The GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Backpacker Cookset is full of amenities for a couple of gourmet camping chefs. This set is cast from hard-anodized aluminum and finished with a Teflon non-stick coating for easy cleanup. The whole system fits in one neat, self-contained system that also protects the cookware from scratching. It comes with a 2-liter pot and strainer lid, a skillet, an interchangeable and folding handle, two 14-ounce insulated mugs with sippy lids, and two 14-ounce bowls. It is all contained by a carrier that also doubles as a wash basin.
In our overall scoring matrix, the Pinnacle Backpacker is right in the mix with the best. The top half of our test roster is divided by subtle, but important, differences. In many ways, the closest competitor is the MSR Quick 2 System. Both are attempts at comprehensive cooksets. Both are set up to serve teams of two. The MSR has lighter components and more refined construction, but it does not include a frying pan. With these pros and cons, the two come out very close in scoring, with the MSR edging slightly ahead. The Sea to Summit Alpha is another offering in this general category. Like the MSR Quick 2, the Sea to Summit has no frying pan. It is the frying pan of the GSI Pinnacle that sets it apart.
This cookware is an ideal set for two people mostly cooking in campgrounds, and with a Teflon non-stick coating, you'll be the envy of your camp neighbors.
Of the backpacking-ready sets, this cookware, as well as the GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Camper performs the most similar to the cookware we use while at home. This set boiled two cups of water in just under four minutes, which is faster than some but slower than most. The frying pan and lid combination, unique from GSI among the products we tested, allows the cooking of things that are otherwise impossible. For truly gourmet backcountry cooking one needs a frying pan and tight-fitting lid. This alone might tip the balance to the Pinnacle Backpacker. Our test team, for instance, chose it as our only set on a two-week expedition to Chile. In that venue, we were stoked to cook South American steak in the lidded pan, but wish that the eggs we cooked didn't stick so much.
One thing our reviewers noticed during the scrambled egg test is that the skillet is raised slightly in the middle and therefore forces runny foods to the edges. Also, even with the thick, conducting aluminum construction, it only cooks at and near where it is directly exposed to heat. That being said, the eggs were cooked evenly throughout with relatively easy clean up due to the Teflon coating. Interestingly, the Teflon coating used in the Pinnacle is, visually and performance-wise, different than that in the Editors' Choice GSI Pinnacle Camper and in theGSI Bugaboo Camper. According to GSI the coating on the Pinnacle branded components should be the same as each other and should be superior to that of the Bugaboo branded products. Our experience suggests some quality control issues. The best non-stick coating was on the Pinnacle Camper, with the Bugaboo Camper coming next and the Pinnacle Backpacker working more poorly.
Clean up is a breeze with the Teflon non-stick coating applied to both the skillet and the pot.
This set is self-contained, and the whole system measures 8.5 by 4.6 inches, which is the second largest set we tested. Also, for venturing into the backcountry, we would most likely leave the cups and bowls at home to pack a backpacking stove system, like the MSR PocketRocket 2 inside. However, you must be mindful of any metal that could potentially scratch the cookware; make sure whatever you place inside is well padded.
GSI Outdoors does an awesome job of providing a self-contained set for both of their cookware sets that we tested. (Pinnacle, left and Bugaboo, right.) Not only is the system self-containing and easy to pack, but it also protects each of the cookware pieces from scratching.
Although our reviewers did not experience any issues with this set for the duration of our most recent testing, they did easily scratch the coating of a prior GSI cookset. Unfortunately, non-stick coatings are not always ideal for a camping kitchen because of the type of utensils we tend to cook, serve, and eat with. Once the Teflon coating is scratched, it tends to deteriorate quickly, and the coating can come off in unhealthy chunks which you might accidentally ingest. Also, regarding durability, it is important to note that, of the major cookset materials (aluminum, titanium, steel), aluminum is the most easily dented and bent, all else equal. Now, GSI gets around this with thicker metal. This thicker metal in all the cookware also improves heat distribution. The downside is that the thicker-walled pots are heavier than something like the wafer-thin aluminum of our Top Pick MSR Ceramic 2-Pot Set or the Sea to Summit Alpha 2.2.
In its fully featured form, this is the second heaviest cookware set we tested, which brought its score in this category down a little bit. However, weighing in at just under two pounds, you can easily redistribute the weight between a couple of packs, or even leave a few pieces at home. It is this latter-most strategy that best allows us to compare the weights of these sets fully. Comparing just the total weight of all the cook sets is misleading, as very few have the same features included. When you strip each set down to its main pot, lid, and handle, weights are more readily compared. When normalized this way, the weight of the Pinnacle is now square in the middle of the test roster for weight. In this way, its weight more favorably compares to the others. In short, make sure you are comparing "apples to apples", so to speak, when comparing the weight of your equipment.
Ease of Use
Our reviewers found this set to be well-thought out and useful when cooking for two. The folding handle is secure enough and easily slips from pot to skillet. However, this set is smaller in diameter than the Pinnacle Camper cookware, and the handle does get very hot while over a two-burner camp stove. We recommend keeping a towel close by for handling and had to deduct a few points from the score in this category because of the hot handle effect.
Although the handle on this cookware got very hot while cooking, it snaps into place and stays secure for handling. We recommend keeping a towel near by, or throwing a hot pad into your camp kitchen.
There are two major types of cook sets we tested. There are those sets that are the pot or pots that will form the foundation of your cooking and eating system, and there are the sets that at least attempt to be comprehensive in their feature set. Regardless of how you acquire your cooking and eating supplies, it seems that most want pot, pan, cup, bowl/deep plate, fork, spoon, knife, and cutting board. No one set in our review includes all of these things, but some come close. The Pinnacle Backpacker outfits a team of two with pot, pan, bowl, and cup. It also includes an innovative fabric "wash basin" that can also serve as an extra water reservoir.
The only product with more features is the Editors' Choice GSI Pinnacle Camper. The most significant upgrade is two more bowl/cup sets and another pot. A close comparison to the Pinnacle is to both the Sea to Summit Alpha and the former Editors' Choice MSR Quick 2 System. These all aim for a similar demographic. The MSR and Alpha, as compared to the Pinnacle, each omits the frying pan but adds another pot and two deep plates. Depending on your style and backcountry diet, the MSR or Sea to Summit may be more appropriate. If you don't yet have a good handle on what you'll like to cook in the backcountry, trust us when we say that a frying pan is a worthy addition. Regarding features, we appreciate a frying pan; this sets the Pinnacle Backpacker ahead.
The contents of the GSI Pinnacle Backpacker cookset. Note the storage bag that doubles as a wash basin.
As the name suggests, the Pinnacle Backpacker cookset from GSI Outdoors is intended for backpacking, of all kinds. For a pair of backpackers, the Pinnacle has all you need for rather deluxe cooking. Strip it down to just the pot, gripper, and lid, and it makes a serviceable nearly-ultralight setup.
While our reviewers enjoyed cooking with this set, it scored fairly low on the value scale when comparing weight, overall score and the market price. At $95, you get most of the parts of a great system for two people. To launch into a camping or backpacking trip, all you'll really need is your eating utensils and a pocket knife.
For true gourmet camp cooking, a lidded frying pan is crucial. GSI is the only company in our test that includes such a thing.
The Pinnacle is a great set of cookware, and, for a basic set to use while camping, it's an ideal size for two people. However, you may want to take a look at the close competitor, the MSR Quick 2 System, which comes with similar components, minus the frying pan, but is lighter making it a little more versatile both in the backcountry and close to the trailhead.