If you want to make a great campsite dinner, you’ll need the right tools. The best backpacking cookware sets have nesting designs for compact storage, and are made from lightweight materials that won't add too many extra ounces to your pack.
The first thing to consider when choosing a cookware set for backpacking is the material. Many sets are made from aluminum because it’s not only lightweight, but also conducts heat more evenly than many other metals — and if it has a nonstick coating, it’s easy to clean too. If you’re willing to spend a bit more, you can upgrade to titanium, which is also lightweight and much more durable than aluminum. However, it doesn’t conduct heat as evenly as aluminum, so you'll need to be careful not to overheat it. The camping brand GSI makes their own lightweight alloy called Halulite, which conducts heat better than titanium, making it another worthy aluminum-alternative.
Next, consider how many people you’ll be cooking for and what types of meals you’ll make. One pot and one pan will be enough to make simple dehydrated meals for two, but for more complex dinners, you may need pot lids, strainers, and serving dishes. You’ll also want to make sure to look at everything included in each set, not just the total number of pieces. Many sets come with accessories like sponges and sleeves that can increase the number of pieces you get without adding to the number of actual cooking vessels.
Once you’ve chosen how many pieces you need, make sure they all nest together so you can save on packing space. Many sets also come with carrying bags, which can be attached to the outside of your backpacking backpack.
Finally, it's important to know that many cookware sets for backing are designed to be used over a backpacking stove, not an open campfire flame, so be sure to check before you buy. Some are even designed to nest perfectly with canister stoves to make packing easier.
To add to your camping arsenal, check out this list of the best backpacking cookware sets on Amazon.
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1. The tried-and-true set
- Material: Halulite alloy
- Pieces: 11
- Weight: 1.1 pounds
This lightweight backpacking cookware set is an all-around solid choice. It weighs just over a pound, but includes a 1.4-liter pot with a strainer lid, two 14-ounce mugs with insulated sleeves, two 14-ounce bowls, two sip-it tops, and two folding sporks, so you have everything you need to cook a meal and enjoy it with a friend. The pieces can all be nested together and stored inside the included bag, which has welded seams, so it can double as a sink. When this set is nested, it measures just 5.6 by 5.9 inches, so even though it includes a lot, it won't take up too much space in your pack.
One reviewer wrote: “Bought this to replace an older stainless steel set. The weight is great and the 1.6L pot was the perfect size for both of us to prep our packaged backpacking meals, ramen, and have enough left over for some herbal tea every night. The nesting bowl & cup are great as is the included folding utensil. There is enough space inside to store my MSR Pocket Rocket 2 as well as my piezo lighter and some emergency matches. The included case/sink is a great feature for clean-up. One night we wound up sharing a campsite with another group of through-hikers and all of them were ravingly jealous of this cook set. Highly recommend.”
2. The budget aluminum set
- Material: aluminum
- Pieces: 12
- Weight: 0.96 pound
To keep your bag as light as possible while still being able to cook and serve full meals, you'll want this lightweight backpacking cookware set, which weighs under one pound. It comes with a frying pan, a 750-milliliter pot, a pot cover, two bowls, and one folding spoon, which can all be nested together and stored in the included bag. Because the makers of this kit know what it takes to backpack, this set also comes with one tool card and one survival bracelet, which you may be glad to have in an emergency. This set is also available in other options, which come with more pieces and larger pots.
One reviewer wrote: “I LOVED this mess kit. I took [it] on the Appalachian Trail and it was everything I needed! Heats very well, easy to stored, offered just enough room for making meals and stored nice and compact in my pack.”
- Available sizes: 4
3. The nonstick cookware set
- Material: anodized aluminum
- Pieces: 10
- Weight: 1.1 pounds
This cheap backpacking cookware set not only costs under $30, but it includes equipment for cooking, eating, and cleaning up. It comes with a lidded pot and a pan, which are both made from anodized aluminum with a nonstick coating, as well as two bowls, a folding stainless steel spork, a soup spoon, a wooden spoon spatula, and a cleaning sponge. Once you're finished using the sponge to clean up your meal, you can nest all these pieces together and store them in the included bag, which can be put in your backpack or tied to the outside.
One reviewer wrote: “Great, packable, lightweight cookware. This set is flexible, allowing you to take the items you need to adjust your weight. Only need to boil water? Just take the pot and lid. Want to boil and cook? Take the pan and bamboo spoon. It's sturdy, well-made, and you can fit one of the smaller fuel canisters in the pot, if you leave the other stuff out.”
- Available sizes: 3
4. The four-person cookware set
- Material: anodized aluminum
- Pieces: 23
- Weight: 3.64 pounds
If you're going backpacking with a larger group, you'll want to bring this four-person backpacking cookware set along, which comes with 23 pieces. For cooking, it includes a 2-liter pot with a strainer lid, a 3-liter pot with a strainer lid, and a fry pan with a folding handle, so you can cook far more than just dehydrated meals. Once you've cooked your dinner, you can serve it with the included four plates, four insulated mugs with sip-it tops and sleeves, and four bowls, which are all made from polypropylene and come in four different colors, so everyone can keep track of which one is theirs. While this cookware set comes with a lot of pieces, they won't be a hassle to clean because the stuff sack has welded seams, so it can be used as a sink. Because this set is so large, it weighs 3.64 pounds, but that's not a problem if you can share the load with a group.
One reviewer wrote: “There is no other way to put it. This is the best. I've seen and tried others but none are as well designed, compact, and durable as this. You won't be sorry.”
5. The titanium cookware set
- Material: titanium
- Pieces: 2
- Weight: 0.35 pound
For more rugged adventures, you'll want this titanium backpacking cookware set, which won't dent as easily as aluminum sets. It includes a 37.2-ounce pot and a 9-ounce pan, which both have foldable handles. To save on essential space, the two pieces can not only nest together but also with other products, like the TOAKS wood stove or a gas canister, and they can all be conveniently stored in the included mesh bag.
One reviewer wrote: “This pot and pan is very good quality, it's strong and light weight. I use it with my MSR pocket rocket 2 and 8oz fuel canister, it holds both very nicely. It boils water In about 3 mins or less. I would highly recommend it to a friend. Thank you toaks.”
6. The one that comes with a kettle
- Material: aluminum
- Pieces: 10
- Weight: 2 pounds
If you can't start your camping day without a steaming cup of tea or cowboy coffee, you'll want this aluminum backpacking cookware set, which comes with a kettle. For cooking, this set includes a pot and a frying pan, which have nonstick Teflon coatings and folding handles, and for serving, it comes with two stainless steel cups, a serving spoon, a fork, and a knife. Like the others on this list, these pieces can nest together and be stored in the included bag, which can be clipped to your backpack with a carabiner (which is also included).
One reviewer wrote: “One of the best products I ever bought on amazon. It’s lightweight, easy to clean, pack and use. I can’t believe I got it for such a low price too!! Will but again definitely but don’t think I would need to for years to come for its excellent quality.”