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Serious campers are going to build a serious hunger. When you’re roughing it you need to make sure you’re taking in adequate calories to keep going and while you could eat pre-packaged the whole time, a hot meal really hits the spot. Plus, there’s something about a meal you cooked while camping that just tastes better. No microwaves here!
Not all cookware is created equal, though. Some gear is designed for those of us who practically live in the woods and some will do the trick for the weekend warrior. Depending on what you’re cooking, how you’re cooking, and how many people you’re cooking for, there are a lot of considerations.
To cut through all the chaff that clutters up your searches for the best in camp cookware, we made this guide for you to showcase what we think are some of the best of the best based on a few criteria. Everything here should hit the mark for you and meet your needs depending on considerations like budget, the number of people camping, and even the style of camping you’re doing.
This won’t be the last time that you see GSI Outdoors on the list here, and that’s because this company has really put in the effort to make some of the most versatile and useful camping cookware on the market.
The Pinnacle camper cooking set not only features quality pots and a skillet, but it also features a number of useful extras that many cookware sets don’t include. To build a similar set would require a substantial investment in bits and pieces. We’re talking things like mugs, plates, a strainer, and a washbasin.
The cookware itself is anodized aluminum, making it non-stick, and very lightweight. The entire 23-piece kit weighs just 3.63 lb. Check out everything that’s included:
1 3L Pot
1 2L Pot
2 Strainer Lids
1 9″ Fry Pan
4 14 fl. oz. Mugs w/ Insulated Sleeves
4 14 fl. oz. Bowls
4 7.5″ Plates
4 Sip-It Tops
1 Folding Pot Gripper
1 Welded Sink
The only real concern with this set is the fact that the non-stick coating will come off eventually, and the pot handle does have a habit of getting a little hotter than you might like it to. Otherwise, this is one of the best options anywhere.
Some people swear by cast iron when they’re cooking on an open fire, and if you want that true rustic camp experience then the Lodge combo cooker is going to be your best bet. Good quality cast iron is known for its ability to hold and distribute heat very evenly, so you can expect a high-quality cook when you use this set.
Featuring a 10 and 1/4″ skillet/lid and a 3-quart saucepan, you can cook pretty much anything you’re going to want over the fire or the camp stove. They come fully seasoned already which means it has been heated and coated with oil multiple times to get a kind of baked-on coating that protects it from corrosion.
It wouldn’t hurt if you did a bit of seasoning on your own by oiling the cooking surface and letting it heat up a few times. You never want to use unseasoned cast iron as it’s notorious for corroding very quickly and the best way to be certain that your seasoning is up to par for a set like this is to do it yourself, just to make sure.
Also, be aware that the saucepan is flat bottomed. Pots that have flat bottoms can develop hot spots when used over coals, as opposed to those designed with tiny feet.
The big drawback to a set like this is going to be the weight. The saucepan and skillet together will add about 20 pounds to your pack. That means the set is better suited for camping when you have a vehicle handy in which to store your cookware.
When it comes to affordability and versatility, you can’t go wrong with the Redcamp camping cookware mess kit. Available in sets ranging from 9 pieces up to 23 pieces, these cooking sets are great for their affordable price points and remarkably low weight.
The 12-piece mini set is made from anodized aluminum and weighs under one pound, making it the most efficient set you’ll find in terms of weight and features these items:
1 5.9” Frying Pan
1 Medium 5.9” Anodized Aluminum Pot
1 Pot Cover
2 Bowls with 1 Soup Bowl
1 Survival Bracelet
1 Tool Card
1 Stainless Steel Folding Spoon
1 Storage Bag
As you can see it’s not a gigantic size, but it’s more than efficient for one person. Their 23-piece set can cook for up to four and only weighs 3.3lbs.
The Primus PrimeTech stove set really sets the bar for complete camp cooking sets. Cookware and stove together, the set is designed to maximize cooking quality while reducing the effect of the elements like wind.
The integrated burner features a windscreen, and you have the ability to adjust the flame intensity to ensure you’re not burning everything you cook. The pots are coated aluminum and include one ceramic-coated pot, a lockable handle, and a lid that doubles as a strainer.
The pots heat up fast and are consistent in their heating as well. The stove uses fuel canisters like typical camp stoves but the design greatly reduces fuel consumption while keeping the heat stable. This will save you time and effort, as well as money.
The entire set becomes cumbersome if you’re backpacking as carrying the fuel tanks is less than ideal, but if you have a vehicle handy then this could be a great option.
Made from 18/8 stainless steel and featuring 19 pieces, the Stanley adventure camp cook set is high enough quality that you could easily use these pots and pans at home.
The skillet really excels at browning meat and the heat distribution for all the pieces is above average, but you’ll still want to keep an eye out in case hotspots form.
Being stainless steel it’s remarkably durable so it should stand the test of time for you. As with any stainless steel though, cleaning can be a bit of a chore and will require some scouring if you’ve got a baked-on mess. It’s also worth noting that the set weighs around 5 lb, which is a little bulky compared to some others. If space is at a premium, this might not be the best choice. If you’re driving up to the campsite though, this will be a welcome addition to the trunk of the car.
If you’re looking for a cook set built for one that won’t take up a lot of room and still gets the job done reliably then the MalloMe camping cookware mess kit could be a good choice for you. This tiny set is a very budget-conscious option and weighs just 1.17 lb. Since it comes with its own mesh bag for storage and travel, you can easily hang this off of a backpack and it will mostly stay out of the way.
Given the price point, you’re not getting the highest quality cookware on the market when you go for this kit. It’s also only suited for a single person so it’s not the kind of thing you’re going to bring along on a family camping trip. That said, if you’re not super gung-ho about your cookware and looking to invest a lot of time and money into a kit, and this will definitely get the job done for you without breaking the bank.
The 10-piece kit includes:
1 1L Anodized Aluminum Nonstick Pot
1 Pot Cover
1 Nonstick Pan
2 BPA Free Bowls
1 Folding Stainless Steel Spork
1 BPA Free Soup Spoon
1 Wooden Spoon Spatula
1 Cleaning Sponge
1 Nylon Travel Bag Drawstring Pouch
Perfect Marshmallow Roasting and Smores Making Guide with 10 recipes in case you’re not 100% confident in your Smores game.
Similar to the GSI Pinnacle set, the GSI Bugaboo base camper is a little more cost-effective and features a more basic set of items that are still at the same high level of quality. The set is great for cooking reasonably sized meals for up to three people.
The pots and pans in the set are Teflon coated to ensure that your food won’t stick and it really makes clean up easy at the end. In fact, the storage bag also doubles as a cleanup sink. Be aware that metal utensils will scratch that surface off.
This version doesn’t feature all the extras that you’ll get in the Pinnacle, instead, it’s made up of the following:
When it comes to value for your money, the Snow Peak Personal Cooker 3 is definitely one to check out. While it may not be as versatile as some of the other cookware we’ve listed, the lifetime guarantee means that if something goes catastrophically wrong, at least the company has your back.
You can tell from the picture there aren’t a lot of frills and gimmicks going on with this one, and it’s true that it’s a very simple set. It heats quickly and is very durable since it’s made from stainless steel. The pot is great for heat retention and if you’re making tea or coffee for yourself, or a pot of soup, you can expect it to stay at a hot temperature for quite a while.
On the downside, you need to watch out for those hot spots while cooking, and the plate that comes with it is on the small side. Another potential problem is the skillet can be very inconsistent with cooking. Those hot spots we mentioned really come into play with this, possibly due to the thickness of the metal.
Overall, it’s a great set for the single backpacker, or a couple camping together if you have extra plates and bowls. The set includes:
If you’re serious about keeping it light when you’re camp cooking, and by that we mean it’s just you and your backpack living as simply as you can out in the woods, then the MSR Trail Mini solo cookset is going to be the best bet on the market for you.
Make no mistake, this is not a seriously sophisticated cooking set. You won’t be grilling up steaks, making cakes, or even complex meals with this. What you will be able to do is heat stuff efficiently and quickly and keep yourself fed while you focus on the more fun aspects of being in the woods.
Weighing in at a barely-there 7.2 oz, the Trail Mini is as small as its name implies. The anodized aluminum pot can hold 0.75 L, and when you pack it away it can also hold its own Pocketrocket stove and fuel canister.
As we said, this is not for cooking a big camp breakfast with eggs, bacon, and hash browns. Instead, this is the sort of thing you’ll use to heat up water for soup or maybe boil some pasta or beans.
When it comes to bare bones camp cooking, this is a great option for the Spartan camper who doesn’t want to be weighed down.
Roughing it means different things to different people and how rough you get when you’re camping really depends on your own comfort level. If you’re not willing to sacrifice your gourmet tendencies, then the GSI Outdoors gourmet kitchen set might be a good option for you.
This kit isn’t pots and pans, it’s the accessories you need to elevate your food from bacon and eggs cooked over open fire to a tasty and well-made feast that maximizes your ability to produce a high-quality meal under difficult circumstances.
You can use this kit to whisk up some light and fluffy scrambled eggs, or even a simple cake batter that can be cooked over a fire. The cutting board ensures a little more control and efficiency over how you prep your food and there’s even a camp towel to keep things neat and tidy.
The 11 piece set includes:
1 collapsible whisk
1 pivot spoon
1 pivot spatula
1 spice shaker
2 condiment containers
1 cutting board
1 camp towel
1 ballistic nylon case
Obviously this kit needs to accompany one of the other cookware sets that we’ve listed if you’re interested. If you don’t want to sacrifice the quality and preparation of your food just because you’re camping, this adds another level to camp cooking that every other kit will ignore.
Expands range of what you can cook
Still requires separate cookware set
Choosing the Best Camping Cookware: What You Need to Know
What qualifies as quality cookware and what should you be taking into consideration before you head into the great outdoors for a weekend or longer? These are the factors you want to be checking out before you commit to any camp cookware purchase.
As with most cookware, whether for home use or for camping, there are a few materials available for you.
Aluminum: Aluminum has long been a standard for camp cookware and a lot of vintage cooking tools will be pure aluminum. It’s great for heat distribution and ultra-lightweight, but it should be avoided around high heat and when cooking anything acidic as aluminum will react with your food, potentially leaching into what you’re cooking. The best bet is to get a stainless steel set with aluminum cladding or anodized aluminum so that there is a protective coating between the metal and your food.
Stainless Steel: The standard for cookware is stainless steel. It’s durable, versatile, corrosion resistant, and relatively light. When coated with a layer of aluminum or copper on the base, it will distribute heat evenly and cook well. If it’s pure stainless steel be wary, however. Stainless alone is very prone to hot spots and burning food.
Titanium: Titanium is a great material for cookware but you will feel the difference in your wallet. Titanium camp cookware is rare but not unheard of. It’s extremely durable, offers great heat distribution, and tends to be light. The biggest downside is the elevated cost.
Ceramic: Ceramic coatings are great for clean up as they are non-stick and offer good heat distribution. They may not be as resilient and durable as some other materials, though.
Non-Stick: A lot of camp cookware comes with non-stick coatings like Teflon. This makes cleanup in a place where dishwashers are not an option a little easier, but be aware that non-stick coatings can scrape off when used with metal utensils and could leach into foods.
Cast Iron: Some people swear by cast iron for cooking and a good cast iron pan that has been properly seasoned could last you a lifetime. In terms of camp cooking, there’s that quintessential rustic image of a cast iron skillet or pot over an open fire cooking eggs or beans we’ve all seen. Be aware though, cast iron is costly and heavy. A 15” cast iron skillet can weigh around 10 lbs.
One of the chief differences between camp cookware and home cookware is the weight. If you’re hauling everything you have with you on your back, space is at a premium and your muscles can only handle so much. Even if you’re packing up the SUV to handle most of the work, you only have so much room.
Keep an eye on weights when you’re shopping for your camping cookware and consider if you have both space and the ability to carry it all around with you.
At home, you’ve probably got a full set of dishes, utensils, and as many pots and pans as you’ll need to cook any meal. When you’re camping, you need to be a little more practical. If you are hiking through the woods alone then you only need one pot, one spork, and one plate, right? There are many camping cookware sets that you can buy suited for 1 to 4 people so make sure you’re checking out the size of the meals it’s intended to cook.
Camping cookware has evolved from the days of cooking beans in their own can over some coals. Much of the cookware you can get is still pretty simple overall, but there are more complicated and involved items that you can pick up. You need to decide if what you need is a simple skillet, or do you need a professional cooking set that includes a variety of spices, a whisk, and more.
How you are planning to cook your food can be as important as what you’re going to cook it with. Most camp cooking is done either over an open fire or a small camp stove. You need to remember that open fire cooking is very unpredictable in terms of heat, so the materials and kind of cookware you choose can have a big effect on the quality of the cook. A stainless steel pot in a pile of coals could get much hotter than you intended it to.
Prices for these sets range from as little as about $20 to around $250 or more. For some people, camping is just a fun weekend in the woods and the experience is more about spending time with friends and family, maybe having a few drinks, and doing some fishing. The cookware is really an afterthought in situations like this and maybe a really cheap set that you only use two or three more times in your life is all you need.
If you are a hardcore outdoors person and you spend as much time in the trees as you do in your own house then you want to invest in some cookware that’s going to stand the test of time and offer consistent cook quality time and again. That kind of investment is going to cost more money, but you’re also going to get your money’s worth out of it.
If this isn’t the kind of thing you do all the time, there is no harm in buying a more reasonably priced option. Everything listed here is going to get the job done for you, it all depends on your needs and preferences whether you feel it’s worth the investment to get a higher price, higher quality cookware set.
When you’re exposed to the elements, the durability of your cookware is more of a factor that it will be at home. You can expect that your cookware is going to experience a lot of rough treatment that makes it susceptible to dents and scrapes. As well, there are issues of rust and corrosion you need to be aware of. Cheap cookware can start to degrade on you very quickly. The trade-off here is that higher durability almost always comes with higher weight so you need to strike a balance to determine what will best suit your needs.
Just remember, a scorched pot can shut down a camping trip pretty quickly if it’s no longer reliable for cooking food, so make sure you know what you’re using before you head out.
How You’re Camping
How you cook when you’re camping really depends on how you’re camping. For some people, camping means taking an RV to a trailer park where you have plumbing, electricity, and access to a general store. Basically, it is all the conveniences of home, but not at home. In situations like this, the kind of cookware you use is often of little concern because you’re not technically roughing it.
The far end of the spectrum is you alone in the woods with a backpack, a tent, and an open fire. The elements that you’re going to be exposed to, the way you’re going to store and transport your cookware, and the method you’re going to use the heat up the cookware are all based on how you’re camping and have to factor into what kind of cookware is going to best serve your needs.
If you have limited access to fresh water, you may not want stainless steel pots that require some serious scouring to wash clean. If you’re only using an open fire and hot coals for cooking, maybe cast iron would be best.
As you can see, there are a lot of great choices for cookware from low price to high price, from low-skill to gourmet chef. Go with what seems like it will work best for you and enjoy your time in the great outdoors.
My grandfather first took me fishing when I was too young to actually hold up a rod on my own. As an avid camper, hiker, and nature enthusiast I'm always looking for a new adventure.
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