Our camping experts have evaluated over 40 of the best camping cookware options over the last 9 years. Sixteen sets were tested for this 2021 update while trotting the globe from high latitudes to warm, sunny season-less places. Packing each option with us on local backpacking trips, ski touring missions, hiking adventures, and long trail runs, we truly put each to the test. We've seared meats, boiled water, and sauteed vegetables while examining craftsmanship and assessing features. After hours of cooking on the trail and off our tailgate, we offer you comparative recommendations that you can trust, whether you're seeking the creme de la creme or an extraordinary deal.Related: Best Camping Stove of 2021
Best Camping Cookware of 2021
|Price||$44.95 at REI|
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|Pros||Durable, packable, lightweight, minimalistic design, fast boiling speed||Packable, easy to store and transport, quick to boil water||Super duper durable, simple design, good price||Innovative handle, quiet carry||Light, simple, just the right set of features|
|Cons||Hot to drink from, lid comes off easily||Requires extra attention while cooking, potential durability issues, expensive||Poor heat conductor, uneven cooking, long boil time, no skillet included||No frying pan, nesting the whole kit requires disassembling the cups||Not suitable for sophisticated cooking|
|Bottom Line||Minimalistic and simple, best for any thru hiker or lightweight gear lover||This is the only collapsible cookware set tested that will save space in your backpack||Super durable, basic two pot set; for basic camping pasta dinners and just-add-water breakfasts, this product excels and will serve for decades||A “typical” backpacking cook set with important and appreciated refinements over some of the competitors, but still missing what some consider the essential frying pan||A simple pot and basic accessories for ultralight backpacking|
|Rating Categories||Snow Peak Trek 700...||Sea to Summit X Set 32||MSR Alpine 2 Pot Set||Sea to Summit Alpha...||MSR Trail Mini Duo|
|Cooking Performance (25%)|
|Ease Of Use (15%)|
|Specs||Snow Peak Trek 700...||Sea to Summit X Set 32||MSR Alpine 2 Pot Set||Sea to Summit Alpha...||MSR Trail Mini Duo|
|Measured Weight||0.3 lbs||1.9 lbs||1.3 lbs||1.8lbs||0.7 lbs|
|Material||Titanium||Aluminum base, silicone sides||Stainless Steel||Hard-anodized Aluminum||Hard-anodized Aluminum|
|Components||700mL pot w/ lid||2.8L X-Pot, 1.3L X-Kettle & 8" X-Pan||2L pot, 1.5L pot, lid, pot grabber||1.2L pot, 2.7L pot, 2 strainer lids, 2 bowls, 2 insulated mugs, 1 pack towel||1.2L pot, 28 oz. bowl, lid, pot lifter, stuff sack|
|Avg Boil Time (mins)||3.11||2.25||3.85||3.92||4.02|
|3L Pot? (>2.4L)||0||1||0||0||0|
|2L Pot? (1.5-2.4L)||0||1||2||1||0|
|1L Pot? (.5-1.4L)||1||0||0||1||1|
|Frying Pan Lid?||N/a||Yes||No||N/a||N/a|
|Packed Size||4.2 x 4.4 in||9 x 1.8 in||8 x 4.4 in||7.2 x 4.7 in||5 x 5.5 in|
|Weight of pot closest to 1.5L, with lid and handle||0.25 lbs||0.4 lbs||0.8 lbs||0.7lbs||0.5lbs|
|Cooking Surfaces||Uncoated||Non-toxic anodized aluminum||Uncoated||Hard anodized||Hard anodized|
Best Base Camping Cookware
GSI Pinnacle Camper
The GSI Pinnacle Camper is our top choice because of its incredible versatility and ability to function for many people. All of the individual components are in and of themselves, high-quality components we would be happy to own as solo pieces. When you then add them all together as a set, their quality just compounds. The set nests neatly together for storage and travel, taking up less space than a bicycle helmet. This compact cook set gives you the ability to cook for and serve up to four people without taking up a ton of precious space. The pots and pans are 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. If you plan on a solo outing, you can pick and choose the components to bring along, making it exceptionally versatile for any sized group.
While we love this set, there are a couple of small flaws. The pot handle can only be used with GSI products, so if you have another piece of camp cookware you like using, you'll have to bring an additional attachable handle. Due to the Teflon, it's best to use a plastic stirring utensil and avoid scratching the surface, as the Teflon can fleck off, deeming the pot unusable. If you're looking for a cookware set that works for groups up to four, is easy to use, with many modularized pieces, this is the top dog in our fleet.
Read review: GSI Pinnacle Camper
Best Personal Cooker
Primus PrimeTech 2.3L Pot Set
The Primus PrimeTech 2.3L Pot Set is ideal for solo campers or groups of two. This set comes with two nesting pots, a potholder, and a lid. The high-quality components have lasted the test of time and make this one of our favorite cookware sets even after years of use. It features a clever lid to optimize efficiency, while the heat exchanger at the base makes boiling incredibly quick. Primus augments the bottom with fins that increase surface area for more heat exchange capacity. As a result, boiling time is faster, which means you don't have to carry as much fuel. In our head-to-head tests of boil time, 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. Plus, the interior volume is large enough to fit the tools of your entire backcountry kitchen with a small gas canister.
While you get unparalleled efficiency and performance from the main pot, you will still have to complement it with your own choice of frying pan, cups, and bowls (if you need them). While the pot is quite light, it is fairly large and takes up a considerable amount of space in your pack. Featuring a 2.3L volume pot set, this is an ideal option for any camper that needs to boil larger volumes of water or wants to cook real cuisine in the backcountry.
Read review: Primus PrimeTech 2.3L Pot Set
Best Bang for Your Buck
Stanley Adventure Base Camp
Stanley's Adventure Base Camp cook set is a camping cookware kit made with essentially no compromises for weight; this frees the Stanley set to optimize cooking performance further while maintaining packability. It serves four people and nests together perfectly for easy packing in the corner of your car trunk or canoe duffel. It comes with pots, pans, plates, cooking and eating utensils, and more. The price is hard to beat, and its durable stainless steel construction adds to its value. After testing it for over two years, the steel hasn't changed color, and all components still look fresh.
With so many pieces comes additional weight adding bulk to your pack. While it does nest together, it's far too heavy to go very far as part of a human-powered cook kit. The plates are a bit small and only suitable for small portion sizes. That said, for a true "glamping" experience, some may want to grab a few plates from their home kitchen. For backpacking, almost any of the other products we assess is a better choice because of its weight cost. This Stanley set is truly best for budget-conscious folks who are traveling by boat, plane, or car and want a functional kitchen in one nested package that's great for larger groups. Or, you can take individual pieces and modularize as you wish.
Read review: Stanley Adventure Base Camp
Great Value Personal Cookset
GSI Outdoors Glacier 1-Person
The GSI Glacier 1-Person is a simple cook set that's best for the solo backpacker looking for simplicity and reliability at a low cost. Far from a full kitchen, it features one pot (one-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, but with the advantage of being more durable. That said, the steel has changed color after a few camping trips, making it look a little older than we wish. 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 Solo Set-Up
MSR Trail Mini Duo
The MSR Trail Mini is one of the lightest cook sets we've tested and makes for a fantastic 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, as the pot is small, tall, and narrow. The anodized coating is sub-par at best for a non-stick treatment that feels more specialized, with limited applications. While you can get away with cooking an egg inside it, it's really best for boiling water and hydrating food. On a recent backpacking trip, the rubber pot grip got a bit too hot over a single burner stove and melted; you'll want to make sure you're watching this pot on a high-powered single burner. Aside from these caveats, this is the one we reach for when we're heading out on a solo weekend backpacking or hiking escapade.
Read review: MSR Trail Mini Duo
Best Ceramic Set
MSR Ceramic 2-Pot Set
The MSR Ceramic is truly unique as a quality ceramic set. Sophisticated camp cooking has always required a non-stick coating. Until recently, that meant either hefty cast iron or Teflon-style coatings, but now, the times have changed. This ceramic-made option doesn't use a Teflon-coating. We appreciate its lightweight and seemingly high-quality construction. An MSR frying pan is available separately, with the same coating that is non-stick in nature and easy to clean. After using it for three years, the coating still looks fresh when using only plastic utensils while cooking.
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. Additionally, you should not clean it with a ball of abrasive steel wool or cook with metal utensils. If you prefer a ceramic coating to Teflon, this is a wonderful choice to consider.
Read review: MSR Ceramic 2-Pot Set
Excellent Cup for Cooking
Snow Peak Trek 700 Titanium
What's not to love about the Snow Peak Trek 700 durable cup? As a favorite for fast-packers and thru-hikers, it gains appeal with its uber lightweight construction and stand-out functionality. It is ridiculously light and packable, it boils water in a flash, and its titanium construction is reliable and durable. Our testers had success boiling water and hydrating various meals, and we could even put it directly into a fire. 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 its lighter construction, there are some drawbacks you'll have to consider. First, the small internal volume is best for a single person. Second, boiling water is its best use and nothing more. Third, if you boil water inside the cup, you have to wait for it to cool to drink directly from it, or you will burn your lips, so a spoon or utensil is highly recommended. If you're cool with dealing with those drawbacks and you're still in search of a reliable and durable cup, this might appeal to you.
Read review: Snow Peak Trek 700 Titanium
Collapsible and Packable
Sea to Summit X Set 32
The Sea to Summit X Set 32 stands out for its collapsable silicon sidings that'll easily slip into the cracks of your backpack. It's not bulky or heavy, and if space is your biggest concern, this will give you the best bang for the buck. It comes complete with a pot, kettle, and pan to cook any food that your heart desires. We tested this set while exploring the beaches of Hawaii and the high seas of Iceland. We used just the kettle to boil water for these fastpacking trips, which proved to have great success, fitting easily into our running pack.
Unfortunately, this set isn't the most reliable or durable. Twice in our six years of testing this set, we've accidentally scorched the silicon sidewalls and deformed the plastic lids when we weren't paying close enough attention. The handles are also flimsy and flexible, with the design being surprisingly heavy. If you can promise yourself to be diligent in overseeing your food while cooking, you'll find this set will take up the least room in a pack, which is appealing for those where space saving is crucial.
Read review: Sea to Summit X Set 32
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.
These cookware sets have been all over the world, from the beaches of Hawaii to the high tundra of Iceland. 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. We measure boiling speed, ease of cleaning, and cooking eggs, pancakes, and more to see how each distributes heat and releases food. We subject each to the same tests in a controlled (and field) environment; we can then compare each objectively and without bias, ensuring excellent recommendations for your purchase.
Related: How We Tested Camping Cookwares
Analysis and Test Results
We took the time to select a wide range of cook sets to compare. From full basecamp set-ups to single pots, we've chosen options for all types of campers. Those that like to car camp, backpack, hike, cook at the house, and the ultralight crowd. To objectively compare each, we rate them across six important metrics, including cooking performance, packability, durability, weight, ease of use, and features. Knowing what's important to you, take a look at which sets do best to help you determine exactly what you're looking for.
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 note, which will help you find a well-priced set for your needs, with many options to highlight. For example, if you like to group camp, the Stanley Adventure Base Camp stands out for its lower price and stainless steel design that is seemingly bombproof. While it is heavier than the GSI Pinnacle or GSI Outdoors Bugaboo, it's just as featured with better durability, a lower price, better features, and thus a much higher value.
One of the lowest priced contenders, the GSI Glacier 1-person, stands out for its simplistic design and stainless steel construction. The Winterial 11 Piece is another to consider that is much more featured than the GSI Glacier 1, 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 seek the best camp cookware, cooking performance is the most important factor to consider. We want a set that cooks, boils water efficiently, and minimizes heat loss so precious drops of fuel are not squandered. In our tests, we assess the performance of each product by constructing carefully controlled tests. First, we look to see how fast each will boil water. Second, we test which will make the best scrambled eggs without producing a sticky or burnt mess. Finally, we make several on-trail meals and make noteworthy the easiest options to use and require more attention. It turns out the non-stick pots are typically the easiest to cook with and have great performance and a fast boiling time. Here are the details.
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 type of metal the pot is cast from is an essential factor and 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 compared to the rest — similar to what you'd get in your kitchen.
Even more than these variables, we found that the presence or absence of heat exchanging rings on the bottom of the pot affects the efficiency of our boil test. The average boil time of pots with flat bottoms is three 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, as the 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 two minutes and 45 seconds. The unique kettle included with the 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.
Other pot sets like the GSI Outdoors Bugaboo Camper (and nearly identical GSI Pinnacle Camper) and GSI Glacier Base Camp offer about an average boiling time, hanging around three minutes, 50 seconds. The MSR Ceramic set is a tiny bit faster due to material that offers better conductivity and a tight-fitting pot lid.
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 built for boiling water and rehydrating meals on the go.
The Egg Test
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 is rather obvious which of the sets cooked evenly with minimal sticking. Our best performer is the GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Camper model, which has a Teflon non-stick coating on a thick-bottomed, dedicated frying pan. Interestingly, the GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Backpacker frying pan 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 Primus PrimeTech 2.3L and the MSR Ceramic 2. All have surfaces that don't stick easily, making clean-up nice.
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. Browned in a skillet like this, at home or on the trail, is beaten only by grilled meat. Non-stick aluminum nor even cast-iron exceeds the performance of laminated stainless for browning meat.
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. Remember that you can also buy a set with more features and parse out individual components to make it more packable.
The Sea to Summit X Set 32 is the clear winner of this category for its ultra-packable design. 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.
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.
Other contenders that take up less space include the 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 best because it has the smallest dimensions and takes up the least amount of room in a 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 MSR Ceramic Set, all of which lock together by the pot handle flipping over the straining lid. The Stanley Adventure Series closes with an elastic strap that 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 Primus PrimeTech carry bag is also insulated, which we like for colder hiking adventures.
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 Stanley Adventure Series Cookset will last. 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, which has flimsy lid holders, but well-crafted pots and a pan.
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 more durable for the weight. Even though it's thin, it's super-strong.
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 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.
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.
The second-largest and second heaviest set we tested is the GSI Pinnacle Camper Cookset, which weighs 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, it's slightly heavier than average.
Of the base camp setups out there, the GSI Glacier Set is one of the lightest. It only has two high-capacity pots (two and three liters) 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 Stanley Adventure Series Base Camp. Those who choose this set will look not for minimum weight but cooking performance in a clever packing combination. You can get away with bringing it into the backcountry if you parse out all its components, amongst others.
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. Unlike 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.
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 one pound, with amazing cooking performance. It's larger than the Glacier 1 person but has a much higher capacity, suited for two to three people instead of just one. You'll be spending less on fuel as you can boil more water with less fuel for more people on the spectrum of weight.
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 even for backpacking when scaled down a bit. 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 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 world's high latitudes, 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 and on the backpacking trail. All these pots still performed 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 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.
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.
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.
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 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 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.
Let's examine what your typical camping kitchen should include. A lightweight backpacking cook kit might have one pot for boiling water for every 2-4 people and a spoon for each person. Everyone can 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 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 needs a bowl or deep plate, a cup for hot and cold liquids, a spoon, and a fork (or a spork). 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.
Under half of the cook sets we tested are two pots, lid(s) and handle(s). All of these products have no additional features. You will need to acquire a cutting board, knife, cutlery, bowls, and cups for each. In most cases, you will also choose to add a frying pan. The Primus PrimeTech 2.3L or the MSR Ceramic are great examples of this type of set.
Two GSI products, including the 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 of bowls/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 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.
We trust that our recommendations and references are sound and well-researched. We "pound the pavement" 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, with unbiased recommendations that'll you get on the trail without concern for how your camping cookware will perform.
— Amber King & Jediah Porter
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