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The Tines They Are a-Changin’

For entirely unclear reasons, geeks like sporks.

In one of those rare, rare crossovers between the nerdy and vaguely sporty worlds, hikers seem to like sporks too.

Very few people seem to like calling them “foons” however.

Ultralight hikers – generally considered to be someone who carries a full load of camping gear, including rucksack and shelter, weighing roughly twelve pounds or less – seem especially enamoured of these odd little objects, yet as a group they are particularly poorly served by the spork. Ultralighters often engage in weight-saving gambits such as ditching crockery and eating out of Ziploc freezer bags instead, so the last thing you’d imagine they might need is an eating utensil terminating in several pointy bits of super-hard titanium; and yet they buy them and use them. From the colourful plastic (Did I say merely plastic? Silly me: the colourful Lexan Polycarbonate Resin Thermoplastic) to the aerospace darling titanium, often engineered with little cutouts and spaces to reduce the weight still further, sporks are ubiquitous where hikers gather. Some have a serrated edge to substitute for a knife. Others have elaborate mechanisms (elaborate for a piece of cutlery, anyway) to allow them to fold. Not only do they weigh virtually nothing, now they take up less space!

Incredibly, despite the space-age materials (titanium, people! This is the stuff they built the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird out of, which is a pretty big deal as any veteran Top Trumps player will tell you: the Blackbird handily kicks other aeroplanes in the Jacob’s when it comes to speed and maximum altitude) sporks have been around for more than a century. And they’re still crap for eating noodles with, the standard fare for hikers since time began. As for soup… what we are dealing with here, ladies and gentlemen, is a spoon with several long holes cut into the front end…

Not that I’m criticising, you understand. Not harshly at least, since I’m one of the relatively niche group of hiking geeks. A quick glance at my mountain o’ hiking kit shows two sporks, both titanium. One of them folds. They’re over there, just next to the folding chopsticks. Neither of them are foons.

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  1. Ken
    January 24, 2011 at 21:35

    Nice post. I was wondering how far you planned to walk each day with all your lightweight sporks etc? Just wondering as a friend is trying to get me to do the Cleveland Way

  2. January 25, 2011 at 17:50

    It depends on a number of things really, not least of which is my level of (un)fitness. At the weekend I went out for an 18 mile walk, carrying a day pack, but the great thing about leaning towards lightweight camping is that the day pack weighs very nearly as much as my full camping kit so I don’t need to train especially to get used to the weight.

    In general I expect to do an average of 15 miles or so, assuming hilly ground and occasional rough terrain. On the flat (although preferably not tarmac) and with longer summer days I can amble along for much further, more like 25. That said, I’m out for fun and I’ve no intention of competing with the likes of Andrew Skurka and other more athletic walkers.

    You should definitely try the Cleveland Way. Lovely part of the world.

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