The 5 best camping cookware sets for backpacking and car camping
- A great set of camping cookware lets you prepare quality meals while car camping or in the backcountry.
- The best camp set should have pots, pans, plates, utensils, and storage containers, all built to last.
- Our top pick, the GSI Bugaboo Camper Cookset, has cooking gear for four plus mugs and is easy to clean.
Everyone has a different approach to dinner at camp, but at the end of the day, every camping or backpacking trip requires some kind of kitchen setup.
At the very least, you need a camping stove, a reliable pot or two, and a plate or bowl. But the more gourmet among us would appreciate some kind of sauté pan, potentially also a mug for morning coffee or a kettle for boiling water.
With a good set of camping cookware, you can move beyond the basic need for nutrition and prepare meals that are truly tasty — and may even resemble what you’d whip up at home.
As happens with so many who find themselves spending more time hiking and camping, I went through an evolutionary process with the gear I use. For cookware, I bought my first set for five or six dollars at an army surplus store. It was made of thin, stamped aluminum, and after only a few uses, the metal tarnished with exposure to moisture, the pot and pan discolored from the flame of the stove, and all the components became so warped and dented that the set no longer fit together properly.
In retrospect, I got what I paid for. And I wish I had known how many high-quality camp cooking sets you can get for a modest price. There is plenty of great camp cookware available between $20 and $30 that are designed to last for years of use with proper care.
Here is the best camping cookware:
- Best camping cookware overall: GSI Bugaboo Camper Cookset
- Best budget camping cookware: MalloMe 10-Piece Cookware Mess Kit
- Best lightweight camping cookware: Snow Peak Titanium Multi Compact Cookset
- Best stainless steel camping cookware: Stansport 360 Stainless Steel Mess Kit
- Best versatile camping cookware: Winterial 10-Piece Camping Set
Updated on 4/20/2021 by Rachael Schultz: Updated copy and checked all prices and links
The best overall
The GSI Bugaboo Camper Cookset comes with just about everything you need to prepare and serve a fine meal for four, including a pot and pan, cups, and bowls.
Pros: Has everything to serve four, lightweight, compact
Cons: Teflon coating, while nonstick, prevents metal utensil use, no utensils included, flimsy plates, not dishwasher-safe
I’ve taken the GSI Bugaboo far and wide and even keep it, along with a small stove, in my boat bag and car lest I end up on an island with fresh fish, or stranded on a dirt road, and have no way to toss together a meal.
This kit has exactly what you need to cook and serve a full three-course meal for four. It comes with a 3-liter pot, a 2-liter pot, a frying pan, and bowls, mugs, and plates for all. Despite use over several years and being dragged across several continents, this kit is still in flawless shape. Just make sure to keep any metal utensils away from the non-stick lining, and definitely don’t try to place the pots or pan in the fire.
Drawbacks to consider with the Bugaboo are any issues you may have with the flimsiness of the plates, (though the little cups work great) the nonstick Teflon coating, and the fact that you can’t place the dishes in the dishwasher after your camping trip. — Owen Burke
The best budget
The MalloMe 10-Piece Cookware Mess Kit has all the lightweight but durable pot, pan, and cooking accessories you need for a great price.
Pros: Great low price, easy to clean, comes with multiple accessories
Cons: Pot and pan are too small for some meals/users
There is a lot to like about the MalloMe 10-Piece Cookware Mess Kit, but let’s be honest: The best part is the small price. At less than 22 bucks, this is one of the cheapest camp cooking sets you can buy that’s not made of cheap, inferior materials.
The pot, pan, and lid are fabricated from FDA-approved anodized aluminum and have folding heat-insulated nonslip grips. You get two BPA-free bowls, a folding spork made out of stainless steel, a wooden cooking spatula, and a soup spoon.
Why the kit comes with two bowls yet only one spoon and one spork, I have to admit I don’t really understand. Two spoons and two forks or two sporks would have made more sense to me, but as those are really just bonus accessories, let’s give them a pass here. What counts are the one-liter pot and the nonstick pan, both of which are well made and lightweight. In fact, the whole kit weighs only 1.2 pounds.
Oh, and when you use the included sponge, this nonstick cookware cleans up easily, which you’ll appreciate as you probably have to stow your pot and pan in your backpack next to your clothing and sleeping bag.
The best lightweight set
Snow Peak’s Titanium Multi Compact Cookset is everything we love about Snow Peak. It’s lightweight, practical, ergonomic, and durable.
Pros: Lightweight, versatile, practical
Cons: Prone to hot spots, doesn’t fit or include everything you’ll need to dish up dinner
Snow Peak’s Titanium Multi Compact Cook Set comes with one-liter and .75-liter pots, a lid that doubles as a 12-ounce saucepan, and a 17-ounce frying pan, which all pack into a storage bag at a manageable 6.2 x 4 inches, weighing only 11.6 ounces. It’s pretty spartan and isn’t the best at evenly distributing heat (at least not the way hard-anodized aluminum or steel are), but it gets you to and fro with ease. It’s also a good option for boiling because of how thinly it can be made.
With two pots and two frying pans, you’re pretty well set with this kit, and with a little imagination, there are very few things that you can’t cook in it. Add in the fact that you can fit a 110-gram fuel canister? All you need is a lightweight burner and a trusty lighter and you’re more or less set to go.
Now, this is an expensive kit. You could go wild with Snow Peak and get your burner, utensils, tableware, and all, and it wouldn’t be the worst move, but it would, be forewarned, be pricey.
But all in all, we think it’s worth the price. It’s easy to destroy cheap cookware, especially when camping, and maybe occasionally placing it directly over a campfire. Titanium, however, happens to be one of the more durable materials. Give it a good soaking after a rough trip and it’s just about good as new.
The best stainless steel
The Stansport 360 Stainless Steel Mess Kit is perfect for the needs of a single camper, providing both cookware and a dining dish.
Pros: Great price for good quality, copper plating spreads heat, lasts for years
Cons: Too small for more than one person portions, knob too shallow on pot lid
This Stansport 360 Stainless Steel Mess Kit has a classic, heritage feel, and though this cookware set is modeled after a classic army mess kit, it has a modern quality of materials.
This set is made using high-quality stainless steel with copper bottoms that help distribute heat evenly. It’s the same blend of metals you would find in many high-end Calphalon or All-Clad pots and pans.
You might notice that at just under $23, this is the least expensive set on the list, yet I’m not billing it as the lowest price choice. That’s because many sets that cost only two or three dollars more come with multiple accessories, like bowls and spoons and such.
This kit is perfect for one person who needs to boil some water, cook a meal, and use a plate off of which to eat, though. Whereas many kits are notable for being comprehensive, this mess kit is elegantly simple.
While the 1.2-pound Stansport 360 Stainless Steel Mess Kit outweighs many camping cookware sets by a few ounces, it packs down into a narrow disc. The pot, pan, and dish will last for years if you clean and maintain them properly.
The best versatile
The Winterial 10-Piece Camping Set might be excessive for some, but we think it’s got just the right amount of accessories for those who predominantly boil, be it rice, couscous, pasta, or water for tea, coffee, dehydrated foods, or simple purification.
Pros: Well-rounded, lightweight (for what it is), all you need except utensils
Cons: Not the sturdiest set (especially when it comes to the plastic components)
A kettle may seem like overkill, but in reality, the majority of camp cooking and drinking is done by just adding boiling water to dehydrated foods. Sure, you can use a pot, but a kettle streamlines spillage and potential burns — and is immensely convenient if you’re the first person up trying to make coffee.
The included kettle is just one perk of this kit: Apart from the saucepan, frying pan, and kettle, you’ll get a ladle, a couple of handy (if somewhat flimsy) plastic bowls, a little spatula, a hot pad that also doubles as a cutting board, and a scrubbing pad. Fitting into a drawstring sack, the whole kit weighs just under two pounds (1.8 lbs) and measures 7.4 x 4.8 inches when all packed up.
Look, this isn’t the best quality you’re going to find in a cookware set, but it’s affordable, portable, and gets the job done. If you want something that will last, look into titanium, stainless steel, or hard-anodized aluminum. Each material has its downside(s), but if your focus is on boiling without lugging a heavy-duty campfire-proof kettle into the woods, the Winterial 10-Piece is your go-to. — Owen Burke
How to shop for camp cookware
When shopping, it’s important to keep in mind not only how you intend to use the cookware but also how many people you intend to cook for, how long you intend to camp, and whether you’ll be backpacking, car camping, or a mix of both. The answers to those questions greatly influence the type of cookware set that’s right for you.
To help with the decision process, I took on the task of trekking into the backcountry with a backpack full of cookware to find the best of what’s currently available. With gear from brands like GSI and Snow Peak, I hiked, camped, and backpacked stocked with quality cookware that helped keep me (unsurprisingly) well-fed.
How we test
Each recommended set of camp cookware went through a testing process that consisted of more than just making breakfast at camp and assessing its effectiveness. Specifically, I wanted to see how each option rated regarding these four categories: Portability, durability, dependability, and value. Here’s how each category factored into what cookware sets ultimately made this guide.
- Portability: Even for car campers, portability is still a high priority. After all, if this didn’t matter, you’d just bring your normal kitchen cooking gear each time you decided to rough it. The best camp cookware sets should feature the ability to either pack down and store into an easy-to-stow bag/box or have all components store together as one unit.
- Durability: As I learned with my army surplus gear, durability is vital when it comes to camp cookware. Not only should you be able to cook hundreds (if not thousands) of meals with it, but it should also stand up to the inevitable beating it’ll take getting thrown into your car, shuffled around a campsite, or stored in a garage or closet.
- Dependability: The last thing you want is for a set of camp cookware not to deliver on the promise of helping you reliably prepare your camp meals. The best kits should be as efficient right out of the box as they are after several months of use.
- Value: Value is the sum of the categories above and more than just how much a set of camp cookware costs. Ideally, you’d like whatever you’re buying to last several seasons, which is why it’s always better to invest in a quality set (even if it costs more) than to buy a poorly made budget kit every few months.
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