Camping Cookware Selection

The basics on how to select the materials and types for your pots, pans, utensils, and more!

Choosing the proper cookware is essential to providing you with fast, clean, and efficient meals. You want to have a set of cookware most adapted to your needs, whether you want a light set for backpacking, or a durable set to last you several years of camping. However, you may want to consider planning meals that do not require the use of very much cookware (such as eating oatmeal in the packet).

The Basic Cookware

Consider the following list for each person:

  • a pot (with a lid that can be used as a plate)
  • a way to pick up that pot ( a handle or a pot grabber)
  • cup
  • utensils (you may be able to get by with just a titanium spork if weight and supreme control over the elements are important factors to you)

Buy A Set or Individual Items?

You can take an eclectic approach to cookware and get individual pots, cups, and utensils from different places (online, retail stores, garage sails, or even your own house), or you can purchase a cook set. The advantage of buying a set is that they will all fit together nicely. The smaller pans and cups will fit inside of the largest pot. Sometimes these sets will come with extras, which can be convenient for campers, but extra weight for backpackers.

Choosing the type of material

PROS: cheap, lightweight, cooks food evenly
CONS: dents and scratches easily, broken down slightly by acidic foods
Notes: Aluminum doesn’t cause any negative health effects

Stainless Steel
PROS: Tougher, more scratch resistant
CONS: Doesn’t cook as evenly as aluminum
PROS: Very light, very tough
CONS: expensive, cooks less evenly than stainless steel
PROS: cheap, light
CONS: much less durable and heat resistant
No-stick coatings
These coatings can make cleaning your cookware much easier, but they can be scratched up much easier as well.

Other factors to consider

One pot is usually enough for 1 or 2 people. Three pots is usually enough for 5 people, but be sure to adjust your pots according to your meal plans (planning as light as possible, and bringing more pots for more complex meals).

Make sure all of the smaller pots fit inside the largest one. The largest pot should be big enough to hold a pint for each backpacker.

Putting a lid on a pot will help retain the heat, cooking the food faster, and using less fuel. Be sure that the lid fits well on the pot, and that you can pick it up. You will want a lid for each pot in the set, or a lid that can fit over multiple pots.

Mike Harmer

I created this website back in 1996, and have slowly added content to it over the years. Some resources have been contributed by viewers and other people who love the outdoors.

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