Best Base Camp Cookset
GSI Pinnacle Camper
: 3.7 lbs | Material
: Aluminum with Teflon Coating
Excellent nonstick coating
Choose what you need
Pot handle gets hot
Teflon coating wears off and brings minor health concerns as it does so
The GSI Pinnacle Camper is a top-of-the-line product from an industry leader. Almost across the board, the individual components are exactly as we would like them. To add to that, the combination of its features is greater than the sum of its parts. The entire kit nests together, offering enough volume to easily cook and serve four people while only taking up as much space as a bicycle helmet. Each of the pots and pan is coated with Teflon's top of the line non-stick material, and this choice shows in cooking performance. It's easy to clean and quick to boil water.
This set is designed for a large group of people and isn't meant (as a whole) for one or two people because of its larger size and weight. The nice thing about this set is you can simply deconstruct it and take what you need. The pot handle is lacking versatility with other pot sets, as you can only use the GSI handle with other GSI products. Due to the Teflon, it's best to use a plastic stirring utensil and avoid scratching the surface.
Read review: GSI Pinnacle Camper
Best Personal Cooker
Primus PrimeTech 2.3L Pot Set
: 1.6 lbs | Material
Amazing heat transfer efficiency
Excellent non-stick coating
Locking, universal pot grip
No frying pan or other accessories
The heat exchanging ring collects dirt
Yes, we granted two Editors' Choice awards this go around because this set stands out of its functionality as an excellent personal cooker set. The GSI kit is for those looking for something closer to "one-stop shopping," while the Primus PrimeTech 2.3L Pot Set is the best camping pot we've ever used. It has a clever lid to optimize efficiency. The real perk is the base of that main pot. Primus augments the bottom with heat transfer fins that greatly reduce boiling time and fuel consumption. In our head-to-head testing of boil times, the Primus led the field. It also features a non-stick coating that easily releases food and offers a quick and easy clean-up on the trail.
With the Primus kit, you get unparalleled efficiency and performance from the main pot, but you will have to complement it with your own choice of frying pan, cups, and bowls. Either EC product is excellent, and both lead the field. They will simply appeal to different types of consumers. If you want "one-stop shopping", the GSI is better. If you prefer to pick and choose your components, optimizing one attribute or another, starting with the Primus is the way to go.
Read review: Primus PrimeTech 2.3L Pot Set
Best Value Personal Cookset
GSI Outdoors Glacier 1-Person
: 1 lbs | Material
: Stainless Steel
Super simple design
Very durable construction
Quick boil time
Pan doubles as a pot lid
Best for basic meals
Hot spots while cooking
The GSI Glacier 1-Person is a simple cookset that's best for the solo backpacker seeking a simple, functional, packable, and durable design, all at a low cost. Far from a full kitchen, it features one pot (1-liter capacity), pan, bowl, and cup. Constructed with stainless steel, it is ultra-durable and resistant to dents and scratches. This is the set to buy if you're about to embark on a long mission and require confidence on your trek. Best for backpacking, it boils water quickly and prepares just enough food and water for just one person. We also love the super low price that adds even more value.
This simple set doesn't have all the bells and whistles. It's much simpler with the advantage of being more durable. The stainless steel design also doesn't have as good cooking performance as other stainless steel pots. Best for basic meals, this set is truly for those that appreciate a minimalist approach at a great price.
Read review: GSI Outdoors Glacier 1-Person
Best Value Group Cookset
Stanley Adventure Base Camp
: 4.8 lbs | Material
: Stainless Steel
Large pot with rigid handles and great lid
Nests together well
Frying pan rivals what you'd use at home
Plates are smaller than what you'd use at home
Stanley's Adventure Base Camp cook set is a camping cook kit made with essentially no compromises for weight. Taking weight out of the equation, so to speak, frees Stanley to optimize cooking performance further while maintaining packability. This entire set easily services four people and nests together for easy packing in the corner of your car trunk or canoe duffel. It features pots, pans, plates, cooking and eating utensils, and more. We love the price, which is much less expensive than other base camp sets. With its amazing durability and stainless steel construction, the value is extraordinary, earning a Best Buy award.
With many pieces, there are some compromises such as weight and packability. While it does nest together, it's far too heavy to go very far as part of a human-powered cook kit, and the plates are a bit small. For true "glamping", some will want to grab a few plates from their home kitchen. For backpacking, almost any of the other products we assess is a better choice for its lower weight. On a car or canoe camping trip, however, the Stanley set is just right
Read review: Stanley Adventure Base Camp
Best for the Ultralight Thru-Hiker
Snow Peak Trek 700 Titanium
: 0.3 lbs | Material
Nests with small stove and canister
Boils water quickly
Reliable and durable
Poor for cooking
The whole cup heats up during boiling
We love the Snow Peak Trek 700 durable cup for any minimalistic adventure…this means you thru-hikers that love love love lightweight and functional gear! This camping cup can be put right on your favorite backcountry stove to boil water in a flash. The titanium construction is seemingly indestructible and reliable. It won't take up much room in your pack, nor will it add much weight. If you're seeking a minimalist option that can function as both your cooking pot and cup, this is our Top Pick. Boil water, make rice, or a great soup. Or, put it right into the fire if you prefer not to carry a stove. It's a fantastic fail-safe for any hiker on a big mission who appreciates a minimalist set-up with little to no weight.
While we love how its lighter construction, there are some drawbacks you'll have to consider before purchasing this pot. First, the small internal volume is best only for one person and limits what you can cook. Second, it also getsvery hot, which forces the user to wait for coffee or tea to cool, and to use a cloth on the handles. If you're willing to deal with these inconveniences and want a simple cook cup/pot option, this is it.
Read review: Snow Peak Trek 700 Titanium
Best Solo Cooker
MSR Trail Mini Duo
: 0.7 lbs | Material
Integrated rubber pot grip
Just the right features
Limited non-stick performance
The tall and narrow profile focuses heat on the bottom
The MSR Trail Mini is one of the lightest cook sets we've tested, and it makes for a great solo backpacking partner. When you correct for the efficiency advantages of the aluminum construction over a long enough trip, you may find that the MSR is one of the lightest ways to construct a camp kitchen. The Trail Mini Duo, at its simplest, is just one small pot, cup, and lid. However, it comes with just the right suite of accessories to optimize performance without weighing you down. Finally, you can put a compact stove and an eight-ounce fuel canister right inside. The whole package fits into the light mesh stuff sack that MSR includes with the set.
For any sort of "proper" cooking (basically, anything that isn't freeze-dried or pasta) the MSR Trail Mini Duo will struggle. The pot is small, tall, and narrow. The anodized coating works okay as a non-stick treatment, but it isn't perfect; this is a specialized piece of kit for limited applications. You can still cook an egg inside, but don't expect to make the best bacon or make a delicious stir-fry without some sticking and uneven cooking performance.
Read review: MSR Trail Mini Duo
Best for Health Conscious Foodies
MSR Ceramic 2-Pot Set
: 1 lb | Material
: Aluminum Base & Non-Stick Ceramic Coating
Light and versatile
Non-stick, non-toxic construction
Ceramic will wear off
As a piece of equipment that is truly unique in the field, the MSR Ceramic camping cookware from MSR is an easy choice for a Top Pick award. Sophisticated camp cooking requires a nonstick coating; until recently, that meant either very heavy cast iron or Teflon-style coatings. The health risks of Teflon coatings are not appealing to some. Now, the health-conscious foodie has something to form the backbone of his or her camping kitchen. Also, available separately, is an MSR frying pan with the same coating.
This kit is expensive and relatively specialized. To fully assemble a camp kitchen at this level of performance and health consideration is an expensive proposition that requires quite a bit of attention. This set up will only appeal to those that care a great deal about Teflon alternatives and lightweight performance.
Read review: MSR Ceramic 2-Pot Set
Best for Collapsible Packability
Sea to Summit X Set 32
: 1.9 lbs | Material
: Aluminum & Silicon Sidewalls
Collapsable & Packable
A little heavy
Handles are flimsy and hard to use
Standing out for its packable design, the Sea to Summit pot set is one of a kind. Most camp sets are bulkier, lacking a slim profile, and typically take up quite more space in the pack. It is built for those looking to save space but to cook in a voluminous pot. The pot and kettle collapse and nestle into the pan for a nice, neat package. It'll easily fit into a backpack when you need to save a little space and you can parse out different pieces for added versatility on different adventures. For example, just take the kettle if you're only going to be boiling water on the trail.
Unfortunately, because of its silicon side-wall, you need to be extra careful while cooking, especially on a single burner stove. If it is not set-up correctly, the silicon can melt, so be aware. The handles are also flimsy and the design is surprisingly heavy (but still packable) with all of the parts. We also experienced the lid of the kettle deforming twice. We've owned two of these, and had the same issue both times.
Read review: Sea to Summit X Set 32
We go gourmet while testing camping cookware in all parts of the world.
Why You Should Trust Us
Our lead camping cookware testers, Jediah Porter and Amber King are backcountry enthusiasts, cooking up meals in some of the most beautiful places in the world. Jediah Porter is an internationally certified American Mountain Guide, and avid outdoor adventurer. He spends a lot of time in the camp kitchen, whether it is perched high up on a ledge of a cliff, or at a well-established base camp in Alaska. Amber King is a fast packer that embarks on ultralight missions in remote places like the Faroe Islands, with simple cookware set in tow. She's a climber, runner, and outdoor adventurer that base camps out of her truck every weekend and spends the summer running and hiking long trails. They both love to cook and spend time outdoors.
These cookware sets have been all over the world, from the beaches of Hawaii to the deserts of Utah. They've been utilized for everything from the solo traveler to the basecamp of tens of people. We made backcountry "Michelin Star" meals, simple veggie plops, and so much more. Subjecting each to the same tests in a controlled (and field) environment, we can compare each objectively and without bias.
Related: How We Tested Camping Cookwares
Analysis and Test Results
Camp cookware spans a wide spectrum catering to everybody that likes to cook away from their homes. Some outdoor loves prefer to pack their coolers full and cook up gourmet meals, for all their friends and family, from the tailgate of their trucks. Others might prefer cooking for just two, while many love to simply boil water, and add it to their favorite rehydrated meal. This review focuses on the best camping cookware sets on the market. Whether you're a hardcore backpacker with a packed weight of fewer than 15 lbs for three days or a weekend car camping warrior, we've got you covered.
Grungy but happy! We eat some delicious breakfast on a remote beach in Hawaii while testing out the Sea to Summit cookware set. A great packable option for any small group of backpackers.
Related: Buying Advice for Camping Cookwares
How do you get the biggest bang for your buck? While there are several different types of camping cookware out there, there are some inherent patterns that we noted, which will help you find a well-priced set for your needs. Lucky for you, there are many high-value options that we need to highlight. Our Best Buy award winners stand out amongst the rest, lending high-quality materials at a great price. For example, if a group camping set is what you need, the Stanley Adventure Base Camp stands out for its lower price and stainless steel design that is seemingly bombproof. While this set is heavier than the GSI Pinnacle or GSI Outdoors Bugaboo, it's just as featured with better durability, a lower price, and thus better value.
One of the lowest priced contenders, the GSI Glacier 1-person, is another that stands out for its simplistic design and stainless steel construction, which is once again durable and high value. The Winterial 11 Piece (a past Best Buy award winner) is much more featured, with the capacity to cook for up to two, but is less durable. When considering the price, be sure to determine what it is you require, the relative performance you'd like to have, and the features you need.
If you're seeking the best camping cookware, cooking performance is one of the most important factors to consider. We want a set that doesn't burn the food we cook, boils water efficiently, and minimizes heat loss so that we don't waste precious drops of fuel. In our testing, we assessed the performance of each product by constructing carefully controlled tests. First, we tested to see how fast each set could boil water. Second, we tested to see which could make the best scrambled eggs without producing a sticky or burnt mess. If a pot can do either of these well, it has succeeded in its function.
Boiling Time Test
Boiling water is the foundation of camp cookery. It is the task that you will perform the most often. Whether you're making hot drinks on your bumper in the morning or trying to force down another freeze-dried meal in the backcountry, you'll be boiling water frequently and consistently. To test this, we timed how long it took to bring two cups of water to a boil with the main pot from each set. Our results varied considerably, as several factors can drastically affect boiling time.
The "control" pot from our home kitchen is cast from hard-anodized aluminum, which is the same metal used for the MSR Quick 2 System and the Optimus Terra HE Cookset with a non-stick Teflon coating (similar to the three GSI Outdoors models). It boiled the two cups of water in 3 minutes, 50 seconds. This is remarkably close, as a "control" should be, to the average time (3:40) of the tested pots.
The type of metal the pot is cast from is an essential factor, as well as the diameter, depth, and thickness. Those that use thicker materials with better conductivity distribute heat more efficiently, thus leading to better cooking performance. For example, the Stanley Adventure Base Camp is composed of super thick stainless steel. This offers exceptional cooking performance in comparison to the rest — similar to what you'd get in your kitchen.
We take the time to test the boiling time of the GSI Glacier Base Camp Set on a pocket rocket stove. We take three trials for each and average them.
Even more than these variables, we found that the presence or absence of heat exchanging rings on the bottom of the pot informs the efficiency in our boil test. The average boil time of pots with flat bottoms is 3 minutes and 50 seconds. For the pots with heat exchange rings, such as the Primus Prime Tech 2.3, the average boil time is faster. This difference is significant, especially if you find yourself boiling snow on Denali for both gas conservation and logistics.
We are surprised by the Sea to Summit X Set 32, a Top Pick who's main pot has a boiling time of a mere two minutes and 15 seconds. This set does not have a heat exchanger ring, and we attribute its success to its large surface area and thin anodized aluminum bottom that allows ready heat transfer. The kettle in this set boiled water is a little more time, taking about 2 minutes and 45 seconds. The unique kettle included with the Best Buy Winterial 11 Piece Camping Cookware Set is another "flat bottomed" pot with a quick boiling time. We attribute the fast boil time of the Winterial kettle to its shape, proportions, and tight-sealing lid over a small opening.
Out on a fastpacking trip in a remote part of Iceland. Pictured here is a collapsible kettle that boils water quite quickly, even in cold, wet conditions.
Other pot sets like the GSI Outdoors Bugaboo Camper (and nearly identical Editors' Choice GSI Pinnacle Camper) and GSI Glacier Base Camp offers about an average boiling time, hanging around 3 minutes, 50 seconds. The MSR Ceramic set is a tiny bit faster, as a result of material that offers better conductivity and a tight-fitting pot lid.
The fastest to boil water are those with heat exchangers. If you're planning on traveling in environments where fuel optimization is important, be sure to look for one just like this!
The heat exchanger on the Primus PrimeTech boils water faster than pots with a similar capacity and size. This feature is awesome to enhance overall cooking performance.
Smaller pots sets also offer a faster boiling time. For example, the Snowpeak Personal Cooker is tiny, and will boil one liter of water in three minutes and five seconds. The GSI Glacier One Person is similar with the same amount of time. Both have a thinner stainless steel construction, with an aluminum core that conducts heat quite quickly. The uncoated and smaller construction makes it that much better. We also appreciate the 3:10 boiling time of the Snow Peak Trek 700 Titanium, a camping cup that is built for boiling water and rehydrating meals on the go.
The Egg Test
We get ready to test several different pots with 2 cups of water each in our boiled water tests. This is inside, in a relatively well-controlled environment.
We created a test to see how each of the sets performed while preparing a scrambled egg. Eggs are susceptible to temperature differences, and any hot spots created on the pan will quickly burn the eggs. For this experiment, we beat fifteen eggs and cooked them individually in each of the skillets, if available (or pot if the set did not include a skillet) over our two-burner propane camping stove.
Some of our tested cookware, roughly ordered by performance in the egg test, L-R, from upper left: MSR Ceramic, GSI Bugaboo, Optimus, Primus, GSI Pinnacle, Winterial, MalloMe, Snow Peak, MSR Quick, G4Free (previously tested), and MSR Alpine
It is rather obvious which of the sets cooked evenly with minimal sticking. Our best performer is the Editors' Choice GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Camper model, which has a Teflon non-stick coating on a thick-bottomed, dedicated frying pan. Interestingly, the frying pan of the GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Backpacker did not perform nearly as well as the Pinnacle Camper, in this test and our "real life" usage. Although prepared in a pot, the MSR Quick 2 System is also an excellent performer during this test and had a natural clean up afterward. Other models that performed well in this analysis are the Editors' Choice Primus PrimeTech 2.3L and the Top Pick MSR Ceramic 2. All have surfaces that don't stick easily, making clean up nice. Of them, the Ceramic 2 uses the healthiest material as Teflon has health concerns if it gets into your food.
The results of conducting our scrambled egg test in the larger pot of the Sea to Summit Alpha 2.2 set.
Between the egg test and the boil time test, we can deduce much of what we need to know about the cooking performance of a cook set. If a pot set does these two things well, our anecdotal evidence suggests that pretty much all other cooking performance attributes will fall in line. One exception is the meat-browning performance of the laminated Stanley Adventure Series skillet. Whether steak or chicken, meat browned in a skillet like this, at home or on the trail, is beaten only by grilled meat. Nonstick aluminum nor even cast-iron exceeds the performance of laminated stainless for browning meat.
The Primus, our Editors' Choice winner, does well on our eggs tests on a climbing and camping trip in Wyoming.
Whether you're living out of your van or backpacking into the wilderness, packability is important. If you're looking to save space, this might be the metric that you focus on. We want a set with nestled construction that will allow you to fit a fuel canister and won't jostle around while hiking or driving your van. Those that had all these features, or simply took up less space, did the best. Keep in mind that you can also buy a set with more features and parse out individual components to make it more packable.
A look at the relative size and components inside of our base camp cook sets that are a little larger than personal cook set options.
The Sea to Summit X Set 32 is the clear winner of this category for its ultra-packable design, earning itself a Top Pick! With silicon sidewalls, it has a kettle and a pot that collapses on itself. When collapsed, all items fit inside one another, offering you more space for other important items you might want to take with you.
A look at the Sea to Summit X Set completely compressed. You can also parse out the set and take fewer items to optimize for space and weight on ultralight missions. A Top Pick.
While you can't fit a fuel canister inside, it folds down almost flat and takes up very little room for the volume and size of the pot that it offers. You can also just use the kettle if you plan on ultralight missions, as it is super thin when completely compressed, taking little to no room at all! Better yet, you can parse out parts of the set to optimize it even further.
MSR gives thought to overall packability. Their Pocket Rocket 2 stove and an 8 ounce fuel canister fit right inside the Trail Mini Duo pot, along with the pot gripper and maybe a couple oatmeal packets.
Other contenders that take up less space include the Top Pick MSR Trail Mini Duo, Snow Peak Trek 700 Titanium, GSI Glacier 1 person, and Snowpeak Personal Cooker 3. These backpacking-specific designs scored high marks for being the smallest and most compact sets tested. The MSR Trail Mini Duo is shaped such that the user can fit a fuel can and stove inside. The Snow Peak Trek 700 Titanium and Glacier can fit a small canister and stove inside, while the Personal Cooker can only fit one or the other. All four are designed for backpacking and lightweight adventures. We choose the Snow Peak Trek 700 as Top Pick amongst these simply because it has the smallest dimensions and takes up the least amount of room in a backpack.
The large volume of the Primus set offers lots of room for storage. for all sorts of kitchen items, you might want on the trail.
All of the sets of cookware we tested nest together and slide neatly into a sack. Exceptions are the MSR Quick 2 System, Sea to Summit Alpha 2.2, and Top Pick MSR Ceramic Set, all of which lock together by the pot handle flipping over the straining lid. The Top Pick Stanley Adventure Series closes with an elastic strap which holds the lid on the main pot, containing all its parts. The casings for each of the GSI Outdoors sets all double as washbasins or water storage. The carry bag of the Primus PrimeTech is also insulated, which we like for colder hiking adventures.
A mid-route bivouac high on Wyoming's Mount Moran. In this context, an ultralight cooking set up is paramount.
When purchasing a backpacking specific set, consider looking for a unit that can fit your stove and gas canister inside of it. This minimizes the overall volume of your entire cooking system and keeps everything more organized.
Durability is an important criterion when purchasing camping cookware. Ideally, we'd like for our pots and pans to last a lifetime; however, it's easy to be hard on our camping sets, even if it's unintentional. Metal spoons and spatulas are common around the campground but are hard on delicate non-stick coatings. Stainless steel pots and pans are the most durable and scratch-resistant material available, but as you can see from our results in the cooking performance category, this cookware isn't the best performer. Titanium is similarly inert and therefore loses little to no cooking performance with wear and age. However, titanium cookware is thinner than steel or aluminum stuff. Titanium is stronger than these two.
The stainless steel construction of the GSI Glacier Base Camper, GSI Glacier 1 person, Snowpeak Personal Cooker 3, MSR Alpine, and Top Pick Stanley Adventure Series Cookset will last virtually forever. We had no issues with the plastic parts of the Stanley set and found that the chosen polymer strikes the right balance of flexibility and strength. The Alpine set is also constructed of durable components, unlike the GSI Glacier, that has flimsy lid holders, but well-crafted pots and pan.
Cooking in a wild setting with the beefy pot and pan of the Stanley Adventure Series set is a joy.
We also appreciate the seemingly indestructible construction of the titanium contenders. Specifically, the Snow Peak Trek 700 Titanium cup didn't scratch or dent when cleaned with steel wool or banged (hard) against rocks. While titanium doesn't cook nearly as well as stainless steel, it seems to be more durable for the weight. Even though it's thin, it's super-strong.
Titanium offers super durable performance in a lightweight package. We take this Top Pick on a ski tour without issue. Even banging around amoungst shovels, probes, and other metals, it doesn't dent or deform.
While we didn't see any real durability issues in our testing, we did notice that the Teflon coating in the skillet of the GSI Outdoors Bugaboo Camper scratched when cleaning it among other contenders. Once the non-stick surface on a pan is scratched, it begins to deteriorate rather quickly, and ingesting flakes of Teflon is a potential health concern (the debate over the safety of Teflon has been going on for decades).
The anodized aluminum construction prefers plastic utensils as the metal can scratch easily. If you are worried about scratching, look for stainless steel construction at is quite a bit more durable.
The Top Pick MSR Ceramic 2 Pot Set brings an interesting alternative to the market. The ceramic coating is just as vulnerable to scratching and chipping as the Teflon and Teflon-like coatings, but the material is less damaging to your health and the environment. Many users prefer to discontinue the use of their Teflon coated cookware as soon as it becomes scratched. It might continue to be mostly non-stick, but some are concerned with the health effects. The ceramic cookware scratches and degrades just as quickly, but the health effects are minimal or nonexistent. In this way, the Ceramic 2 Pot Set cook set can be used longer than the Teflon coated ones, and therefore receive higher durability scores.
A look at a clean pot after three months of rigorous use. The Outdoor Glacier still looks pretty good! Use metal utensils, and beat the crud out of it. The stainless steel construction is quite bomber.
Weight is a key consideration if you plan to carry your cookware for any length of time on your back. If you plan on solely car camping, you can largely disregard this category, but people who enjoy car camping and backpacking (and only want to purchase one set of cookware), will want to consider the weight of the model they purchase carefully. Other camping settings fall somewhere in between. Deluxe backcountry base camps, like those supplied by canoe, airplane, or even short backpack missions, deserve comfy cookware, and weight is less of an issue.
Whether your camp kitchen lives in a van, a canoe, or a backpack will inform your choices. Even among backpackers there are different degrees of weight concern and gourmet cooking.
The second-largest and second heaviest set we tested is the GSI Pinnacle Camper Cookset, which weighs in at 3.7 pounds. This model comes fully featured with two pots, two straining lids, a skillet, four plates, four mugs with lids, and four bowls, plus a sack that doubles as a washbasin. The amenities are great if you're looking to set up your car camping kitchen entirely, but this also adds a considerable amount of weight overall. The individual components of this kit are user-friendly and reliable. Even when we weighed just one pot, lid, and handle and normalized for volume, this Editors' Choice is slightly heavier than average.
The GSI Bugaboo Camper comes fully loaded with some great amenities, but also makes it the largest, and heaviest cookware we tested.
Of the base camp set-ups out there, the GSI Glacier Set is one of the lightest. It only has two high capacity pots (2L, 3L) and one saucepan, with no extra components. While the pots might be heavier than the most ultralight options out there, they can cook more food at once, decreasing the amount of fuel required on the trip. If a less heavy base camp set is what you seek, this one to consider.
The absolute heaviest set is the Best Buy award winner for group use, the Stanley Adventure Series Base Camp. Those that will choose this set will be looking not for minimum weight but cooking performance in a clever packing combination. While it is our Best Buy Winner, you can get away with bringing it into the backcountry if you parse out all its components, amongst others.
A lightweight cook set is paramount for backpacking adventures like this one. Here we take an adventure, trying to find privacy on a remote beach in Hawaii. Packed with us is the GSI Glacier 1 person set.
On the other end of the spectrum are the lightest sets, intended for backpacking, fastpacking, and those that appreciate minimalism at its best. The Snow Peak Trek 700 Titanium (0.3 ounces) and the MSR Trail Mini Duo (0.7 ounces) are some of the lightest cookware sets we've tested. The Trek 700 is just a simple and durable cup while the Trail Mini Duo comes with a pot, eating bowl, and has better cooking performance overall. The GSI Glacier 1 person is stainless steel and a touch bit heavier. As opposed to the Trail Mini Duo, it also comes with a frying pan, pot, bowl, and cup. So it has more features, but its cooking performance simply doesn't compare.
This is the lightest of them all! It's easy to truck along on a leisurely ski tour to boil water for tea while scoping out ski lines to descend for the Spring.
We also appreciate the kettle in the Sea to Summit X Set, which is a mere 0.4 pounds. We used this super collapsible and lightweight component while fastpacking in Iceland and camping on a beach in Hawaii. We used it to rehydrate meals and boil water. In all weather conditions, it proves to be quick and efficient.
The MSR Ceramic 2-Pot is another super lightweight option, only weighing 1lb, with amazing cooking performance. It's larger than the Glacier 1 person but has a much higher capacity, suited for two to three people, as opposed to just one. On the spectrum of weight, you'll be spending less on fuel as you can boil more water with less fuel, for more people.
The overall weight of the Glacier is about a pound less than other base camp options. That said, this does not come with any utensils, plates, or other pieces. It's basic and simple.
Somewhere in the middle of those two extremes is where we found the sweet spot for the weight that didn't sacrifice too many amenities or cooking performance. Also in this middleweight range (1.2 - 1.8 pounds), the sets were great for car camping, or when scaled down a bit, even for backpacking. Our Editors' Choice winner, the Primus PrimeTech 2.3L, is one such option. Another tremendous mid-weight solution, with a few extra amenities included, is the MSR Quick 2 System.
The Sea to Summit kettle offers a packable way to make coffee on this remote beach in Hawaii.
Ease of Use
During the months of our hands-on testing, we used these sets in as many ways as we could imagine. We went alpine climbing in the Tetons, picnicking in New York's Catskills, and even took some on an expedition to Chile. We even boiled water for ten days straight while fastpacking in the high latitudes of the world, exploring Iceland and areas beyond. We looked at the different features, the handles, and simply how easy it is to use while cooking and serving food.
We used every single piece in every single set to determine their versatility and practicality. The MSR Quick 2 System, MSR Ceramic, and Primus Prime Tech 2.3 rank the highest within this category for its versatility both in the campground as well as on the backpacking trail. All these pots still perform well during our scrambled egg test and were very easy to clean. Often, we find a skillet unnecessary for overnight backpacking trips, and due to how well the Quick 2 System scrambled an egg without one, we felt like anyone could do without a pan on short car camping excursions. The MSR set tied for the top "ease of use" score with Editors' Choice PrimeTech 2.3L and MSR Ceramic. We like the insulated cover of the Primus set as well as the universal, locking pot gripper. It may seem silly to the uninitiated, but the widespread and locking pot gripper of the Primus Set sets it apart from everything else we tested. The Ceramic also uses a super steady pot gripper, but it's specific to its set-up and can't be used for other uses.
We can't stress enough how much we love the deep dish plates included in the MSR Quick 2 System; they are the ideal plate to use around the campground.
The Winterial Camping Cookware and Pot Set receives a high score for its versatility. You can easily shed some pounds from this set by leaving several pieces behind and slip this model into your backpack. It has a dedicated frying pan, but the thin, anodized aluminum construction doesn't lend itself very well to egg cooking.
We went the extra mile, in fact about five extra miles, for a backcountry picnic. Here, Ryan prepares a Mac and Cheese meal while Great Dane, Page, supervises on the Avalanche Lake trail in Western Colorado near Carbondale.
The lowest competitors in this category are the MSR Alpine 2 Pot Set and the GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Backpacker Cookset. The GSI Outdoors Bugaboo camper set scores a little higher than the Pinnacle in this category for being easy to use while car camping. It comes with the most pieces of all the cookware we tested, and the two pots and skillet are a great size to use when cooking for four.
We also evaluate how easy it is to clean a pot or pan. This is the result after cooking bacon early in the morning. With some sand scrubbing, it eventually comes out, but it requires a little work.
Cleaning up your latest bean/egg/pepper/cheese breakfast creation can be a hassle when camping. Be careful with how you scrub your pans, though, as the wrong scrubbing brush can ruin your set. Stainless steel can handle abrasive steel wool pads, but all other sets should be treated more cautiously. For aluminum and titanium sets, green scrubbing pads are the best way to go, but if your pan has a non-stick coating, then you'll want to be even more gentle and use a spatula or soft dishcloth to loosen and remove leftover food.
The features of a camping cook set vary considerably. Some of the sets we tested are as simple as two pots and a lid, with the corresponding handle. For spartan kits like this, you will need to add everything else in. The Top Pick MSR Trail Mini Duo is one pot, one lid, a plastic bowl, a pot gripping pliers, and a bag. The pot is equipped with a removable rubber band around the upper portion as another grip option. This set of features, plus your stove and fuel, is all that a team of two needs on an ultralight backpacking trip, provided their food is correspondingly simple and light.
On the other hand, some products incorporate all but the food, at least for basic camp cooking. For even slightly more elaborate culinary pursuits, you will need to supplement every one of the products with at least a sharp knife. Most will need additional spoons and forks. In short, there is no "one-stop-shop" regarding camping cookware. Some products save you some shopping, but all require some more thought. The degree to which you need to select other features depends on which kit you choose.
All the components of the Sea to Summit Alpha 2.2. The printing on the cups is actually on the insulated covers. In order for the cups to nest together and fit inside the smaller pot, these printed insulating covers must be removed.
Let's examine what your typical camping kitchen should include. A lightweight backpacking cook kit is a pot for boiling water for every 2-4 people and a spoon for each person. Everyone should then eat out of their freeze-dried food bag and drink from their water bottles. At the other end of the spectrum, gourmet "glamping" menus and kitchens require cookware that could just be taken from your home kitchen. In between is the sweet spot. Whether car camping, base camping, or collecting a kit that will work for all of these and from which can be selected as a subset of backpacking, you need the following.
This set doesn't come with all the bells and whistles but has just two pots and a pan. It allows you to optimize and add your own components to personalize your camping trip.
Assuming a cooking group of 2-3 people, you need a couple of pots around 1.5-2 liters, with lids and handles. A frying pan with a lid is essential to most people. A cutting board, knife, and serving spoon/ladle round out the group gear. Each camper then needs a bowl or deep plate, a cup for hot and cold liquids, a spoon, and a fork. In assembling this standard kitchen kit, you have two primary options in our review. You can choose your pot set and then add the rest on your own, or you can pick a kit that includes at least some of the additional accessories.
Just under half of the cook sets we tested are two pots, lid(s), and handle(s). All of these products have no additional features. For each, you will need to acquire a cutting board, knife, cutlery, bowls, and cups. In most cases, you will also choose to add a frying pan. The Editors' Choice, the Primus PrimeTech 2.3L, or the Top Pick, MSR Ceramic is a great example of this type of set.
Look for features like a built-in strainer in the lid that makes pasta-making pretty simple.
Two GSI products, including the Editors' Choice Pinnacle Camper Cookset, offer dedicated lids, insulated coffee cups, narrow "bowls", and the carry bag doubles as water storage and a washbasin. The GSI Glacier Base Camper has none of these. The MSR Quick 2 System and Sea to Summit Alpha 2.2 have similar feature sets. Each is two pots with lids, a couple bowl/plates, and insulated mugs. For backpacking, even when preparing relatively nice food, this is a great start, if not all, you will need.
The Winterial 11 Piece Camping Cookware Set is made of anodized aluminum with pots and pans with fold-out handles and small, lidded frying pans. It also comes with a cutting board and a clever and much-appreciated kettle for dedicated water heating use. It is simple, with features that we love. This is a past Best Buy award winner, offering awesome value for the price.
Ryan prepares a yummy, and colorful, meal of pork fajitas on one of our many testing expeditions.
We trust that our recommendations and references are sound and well-researched. We "pound the pavement" (or anything but pavement, as the case may be) to ensure that our reviews are the best in the business. With camping cookware, that means that we cook hundreds of meals in many different settings. Our test team does this as a part of its shared and respective lives, passions, and professions. For your purposes, you can count that our information is up to date and relevant.