Scooping: How well does it function as a spoon?
  • Spearing: How well does it function as a fork?
  • Cutting: How well does it function as a knife?
  • Packaging: How compact and portable is it?
  • Durability and maintenance: How durable is it and how easy it is to clean?

The usability of a utensil as a spoon, fork, or knife involves not just the pointy (or spoony) end, but also how you grasp it. Products designed first and foremost for compact size typically hinder their effectiveness by compromising in two areas: a small handle and a “spork” design, combining a spoon and fork in one. Sporks are invariably better spoons than they are forks. In fact, they’re usually pretty poor forks. Additionally, ultra-compact tools often lack a knife, which probably isn’t the end of the world since we suspect nearly all of our readers have a pocketknife (if not an entire collection of them). Select one of these types of tools if you value portability over all else.

Some products use a folding design, like a pocket or Swiss Army knife. This results in a convenient, compact package, but has some disadvantages as well. Some designs also make the forks or spoons awfully small. While the handles are typically generously sized, the necks of the spoons and forks extending from the pivot are usually rather short, making them less useful for dipping deeply into your food or soup. And all suffer from being harder to clean — you need to be diligent to avoid rust. These types of tools make a tidy, compact package, but they aren’t our favorites to use and maintain.

As you’ll see, our favorite utensils for the actual dining experience feature separate spoons, forks, and knives, and stack together for storage. Simple and efficient.

In a web-exclusive supplement linked at the end of this article, we also looked at a couple of portable chopsticks. These are the ultimate minimalist utensils, as they offer the exact same functionality as regular chopsticks. Chopsticks are simply… sticks. Like a portable pool cue, two-piece chopsticks simply thread together for use, becoming identical to a one-piece chopstick. Not to mention that they’re very compact and lightweight. As long as you’re mostly eating solid foods, chopsticks can be a viable alternative to a utensil set.

So read on and see what’ll make your next meal a more civilized experience.

Portable Utensils

  • portable-utensils-buyers-guide-boker-magnum-bon-appetite-001

    Böker Magnum Bon Appetite

    Make & Model - Böker Magnum Bon Appetite
    Dimensions - 7.4 / 4.1 (open / closed) by 1.2 by 1 inches
    Weight - 6.4 ounces
    Material - 440 steel, laminated plywood
    Colorways - Brown
    MSRP - $27
    URL - http://www.bokerusa.com

    The Böker is a compact cutlery set, evoking the nostalgia of an old-school pocketknife.

  • portable-utensils-buyers-guide-crkt-eatn-tool-titanium-001

    CRKT Eat’n Tool Titanium

    Make & Model - CRKT Eat'n Tool Titanium
    Dimensions - 4 by 2.3 by 0.6 inches
    Weight - 0.7 ounces
    Material - TA1 titanium
    Colorways - Bead Blast
    MSRP - $20
    URL - http://www.crkt.com

    Designed by Liong Mah, the Eat'n Tool crams several functions into a light and small package.

  • portable-utensils-buyers-guide-crkt-iota-001

    CRKT Iota

    Make & Model - CRKT Iota
    Dimensions - 3.2 by 1 by 0.5 inches
    Weight - 0.5 ounces
    Material - 2Cr13 steel
    Colorways - Black, Silver
    MSRP - $6
    URL - http://www.crkt.com

    The Iota, designed by Tom Stokes, is quite diminutive — just one piece of contoured steel.

  • portable-utensils-buyers-guide-gsi-outdoors-stacking-cutlery-set-001

    GSI Outdoors Stacking Cutlery Set

    Make & Model - GSI Outdoors Stacking Cutlery Set
    Dimensions - 6.1 by 1.5 by 0.8 (stacked) inches
    Weight - 0.7 ounces
    Material - Copolyester
    Colorways - Blue, Green, Orange, Red
    MSRP - $5
    URL - http://www.gsioutdoors.com

    At first, this cutlery set just looks like an up-market variation of disposable plastic utensils. But after using them for a while, they really grow on you.

  • portable-utensils-buyers-guide-gsi-outdoors-telescoping-foon-001

    GSI Outdoors Telescoping Foon

    Make & Model - GSI Outdoors Telescoping Foon
    Dimensions - 6 / 3.9 (closed / open) by 1.5 by 0.7 inches
    Weight - 0.3 ounces
    Material - Copolyester and acetal
    Colorways - Blue, Green, Orange, Red
    MSRP - $4
    URL - http://www.gsioutdoors.com

    This utensil has a head that slides back and forth on the handle. It might seem a little rickety when collapsed, but it locks in nicely when fully extended.

  • portable-utensils-buyers-guide-kabar-hobo-3-in-1-utensil-kit-001

    KA-BAR Hobo 3-in-1 Utensil Kit

    Make & Model - KA-BAR Hobo 3-in-1 Utensil Kit
    Dimensions - 7 / 3.9 (open / closed) by 1.2 by 1 inches
    Weight - 5.3 ounces
    Material - 3Cr13 and 420j2 stainless steel
    Colorways - Silver
    MSRP - $25
    URL - http://www.kabar.com

    Like the Böker, the KA-BAR Hobo features a folding pocketknife design. It also has three layers that come apart, with a knife, spoon, and fork.

  • portable-utensils-buyers-guide-kabar-tactical-spork-001

    KA-BAR Tactical Spork

    Make & Model - KA-BAR Tactical Spork
    Dimensions - 6.9 by 1.2 by 0.7 inches
    Weight - 1.2 ounces
    Material - Grilamid
    Colorways - Black
    MSRP - $8
    URL - http://www.kabar.com

    KA-BAR's Tactical Spork is made of Grilamid and separates in half by pulling it apart. True to its tactical moniker, it's quite sturdy.

  • portable-utensils-buyers-guide-kershaw-ration-002

    Kershaw Ration

    Make & Model - Kershaw Ration
    Dimensions - 4.6 by 1.4 by 0.6 inches
    Weight - 1.2 ounces
    Material - 3Cr13MoV steel
    Colorways - Bead Blasted
    MSRP - $7
    URL - http://www.kershaw.kaiusaltd.com

    Rather than offering the ubiquitous spork design in the compact steel Ration, Kershaw went with a separate spoon and fork on either end.

  • portable-utensils-buyers-guide-light-my-fire-of-sweden-spork-titanium-001

    Light My Fire of Sweden Spork Titanium

    Make & Model - Light My Fire of Sweden Spork Titanium
    Dimensions - 6.8 by 1.5 by 0.8 inches
    Weight - 0.7 ounces
    Material - Titanium
    Colorways - Polished
    MSRP - $17
    URL - http://www.lightmyfire.com

    Light My Fire calls this a spork, but the spoon and fork are on opposite ends of the utensil.

  • portable-utensils-buyers-guide-red-rock-outdoor-gear-3-piece-chow-set-001

    Red Rock Outdoor Gear 3 Piece Chow Set

    Make & Model - Red Rock Outdoor Gear 3 Piece Chow Set
    Dimensions - 6.8 by 1.8 by 0.6 (stacked) inches
    Weight - 2.4 ounces
    Material - Stainless steel
    Colorways - Silver
    MSRP - $4
    URL - http://www.redrockoutdoorgear.com

    This three-piece set from Red Rock Outdoor might remind you of the silverware in your college dorm's cafeteria, but, hey, you managed to stuff your face just fine for those four to seven years.

  • portable-utensils-buyers-guide-red-rock-outdoor-gear-4-in-1-chow-set-001

    Red Rock Outdoor Gear 4-in-1 Chow Set

    Make & Model - Red Rock Outdoor Gear 4-in-1 Chow Set
    Dimensions - 7.5 / 4.5 (open / closed) by 1.5 by 1.3 inches
    Weight - 5.2 ounces
    Material - Stainless steel
    Colorways - Silver
    MSRP - $9
    URL - http://www.redrockoutdoorgear.com

    This Swiss Army-style design from Red Rock Outdoor Gear is different from the others.

  • portable-utensils-buyers-guide-tops-knives-forkit-001

    TOPS Knives F.O.R.K. IT

    Make & Model - TOPS Knives F.O.R.K. IT
    Dimensions - 6.5 by 1.5 by 0.5 inches (7.1 inches long in sheath); 2.625-inch blade
    Weight - 1.5 ounces (2.6 ounces with sheath)
    Material - 1095 steel, Kydex sheath
    Colorways - Stone Wash Finish
    MSRP - $100 ($115 with serrations)
    URL - http://www.topsknives.com

    The F.O.R.K. It, designed by Leo Espinoza, is more of a fixed-blade neck knife configuration, with a multipurpose single piece of steel sheathed in Kydex.

  • portable-utensils-buyers-guide-whole-foods-market-plastic-utensils-002

    Whole Foods Market Plastic Utensils

    Make & Model - Whole Foods Market Plastic utensils
    Dimensions - 7 by 1.3 by 1 (stacked) inches
    Weight - 0.3 ounces
    Material - Plastic
    Colorways - Black
    MSRP - Free
    URL - http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com

    The point of this tongue-in-cheek product entry is that you surely have a local grocery store or restaurant serving prepared foods for you to take home.

  • portable-utensils-buyers-guide-wildo-spork-001

    Wildo Spork

    Make & Model - Wildo Spork
    Dimensions - 6.5 by 1.9 by 0.6 inches
    Weight - 0.3 ounces
    Material - Polyamide 6
    Colorways - Black, Lemon, Light Blue, Lilac, Lime, Olive, Orange, Pink, Tan
    MSRP - $3
    URL http://www.proforceequipment.com

    Wildo's spork might more accurately be deemed a sporknife or a knifoon, as it combines a spoon, fork, and knife all at one end.

Stick With What Works

portable-utensils-buyers-guide-chopsticks

If chopsticks are your preferred utensils, we’ve got that covered too. Check out OFFGRIDweb.com/gear/chopsticks to see our reviews of two chopstick sets and find out if they have a place in your meal loadout.

Write A Comment