Refueling after a long day of backpacking is really important. Sometimes freeze-dried meals will do the trick, but other times, you might find yourself longing for a proper hot meal.
This is where the best backpacking cookware comes in, to give you that extra bit of comfort through a freshly cooked meal, while you’re high up in the mountains or deep inside a forest.
My goal with product review articles like this is to help make your life just a little bit simpler when it comes to choosing all kinds of gear for camping and hiking.
Today, I’ll be helping you find the best cookware to fit your backpacking needs. We will also be discussing some of the things you should look for when making your selection.
Main Factors To Consider
Normally, when selecting cookware for camping, the first thing you need to think about is if you will be using it for car camping or backpacking. In this article, I will be focusing more on cookware that is best for backpacking.
For backpacking, the main factors to look for are the weight, size, packability, and material used by the cooking sets.
Weight, Size And Packability
Weight is a key factor when backpacking. It is hard enough to walk many miles up and down mountains that you don’t want to add any unnecessary weight. Remember that you’ll be carrying your cookware in your bag the entire time.
Camping cookware usually ranges between 1.2lbs all the way to 3lbs. This, of course, depends on the actual items in the set. The weight of each set can be reduced or increased by selecting what specific items you really need.
In terms of the pot size, backpacking cookware will have an average diameter of about 4 to 5 inches, and when packed or stacked together, will measure around 5 to 7 inches.
Depending on how long your trip is and how much is already packed in your bag, you need to choose the weight and size that is appropriate for your needs.
If you’re going on a very long hiking trip and need to pack a lot of things, look for a cooking set that is as light and small as possible. But if you’re going on a short day trip with minimal hiking, you can pick slightly bigger or heavier sets.
Finally, when it comes to packability, I believe that you need to make sure that all the items nest together easily. This is the best way to save space – no exceptions.
You want all of the pieces to fit inside the biggest pot in the set, with no bits and pieces hanging out or sticking out.
There are a lot of different material options out there for camping cookware. Here are some of the most common materials used, as well as their pros and cons.
- Aluminum:Aluminum is lightweight and affordable. It is a good conductor of heat and won’t burn your food; however, it breaks down little by little when exposed to acidic foods. Aluminum also gets scratches and dents easily.
- Anodized Aluminum:Anodized aluminum is an oxidized version of aluminum. It is scratch and abrasion resistant, and very durable.
- Stainless steel:Stainless steel is tougher and more scratch-resistant than aluminum, but the problem with stainless steel is that it is heavy and does not heat evenly.
- Titanium:Titanium is extremely lightweight while still remaining strong. It heats up quickly without the need of too much heat. Titanium is more expensive than the other options though, and has a tendency to heat unevenly. It is important that you don’t overheat titanium pots.
- Plastic:Plastic is used more for bowls and utensils. It is lightweight, cheap, and does not scratch. However, plastic is not heat-resistant, and can be flimsy.
- Non-stick coating:This is sort of a bonus that some cooking sets may have. The good thing about non-stick coating is that it makes cleaning a lot easier. But non-stick coatings can be a bit sensitive and can get scratched easily.
After considering those main factors and deciding what you need most, there are just a few more details that you may want to look at before making your final selection.
Individual Vs. Set
You can purchase cookware either individually or by a set. Sets will come with designated pieces that are designed to nest and fit well together. Some sets may even have mugs, utensils, and cleaning items.
When purchasing individual pieces, you get the freedom to choose exactly what you need and can customize your selections based on the type of trip you are taking.
Personally, I prefer sets because they usually come already complete and with a bag to pack it all neatly together.
Cleaning And Ease Of Use
After a long day of hiking, the last thing you’ll want is to struggle with unpacking your cookware just to make a meal. You also don’t want one that is so difficult to clean, and even more difficult to nest and pack away.
My advice is to look for pots that are non-stick to help with cleaning. Also, try to find sets that pack away neatly and come with a bag or some sort of system to lock everything in place.
Finally, aim for a pot with a high and even heat output. This will help cook your food a lot faster.
My final piece of advice regarding cleaning is that when you get home, pop all of your cookware in the dishwasher (if it’s dishwasher safe), or wash them properly in the sink one more time before storing them away.
Be sure everything is dry and completely clean of food, because food residue can damage certain materials of your cookware when stored over time.
Top 5 Best Backpacking Cookware
Now that you know about the different types of materials and some of the important factors to look at when selecting your backpacking cookware, let’s move on to my top five picks.
#1: MSR Quick 2 System
The first cookware set on the list comes from MSR that comes with 8 different pieces: a 1.5L non-stick pot, 2.5L hard-anodized pot, strainer lid, 2pc deep dish plates, 2pc double-wall insulated mugs, and 1 Talon pot handle.
The entire set weighs 1.76lbs, which is just about average. The full set packs away and nests inside the 2.5L pot with the handle flipped over the top. This way, it becomes a single, self-contained system.
When nested together, the entire set measures 7.8 inches tall and has a diameter of 5.3 inches.
The largest pot has a metal lip to help you strain liquids that I find really useful, especially when it comes to rehydrating dried food.
- Easy to wash
- Strong and secure handles
- Deep dish plates
- Good and even heat output
- A bit bulky
- No utensils in the set
#2: Winterial Camping Cookware
The camping cookware set from Winterial is a whopping 11-piece set made from solid and light aluminum oxide. It is a great starter pack and perfect for backpacking newbies.
The set includes a pot, frying pan, tea kettle, serving ladle, 2 bowls, serving spoons, cleaning sponge, and a carry bag. The pot, pan, and teakettle are made of aluminum while the bowls, lid, serving spoon, and ladle are made of plastic.
The entire set weighs 1.8lbs and nests together inside the sack with a drawstring closure and measures 7.4” x 4.8”.
A cool feature with the handles of this set is that it collapses back and “wraps” around the pot and pan, instead of over the top like the MSR Quick 2 System. This type of handle feels very strong and secure.
- Best “bang for your buck”
- You can reduce the weight by selecting specific pieces
- Good handles
- Pieces are versatile
- A lot of unnecessary accessories
- Bowls are small
- Some food might stick to the pan
#3: G4Free Outdoor Camping Set
The G4Free is a simple but very lightweight set with 4 pieces – a 1.3L pot, 1L pot, and 2 lids that can also function as bowls, helping you reduce the amount of cookware you need to bring. It also comes with a mesh bag to pack the set in.
However, you can “upgrade” and go for the 13pc set, which includes 3 plastic bowls, a foldable knife/fork/spoon, wooden spatula, carabineer, sponge, 2 mesh bags, and a mini stove.
The 4pc set weighs only 1.2lbs and packs to the size of 5.5 inches in diameter and 6.6 inches tall, making it great for ultralight backpacking.
In terms of material, the pots and lid are made of anodized aluminum, while the handles are made of silicone.
The cylindrical shape of the set also allows you to easily fit an entire cooking system inside it. Additionally, similar to the Winterial Cookset, the handles of the G4Free fold and wrap around the cookware, allowing it to be more compact.
- Compact & portable
- All pieces are useful
- Silicone handles can melt easily
- Uneven and low heat conduction
#4: Stanley Adventure Cook Set
Our next cooking set comes from Stanley. This is a 7 piece set that weighs 2.8lbs and measures 7” x 5.1” x 7.1” when packed and nested together.
The pots are made of stainless steel that is rust proof and scratch resistant and have a capacity of 1.5L. Both pots come with a lid that is also made of stainless steel.
The two bowls have a capacity of 20oz and have lids included that are durable, vented, and BPA-free. The set also comes with a ladle and spatula, both with detachable handles for easier packing.
The Stanley Cook Set also comes with a foldable chopping board, which none of the other sets on this list have.
- Compact nesting
- Scratch resistant
- Good for two people (or you can reduce the set if you’re solo)
- Too heavy for multi-day use/ultralight backpacking
- Slightly pricey
#5: Bisgear Camping Cookware Set
Our final cookware set comes from Bisgear and is available as a 12pc set or a 16pc set that are slightly different depending on which exact set you select.
Two of the 16pc sets are available in black or orange, and include the following:
Stainless steel spork, spoon, fork, knife, mini stove with piezo ignition, non-stick pot, non-stick frying pan, pan cover, 2 BPA-free plastic bowls, plastic soup spoon, rice ladle, sponge, carabineer, and nylon bag.
The other 16pc set that is available in green includes the following:
A stainless steel knife, fork, spoon, mini stove, mini stove pocket, medium anodized aluminum pot, small anodized aluminum pot, canister stand tripod, dishcloth, wine opener, carabiner, and mesh bag.
Finally, the 12pc set has the same items as the green 16pc set; however, the spoon, fork and bottle opener are combined into one multi-tool.
The sets weigh 1.2lbs – 1.6lbs depending on the specific set, and measures 4” x 6.6” x 6.7”. The pots are made of non-stick, anodized aluminum, while the utensils are foldable and made of stainless steel.
- Nests well into a mesh bag
- Friendly price
- Easy to clean and set up
- Too many unnecessary things
- Uneven heat distribution
- Problems with the tank
It can be hard to decide between all these pretty amazing backpacking cookware sets, but to me, the winner would have to be the Winterial Camping Cookware.
This is because it is very light at only 1.5lbs, which is very important when it comes to backpacking. It has a lot of different accessories and items that you can choose not to bring to further bring the weight of the set down.
Since it is made of aluminum, it will be easy to use because aluminum is a good conductor of heat. You just need to remember to wash it gently and thoroughly.
The cookware pieces are sturdy, durable, and highly versatile, making it a simple and perfect beginner starter kit, especially if you are just starting out with backpacking.