Guy Gear

Camp cookware buying guide




Chow time is one of our favorite things about camping. Whether it’s a steamy pot of cheesy pasta or warm biscuits fresh out of the Dutch oven, good food makes for good times on the trail. Proper nutrition is key when you’re hiking and spending time in the outdoors because it nourishes your body and your spirits. But cooking takes a little work and the right kind of gear.

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STOVE

It’s not always best or even possible to cook by campfire. Open fires might be prohibited where you’re camping, maybe dry firewood is nowhere to be found, or perhaps you  just want to have less impact on Mother Earth. That’s where backpacking stoves come in.

We recommend two basic kinds:

Canister (or cartridge) stoves: Small, lightweight and affordable stoves that screw onto canisters of pressurized gas (about $3 each). They’re easy to use and pretty much maintenance-free, but empty canisters aren’t refillable or recyclable and must be packed out.

Liquid-fuel stoves: Compact stoves that use refillable fuel bottles usually containing white gas or propane. They are extremely reliable and work well even in frigid temperatures. Liquid-fuel stoves are generally more expensive, slightly more complicated, and require regular maintenance and cleaning. But they’re also easier on the planet (and, eventually, your wallet) because the fuel bottles are refillable.

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MESS KIT

A mess kit is a set of personal eating and cooking equipment that’s portable enough for camping. Often, the pieces (a cook pot, bowl, cup, etc.) nest together in a compact package that fits easily inside a backpack. These packages are generally lighter weight and more affordable than buying each piece individually. And with a mess kit, before each trip you can pick and choose exactly which pieces of the kit you want/need on the trail. Expect to pay from $10 to $30 for a basic kit.

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BOWL, SPOON, CUP

The bare minimum you need for eating on most outings is a bowl, a spoon and a cup. An unbreakable bowl works well for everything you’ll eat, and a spoon (or spork) will help you shovel almost anything into your face.

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COOK POT

On most outings, pots and pans are shared to save both weight and money. Pots can be made of everything from sturdy stainless steel to aluminum and super-light titanium. Stainless steel is the most durable and heaviest; aluminum is affordable and lightweight but not so durable; and titanium cookware is durable and super-light but very expensive. Prices range from $15 to $100, and some come with a nonstick coating. Always look for a pot that comes with a lid, because it speeds up boiling times and often can be flipped over and used as a frying pan.

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DUTCH OVEN

A camping classic for decades, the Dutch oven is a heavy cast-iron pot with a lid. Though much too heavy for backpacking, this is a must-have for base camps and car-camping trips. Placing the oven over a campfire, you can easily fry fish, cook stews and beans, and bake pies, bread and cobblers. A new Dutch oven must always be seasoned first, rubbed inside with grease or butter to make it nonstick and protect the metal from rusting.

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Comments about “Camp cookware buying guide”

  1. gbear says:

    love optimus!

  2. Alfa Force says:

    Tried the wok idea and it was great. Thanks a bunch.

  3. mr m says:

    nice i guess

  4. carrot says:

    fozzils are amazing, durable, and ultralight
    great deal

  5. Aidido says:

    Helpfull

  6. General Hammond says:

    Try a small wok, it’s excellent and super easy to use; cheap too.

  7. Off-Trail Monkey says:

    Our patrol just got 4 all new GSI Glacier cook sets, WOW. Nice and easy to clean.

  8. Knife Xpert 157 (aka Chad 101) says:

    Mountain House meals require only a pot to boil water and a spoon or fork.

    • Sly Fox says:

      Have you priced these out though? At $7-$10 a meal, what scout could afford a 6 day hike paying these prices? You’re talking $120-$180 for an outing per scout. Ouch!

      • Knife Xpert 157 (aka Chad 101) says:

        Normally if its just a 1 to 2 day trip then that easily affordable plus most meals can feed to people. me and my dad do it like this, every time we go to the store we get like two or three Mountain Houses’(That way you dont spend $120 at once). if we go to the store say, seven times a a month we can collect about 15 meals. Thats enough to last a long time. And if you can get them at discount price then they are much cheaper

    • I Hike says:

      Too expensive

    • Potash says:

      That’s not cooking. It’s reheating. All you’re learning is how to shop at REI.

  9. T-Man says:

    I use some simple army mess tins and they are perfect.

  10. Smitty says:

    Just use a pot nothing fancy

  11. Sly Fox says:

    This topic seems to be the hardest for my new scouts to figure out. Through use, we have found the scout mess kit inaddiquite, it crimps in packs and the handle of the small pot tends to not be centered so items tip out and the pan handel can’t hold any real weight like hamburger w/o bending. Most of our scouts still wanting a mess kit use a military kit made of steel; they’re read good and often cheaper. Our older boys use Orikasu foldable meal kits. They lay flat in a back-pack, weigh almost nothing and clean real easy with a drop of camp suds. (I’ve had mine for 4 years now) For pots we carry the GSI 4 piece kit. They too clean up real easy and can handle campfire cooking. For messy cooking where pot cleaning might not be easy, we carry #10 food cans w/ bail wire attached for handles; once used, cut the bottom off, flatten and dispose of when possible. Since its been recycled, it’s also a green concept.
    For silverware the light my fire unit gets an A+. We did break one once but the scout was at fault.
    As always, try several items and then choose what’s best for you.

  12. fluteman says:

    If you are camping in a stationary place, and not hiking or backpacking, cast iron cookware is the way to go. The initial investment you make will last you more than a lifetime, is nonstick and versatile.

  13. monkeymann says:

    WARNING!!! STAY AWAY FROM ALL TETHLON COOKWEAR BECAUSE OVERHEATED TETHLON CAN BE POISONUS!!!PLEASE RESEARCH THIS (BUT NOT FROM CAMPING COMPANYS BECAUSE THEY ARE THE ONES SELLING THEM!)
    STAY WITH STAINLESS OR TITANIUM.

  14. lemon head says:

    get coleman cookware its great

  15. GEAR MAN says:

    I love the GSI Pinnacle Soloist cookset. It is great for backpacking because it is so light and small, but it is just as tough as other base camp cookware. You can fit a small canister stove (and canister) in it. The lid is great because it has a strainer built into it, and it fits the small bowl/cup that the cookset comes with. And the stuff sack doubles as a washbasin.

  16. GEAR MAN says:

    GSI makes some cool cookware.

  17. Anonymous says:

    stay away from allumiun it absorbs tatse and doesnt handle high heat well

  18. LUMBERJACK says:

    fozzils are wishful thinking. ask anybody that owns them and they will tell you that you cant ever get oil or grease off them.
    but thats cool if your a vegetarian :) I’m not one :(

  19. GEAR MAN says:

    Mountain House and Backpacker’s Pantry have lots of meals that are very easy to cook, and are great for backpacking as well as regular camping.

  20. GEAR MAN says:

    If you have your own cookset, make sure you have some stuff to help with cleanup when you use them. A roll of paper towels, a steel wool scrubbie, and a dry cloth in a plastic baggie works well.

    By the way, the steel wool scrubbie can be an emergency fire starter if you have a battery!

  21. GEAR MAN says:

    A Light My Fire spork is very good for any form of camping. I have ran mine over with a semi and it didn’t get a scratch!!!!!

    • Old Scout says:

      great article, I carry a spoon,small pot, small titanium tea pot, Tupperware bowl with lid and a plastic mug. sometimes a Frisbee for a plate if more then myself will be eating out of my pot.

  22. GEAR MAN says:

    Military mess-kits are very good for your personal eating kit. You can find them at any army-navy surplus store. They are very cheap and very durable. If you could use it in war, I think it can survive us boy scouts!!!!

  23. lightmyfire says:

    the light my fire mess kit is the best its light durable and has everthing you need and is way better than the bsa metel one

  24. whitennerdiest says:

    I agree with Mountain Camper 201

  25. AU FAN97 says:

    good guide very helpful

  26. Mountain Camper 201 says:

    The Cub Scout and Boy Scout aluminum Mess kit doesn’t require alot of room in the back pack, is durable enough to be cleaned using steel wool and hand wash dishwashing liquid, and may be adapted to itself to create a small single serving soup kettle, an aluminum skillet to fry sunfish and small carp on, and has a folding eight ounce aluminum drinking cup. The mess kit is a great item to cook with. All that is lacking from a complete backpacking kitchen are a quilted hot dish cloth to prevent burns from holding an aluminum skillet over a lit campfire and a backpacker’s cast iron skillet used to cook food and scare away wildlife who may be interested in whatever a person is preparing for a meal.

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