Camping cookware is much like kitchen cookware: The options abound. To help, we compared dozens of options, picking the best between and listing below to you. This selection included stainless steel, titanium, and various types of aluminum models, and our testers cooked everything from eggs to full-on dinners. Over months, the pieces were analyzed for their cooking performance and each was put through a boil test. We packed them, noting how well they fit into packs and how light they carried. With all of this information, we were able to make the daunting choice easier, and our review will help you find the right cookware for your cooking and camping style.
Best Overall Camping Cookware: MSR Quick 2 System
The MSR Quick 2 System seemingly has it all and comes prepared with everything needed for backcountry cooking. The system works as well over a few nights out as it does in the campground just a few miles from civilization. Thanks to a few included amenities, we found the Quick 2 to be the best overall system. Plus, the included deep dish plates were a bonus, especially for overflowing meals. MSR has taken the concept of the Quick 2 and applied it to the Quick Solo System if you’re focused on solo camping.
Best Value: Winterial Camping Cookware and Pot Set
The Best Buy award is one of our favorite awards, as we all love to get a good product for a great price. We’ve given the Winterial Camping Cookware and Pot Set our Best Buy award for having the highest value of all the sets tested. It was the only set tested that came with a kettle (no one likes their morning hot drink to taste like last night’s dinner) and the pots and pans cook well. The handles are stable and the set can be pared down in order to take with you while backpacking.
The G4Free Outdoor Camping Cookset comes with two pots and two lids that can also double as bowls.
Top Pick Award for Backpacking: G4Free Outdoor Camping Set
- Useful pieces while backpacking
- Can pack cooking system inside
- Silicone on handle melts easily
- Conducts heat unevenly
Our Top Pick Award for Backpacking And if you’re cooking for large groups, check out the G4Free 17 Piece Set. The G4Free Outdoor Camping Cookset comes with two pots and two lids that can also double as bowls.
In order to bring you the best camping cookware review, we tested eight different models to see how they compared side-by-side. Six of the eight sets we tested were cast from an aluminum variation, with three made specifically from hard anodized aluminum. We also reviewed a lightweight titanium set, as well as a durable stainless steel model. The different sets ranged from almost 4 lbs to as light as 11 ounces. In addition to cooking our everyday meals in all the sets to gauge cooking performance and durability, we also tested boiling time, how well each set held food temperature, and how evenly each cooked a scrambled egg.
Selecting the Best Cookset for You in 2020
With so many different options available it can be difficult to select the right set for you. Will you be preparing meals for your family or guiding larger sized groups? Or are you looking for something that you can throw in a pack and take with you on the Pacific Crest Trail? Do you need a crossover set that isn’t too heavy to take out on the trail, but could still be used while cooking at a campground? These are all important questions to consider in order to determine which size of the set and what type of material will best fit your needs. To find out more about the pros and cons of each of the metals available, keep reading.
The different sets in this review fit into two categories: Car Camping or Backpacking.
The GSI Bugaboo Camper comes fully loaded with some great amenities but also makes it the largest and heaviest cookware we tested.
Car camping cookware is typically less focused on concerns with weight and instead focuses on more amenities and features, such as the addition of cups, bowls, and plates. When camping close out of a car, packable size is less of a concern than for someone who is backpacking, while the ability to easily prepare and clean up after making meals, like breakfast burritos or lasagna, is more important.
Most of the sets that we tested fell into this category. The MSR Quick 2 System, GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Backpacker, GSI Outdoors Bugaboo Camper set, MSR Alpine 2 Pot Set, Optimus Terra HE set and Winterial Camping Cookware are all best used for car camping. Most of these sets can also be used on an overnight trek, which adds both versatility and value to your purchase, but if you plan on mostly backpacking or are thinking of a long thru-hike, then you’ll want a more backpacking specific model.
You can easily use all of the pieces included in the Winterial set while car camping or scale it down to take with you into the backcountry.
Backpacking specific cookware is exceptionally lightweight so that you barely feel the weight within the pack on your back, and designed to pack up small and take up little room. Cooking while backpacking or thru-hiking is typically focused on meals prepared by simply boiling water; therefore, these types of cooksets probably aren’t the best for making complicated meals like chicken marsala. The G4Free Outdoor Camping Set and the Snow Peak Titanium Multi Compact Cookset are the two models of cookware we tested that fit solely into this category. The GSI Outdoors Bugaboo Camper set is the largest set of cookware we tested, and really the only one that would be difficult to cross over into the backpacking category, unless you are dividing the pieces up among several people.
We tested eight different models for several months by preparing breakfast lunch and dinner while camping in Western Colorado and the Panhandle of Texas to bring you the Best Camping Cookware Review.
How We Chose
We based our choice of camping cookware on five different criteria: Cooking Performance, Weight, Durability, Ease of Use, and Packability. We discuss each scoring metric in greater detail under their respective headings below as well as in each individual product’s review.
Cooking Performance is a chief concern when it comes to finding the best camping cookware. So, we carefully created a few tests in an attempt to simulate within a controlled environment cooking situations that arise in the outdoors.
We were also curious how each of the sets would retain or lose heat after boiling. More often than not, it’s quite cool out while you’re camping, and eating a hot meal can be quite the morale booster. So, after each of the pots brought two cups of water to a boil, we immediately placed them in a 40 degree F walk-in refrigerator for 10 minutes. The control pot lost 60 degrees F in 10 minutes, as did the G4Free Outdoor Camping Set and the GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Backpacker Cookset. Our best performers during this test were the Snow Peak Titanium and MSR Alpine sets, which both lost only 50 degrees F. All of the other sets lost 70 degrees F or more.
The lowest performers for this test were the two backpacking specific models, the Snow Peak Titanium and G4Free Outdoor sets, which wasn’t that surprising. These sets are made with boiling water in mind and little else, for the dehydrated meals, cup-o-soups and oatmeal packs you are more likely to be eating on the trail. The stainless steel MSR Alpine set also did not conduct heat evenly and therefore burned our eggs easily. Cleanup wasn’t as difficult though, as we were able to use steel wool to scrub the pan.
Cleaning up your latest bean/egg/pepper/cheese breakfast creation can be a hassle when camping. Be careful with how you scrub your pans though, as the wrong scrubbing brush can ruin your set. Stainless steel sets can handle abrasive steel wool pads, but all other sets should be treated more cautiously. For aluminum and titanium sets, green scrubbing pads are the best way to go, but if your pan has a non-stick coating then you’ll want to be even more gentle and use a spatula or soft dishcloth to loosen and remove leftover food.
We used a digital food scale to weigh each set as we’ve noticed in the past that the manufacturer’s stated weights do not always match up with reality.
None of the sets that we tested experienced many major issues in durability, but we did scratch the Teflon coating in the skillet of the GSI Outdoors Bugaboo Camper set by stacking another skillet inside of it while cleaning. As with all of our outdoor gear, there are trade-offs and sacrifices that should be examined and many options weighed before purchasing.
We also experienced some durability issues with the handles on the G4Free Outdoor Camping set. They are covered with bright green silicone to protect your hands from a hot handle. Unfortunately, they easily began to melt while cooking over larger burners, including a two burner propane stove that is typically used while car camping. This set is more specifically designed for lightweight backpacking applications in which you’ll most likely be using a smaller stove system, like the MSR Pocket Rocket, which did not produce a flame big enough to melt the handles.
G4Free uses silicone to cover the metal handles, but they are prone to melting on larger sized burners such as most camping stoves. This set is best used with a smaller backpacking stove.
Ease of Use
You are going to use these sets to make breakfast, lunch, and dinner with friends, at home near the trailheads, hiking in for romantic picnics, as well as overnight excursions. We compared how easy it’s to handle and cook with each of the sets.
The G4Free was the clear winner in this category, followed by the Snow Peak Titanium Multi Compact cookset.
All of the sets of cookware we tested to fit into their own self-contained systems and wrap up neatly with a sack, except for the MSR Quick 2 System, which locks together by the pot handle flipping over the straining lid. The casing for the GSI Outdoors sets both double as wash basins, and the Optimus Terra set uses a neoprene bag that can help insulate food from dropping temperatures as well as keeping your fingers burn-free while eating.
The backpacking specific sets of cookware scored the best within this category for being the smallest, lightest, and most compact sets we tested. The Snow Peak Titanium set is the most compact set with packable measurements of around 6 x 4 inches. However, it scored a point lower than the G4Free Outdoor set, with measurements of 5.5 inches by over 6 inches, because of the differences in the way these two sets fit inside the space of a backpack.
One thing we love about the G4Free set is the ability to pack an entire backpacking cooking system into it.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, the two GSI Outdoors cookware scored the lowest in terms of packability for being the bulkiest sets we tested. However, these two sets fit ingeniously into their own system and protect the cookware, rather effectively, from scratching while packed. The Bugaboo Camper has packable measurements of over 9 inches by 5.5 inches, but for car camping purposes our reviewers found that packing this set into a vehicle was easy because of its compact system for the number of pieces you acquire with this set.
Add Cast Iron for Gourmet Cooking
We’d recommend that you augment a cookware set such as one of the award winners above, with at least a cast iron skillet. Those who want to step into a more gourmet camping kitchen will want to consider a dutch oven as well. One great thing about buying cast iron cookware is that you can use them all year round in everyday cooking as well as camping.
Our Favorite Cast Iron Skillet
A 12″ skillet takes up most of the cooking space on this stove. We recommend pans 10″ and smaller.
We recommend you consider adding the Lodge Cast Iron Skillet 10 into your camping cookware set. While some of the cookware sets in this review, such as the Winterial include a skillet, we much prefer a beefy cast iron skillet for car camping situations where weight is not such a big consideration. The Lodge skillet comes pre-seasoned and can be used on campfire, stove, or BBQ coals to add a gourmet cooking element to camping cooking. It provides a nice even heat and a non-stick surface that is chemical free. Larger sizes are available, such as the Lodge Cast Iron Skillet 12 in. version, but going bigger than 10″ can get tight to fit on most camping stoves so we prefer the 10″ model.
Our Favorite Dutch Oven
When you are ready to step up into gourmet camp cooking, there is nothing better than adding a dutch oven to your cookware arsenal. We recommend the robust Lodge Dutch Oven – 8 quart, which also comes in a 5 quart and a 10-quart version. The ability to slow cook with the even heat cast iron is known for is the key to many gourmet meals. In our camping food article, we have a section on the Top 10 Camping Meals for the Gourmet Chef that showcase how a Dutch oven can open the door to everything from pizza to lasagna. Clean up is simplified by the natural non-stick ability of seasoned cast iron.
Deciding between the many options in materials and amenities can make finding the perfect cookware a struggle. Weight is a key factor in backpacking cookware, while less of a concern if you are planning to cook near your car. We hope that our analysis of these eight cookware sets can assist you in finding the best setup to accommodate your needs. For more tips, have a look at our Buying Advice article, where we break down the different types of sets available as well as the advantages and disadvantages of the different materials.