Basic Backpacking Cookware Equipment

Most of your energy and thought while backpacking goes to taking in your surroundings and navigating through whatever comes your way.

But, you still have to eat at some point, and unless you are wholly committed to eating only granola bars for five days straight, you’re going to need some backpacking cookware for your food selections.

There are a whole slew of options available for backpacking cookware, so it helps to first know how these options are different, as well as what you are expecting to get out of them.

Are you clueless when it comes to backpacking cookware? We’re here to help.

How Is Backpacking Cookware Different?

two kettles resting on a fire

If you’ve ever been camping before, you probably noticed all the different things you can bring from your home, mixed with some items that are actually designed for camping.

This allows you to settle in and make yourself at home for however many days, replicating a home kitchen in anyways.

Full-sized camping stoves, large grills, ice chests, an assortment of pots and pans, and multiple gadgets and eating utensils are all at your disposal with camping, as all of your gear is transported in your car, and even left there when not in use during your camping trip.

With backpacking, you don’t have the luxury of driving your car from stop to stop, so the amount of cookware you’re bringing is significantly decreased.

But the cookware itself is also designed differently, providing maximum efficiency and compatibility.

It’s also worth mentioning that you’re likely going to have to do without as far as non-essential items go, the less you can work with, the better.

Cookware Sets Or Individual Items?

portable gas canisters in a line next to some cookware

Assembling your cookware inventory gives you the flexibility of either purchasing actual backpacking cookware sets, or buying individual items one by one to better suit your tastes.

While purchasing each item piece-by-piece does give you added flexibility and choices for ensuring that you have a fully-customized cookware set of your own, manufacturer cookware sets are almost always designed for maximum compatibility and compatibility, providing you all you need in one set.

We recommend purchasing a backpacking cookware set, as assembling your cookware inventory piece-by-piece can be rather expensive and inefficient.

Finding the best backpacking cookware set for your needs can be a difficult process. We are big fans of this 11-piece cookware set from Winterial.

The entire set weighs only 1.5 lbs, compacts together, and gives you all the items you need for an average trip. Highly recommended.

Cookware Materials

an egg being cracked over a metal pan

There are now more choices than ever in regards to picking the actual material of backpacking cookware. The material matters more than you may realize.

Here’s a quick overview.

Stainless Steel

  • Tough, very scratch-resistant.
  • Moderately heavy when compared to other materials.


  • Incredibly lightweight, and very strong. Resists corrosion, heats quickly and doesn’t require high heat.
  • More expensive, can sometimes conduct heat less evenly.


  • Very light, conducts heat well, can simmer food without scorching the bottom.
  • Not very durable, dents easily at times. It can break down over time from acidic foods, but it takes a lot.

Hard-Anodized Aluminum

  • All the benefits of aluminum, plus a tougher, more scratch-resistant surface from the oxidation.
  • Harder to find.

Cast Iron

  • Very tough, good for baking and cooking.
  • Incredibly heavy, requires extra care. Probably shouldn’t bring backpacking.


  • Inexpensive, lightweight, non-abrasive.
  • Not very durable, no heat resistance. Plastic can sometimes trap odors when not thoroughly cleaned and left to air out for an extended period.

Nonstick Coatings

  • Quick clean up, less burned food (cooking on backpacking cookware is often more difficult.)
  • Less durable, can scratch easily.

Other Important Backpacking Cookware Considerations

somebody mixing food in a pan over a portable gas canister

Be sure to consider these aspects when deciding on a cookware set that is best suited to your anticipated uses for it.

  • Pot size: The biggest pot in your cook set should have the capacity to hold 1 pint per member of your party. This can ensure that you are able to make one meal at the same time for everyone.
  • The number of pots: This is dependent upon how many people are coming, as well as your cooking habits. If you are going to be cooking for 2 backpackers, 1 pot is enough. If you are going to be making elaborate meals with several dishes and ingredients, more pots are needed.
  • Lids: Lids can help you cook foods faster by trapping heat inside. They also help cut down on the mess by preventing your food from splattering. Some cookware sets have matching lids for each pot, while others have a one-size lid that fits all the pots.
  • Pot lifters or grippers: These give you a way to live the pots without burning your hands. Some of them are attached to the pot, others are external and must be packed separately.
  • Extra Items: Higher-end cookware sets may include any number of bonus items, such as towels, mugs, plates, and more. If light enough, they can provide more convenience on your trips.


Ordinary campers have the luxury of bringing along a wide range of familiar utensils to use in their outdoor kitchen, but backpackers have to travel much lighter, thus eliminating many of these.

Sure, it may be nice to have a knife, fork, and spoon, but a good quality sport can lighten your load, especially if it has a serrated edge handle for cutting.

Some sporks (so foons) may even have a telescoping handle that can be extended to help you stir a pot easier. That can come in pretty handy at times.

While a spork may reduce some of the load, check your food supply and cooking instructions to see if you may need to bring along a whisk, spatula, or measuring spoon.


Just because you are in the wild doesn’t mean you don’t have to do the dishes.

Be sure to bring along an environmentally-friendly or biodegradable soap to help you get your dishes clean.

This not only makes the cleaning process easier, but it also ensures that you don’t deal with mold growth in your backpack as well.

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