How to Choose Camping Cookware

You’re planning your first wild camp, but you’re going to need to cook  your food somehow. Choosing your stove’s one thing, but you’ll need something on top of it! Here’s some hints and tips on how to buy the right type for you.

What do you want to cook?

Do you want to just boil water for coffee and dehydrated meals? The lighter and simpler the better then! Puddings only need a bit of water and a spoon, while you’ll just need a pot large enough to boil around 400ml of water (so around half a litre). Ideally this’ll come with a lid, or you can easily make one with foil. A pot aroung 850-1000ml will be large enough for two in that instance, but would entail a lot of waiting around if you try and cater for more than that.

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But if you’re a more adventurous cook you’ll need more than a simple pot and probably more than one of them. If you’re backpacking, then being able to buy fresh food along the route and cook it up is a real bonus, which means you might need something with a bit more heft to it  as well as more than one pot / pan to cook different parts of the meal. This means that two largish pots would be needed; one for the main meal and one for the rice/pasta/side. You may even need to consider a kettle as well, depending on group size.

How many People?

Are you cooking for one or more? Anything up to 1 litre is OK for two people eating dehydrated meals, but you’ll need something bigger if you’re catering for larger parties. Of course, it also depends if your group is catering for 3 x 2 people (where two people will be sharing kit) or one party of six where the cooking is communal. The latter is the best option if you’re preparing a meal, especially if you’ve got someone who’s both willing and competent to cook for the group! If you’re going for a couple of large pots for a large group you should probably also double up on the stoves (with Chafing Gels being one cheap options if all you need to do is keep the main meal warm as you boil up the pasta).

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It goes without saying that if you are cooking for a large group, then you will need larger capacity pots! A pair of litre pots is just about OK for two if you’re preparing a main and a side (pasta/rice), so you’d roughly need to multiply that by the number of people.

While the nature of  your cooking and the number of people dictate what kind of kit you need to be aiming for, the budget and weight considerations will narrow that choice down further. We’d all like our choice to be both the lightest and the cheapest, but it’s rarely if ever the case! So you’ll need to compromise.

What’s your budget? 

There are plenty of decent cook sets for under £20, as well as some budget titanium pots by the likes of Alpkit which means that lightweight cookware is within most wild camper’s means. Of course, you may decide that you can save cash by going for just one decent pan.

Anodised aluminium provide an acceptable budget option – such as the Coleman Solo which actually has four pots and would suffice for two on a budget.

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Is Weight important?

Nobody wants to carry more weight into the hills than they have to, or we’d just bring our pots and pans from the kitchen. The question is how important is getting the lightest weight for you? You may only save a few grams by going titanium, but often at an eye watering premium. Something like the MSR Titan Kettle is well suited for ultra-lightweight water boiling, but requires care in order to use to cook or heat anything else but it is light and will last years. One pot is expensive enough, and it could be far too costly if you need more than this.

The cheapest way to save weight is to take fewer pots! If you’re travelling light and eating dehydrated meals then you can get away with one pot between two, something around 1 litre. Invest in one good lightweight pot if price and budget is a priority. You can also leave the lid at home and use foil instead.

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Sharing your kit with a companion can also be a cheap way to save weight, but shared ownership can bring it’s own complications!

Use a pot that doubles as a mug. Many cooksets come with a large pot, and a smaller one that can serve both purposes. If you just take the one pot, then you may be OK if you’re boiling water for a dehydrated meal and then using the pot for a hot drink while you eat. If you’re actually cooking, then it’s not such a good idea as you’ll need to finish your meal and wash-up before you can start heating water for a hot drink.

Eat from the pan. This will reduce the need to carry a bowl to eat out of, but only suitable for the solo or very romantic campers!

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If you’ve bought a camping set, you don’t have to bring them all with you! We didn’t find the Coleman Solo ‘lids’ to be very useful, and left them at home while taking the review images below.

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So you’ve got the basics in place. You know how many pans, size, cost and weight; but here are a few final pointers.

What about an all-in one stove and pot? For the ultimate in simplicity just get an all in one stove such as the Primus ETA, Jetboil or Trangia and don’t worry about a pan at all! Your cooking will also need to be correspondingly simple and mainly limited to dehydrated pouches and one pot meals. Though we have managed to use a Primus ETA for two people with a mix of dehydrated meals and heating some up in the pot. The Trangia also comes with a frying pan (depending on model) so provides a lot of flexibility. Just to complicate things, the likes of Jetboil are now producing stand alone heat exchanger pots for use with regular stoves.

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Do you need a frying pan? This is something that’s an utter luxury on a wild camp, but why not! You can get small frying pans from hardware stores that may not be the lightest option, but work flawlessly for one egg at a time – link for frying an egg, or perhaps making pancakes (albeit rather small ones!). It’s essential that this is non-stick as that reduces the need for oil, which is both a pain to carry out as well as the pans requiring cleaning after use and any waste oil carried back out. You often get a deep frying pan with cooksets, which should be OK if it’s non-stick. These are often a good size, and there may be a lid, or the fry pan itself is also the pan lid!

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Do you need Non-stick? I’ve only found this useful for frying pans, with anodised aluminium or titanium being fine for heating up food or boiling water. If you’re planning on frying, then non-stick can be useful when camping as you can’t really take a heavy based pan into the hills!

These are just a few things to consider when buying your cookware – and while we’ve suggested a few items, it totally depends on your own needs. Why not post your own choice below, telling us why you’ve gone for that particular bit of kit?

Dave Roberts

Dave Roberts founded Walk Eryri in 2004, with the aim of providing routes that are off the beaten track. Walk Eryri is now part of Mud and Routes which continues to provide more off beat routes and walks in Snowdonia and beyond. Dave has been exploring the hills of Eryri for over thirty years, and is a qualified Mountain Leader.
Dave also established Walk up Snowdon, Walk up Scafell Pike and Walk up Ben Nevis just to mention a few.

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