GSI Outdoors Bugaboo Camper Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Teflon coating makes for easy clean up, pots and pan are a great size
Cons: Heavy, must be conscious of scratching non-stick coating
Manufacturer: GSI Outdoors
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The GSI Outdoors Bugaboo Camper cook set is designed for families or large groups and comes with just about everything you need to outfit your camping kitchen. It is made of aluminum with a Teflon non-stick coating that makes cleaning up after even the most complex meals a breeze. This set includes an interchangeable handle, four "bowls", and mugs with sippy lids and insulating sleeves. The whole system ingeniously fits neatly into a 2-liter and 3-liter pot, that each come with a strainer lid with silicone rims to reduce scratching while packed, topped off with a skillet, and held together with a stuff sack that doubles as a washbasin.
We love cooking with this cookware. This is the only set that performs almost identically to our home cookware when it comes to the boil test. Both our home pot and the 2-liter pot from this set boil two cups of water in 3:52. This is a little slower than average, as compared to the others in our test. However, when you eliminate the specialized pots with heat exchanging fins on the bottom, the GSI is almost exactly average.
The skillet passed our scrambled egg test by cooking eggs evenly, with a natural clean up afterward due to the Teflon coating. However, this is the largest skillet we tested, and we found we needed to move it around on narrower burners to make sure the eggs were cooking directly over the burner. The skillet has a raised center, and the beaten egg mixture easily slides to the edges. Pay attention, and the frying pan works fine.
As compared to the whole tested list of products, the GSI is right in the mix. In assessing cooking performance, we looked at a few different things. We performed the scrambled egg test to evaluate non-stick performance and heat dispersion, and standardized a boil time test to test efficiency. In "normal use", we corroborated these performance attributes while also looking at other things like lid seal. The scrambled egg test put the Bugaboo frying pan right in contention with other high performers. All of these products have excellent non-stick coatings.
Again, this is among the largest sets of cookware we tested and therefore is not useful for light and fast backpacking. However, throw this set into some panniers and pack it in on a mule, and you'll have everything you could want to create gourmet meals in the backcountry.
Both the GSI Outdoor sets in this review have an ingenious design when it comes to a compact system that protects the Teflon coatings from getting scratched, but just be mindful of user errors. Additionally, the fully packed system is remarkably quiet. We suspect that the plastic cups and rubberized lids help temper the rattles.
Even stripped down to a more reasonable weight for backpacking, the GSI two-liter pot is bulkier than smaller pots; the three-liter pot containing the rest of the kit would take up a solid percentage of the space in an overnight pack. For assembling a full camp kitchen that could be stripped for lightweight backpacking, going with individual parts is likely more versatile.
Our reviewers did not experience any issues with durability until the final days of testing. They were rather mindful of the utensils they used; however, the coating on the skillet was scratched by carrying a pot stacked inside it after washing. While carrying a stack of dishes, the pot slid on the skillet and scratched the Teflon coating. This coating is easy to scratch, and from personal experience with other skillets, once the Teflon coating is scratched, it tends to deteriorate quickly.
This is a fully-featured cook set, which also translates to greater weight. It is nearly four pounds. This set is not designed for fast and light pursuits, but instead for setting up a base camp in which you'll be entertaining a group of people. Therefore, weight isn't much of an issue.
While the GSI Bugaboo is true, heavy, but it is versatile, and you can leave some parts behind from time to time. Also, you might appreciate the performance attributes that come along with the weight. If weight is paramount, check out almost anything else we reviewed. If you take your weight concerns to extremes, choose a lighter set. You will need to adapt your menu to more straightforward choices, but in the process, you can cut your food and kitchen weight to a tiny fraction.
Ease of Use
The Bugaboo Camper is a well-thought-out set for group camping. It comes with much of what you need, provides easy clean-up plus a great cooking material that conducts heat evenly. The strainer lids are rather useful, and you can easily hold them on the pot without burning your hand while draining. The foldable, spring-loaded handle snaps into place and stays quite secure.
The handle remains a comfortable temperature to grab while cooking; this is mostly due to the larger diameter of this set while sitting on the burner. The proprietary GSI handle system is secure, but it is a little unfortunate that it only works with GSI equipment. If you want to supplement or replace any parts with pots or pans from a different brand, you will then need a different handle.
In other "ease of use" comparisons, the GSI stacks up pretty well. The non-stick coatings are easy to clean. The smooth outside profile of the pots clean and dry quickly as well.
This is one of the most feature-rich products we tested. Of the major things a camp kitchen needs, all this lacks is a cutting board and cutlery, but these things can be liberated from your home kitchen quite readily. Essentially, for even the most elaborate of camping meals, the Bugaboo has everything you need. In this way, it handily scores at the top of the chart regarding features. We especially like that the storage bag doubles as water storage or washbasin.
The cups are ideal, while what GSI calls "bowls" are a little gimmicky and ineffective. The bowls are the same shape and size as the insulated cups, and they all nest together. It is indeed nice to have another vessel without burning extra space, but we wish the bowls were broader somehow. It occurs to our lead test editor that a GSI "bowl" could be made half the height but the same other dimensions as two of the cups, side by side. This design would pack with the other equipment, but be more useful when eating from. The colorful plates included with the GSI Bugaboo are decent but too shallow for what is commonly soupy food lap-eaten. No other product has the features that the Camper has. If you're seeking a cookware set that is fully loaded this is one of our top recommendations.
While this is the largest and heaviest set of cookware tested, it is also a great value as you acquire quite a few pieces for a good price. Those that will find the most value in this are those seeking a fully loaded Teflon-cooking set. The price is right for its performance and what you get.
With this GSI cookware, you will be able to prepare meals that simulate what you can do at home. If your rhythm includes some backpacking, just leave some of the parts at home from time to time. If you do a lot of ultralight backpacking, look elsewhere to serve this niche.
— Amber King & Jediah Porter