We’ve all seen them, seems to be a new model every month. Plastic, metal various shapes and sizes. So I decided to give a couple of them a go and see what I liked and what I didn’t like. I actually surprised myself. One thing we bush-bums or outdoorsman are always trying to find the best bit of gear. That usually means the smallest, toughest most useful and longest living piece of gear we can find for whatever task we want it to perform. Nobody wants to haul 40lbs of gear down the trail if they don’t have to. However, I’m not a minimalist, I won’t trade value for small bits of weight.
I prefer gear to be robust AND a good value. I wont spend 3 or 4 times as much to shave off negligible bits of weight. many times the loss of weight has too many trade offs depending on what piece of gear it is.
I’ve often wanted to grab one of the CRKT Eatin Tool’s. I have always been a big fan of CRKT because they are one of the best values in tools out there. You really get a lot for the money you spend. I just happened to be stuck at Target and going through their limited bit of outdoors gear and they had a couple of clearance items. Low and behold the CRKT Eat’n Tools were there and on sale for 2.99 (Normally about $4.00 to $6.00 depending on where you find them). Figured what the heck, I grabbed one for each of the kids and my wife. They came in several colors so that everyone could tell them apart. I was then looking at the CRKT Eat’n tool XL online the next day, My wife had me order her something and I didn’t pay attention and accidentally ordered the one I was looking at. Was pretty surprised when it showed up.
I was then at Walmart the next week and I saw the heavy duty plastic eating sets so I grabbed a bunch for the Boy Scouts. Figured I’d mark them and give them to each scout as a gift. They were only $.88 each. Well I was at Walmart, I also discovered a new spork/knife combo set similar to the CRKT from their “Ozark Trail” line. Since it was only $3.00 I figured what the heck. Grabbed a couple of them too.
We’ll start with the plastic set for $.88 Cents. The good, Full size regular utensils. Tougher than the cheap plastic disposables. They have that “Rough” plastic texture that makes them a little more non stick that purely smooth plastic ware and they feel good in the hand. But while your using them, you just can’t help but feel like they are disposable. Personally, I think they make a wonderful addition to a car camping group kits or scout patrol boxes. Not going to break the bank by any means to keep a dozen sets available and nobody gets upset if one breaks. Being just plastic, I would worry about long term durability and are you going to open your pack after dropping it after a long days hike to find them snapped in half. Never fear, they are well worth the cost at just $.88 cents. The other thing going for it is, the spoon is big enough to really eat soups and other liquids! They are kept on a plastic ring that is very weak. In a box of goods it will keep them together, but I wouldn’t expect them to hang from it on a cook-set or anything else that gets tossed around for very long.
Next up is the CRKT Eat’n Tool This guy runs from $3.95 to $7.00 depending on where you find them. I’ve heard from people that it’s too short so I’ve always put off trying it until I could get the XL version. But finding it so cheap, I figured what the heck. I also thought it would be too short. I also thought the wide top of the handle would make it very awkward. Turns out I was wrong on both counts. You hold the wide handle across the top instead of down the middle like you would a regular spoon. It seems awkward at first, but after a couple of bites, it’s as natural as using any other spoon.
The “Tools” built into it are kind of a gimmick, sure, if by some chance you ever needed to turn certain sized nuts or open a bottle and all you had on you was your spoon, they could be handy, but to me, they just add extra places for bits of food to get stuck or missed when washing. Sure the cutouts do keep it even lighter, but as light as it is, the trade-off is negligible. It is a solid tough eating tool, equal to or surpassing any metal spoon you might normally have. The length might be an issue if you are eating out of a deep cup, like the Stanley I have here. But all in all, I was impressed with the little guy.
The biggest downside to me is the “Spork” function. The tines are not long enough to use as a fork, at best if you have a tough piece of meat, you might be able to stab the spork into it to eat it. It would be most useful for holding down something to cut, like a steak for example. But realistically, even a perfectly round spoon can hold a tough steak down to cut it with one of my knives. The spork cuts reduce the amount of liquid the spork will hold when eating soups or other liquid filled meals. I’d prefer to see the spoon left without the spork cuts. There is just limited usefulness for them.
The Powder coat was already showing signs of wear after the first meal and my son carried his on his belt with his little mini kit and it chipped off several pieces pretty rapidly. I don’t think the coating would come off fast enough to be a health issue. But I would definitely recommend the bead blasted rather than the painted versions just because of the paint. But even with the paint they are still outstanding. The paint is a non-stick coating so cleaning them is a breeze. I can HIGHLY recommend this tool for most everyone, with the caveat that it might be too short to use in a tall or deep cup or can. Also the mini carabiners are not going to last. In fact my son broke his within 20 minutes just clipping it on and off his kit. I’d recommend doing up a different method like a paracord loop double through the hole to a tougher carabiner.
So, Now on to the CRKT Eat’n tool XL version. I figured this guy would be awesome. All the features of the regular eat’n tool with a full length handle! Well, I was surprised when I got it. It is HUGE and extremely heavy. You could use this thing to dig a fox hole or quite possibly jack up a car. the extra length is good, but the shortened rounded spoon with spork cuts still has the same issue with liquids as the smaller Eat’n tool. Because of the full length, its a bit heavy to use it held sideways over the back like the smaller eat’n tool, but the extra wide handle makes it awkward to hold like a regular spoon.
Did I mention this thing is HEAVY DUTY. It almost feels like eating with an entrenching tool. I actually tapped one of my teeth with it while eating and it made me feel that accidentally breaking a tooth could be a real possibility with this thing. But it’s a tank. The tools on it feel as if you could actually use them to turn nuts and bolts, so if you REALLY are looking for a multi-tool instead of a spoon, this might be the guy to go with. I would definitely advise anyone interested to get one in your hands and feel it before you buy it. Otherwise it may just end up being another bit of gear laying the bottom of your pack. And just as the regular Eat’n tool, the mini carabiners are not going to last.
The last item on my showdown turned out to be a great buy. While looking for 1 of the non coated Eat’n Tools for myself, I ran across the Ozark Trail Walmart brand set below. I decided that since it was even cheaper, I’d give it a try. I was pleasantly surprised. much lighter than the XL and about the same weight with both knife and spork as the Eat’n tool. A slightly longer handle made it easier to use as a regular spoon and get into deeper cups, but still short enough to fit inside most small cup kits. Really about the perfect length for a pack kit. I wish they sold the spork without the knife. Would be an even better value. 🙂
It has a black non-stick coating that seems a bit more durable than the powder-coats on the CRKT’s. Plenty tough enough to last a lifetime. The knife is ok, but nothing special, it’s serrated, so the edge it will last without sharpening for quite some time, however since since we all carry good quality sharp knives everywhere anyway, for a pack kit, I’d leave the knife at home and just take the spork. Of course, the spork has the same issue as all the other sporks, just too short to be a fork, and lets the liquids drain too much. Quite frankly, if they made this version without the spork cuts, I would consider it near perfect. And at roughly 1/2 to 2/3rds the cost of the other models. It’s an amazing value.
A comparison shot to show the difference in thickness of the various metal sporks.
All in all, any one of these tools will work, but given the choice, I like the Ozark trail Spork and the smaller CRKT Eat’n tool the best. I will continue using all of them over the next couple months for camping and let you all know how they are after being used for a longer period of time.
Happy eating on the trails!