Hiking Utensils 101

Camp Kitchen

Eating utensils are one of the most underrated and under-considered piece of hiking gear in our packs. For most hikers what we choose to use is often based around what our fellow hikers are using or what catches our eye in the store.

As a certified gear freak you would be surprised, or maybe you wouldn’t, at how much time and thought I put into choosing my eating utensil for my hiking needs. In fact after trying option after option over a period of years I was never quite satisfied and was always on the lookout for something that better suited my needs before identifying my current preferred eating utensil. While it’s not perfect, it comes pretty close.

In this article we look at the considerations for choosing that perfect eating utensil for your outdoor adventures.

What should you consider?

If you think about the eating utensils sitting in our kitchen drawers at home, how much consideration did we really give to them? They’re just something that’s there, sometimes a gift, or chosen for appearance rather than functionality. When we go hiking every piece of gear that goes into our packs requires some degree of thought so in terms of eating utensils, what do you need to look at?

What are you eating

Without a doubt the key consideration when choosing eating utensils is based around what you are eating. When we’re at home for most meals we will use some combination of a knife/fork/spoon for our meals and depending on what you’re eating, you will pick what’s appropriate. If you are eating meat you will need a serrated knife and a fork. If you are eating soup the a soup spoon, and depending on your upbringing, maybe you’ll even include chopsticks for some meals.

As a hiker who carries everything in their pack, our meal times are usually simplified. For short hikes we may do a full-on cook just like we would at home but this will impact on our pack weight. So, as the hikes get longer we tend to rely on dehydrated or freeze dried food for the bulk of our meals. In my case on longer hikes I rely heavily on nut butters for much of my calories on-trail. When its cold my peanut butter becomes rock hard and I need a sturdy eating implement that won’t bend or break so I typically stay away from very lightweight flimsy utensils.

So much choice!


Who would have thought that the size of your eating utensil is an important  consideration!

In using commercially prepared meals a common practice for couples and individual hikers is to eat straight out of the meal bag which negates the need to carry a bowl or plate. We have used this practice for a number of years as its suits our hiking style. If you are travelling as a larger group and preparing communal meals, then you’re going to be carrying some sort of container to hold your food.

As a solo hiker or when we hike as a couple we do eat from our meal bags at the end of the day and as such, we need a utensil that allows us to get to the bottom of the bag without getting food all over our hands. In addition I have very large hands so many utensils on the market ‘disappear’ and just aren’t comfortable to use so this means we use long handled utensils.

Long handled eating utensils


A far as eating utensils go you will have a choice of utensils made of plastic, metal or wood. Plastic is lightweight, metal tends to be more robust and durable, and wood is more environmentally friendly as it’s often bamboo based. My long handled spoon is plastic and I love it – the only reason I replaced my original one was because it was stolen by wildlife. The only downside is that it can struggle with the stiff nut butters when it’s really cold.

Many of the shorter plastic sporks available on the market are extremely lightweight and inexpensive so if you lose one it’s not a big issue. However, they aren’t the sort of thing you eat steak with or if you have large hands. They are however great if you are eating from a bowl or plate.

If choosing metal utensils I suggest going for the long handled versions. Again if you aren’t cooking a full meal, I would stick with a long handled spoon/spork that has a polished head. I just find the grainy dull metal heads on some utensils don’t feel right when you put food in your mouth.


Standalone utensils or ‘nested utensils’. In this case it comes down to what you use on-trail, which again comes back to what you eat. If you are hiking and relying on dehydrated or freeze dried food then a single utensil will work well. If you want a knife, fork and spoon then go for a nested set that’s attached to itself.

One of the less common options on-trail are chopsticks but they do exist. The downside of chopsticks, so long as you know how to use them, is they don’t cope with meals that have a lot of liquid – again it comes back to what you’re eating.

Gerber ComplEAT Multi-Tool – these utensils nest together and also come with a tool that’s a bottle and can opener. You can also convert part of the kit into a set of tongs

Sea to Summit Detour Stainless Steel Chopsticks (review coming soon)


Unless you are a real gram weeny then the weight of your cutlery isn’t likely to be a major issue. My long handled plastic spoon weighs 26 grams whereas the stainless steel chopsticks above weigh in at 77 grams. Neither of these weights is overly heavy in the scheme of things but many ultralight hikers who are looking at cutting every gram they have, will opt for the lighter weight option alone.

This consideration is very much a personal one and based purely on weight although weight often implies rigidity and durability.


This consideration is a real one with the price of eating utensils for hiking ranging from around AUD $7.00 for some of the lightweight plastic sporks and heading all the way up to AUD $75.00 for the three piece titanium knife fork and spoon noting that set weighs in at 52 grams.

In the case of price, identify that mythical ‘perfect utensil(s)’ with the features you want and see what’s available on the market.

Final thoughts

Eating utensils are such a small item in the scheme of hiking gear. Maybe I’m a bit strange but I find pleasure using a utensil that feels good in the hands as well as in my mouth when I eat. I really do notice the difference and if you put some thought into it you will too. So, rather than just using the first thing you find, pick something that you’ll be happy to use year after year. I know I did and I haven’t looked back.

Australian Hiker Newsletter

* All fields are required

Please Wait.

Thank you for sign up!