When I go out camping, a lot of the times my friends and other people ask me how I manage to make meals for my family without having to resort to those instant, freeze-dried meals.
Don’t get me wrong – freeze dried meals can be a real lifesaver, and sometimes your only means for food, especially when you are out on extended or multi-day camping trips.
But for general camping use, I have one little secret – I use the best camping cookware I can find. That way, I am able to give my husbands and two sons a warm and fresh “home cooked” meal, even when we’re out on the trail.
This is especially true when we go car camping since I have the freedom to bring more gear, more food options, and all my heavy-duty cookware.
So for this article, I’ll be focusing on cookware that you can use when car camping. If you’re looking for lighter options that are meant for backpacking or multi-day hikes, you can check out my other articles for backpacking cookware.
There are a few things you need to consider when selecting your camping cookware. One of which is the material of the pots and pans, because each material has its own special characteristics.
These are five of the most commonly used materials when it comes to camping cookware (or even regular cookware for that matter).
This is usually a top choice for camping cookware. Hard-Anodized Aluminum is made when regular aluminum goes through an electrochemical process that makes it more durable and corrosion resistant.
The process also makes it three times thicker than regular aluminum. Hard-anodized aluminum is usually combined with a non-stick coating, so proper care is needed for it to last.
Hard-anodized aluminum conducts heat well, is lightweight, and easy to clean. It is perfect for making real, fresh meals.
Aluminum is an affordable choice that is also lightweight and provides good heat conduction. Aluminum usually has a fast cooking time but it may react with acidic food. It is not as strong as it dents and warps easily.
Titanium is a favored choice for backpacking because it is really lightweight. It is also fast heating, however, it heats unevenly. Titanium can also be really expensive.
Stainless Steel is another popular material to use. It is durable and scratch resistant, making it great for heavy-duty use. The problem with stainless steel is that it has a tendency to cook unevenly.
Performance-wise, it is between titanium and aluminum.
Lastly, cast iron is a great material to use because it can last a lifetime with proper care. It cooks food evenly and is naturally non-stick. It is great for cooking or baking over the stove or even a campfire.
Cast iron is not a good choice to use for backpacking because it is really heavy, but with car camping, it works wonders!
Now we move on to my buying advice for you, depending on certain features when it comes to camping cookware.
1. Cleaning and Care
This is a really important factor since you will most likely be cooking for your entire family, and either you or someone else is going to have to clean all of it.
Try to go for non-stick coating so it will be easier to clean. Aluminum pots can also be good but you need to be careful not to scratch it. If you choose an aluminum pan, use a delicates sponge.
Cast iron, on the other hand, has a specific way to clean it, so refer to the user manual before proceeding to cleaning your cast iron pot or pan.
TIP: When you get home, clean your set one more time before storing it away. This way, all residue you may have missed will be properly cleaned away, which can help make your cookware last alot longer.
2. Number of Items
The number of items you get relates to how many of you will be using it, or how many people you plan on cooking for.
If it’s just you and your partner, you can opt for smaller sets. But if you are a large family, try to look for sets that come with a lot of pieces. Or you can buy two different sets so you get a variety of different items.
For the best value, try to find sets with accessories like utensils included such as mugs, plates, bowls, utensils, chopping boards, cleaning towels, etc.
3. Weight and Portability
Luckily, when selecting cookware for car camping, you have a bit more freedom than you would for backpacking, since 99% of the time, all your gear and equipment will be stored in the car.
But what you may want to look for is its portability, or how well it collapses in on itself. If you can find a set that can nest really well into one large pot, you’ll have more space in your car to pack other gear and equipment you might need.
When it comes to versatility, try to go for an all-around set that is as complete as possible. Look for items that you will need, such as a shallow frying pan and a deep cooking pot.
Try to look for sets that have bowls or plates included as well so you won’t have to purchase a separate set.
Most pots and pans will have a flat bottom construction, but try to go for the flat ones since that is the most ideal to use for portable burner stoves or grills.
When you’re cooking for your whole family, you’ll need cookware that can conduct heat quickly and cook fast. Or else you will be faced with a bunch of hungry mouths asking you, “how much longer???”
Cooking efficiency depends on factors such as the material used, the color of the cookware, the diameter, and the height of your pots and pans.
Darker colored pots, especially those with a darker bottom are the most fuel-efficient because they conduct heat faster.
Pots with a wider diameter are also more efficient than tall and thin pots, since there is a wider surface area that is exposed to the flame, so the heat transfers faster.
As much as possible, try to look for pots and pans that are closest to the diameter of the burner you are using, for the best cooking efficiency possible.
Best Camping Cookware – 2020
Since there are tons of cookware that you can find even on Amazon alone, I’ll help you out with my top five picks for camping cookware. As a reminder, these are cookware best for car camping, and not backpacking.
1. Stanley Adventure: Two Pot Prep + Cook Set
First on the list is a cookware set from Stanley. It is made from stainless steel and it is rustproof.
Included in the set are two stainless steel pots with lids, a folding cutting board, a collapsible spatula, a ladle, and two bowls also with lids. The two pots are great so you can cook more meals at a time.
The two pots have a capacity of 1.5L or about 1.58 quarts.All the pieces nest together nicely so you have more space to pack your other utensils.
It’s a very durable set, so it’s best for heavy use – you know, for your really large family who likes to eat all the time! You can use it over your regular portable stove, or over an open fire.
- Nests nicely together
- Scratch-resistant and easy to clean
- Very price friendly – you can buy two sets for the price of some other sets
- Only a few pieces, with no utensils included
2. Lodge Cast Iron Camp Dutch Oven
The Lodge Cast Iron Camp Dutch Oven comes in a 5-quart, 8-quart, and 10-quart variation, with prices ranging from $54 to $126. This is a large enough pot to cook for a large family with an even larger appetite!
The Lodge Dutch Oven has legs integrated into it so you can place it over the campfire for cooking.
Lodge has been making pots for over 120 years, in South Pittsburg, Tennessee, with their cast iron pans known for their high-quality design, lifetime durability, and cooking versatility.
The Dutch Oven comes with a Camp Cooking 101 cookbook that has tons of recipes you can try for your family.
- Great heat efficiency
- Heavy-duty and high capacity
- Comes with cleaning instructions that are easy to follow
- Heavy, but will be fine for car camping
- The lid might not always fit exactly
3. Magma Products Stainless Steel Cookware
This cookware set from Magma is specifically designed for RVs and boats and can be compatible with induction cooktops. It is made from marine-grade, mirror polished stainless steel, making it look really wonderful.
The whole set stacks up together and can be secured with a bungee cord that’s included in the set.
Included in the set are three sauce pans (1.5 quarts, 2 quarts, and 3 quarts) with interchangeable lids, a 5-quart pot, and a frying pan that is 9.5” in diameter with a lid. Finally, it comes with two removable handles and a storage cord.
The set is oven and dishwasher safe as well for easy cleanup and great versatility.
- Easy to clean (dishwasher safe)
- Nests nicely together
- Even cooking
- Very pricey
4. Winterial Camping Cookware and Pot
The next set on the list comes from Winterial. Backpackers also use this set because it is really lightweight – weighing only 1.5 pounds. It is also very compact and can be stored together in the carry case.
The set includes a 2-quart pot with lid, a 1-quart frying pan, a tea kettle, serving ladle, a personal bowl, a serving spoon/spatula, cleaning sponge, and carry bag.
The pieces are made of aluminum oxide, with a non-stick Teflon coating for easy cleaning.
Since it is quite cheap and there are only a few pieces in the set, you can also buy two sets if you have a really big family.
- Lightweight and compact
- Friendly price
- Handles are strong and heat-resistant
- Can get difficult to clean over time
- A bit small
- Non-stick is not very good
5. Sea To Summit X Set 33
Last on our list comes from Sea to Summit. The set includes a large 2.8L pot, a 1.3L kettle, and an 8” frying pan. The three pieces nest together for easy transport and to save some space.
The material of this set is a bit unique in that it is a mix. The base is made of hard-anodized aluminum, while the body of the pot and kettle are made from BPA free, food-grade, heat-resistant silicone.
The body is made of silicone because they can actually collapse to save even more space.
What’s great about Sea To Summit is that their other products are made this way, such as their plates, bowls, cups, and even portable sink.
- Collapses and nests together
- Easy to clean
- Heats up quickly
- Great size for a large family
- Only comes with pots, so you’ll have to buy plates and utensils
It’s quite tough to decide because all of these products are great. But I would have to say my favorite is the Stanley Adventure Two Pot Prep + Cook Set.
My favorite thing about it is that it comes with a foldable cutting board, a spatula, and a ladle. This is great because I love preparing fresh meals and having a chopping board really helps.
The bowls are also pretty large so you can fit a lot of food in them. Sometimes my kids even eat out of the pot, so the number of items in this set is great for my family and me.
They also pack nicely together so there’s still a lot of space for extra plates and our other utensils as well.
Which one is your favorite? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
Until next time!
Last update on 2021-06-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API