The GSI Outdoors Bugaboo Camper comes with almost everything you need for camping, including the kitchen sink! This set is one that our reviewers turned to often during this review when creating meals for lots of people. It is large enough to easily feed four, or more if you can supplement it with extra dishware. Complete with a non-stick coating, this cookware is a great cooking performer as well as easy to clean up afterward. The only real downsides are the inability to use metal utensils due to the non-stick coating, and because of the pack size and weight of this set, it is more limited to car camping. However, if you don't carry metal utensils, you won't use them, and if you don't carry the extra parts, the weight isn't all that bad. If you are looking to choose the best possible cookware for a broad cross-section of camp cooking, the GSI Bugaboo is the best choice. For this reason, we granted it our Editors' Choice award. It shares this honor with the Primus PrimeTech 2.3 Pot Set. The Primus kit is fewer parts, but those fewer parts are even better made and designed. For those looking for close to "one-stop shopping", the GSI is for you. If you want to, and can secure your own cups, bowls, and frying pan, a kitchen that starts with the Primus PrimeTech will be the best around. One strategy isn't better than the other, just different.
GSI Outdoors Bugaboo Camper Review
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 wash basin. The only thing missing is a set of camp utensils, so check out our Spork Review to complete your set.
The Editors' Choice is the highest scoring product in our review. We compile a scoring matrix that reflects the typical usage of the average user. On that matrix, the GSI Bugaboo scores better than all the rest. Clustered there near the top, though, is a list of other great products. Take the time to look into the other award winners as well. Notably, for even more sophisticated pots, without the bells and whistles of the GSI kit, check out the other Editors' Choice award-winning Primus PrimeTech 2.3. With the Primus, you'll need to supplement with more other purchases, but in the process, you will assemble an excellent camp kitchen. Prepare deluxe meals near the car or canoe or basecamp, and then strip it down for human-powered missions.
Just like the Bugaboo's sister set, the GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Backpacker, 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. When, however, 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. As with the Pinnacle Backpacker set, this skillet has a raised center, and the beaten egg mixture easily slides to the edges. Pay attention, and the frying pan works fine.
We scored this set a point higher than the Pinnacle Backpacker set because the non-stick coating GSI uses on the Bugaboo is different and better than that which they use on the Pinnacle. We reached out to GSI to see if this is a product difference or a possible generational change in one direction or the other; we have not heard from GSI. The difference is significant enough that we cannot recommend the Pinnacle for sophisticated cooking, while the non-stick coating of the Bugaboo Camper fry pan is among the best in the business. Interesting.
Overall, 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. We 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 the MSR Ceramic 2-Pot Set, the Optimus Terra HE, and the Primus PrimeTech 2.3.
All of these products have excellent non-stick coatings. The Optimus, Primus, and GSI further aid their performance with thick aluminum pot and pan bottoms that disperse heat. The MSR is made of thinner aluminum, but the coating is even more robust. Regarding boiling time, the Primus and Optimus greatly excelled, because of their heat exchanging fin rings. Tipping things back in favor of the GSI is the frying pan that can be tightly lidded. It isn't a standard practice, but for backcountry baking, a tightly lidded frying pan makes a world of difference. True gourmands will appreciate this.
Again, this is the largest set 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 we tested 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 something like the one-liter pot or kettle of the Top Pick Snow Peak Titanium Multi Compact or Best Buy Winterial 11 Piece Camping Set. 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. For the subset interested in that, we also awarded an Editors' Choice honor to the Primus PrimeTech 2.3 Pot Set.
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.
No coated cookware is exempt from this vulnerability. The non-stick coatings of the MSR Quick 2 System, Optimus Terra HE, and the GSI Pinnacle Backpacker are all subject to the same damage if care is not taken. For non-stick performance that will, by some measures, last longer than that of the Teflon style coatings, check out our Top Pick MSR Ceramic 2-Pot Set. This kit is innovative in that it brings state of the art kitchen materials to the backcountry. Ceramic coatings offer excellent cooking performance and improved durability, all while mitigating the undesirable health risks of Teflon coatings. Even more profoundly durable, at a much lower cost but compromising significantly in cooking performance, the MSR Alpine 2 Pot Set is a work-horse, classic product whose stainless steel construction will last way longer than the coated aluminum of the GSI Bugaboo. The catch is that you will be limited to boiled water sorts of meals or be subject to burning and complicated cleanup.
This is by far the most extensive cookware set we tested, which also translates to the heaviest set, nearing four pounds and resulting in the lowest score for this category.
However, 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. If you're looking for highly versatile cookware and weight is a concerning factor, check out our former Editors' Choice winner, the MSR Quick 2 System.
We changed up the scoring matrix in this latest review iteration. This change, intended to represent better how people use these cook sets, deemphasizes weight a little bit. We do this because anyone who is truly weight obsessed will choose a stand-alone ultralight pot (like the Top Pick Snow Peak) or an integrated stove/pot system. They won't be selecting a cook "set". It also tweaks our scoring of weight to reflect that each set contains different components and to allow for the reality that some will choose various parts of the kit they purchase on separate outings.
We made changes that tipped the balance in favor, as it turns out, of the GSI Bugaboo. Indeed, it is heavy. However, 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, the Top Pick Snow Peak Titanium Multi Compact is by far the most svelte we tested. 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. This set earned a score of 8 out of 10, because of all the amenities available with this set. 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.
Unlike the Pinnacle Backpacker set, 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. The handle system of the Primus PrimeTech 2.3 is our favorite. It is locking and secure, but it is also universal.
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. The heat exchanger fin rings of the Optimus Terra HE and Primus pots collect dirt, food scraps, and dishwater to make cleaning and drying a little trickier.
The Bugaboo Camper is the most feature rich product we tested. Of the major things a camp kitchen needs, all this lacks is a cutting board and cutlery. 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 wash basin.
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. 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. Those that come close are the GSI Pinnacle Backpacker, the MSR Quick 2 System, and the Best Buy Winterial 11 Piece Set. The GSI Pinnacle uses the same components but just includes fewer and smaller versions. The MSR Quick 2 System has two of each accessory, while the Bugaboo Camper has four of each. The accessories from MSR, though, are maybe a little more useful. The cups are about the same, but the bowls are deep plates. For most backcountry food, these deep plates are convenient. The dimensions and function are significant. The Winterial has a unique set of accessories. The cups/bowls are virtually useless, while the cooking utensils and loofah are quite handy and welcome additions.
This cookware is a great set to pick up if you're starting from scratch and trying to put together a camping kitchen. It has everything you could need, and even comes with a wash basin! You can easily feed a lot of people with this cookware, and not feel like you've brought too much when you're only cooking for two.
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 $100. However, it loses a little bit of value in overall performance when compared to our Best Buy winner, the Winterial Camping Cookware, and Pot Set.
We grant our highest awards based on how we understand most to use their equipment, most of the time. Since most camping is done near the car, and everyone loves good food, our Editors' Choice is this gourmand's choice. With the 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.
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Most recent review: November 23, 2017
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