It only took dead whales with bellies full of plastic, a floating plastic island, and a sea turtle with a straw stuck up its nose to wake people up to the problem of plastic waste.
But a lot of people are still confused about how we are actually supposed to cut back on plastic waste. They ask,
“What are we supposed to do when we get takeout for lunch? I mean, are we supposed to carry around utensils with us all the time?”
YES. Yes, you absolutely should carry your own utensils.
It really isn’t that difficult to carry around utensils with you. There are already tons of camping utensils which are designed to be portable. Some of them have carabineer clips so you can carry them on your keychain. Others come in handy carrying cases.
I usually pack my own lunch, so it’s easy to just pack a fork too. On days that I get takeout, I just remember to throw one of my camping sporks into my purse.
Here are some of the best reusable utensils which work for camping, backpacking, and everyday life.
Tips for Choosing Camping Utensils:
#1: The Material
Avoid camping utensils made from bamboo. While bamboo might be an eco-friendly material, utensils made from it will absorb oils from food (and thus are hard to clean). Eventually, the bamboo will start to split and break, so it’s really not a long-term solution.
That leaves you with metal utensils (including ones made from stainless steel or titanium) and plastic utensils.
Choose metal if you hate the feel of plastic in your mouth. Also choose metal if you will be stirring food with the utensil while it cooks on your stove. Go with plastic if you want something really cheap and lightweight.
#2: How Will You Carry It?
There are a few options for EDC utensils (that’s everyday carry for those who don’t know):
- Keychain: Get a small multi-tool utensil with a carabineer hook
- Backpack: Get whatever one you want
- Purse: Get whatever one you want, just make sure the fork prongs aren’t too pointy so you don’t end up stabbing yourself while rummaging through your purse.
- Inside your lunchbox: Make sure it fits in whatever compartment your lunchbox has for utensils.
- In a plastic bag: My lunchbox doesn’t have a utensil spot. So, I use a rubber band to attach it to the outside of the box. Thus, my utensil has to be shorter than the lunchbox.
#3: Will It Fit?
When camping, I put utensils inside our cookset. The camping pot is pretty small and full-length utensils won’t fit inside. So, I opt for folding camping utensils as they are easiest to fit and nest inside.
#4: Do You Need a Case?
I don’t really care if my utensils get dirty in my purse. I’m fine licking the some dust off. 😉 I also don’t mind sticking a slightly sticky utensil back in my purse until I can clean it (or reusing it for all those times I forgot to take it out of my purse and clean it).
Other people might not be so keen on the idea of a gross utensil in their bag, purse, pocket, etc. If this is you, then get a utensil which comes with a case!
#5: Do You Need a Functioning Spoon and Knife?
Be warned that the spoons on many camping utensils/sporks are not really deep. It makes it very impractical to eat soup.
Likewise, most of the knives on camping utensils (especially plastic ones) are just for show. They can’t really cut anything other than soft veggies.
#6: When Will You Clean It?
If you aren’t able to clean the utensil right away, then avoid utensils which swivel out (Swiss-Army style ones). Food often gets stuck in the swivel mechanism and causes corrosion. Even those “anti-rust” and “stainless” utensils will start to corrode.
This is my favorite option for reusable utensils. The utensils fold, so they can easily fit in your purse, backpack, laptop bag, or lunchbox. They are easy to clean and won’t rust. The carrying case means you don’t have to worry about your utensils getting dirty before eating.
The downside is that these are three separate utensils. If you want to cut back on gear or weight, then a spork is a better option. Get it Here (Amazon)
A lot of different brands make this exact design of folding spork. While it’s not perfect, I love it. It’s small enough to fit in my lunch box and is easy to clean (by hand or in the dishwasher). It’s not as annoying as most other sporks to eat with either since the fork teeth are long enough to grab food. Likewise, the spoon part is actually deep enough to eat soup with.
I’ve had a few of them for around 3 years now and they haven’t rusted or anything. This is also usually what I pack for my daughter with her school lunch. Get It Here (Amazon)
This plastic camping fork and spoon set uses a sliding mechanism to collapse the utensils. The sliding mechanism is more reliable than the folding mechanism, and is still easy to clean. Get It Here (REI)
This multi-tool breaks down into two parts: A fork and a spoon/knife. The knife folds flat against the spoon when not in use (the picture shows the spoon closed and with the knife extended).
The tool also has a can opener, bottle opener and flathead screwdriver. Plus, it comes with a carrying case. Just be sure you keep food out of the swivel mechanism or it will be hard to clean. Get It Here (REI)
This camping utensil is pretty badass. It has a spork which is deep enough for soup and prongs sharp enough for piercing food. The serrated knife part is actually functional. It also has a bunch of cool tools built into it, like a box cutter, screwdriver, can opener… It even comes with a carrying case so you can wear it on your belt. The only downside is that it is quite pricy. Get It Here (REI)
I have one of these and love it. There’s a fork, spoon, knife, and bottle opener (the knife is pretty useless though). It’s small enough to carry around all the time and has a carrying case so your utensils don’t get dirty before eating. The only issue is that food can get trapped in the tool, especially if you don’t clean it completely before closing the utensils.
There’s also an option for a 6-in-1 tool which has a fork, spoon, knife and can/bottle opener, reamer, and cork screw. Get It Here (Amazon)
I got a few of these to take camping. I honestly don’t like them that much. My husband also doesn’t like them much. However, a lot of other people love them, so I included it with this list of best camping utensils.
The main reason I don’t like the utensil is because they are long and won’t fit in my lunchbox. They are also awkward to pack in my camping mess kit. So, they don’t work (for me) for camping or everyday life. On top of that, the spoon is quite large for my small mouth (doesn’t bother my husband) and the knife edge on this is completely useless. But, it is one of the options which is most like a normal utensil, especially for people who hate sporks. Get It Here(Amazon)
This set isn’t designed for camping (but it will certainly work for car camping). The great thing about it is that it comes with a case and also has a reusable straw plus straw cleaner. Now you really don’t have any reason to make plastic waste. 🙂
If you don’t lick/wipe your utensils clean before putting them away, the storage case will eventually get dirty. It can be cleaned by hand-washing fairly easily though. Get It Here (Amazon)
This is a tiny spork which goes on your keychain. Yes, it is a bit annoying to eat with such a tiny spork, and there’s no case to put the dirty fork into when you are done. But it’s small enough to always carry on your keychain. That way you’ll never be the a-hole using plastic utensils. Get It Here (Amazon)
Here’s another multi-tool spork which is small enough to carry on your keychain. It also has a can opener, bottle opener, screwdriver, pry tip, and hex wrench. The spork is made from plastic, so it’s not exactly going to handle tough jobs. But it is super cheap and works well for eating. Get It Here (REI)