Chow time is one of our favorite things about camping. Whether it’s a steamy pot of cheesy pasta or warm biscuits fresh out of the Dutch oven, good food makes for good times on the trail. Proper nutrition is key when you’re hiking and spending time in the outdoors because it nourishes your body and your spirits. But cooking takes a little work and the right kind of gear.


It’s not always best or even possible to cook by campfire. Open fires might be prohibited where you’re camping, maybe dry firewood is nowhere to be found, or perhaps you  just want to have less impact on Mother Earth. That’s where backpacking stoves come in.

We recommend two basic kinds:

Canister (or cartridge) stoves: Small, lightweight and affordable stoves that screw onto canisters of pressurized gas (about $3 each). They’re easy to use and pretty much maintenance-free, but empty canisters aren’t refillable or recyclable and must be packed out.

Liquid-fuel stoves: Compact stoves that use refillable fuel bottles usually containing white gas or propane. They are extremely reliable and work well even in frigid temperatures. Liquid-fuel stoves are generally more expensive, slightly more complicated, and require regular maintenance and cleaning. But they’re also easier on the planet (and, eventually, your wallet) because the fuel bottles are refillable.

It’s hard to beat the performance and price of the Camp Chef Stryker 100 backpacking stove ($70, It assembles in seconds: Just screw it onto an isobutane canister and turn it on, and you’re cooking. It’ll boil a liter of water while you’re talking with friends (about four minutes), and it packs away easily. Also handy is a fold-down handle to protect your mitts.


A mess kit is a set of personal eating and cooking equipment that’s portable enough for camping. Often, the pieces (a cook pot, bowl, cup, etc.) nest together in a compact package that fits easily inside a backpack. These packages are generally lighter weight and more affordable than buying each piece individually. And with a mess kit, before each trip you can pick and choose exactly which pieces of the kit you want/need on the trail. Expect to pay from $10 to $30 for a basic kit.

Keep your cocoa hot in the GSI Outdoors Infinity Backpacker Mug ($10, With a capacity of 17 ounces, this insulated mug has a nylon sleeve and a sipping lid that pair to keep beverages warm and limit spills.


The bare minimum you need for eating on most outings is a bowl, a spoon and a cup. An unbreakable bowl works well for everything you’ll eat, and a spoon (or spork) will help you shovel almost anything into your face.

Backpacking utensils have a simple mission: Function well while weighing nearly nothing. The indestructible Optimus Sliding Long Spoon ($8, weighs a mere half ounce and extends from about 7 inches long — fine for eating from a bowl or pot — to nearly 10 inches — helpful when digging into a food pouch.

Need more than a spoon? The Jetboil Jetset Utensil Kit ($10, includes a collapsible spoon, fork and spatula. The whole set weighs 1.3 ounces.


On most outings, pots and pans are shared to save both weight and money. Pots can be made of everything from sturdy stainless steel to aluminum and super-light titanium. Stainless steel is the most durable and heaviest; aluminum is affordable and lightweight but not so durable; and titanium cookware is durable and super-light but very expensive. Prices range from $15 to $100, and some come with a nonstick coating. Always look for a pot that comes with a lid, because it speeds up boiling times and often can be flipped over and used as a frying pan.

When you’re simply boiling water, the MSR Big Titan Kettle ($100, is a great pick. A durable 2-liter pot with handles that fold against its sides and a lid with an insulated handle, it’s big enough to cook for two, light enough for solo trips and pulls double duty as your bowl and (very large) mug. When stowed, you can fit a small canister stove, a mug and even a little food inside it.

The Sea to Summit X-Set 31 ($110, is ideal for two people. The set’s 2.8-liter pot has a sturdy aluminum base and collapsible, heat-resistant silicone walls that lock in place. You can boil water, cook soup and mac ’n’ cheese, or make just about any other meal. Water pours from the pot with no spills, and it’s easy to clean.

The MSR Quick 2 System ($100, provides a complete two-person cook set with two nonstick aluminum pots (1.5 and 2.5 liters), two deep plates with sides that can hold soup and two insulated mugs with sipping lids. Even better: It all nests together compactly and weighs fewer than 2 pounds. Don’t need the plates and mugs? The MSR Ceramic 2-Pot Set ($80, pares it down to just the pots and lid.

Want a solid kitchen kit that doesn’t eat up your savings? Grab the GSI Outdoors Halulite Boiler ($35, This 1.8-liter aluminum pot, with a folding handle that locks the lid in place when packed, is large enough for two people and still fits a stove inside with room to spare.

When minimizing weight is your priority, the Snow Peak 3-Piece Titanium Cookset ($50, has you covered. With two pots (26 and 18 ounces) and a 5.75-inch frying pan, you can fire up massive multipot meals, but only have to lug around a 7-ounce package.


A camping classic for decades, the Dutch oven is a heavy cast-iron pot with a lid. Though much too heavy for backpacking, this is a must-have for base camps and car-camping trips. Placing the oven over a campfire, you can easily fry fish, cook stews and beans, and bake pies, bread and cobblers. A new Dutch oven must always be seasoned first, rubbed inside with grease or butter to make it nonstick and protect the metal from rusting.

Lodge BSA 6-quart Dutch Oven

This 12-inch-diameter, 19-pound Dutch Oven ($70, from respected manufacturer Lodge is pre-seasoned and features an embossed BSA logo.

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