Long handled marketing

To excavate the depths of a package of freeze dried food in order to feed your inner man can sometimes be difficult. Hence long handled sporks and spoons. The question is if they are an essential answer to customers needs, or smart marketing or a reflection of something else.

By Jörgen Johansson 

The photo above shows the problem. In order to scrape everything out of the package the need for a spoon with a longer handle seems to be obvious. Or at least, it is certainly one solution. Are there others?
Yeah, well, most of us probably have some sort of cutting edge accessory in our well-slimmed packs. Mine is usually smaller than the one shown, but at least it is photogenic. And also irretrievably lost in the South Nahanni river after one of several involuntary swims.

Packages made out of paper, plastic and what not really have not much to offer in the way of resistance when a determined lightweight backpacker lets loose with some Swedish steel. Even steel from other countries have been known to work. In fact, a flint knife would certainly be up to the job.

Voila, as the saying is. Suddenly the insurmountable problem is solved. The fear of having to dig elbow deep into a sloppy and greasy bag is eradicated. All is well and the hearty meal can commence.

What's the point of all this blabbering a discerning reader might ask. Well, I am not sure I have an answer. The slightly ridiculing tone so far could be seen as self-critisism.

Fact is, I like gear. Particulary light gear of course. And it is always tempting to test some new thingymagig that I read about. Fact is, like most people living in the Western world right now, I am a consumist.

I try to pretend that a redeeming quality is that I am aware of this fact and do try to avoid succumbing to it. At least unnecessarily so, whatever that might mean.

However, having, as a professional market researcher, worked with marketing people most of my grown life the long handled spork does bring on a line of thought that goes somewhat like this:

Product developement and marketing of outdoor gear has been of great service to us backpackers, and will continue to be so. However, marketers are very aware that we are all consumists at heart and will need very little or no particular reason at all to indulge ourselves. Their business is making us buy things, the rest is our responsibility.

That is why they try to convince us that we need a number of different packs, tents, shoes etc for different purposes. Sometimes they are even correct, but quite often the differences between varieties of the same piece of gear are exaggerated.

As one example of this I might quote Chris Townsend in an interview on this blog a couple of years ago: "I think that the boots for different packs and terrains idea is nonsense".

So while the product developement and marketing people in the outdoor business might be our friends, one thing is certain: They won't tell us to use our brains if this interfears with their sales. That is something we have to do for ourselves.


  1. Great common sense views! (note to self - cut down bag using a knife)

  2. A lot of people that use long-handled spoons (at least in the US) are eating out of 1 quart freezer bags. A lot of those same people save the bags, and then clean them in the front country so they can be reused on the next trip. Cutting them up in the field would be out of the question.

  3. This is exactly the same method I used before I got a long handled spoon. So why did I bought one of these in the end? Well, depending on the freeze dried meal I had, this cutting-the-top-off thing could be quite messy, too. Not much of a problem, as it's more a lack of skills ;-) not a failure of the gear. (and licking my fingers was never a problem for me!)
    But the main reason why I bought one of those long handled tools:
    I use it as a pot handle,too.
    The spoons long handle enables me to stick it through to matching holes in the upper rim of my pot! Best pot handle I'd ever had!

  4. Even if I own and use a long-handled spoon, I usually cut down the bag - with proper Finnish steel, obviously (we all know Swedish steel is as soft as cotton candy ;).

    I have used Sporks, carved spoons, and other utensils, and find the long-handled spoon the most comfortable to eat with. And I don't think that makes me a hardcore consumerist - I also eat with esthetically pleasing cutlery at home, and don't see a need to not do so outdoors!

  5. Long handled metal spoons double duty as tent stakes. Try doing that with a plastic spork...

  6. Why eat that stuff anyway? It's expensive and low on calories. The last time I tried one - a Norwegian product - it was horribly salty.

    On his big, 1974 walk, where he averaged 17 miles and 4000 feet of ascent per day, Hamish Brown ate fresh food whenever he could get it and was happy to carry tins for the first day out from a resupply. He only went for dried foods as a last resort and stayed healthy for the whole of his 112 day epic.

    A Cicerone book called Moveable Feasts has plenty of good food ideas.

    How many freeze dried meals equal the cost of a top notch dehydrator? Home-made, dried bananas are a stunningly good snack.

  7. I have friends that use the long spoon. Seems they can't finish a complete meal of the wretched stuff and need to be able to reseal the package to take it home.
    I take fresh foods and tins for a healthier meal. I eat out of my pot if it's a hot meal but that is very seldom.

  8. I seem to have struck a nerve here. It must be a sign of something :-)

    I am not saying that a longhandled spork cannot be useful, and if it can be put to a lot of uses not really seen much in the marketing of it, so much better.

    Still, it seems to me to be a piece of gear that is less 'need to have' than 'nice to have'. And since I try to lower my own personal impact on the limited resources we have on this planet (I am not saying I have reached sainthood yet) it seemed a good thing to stay away from.

    Good or bad example aside; does no one else feel that there is too much gear? And have a theory on why? Or have some other piece of outdoor gear in mind that they find the world could hobble along without?

  9. Have you seen Glen van Peski's article on food for vegan backpackers, available as a .pdf from Gossamer Gear. He uses a bag for rehydrating food but doesn't say anything about his spoon. Presumably he is careful about which ziploc bags he chooses.

    Too much gear is a mindset thing. Is a camera too much? A non-birdwatcher told me in no uncertain terms that my binoculars were too much.

  10. Chris Wallace: turn upper part of the ziplock so that the inside is out. Lick "the new outside" clean if needed to and eat with the short spoon. Works fine. You cannot do this with readymade meals, so blade is used there.

  11. With Hendrik et al. on this one I'm afraid. Put your normal back backing spoon up against a spoon out of your kitchen drawer. The long handled spoon should just be called a spoon. You normal backpacking spoon should be called a short handled spoon. The longer handle is much nicer to use especially with thick winter gloves!

    Cutting down the bag is something I used to do but, as you know, those dehydrated food bags make A1 piss bags......as long as you don't lie on them that is.

    In answer to some others here. Dehydrated food has come on a long way since 1974. I'd go as far as to say some of it is better than anything I've ever eaten on the hill (fresh haggis aside!) and the advantage of just carrying enough fuel to boil water can't be understated.

    On your main point here Jorgen: yes I'm on board. A great deal of gear is gimicky and if we are all honest, even the lightweight gurus amongst us, we all have a bunch of stuff we could better leave at home, or better still in the shop.

  12. Dave,
    I'm sure that what you feel are unnecessary gimmicks depends a lot on your hiking style, general outlook and the acidity of your stomach at the time of writing.
    My main point as you noted was more directed at the gimmification of outdoor gear in general, but it has perhaps become obscured by the long handle of the spoon. What would be interesting is to hear what some readers feel are unnecessary pieces of gear. I would dearly like to hear some arguments, even if I might not agree on all points. Come on, give me your favourite hate objects!

  13. One idiotic piece of gear is the Nalgene bottle. A simple PET water bottle is much cheaper and much lighter. I hike with a Powerade bottle.

    I took a long-handled titanium spoon on my 3000km Te Araroa through-hike, and I did find it useful when eating packets of dehydrated food. I find it too messy to cut the packets in half, and like being able to seal them up when finished so as to avoid a mess in my pack.

    The main problem with long-handled spoons is that they're an awkward length for stowing with your pot. For that reason, I've just bought a folding titanium spoon and will probably take that on my upcoming PCT through-hike.

  14. I use an oldschool jetboil and the long handled spoon is definitely necessary otherwise your having to dig around inside the pot with your hand touching the sides and making a mess. I also use an aluminum spoon since it's less likely to burn your lips. Dunno why everyone prefers Titanium...

  15. Makes sense when you are eating from a deep pot.


Post a Comment