Stanley has designed, integrated, and is selling a set of cookware that basically matches the performance and function of your home pot and pan while nesting it all together with functional but small plates, bowls, and sporks. For car camping, no set we have tested does better. However, the Stanley set is heavy. If you are looking for cookware for human-powered adventures, consult our full review. If you need a car camping one-stop-shop kitchen, this is for you.
Stanley Adventure Base Camp Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Durable, excellent frying pan for discerning cooks, great lid
Cons: Heavy, no non-stick coating
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Stanley makes a great, fully-nesting, and nearly-comprehensive car camping cook set. All you will need to add is a knife for chopping and drinking vessels of your choice.
The Stanley excels in durability, cooking performance, included features, and value. It suffers a little, given the above, when it comes to weight, portability, and cooking performance. Cooking performance, though, depends on your diet. For some, this will be perfection. Read our whole review for more detail.
All cooking surfaces of the various parts of the Base Camp are stainless steel. For cooking performance, steel has its pros and cons. In the main pot, and with a car camping stove, the material doesn't matter a whole ton. Steel doesn't disperse heat as well as aluminum does. On a small-burner backpacking stove, the steel bottom of the main pot risks scorching. However, in its element, on a wider-burner car camping stove (and with sautéing and simmering done on the frying pan -see below) the main pot of the Stanley cooked pasta and rice and reheated soups just fine for us.
The frying pan of the Base Camp deserves special mention. The internal cooking surface is bare stainless steel. Whether in your home kitchen or on the go, frying pan cooking surfaces all have their pros and cons. Stainless steel isn't as non-stick as Teflon or seasoned cast iron. However, there is no better way to pan-sear a steak than in stainless steel, and the cooking performance of this surface will remain constant for your whole life and beyond. The real advantage of this frying pan is in its "3-layer" base construction.
Stanley doesn't elaborate on what exactly the three layers are. The inner and outer are clearly stainless steel, somehow bonded together. We can deduce that the inner layer is copper. Copper-cored stainless steel frying pans are a home kitchen staple, and of great value for sensitive cooking. Whether the core is actually copper or not, this pan cooks very similarly to a copper-cored home frying pan, which is a good thing. The thick, 3-layer construction spreads heat evenly across the pan, dampening the temperature regulation swings of your camp stove and wind effects. For sautéing vegetables and browning meat, this pan is excellent. Great chefs have figured out how to cook easy-release eggs in a stainless steel pan, but we aren't that good. We have yet to, whether at home with kitchen equipment or on the road with the Stanley, nail the sequence that makes for non-stick stainless eggs. In short, our failed scrambled egg test isn't the pan's fault. It is difficult, but not impossible, to cook non-stick eggs in a frying pan of this sort. Outside of eggs and other super-sensitive foods, the 3-layer Stanley frying pan, with a tight-fitting lid, will serve you very, very well.
For attentive foodies, the Stanley cook set better approximates high-end home kitchen equipment than anything else we tested. If your culinary skill, though leans more toward the practical, you will be challenged at times with the full stainless construction. The full non-stick ceramic treatment of the Top Pick MSR Ceramic 2-Pot Set set is more forgiving. The aluminum and Teflon frying pan of both GSI sets, each with a close-fitting silicone lid, do everything the Stanley pan does and then some, at least when brand new. Even in the main pot, the stainless construction demands a little more attention to cooking quality than something like the fully non-stick coated main pot of the Editors' Choice Primus PrimeTech.
You don't choose the Base Camp for ultimate packability. A set like this, of course, is way, way better than a collection of your home kitchen equipment. It all nests together and seals with a tight bungee lid keeper. The parts sit tightly enough together, with enough of the plastic parts separating metal parts (provided you pack it in the right order. Thankfully there are packing instructions etched into the inside of the lid- brilliant) that rattling is virtually eliminated, even in the back of a jostling Jeep.
This is a big cook set, as compared to the rest of what we tested. The Editors' Choice GSI Outdoors Pinnacle set is almost as big in external dimensions, and also packs quietly.
However, the GSI includes most of the same major parts as the Stanley, plus another pot and four mugs. For the cooking performance, group size serviced, and equipment durability, the Stanley penalty is bulk (and weight, see below).
Stanley comes to the camp cooking market from the sturdy insulated drink container business. Rugged is part of the deal. The Base Camp Cook Set, in full stainless steel construction, is very durable. The cooking performance is tough to nail down, but the good news is that the performance will remain constant for its entire lifespan. No maintenance other than washing is required. You can scrub with steel wool or sand or anything else. The plastic parts are rigid enough to work but soft enough to deflect damage without cracking. In our testing, we weren't able to break or crack any of the plastic parts with rigorous effort.
The only other full stainless cook set we tested is the MSR Alpine 2 Pot Set. The Alpine set, in theory, should be just as durable as the Stanley. The cooking surfaces are certainly the same. However, the MSR Alpine set is made of thinner steel that is more readily warped and dented. While the surface remains sound, a well-used MSR Alpine pot set will be bent and dented while the Stanley equipment holds up better to similar use. The cooking surfaces of the Stanley pot and pan are far more robust than any other we tested. Both Editors' Choice winners, for instance, have non-stick coatings that, even with careful use, will degrade. With rough use, the comparison is even more striking. One sand scrub of the frying pan of the GSI Pinnacle Camper will ruin it. One hundred such scrubs of the 3-layer Stanley fry pan will just make a mark.
We speak highly of many attributes of the Stanley, but weight is not an attribute where the Stanley excels. This is too heavy for human-powered adventures. The large size, stainless construction, and three-layer frying pan construction add up to a weighty package.
We have definitely tested a lot of lighter cooking equipment. Our other Top Pick award winners, for instance, are much, much lighter. The Top Pick for Ultralight Use, the MSR Trail Mini Duo, is a tiny fraction the weight of the Stanley. These are very, very different products. The Trail Mini is for ultralight backpackers cooking the most basic of "just-add-water" foods. The Top Pick for backpacking foodies MSR Ceramic 2 is less than one third the weight of the Stanley set, even when we correct for the different features they contain. The Stanley set is heavy, while others are lighter. If you dig the Base Camp Cook Set's other attributes, weight shouldn't matter to you; you can't get those other attributes without the weight.
Ease of Use
With nearly full-size components and a carefully designed integration, the Stanley is quite easy to use. We like that the frying pan handle locks, that the one lid is easily interchanged between the pot and pan, and that the dual handles on the main pot are rigid, symmetrical, and positive to grip. The lid serves as a pasta strainer. The "drying rack" is an interesting addition that, at first, seems a little gimmicky. When, however, you are trying to air dry slippery little plastic plates, having something to stand them on does indeed help.
Use of the Stanley set is entirely different from that of others we test. The other products we tested seem to be designed with some sort of weight compromise in mind. With that weight compromise comes usability disadvantages. Hinged or removable handles like those on the Snow Peak Titanium and Editors' Choice Primus PrimeTech are inherently less useful than the rigid ones on the main pot of the Stanley. The click-on and click-off handle of the frying pan from the Editors' Choice GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Camper set isn't nearly as positive as that on the Stanley.
Many features come with the Base Camp Cook Set 4x. The "4x" qualifier suggests that this is designed for four people to cook and eat with. The frying pan capacity is a little small for most four-person car camping meals; otherwise, it seems like an appropriate estimation. There are four bowls, four plates, and four sporks. The two-part spatula and serving spoon work almost as well as the versions you use at home.
Only the Editors' Choice GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Camper cookset comes close to the features of the Stanley. It also includes service for four, but omits the sporks, spatula, and serving spoon, and includes insulated mugs. The GSI has two pots while the Stanley only has one.
Simply put, this is for car, animal, and boat-supported trips. You will do better with something else if human-power is your jam.
Many sets we tested are more expensive and don't perform as well. The beauty of stainless steel construction is that it is both inexpensive and durable. Other cookware materials are more expensive and less durable. Value is a Stanley strong suit.
There are few dedicated car camping cook sets on the market. Many people choose to just use regular kitchen supplies for car camping. This works well but takes up a ton of space. The Stanley approximates home kitchen equipment performance and weight with the space-savings cleverness of dedicated camping equipment.
— Jediah Porter