Reviews You Can Rely On

How We Tested Camping Cookwares

Tuesday April 20, 2021

We thoroughly enjoyed the testing process for camping cookware, as these sets are an integral piece of outdoor gear for everyone. Our reviewers made breakfast, lunch, and dinner for several months in these sets, day-in and day-out. We browned sausages and sauteed veggies for dutch oven lasagna; we scrambled eggs to see how evenly each set cooked and turned those eggs, and many others, into breakfast burritos. We also made pork fajitas, and of course, easy pasta dishes. We tested all over the Americas - both North and South. These cook sets have seen the high peaks of mountain summits, as well as the sea level beaches of Northern British Columbia and Hawaii. Essentially — we've tested these sets everywhere. And our data gathered along the way is how we award each with a score based on key metrics.

Winter kitchens in Alaska require great cookware. We take it to the...
Winter kitchens in Alaska require great cookware. We take it to the extreme, testing in extreme places all over the Americas.
Photo: Amber King

Cooking Performance


In addition to cooking several meals on the trail and at home in our own kitchens, we evaluate the performance through objective tests. Our reviewers created a Boil Test, in which we timed how long each set took to boil two cups of water. We also evaluated the cooking performance while scrambling sticky eggs to see which stick and which don't.

A look at the results of one of our egg tests. This pot does...
A look at the results of one of our egg tests. This pot does particularly well in our egg tests.
Photo: Amber King

While cooking, we also looked to see how well the materials conduct heat for even or uneven cooking. This important metric accounts for 25% of the overall score.

We get ready to test several different pots with two cups of water...
We get ready to test several different pots with two cups of water each in our boiled water tests. This is inside, in a relatively well-controlled environment.
Photo: Amber King

Packability


We evaluated how well the sets nest within each other and what other items can be packed inside. We also look at the relative amount of space each takes up in a backpack. Specifically, we think about backpacking and fastpacking and the elements of performance a person doing this would prefer.

Here we look at the relative size and nesting features of all...
Here we look at the relative size and nesting features of all cookware sets tested.
Photo: Amber King

Durability


We use each set for at least three months before writing about it. Even after that, we continue to use it. Some of our sets have been with us for over three years, testing in several locations. We look at the materials and not how well they hold up after being tossed around in the back of converted vans and stuffed into packs laden with other items. We also look to see which hold up with the use of metal utensils. Finally, we evaluate the overall construction and the flimsiness of the design by putting weight in each to see if it flexes or holds up.

Here we find the potholders of this to be subpar, melting after just...
Here we find the potholders of this to be subpar, melting after just one use. Hands-on tests are integral for testing this metric.
Photo: Edward Kemper

Weight


We weigh each component of each set using our own scales.

A look at the weight with all of the different parts of the MSR...
A look at the weight with all of the different parts of the MSR Ceramic set. Yes, we weigh all the gear we test.
Photo: Amber King

Ease of Use


Simply put, we use each item. We note any issues with handles, lids, or other components that make the set hard to use. We test on both a camping stove and a single burner, both with stable and unstable environments. This helps us identify the use limitations.

A look at how the Primus articulates with a well-known camping stove.
A look at how the Primus articulates with a well-known camping stove.
Photo: Edward Kemper

Features


What does each come with? And how useful are they? After making many meals for our friends and family, we determine which features are actually helpful and which are simply just gimmicks to promote marketing.

We went the extra mile, in fact about five extra miles, for a...
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.
Photo: Gentrye Houghton