Your Guide to Camping Cookware for Backpackers

Camping Cookware: A close-up of an ultralight camping pot on a gas canister stove on the trail

In this post, we'll take a look at:

Choosing the right cookware for your backpacking trips can be a bit overwhelming. In this guide, we’ll simplify the process, helping you select the perfect gear for outdoor cooking.

Whether you’re an experienced ultralight backpacker or new to the outdoors, we’ll explore everything from pots and pans to handy smaller cookware items, making sure your camping meals are hassle-free. Let’s start.

Types of Camping Cookware

When it comes to backpacking cookware, less is often more. Choosing the right type of cookware can significantly lighten your backpack. Here are the main types:

1. Backpacking (Cup) Pots:

Camping Cookware: Toaks 750 ml (25 ounce) cup / pot.
  • Compact and Lightweight: These pots are designed to be as light and space-efficient as possible, making them easy to carry in your backpack.
  • Single-Piece Design: Look for pots with foldable or removable handles to save space and simplify packing.
  • Size Matters: When choosing a pot, consider the size carefully – a pot that holds around 25 ounces (750ml) is often a good choice for solo ultralight backpackers or small groups.

2. Backpacking Pans:

Camping Cookware: Titanium D145mm Frying Pan
  • Multi-Purpose: Backpacking pans can serve various purposes, from frying food to boiling water.
  • Nonstick Options: Some backpacking pans come with nonstick coatings, which make cooking and cleaning easier.
  • Compact Design: Choose a pan that stacks neatly with your other camping cookware to maximize space.

3. Heat-Exchanger Pots:

Camping Cookware: MSR WindBurner 1.8L Accessory Pot

This one is the odd one out. While some of these designs are pretty effective in windy conditions, it varies by model, and it’s not a specific advantage we can outline:

  • Fuel-Efficient: These pots are designed to rapidly boil water, making them highly efficient in terms of fuel consumption.
  • Bulky: We don’t use such designs very often because they are relatively large, heavy, and difficult to fit into your backpack due to their awkward shape, which takes up a lot of space.

Tip: When choosing between these options, think about the meals you plan to prepare and the size of your backpack. For instance we only use a pot as we only need to boil water.

Small Camping Cookware

Now that you have the pots (cups) and pans covered, here are the extras to complete your kitchen setup:

  • Lid: A pot lid is handy because it makes cooking faster, saves energy, and prevents food from splattering. Some camping cookware sets include lids that can also serve as plates or pans, so you can keep an eye out for those if you’re interested. If you want something lightweight, you can replace your lid with aluminum foil.
  • Utensils: A good utensil is essential for any serious backpacker. There are lightweight and versatile options available to suit all preferences. If you primarily consume dehydrated meals, we recommend getting a spork that is at least 8 inches long to reach the bottom of the bag. It’s advisable to avoid plastic options as they can be harmful to both your health and the environment.
  • Pot Scrubber and Soap: For easy clean-up, bring a pot scrubber and biodegradable soap. Keeping your cookware clean not only extends its lifespan but also helps you maintain good hygiene in the wilderness. If you’re only boiling water, you can skip these items.
  • Extras: Consider any extra items you may need, such as mugs, cups, or plates. Even for ultralight backpackers, some luxury items like these sometimes make sense.

Selecting the Right Camping Cookware

Camping Cookware: An ultralight camping coffee pot next to a Jetboil at a winter campsite

If you’ve come this far, you likely know what camping cookware pieces you need. But as you browse online and search for the right products, you might discover that making the decision requires a few extra considerations. Let’s explore them now.

Sets Vs. Individual Pieces

One of the key decisions you’ll face when selecting backpacking cookware is whether to opt for a cookware set or assemble your own collection of individual pieces:

  • Cookware Sets: These often include pots, pans, and lids that nest together, saving space in your backpack. Some sets also come with cups, mugs, or plates that fit within the cookware, eliminating the need for additional dishes.
  • Individual Pieces: If you prefer flexibility, you can assemble your backpacking cookware set piece by piece. Be mindful of weight if you go this route, as individual pieces may add up to more weight compared to a purpose-built set.

If you prefer convenience and don’t mind some extra weight, a cookware set might be the way to go for beginners. However, if you’re an experienced, weight-conscious ultralight backpacker who values customization, assembling your own set of individual pieces can be rewarding.

Cookware Material Considerations

The choice of cookware material is more important than you might realize. Making the right choice can ensure these items last for years and keep your backpack as light as possible. Let’s look at the common options:

  1. Titanium (our preffered option):
    • Pros: Titanium cookware is exceptionally light, making it a top choice for backpackers who prioritize minimizing pack weight. Despite its lightness, titanium is remarkably strong and durable, with excellent resistance to corrosion. It also heats up rapidly, allowing for faster cooking.
    • Cons: Titanium cookware tends to be more expensive than other options. It doesn’t distribute heat as evenly as some other materials, which can lead to hot spots if not managed carefully.
  2. Aluminum:
    • Pros: Aluminum is lightweight and affordable, making it a popular choice for budget-conscious backpackers. It conducts heat well, making it suitable for simmering foods without scorching. And the biggest benefit – aluminum options are budget-friendly.
    • Cons: Aluminum is not as durable as some other materials and may dent or scratch easily. It can react with acidic foods over time, potentially affecting the taste of your meals.
  3. Hard-Anodized Aluminum:
    • Pros: This type of aluminum is more durable than regular aluminum cookware, as it is more resistant to scratching and abrasion. It is still light enough and is suitable for backpacking, and provides better heat distribution than standard aluminum.
    • Cons: It’s often more expensive than basic aluminum cookware. While it’s less reactive than regular aluminum, it can still be affected by acidic foods over time.
  4. Stainless Steel:
    • Pros: Stainless steel is tough, scratch-resistant, and long-lasting. It distributes heat more evenly than aluminum, reducing the risk of hot spots, and does not react with acidic foods.
    • Cons: It’s heavier than aluminum and titanium, which may not be ideal for ultralight backpackers. Stainless steel cookware is more expensive than aluminum options.


In the world of backpacking, the right ultralight cookware can make all the difference in your outdoor culinary experience.

In this post, we’ve demystified the process, making it easier for you to select the perfect gear for your next adventure. We suggest you keep it simple – we ourselves use an ultralight titanium pot with handles and are happy with it.

So, as you embark on your future trips, equip yourself with the right camping cookware to savor every moment of your cooking experience. If you are already thinking about what to cook, check out these easy recipes that you can enjoy on your next trip. Bon appétit.

Looking for ultralight backpacking cookware? Check out our TOP 5 guide for the lightest available options.


What cookware do I need for backpacking?

The essential cookware for backpacking typically includes a backpacking pot, which is compact and lightweight, and a backpacking pan, which is versatile for various cooking needs. Additionally, you’ll need a lid to speed up cooking and prevent splattering, lightweight utensils like a spork, and pot scrubber with biodegradable soap for easy cleanup. These items, tailored to your preferences, will ensure you’re well-equipped for backpacking meals.

What is the best material for camp cooking?

The best material for camp cooking often depends on your specific needs. Titanium is great for ultralight backpackers due to its lightweight nature, while stainless steel offers durability and even heating. Aluminum is budget-friendly but may not be as long-lasting. Consider your priorities, whether it’s weight, durability, or cost, when choosing the right material for your camp cooking gear.

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