Editor’s note: We’re in the market right now for new eating utensils for this summer’s backpacking season, and we were reminded of this essay from Brendan about the simple wonder of the spoon. 

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“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” -Antoine de Saint-Exupery

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After years of rigorous, exhaustively documented testing in both the backcountry and the frontcountry, I feel confident in stating that the spoon is the most superior eating utensil ever created. Yes, you’ve probably read a similarly superlative statement in a review of a base layer top or a pair of socks, so let’s turn on our bullshit meters and give this some thought.

Check it out: It’s a tiny shovel for your face. After a blizzard, when you want to get dozens of cubic feet of snow off your driveway, do you go out there with a pitchfork, a pair of pool cues, or a shovel? That’s right. The spoon, even better than a fork or chopsticks, is the most efficient method of moving food into your mouth in the backcountry. After a long day of walking, hiking, climbing, or whatever exercise you prefer to do on dirt or rocks, you want to get food out of that cooking pot and into your digestive system, preferably quickly. You use a spoon.

Oh, you use a spork? I mean, to each their own, but sporks are kind of the futon of the eating utensil world, don’t you think? It tries to be two things at once, and does both jobs pretty poorly. Instead of taking a fork and a spoon, you take a spork, and voila, you have a crappy fork and a crappy spoon, all in one. Unless you’re talking about the type of spork that is a fork on one end and a spoon on the other end-those work better, but still have fork problems. Like when you accidentally break a tine off the fork, thereby decreasing its carrying capacity by 25 percent. That blows. It’s pretty hard to break a spoon.

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Yeah, yeah, this one is wood, but you get the idea. Photo: Gossamer Gear

Maybe you have a titanium spork, or a titanium fork-and-spoon set. It’s your money. Have you ever, just before a trip, realized you don’t know where your super special camping eating utensil is, and frantically searched your house for it? You own lots of spoons. Calm down and go grab one out of the drawer in the kitchen. Problem solved. It probably only weighs a few grams more than the missing one anyway.

I think it’s safe to say that the spoon did for eating what the camming unit did for traditional rock climbing. Before spoons, we ate with our hands, which is messy, especially when you get spaghetti sauce in your cuticles. Human beings improve the smartphone every few months, but the spoon has been the same for thousands of years. That’s perfection.

Yeah, you say, but I can’t eat noodles with a spoon. Yes, you can. Have you ever put an eight-foot-long tree branch in a campfire? Oh, you did, but you broke it into two to four pieces first? Good call. Do that with your fettuccine or udon before cooking it and our friend the spoon will have no problem moving them from your bowl to your mouth. Or, you know, pack something easier to pack and easier to fit in a camping pot, like fusilli, macaroni, penne, rice, couscous…you get the idea.

If you break up those noodles before cooking, your spoon works just like a fork. Do you want to spread peanut butter on a tortilla? Your spoon works as a knife-a butter knife. It handles soup with ease, and in a pinch, can be used to move water out of shallow desert potholes into your water bottle.

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Your spoon will never turn against you. It’s almost impossible to turn a spoon into a weapon, unless you want to spend eight hours sharpening it on a rock. A fork, though? A fork, in the wrong hands, will do some major damage. Just ask that lady who stabbed that other lady for taking the last rib at the barbecue back in May.

Respect your spoon, appreciate it, and it will fill you up and never let you down.

Full disclosure: This spoon was not provided to me for free for review purposes. I paid $1.00 retail for it at REI.


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Brendan Leonard is a contributing editor to Adventure Journal. Follow him at his blog, Semi-Rad.