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Just as the concept of farm-to-table restaurants has graduated from a trend to a refreshing constant, so has backcountry cooking. The secret to cooking such fantastic meals lies partly on the recipes, of course. But you also need the right cookware to execute your backcountry gourmet ambitions.
Today’s cookware options cover the gamut, from big vessels ideal for simple, one-pot dinners to kits that include a host of pots, plates, bowls, insulated mugs and serving utensils. In evaluating the right cookware set for your next backpacking trip, first, consider the type of hiker you are. Ultralight obsessives should gravitate toward low-weight, small, options that nest within itself, which provide basic utility without adding on the ounces. Look for lightweight materials like titanium or aluminum.
Those willing to haul more weight — or just hike in a few miles and build out a luxe base camp — can consider models that come with more accessories like frying pans and a series of pots. Those with larger groups should go for complete kits that give you everything you need save a stove and the actual food, including cutting boards and drying racks.
In evaluating at the best cookware on the market right now, we cast a net wide enough to satisfy all sorts of backpackers, from simple culinary solutions that will benefit from the new wave in ridiculously good just-add-hot-water meals to those who love to make an event out of cooking and eating. We even kept the lovers of craft cocktails in mind. Backcountry pad Thai with a glass of Spanish Albarino? More than doable (pro tip: prep the ingredients beforehand and package them in the stages that you add ‘em to the pot, and then store everything inside your pot when backpacking — oh, and the wine gets chilled in a nearby river).
Read on to find the best backpacking cookware to buy today.
Best Overall: Sea to Summit Alpha Pot Set 2.0
The Alpha Pot Set 2.0 comes in a lightweight, minimal cook set for two backpackers. Made of hard-anodized aluminum alloy, the two pots included measure out at 1.2 and 2.7 liters and are abrasion-resistant, easy to clean and very durable against the heat from both camp stoves and open flames. But it’s the little details that help the Alpha Pot 2.0 rise above the competition, including lids with integrated strainers, silicone lining to assure a tight fit, textured bases to provide better stability on stoves and pivot handles with safety locks to provide secure and easy operation. It weighs a modest 16.2 ounces and stands only 7.2 inches tall. Better still, the smaller pot nestles into the larger one, and the handles collapse flush against the pots curved surface, saving space in your pack. The large internal radius of both pots also makes them easy to clean and stir your dishes.
Best Value: GSI Outdoors Halulite Minimalist
GSI Outdoors makes some of the coolest and most inventive outdoor kitchen products on the market. Want evidence? Look no further than the two-speed hand-crank Vortex Blender for base camp margaritas. But they also excel at backpacker-friendly products like the Halulite Minimalist, an ultralight cooking and eat solution for one. The small pot is designed to sit on micro-sized ovens, with 0.6 liters of cooking space. Made of hard-anodized alloy, it’ll stand up to trail abuse, and includes an insulating silicone pot gripper to make handing the hot pot easily; a magnet integrated to the gripper lets you attach it to the fuel canister while cooking so it’s always on hand. After the meal has been prepped, the pot slips into its insulated sleeve, so you can handle it with ease. This complete system also comes with a telescoping spork utensil, and everything nests inside itself, with enough room inside for an ultralight stove and fuel canister, so it won’t swallow up a lot of space in your pack. And at only 6.3 ounces, it’s one of the lightest cook sets available.
Best for Larger Groups: MSR Flex 3 Cook Set
This one-and-done kit comes with everything you need to transform your backcountry campsite into a full-on culinary experience for three backpackers. It includes two cooking pots — a 2.3-liter model made of nonstick DuraLite DX, and a 3.3-liter anodized aluminum pot, and its lid includes a strainer vent to make it easy to pour out excess moisture. You also get three double wall-insulated mugs and three deep-dish plates. Everything nestles together like a camping version of a Russian nesting doll, including the detachable Talon pot handle, which works with both cooking vessels. At two pounds and six ounces, it’s far from ultralight. But since you’re traveling with two other backpackers, it’s easy to distribute the weight. And if you need more, MSR also makes the Flex 4, which can accommodate the needs of four ambitions backcountry gourmands.
Best for Solo Ultralight Outings: Snow Peak Ti-Mini Solo Combo 2.0
Snow Peak recently updated their already-popular Solo Combo cook set, adding a new cup to hold twice the volume as the original, with a new silicone tab to let you handle the hot pots without scorching your fingers. Made of titanium, it’s one of the most durable pots on the market, and at only 5.5 ounces, it’s also one of the lightest. The kit includes the 30-fluid-ounce pot and an 18-fluid-ounce cup along with a lid and a mesh bag, with room inside the pot to store two fuel canisters or one canister alongside Snow Peak’s GigaPower mini stove. The pot rests inside the cup and the handles fold against the curves of the pot and cup, making it easy to stash and forget till meal time (or coffee hour) arrives. And the brushed titanium also makes it one of the most attractive cooking solutions available for savvy backpackers.
Best for Base Camping: Stanley Adventure Series Base Camp Cook Set
If you fancy hiking a few miles into the backcountry and then setting up camp, so you can day hike and explore over the next few days, the Adventure Series Base Camp Cook Set is worth hauling along. This 19-piece devise lets you replicate your kitchen in the wild (save for an ice maker). It includes a 7.25-inch frying pan, cutting board, spatula, serving spoon, dish-drying rack, a trivet, four plates, four bowls, and four sporks — and it all fits inside the 3.5-liter pot, which includes a vented lid. Made of scratch-resistant, rust-proof 18/8 stainless steel, both the pot and lid are crazy durable and BPA-free. It weighs a fairly hefty 5.6 pounds but considering you’re not doing serious distance while hauling the kit, it’s worth bearing the burden. And the drying rack means you don’t have to carry a kitchen towel, which even the ounce-counters would appreciate.
Best for Grab-and-Go Adventures: BioLite KettlePot
This blissfully simple 1.5-liter pot pours like a kettle and cooks like a pot. It's made of ultra-thin food-safe stainless steel that’s more durable than anodized aluminum and easier to clean since you don’t have to worry about scratching off any coating. The BPA-free plastic top is high-temp resistant and lets you see how your meal is progressing without wrestling off the lid, while the silicone seal secures the pot to the lid for easy, worry-free pouring. The vertical handles are insulated and fold nicely against the pot when not in use, and a clever heat shield at its base blocks the wind and concentrates your stove’s flames for efficient warming.
It also accommodates BioLite’s award-winning CampStove, which uses burning wood to generate heat and charge an integrated battery that you can use to power your smart devices via USB. Coffee addicts can add a custom coffee press for instant backcountry barista perfection, while everyone can feel good about supporting BioLite. This revolutionary, mission-driven company is focused on delivering products that help backpackers and families living in energy poverty find ways to cook food safely and generate electricity via thermoelectrics generated by smokeless wood-burning fires. It weighs a relatively featherweight 16.4 ounces.
Best One Pot: Toaks Titanium 2000 ML Pot
Home cooks already know the advantages of one-pot meals: easy cooking and easy clean-up. Toaks’ Titanium 900ML Pot lets you carry that approach into the backcountry — just tell your crew of three to four backpackers to bring along a few ingredients and toss it all in to make a wonderous stew that even novice chefs can master. Made of no-coat titanium, the 2,000-milliliter kit weighs 9.1 ounces and comes with a lid and a detachable bail handle; a pouring spout makes it easy to distribute the goods or pour hot water into an army of mugs. The two side handles lock into place and everything fits into a mesh storage sack. Despite its massive volume, the pot only has a diameter of fewer than seven inches and a height of 3.75 inches. It’ll definitely take up space in your pack, but it’ll amplify your cooking options once you’ve set up camp.
Best for Sun-Downers: Stanley Adventure Happy Hour 2X System
Introduce some tipsy surprise and delight on your next backpacking foray with the Adventure Happy Hour 2x System. This clever kit includes all you need (save the alcohol) to craft some serious backcountry cocktails, including a 30-ounce shaker with a steel strainer lid, a citrus reamer that delivers juice into the jigger cap and two seven-ounce double wall-insulated rocks glasses — use one as a shaker if you prefer to follow James Bond’s martini preference.
It’s made of dishwasher-safe 18/8 stainless steel and is entirely BPA-free. At 1.5 pounds, some minimalist backpackers may think this a hefty indulgence, but they’ll probably change their tune when they have that hand-crafted cocktail in their hand, especially if you garnish it with some foraged wild mint. Oh, and for carrying the alcohol, look no further than Stanley’s backpacker-friendly line of flasks.