CAMPING & HIKING

The Best Camping Cookware: For Mouthwatering Outdoor Cooking

Best camping cookware
Dennis Owens
Written by Dennis Owens

People have to eat, even when they’re out in the wilderness. But the choice of what you’re gobbling down is entirely up to you.

And there’s no reason why you wouldn’t get to eat nutritious, tasty meals just because you’re away from home, especially since the best camping cookware has evolved significantly during the past decade so that it’s highly portable, durable and efficient.

So in this article, we’ll give you some advice on how to get the best cooking system for your trip, before letting you know which products we think are top-shelf for every camper out there.

How to Choose Wisely

To make the most of your outdoor adventure and ensure you only pack the things you absolutely need, some factors should be considered.

Camping cookware

We’ll try to make your life easier by putting them into perspective with what we hope is a useful categorization.

Purpose

Since each camping trip is different, you’ll have to consider:

  • How you’re traveling.
  • How many people will come
  • Where you’ll be cooking.
  • What sort of meals you want to eat.

So these questions should help determine how many and which sort of items should be in your camping cookware.

Besides, if you’re traveling by car or with a lot of people, you shouldn’t care much about total weight or dimensions. On the other hand, backpacking alone turns portability into a decisive factor.

The meals you like to eat when camping are again a paramount consideration. If you’re not fussy and simply want to boil some water for a hot soup, and maybe fry a few eggs, you should get a simpler cookware set.

On the other hand, if you want to prepare more sundry meals, you’ll need a versatile set with a lot of multi-functional items.

Materials

Since you’ll be investing your money in something that should hopefully last you more than just a couple of backcountry camping trips, you should pay extra attention to materials and craftsmanship.

Camping cookware material

Cookware is mainly manufactured from:

Aluminum

  • Cheap.
  • Lightweight.
  • Good heat conductor.
  • Prone to indentations.
  • Easily scratched.

Hard-anodized aluminum

  • Increased durability compared to simple aluminum.
  • Lightweight.
  • Perfect heat conductor.
  • Fast cleaning.
  • Higher maintenance.
  • More expensive.

Titanium

  • The lightest material on the market.
  • Enables quick heating.
  • Durable.
  • Resistant to scratches.
  • Expensive.
  • Enables hot spots and uneven heating.

Stainless steel

  • The most resistant and strong material on the market.
  • Increased durability.
  • Resistant to scratches.
  • Easily cleaned.
  • Uneven heating because of mediocre heat conductivity.
  • Heavy.

Cast iron

  • Longest lifespan.
  • Great heat conductivity.
  • Non-stick.
  • Very heavy.
  • Requires a lot of maintenance.
  • Not appropriate for backpacking.

Non-stick coatings

  • Don’t need a lot of oil.
  • Quick cleaning.
  • Easily scratched, unless it’s made from a scratch-resistant material like ceramic.

Functionality

Since saving space is almost an art form when it comes to camping, you should ensure that your cooking set contains items:

  • You really need.
  • Which are highly versatile.

So you should take into account the following tips:

  • One pot is perfect for two people max.
  • Darker pots require less fuel.
  • Wider pots cook faster since they have a larger surface to enable the heat transfer.
  • Lids help water boil quicker.
  • Strainer lids are amazing for pasta.
  • Convertible items are the best (e.g: lids that act like frying pans).
  • Check for foldable handles and pot grabbers.
  • The nesting system is an amazing space-saver.

The extras

We all love free stuff, but if you already have some camping cookware at home, you might not be so excited about yet another mug.

Camping cookware with extras

However, people who start from scratch might be more interested in acquiring a full package, so look for included:

  • Insulated mugs.
  • Wide plates.
  • Deep bowls.
  • Cleaning tools.
  • Kettles.
  • Kitchen utensils.
  • Camping stoves.
  • Carry sack.
  • Stuff sack.

Ideally, all these items should fit perfectly one into the other and optimize your space.

Cleaning

People who actually like to wash their dishes are a rare breed. But this has to be done, so make sure your cooking set can easily be cleaned both at the camping site and at home.

Camping cookware cleaning

If it’s dishwasher safe, that’s a definite plus when you’re home, but for washing on the spot you need non-stick items made from good materials that don’t stain or get burnt. Also, don’t forget to pack your cleaning equipment.

Cookware for Your Adventure

After taking into account all those useful tips and tricks, it’s time to apply them and select the best backpacking cookware for your needs. The sets we love are just below:

MSR Quick 2 System

MSR Quick 2 System

Weight: 28 ounces

Dimensions: 7.75 x 5 inches

Specifications: 1.5L nonstick light aluminum pot; 2.5L hard-anodized aluminum pot; 2 plates; 2 mugs; 1 talon pot handle; 1 strainer lid

Best Use: camping with a larger group

Description: This 4.6 stars and $99.95 MSR Quick 2 System is one of the best mess kits on the market, provided you don’t go camping alone. That’s because the overall weight is a bit hefty, so you might need someone to help you carry all your luggage.

The 2.5L pot is made from hard-anodized aluminum, which is a strong material that’s furthermore resistant to rust. The pot itself is very large, useful for preparing bigger amounts of food, and the strainer lid really comes in handy for some meals which require draining water.

All that make it the perfect pot for preparing meals for a larger group, but it’s a bit heavy.

The 1.5L pot is manufactured from light aluminum and it prevents sticking. It doesn’t have an incorporated handle, it just uses the larger pot’s handle, but its light weight makes it perfect to be carried around with the talon handle.

This pot is great for preparing a meal for just a couple of people, and it’s light enough to carry with ease.

The 2 plates are deep dish, which means they’re pretty large and their walls are high, meaning your food will be perfectly cozy inside without spilling. Plus, they’re made from a sort of plastic that’s resistant to heat, damages, and scratches.

The mugs have double walls and they’re insulated, so they won’t let your drink get too cold fast. These are also made from plastic, they can withstand high temperatures fine, and they can be washed in the dishwasher with no problem.

Other pluses are their very well secured lids, along with small mouth port in order to prevent bugs getting inside your drink.

Related: Pot Set only ($58.76)

Primus Litech Ceramic Non-Stick Surface Frying Pan

Primus Litech Ceramic Non-Stick Surface Frying Pan

Weight: 10 ounces

Dimensions: 5.4 x 4.8 inches

Specifications: hard-anodized aluminum; ceramic coating; net stuff sack; integrated silicone handles

Best Use: camping in two

Description: This 4.3 stars Primus Litech Ceramic Non-Stick Surface Frying Pan has a price range between $19.95 – $146.33, depending on the size you acquire. But basically you get a good pan and kettle for your basic camping needs, so you won’t be able to cook highly pretentious meals.

The materials from which this set is made are very resistant and explain its light weight. That means you’ll be able to use this cookware for a very long time, without any unnecessary damages, and without fear that it will give up on you.

The hard-anodized aluminum from which the frying pan is manufactured is resistant to rust and conducts heat perfectly.

The coating is truly non-stick, meaning that you can fry anything inside with as little oil as possible, and you won’t have a hard time cleaning it after. Besides, this coating is made from ceramic, a sturdy material that’s also scratch-resistant.

The stuff sack is another good addition, being made from mesh, which is strong enough to store the set properly, decreasing the total weight of this cooking system.

Plus the handles come in really handy, literally. You won’t need anything else to prevent your hands getting burnt.

The only downside is the lack of measurement markings, but that can easily be ignored since the 10 ounces pot can hold just 1 liter of water, so its pretty easy to get an estimate.

Winterial Camping Cookware and Pot Set

Winterial Camping Cookware and Pot Set

Weight: 1.5 pounds

Dimensions: 6.8 x 6.8 x 3.5 inches

Specifications: lightweight; compact; 11 piece set; non-stick

Best Use: camping with a larger group

Description: This 4.4 stars and $42.99 Winterial Camping Cookware and Pot Set is one of the best backpacking cookware you’ll find for such an affordable price so you can go camping with a bigger group. The first advantage is that it weighs just 1.5 pounds, so it can easily be carried in anyone’s backpack.

Plus the overall dimensions are quite small, making for a compact package. That’s because all the 11 items included here can easily be placed one inside the other for optimizing portability.

But since we’re dealing with an 11-piece kit, it’s great for more people and for more extensive cooking, as you can select which pot, pan or kettle best satisfies your cooking necessities.

So you’ll get two very large pots with lids, one large frying pan and one kettle, accompanied by a serving ladle and spoon.

But you only get one bowl, so you might want to bring more dishes for other people to eat from. The cleaning sponge and carry bag are also nice extras, but some added dishes would have been nicer.

For this retail price, however, this set is definitely a good investment.

The materials are top-notch, being manufactured from aluminum oxide, that’s resistant to high temperatures and to friction. Besides, the Teflon coating is another sturdy material, which is also easy to clean.

Snow Peak Titanium Multi Compact Cookset

Snow Peak Titanium Multi Compact Cookset

Weight: 13 ounces

Dimensions: 5 x 7 x 5 inches

Specifications: compact; 2 pots; 2 pans; individual handles; titanium

Best Use: light backpacking

Description: This 4.2 stars and $95.90 Snow Peak Titanium Multi Compact Cookset has a number of advantages that make it appropriate for light backpacking. Consider its overall weight to begin with: at just 11 ounces it can easily be carried by a child, and its small dimensions render it highly portable.

But though it’s a compact cook set, that doesn’t mean it’s not versatile. Its ingenious design can easily be observed from the fact that the two lids that cover the two included pots serve another purpose: they can act as sauce pans too.

So you basically get two pots, one bigger and one smaller that fit inside each other, with convertible lids that provide you a big and a small frying pan.

Each of these four items has individual handles, so they can easily be used without you having to remove/ reattach the handles from one to the other.

Plus, they’re made from titanium, which is a strong material although light as a feather. Their rounded edges are another positive since they ease the cleaning process considerably.

Stanley Adventure Two Pot Prep and Cook Set

Stanley Adventure Two Pot Prep and Cook Set

Weight: 2.8 pounds

Dimensions: 7 x 5.1 x 7.1 inches

Specifications: stainless steel; scratch resistant; nesting system; vented lids

Best Use: constant outdoor cooking

Description: This 4.3 stars and $41 Stanley Adventure Two Pot Prep and Cook Set is another good example of a versatile kit to have when you’re camping with more people.

All the items included are very handy and are generally the most commonly used for basic at-home cooking. So if you’re interested in getting all the modern comfort of your kitchen outdoors, this is it.

You’ll get two bowls, each with their individual lid, to save time and prepare two meals at once. Each bowl is 20 ounces, so it’s capacious enough to cook for more people. The 1.58-quart pot included has a vented lid, which enables ventilation and therefore makes cooking easier.

You’ll also get a spatula and a ladle for fast mixing and serving, each with an extending handle so your cooking is safe at all times.

This set is manufactured from stainless steel, which is a very strong material that can withstand a lot of hardships. So scratches should be the least of your worries: drop them, throw them, cook for a large group, stainless steel will take it.

Plus, though it’s a bit heavier at 2.8 pounds, this is still not an enormous weight and the small dimensions courtesy of the nesting system used will save you a lot of space and increase this kit’s portability.

GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Backpacker Cookset

GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Backpacker Cookset

Weight: 2 pounds

Dimensions: 9 x 10 x 6 inches

Specifications: hard-anodized aluminum for 2L pot and fry pan lid; nylon strainer lid; 2 insulated mugs; folding gripper; welded stuff sack; nesting system

Best Use: camping in two

Description: This 4.6 stars and $89.95 GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Backpacker Cookset is the best backpacking cookware to have if you’re camping with another person.

The weight and dimensions are very good when it comes to portability, and the versatility of this system can easily be noticed since the 2L pot’s lid can be converted into a frying pan.

Both these items are large and can be used to prepare sufficient food for two people, but they’re also durable since they’re manufactured with hard-anodized aluminum.

Plus, the non-stick feature is a great advantage when it comes to cleaning and protection.

The strainer lid is made from a sort of nylon that’s resistant to heat and helps you drain water to make nutritious pasta.

The two included mugs and bowls are insulated, meaning they can hold warm beverages and food without getting damaged. The sip-it lids for the two mugs are another perk since no insects will die in your drink.

Besides, they’re all color-coded so you know which is yours and which is your camping buddy’s. The nesting system employed adds to portability and convenience, while the included mesh sack helps you safely carry and store the system.

MSR Alpine 2-Pot Set

MSR Alpine 2-Pot Set

Weight: 26 ounces

Dimensions: not specified

Specifications: stainless steel; nesting system; versatility

Best Use: heavy use

Description: This 4.5 stars and $49.95 MSR Alpine 2-Pot Set is the pinnacle of durability, rendering it one of the best mess kits for heavy backpackers or avid campers who want to prepare two meals at a time without fear of getting their cookware damaged.

That’s because stainless steel is the best material on the market when it comes to increasing durability and resistance to basically any kind of damage.

Extended use can be your purpose whether you’re backpacking alone or with another person, given that this set is comprised of two pots. Each pot is voluminous enough to prepare at least a meal per person, or boil enough water for your needs.

A disadvantage could stem from the fact that both pots have to share just one lid, but since every cloud has a silver lining, this lid can be used as a plate, saving you some space.

Space is also saved courtesy of the nesting design used, meaning that the pots can perfectly fit one in the other for increased portability. Efficient transport is further ensured by a light total weight of just 26 ounces, so you save valuable packing space.

G4Free Outdoor Camping pan Hiking Cookware

G4Free Outdoor Camping pan Hiking Cookware

Weight: 19 ounces

Dimensions: 6.7 x 5.5 inches

Specifications: 2 pots and 2 pans from anodized aluminum ; folding handles; silicone tube cover for the handles; mesh bag

Best Use: survival kit for 1-2 people

Description: This 4.4 stars and $17.99 G4Free Outdoor Camping pan Hiking Cookware is the perfect thing to have for survival and emergency situations.

That’s thanks to its overall compactness and high portability, that can be noticed beginning with its small size. But once the set is assembled with the pots and pans fitted one into the other, you still get additional storage space inside.

And since cooking requires items like a camping stove, matches, and seasoning, plus cleaning utensils, you’ll be happy to know these things fit snuggly inside the G4Free cookware, to maximize your space needs.

Plus, both the pots and pans come with folding handles that will save you, even more, space and render the whole set very compact.

The two pots and pans have varying dimensions, with a big and a small one of each. So you can choose what to cook and for the appropriate number of people.

The anodized aluminum used for these items is a sturdy material, resistant to rust and damages, meaning it’s perfect for camping.

The silicone tube cover for the handles is also proof of great craftsmanship since silicone is a renowned material for its extended kitchen use. Consequently, your hands will be totally protected from burns.

The included mesh sack is another good thing since it helps you store the kit safely, carry it with ease and minimize the total weight transported.

Related: The 10 piece set ($20.99);

Kiss The Cook. And The Cooking Set

We’re confident that once you get any of these cooking sets, depending on your trip specifics, you’ll never go hungry again when you’re camping.

Logistics is really important, but so is keeping your strength up, so that’s why we feel cooking is really significant in the great outdoors.

Choose your Camping cookware

But what do you think: is having a consistent, warm meal a really important factor for you, or are you the eat out of the can sort of camper? What sort of cooking do you generally do when you’re camping? And last but not least, which cooking set have you put your eyes on?

Besides, if we’ve missed anything in this article, feel free to let us know. The comments are right below!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dennis Owens
Dennis Owens

Dennis Owens is a graduate of National Camping School and REI Outdoor School. He knows everything about what gear to take with you, how to plan your trip to stay safe and what to do if you get lost in the mountains. We are lucky to have Dennis with us as he is a ‘walking encyclopedia’ when it comes to the wilderness.

  • Chase Oliver

    For years I relied on a single pan to cook whilst backpacking, however, when the time came to invest in some new equipment, I decided to look for a cook set that offered a little more versatility.

    As a lightweight backpacker, I wanted a set that weighed as little as possible and was easy to pack. After a few weeks of reading reviews, I finally settled on the Winterial Cookware Set, and so far, I’ve been pleased as punch.

    The set is just the right size for cooking one or two people, it’s lightweight and its small size means it can be easily packed, however, I personally just attached a carabiner and hung it from my backpack.

    It comes with 11 pieces, which included: a frying pan, tea kettle, serving ladle, 1 bowl, a serving spoon/spatula and cleaning sponge all of which nestle inside a large pot with a lid (think Russian Dolls). I also received a carry case to place the whole thing into.

    When I first took it apart, I was a little worried that I’d have trouble getting everything nestled back together neatly (I never seem to be able to do this as well as the manufacturers), however, I didn’t have a problem.

    The pans are aluminum, feature fold-out handles and are coated with aluminum oxide which seems to conduct the heat well and quickly as I had water boiling in no time.

    Overall, this is an awesome little set and well worth the investment.

    • Dennis Owens

      I myself was a one-pan person before because it gives you so much freedom outdoors and the space that other pots and pans occupy can be allocated to more important stuff. However, there are newer models, just like the ones you’ve mentioned that have been designed to be folded and stored to occupy a much smaller space, which I really think is a very neat feature.

  • Rob chang

    I bought the MSR Alpine 2-Pot Set back in 2012 for a round-the-world trip with my wife. Prior to this, I’d only traveled solo, so needed something that was capable of preparing more than hot water or the freeze dried food I consumed when travelling alone.

    They’ve been used countless times since that trip and are still going strong to date. They are durable, easy to clean and they spread the heat fairly quickly and evenly. Highly recommended.

    • Dennis Owens

      Durability and ease of use are two of the top things to be considered whenever I’m looking or recommending some pot sets to my friends and peers, because items that can be too bulky, difficult to clean, or too fragile can be such of a burden when brought outdoors.

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