Cooking outdoors requires the right heat source and the correct cookware. In this guide, you'll learn how to choose the best camping cookware for your trip (6 factors). I also include cooking tips, accessories, and safety gear.
Best Camping Cookware for Hikers and Campers: Buyers Guide
You’re about to go on a hiking adventure. So, how much stuff do you need to take with you? I mean, you’re the one who has to lug it around, right? So how much is just enough?
Well, that all depends on how long you are going for, if it’s just you trekking around or if your friends/family are tagging along. Also, what sort of camping you are looking for. Basic sleeping on the ground, or glamping.
Here’s the good news… it’s going to be great.
Here’s the bad news… you have to carry everything so ‘glamping’ is probably out of the question.
Of course, if you are camping and just hiking to your campsite, then you probably won’t mind a little more weight for an hour or two until you get there, but if you are carrying your pack all day then you’ll want everything in the super-lightweight and the ultra-lightweight categories of gear.
This guide is pretty comprehensive so we’ve broken it up into five sections:
- Best cooking gear: pots, pans and plates, you know – the essentials for eating.
- How to choose the right gear for you: weight, quality, materials, non-stick, volume and what heat source you will be using.
- Heat source: cooking over a mini-stove or open campfire.
- Best cooking accessories: hotdog cages, s’more marshmallow sticks, all-purpose tools/knives, fish baskets etc. to truly enjoy your time around the campfire.
- Safety while camping: a few things that are a good idea to have
We’ll look at sets of gear, best value sets and also a few little perks that some people would say are definitely essential, like a coffee maker so you can still have the comfort of your cuppa joe in the morning to get you started.
Best Camping Cookware
Here are my choices for the best camping cookware for hikers and campers. Many sets include bowls or plates, some cutlery and cleaning gear.
Top Choice: Bisgear Camping Cookware Set
Durable and strong it packs up neatly into one small pouch easily tucking into your pack or attached to the outside with the carabiner provided. The included mini-stove will attach to larger gas bottles or mini-fuel systems depending on the style of camping you are doing. High-heat conduction means you boil or cook fast and it’s non-stick coating means it is easy to clean when you’re done.
Best Value: MalloMe Camping Cookware Kit
Cleaning is easy and it even comes with its own cleaning pad, 2 BPA free bowls and cooking utensils which all pack down into one neat package.
Bonus: it also includes a couple of hidden treasures: a free folding spork (fork and spoon in one) and a 10 recipe ebook complete with s’more making guide and recipes to increase your quality time in nature.
At only 1.5lbs it’s ultra-lightweight aluminum oxide construction is both friction resistant and able to handle high temperatures which means you can cook over any heat source and it cooks quickly so you have more time to relax after your long day.
Don’t worry, the handles are able to withstand the high temperatures as well so you don’t’ have to worry about them melting or breaking down quickly. Cooking utensils are included along with bowls and a cleaning pad. Everything is non-stick so it’s easy to clean with just a quick rinse.
Solo Hiker or Couple: REDCAMP Camping Cookware Mess Kit
This kit is ultra-lightweight at 0.57lbs and when packed away in its mesh pouch takes up very little room in your gear bag – packing away to the height of an iPhone. Non-stick, strong, durable and with cleaning gear it does everything you need.
Bonus: it also includes two hidden treasures, a survival bracelet with emergency whistle, parachute rope and fire starter alongside a tool card so you have additional safety and tools for any emergency.
Best Cast Iron Skillet
There are two sizes to consider.
- 10.25″ Skillet: A 10.25″ skillet can feed 2 people and a 12″ skillet can feed four. The 10.25″ weighs 5 lbs. And the 12″ weights 7.6 lbs.
- 6.5″ Skillet: This is a decent size for a single traveler. And it weighs just under 2 lbs.
If you aren't hiking too far or if you are car camping – a cast iron skillet is a must.
Best Camping Spork
This spork is also 100% titanium, so it's strong, super lightweight, and heat resistant to 2372°F (1300°C) – making it nearly impossible to melt in a campfire. Average campfires reach an internal temperature of 1650°F (900°C).
Best Camping Cutlery
Cutlery: It is a special kind of torture if you have cooked your meal and realize that there is no cutlery in sight! Your stomach is growling as you are seriously thinking about how long it would take to make wooden spoons from sticks on the ground, or, about trying your hand at using them as chopsticks. So this never happens, here’s a top little cutlery set worth its weight in gold.
GSI Outdoors Glacier has a fully guaranteed rust-proof, strong, durable knife, fork, and spoon set in its own little pouch weighing in at just over 3ozs which is ideal to slip in with your cooking set or an outer pocket of your pack just to be sure you don’t forget it.
How to Choose the Right Gear for You (6 Factors)
Depending on if you are just camping, or if you are on a trekking trip where you walk all day and camp each night, the gear you will want is basically the same, but the weight will be your biggest consideration.
Some things to consider when you’re packing are weight, size, ease of cleaning, and construction material – so here’s a quick look at each. What to look for:
- Weight: Lightweight and ultra-lightweight cooking sets are usually made of anodized or oxidized aluminum with a non-stick coating. Both are durable, anti-rust, strong and heat quickly.
- Size: If you’re trekking for a week, this is a big consideration as you’ll be lugging around other big items like a tent. Pull out your pack and look at just how much room you have for your cooking gear.
- Cleaning: Non-stick is by far the easiest gear to clean. It means that if you are away from a stream or river to rinse your gear until morning, you are more likely to remove 95% of the food cutting down on the likelihood of attracting animals to your campsite in the middle of the night.
- Construction Materials: For ultra-lightweight and lightweight materials, your best bet is aluminum. It’s strong, durable, rust-resistant super light so it’s ideal for hiking and camping.
- Heat source: What are you going to be cooking on? Your heat source will affect your cookware choice. More on this below.
- Volume: How many people will you be feeding with this pot or pan? Do you want to feed everyone at once, or can you cook the same meal a few times – allowing you to bring smaller cookware?
Handy Hint: Do a pre-pack of all your other gear before purchasing your cooking set. Just to see just how much room you have spare. It may be less than you think!
Let's talk about gear for your heat source. If you are cooking over one of those tiny jet stoves then your heat source will be intense and concentrated. While, if you are cooking over a fire then your heat source will fan out as fires tend to do.
Why does this matter? If your campfire is well lit, then the flames are likely to come up the side of your pot and occasionally reach the handles which means they may degrade faster or melt. Neither of these are good for you.
The good news is: some camping sets have what are called ‘grabbers’ which means that it doesn’t have handles, it has a grabber that you remove it from the heat source with.
- Pros: this is good because one grabber usually fits all of the pots in the set so it can cut down on the space your set takes up.
- Cons: the other side of that coin is that it makes it harder to cook with (sometimes) if you have to keep grabbing it to stir, suspend it over flames etc. this can get tiring for your wrists.
Heat Source for Campfire Cooking
Cooking over a mini-stove is quite different than cooking over a campfire. There are pros and cons for both which we will quickly run through here so you can decide if you want to add the weight of a mini-stove to your pack.
First things first, you have to think about where your destination is. Some National Parks won’t allow campfires at certain times of the year or even year-round. If they do it may only be in certain locations like the main campground, not out on the trail if you are hiking.
Also, the weather may have been dry during the preceding months and a campfire ban is in force. Which is why a lot of camping hikers end up opting to take a mini stove along with them so they can cook quick easy meals and enjoy their morning coffee before heading off on the next leg of their journey.
Here are a few things to help you decide which you prefer:
Cooking on a Mini Stove:
- Pros: Has its own fuel source so you don’t have to find firewood at the end of the day.
- Concentrated flame cooks quickly oftentimes boiling a large pot of water in 4 minutes or less.
- Compact and lightweight.
- More time to relax as it’s quick, efficient and ready to go.
- Don’t need additional nesting gear for cooking gear, they go straight on top.
- Cons: More weight in your pack
- May need to take extra fuel canisters
- No fire to keep you warm at night or deter animals from your campsite
Check out our Buyers Guide to the Best Camping Stoves (Factors, Tips, Gear, Safety)
Cooking on a Campfire:
- Pros: S’mores. There we said it. Yes, those sticky, sweet treats are amazing after a day’s hike. Here is the classic recipe (and 6 delicious variations).
- Open grill means you can cook with pots, pans, and grill all at the same time. This means you can cook more complex meals – cast iron pan (with bacon, hash browns, eggs), coffee, and toast all cooking together.
- Larger cooking area saves time – so you can feed a family faster.
- Animal deterrent: Campfires help keep curious creatures away from your camp. Here are some tips for keeping bears away from your site.
- Grills are lightweight and sit flat in your pack.
- Cons: Wide flames can melt pot handles
- Spend time collecting firewood at the end of the day’s hike.
- Sites may not have enough fuel or open fires may be banned in that location.
- Need to take a grill to hold your pots and pans over the fire.
So, as you can see, both have their good points and a few downfalls so it will largely depend on where you are camping, what the rules are for that location and how much weight you want in your pack.
Here's what you need to know about campfire cooking.
Camper Guide to Safe Water: How Long to Boil Drinking Water
Best Cooking Accessories
Roasting marshmallows, hotdogs or making s’mores, nothing says camping like sitting around the campfire cooking up something yummy.
Relaxing after a long day of adventuring, hiking or scrambling over all sorts of terrain you want to enjoy your nighttime as much as your daytime activities so we’ve found some nifty gadgets that are lightweight and small enough to fit in your pack to take along with you.
Plus, you don’t want to have to take everything but the kitchen sink, right?
But I’m guessing you do want some ‘essentials’ like your coffee in the morning and a sweet treat at night so we’re here to help and give you some ideas of affordable, lightweight nick knacks small enough to fit in your pack and make your trip all that more comfortable.
Roasting sticks: Arres have a great set of metal telescopic roasting sticks extending out to 34 inches so it doesn’t matter if you’re around a roaring bonfire or an intimate little campfire glow at the end of the night, you can make your s’mores, roast your hot dogs and make cooking fun.
They also come with safety caps so you don’t have to worry about carrying them in your pack.
Camp Coffee … the morning must
Whether you’re an espresso, flat white, Americano or fancy mocha caramel latte lover, one thing is for sure, coffee is one thing most people want to smell first thing in the morning.
Because this can make the difference between getting off to a good start or not we thought we’d give you a couple of options for this one. After all, we want your camping trip to be amazing. You may be headed into the wilds but you can still have some creature comforts.
Here's more about making coffee while camping
Universally able to fit just about any mug, it’s slim lined and folds down flat so it will slip into an outer pocket of your pack ready to go in the morning. Just add grounds and water and let it brew to your desired strength.
Producing delicious coffee its rapid filtering means you can make 1-4 cups in one minute so you don’t have to worry about others stealing your coffee once that delicious coffee smell hits their nose – you'll have enough to share.
It's small, compact and packs up into its own little tote bag. The total immersion brewing delivers a smooth rich coffee available in different flavors and strengths.
Here are 7 ways to make camping coffee
Their 3D mesh pattern has produced the strongest lightweight (4oz) and durable grill worldwide. It has been built specifically for hikers camping and has been engineered to fit into almost any backpack.
This grill is incredibly versatile and capable of making your trip a lot easier because it's large enough to fit a small saucepan while your freshly caught fish, hamburgers or hotdogs grill right alongside it.
Capable of transforming 1,000 gallons of river, lake, pond or puddle water into clean drinking water by removing 99.9999% of bacteria and parasites, that’s more than the average person drinks in a year.
Extremely hardy and rigorously tested, it doesn’t have any moving parts to wear out, or contain any chemicals so your mind is at ease knowing clean drinking water is at your fingertips.
Camp Cooking Safety
Now that you have your cooking gear and accessories here are a few more things you may want to consider taking with you that you may not have thought about.
If you’re an experienced camper, hiker or adventurer I’m sure you’ve already got these stowed away in your pack, but some newbies get so excited for their upcoming trip that some things may slip their mind.
Things like a backup light to cook by if their batteries fail, a Firestarter in case their lighter runs out of fuel and then they can’t cook. Or, a small First Aid Kit.
Excuse us while we play devil’s advocate, in case of a worst-case scenario where someone gets burnt while cooking, ends up with a big splinter collecting firewood or something more serious. Remember help could be hours away.
More than just band-aids and bandages, it comes with a guide and emergency attention-grabbing whistles as well.
The last thing you want is to be trying to cook in the dark if it takes you longer to get to your destination than expected. Just 6 minutes of cranking produces one hour of light.
It is a 3-in-1 survival tool holding not only the magnesium fire starter rod, but also a compass and an emergency whistle to gain the attention of rescuers if something does go wrong.
Even under less than desirable weather conditions, heavy wind or rain, it creates a strong spark enabling you to get dry, warm or just start that cooking fire. Durable and reliable it’s capable of producing thousands of hot strong sparks.
Armed with all of this good gear you are ready for your amazing camping trip whether it be hiking and camping, or just camping, this gear is good for both.