Camping in the wild can be an opportunity to escape the hectic pace of the civilized world and rejuvenate by communing with nature. While cooking a meal in the woods can be a fulfilling experience, the camping cookware has to be up to the task. With the right cooking gear, meals can both meet the body’s need for sustenance and be as palatable as what can be cooked in a full kitchen.
The best camping cookware is functional, with either anodized aluminum or stainless steel construction, and has nonstick surfaces that make it easy to use and clean. Camping cookware also usually fits into a compact lightweight form for easy travel, whether for car camping or backpacking.
This guide ventures into the world of camping cookware, sharing the features to consider when shopping for a set while reviewing some of the top products on the market.
- BEST OVERALL: Bulin Camping Cookware Mess Kit
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Stanley Base Camp Cook Set for 4 Nesting Cookware
- BEST UPGRADE: GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Camper Cooking Set
- BEST FOR CAR CAMPING: Odoland Camping Cookware Mess Kit
- BEST FOR BACKPACKING: Winterial Camping Cookware and Pot Set
- BEST COMPACT: Limechoes Camping Cookware Set
- BEST FOR COOKING: Texsport Black Ice The Scouter Camping Cookware Set
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Camping Cookware
There are numerous factors to consider when shopping for the right outdoor cookware, including the type of camping you’ll be doing as well as the material, weight, and size of the cookware. Below, learn more about these and other important factors.
When trying to find the best camping cookware, it’s important to consider the type of camping. Look for camping cookware that is lightweight enough to transport over long distances in a backpack and compact enough to take up a minimal amount of room in the pack, leaving space for other essential camping gadgets.
While a kit may help with organization by keeping the cookware together all in one bag, it may not be a necessity for car camping, where the campsite may be just a few steps from the car or inside an RV. Heavier pots and frying pans, similar to the cookware used at home, can be good options for car camping as long as they fit the burners on the camp stove. RVs with kitchens can accommodate large sets of camping cookware or full-size kitchen cookware.
Most camping cookware is usually made from either hard anodized aluminum or stainless steel. Hard anodized aluminum is a thicker material that has a similar feel to the pots and pans used in a kitchen at home and heats up similarly to kitchen cookware. This makes it familiar and easier to use than other materials that could quickly become hot and potentially burn food. However, anodized aluminum pots and pans are heavier.
Most hard anodized aluminum pans have nonstick coatings of Teflon. This coating enables you to cook eggs, pancakes, and other foods without using (and packing) an additional product to coat the pan’s surface. Teflon is also easier to clean than other surfaces. The flipside is that Teflon wears out more quickly than stainless steel. The coating only lasts 3 to 5 years, depending on use. Teflon can also be a health hazard once it begins to wear and should be discarded or recoated as soon as the coating begins to deteriorate.
While a cookware set with stainless steel pots will be lighter and more durable than a set of anodized steel pots with Teflon coatings, it is not as easy to use them to cook outdoors meals. Food sticks more easily to the stainless steel surface, making it harder to cook and a challenge to clean.
Size and Weight
Whether car camping or backpacking, size and weight can be crucial when considering camp cookware. A good set of camp cookware can break down for easy transport and stores into a single package or box. Pots and bowls that nest together keep cookware more tidily together while reducing the amount of space a set needs.
While there is some flexibility with size and weight for car camping, size and weight can be crucial for backpacking. The lightest and most compact sets are usually preferred. Most cookware sets range in weight from about 1.5 to 5 pounds. When nested together for storage, cooking sets are about 8 inches in diameter and 7 inches tall. Compact sets can be just 5 inches in diameter and 6 inches tall.
Cook Sets vs. Individual Pieces
Cookware is available as full sets or individual pieces. Full sets typically include two different- sized pots and a frying pan, and may also come with other items such as a teapot, flatware, mugs, and even cooking utensils such as ladles, spatulas, and serving spoons.
Full sets may be designed to nest into each other and may fit into a carrying bag. The nested cookware is easy to transport, and nesting also keeps the items together, eliminating the need to hunt for individual pieces once at the campsite.
Individual pieces can be a good choice for those who require only a few pieces of cookware for making outdoor meals, such as a pot and a frying pan. Purchasing individual pieces also allows the user to tailor a kit to suit specific needs, add pieces to expand the number of place settings in a kit, or replace worn-out or missing cookware. However, buying a set is usually less expensive than buying cookware individually.
Number of Pieces
The size range in cookware sets is fairly broad. Some come with two or three pieces, while others may include up to a dozen pieces or more. Common pieces include large and small cooking pots and a frying pan. Larger sets feature teakettles, mugs, utensils, and cooking accessories.
Sets of three or four pieces are suitable for backpack trips involving one or two people. Larger sets of 15 or more pieces that include a full suite of pots and pans as well as enough mugs, plates, and utensils for four are more ideal for family trips. Keep in mind that all that cookware requires cleaning after use, so it can be more convenient to use the larger sets where running water is available.
Utensils and Accessories
Unless you plan on eating with your fingers, utensils are a necessary part of cookware. Many sets feature utensils that fit neatly inside the cookware for easy packing and transport. Sporks and double-sided utensils that have a fork on one end and a spoon on the other end are common among camping utensils for eating outdoor meals.
Camping cookware also includes other accessories for cooking, including spatulas, ladles, wooden spoons, and serving spoons. Color-coded aluminum mugs, to prevent mix-ups between campers, are also common in larger kits. Some even include loofah sponges that aid with post-meal cleanup. Most kits come with handy storage bags, some of which conveniently double as wash basins, which help keep the kit together and protected during transport.
Our Top Picks
The list below takes into account the above considerations to narrow the field to some of the best cookware sets on the market. These kits include pots and pans made from anodized aluminum or stainless steel and include the essential pieces needed for backwoods cooking, along with some useful extras.
With a thoughtful design that’s lightweight and compact enough for backpacking, this durable and easy-to-use kit is one of the best on the market. Bulin’s kit is similar in feel and performance to home cookware, and its anodized steel body makes it easier to control cooking temperatures.
Meanwhile, the nonstick coating eliminates the need to load up the pan with oil.
Two boiling pots, a teakettle, a frying pan, a soup spoon, a rice ladle, and plastic plates and bowls all fit neatly together into an 8-inch-diameter cylinder that’s about 7 inches high and weighs just more than 3 pounds. A handy nylon carrying bag keeps everything securely together.
Camping equipment can quickly get very expensive, which makes this set from Stanley such a good deal. It includes 21 pieces at a price that’s well under the cost of other sets. And, while it may not have the expensive nonstick coatings of other cookware, its pots and pans are well made and can wear better than those with Teflon coatings, which begin to deteriorate after a few years of use.
This set also nests well together into a compact form and includes a convenient engraved guide for stacking on the pot lid. Its stainless steel construction is durable while being easy to clean with soap and warm water. In addition to a pot and frying pan, this set includes enough bowls, plates, and utensils for four and has some nice additional tools, including a spatula, serving spoon, cutting board, and heat-resistant trivet. Its comprehensive number of pieces makes it well suited for car camping.
In addition to being well made, this set is versatile enough for glamping or a lightweight backpacking adventure. One of the knocks of most outdoor cooking gear is that it’s much more difficult to cook with than what one uses in a kitchen. Not so with this set, thanks to its Teflon-coated anodized aluminum construction.
The bowls and plates consist of lightweight and durable polypropylene plastic. This set also is comprehensive, with two different sizes of pots, a frying pan, and enough plates, mugs, and bowls to serve four people. For car camping, take the whole set, or take only the pieces needed for lightweight backpacking. It also has thoughtful features such as a heat-resistant lid with a built-in strainer and convenient color-coding so no one mixes up their mugs or plates with another camper’s. All pieces nest together into a cylinder just 9 inches in diameter and 6 inches high, which, in turn, nests inside a convenient stuff sack that doubles as a washbasin.
With versatile cookware that can handle duties ranging from frying an egg to boiling water for tea or hot cocoa, this cookware is well equipped for a night or two at a campground. This 29-piece set of nonstick, anodized aluminum cookware includes a large pot, a medium pot, a frying pan, and a teakettle that’s ideal for boiling water. It also includes enough place settings for four, including four stainless steel dishes that can serve as bowls or plates, four stainless steel cups that are color-coded for convenience, four spoons, four forks, and four knives. A collapsible bucket, a collapsible water container, and two cleaning cloths round out this all-inclusive set.
While car camping doesn’t require the same space savings as backpacking, it’s convenient when all the pieces fit neatly together. This set nests together with the teakettle, place settings, cups, and pans all fitting into a large pan that is 9 inches in diameter. A carrying bag holds the entire set for convenient travel.
A heavy cookware set just won’t do for a trip that involves backpacking miles over rugged terrain to the campsite. With a weight of just 1.5 pounds, this set can be an ideal backpacking companion. This 10-piece set includes the three essentials of a pot, a frying pan, and a teakettle as well as bowls, serving spoon, spatula, and sponge. Each piece of cookware consists of aluminum oxide, which is durable, light, and capable of withstanding high temperatures.
A nonstick Teflon coating prevents food from sticking while making this cookware easy to wipe clean, which can be a must when backwoods camping. In addition to being light, it also condenses down to just 6.75 inches in diameter and 3.5 inches high, as all the pieces fit neatly inside each other with handles that wrap around the sides.
What’s impressive about this durable stainless steel set from Limechoes is its ability to hold so much gear for cooking in such a compact form. When all of its 16 pieces are nested into each other, this kit measures a diminutive 4.7 inches in diameter and a hair over 6 inches tall. That small space is enough to fit a large and small pot, three bowls, a ladle, a collapsible knife/spoon/fork combo, a wooden spoon, a sponge for cleaning, and a small piezo ignition stove. And, at just 1.26 pounds, it’s a great option for backpacking.
A nylon net bag with hanging rope serves as a handy carrying bag. A carabiner is included for hanging this set from a tree or backpack. Each pot features silicone-covered handles that won’t conduct heat.
Those looking for pots and pans that are similar in performance and function to the cookware in their kitchen cabinets may want to check out this set from Texsport. This set consists of anodized nonstick aluminum. At 26 ounces, this set is a bit heavier for three pieces, but the coating and thicker material make it easier to transition from cooking on a gas range at home to a burner in the woods. The anodized steel heats similarly to kitchen cookware, and the nonstick coating is also more forgiving than stainless steel, whether making up a batch of scrambled eggs or frying flapjacks.
The nonstick coating also makes this set easier to clean, especially when water is scarce and cleanup is limited to wiping out cookware. This set includes 1-quart and 1.5-quart pots with lids and a 7-inch frying pan. The three pieces nest together to form a 7-inch cylinder that is 4.5 inches high. A mesh bag holds the set together and allows for airflow to dry wet cookware.
FAQs About Camping Cookware
Now that you know more about cooking outdoors, there may be new questions. If you’re wondering which material is best for camping cookware or how to pack your new camping kit, read on for answers to these and other popular questions about cookware made for all types of camping.
Q. What is the best material for cookware for camping?
Hard anodized aluminum with a nonstick surface is the best cookware for camping. The aluminum is thicker and more durable than anodized aluminum and stainless steel, and the nonstick surface is easier to cook on than other materials that tend to stick to food.
Q. What cookware items are essential for camping?
While many cookware sets can include more than 20 pieces, most people can get by with two: a frying pan and a boiling pot. These two pieces of cookware allow you to cook scrambled eggs, boil water for tea or a dehydrated outdoor meal, or make a stew.
Q. How do you pack a camping kitchen?
Most camping kits use the same nesting design to save space. This means the largest pot in the kit holds all the other pieces, beginning with the next larger pot, frying pan, cups, and so on. Because cookware kits vary in design, it’s a good idea to carry the cookware’s storage instructions with you or snap a photo of them on your smartphone. Some companies engrave these instructions into the cookware for convenience.