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Reviews > Cook Gear > Utensils > Flatterware Cup Bowl and Plate Combo > Test Report by Michael Williams

FLATTERWARE COMBO
TEST SERIES BY MIKE WILLIAMS
LONG-TERM REPORT

INITIAL REPORT - April 25, 2010
FIELD REPORT - July 13, 2010
LONG TERM REPORT - September 14, 2010

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Mike Williams
EMAIL: mlebwillATyahooDOTcom
AGE: 36
LOCATION: Milliken, Colorado, United States
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
WEIGHT: 225 lb (102.00 kg)

I was introduced to backpacking as a teenager through scouts in Colorado Springs, Colorado and fell in love with it. I continued to actively backpack through college and took a break to start a career and family. A few years ago we decided as a family to become very active in hiking, backpacking and camping. Currently my wife, son (8 yrs) and I hike and backpack extensively in Colorado and South Dakota as a family. We continually look for the right balance of lightweight, durable, comfortable and safe gear for our family to enhance our outdoor experiences.


INITIAL REPORT

Product Information

IMAGE 1
As Packaged
Manufacturer: Flatterware
Year of Manufacture: 2010
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.flatterware.com/
MSRP: Not Available
Listed Weight: Not Available
Measured Weight - Cup: 3.25 oz (92 g)
Measured Weight - Bowl and Plate: 7.25 oz (206 g)
Measured Weight - Total: 10.5 oz (298 g)
Listed Volume - Cup: 12 oz (355 ml)
Listed Volume - Bowl: 25 oz (740 ml)

Color: Red
Available Colors: Red and Blue in the Combo Set and Individual Bowl and Plate Set, Green and Black in the individual Cup.

Product Details

The Flatterware Cup Bowl and Plate Combo is designed as a compact dish setting for one to be used in the outdoors (travel, camping and picnics). The Combo consists of a cup as well as a bowl that has a lid which doubles as a plate. The unique feature about this set is that both the cup and bowl are collapsible and are 1.25" (3.2 cm) tall when collapsed. Each piece has a base that the cup and bowl is attached to as well as a lid; the lid and the base snap together to close the unit.

The base and the lid of the cup and bowl units are made out of a ridged acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) plastic. This material is listed as ABS # 7 which has been known to, but does not always contain BPA (Bisphenol-A) a potentially toxic chemical. Flatterware has issued a press release that their ABS plastic is BPA free and is safe for use; however that press release is difficult to find and it would be helpful if a BPA statement is clearly identified on the products labeling as well as the company's web-site.

Regardless, the ABS plastic should never come in contact with liquids that could leach BPA from the plastic as the interior cup and bowl is made from a different / non BPA containing material. The interior of the cup and bowl is made from a rubbery, flexible and bendy material that is a food grade thermoplastic elastomer (TPE). This material has been chosen not only for its elastic ability which is required for the collapsible features but also for its ability to insulate hot and cold liquids.

Both materials, the ABS plastic as well as the food grade TPE are fully recyclable and reusable, safe for food, dishwasher safe and freezer safe to -25 F (-32 C).

Initial Impressions

IMAGE 5
Full cup of water
The Combo Set arrived with both pieces in the fully collapsed form and were not packaged as a combo set, rather as individual units. The Cup and Bowl were individually shrink wrapped with specific labeling and instructions attached to each. The instructions and marketing information on the packaging was fairly straight forward.

The instructions for the cup simply stated twist to open and to close is as simple as twist, push and click. The TPE material of the cup has reinforcement ridges built into it that are almost on a biased angle that allow for the interior of the cup to twist when collapsing. I found the cup very easy to open and close, the product is very intuitive. The bowl was just as easy to open; the instructions stated to separate the base from the plate and continue to pull from the bowl. To close the unit it is as easy as placing the plate on the bowl and pressing the plate into the base until it snaps shut.

The instructions also indicate that the bowl can be sealed after use, to do this the instructions state "with thumb and forefinger press plate into bowl until firmly in place." I believe that this is in reference to using the bowl as a storage device and using the plate as a lid, however that is not clear on the instructions. The instructions do reference a web address for further details on use; however at the time of this review the link was inactive.

Trying it out

IMAGE 3
Bowl and Plate
I have fooled around with the Combo Set just long enough to understand how it works and how easily it opens and closes. The instruction material said that the unit should be washed with soap and hot water to activate the spring memory of the TPE, so I threw each piece into the dishwasher, since it is dishwasher, safe as soon as I opened it. I did notice that because of the fixed base the cup and bowl units were a little awkward to load into the dishwasher, but ultimately they fit and went through the cycle without issues.

Once they were out, clean and spring memory activated, I decided to put them through another test from the label, and that was to put them into the freezer. The label claims that the material is safe to -25 F (-32 C), so I let them sit in the freezer collapsed for 2 hours. When I took them out the base and lids were very cold however the TPE material remained flexible, a little sluggish in the spring memory but nothing that would inhibit the use due to the temperature.

Next, while still cold, I filled the cup with tap water that was as hot as I could get it. The quick change in temperatures did not have any effect on the material. I did notice that the TPE does do a good job in providing insulation as I could feel the difference in temperature from the outside of the unit versus the temperature of the liquid itself. Furthermore I did not see any structural impact of the hot liquid and the cup body remained rigid.

Even though the Cup and Bowl collapse to the same height, I had hoped that the cup could nest inside of the bowl while it was collapsed if the cup lid was removed. Unfortunately this cannot be done so each piece will need to be packed individually. I did take the Combo Set on a long day hike that included a picnic lunch for which I was able to use the Cup, Bowl and Plate. When packing, the Bowl fit in the top of the pack very easily, it remained in place and did not shift. The cup on the other hand did manage to slip and fall to the bottom of the pack during the hike. All three units of the Combo Set worked well on the initial use. The wide base of the Cup and Bowl rested nicely on the rock we used as a table and the plate never seemed to leave my hands.

Testing Strategy

I plan on getting some good use out of these dishes. I was pleasantly surprised to see how well I liked holding a plate while eating, something that I never do in the backcountry. I'm interested to see how well the material will handle the rigors of backpacking, specifically to see if the hard ABS Plastic will crack or become damaged inside a pack. I'm also interested to see how the TPE material performs in the field and how easily it can be cleaned. I will also look to see if the plate can be used as a multi-purpose device such as a cutting board, and I have already had a request by my little guy to use the plate as a Frisbee.

SUMMARY

I'm very excited to be testing this product. I think the Flatterware is a very innovate design which I will put to the test to see if the design is suitable for the backpacking environment. Upon my initial review of the Combo Set I have 2 concerns; durability and pack-ability. The durability concern is related to the ABS plastic and if it is too rigid for backpacking. The pack-ability concern is related to each piece needing to be separately packed, the size of each piece well as the weight; the entire Combo Set weighs more than my solo stove, pot and fuel combined.

This concludes my Initial Report. The Field Report which will provides more details to my experiences with this product has been amended below.


FIELD REPORT

Field Conditions and Performance

IMAGE 1
Cashew Fried Rice - enough for three
During this phase of the testing process I have used the Flatterware Cup, Bowl and Plate Combo on 4 multi-day trips and on a handful of day trips. I have used these dishes for 17 meals in some fashion, whether that be the cup, bowl, plate or a combination of the three. I have primarily used them for my main meals that require cooking, which has been breakfast and dinner.

At this point I would say that I have used the cup less than the bowl or plate because I tend to bring a hydration system such as a CamelBak or Platypus that I use for drinking. My choice to drink from a hose is based on personal preference. I have used the cup in the back-country and it performs well, I like the solid base and I don't get much of a plastic flavor to my water. But I see it as an extra item and since I am already using the hose I have a hard time justifying the need for the additional cup. The primary use that I have had with the cup has been at breakfast making oatmeal which it is a great vessel for with room for two envelopes and mix-ins such as nuts and dried fruit. The material insulates well, does not get hot to the touch and I am able to reach all of the corners of the cup to stir effectively with a spoon. Furthermore, it cleans up very easily with just a bit of hot water and a swirl.

The bowl and plate have received the bulk of the use during this test; however the use has been more of a serving or communal dish capacity. The bowl is a lot larger than it appears and I feel there is enough room in there to feed three medium appetites, or for us, two adults and a child. So we have been using the bowl as a serving dish or simply as a communal bowl that we pass around. As with the cup, the bowl offers a great base and is very sturdy and it cleans up easily with some hot water. The plate has also been used as a serving dish but it feels less functional than the bowl. The three scalloped sections along the lip of the plate really impede the usefulness of the plate as an effective dish of any kind.

I would say that the packability of the combo set is a split decision. The cup is very packable and stows away easily, however it can play "plinko" inside the pack and end up at the bottom if not put in a separate compartment. The bowl and plate, on the other hand, are very awkward to pack and it doesn't quite fit right in my pack. I have tried horizontal, vertical, diagonal, you name it, and I can't get it in there in a way that it makes sense with the rest of my gear. I feel it is always protruding somewhere or wedged into something that it shouldn't be wedged against (hydration bladder).

The dishes seem to be well made with quality materials, but they are showing some signs of wear. I am seeing some signs of damage to the hard ABS plastic where something sharp was wedged against the bowl, which highlights my packing issues. Other than the dishes getting damaged by impact, I think the materials are very durable.

Summary

IMAGE 2
Using the cup
I am pleasantly surprised by the Combo Set, particularly the bowl. The large volume of the bowl works well with groups, but I would not use it for a solo adventure. The dishes clean up very well; I have had to clean up hard, dried oatmeal out of a cup and all it took was a little hot water without soap. I'm not a fan of the bulk and weight of the set, but if used as a communal dish that could mitigate some of the weight penalty.

My overall reaction is positive and I am looking forward to continuing the test and discovering more about the Combo Set. This concludes my Field Report on the Cup, Bowl and Plate Combo Set. My Long Term Report which details the use of the set for an additional 2 months can be found below.




LONG-TERM REPORT

Field Conditions and Performance

During the Long Term phase of the testing I have used the Flatterware on one weekend backpacking trip and two extended day hikes. For the weekend trip, the combo set was used for 2 breakfasts of oatmeal and 2 dinners (Chicken Fried Rice and Pasta with Meat Sauce). For the breakfasts, the oatmeal was reconstituted in the cup and it worked well. The oatmeal mixed easily in the cup and it was easy to eat from. Clean up took just a rinse with warm water. As a test, I intentionally left some oatmeal in the cup after the second breakfast which dried out and stuck to the cup. I ran that through the dishwasher and the cup still needed to be cleaned by hand afterwards.

The dinners were dehydrated meals. For the pasta dish I mixed the dehydrated ingredients with the required amount of boiling water in a standard freezer bag because I felt it would be too difficult to mix effectively inside the bowl. Once the meal was properly mixed I transferred that into the bowl and placed the lid on to finish the rehydration process. The bowl held onto the heat very well and quite a bit of steam escaped when I removed the lid at the 10 minute mark to stir the food. Because of the shape of the bowl, a lot of the water settled to the bottom and I should have stirred the food earlier. Because of the settling of the water I was forced to stir the food more that I should have and that dissipated the heat quickly and after 15 minutes the food was starting to cool and some vegetables were still a little on the hard side. We used the bowl as the main serving dish for both meals; the rice dish was fully rehydrated in the freezer bag before being poured into the bowl. Again, cleanup was very easy and a quick rinse with warm water was all that was needed.

The use of the combo set on the day hikes was restricted to the cup for drinking and the bowl as a serving dish for grapes. Every time I used the combo set during this test I found packing a real pain. The bowl is large and clunky and that made it a challenge to pack. All of my packs are top loaders without a lot of pockets so both the cup and bowl need to go into the main compartment. The bowl took up more room than it should have and the cup always worked its way to the bottom and was difficult to find.

Final Conclusion

I believe that the cup and bowl are well made with a very innovative design. The materials are very durable and I am incredibly impressed with the insulation abilities of this set. Having said that, I find the bulky shape as well as the heavy weight of the set not ideally suited for use in the backpacking environment. These are perfect dishes for car camping or rafting where weight and bulk are not as much of a factor. I really enjoyed testing these and I think that with a few changes to the design they would be ideal for backpacking; the changes that I would make would be to reduce weight, slim the profile and make the outer case a little less rigid.

This concludes my testing of the Flatterware Cup, Bowl and Plate Combo Set. My thanks to Flatterware and BackpackGearTest.org for providing me with the opportunity to test this product.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.

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