Roughing it doesn’t mean you want to eat raw food with your bare hands. One of the best parts of your adventures is meshing unique and gorgeous environments with the essential comforts of home. Like cooking a good meal under the clear sky.
It’s hard to create that experience without the right gear. You may love aluminum, stainless steel, or titanium utilities but, man, it can add serious weight to your backpack! When out and about, you want equipment that doesn’t pack unnecessary poundage.
Quite the chore, but nothing outside the realm of possibility. It’s simply a matter of making all the right choices for choosing the best backpacking cookware.
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You Want Cookware That Fits Your Style
If you’re hiking distances before camp set-up or going straight to your site and then journeying out, you want cookware that’s versatile, light, and portable. Sure, you can have help carrying gear, giving you the opportunity for more variety and volume in cookware. But you still want the best backpacking cookware that doesn’t weigh you down.
How you travel will be helpful in the final decision. Camping by car, going raw with only necessary tools in your backpack, traveling via RV, each allows different cookware solutions.
Now that we’ve got that out the way, let’s get to work on finding the best backpacking cookware.
Best of the Best
Let’s get straight to it. Our picks for the three top backpacking cookware you can get for your dollar, and your adventures await!
Best Fully Packed Cookware Set: Odoland Camping Cookware Mess Kit
This one’s for the folks sitting around the campfire and the RV. The set comes with 29 pieces and weighs around five pounds. You get two pots, a kettle, pan, steel cutlery, multi-use plates, a collapsible bucket, and a collapsible 10 liter non-toxic, safe water container. The manufacturer even tosses in a couple of cleaning cloths.
This is one-stop camping. The pots and pans use anodized aluminum alloy. They’re lightweight and non-toxic. Each piece of cookware has foldable handles that won’t burn your hands thanks to thermal isolation. All the cookware’s non-stick application ensures easy cleanup.
What truly impresses is considering the hefty price for the Odoland Camping Cookware Mess Kit, you still get a world of value.
- Large collection suited for bigger outings
- Anodized aluminum alloy engineering
- Foldable handles with thermal isolation
- Stainless steel cutlery
- Heavy, not for foot travelers
Best Solo Set-Up: MSR Trail Mini Duo
The MSR Mini Duo has to be one of the lightest sets we’ve seen. It’s perfect for the lone adventurer who prefers peace to companionship. The set is one small pot, a cup, a clear lid with straining ports, a compact stove with one canister of eight-ounce fuel, a pot lifter, and a stuff sack. The whole kit fits nicely in the included mesh sack.
This is not the set for the serious cooker. You’ll make an egg easy but the bacon is going to need careful watching. With hard-anodized aluminum construction, the collection is as efficient as it gets. It has a nesting design for easy storage and weighs just 10 ounces. With the insulated grip, you can prepare a hot drink or noodles and take it straight from the pot.
- Polypropylene and anodized aluminum manufacturing
- Pot lid doubles as a strainer
- Nesting capability
- Perfect when space is premium
- The straining lid isn’t tight
- Products are known to ship missing components
Best Cookery Set: Primus PrimeTech Pot Set
Designed for efficiency, the Primus PrimeTech is practical, sophisticated, and high performing. The Primus pot boasts heat exchanging fins that enhance efficiency by increasing heat transfer rates.
This heating exchange minimizes boiling time and conserves simmering fuel. The pots and pans are Teflon and ceramic coated, giving them the ability to maintain sturdier temps longer.
If you’re looking for overall value from budget to performance, this is a contender for outdoor adventures.
- Heating Efficiency
- Pot boils water and roasts pine nuts equally well
- Wide base for easy balance
- Built-in wind guard
- Stove is quiet
- At 31.9 ounces, this isn’t as lightweight as other products
Best of the Rest
Our top picks are for those who wanted to get straight to the top dogs. What follows are more options for choosing the best backpacking cookware. Each was selected from categories of aluminum, titanium, and stainless steel. We also narrowed each category to Best Pot, Best Pan, and Best Cookware Set.
When it comes to our backcountry pots, we want evenly-heated surfaces and the ability to boil water in less time with less fuel (if you’re using fuel). (We know the rugged amongst us wouldn’t dare use less than a match and hand-chopped wood!) Look for colanders and pressure relief holes in lids and folding handles for easier transport of the best backpacking pot.
Best Ready-to-Go: EVERNEW Titanium Pasta Pot
The EVERNEW Titanium Pasta Pot is a medium-sized solution with the manufacturer boasting this is gear for the minimalist. It’s ideal for rehydrating foods, though the design isn’t ideal for frying or cooking complex dishes. It’s manufactured from titanium, making it a weight saver.
- Material stronger than aluminum or steel
- Can be used as a multi-purpose bowl or mug
- Cools quickly
- Heats unevenly
- Not available for slow cooking or frying
Best Boiler: GSI Outdoors Halulite Boiler
Aluminum backpack pots deftly balance lightweight capacity and low cost. The GSI Outdoors Halulite Boiler retains heat and cooks evenly, making it a good choice for group meals and complex cooking. The hard anodized structure promises durability and corrosion-resistance, useful traits when you’re packing wet.
- Less expensive than titanium
- Heats evenly
- Hard anodized
- Takes longer to cool
Best Stainless Steel Pot: MSR Stowaway Pot
Stainless steel backpacking cookware is known as the backcountry’s workhorses. They’re used by guides, outdoor organizations, and scout groups. We’re talking about adventurers who put their gear to work.
- Durable and high quality
- Comes in several sizes
- Lasts forever
- Excellent choice for the budget-minded
- Subject to hot spots like titanium
- Not as light as titanium
Best Backpacking Pan
Pans on the journey will be used to cook the most important parts of your meal, usually the protein, the meat, baby!
Choosing a pan is based mostly on what you cook. You want a multipurpose solution that maintains a lightweight and concise pack load. Perhaps you’re not just searing or frying meat, maybe you do a little backcountry bread or lose your inner chef on cinnamon rolls. Let these preferences guide your choice.
Best Non-Stick: Sea to Summit Alpha Frying Pan
Manufactured from aluminum alloy, the Sea to Summit Alpha Frying Pan is compact and lightweight and gets high marks for always getting the job done well. There are two sizes and the largest tops out at a mere 11.8 ounces. The pans have non-stick, heat-dispersing liners. That’s good news as backpacking pans, and their usually thin construction tend to get scorched. You may find a lighter choice, but balancing out the advantages, the Sea to Summit stands out.
- Durable and high quality
- Abrasion-resistant, PFOA-free, non-stick coating
- Solid heat distribution
- Ergonomic handle with safety lock
- Better camp stove stability with textured base
- Effortless and secure operation
- Nets with manufacturer’s other cookware
- Should only be used on backpack stoves
Best Fryer: GSI Outdoors Glacier Stainless Steel Frypan
To start, the GSI Outdoors Glacier Stainless Steel Frypan uses a non-stick laser lined etching to keep your food from sticking to the surface. This one is a balance of stainless steel and aluminum. That’s a stainless steel interior and a clad aluminum core. So in some ways, you’re getting the benefits of both, including thorough cooking and fewer occurrences of bending, as well as quick heating and durability. The pan is a little hefty at close to 1.5 pounds.
- Perfect for coal and campfires
- Rust-proof finish
- Durable and high quality
- Abrasion-resistant, PFOA-free, non-stick coating
- SureLock folding handle
- Lightweight at 17.9 ounces
- Can be difficult to clean
Best Lightweight: EVERNEW Titanium Non-Stick Frying Pan
We’d dare say EVERNEW can’t help itself. They continue to produce strong yet light titanium cookware. This Non-Stick Frying Pan weighs an impressive 4.23 ounces. (If you go with the smallest size.) The cookware has silicone-covered handles. The coating is silicon-ceramic non-stick that prevents messy cooking and easy cleanup. This compound takes advantage of a non-Teflon, organic element that ensures you’re not scraping and scrubbing to clean the surface.
- Ultralight, durable titanium frying pan
- Easy backcountry cooking and cleaning
- Insulated silicone handles
- PFOA free
- Not designed for rugged conditions
- Non-stick coating easy to scratch
- Expensive and hard to find in stores
Best Backpacking Sets
Backpacking sets can include everything from pots to dishware and utensils. They open up the greatest possibility of being able to prepare full meals quickly and easily. Of course, the larger the set, the more you’ll have to carry. And, of course, the greater the cost.
Budget really isn’t a concern with sets. There are backpacking sets that will meet any budget. It’s simply a matter of what you want to do with the set. The lone traveler can probably make do with a pot, pan, cup, and bowl. The camper will want options with all the works.
Here are some hot contenders for the type of sets you can get.
Best Mess Kit: Stansport Stainless Steel Mess Kit
Engineered for uniform heat distribution, the Stansport Mess Kit has copper bottoms and a rugged design. It includes a frying pan with a stainless steel plate and a boiling pot with a lid. The items all nest for easy and compact transport.
- Handy and compact
- Durable and stylish
- Can be used on any stove
- Complete kitchen essential to cook a meal
- Size not suitable for more than two adventurers
- Copper base may not be reliable
Best Easy-to-Use: Sea to Summit Alpha Pot Cookset
Sea to Summit’s Alpha Pot Cookset is compact, self-contained, user-friendly, and as lightweight as it gets. The set includes a pot with a volumetric, graded scale printed on the side. You get two cups with lids, a pair of flat-bottomed bowls, and insulated sleeves.
- Anodized, non-stick aluminum
- Pivot-Lock handle holds the kit together as one compact unit
- Lid doubles as a strainer
- Should be used only with backpack stoves
Best Set for Two: Snow Peak Multi-Compact Cookset
Snow Peak’s Titanium Multi-Compact Cookset meets the criteria for exceptional service. First, it’s light as all get-out at 11.6 ounces. It’s not for group outings though. This compact set is best for a pair of adventurers.
It’s a plain design, but you’re not trying to impress anybody. You get a pair of stacking pots and two frypans. Imported from Japan, the set’s engineered from complex welds in a multi-step production.
- Easy to carry, organize, and store with carrying bag
- Two pair of pots and pans allow the preparation of complete meals
- Handles are not ergonomic easy to grip
And The Winner Is…
We cannot deny we lean more towards the roughing it part of the adventure. Yes, it can be great to join some friends and share the wondrous sense of life natural environments instill in the hardest urbanite. But there’s something about keeping it small and even smaller that enhances the experience for us.
The MSR Mini Duo, small pot, cup, lid, compact stove, pot lifter, stuff sack, we like how it simplifies hitting the trail. We’re okay with eggs and skipping the bacon. (Though we admit we will take the extra time to watch the bacon (or a nice sausage) to have with our eggs and coffee.)
At 10 ounces and with its nesting capability, we think it fits nicely without burdening our gear. (Our boots are heavier.) The pot lid makes for a fine strainer when we treat ourselves and need to remove the water so we can eat our Ramen with spaghetti sauce. Or, of course, if you’re getting fancy and making real pasta, the strainer comes in handy.
What to Look For in Best Backpacking Cookware
Size & Weight
This is probably the definitive consideration. You may have a party of ten, but you don’t want a huge skillet in your backpack. Lightweight and smaller units mean there’s less effort on the trails (and lower impact on your spine). And if you have a trunk, you can make different choices.
Do remember, larger sets don’t necessarily mean better quality. Nor do higher prices mean better equipment. Plus, many adventurers don’t consider the size of cookware versus the source they’ll use to cook. They get pots too big for their burner or too small for the campfire. Too large and heat won’t cook evenly. Too small, and heat dissipates instead of warming your meals.
You need a full-featured solution that fulfills your cooking needs whether you’re on foot or No rule saysamper.
You don’t need giant cookware if you’re out by yourself or if it’s just the two of you. A heftier option’s more feasible if you’re in a group. Some adventurers love the ruggedness of cooking out of cup-sized containers (and even cups!). Others prefer a more conventional approach to their outdoor cooking, like a non-stick pan. Fortunately, outdoor cookware can link up with anyone’s preferences.
Sure, we’ve probably made it pretty clear how choosing a material can impact cooking in the backcountry, but it could still use a further in-depth look. The least expensive material is aluminum, and aluminum certainly does a solid, but it’s not particularly strong compared to alternatives. Aluminum’s far more likely to get damaged. Yet, it’s still considered the best backpacking cookware material as it manages the perfect balance between function and weight.
Confident of its possibilities, the industry strives to improve aluminum cookware. Complaints about aluminum leaving a metallic taste in certain foods led to the implementation of hard anodization. This significantly reduces the aluminum cookware’s impact on taste. It also made the material stronger.
Not all cookware is equal. You don’t want to waste a lot of time in the wild with your meals. You want a product that’s guaranteed to cook evenly. Your surfaces should be non-stick because you don’t have time to scrub. Heat distribution, storage, no heat side-escaping up the sides, and accessories all come into play.
Remember, your backpack cookware has to suffer the same terrains and weather conditions that you do. It doesn’t matter if you have a trail mule that can carry the weight of a full set of pots, pans, and lids. Most traditional cookware is not ideal for outdoor life. Emeril’s highly-regarded cook set may look great, but does it have what it takes to survive your adventures is the question.
Here’s an interesting Catch-22: Yeah, you can buy the finest aluminum pot. When it comes to lightweight, you can’t do better. But it’s a chore to find an aluminum pot that doesn’t bottom scorch food. This impacts the flavor, fuel use, and how much vigor you need to keep the pot clean. How well your cookware cooks is the most important criteria.
You can get by with a pot, lid, cup, and maybe a frying pan. That doesn’t mean you have to. There are bowls, kettles, plates, spoons and forks (sporks?), spatulas, and more. Having a cup can be nice. They’ll provide insulation so that you can drink while your beverage is hot.
There’s no rule that says you have to he-man your adventures and eat with your hands. Depending on the size and weight and functionality (such as nesting), you may be able to fit a nice cooking set in your backpack and have a fine dining experience in the wilderness.
Other Things to Consider
Here are additional ideas to keep in mind when you’re looking for the best backpacking cookware.
- If you use exact measurements, look for cookware with liquid quantity scored in ounces.
- Should you do a lot of boiling water, freeze-dried pouches, or dehydrated meats, you want to consider cookware or cups with pour spouts.
- Typical backpacking meals usually require about two cups of water. Take into account how water displacement and pot size impact each other.
- When purchasing titanium cookware, make sure the lids aren’t steel but titanium.
- Pots should have foldaway handles. Grippers should be attachments as they are easy to forget or lose.
- The cookpots you pick should hold a small- to medium-sized canister and your packed stove if you cook with gas.
- Should you use a windscreen, go with a titanium foil that rolls easily inside the pot for transport.
- Integrated cook systems should include hard-anodized aluminum pots.
- Narrow pots capture less stove heat than wide pots.