Any gear purchase can be tough and selecting cookware for camping is especially daunting. We assessed over 100 options, before purchasing the top 15 sets, with variations in materials, size, weight, and features. All you want to do is fuel your adventures. With that in mind, we've done the proverbial heavy lifting for you. Over years now we've narrowed down the field, gotten dozens of pot sets in hand, and cooked hundreds (maybe thousands…) of meals in varying degrees of "wild". The result is an authoritative overview and thorough assessment of the best camping cook sets on the market. To discern between even this broad range of equipment, we have assessed each via a series of metrics. In pursuit of the best possible information for you, we have tested products all over the world, in a variety of settings from fast-and-light alpinism to luxurious van life glamping. Our main task was to simply prepare food. We also employed formalized testing, comparing non-stick performance and boil times, among other things. Below we dive into individual products and elaborate on each one's performance in all the scoring categories.
The Best Camping Cookware
|Price||$127.00 at Amazon|
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|$71.96 at Amazon||$89.96 at Backcountry|
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|$79.95 at REI|
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|$80.00 at REI|
|Pros||Comprehensive, high end materials||Sturdy construction and efficiency-oriented heat exchanger ring, locking universal pot gripper||Teflon coating makes for easy clean up, pots and pan are a great size||Environment and health-friendly ceramic construction, lightweight and versatile overall construction||Durable, excellent frying pan for discerning cooks, great lid|
|Cons||Pot handle gets hot, heavy||Heavy, especially for a kit that requires addition of other features, heat exchanger ring is a little messy||Heavy, must be conscious of scratching non-stick coating||Fragile coating and pots dent easily, no features beyond two basic pots||Heavy, no non-stick coating|
|Bottom Line||A comprehensive set of cookware for all sorts of camping scenarios.||A few attributes make this efficiency-oriented cook set an excellent foundation for the practical, hearty-cooking, enthusiastic user.||A comprehensive kit for all kinds of camp cookery.||For gourmet, health and environment conscious campers, this set will form the foundation of a kit that will prepare the best meals possible outside for 3-4 people.||A car camping cook set, optimized for performance and compact carry, at a high weight.|
|Rating Categories||GSI Pinnacle Camper||PrimeTech 2.3L Pot Set||Bugaboo Camper||Ceramic 2-Pot Set||Adventure Base Camp|
|Cooking Performance (25%)|
|Ease Of Use (15%)|
|Specs||GSI Pinnacle Camper||PrimeTech 2.3L Pot Set||Bugaboo Camper||Ceramic 2-Pot Set||Adventure Base Camp|
|Measured Weight||3.7lbs||1.6lbs||3.7 lbs||1 lbs||4.8lbs|
|Material||Teflon-coated hard-anodized aluminum/polypropylene/nylon||Aluminum||Hard-anodized Aluminum w/Non-Stick Coating||Hard-anodized Aluminum with ceramic non stick coating||Stainless Steel. Pot and pan bottoms have additional layers.|
|Components||3L pot, 2L pot, 2 strainer lids, 9" frypan, set of 4 mugs, bowls and plates, handle||2 2.3L pots, 1 lid, pot tongs, padded/insulated storage bag||3L pot, 2L pot, 2 strainer lids, 9" frypan, set of 4 mugs, bowls and plates, handle||1.5L pot, 2.5L pot, detachable pot handle, 1 strainer lid||3.5L pot, vented lid, 7" 3ply frying pan, cutting board, spatula with extending handle, serving spoon with extending handle,  6in plates,  22oz bowls,  sporks, dish drying rack, heat resistant trivet, locking bungee|
Here in late autumn 2018 we've made some subtle additions, minor new comparisons, and drop a new Editors Choice winner. The only new product we feature is also our new top scorer. That we have added just one product doesn't mean we stopped testing. In the last months we have turned down almost as many products as we list here. Our lead tester alone has camped and cooked all over the Western Hemisphere. Between car camping in City of Rocks, alpine climbs in the Tetons, backpacking in the Wind River Range, a ski expedition in the High Andes of Chile and Argentina, and van camping in Patagonia, our test team consolidates our suggestions, offers up the new Editors Choice GSI Pinnacle Camper, and even more authoritatively stands behind our suggestions and assessments here. Our "How We Test" article elaborates further, while our Camp Cookware Buying Advice article enumerates further the process we recommend you employ for your selection.
Best Overall Camp Cookset
GSI Pinnacle Camper
This 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, and the combination is greater than the sum of its parts. The entire kit nests together, preparing and serving very nice food for four in a package that takes up about as much space as a climbing or 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.
On the surface, this is a heavy set of equipment. Because different cook sets include different features, it is difficult to make direct comparisons of weight. In our best efforts to make such direct comparisons, the apparently worrisome weight is less of a concern. Bring only the components you actually need on any given trip, and the GSI Pinnacle Camper is far more competitive, weight wise. Our other qualified assessment of all the GSI products is the pot handle. They use a proprietary handle that is secure and compact, but only works within the family of products. If you want to accessorize with a different sort of pot or pan, the GSI pot gripper/handle won't work. Despite these little issues, we still highly recommend the GSI Pinnacle Camper for almost all campers. Only those on a tight budget, those who wish to mix and match the best sorts of pieces from different companies, and those who need the absolutest lightest equipment will do better to check out one of our other award winners.
Read full review: GSI Pinnacle Camper
Best for Building a Kitchen from Components
Primus PrimeTech 2.3L Pot Set
Yes, we granted two Editors' Choice awards this go around. The GSI kit is for those looking for something closer to "one-stop shopping," while the Primus PrimeTech 2.3L Pot Set kit offers the best camping pot we have ever used. The main pot has a clever lid to optimize efficiency. The real perk, though, is on 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.
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 Bang for the Buck
Winterial 11 Piece Camping Set
The Best Buy award is one of our favorite awards, as we all love to purchase a good product at a great price. We've given the Winterial Camping Cookware and Pot Set our Best Buy award for having the highest value of all the sets tested. It's also the budget version of the GSI Bugaboo Camper. It was the only set tested that came with a kettle (no one likes their morning hot drink to taste like last night's dinner), and the pots and pans cook well. The handles are stable, and the set can be pared down to take with you while backpacking.
The Winterial kit includes most of the accessories you will need, but these accessories are a little compromised. The "bowls" are tiny, as are the utensils. For the price, this is easily overlooked. Nonetheless, it must be noted. For more sophisticated cooking, the non-stick coating and larger footprint of the GSI pots and pans work much better.
Read review: Winterial 11 Piece Camping Set
Best on a Tight Budget
G4Free 4 Piece Cooking Set
Just like with the Editors' Choice award, we granted two Best Buy Awards. This one, the G4Free 4 Piece Set, is just two simple pots at a bargain basement price. The two pots nest together, and the lids are each deep enough to work as small mugs or mini bowls.
You will need to separately collect your main bowls, frying pan, cutlery and whatever else your cooking and eating habits require. This gives you more options both for performance and budget. At its simplest, you might need nothing more than a spoon from your home kitchen to complement the budget package of the G4Free.
Read review: G4Free 4 Piece Cooking Set
Top Pick for Ultralight Backpacking
MSR Trail Mini Duo
The MSR Trail Mini Duo is nearly the lightest cook set we tested. When you correct for efficiency advantages of the aluminum construction over a long enough trip, you may find that the MSR is the lightest way to construct a camp kitchen. The Trail Mini Duo, at its simplest, is just one small pot 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 its 8-ounce fuel canister inside the Trail Mini Duo. This whole package fits into the light mesh stuff sack that MSR includes with the Trial Mini Duo.
For any sort of "proper" cooking (basically, anything that isn't freeze-dried or pasta) the MSR Trail Mini Duo won't work. The pot is small, tall, and narrow. The anodized coating works ok as a non-stick treatment, but it isn't perfect; this is a specialized piece of kit for limited applications.
Read review: MSR Trail Mini Duo
Top Pick for Health Conscious Foodies
MSR Ceramic 2-Pot Set
As a piece of equipment that is truly unique in the field, the ceramic camping cookware from MSR was 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, with the MSR Ceramic 2-Pot Set, 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 the health effects of non-stick coatings yet want lightweight performance.
Read review: MSR Ceramic 2-Pot Set
Top Pick for Car Camping
Stanley Adventure Base Camp
Stanley's Adventure Series 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 of pot, frying pan (with a lid that works on both) and service for four people nests together to easily tuck into the corner of your car trunk or canoe duffel.
It is 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 assessed are a better choice. On a car or canoe camping trip, the Stanley set is just right.
Read review: Stanley Adventure Base Camp
Analysis and Test Results
Camp cookery covers a wide spectrum. On one end is spending one night out and preparing a package of ramen over a campfire. At the other end, folks will fill a giant cooler with dry ice and tens of pounds of fresh foods for a night or week of gourmet feasting. The uniting criteria is outdoors, nutrition and a concern for efficiency. Efficiency may be optimized with absolute light weight, or with ease of cleaning in the aforementioned "glamping" setting. Either way, or anywhere in between, we have assessed kit for you.
What's the "best bang for your buck" in camping cookware? How much does and should value matter to you? The biggest variable in camping cookware performance, across the price spectrum, is in cooking performance. Weight and packability have an almost negative correlation with price. Less expensive models are lighter and more packable, generally speaking. Cooking performance, though, rewards more sophisticated and more expensive materials. Whether that is better non-stick coatings (the most expensive nonstick coating is also the best: ceramic pans like the Top Pick MSR Ceramic 2-Pot Set work very, very well, but are costly) or laminated stainless steel pot and pan bottoms, more expensive construction cooks better. Other variables like ease of use and features seem to have a largely independent relationship to cost. Of course, you may find an economy of scale in purchasing a manufacturer's "kit" vs. purchasing the same parts individually. This is fairly logical.
Cooking performance is the chief concern when it comes to finding the best camping cookware. We want a set that doesn't burn the food we choose to cook, boils water efficiently, and minimizes heat loss so that we don't waste precious drops of fuel. We carefully created a few tests in an attempt to simulate, within a controlled environment, cooking situations that arise in the outdoors.
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. We timed how long it took to bring two cups of water to a boil with the main pot from each set and also threw in a 2-quart pot from our regular kitchen to see how it compared to the camping cookware. Our results varied considerably, as several factors can drastically affect boiling time.
The type of metal the pot is cast from is an essential factor, as well as the diameter and depth of each pot. Even more than these variables, we found that the presence or absence of heat exchanging rings on the bottom of the pot inform the efficiency in our boil test. The average boil time of pots with flat bottoms was 3 minutes and 50 seconds. For the pots with heat exchange rings, the average boil time was almost a minute faster, at 2:56.
From the above you can conclude that heat exchanging rings decrease the boiling time by 24%. That is significant. You can expect the same sort of efficiency gains, in terms of percentage, while melting snow, except that melting snow, takes even longer than boiling water. The gains compound in that case. If you are melting snow in your camping cook set, you need to consider a pot with heat exchanging rings. In a cold climate, relying entirely on melted snow (think Denali expedition, or high altitude ski traverses, or deep winter camping almost anywhere), an efficient snow melt set up can save literally hours a day and pounds of fuel weight over a long trip.
The "control" pot from our home kitchen was 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 was remarkably close, as a "control" should be, to the average time (3:40) of the tested pots.
The GSI Outdoors Bugaboo Camper (and nearly identical Editors Choice GSI Pinnacle Camper) took the same amount of time, and the MSR Quick 2 System was only 6 seconds longer. The Optimus Terra HE Cookset has a heat exchanger element on the bottom of the largest of the two pots in the set, which helped it boil water in 2 minutes and 45 seconds! The Primus PrimeTech 2.3L pot also has heat exchanger fins and boiled the test allotment of water in 3:07. The unique kettle included with the Best Buy Winterial 11 Piece Camping Cookware Set led the field of "flat bottomed" pots with a boiling time of 3:30. We attribute the fast boil time of the Winterial kettle to its shape, proportions, and tight-sealing lid over a small opening. If pot designers are listening, we'd dig a lightweight, 2-quart kettle with an opening big enough to get snow chunks into and heat exchanging fins on the bottom. This would be an unstoppable snow-melting machine!
Aside from individual variations in boil time, there was a clear correlation between pot size and boil time. Narrower pots clearly boil more slowly than mid-sized pots of more typical dimensions, with another drop in performance for the biggest pot in our test. It seems that boiling time has a bell-curve correlation with pot bottom size. The narrowest pots (those with the Snow Peak Titanium Multi-Compact Cookset, Best Buy G4Free 4 Piece, and Top Pick MSR Trail Mini Duo) have an average boiling time of 4:06. This is about 26 seconds (12%) slower than average. Similarly, the large main pot included with the Top Pick Stanley Adventure Series boiled water in 4:07.
Finally, 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.
It was rather obvious which of the sets cooked evenly with minimal sticking. Our best performer was 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. The non-stick coated frying pan of the Optimus Terra HE performed very well also. Although prepared in a pot, the MSR Quick 2 System was also an excellent performer during this test and had a natural cleanup afterward. Other models that performed well in this analysis are the Editors' Choice Primus PrimeTech 2.3L and the Top Pick MSR Ceramic 2.
The lowest performers for this test were the backpacking specific models. Again, the narrow profile of the Snow Peak Titanium, MSR Trail Mini Duo, and G4Free Outdoor sets compromise cooking performance. The narrow profile concentrates heat on the bottom and, at least in the taller pots, compromises stirring efficacy. These models are made with packing easily in mind. They're mainly intended to boil water for dehydrated meals, cup-o-soups, and oatmeal packs, as this the diet you are more likely to be eating on the ultralight trail.
The stainless steel MSR Alpine set also did not conduct heat evenly and therefore burned our eggs easily. The stainless steel surface of the Top Pick Stanley Adventure Series frying pan performed better than that of the MSR Alpine because the Stanley includes their otherwise undescribed "three-layer" bottom construction. We guess that the third, hidden layer, of the Stanley is copper. Performance and weight suggest this, and this is how home-kitchen stainless frying pans are made. It is, apparently, possible to cook a non-stick egg in a laminated stainless frying pan. However, we weren't able to accomplish that task. Our camp chefs cannot recreate this feat in expensive home stainless skillets either.
Between the egg test and the boil time test, we can deduce much of what we need to know about 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.
Check out the packability score of each product in the chart below. The Snow Peak Titanium Multi Compact Cook Set was the clear winner in this category, followed by the Best Buy G4Free 4 Piece Cooking Set and the Top Pick MSR Trail Mini Duo. The primary determinant of a cook set's packability is size. Smaller kits pack better; this is, of course, opposed to cooking performance. Larger pots are easier to work with, up to a point well beyond the size of anything you'd take camping. The other packability criteria we investigate is the "rattle factor". If a pot set has loose parts that bang and jostle against one another, it will be, at best, annoying in your backpack.
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 not with a bag but with an elastic strap that, with remarkable security, holds the lid on the main pot, thereby containing all the other parts. The casings for each of the GSI Outdoors sets all double as wash basins/water storage, and the Optimus Terra set uses a neoprene bag that can help insulate food from dropping temperatures as well as keeping your fingers burn-free while eating. The carry bag of the Primus PrimeTech is also insulated.
The backpacking-specific sets of cookware scored the best within this category for being the smallest, lightest, and most compact sets we tested. The Snow Peak Titanium set is the most compact set with packable measurements of around 6 x 4 inches. The Top Pick MSR Trail Mini Duo is similar in overall size, but is shaped such that the user can fit a fuel can and stove inside. It edges ahead this way of the Snow Peak in packability.
The Snow Peak Titanium set is so small that we were only able to fit a small fuel canister and some tea bags within it. We felt it was more useful to fit an entire cooking system (stove and canister) into our cookware to save space in our pack. We also found the oblong shape of the G4Free set eliminates dead space within our pack better than the Snow Peak cookware. Overall, regardless of what exactly you can fit inside your pot set, make sure that you are filling whatever dead space is there.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, the Top Pick Stanley Adventure scored the lowest regarding packability for being the bulkiest sets we tested.
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 thinner, but stronger, construction of the Snow Peak Titanium Multi Compact seems equally prone to denting as the other backpacking options.
None of the sets that we tested experienced many significant issues in durability, but we did scratch the Teflon coating in the skillet of the GSI Outdoors Bugaboo Camper set by stacking another skillet inside of it while cleaning. 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 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 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 MSR Ceramic cook set can be used longer than the Teflon coated ones, and therefore received higher durability scores.
The stainless steel construction of the 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.
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.
Since none of these cook sets include the same components as another, we devised a mathematical correction to compare the products better. So that we could compare "apples to apples" we weighed one pot of each set, its lid, and its handle. For this metric, we chose the pot in the set closest to 1.5 liters, since that is approximately the median size for all the pots in all the collections. Finally, to normalize for differences in volume among these pots, we divided the mass by the pot's capacity. Our test team found these "weight per volume" numbers to be quite helpful and to better represent the weight "in use" of each product.
The second largest and second heaviest set we tested was 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 was slightly heavier than average.
The absolute heaviest set is the Top Pick for Car Camping 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.
Another heavy product on our mathematically adjusted list is the Optimus Terra HE. Now, be even more careful comparing the weight of this pot from this set. While it is indeed heavy, considering the volume it holds, it will use far less fuel than other pots to accomplish the same amount of water boiling or snow melting. If your camping agenda includes lots of these things, over a long time, you could very well save weight with this product, by omitting fuel, as compared to a seemingly lighter "flat bottomed" pan. You could make the same calculations for the Editors' Choice Primus PrimeTech 2.3L set. It is heavy but efficient.
On the other end of the spectrum, the Snow Peak Titanium Multi Compact, cast from lightweight titanium, weighs in at 10.6 ounces. This backpacking specific set is ultralight, but it sacrifices cooking performance to achieve it. It does not cook an egg (or much else) evenly and almost feels as though we were playing tea time. Whether you look at the overall weight or the corrected, calculated weight we devised for comparison, the Snow Peak leads the pack.
The MSR Trail Mini Duo, no matter how you look at its weight, is just a little behind the Snow Peak. The MSR is a little easier to use, and a far more packable shape. It also comes with a few accessories and the aluminum construction is more efficient with heat transfer than titanium. It is all this that sets it apart from the Snow Peak. It is for these reasons that we grant it our Top Pick award for Ultralight Backpacking.
Somewhere in the middle of those two extremes is where we found the sweet spot for weight that didn't sacrifice too few amenities or a terrible cooking performance. Also in this middleweight range (1.2 - 1.8 lbs), 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.
Ease of Use
During the months of our hands-on testing, we used these eleven sets in as many ways as we could imagine. We were alpine climbing in the Tetons, picnicking in New York's Catskills, and even took some on an expedition to Chile.
We used every single piece in every single set to determine their versatility and practicality. The MSR Quick 2 System ranked the highest within this category for its versatility both in the campground as well as on the backpacking trail. Even though a skillet is not included with this set, these pots still performed well during our scrambled egg test. Often, we find a skillet unnecessary for overnight backpacking trips, and due to how well this set 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 Primus PrimeTech 2.3L Pot Set. We liked 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 G4Free Outdoor Camping Set also received a high score in this category, as our reviewers found it to be the most useful in the backcountry. While the Snow Peak Titanium was by far the lightest set, the nesting bowls from the G4Free model was a more useful design. The Winterial Camping Cookware and Pot Set also received 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.
The lowest competitors in this category were the MSR Alpine 2 Pot Set, the Snow Peak Titanium set and the GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Backpacker Cookset. The Snow Peak Titanium set is so small that we felt like we were cooking with a child's tea set. Although we enjoyed the cooking performance of the Pinnacle Backpacker, we are unlikely to backpack with it due to the delicate Teflon coating. The GSI Outdoors Bugaboo Camper set scored a little higher than the Pinnacle in this category for being an easy to use set 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.
The Best Buy Winterial 11 Piece Set has a dedicated frying pan, but the thin, anodized aluminum construction doesn't lend itself very well to egg cooking. The newcomer MalloMe 10 Piece Set also has a thin, anodized frying pan, this one even smaller than that of the Winterial; it performed the same as the Winterial.
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 camp 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.
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 be just 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.
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 cutting board, knife, cutlery, bowls, and cups. In most cases, you will also choose to add a frying pan. These "backbone" kits are the Editors' Choice Primus PrimeTech 2.3L, Top Pick MSR Ceramic 2-Pot Set, Top Pick Snow Peak Titanium Multi Compact, Best Buy G4Free 4 Piece Cooking Set, and the ultra-durable MSR Alpine 2 Pot Set.
To that basic 2-pot foundation, the Optimus Terra HE adds a perfect frying pan. All three GSI products, including the Editors' Choice Pinnacle Camper Cookset match the Optimus and add dedicated lids, insulated coffee cups, narrow "bowls", and the carry bag doubles as water storage and a wash basin. The MSR Quick 2 System and Sea to Summit Alpha 2.2 have similar feature sets. Each is basically 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 MalloMe 10 Piece Mess Kit and the Best Buy Winterial 11 Piece Camping Cookware Set are somewhat similar. They are both made of anodized aluminum, their pots and pans have fold-out handles, and both include small, lidded frying pans. They both also have little plastic "bowls" that aren't much bigger than the spoons some people eat with. The Winterial kit also has a cutting board and a clever and much-appreciated kettle for dedicated water heating use.
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 camp 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 on our information being up to date and relevant to almost exactly what you wish. If you cook in a special case, you can read between the lines of our reviews to deduce what you need to. Consult individual review articles before pulling the trigger, and happy cooking and camping!
— Jediah Porter