CAMPING & HIKING

The Best Camping Cookware: What’s Cooking, Good Looking

Best Camping Cookware
Daniel Carraway
Written by Daniel Carraway

Food, water, and shelter are the basics of life. Without those three things, we cannot survive as humans. Hundreds of thousands of people each year make their way out to the wilderness to test their limits. They put their bodies and minds to the test to see if they can survive.

This isn’t quite the cavemen era, but humans around the globe are still fascinated by the idea of living on their own means. That being said, with the technology and gear that has been invented, camping in a tent can even be seen as glamorous with the right items.

Water and shelter are taken care of in camping by a simple tent and water filter, but what about food? Let’s take a look as some of the best camping cookware and find out which item or items will work best for us to eat good quality food in the outdoors.

Pack your cooking gear

Camping cookware can come in many shapes and sizes, but the purpose is all usually the same. We buy them so we have tools that will prepare our food. Yes, there are ways to go camping and hiking with food that doesn’t need to be prepared but something as simple as boiling water can save your life.

Finding the best backpacking cookware can not only save your life in times of crisis, but it can be a pleasant experience and make the outdoors really feel like a second home.

What Makes A Good Cookware Set for Camping?

The next thing to analyze are the specific qualities that we would look for in camping cookware. Each set has different sizes, weights, and uses but there are a few key qualities that, when compared, will illustrate which of these sets is the best mess kit for you.

  • Weight: Anytime you are camping, hiking, or trekking, weight counts. Every ounce you put into your pack is a full-blown decision. You never want to hike with more weight than you need or more than you can handle.
    Camping cookware comes in many shapes and forms, but the weight is one of the most important factors. Whether you are taking one singular pan or a whole set of five, how much those items weight both individually and with the rest of your gear will help the decision on whether this is something you want to carry on your back for miles and miles.
  • Packability: Packability falls into two categories: compact and non-compact. Neither is better than the other, but based on your needs you may want to consider either one singular pan or pot that is non-compact or a variety of pans and pots that stack nicely together into one compact item.
    There are tons of creative designs in today’s outdoor cookware that it really is amazing and almost overwhelming how many items and pieces they can fit together into a small bag or box.
    There are pros and cons to both compact and non-compact, though too. A pro to compact cookware is that they take up little space, but a con might be that it is difficult to get everything back together the way it was first stacked.
    A pro to a non-compact pan is that it is one simple item with no additional pieces, but a con would be that you have to purchase other pieces such as lids, bowls, and eating utensils separately.
  • Materials: The material is an important factor as well when choosing with cookware is best for you and your trip. Many types of cookware come in plastic and aluminum, which are both very heavy duty materials, but neither of which last forever.
    There are also cast iron cookware pots and pans that are built to last a lifetime but that may be heavy and bulky. Others can be made from steel or titanium that vary in weight and durability.
    Each material has its own pros and cons to consider. Lightweight and weak or heavy and strong are just two of the combinations of choices you will have when thinking about the material you will need for a solid set of cookware to take outdoors with you.
  • Items Included: Based on the cooking set you are considering there may be other items included. This can be anything from other pots, pans, or plates, to something as simple as silverware or collapsible cups.
    It seems obvious that you want the most of your money, but sometimes less is more. If a potential cook set comes with more items there is also a greater chance that those items may be lost or forgotten at a campsite once you have left.
    On the flip side, when you don’t add any additional items, you have to ask yourself if that one pot or pan is worth the money without any extras.
    Adding smaller, simpler items to a combination pack seems like a no-brainer, but there are some people who won’t need those particular items and it may be more hassle to carry them all along than it would be just to purchase them all at your own pace. Additional items usually add value, but we have to make sure they are necessary items or it may, in fact, lose value.

The Best Camping Cookware Products

We understand now that weight, packability, materials, and items included are four main factors when choosing a good quality cooking set for the outdoors, but let’s compare some of the top brands and see how they stack up against one another.

MSR  Quick 2 System Cookware Set

MSR Quick 2 System Cookware Set

Weight: 1.76 Pounds

Packability: Compact

Materials: Hard-Anodized Aluminum & Plastic

Items Included: 1- 1.5 Liter Non-stick Pot, 1- 2.5 Liter Hard-Anodized Pot, Strainer Lid, 2 Deep Dish Plates, 2 Double-Wall Insulated Mugs, 1- Talon Pot Handle

Best Use: Cooking, Sports & Outdoors, Camping, Hiking, Backpacking, Travel

Description: The MSR Quick 2 System Cookware Set might be just what you’re looking for. It’s lightweight at less than two pounds and gives you a lot of product for your money. The pots and pans are made with a hard-anodized aluminum that is proven to last over time.

This also means that it will not scratch or dent easily like some other soft aluminum pots and pans may. It includes plenty of cooking items such as two different sizes of pots, a helpful strainer lid, plates to eat from and mugs are also included.

Maybe one of the best parts of this combination cookware set is the pot handle to ensure you will not burn yourself. This mess kit is compact and all items store within other items and all of it measures to be no taller than eight inches and no wider than eight inches.

Winterial Camping Cookware Set

Winterial Camping Cookware Set

Weight: 1.5 Pounds

Packability: Compact

Materials: Aluminum & Plastic

Items Included: 1- 2 Quart Pot & Lid, 1- 1 Quart Frying Pan, 1 Quart Tea Kettle, Serving Ladle, 1 Personal Bowl, Serving Spoon/Spatula, Cleaning Sponge, Carrying Bag

Best Use: Cooking, Sports & Outdoors, Camping, Hiking, Backpacking, Travel

Description: Weighing it at only one and a half pounds, the Winterial Camping Cookware Set might just be one of the lightest cooking sets that is this compact. Stashing away into one tight pot they manage to fit nearly ten pieces into this space.

Made of aluminum and plastic most of these items are tough enough on their own but shouldn’t withstand more than their made for. With a two-quart pot and lid plus a frying pan and a tea kettle, what more could you possibly need outdoors?

They give you the essentials of cookware along with a personal bowl, a ladle for safe scooping, a spoon that doubles as a spatula, and a sponge to clean it all up. All of these items fit snuggly into a mesh carrying bag for easy storage and retrieval and measuring at less than four inches in height and around six and a half inches in diameter makes this one compact package.

The carrying bag is also useful because it helps make sure no small pieces or important parts are left behind or forgotten after leaving a campsite in the early light.

G4free Outdoor Cookware Set

G4free Outdoor Cookware Set

Weight: 1.2 Pounds

Packability: Compact

Materials: Anodized Aluminum & Plastic

Items Included: 1- 1.25 Quart Pot, 1- 1 Quart Pot, 1- 2.5 Cup Pan, 1- 2 Cup Pan, Mesh Carrying Bag

Best Use: Cooking, Sports & Outdoors, Camping, Hiking, Backpacking, Travel

Description: G4Free Outdoor Cookware Set is small and mighty. It doesn’t have all the bells and whistles with added forks, knives or spoons, though. It just gives you the essential pots and pans and a guarantee they will last.

With the same tough anodized aluminum, these are built to last years and come with a handy mesh bag to ensure they are safe and sound once they are packed up. All pots and pans included slide into one another and maybe the best part of this package is that they left room for the important stuff.

It contains room in the center of all pans and pots to place those necessities like matches, small camping stoves, seasonings like salt and pepper, or a small sponge. This extra room keeps all of the important items together in one place for convenience on the trail. At 1.2 pounds this lightweight stack is also fairly small to pack away.

Folded away, it is under 7 inches in height and the diameter is 5.5 inches. Lightweight, easy to pack and store, and extra space to spare sounds like a backpackers dream come true.

Snow Peak Titanium Compact Cookware Set

Snow Peak Titanium Compact Cookware Set

Weight: 13 Ounces

Packability: Compact

Materials: Titanium

Items Included: 1- 1 Quart Pot, 1- .8 Quart Pot, 2- Pot Lids (Double as Frying Pans or Plates)

Best Use: Cooking, Sports & Outdoors, Camping, Hiking, Backpacking, Travel

Description: The Snow Peak Titanium Compact Cooking set might be simple, but it prides itself on being just what you need.

With only four pieces, two pots around one-quart capacity, and two lids that can double as pans or even plates, this set is perfect for the minimalist who still wants a warm meal. These items also weigh in under one pound, too!

They nest neatly together and even nest with other items of this brand. This makes it easy to upgrade and customize each trip depending on what you might be eating or who else is joining you on the trail.

Super lightweight, but durable titanium makes this pot set perfect for ultralight backpackers or those who move fast. Easy setup and cleanup save time and energy that you will need on the trails.

Optimus Terra HE Cookware Set

Optimus Terra He Cookware Set

Weight: 1.4 Pounds

Packability: Compact

Materials: Aluminum

Items Included: 2 Had Anodized Pots 1.65 Liter Teflon-Coated & 1.75 Liters Non-Coated & 1- 1.65 Liter Teflon-Coated Pan, Pot Grabber, Neoprene Storage Sack.

Best Use: Cooking, Sports & Outdoors, Camping, Hiking, Backpacking, Travel

Description: Versatility and convenience are brimming with the Optimus Terra Cookware Set. It comes with three main pieces, two pots and one pan but added features make it that much more useful.

A key benefit here is that one pot and one pan are teflon-coated and teflon is one of the most well-known pan coats that resist sticking. It makes cooking and frying so much easier knowing you won’t have to scrap and scratch to get the food residue off the pans.

These items store nicely together when they stack and can all be placed into a smooth neoprene sack for easy storage and retrieval. The stack nested together is highly convenient at only 4-5 inches tall with a diameter of just over 8 inches make it fairly packable considering its uses.

This is set is best for smaller camping groups but really does its job and makes cooking outdoors a breeze.

Lodge LCC3 Cast-iron Combo Cookware Set

Lodge LCC3 Cast-iron Combo Cookware Set

Weight: Approx. 8-20 Pounds

Packability: Non-Compact

Materials: Cast Iron & Silicon

Items Included: 1- 3 Quart Cast Iron Pan, 1- Shallow Cast-Iron Skillet, 1 Silicon Handle Holder

Best Use: Cooking, Sports & Outdoors, Camping, Hiking, Backpacking, Travel

Description: Cast-Iron pans are a league of their own and the Lodge LCC3 Cast-Iron Combo Cookware Set is no different. These are definitely non-compact and not lightweight either. An average cast-iron skillet alone can weight between six and eight pounds.

This isn’t for the ultralight backpackers by any means. The campers this is for are the ones who want a good hardy meal. This particular combo comes with one 3-quart cast-iron pan and a shallow cast-iron skillet that is 10.25 inches in diameter.

These two items alone are all that you would need to make a hardy meal in the woods, not to mention if you are traveling as a group! This makes great meals and can make them for numerous people with the size of these pieces.

A key feature in this combination set is the silicon handle holder. Cast-iron pans are heavy to move anyway, much less move them carefully when they are piping hot! The silicon holder is light and foldable and is essential to carry with these two sturdy pans.

Stansport Deluxe Aluminum Cookware Set

Stansport Deluxe Aluminum Cookware Set

Weight: Approx. 2.8 Pounds

Packability: Compact

Materials: Aluminum & Plastic

Items Included: 1- 9 inch Frying Pan/Lid, 1- 5.5 Quart Pot, 1- 1.5 Quart Pot, 1- 6 Cup Coffee Pot & Lid, 4 Plastic Plates, 4 Plastic Cups, Set of Salt & Pepper Shakers, 1 Frying Pan Handle

Best Use: Cooking, Sports & Outdoors, Camping, Hiking, Backpacking, Travel

Description: The Stansport Deluxe Aluminum Cookware Set is just that, deluxe! Designed for cooking in groups, it comes with a wide variety of pieces both big and small. Items include one frying pan, 2 sizes of pots, a handle that can attach to all, a 6-cup coffee pot with included lid, plates, cups, and even salt and pepper shakers.

This combination set is one of the fullest and you are definitely getting many pieces of cookware for your money. That being said, this package includes small pieces that are more likely to be lost, and although they are compact and stackable, there is no sort of storage bag for these items.

When stacked they are less than ten inches tall and around seven inches in diameter which is larger than some of the other compacts we have seen. It’s really better for group hikes or camping with children. One person may not need this complex cookware set, but for those in large numbers, you will be happy you have this many pieces to feed hungry mouths.

Coleman 12 Cup Stainless Steel Percolator

Coleman 12 Cup Stainless Steel Percolator

Weight: 1.8 Pounds

Packability: Non-Compact

Materials: Stainless Steel

Items Included: 1- 12 Cup Percolator

Best Use: Cooking, Sports & Outdoors, Camping, Hiking, Backpacking, Travel

Description: The Coleman 12-Cup Stainless Steel Percolator might need to be in its own list. Of course, it’s not compact and there aren’t various items to consider but there are some real positives to this percolator that might change your mind.

It might just be enough to take on a hiking trip and make everyone happy. Making up to twelve cups of tea or coffee and this percolator is completely erosion resistant.

It’s build to last. It’s not very tall for its liquid capacity and is less than ten inches in height and less than nine inches across including the handle. It’s got an easy pour spout and is proven to give you great tasting coffee for years and years.

MSR Titan Kettle

MSR Titan Kettle

Weight: 4.2 Ounces

Packability: Non-Compact

Materials: Titanium

Items Included: 1- .85 Liter Kettle & Lid

Best Use: Cooking, Sports & Outdoors, Camping, Hiking, Backpacking, Travel

Description: At a lightweight 4.2 ounces, the MSR Titan Kettle is also something you should not hit the trail without. This titanium kettle conducts heat quickly for fast morning coffee and is very easy to clean with rounded edges to minimize crevices that catch leftover water or coffee.

At a little over four inches tall, this is super easy to pack, too! It comes with a lid that will keep the heat it and prevent spills and burns.

This little kettle holds almost a full liter of liquid and would actually be the perfect compliment to the cookware set you use for eating. Perfect for one or two people to enjoy a hot beverage on a misty mountain morning.

GSI Outdoors Campfire Glacier Stainless Percolator

GSI Outdoors Campfire Glacier Stainless Percolator

Weight: 4 Pounds

Packability: Non-Compact

Materials: Stainless Steel

Items Included: 1 Percolator (Sizes Vary)

Best Use: Cooking, Sports & Outdoors, Camping, Hiking, Backpacking, Travel

Description: The GSI Outdoors Glacier Stainless Percolator is something you shouldn’t leave behind when packing either.

It quickly heats up your water with the corrosion-resistant, marine-grade stainless steel body. It has a carrying handle to prevent burns and an easy pour spout on a hinged lid to prevent spills of hot liquids.

It’s fairly heavy, coming in at about four pounds, but that weight will vary based on the size you choose. This percolator makes great-tasting coffee a breeze whether it’s just for you or for a whole group. It works well for coffee, tea, or just boiling yourself some clean, pure water for drinking and is an outdoor essential to a trip that feels like home.

Related: GSI Outdoors Campfire Glacier Stainless Percolator Sizes: 8- Cup, 14- Cup, 36- Cup

Let’s Get Cookin’!

There are many things to consider when choosing outdoor eating and drinking equipment. A lot of the decision comes down to size, practicality for you, and uses. Asking yourself if what you wish to bring is too large or too heavy is one main concern.

Any backpacker or hiker will tell you that weight does matter. We all wish we could take our full-blown espresso machines with us to use in the morning but that just isn’t a reality, unfortunately. We also have to realize that a 4-course meal is out of the question in the wild too.

Bring your Camping Cookware

When you are packing for a trip, weight and size matter because you are exploring the outdoors to test yourself. Testing your creativity and your ability to use a little as possible. This counts for food too.

What camping cookware do you use? Do you use a singular piece or do you have a compact set? Have you tried anything new or found something that you have liked in the past? Do you travel alone or with a group and how do you pack your meal and cookware for each situation?

Did you find this article helpful? If so, feel free to comment, share, or use any of the information above to help make your next trip outdoors more enjoyable for you and your stomach!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Daniel Carraway
Daniel Carraway

Daniel Carraway joined our team last year. He is a gear freak when it comes to hiking, climbing and camping. He went to REI Outdoor School to meet new people and learn best practices. Don’t even try to argue with him about the latest backpack or ice axe, he tried most of them. Daniel’s dream is to climb Mount Everest.

  • Kendra Larson

    I discovered an amazing pot – MSR Titan Kettle. Very light, holds plenty of water, and so far seems to be indestructible. Also, the handles are great (nothing on them to break, melt or peel off). I use this for camping all the time. Its my bowl for cereal or oatmeal, cup for tea or coffee, and kettle for meals and soups. 🙂

  • Daniel Carraway

    I recently discovered the sturdiness of Titanium and this kettle IS hardy alright! Nothing to fear like scratching or melting parts, that’s for certain. I love his pot since it heats the coffee so fast. It is an amazing all-around cookware that should be in your backpack when you’re headed on a camping trip.

  • Rachel Mohan

    I’m a big fan of MSR as a brand. They’re products are second to none and their customer service is just as great! I bought the MSR Quick 2 but went for the ‘Pot only’ option rather than buying everything as a system. I own the Trail Lit Duo so I already have the mugs and the plates (well, bowls actually but they’re just as good!) so I only needed some additional, bigger pots. MSR were quick to replace a lid that I had melted absentmindedly too – no questions asked.

  • Daniel Carraway

    Great to hear about your positive experience with the brand. I think having a good after sales service is an excellent way to extend goodwill to users. Besides, the MSR is a trusted brand and has an excellent following, as well! It really goes together with your Trail Lit Duo, which is awesome. 🙂

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