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Backpacking Tips and Tricks: Carrying a Backup Spoon

Eating hot cereal is problematic when you leave your backpacking spoon at home.
Eating hot cereal is problematic when you leave your backpacking spoon at home.

“Oh crap. I forgot to bring my spoon,” said a backpacker I’d just met at the campsite. I know that exact feeling. I’ve left my big plastic backpacking spoon at home on the drying rack next to the kitchen sink too many times to count. After a long day of hiking, it’s a bummer when you discover that you don’t have any eating utensils to shovel hot food into your mouth.

The solution: carry a backup spoon. I always carry a small, plastic-wrapped spoon in my food bag so I’m never without. I pick them up at coffee shops and keep one in my food bag, along with the staples that I keep in it between trips: a few bouillon cubs for adding salt to soupy meals, a couple of packs of tea and sugar, and two tic tac boxes containing spices.

“I have an extra spoon if you want it,” I said, handing her my extra spoon. “Keep it.” I think I made a new friend for life that day.

Spare plastic spoons like this are easy to pick up at coffee shops are fast food restaurants.
Spare plastic spoons like this are easy to pick up at coffee shops are fast food restaurants.

On long multi-week hikes, it’s not uncommon for me to carry several extra plastic spoons. I scarf a few every time I buy a coffee in town and drop them into my food bag. They weigh basically nothing and it’s nice to have a hermetically sealed, clean spoon when my main spoon is getting grotty.

I still prefer eating with a long-handled plastic spoon ($1 buck at my local REI – probably the least expensive thing in the store.) It’s nice and durable, not flimsy at all. But they’ve stopped selling it.

Yes, I pack for my fears. The fear of backpacking without a spoon. An army marches on its stomach.


  1. This has happened to me before. At the time, I was packing Mountain House meals. In a dire situation you can use the top, stiffer portion of a Mountain House bag as a spoon. It’s better than nothing, but I’ll think I’ll take your advice instead.

  2. I forgot my spoon twice. Once when hiking with my gf, so we shared her spoon. I endured the ignominy of her gloating. I didnt starve, but I suffered.

    The second time was on a solo trip. I cut that hiking trip short. Now I also grab one of those spare spoons and stick it in a pack pocket somewhere. One hike my gf and I went on, I did a quick inventory at our first camp site and I was carrying 4 mini-bics and three spoons. My gf remarked about packing my fears. Apparently going hungry and being cold is amongst those fears.

  3. I carry a spare spoon as well, drop it down into the bottom of my hydration sleeve so that it is always there and never gets unpacked so I never forget it. My regular Ti spoon rides upright in the sleeve next to the water bladder so that it’s out of the way and easily grabbed when needed.

  4. One night on the Lost Coast of northern California, packrats stole my Ti spork when I had left it out near my cook set. I always carry an MSR blizzard stake for a multitude of uses and I used it as a spoon. After breakfast I later found the spork.

  5. I usually find there are thousands and thousands of spare spoons and chopsticks out there, just laying around on the ground.

  6. Great tip, never thought about doing this! If you have one in your neck of the woods, the utensils at Wendy’s are quite a bit more “heavy duty” than ones you find many other places.

  7. Good one, and quite true!

  8. I might have been that hiker. Did this happen about 8 miles north of Springer Mountain? It all worked out without me using twigs for chopsticks.

  9. That’s one thing I’ve never forgotten, but I figured that should the situation arise, I’d whittle a stick to make do.

    Those lexan spoons contain BPA (bisphenol A), which is undoubtedly why REI stopped carrying them. I still use mine, but I’m not out nearly as much as you are. If I were backpacking as often as you are, I’d probably look for something else.

  10. This has never happened to me and will never happen to me in the future. I simply wipe the food off my spoon with either a bandana or my tongue and put it back in my bag. It never gets lost and I don’t waste irreplaceable time washing my stuff.

  11. I’m getting sick of REI! I used to buy heavy duty zip lock bags there that are great for backpacking. I use one for my toiletries, another for emergency items and a third for my hammock straps and whoopies. Last time I stopped by REI for a new supply, I learned, to my dismay, that they no longer carry the item. The clerk tried to sell me an expensive dry bag that was way too big for my needs. I ended up finding them on Amazon and forked over $16 for a hundred, that I’ll end up leaving to my grandkids. Anybody wanna buy some zip lock bags?

  12. LOL. I had this very thing happen to me for this first time this summer. I had no idea if I had forgotten it, dropped it, or a critter had claimed it.

    I managed to yogi a spare from a nice dayhiking couple. It was one of those MSR folding handled sporks. I know, but it did the job well.

    My useful tip is: I put a thin 1/2″ strip of bright orange tape around the spoon handle to make it really easy to see, so I don’t accidentally forget it when packing up and clearing out in the morning. I do this to a lot of small items that are easy to accidentally leave lying around (knife, lighter, bottle caps, Acquamira bottle, etc).

    Doesn’t help in those cases where, as it turned out for me, you left at home in the first place ;)

    • Not to get too far off topic, in addition to spoons and a lighter I also put bright / reflective tape on any small items such as tent stakes and photo gear (e.g. a cable release, lens caps and allen wrenchs}. It really can help finding things in low-light. I also carry a small amount of gaffer tape and fabric tape wrapped around those little plastic tubes used for doggie bags.

  13. Happened to me. I was in the Grand Tetons when we were resupplying for a another week at a youth hostel. Somehow I left behind my spoon. I had just about carved a spoon-spatula to improvise when I happened upon some car campers who rummaged around and came up with a couple of spares. Talk about trail magic… I figure I owe someone someday so I’ve always carried a spare.

  14. Honestly, an extra spoon is just stupid advice. Are people incapable of improvising at all, like using two sticks as chopsticks, folding a lid in half, or cutting out one of the ridges from the bottom of any soda bottle?

  15. My problem is I keep wanting to take a spare everything!!!

  16. Tortillas are also a good back up. They are the food version of a spoon. It’s easy to scoope with a tortilla or do the grab and pinch.

  17. Years ago I forgot my spoon… My solutions was to carve one from a piece of wood.

    It’s been years since I have forgotten my spoon. My entire cooking system fits in my mug: trail design esbit stove / windscreen, folding spork, esbits, silicon cup. At end of a trip I wash dry and then restock fuel at one time and then the entire package gets place in my go bag. When I am heading out I don’t need to think, I know everything is there.

  18. I also do this except I carry a spork =) You know just in case I need a fork as well.

  19. As I’m sure many backpackers do, I use a checklist to minimize forgetting things. When solo, I also carry a spare light, fire starter, water purification and map & compass in case they malfunction or get lost. I never thought about a spare spoon; good idea!

  20. Just be aware that those spoons will melt in anything really hot, like coffee.

  21. On a backpack trip in Sequoia area my buddy left his spoon unattended in a pot that was not yet cleaned after a meal. It was one of those old metal kit spoons. A deer got into the pot and when my friend saw it he went to chase the deer away and it took the spoon in its mouth and ran off, the spoon still hanging out of its mouth, with my friend chasing it around in large circles to get that spoon back. It was a very funny sight. The deer in that part of Sequoia are not too afraid of people.

    You can’t afford to lose your spoon.

  22. On a fifty miler with a group of Boy Scouts, one kid lost his spoon the first day.He learned to improvise- he whittled one from a stick. On Day 6 he was rummaging around in the bottom of his pack-there was his spoon!

  23. Upgrade your spoon! Find the long handle brown plastic spoon found in military MRE’s. Indestructable.
    Our tax dollars at work. I never go anywhere / travel without mine.

  24. Jonathan shipperley

    On a multi day hike I lost my spoon after the first day. I was so hungry and tired I nearly cried, then i realized i hadn’t used my trowel yet, id been digging holes with socks, so i was saved. I’ll carry a backup spoon from now on!

  25. Jonathan shipperley

    Not socks, auto correct! Sticks…

    • OMG – that’s hilarious. I have a hard time digging with a titanium trowel, so I was immeasurably impressed with your ability to dig a cat hole with hosiery.

  26. I once gave all my food and liquor to my hiking pal at the trailhead. Told him I needed to fast and dry my own liver out. He was giddy to have both cases of beer and all that whiskey and three days’ steaks. Man, was he ever exhausted by the time we hit the first campsite. I think sleeping bags had asbestos filling in those days…or maybe it was sand. He tried to just go to sleep but I made him cook dinner and drink. He got so drunk he completely passed out. So I finished his dinner and even made a small serving for myself. Only drank half as much beer as he did, though. In the morning I was in such better shape than him that he assumed he had done all that damage by himself. Next day…same routine. By the third day I volunteered to take on some of his load but again I stoically refused to eat or drink anything. So big of me! And of course he passed out early yet again. I never ate so good or so cheaply! And that’s how I managed to take a backup spoon without the burden of its weight. Since then I’ve carried my own…the discovery that I could improvise anything needed with just a wily mind is all I needed. Of course, sometimes we aren’t in our right minds and sometimes we’re not lucky in the same ways. But how I’ve learned to handle situations like that is another story for another time.

  27. My husband and I both carry plastic sporks on our hikes. One year on a 14 night hike in Glacier, mine broke in two rendering it useless. I had to WHITTLE one out of wood! It looked more like a paddle than a spoon. but it worked Later his did the same thing! That night we met some park workers on an overnight and offered them $10 each for their sporks. They refused wanting to just give them to us – they were hiking out anyway. We insisted.

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