The world's most in-depth and scientific reviews of outdoor gear

GSI Pinnacle Camper Review

A comprehensive set of cookware for all sorts of camping scenarios.
Editors' Choice Award
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Price:  $140 List | $121.38 at Amazon
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Comprehensive, high end materials
Cons:  Pot handle gets hot, heavy
Manufacturer:   GSI Outdoors
By Jediah Porter ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 9, 2018
  • Share this article:
77
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#1 of 15
  • Cooking Performance - 25% 9
  • Packability - 20% 5
  • Durability - 15% 8
  • Weight - 15% 7
  • Ease of Use - 15% 8
  • Features - 10% 10

The Skinny

This is the best cook set we have tested, sharing our Editors' Choice award with a product that performs very well but does not include as many components as the GSI Pinnacle Camper. As a "one-stop shop" product, made up of high-quality components, this award winner will get you 90% of the way to a gourmet camp kitchen. The other Editors' Choice Primus PrimeTech is an excellent pair of pots, but you will need to further accessorize with parts that the GSI includes. These products are both excellent but serve different types of users.


Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Pinnacle Camper is GSI's top-of-the-line product. Interestingly, it is the same as our former Editors Choice winning GSI Bugaboo Camper, except for the non-stick coating used. The Pinnacle uses a higher-end version of Teflon. We liked the Bugaboo, and like the Pinnacle Camper even more. For car camping or backpacking (while making relatively involved, gourmet meals) this Editors' Choice winner is the best-integrated set we have used. It has what you need, with only well thought out extras. As with any extra components of a set like this, when space and weight matter more you can leave things at home.

Performance Comparison


With a clever system, well-proportioned components, nice-cooking aluminum, and Teflon construction, and a set of components that cover your bases, this was an easy choice for our Editors' Choice award. It definitely performs better than all the other full-featured sets. If you wish to assemble a cook set of parts purchased separately, we grant another Editors Choice award to the Primus PrimeTech 2.3. The Primus pot set performs even better than the comparable components of the GSI Pinnacle but requires that the owner purchase additional parts to complete their kitchen.

That "vanlife". In this case  also testing the Editors Choice winner while road tripping and ski mountaineering through Chile.
That "vanlife". In this case, also testing the Editors Choice winner while road tripping and ski mountaineering through Chile.

Cooking Performance


A cook set is for cooking. But how will you cook? Are you preparing simple, "just-add-water" meals? In that case, the GSI Pinnacle Camper is likely overkill. However, if you aim to prepare food in the backcountry that approximates that which you can make at home, you have to be very discerning in your selection of cookware. For these more involved "glamping" meals, the GSI Pinnacle has all that you need, and each piece is well made and optimized for cooking performance. The aluminum construction, with pot and pan walls thicker than average, distributes heat effectively and evenly. The top-of-the-line Teflon Radiance coating on both pots and the frying pan sheds all but the stickiest of foods. The lids fit tightly, hold their shape, lift easily, and have strainer holes for draining pasta and steamed vegetables.


The newly honored Editors' Choice GSI Pinnacle Camper displaces perennial favorite GSI Bugaboo Camper, and cooking performance is entirely the distinguishing characteristic between these two. The Bugaboo and Pinnacle feature the same components, in the same dimensions. The only difference we could find (and we observed this in manufacturer literature as well as in actual performance) is in the coating. The Pinnacle uses a higher-end version of Teflon than the Bugaboo. The difference is real and noticeable. Interestingly, we have also tested a slimmed down version of GSI's Pinnacle line of cookware. The GSI Pinnacle Backpacker set we used was actually more vulnerable to sticking food than the Bugaboo set we compared to.

This is counter to how GSI pitches these products, and out of sync with the price points as well. Whether our set of Bugaboo pots was particularly good, or our set of Pinnacle pots was a lemon, we don't know. In the interest of being in the know and testing new stuff, we've since gotten rid of that particular round of tested cookware. What we do know, now, is that the GSI Pinnacle Camper set is made with an excellent non-stick coating, but all of the above suggests perhaps some quality control issues at GSI.

This is the GSI pot handle  in position. It attaches securely  but gets real hot if you leave it in position. Because of its construction  you are more likely to leave it in position than you would be with a pliers style handle.
This is the GSI pot handle, in position. It attaches securely, but gets real hot if you leave it in position. Because of its construction, you are more likely to leave it in position than you would be with a pliers style handle.

For boiling water in the wild, among the larger pots we tested, the GSI Pinnacle pots do ok. Even better, though, are the pots that have heat exchanging metal corrugation on the bottom. The Optimus Terra HE and Editors Choice Primus PrimeTech 2.3 both feature efficiency features that truly save fuel and time. If even just one of the GSI Pinnacle pots had something like this, the set would be unstoppable. The catch with these optimized pots is that they don't come with other features. If you start with the EC Primus PrimeTech, you'll need to source plates, cups, and frying pan separately. The Pinnacle Camper includes all you need short of eating and cooking utensils.

Packability


Straight "out of the box", this is among the bulkier sets in our review. It takes up as much space in your backpack as a compressed winter down sleeping bag, for instance. There are a few ways, though, to look at this. First, most will choose this sort of set for gourmet "glamping". In that context, bulk and weight are secondary to convenience and cooking performance. Next, this is a set of cookware for a group of four. In that group, all the shared equipment can be divided for packing. Additionally, many will never even carry this cook set on their backs. It is well suited to car camping and boat-supported trips. Finally, for the more weight-conscious trips you may take, or for a smaller subset of your group, you can strip down the Pinnacle Camper to fewer parts.

The positive, flip side of the packability equation with this cook set is that it is quiet and fully self-contained. The components all nest together such that "metal-on-metal" contact is virtually eliminated, and then it is all held snugly together by the included storage bag/water reservoir/dish basin. GSI products are cleverly packable.


Packability of the GSI Pinnacle Camper is the same as the GSI Bugaboo Camper. It is larger, but with more features, than the Pinnacle Backpacker. The Pinnacle Camper is a little smaller than the packed form of the Top Pick Stanley Adventure Series Base Camp. These bulky sets are great for cooking with but large to carry. Much smaller are the ultralight products for simple meals, like the Top Pick MSR Trail MiniDuo and the ridiculously simple Snow Peak Titanium Multi Compact Cookset. This latter set, though, rattles quite a bit more in your bag than the Editors Choice Pinnacle Camper.

This mechanism is the pot handle. It folds for stowage inside one of the cups.
This mechanism is the pot handle. It folds for stowage inside one of the cups.

Durability


The durability of a cook set is a function of its main material, and of its non-stick coating if any. The aluminum structure of the GSI Pinnacle Camper is, thankfully, quite thick. This makes it heavier than a thinner construct would, but it makes it both cook better and be more resistant to denting and bending. The Teflon non-stick coating requires careful treatment to remain intact. You must use only plastic or wooden utensils and cleaning materials on the pots and pan of the Pinnacle Camper. Anything metal (or, for cleaning, sand, and gravel) will scratch and permanently degrade the coating.


The durability of this set is on par with the other GSI products, perhaps a little better than the thinner construction of the MSR Quick 2 System and the other Editors' Choice Primus PrimeTech 2.3, and at least a little less than the non-coated products we tested. The anodized coating of the Best Buy Winterial 11 piece Camping cookware set will last longer than the Teflon of the Pinnacle Camper. The stainless steel construction of the MSR Alpine 2 Pot Set and the Top Pick Stanley Adventure Series will last almost infinitely as long as the Teflon and aluminum in the GSI Pinnacle.

All the components of the Editors Choice GSI Pinnacle Camper.
All the components of the Editors Choice GSI Pinnacle Camper.

Weight


On the surface, this set of cookware is super heavy. It is nearly the heaviest set, overall, in our review. However, when you correct for size and components, the difference isn't as profound. For car camping and other trips with mechanized or animal or boat support, the weight of the entire set is justifiable. For groups of exactly four, cooking together and aiming for excellent backcountry food and drink, the entire set is suitable for backpacking use. For lighter trips and smaller groups, leave some of the components behind.


For absolute ultralight trips, other choices are more appropriate. Our favorite ultralight cook set, suitable for backpacking alone or with one other person and while making just-add-water types of meals, is the Top Pick MSR Trail Mini Duo. A budget alternative for trips like this is the G4Free 4 piece Cooking Set.

For backpacking  especially in a cook group of fewer than 4  you will want to leave at least some of the GSI PInnacle components behind.
For backpacking, especially in a cook group of fewer than 4, you will want to leave at least some of the GSI PInnacle components behind.

Ease of Use


GSI does a good job of optimizing the usability of all their cook sets. The parts all nest together well, do their individual tasks efficiently and smoothly and complement each other in use. We like the insulated mugs and the tight-sealing frying pan lid the best. The proprietary pot gripper is light, compact, and secure, but gets hotter than others and cannot be used with non-GSI pots and pans.


It is perhaps needless to say, but all the GSI products score basically the same regarding Ease of Use. The MSR Quick 2 System, with deeper bowls and a universal pot gripper edges ahead in this one category.

The green components and the handheld lid are all the parts of the nesting insulated mugs and "bowl". To the right  the red part is the same set of parts fully assembled.
The green components and the handheld lid are all the parts of the nesting insulated mugs and "bowl". To the right, the red part is the same set of parts fully assembled.

Features


The GSI Pinnacle Camper (and the GSI Bugaboo Camper. These two have the same feature set) has exactly the features you want and need, and nothing more. No set we have ever tested is fully comprehensive, but the GSI Camper sets come close. You will have to add eating and cooking utensils, but otherwise, you are fully equipped.


The MSR Quick 2 System and Sea to Summit Alpha 2.2 sets have similar collections of features, except for frying pans. It is the frying pan and associated tight-sealing lid of the Pinnacle Camper that sets it apart from these two. Only the frying pan of the Stanley Adventure Series exceeds in the performance that of the GSI Pinnacle. And the Stanley frying pan is many times heavier than the Pinnacle frying pan.

The GSI storage bag innovatively doubles as a water reservoir and wash basin.
The GSI storage bag innovatively doubles as a water reservoir and wash basin.

Best Applications


This is an all-around cook set with a wide-ranging application; it is best for gourmet, 4-person meals on human-powered trips where the pace is lower and the pack weights are higher. It also works well for trips with mechanized support but limited space. Compact car camping, small camper vans, canoe trips, and sled-supported winter trips are great for this cook set. It can be stripped down for lighter backpacking, but other products do better at the ultralight standard.

A camp kitchen  whether for you backpack or your camper van  starts with a selection of good pots and eating vessels. The GSI Pinnacle gets you well started.
A camp kitchen, whether for you backpack or your camper van, starts with a selection of good pots and eating vessels. The GSI Pinnacle gets you well started.

Value


This is an expensive set, with top of the line materials. With the same components and packability, the Bugaboo Camper is GSI's more budget alternative. The only difference (and it is a noticeable difference) is the quality of the Teflon coating on these two otherwise identical sets.

Conclusion


Unless you absolutely know you need something more specialized (or less expensive), the GSI Pinnacle Camper is an easy, "no-brainer" choice. It is adaptable, functional, and suitable for a wide range of camp kitchen setups.


Jediah Porter