The backwoods are no place for the pots and pans of the kitchen.  Hikers, bikers, fishers, campers, hunters, and other outdoorsmen must instead look to purchase study, lightweight cookware that will withstand the harsh treatment of being used in the wilderness.  Various sorts of lightweight, non-stick, folding, nesting, and attaching pots and pans are on the market that will help you indulge in the culinary delights of the backwoods. 

The cookware that you will need is very much dependent on your style of camping and what you cook.  Do you usually cook alone or for a number of people?  Do you usually just boil water or do you cook directly on the pan?  These are all important questions that will help you determine what sort of camping cookware you must purchase for your next camping trip. 

What Sized Cookware Do You Need

First you must recall the types of meals you cook and whom you cook for.  If you are generally a solitary camper with simple eating needs, a smaller cook set will be needed.  But, if you plan to cook for multiple people, you should certainly consider some larger-sized pots and pans.  Keep in mind though, if this cookware is to be used for backpacking, you will certainly want to keep its size and weight as small as possible. 

Generally, pots with a capacity of 1.5 to 3 liters will any of the food that you want to cook.  This will easily hold the boiling water needed to prepare a freeze-dried meal and they will also be large enough to make a freeze-dried breakfast like scrambled eggs. 

If you cook for multiple people and are concerned with weight, just purchase a pot set that will be sufficient for two people.  You can always take turns for who eats first.  Remember, you are in the backwoods and comfort is not always easy to find.  You can either add more weight and bulk to your back, or you can wait a few extra minutes to finish dinner. 

Types Of Backpacking Cookware

First, let’s start with types of bakcpacking and camping cookware.  Many manufacturers have a number of different types of pots and pans on the market that are better suited for certain types of camping—and are better suited for certain kinds of pocketbooks.  As always, once you purchase the best cookware for your situation, use a thorough camp gear list to help you remember to pack all of the simple, but important pieces of camping equipment you need for every trip.


Aluminum cook sets are the least expensive and lightest cookware available.  If you mostly boil water for freeze-dried meals, an aluminum cook set should work well.  However, most of the cheap aluminum pans are very thin and shiny and are therefore poor insulators.  This means that your food will take longer to heat up and you will use up more of your camp stove fuel.  Aluminum pans can be purchased with thicker anodized walls that will insulate much better.  Having dark color aluminum cookware will also help more evenly distribute heat to your food. 

Backpacking Aluminum Cookset With AccessoriesCredit:

If you have an aluminum pan, make sure you keep it always shiny and clean.  Aluminum cooking surfaces are very sticky and are difficult to clean if you do not rinse your pot set right after cooking.  Also keep in mind, that aluminum will show wear very quickly.  If you cook over the fire or even on your stove, you pots and pans will quickly get burned from this heat.  This does not harm your cookware, but just keep in mind that it will not look like new for very long. 

Aluminum can also very easily be deformed (think of an aluminum can only stronger).  If you stuff your backpack very full, make sure that your aluminum pans do not get squished to the point of breakage. 


Cast-iron should never be used for backpacking, but it is one of the best types of cookware to use for car camping.  It is extremely heavy but has the best heat distribution of any material type.  When properly cared for, a cast-iron cook will last for a long time.  When neglected, it will rust, crack, and become unusable. 

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel cook sets lie somewhere between aluminum and titanium.  The material is stronger and heat is distributed more evenly than aluminum.  Clean up is relatively easy especially with a non-stick pan.  Some stainless steel pans are made with aluminum layers to help distribute heat more evenly throughout the pan. 

TitaniumBackpacking Titanium CookwareCredit:

This is the “Cadillac” of the cook sets.  Titanium heats quickly, it is extremely durable, and is very light.  Because it can heat so quickly, though, care must be taken to not burn your food.  Many titanium cook pots and pans come with a non-stick film to aide in the clean-up process.  This film can be somewhat easy to destroy so be sure to follow manufacturer’s recommendations to maintain this surface. 

Premium titanium cookware also comes with a premium price, often two to three times as much as comparable pots and pans made of other materials.  However, most titanium cook sets will last a lifetime—usually it is well worth the cost. 

Features To Look For


Most cook sets with multiple pots and pans will nest together in some way.  This will save much needed space in your backpack.  Some pot sets will even come packaged with bowls, silverware, and cups, among other things.  These are all very nice to have in the wilderness but are by no means necessary. 


Cook sets with at least two pots will usually nest together so one pot will act as a lid.  Some stand-alone sets will come with a dedicated lid.  Whatever the case maybe, having a lid trap heat in and will help you boil water more quickly. 


All backpacking cookware will come with either detachable or foldable handles to save on much needed space.  Detachable handles work just fine, but they are another element that could be easily lost. 

Other Accessories To Purchase

For a comfortable mountain dining experience, you should consider the purchase of these other backpacking accessories:

  • Collapsible sink
  • Collapsible cup or mug
  • A backpacking coffee press
  • A utensil set
  • Plastic dinnerware (plates and bowls)