There is just something about camping and hiking that makes dinner taste better than anything you can make at home. Cooking in the outdoors can be a fun and relaxing experience…with the right gear. While you might be able to cook with your household pots and pans, most traditional kitchenware is too heavy and bulky to carry with you on the trail or pack into your car. An all-inclusive cook set for camping usually contains everything you need to cook with in the great outdoors without bringing along your entire home kitchen. And the great thing about opting for the best camping cookware is that you can find many fabulous options under $100, with many costing much less!
- The best camping cookware sets for car camping
- The best backpacking cookware
- Camping cookware buying guide
Summary of the best camping cookware sets in 2020
Here’s a sneaky peak at our top picks of the best cooksets around in 2020. Whether you’re looking for an ultra lightweight cookset for solo backcountry missions, or something that will allow you to cook for your whole family on your next camping vacation, there’s something for every type of camper here.
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|GSI Glacier Base Camper Cookset||2.86lb (1.3kg)||Car camping, campfire cooking||$$|
|MSR Alpine 4 Stainless Steel Pot Cookset||3.1lbs (1.4kg)||Car camping||$$|
|GSI Outdoors Bugaboo Base Camper Cookset||3.2lbs (1.4kg)||Car camping||$$$|
|Stanley Adventure Base Camp Cook Set||5.6 lbs (2.5kg)||Car camping||$$|
|Sea to Summit Alpha Pot Set 2.2||1.7lbs (765g)||Backpacking and car camping||$$$|
|Optimus Terra HE Cookset||1.5lbs (680g)||Backpacking||$$|
|Terra Hiker Camping Cookware||1.65lbs (750g)||Backpacking||$|
|Snow Peak Multi Compact Cookset||0.72lbs (328g)||Ultra lightweight backpacking||$$$|
|Sea to Summit X Set 32||1.66lbs (756g)||Backpacking and car camping||$$$$|
|G4Free Outdoor Camping Set||1.5lbs (680g)||Backpacking||$|
|Winterial Camping Cookware||1.5lbs (680g)||Backpacking||$$|
|MSR Quick 2 System||1.76lbs (793g)||Backpacking||$$$|
The best camping cookware sets for car camping in 2020
New in 2019, the GSI Glacier Base Camper Cookset is a superb choice for car camping with families, van life or even multi-day canoeing trips. Made from tough stainless steel the 5-piece set will last a lifetime of culinary creativity at camp, and is a no-brainer for those that love to cook over coals or a campfire. With a ton of thoughtful features to make cooking easy and enjoyable, and large 2 and 3 litre pots, we think this is the only cookware set you’ll ever need, so long as you don’t have to carry it too far.
For more information read our full review of the GSI Glacier Base Camper Cookset.
- Highly packable — the whole set nests together
- Campfire compatible
- Excellent locking handles
- Thoughtful and very useful design features
- Large lid doesn’t quite fit with the frying pan
MSR’s Alpine 4 Stainless Cook Set is heavy duty enough to withstand cooking on a variety of heat sources, including an open flame. The three separate pots come with a lid that doubles as a plate. What the Alpine 4 has in durability comes at the cost of more weight – at just over 3 lb. for the entire set, it’s not something you’ll be wanting to carry far in your pack. For trips when weight isn’t a problem, such as car or RV camping, the Alpine 4 cook set is hard to beat for versatility and price.
- Heavy duty
- Can be used on a campfire
- Three different pot sizes
- No frying pan
- Heavy – Over 3 lb.
If storage capability is a top priority, the Bugaboo Base Camper from GSI Outdoors is a great choice. Both pots, the pan, and cutting board nest inside the largest pot for easy storage. The nylon lid with built-in strainer is guaranteed not to crush even stacked underneath other gear. Teflon coating on the insides of the pots and pan keeps even tough-to-clean foods like eggs from sticking to the pan. For trips where water is in short supply, easy clean pots are a must.
- Easy to clean
- Will not crush or dent in storage
- Built-in strainer and cutting board
- Requires special brushes and utensils
- Cutting board is very small
Cooking for more than one or two people out at camp is much simpler with one big cook set than everyone packing their own gear. With four separate sets, you will end up with four pots, four ladles, four fry pans, and more. An all-inclusive cookset like the Base Camp Cook Set from Stanley Adventure includes service for four and an extra large pot and frying pan. With no duplications, even the larger cook set will not take up as much room in your camp kitchen as you might think.
- Cookware base designed for even cooking on uneven heat
- Includes plates and bowls for four
- 19 pieces in all
- Too large for one or two campers
- Accessories take up more space than a simpler set
The best backpacking cookware in 2020
If you’re after a complete cooking and eating set for your camping adventures then look no further than the Sea to Summit Alpha Pot Set 2.2. This is a similar set to the MSR Quick 2 System, but at 765g (1.7lbs) it is a fraction lighter and also a little cheaper. The set features two lidded mugs, two bowls, and 2 lidded pots with folding handles that lock into place. The whole set it ideal for two people on backpacking trips who want to eat more than boil-in-the-nag meals. And the pots are also sizable enough to cater for larger groups when car camping.
For more information read our full review of the Alpha Pot Set 2.2.
- Complete cooking and eating set
- Locking pots handles are very reliable
- Big pot is good for large meals
- A little bulky compared to other pot sets
- Fairly pricey
When saving time and space are your top priority, consider the Optimus Terra HE Cook Set, which contains fewer pieces than most but makes up for it in size and quality. The pots and pan are slightly larger than comparable cook sets, making them adequate for at least three campers per set. Water boils faster in the Terra HE than other pots – a helpful feature for those trips where you need to set up camp right at dusk or make a cup of coffee before setting out on the trail first thing in the morning.
- Boils water quickly
- Larger capacity pots and pan
- Easy to clean
- Comes with no accessories or dishes
- Non-stick coating prone to scratching with misuse
One of the best starter cook sets on our list is the Terra Hiker Camping Cookware because it is easy to use and priced well below most of the other sets on the list. The non-stick material is easy to clean, and the set comes with its own scratch-free utensils. A bamboo rice spoon is also included. Since many camping and backpacking meals incorporate rice, the rice spoon should get plenty of use! All ten pieces together weigh under 2 lbs.
- Easy to clean
- Includes scratch-free utensils
- No plates or bowls
- Kettle holds less than 1L
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When cookware that can multitask as more than one thing is a top priority, Snow Peak’s Multi Compact Cook Set offers pot lids that double as plates. The two largest lids can even be used as frying pans! Each piece is made of pure titanium with no coating you need to worry about scratching. The pots are really only large enough for cooking for one, making this a great option for ultralight cookware at only 11 oz. for the whole set.
- Super lightweight
- Compact for storage
- Can withstand heavy scrubbing and scratching
- No accessories
- Only large enough for one
Sea to Summit X Set 32 is an incredibly popular set of cookware – and for good reason. The X Set 32 takes compact design to the next level with a kettle and pot that actually collapse to take up very little space in your pack or kit. One of the best features is a strainer lid that actually clips onto the pot. Many cook sets include a straining lid, but holding a lid in place while straining hot water can be tricky. A lid that stays in place while staining is safer and easier to use.
For more information about the X Set 32, read our full review.
- Collapses down for storage
- Silicone handles stay cool when the cookware is hot
- Handles on the frying pan collapse at the touch
- More expensive than other 3-piece sets
The least expensive cook set on our list is also one of the most compact. Each of the nesting pots and pans in the G4Free Outdoor Camping Set feature silicone-coated handles that fold around the pot for easy storage. There are no utensils or plates included, which gives you the freedom to pack as many or as few as you need for your trip. The pans can also double as pot lids if you are making anything that must be covered during cooking such as rice or rehydrated meals.
- Versatile: pans and handles have multiple uses
- Room to store spices and utensils inside the smallest pot
- No plates or utensils
- Mesh storage bag is barely large enough
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This 11 piece cookset has everything a solo backpacker needs for cooking up great meals in the backcountry. The non-stick pot, frying pan and kettle are accompanied by a bowl, spoon, ladel and sponge, and the whole lot packs neatly together inside a carry bag. The Winterial Camping Cookset pots also have fold away handles and the aluminium is both hardwearing and lightweight. A really excellent value cookset for camping and backpacking.
- Great value
- Comes with kettle
- Can be easy to burn the bottom of the pan if you’re not careful
- Pot lid handles are a little close to the metal of the lid
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The Quick 2 System from MSR is an all-inclusive camping cooking system that includes two pots, two plates, two mugs, and one interchangeable handle that can connect to either pot. Volume marks inside the pots make measuring a simple process without any extra gear. Can’t decide if you want non-stick coating on your camp cookware? No problem! The Quick 2 System has one pot with non-stick coating and one without.
- Measurement marks inside the pots
- Easy to clean
- Coated and non-coated pots to fit your needs
- Designed for 2 campers: too bulky for 1 and not large enough for 3+
Camping cookware buying guide
Just like every other bit of camping equipment you will buy, there’s a lot to consider when choosing the best cookware for camping. Material, weight, your cooking style and design features, to name a few.
In this section we’ll cover everything you’ll need to consider before you choose which cookware set to go for. You can read about the following:
- Your camp cooking preferences
- Types of camping cookware
- Camping cookware items
- Features of camping cookware
- Cookware properties
Your camp cooking preferences
Before you delve into the details of what to look for when choosing the best camping cookware, it might help if you answer the following questions:
Types of camping cookware
There’s a LOT of different types of cookware that you can use for camping. If you’re starting out, and don’t want to invest in camping specific stuff, just take your pots and pans from home. Using them over a gas camping stove is just the same as using them on your stove at home and won’t ruin them. However, it’s not an ideal long-term solution, and it doesn’t cover your utensils and plates either.
There are a few types of cookware to consider:
Camping cooksets are usually made up of just pots and pans for cooking. A basic cookset includes one or two pots, both with lids, and a frying pan of some kind. The frying pan often doubles as a lid for one of the pans and the whole set nests together.
Some campers compile individual items of camping cookware over the years. These are usually very specific items like a griddle pan, kettle or sieve. If you’re smart about your choices then the items should nest together. However, when car camping this isn’t always necessary.
Mess kit sets
Mess kits are defined in different ways by different campers. To me, a mess kit contains everything you need to cook and eat a meal when camping: pots, pans, plates, bowls, mugs, cutlery and utensils. All the items should nest together in one neat little package. However, some camping mess kits only contain items for eating, and not cooking.
Cast iron cookware
Many car campers prefer to cook over fire instead of a gas stove. Whilst some regular cooking pots and pans will deal with this well, cast iron cookware excels at being used over a campfire. It’s heavy and needs treating, and you’ll need to learn a new set of culinary skills. But it’s a very satisfying way to create great tasting camping food.
Camping cookware items
Pot and lid
Every cookset should have at least one cooking pot. This should be at least 1 litre capacity, but when cooking for groups it will need to be larger. Many cooksets have a second pot that is slightly smaller and fits inside the larger one. Pots should always come with lids.
Not all cooksets have a frying pan, especially cookware for backpacking. However, frying pans are highly useful if you are cooking more than just pasta and noodle dishes. Pans can double as plates for eating and some also double as a pot lid.
A kettle is a highly useful camp cooking item, especially if hot drinks are a regular feature on your camping trips! Their closed design means that water boils more quickly in them than in a pot and heat is retained for longer. Having a kettle instead of a second pot tends to be less versatile than two pots. However, this also comes down to personal preference.
Pot and pan sets that don’t have integrated handles will come with a pot gripper. Some pot grippers are universal and work with any pot, and some can only be used with the cookset they are designed for. They should be sturdy and strong enough to lift your full pots with confidence.
Occasionally, camping cooksets include a cutting board. This is a really useful item if you like to prepare fresh food on backpacking trips. However, if you are car camping you’re better off packing a separate cutting board that has a larger chopping surface.
Cutlery and utensils
- Some cooksets include cooking utensils – usually a spatula and a large spoon. And some all-in-one mess kits also contain forks. However, most people tend to use separate cutlery and utensils.
Plates and bowls
The most packable cooksets include bowls rather than plates. These nest much better and are also more useful during food preparation. Bowls will help to keep your food hot for longer, too.
Cups that nest inside cooking pots are another appealing option in terms of packability. However, most are made from plastic and don’t retain heat well. Look for plastic cups with insulating sleeves, or opt for a separate camping mug.
Features of camping cookware
A bad pot handle can render a cookset useless, and there are many types of handles out there. Most cooksets have pots and pans with folding handles. They are great for packability, but be sure that they lock securely into place when extended out.
Some cooksets don’t have handles attached to the pots, but they come with a pot gripper instead. There are also cooksets with bail handles that loop over the pot. These are best suited to campfire cooking. Finally, consider opting for handles with a heat proof coating to protect your hands when picking up a hot pan.
All pots should come with lids. This is crucial to speed up cooking time when cooking over gas to prevent unnecessary overuse of fuel. Lids also help with heat retention once a dish has been taken off the stove. Look for lids that have a lifter on top (preferable heat proof), and strainer holes or vents. Some lids also have silicone thumb pads to aid with straining and lifting.
The best camping cookware sets nest together. This means that all the components of one set store inside the largest pan. Ideally, there should also be space inside the smallest pan for storing some other camp cooking items such as dishcloth, portable stove, fire lighter, salt and pepper etc.
Ideally, camping cooksets should come with a storage bag. These are important from an organisational point of view, to keep all the items together. But they also help protect the pans when transporting as well as protecting your other stuff from soot that may have accumulated on the outside of the pots. A good storage bag should also help to prevent the set from rattling around. Some cooksets come with straps that help to keep everything tightly packed together.
A really useful feature of cooking pots is having measurements integrated into the metal of the pots. Most campers don’t take a measuring jug with them camping! So this really helps to keep your cooking efficient. No need to boil excess water that you don’t need.
Heat exchanging fins
Some cooking pots feature heat exchange fins that are located attached to the bottom of the pot in a corrugated metal ring. These are designed to maximise heat transfer efficiency and help prevent heat from escaping from the source. The result is faster cooking times and great fuel efficiency.
- Stainless steel is strong, durable and scratch-resistant. It is also inexpensive and suitable for use over fire as well gas. It is not a good option for lightweight campers and it doesn’t distribute heat as well as aluminium.
- Aluminium is lightweight, relatively inexpensive and conducts heat well making it a good option for creative camp cooks. It is not as durable as stainless steel and can dent easily. Plus, it can reactive with some foods with high acid and alkaline content.
- Hard-anodized aluminium is a more durable and hard-wearing alternative to raw aluminium. Regular aluminum is hardened by an electro-chemical process to create a material that doesn’t react to food, lightweight and is excellent to cook on. It tends to be more pricey than stainless steel and regular aluminum and it still needs to be looked after.
- Titanium is an incredibly lightweight material without compromising on durability. It is ideal for backpackers and lightweight campers. However, it’s a pricey option that is overkill for car camping. It also doesn’t conduct heat as well as aluminium.
- Cast iron is only suited to car camping due to the weight, and can be used for cooking over fire, charcoal or gas. It is bombproof and will last forever. Plus, it is naturally non-stick and conducts heat very well. The main downsides of cast iron cookware – as well as the weight – are the need to re-season occasionally, and the price.
- Silicone is a relatively new addition to the camp cookware world. It is used alongside metal to create cooking pots and kettles that are collapsible. This is a superb option when space and weight is important. However, care must be taken that flames do not creep up around the edges of the pans to reach the silicone sides. Silicone-sided pot sets tend also tend to be on the pricey side.
- Non-stick coatings are a highly appealing option for those cooking more than just pasta and noodles. Generally, you’ll need to use less oil in your cooking and you’ll be able fry and saute without making a mess of your pans. Non-stick pans also mean an easier clean up. The main downsides are that the coatings can scratch off easily and then become less effective. Non-stick cooksets also tend to be a little more expensive than those without a coating.
For car campers and glampers, the weight of your camping cookware doesn’t matter too much. The one thing that you will need to consider, however, is whether your cookware is suitable for use on your heat source. A tiny backpacking stove will seriously struggle to deal with the weight of a cast iron pot, for example! Additionally, heavier weight pots will last longer if you are mostly cooking over fire.
Conversely, the best cookware for backpacking should be as lightweight as possible, especially on long distance missions. This is not so crucial on short overnight trips.
When looking at the different cooksets and cookware available, you will need to choose pots and pans that are an appropriate size for the number of people you are cooking for. There’s no need to have a 4 or 5 litre pot if you are just cooking for two people. Equally, you will seriously struggle to cook for a family of 4 with only a 1 litre pot.
Here’s a quick guide to which size pot is suitable for the number of people you are cooking for:
- 1 person = 750ml-1 litre
- 2 people = 1-2 litres
- 3-4 people = 2-3 litres
- 5+ people = 4+ litres
Whether you are looking for an ultralight, collapsible cookware set for a backpacking trip or a more substantial set to cook for a group, one of the cookware sets on this list is sure to be the perfect fit for your upcoming camping and backpacking trips.