Camping is one of the most popular outdoor pastimes, as it’s a great way to disconnect from technology and the harried pace of everyday life, connect with nature, and build lasting memories with your tent mates. After all, who doesn’t love telling stories around a glowing campfire, gazing up at the stars, and smelling sweet, fresh pine needles? Moreover, enjoying a hearty meal after a long day hiking the trails, paddling the waterways, fishing, or just enjoying life outside is one of the best parts of a camping trip. In order to cook and eat a nourishing meal trailside or at your campsite, you need a good set of campfire cookware and/or a mess kit.
What are the primary pieces you need in your campfire cooking set?
A good set will include all the pots and cooking vessels you need to prepare your meals and dishes and utensils to eat them. Depending on the size of your party, the typical pieces of camping cookware you’ll want to consider include the following:
- A 2-3 liter pot with a lid for every 1-4 people in your party
- Frying pan with a lid, a bowl for each person
- A spoon/fork for each person
- A mug or cup for each person
- A cutting board
It’s helpful to have a second pot if you’ll be making more elaborate meals. If you can afford the extra weight in your camping pack, plates and knives are a great addition, as well. For coffee and tea drinkers, a kettle is a must-have as long as it doesn’t take up too much space.
What should you know before buying a campfire cooking kit?
- Usage: It’s important to first consider what you’ll be using the cookware for: car camping or backpacking. If it’s the former, you’ll probably have access to a car and a two-burner propane camping stove (or something similar), so just need a good set of flat-bottom cookware. It can likely be heavier, sturdier, and bulkier than if you’re backpacking and carrying all your gear on your back in a pack.
- Components: The components, or what’s included, in the campfire cooking set is clearly an integral aspect of your purchase. Consider what you’ll be using it for—do you need pots and actual cooking vessels or just a mess kit with dishes and utensils for eating? Do you want a kettle or just a pot? Are you okay with hybrid utensils like sporks or do you prefer a full set?
- Weight: If you’re car camping, chances are weight is less of an issue, but if you’ll be doing much hiking or backpacking with your cookware, you’ll want to go as light as possible.
- Materials: Most camping cookware is made from aluminum, titanium, stainless steel, or cast iron. Mess kits and dishes are commonly made out aluminum, stainless steel, or polypropylene thermoplastic. Aluminum is lighter, but less durable. Titanium is extremely lightweight but quite expensive. Stainless steel is heavier, but may be safer for cooking, heat more evenly, and hold up to fireside cooking better. Cast iron is quite heavy and needs seasoning, but cooks evenly and lasts a lifetime. Beware of cheap camping cookware that uses Teflon coatings, as Teflon can chip and peel over time, and shouldn’t be consumed.
- Number of People: Consider how many people are in your group when you usually go camping. Is the cookware or mess kit mostly just for you or for your family? Campfire cooking kits are often just designed for one person, but plenty offer dishes and cooking pots large enough for groups of four.
When evaluating the top-rated campfire cooking kits we looked at their value, materials, durability, included pieces, weight, construction, design, portability, ease of use, and customer ratings and reviews. We considered the different needs of campers and backpackers and curated a list of the best options to ensure the memories you make from your next camping trip include at least one fantastic meal cooked on your new favorite camping cookware set.
For more camping gear, check out our recommendations for the best tents, best sleeping bags, and best flashlights.