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Buying guide for best backpacking cookware sets

Your cookware is one of your most important tools when backpacking. Cookware sets include a variety of utensils and pans that can often stack together for easy carrying and compact storage.

The materials used in cookware sets range from plastic to cast iron. Choosing the right material depends on your cooking preferences and how much weight you’re comfortable carrying as you hike. While some sets include only the necessities — pots, pans, lids, and utensils — others include bowls, plates, or even a coffee press. As with any backpacking gear, the weight and volume of your cookware set should be a crucial factor in your decision-making process.

Though most backpacking cookware sets aren’t expensive, finding a set that meets your specific needs is still crucial before you set out on the trail. Our buying guide goes over the key features and varieties of backpacking cookware sets to help you find the right one for you. We’ve also included some of our favorites to help you as you shop.

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Most backpacking cookware sets stack for easy and compact storage.

Key considerations

Your backpacking cookware set should be lightweight and have all the tools and accessories you need to enjoy healthy meals while on the trail.

Weight and size

As with all of your camping gear, the lighter your cookware set the better. The biggest factor in weight is the material the set is made of.

Many backpacking cookware sets are designed to be easily stored, with the various parts stacking and nesting to form one unit. This makes stowing your cookware set in your backpack simple and saves space. We do not recommend buying cookware sets that don’t stack or nest because they are too cumbersome to fit in your backpack.


The number of pots and accessories in your cookware set should be appropriate for the number of people in your party. Some sets include lids for every pot, which helps to reduce cooking time and makes some recipes easier. Cookware sets may also include plates, utensils, mugs, and pot grippers. You should only bring enough pots and utensils for your group, because carrying any more just adds extra weight.

Backpacking cookware set features

Backpacking cookware sets vary in their materials and additional accessories. Different materials weigh different amounts and affect cooking times. The accessories included in a set can increase your options for recipes and preparing things like coffee or tea.


The three most common camping cookware materials are aluminum, titanium, and stainless steel. All of these may have a nonstick coating to aid with cooking and cleanup.

  • Aluminum: This metal is lightweight and inexpensive, and it transfers heat well. Its efficiency can reduce fuel usage, making it one of the most popular options. Some sets use hard-anodized aluminum, which is far tougher and more durable but comes at a slightly higher price.

  • Titanium: This metal is highly durable and even lighter than aluminum. However, it doesn’t heat as evenly as aluminum and can be quite expensive.

  • Stainless steel: This is the most durable choice, but it is also fairly heavy compared to aluminum or titanium.

  • Coatings: Cookware with a nonstick coating is easy to clean, but the coating may become damaged through regular use. Metal cookware coated with ceramic is an excellent nonstick option that is highly durable and easy to clean quickly.


The three most common types of handles on backpacking cookware are traditional, foldable, and hinged. Some sets have no handles and instead come with pot grippers. We don’t recommend these sets because it’s easy to misplace the pot grippers, leaving you with no way to take your scalding hot pot off the fire.

  • Traditional: These handles are just like those found on the pots in your kitchen — metal handles attached perpendicularly to the pot or pan. These aren’t ideal since they can get hot. They also aren’t foldable, making it challenging to pack the pots in your backpack.

  • Foldable: These handles wrap around the side of the pot for storage and unfold for cooking so you can easily remove the pot from the fire. Many of these handles are covered in rubber, silicone, or another nonconductive material.

  • Hinged: Most of these handles are made of metal and bend over the top of the pot for easy removal. While not as streamlined as foldable handles, these work well and are still easy to store, though it’s possible to scald your hand when removing a pot from the fire with a hinged handle.


Most cookware sets include a few pots, pans, and possibly lids, and some sets have additional tools for serving or preparing food, including the following:

  • Utensils

  • Plates

  • Mugs and cups

  • Kettle

  • French press

  • Dutch oven

  • Cooking stove

  • Spatulas

  • Tongs

If you don’t already have utensils and plates, purchasing them with a cookware set is a good option because they are usually designed to be stored with the rest of the set.

Backpacking cookware set prices

Inexpensive: Backpacking cookware sets that cost $10 to $20 are usually made of aluminum and include enough pots and pans for one or two campers. Some larger sets may fall in the higher end of this price range.

Mid-range: The sets that cost $20 to $40 may be made of aluminum, stainless steel, or titanium. These often include additional accessories like utensils, plates, mugs, and cooking equipment. Nonstick and ceramic-coated sets can be found in this range.

Expensive: Cookware sets that cost $40 to $60 are typically made of stainless steel or titanium. Nonstick and ceramic coatings are more common in this range. Some of these sets are large enough to accommodate four or more campers.


  • Practice at home. If you aren’t sure if your cookware set can handle a recipe, practice the recipe at home rather than waiting to test it out on a mountaintop.

  • Don’t carry too much extra food. You will have to carry it on your back for the bulk of your trip.

  • Be judicious about canned food. Canned food works well on the trail, but it is also heavy. While it needn’t always be avoided, you should only bring cans along if you’re comfortable with the added weight.

  • Carry dehydrated food. If you have a water filter with you, dehydrated food offers a great way to lighten your overall load since you don’t have to carry clean water — or food containing water — with you.

  • Label all your food. This is especially important if you store the food in plastic bags.

  • Make meals that you’re familiar with. This eliminates the need to learn a new recipe and ensures that your tastebuds will be happy on the trail.

Other products we considered

Though we stand by our top recommendations, there are a few other backpacking cookware sets worth mentioning briefly. For a generously sized cookware set that can easily serve four, we recommend the anodized aluminum yodo Camping Cookware Set. Despite the several large pots and pans, this set is fairly compact and lightweight at 2.9 pounds. The set includes five serving bowls, a sponge, a spoon, and several other accessories, making it well worth the low price. One set with an unusual design is the MSR Trail Lite Duo System, which features a large hard-anodized aluminum pot and polypropylene bowls and mugs. While this is a more limited cookware set, customers love how easy it is to pack and how lightweight the pot is.

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With a camping stove and a cookware set, you can prepare anything from scrambled eggs to spaghetti to a hearty stew.


Q. Are cookware sets BPA-free?

A. Most are, but you should look for a set that the manufacturer specifies as free of BPA.

Q. Can I use a cookware set over an open fire?

A. Yes, but it may take longer to cook your food and heat the pans evenly. In addition, the larger flames can overwhelm small pots and pans.

Q. Can backpacking cookware be used over a regular stovetop?

A. There’s no reason why not, and using your cookware in your home kitchen can give you a good idea of how many servings you can easily produce.

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