Backpacking Cookware

Backpacking CookwareBackpacking inevitably means cooking in the field. However, the backpacker's field kitchen is far more spartan and demanding than that of the ordinary camper. Many a national forest or park bans campfires in the backcountry, necessitating the use of a camping stove. On top of that, backpackers are bedeviled by the problem of finite carrying capacity, requiring hard choices about what kind of cookware to bring.

Lightweight Camping Stove

Many backcountry destinations ban open campfires as a fire-control precaution, so a camping stove and fuel need to be packed. Some backpackers circumvent the weight and space demands of hauling fuel canisters for the stove through the use of a "hobo stove," essentially a portable woodburning stove. However, these stoves are banned by name in some places and useless anywhere that collecting ground wood is prohibited. Also, the propane fuel burned by some camping stoves is too heavy for backpackers. That still leaves a wide variety of camping stove fuel formats, such as kerosene, butane and white gas, each with its own pros and cons. White gas is a good performer at high altitudes and cold weather, while butane is cheaper.

Cooking Pot

Strictly speaking, a backpacker should have only one cooking pot to save weight. Many mess kits come with a combination pot-skillet with exactly this consideration in mind. Another consideration is space, and many mess kits collapse so that all their parts fit inside the cooking pot, using the removable cooking pot handle as a strap to hold it and the lid together. Regardless of the format, any backpacking cooking pot should accommodate a consolidation of this kind to save vital space.

Titanium pots are popular because of their light weight, but also expensive. Aluminum is lightweight and cheap, but some health concerns surround cooking with it. Stainless steel is cheap, durable, but heavy. Still, some backpackers swear by steel over the other options.

Whatever format you choose, all cooking pots should have their own lid. Many mess kits use their dining plate as a lid, but this fails to save weight in the long run. If you use the plate for eating, you cannot use it as a cooking pot lid at the same time, because when you need it the plate it is too hot to handle. According to "Boys Life," the Boy Scouting magazine, not using a pot lid means boiling water "takes forever and waste lots of precious fuel." Every time you cook, using that lid saves on fuel. Ergo, owning a cooking pot with a separate lid ultimately means carrying less camping stove fuel into the backcountry.


A stainless steel spork is really the only piece of cutlery a backpacker needs. This one tool sees a lot of use, so choosing durable steel is better than a lighter metal in the long run, especially as it is such a small option. A full knife, fork and spoon kit is too much weight, however.


A backpacker needs a cup for drinks like tea and coffee, as the water bottle is poorly suited to imbibing these hot drinks. Many backpacking cups are made of light plastic and are collapsible. These are space- and weight-savers, but not very durable. Metal cups can be stored inside another object, such as a cooking pot, but are not very light. This is really a choice of priorities. Go with plastic to minimize weight, but for a long-lasting cup choose metal.

Article Written By Edwin Thomas

Edwin Thomas has been writing since 1997. His work has appeared in various online publications, including The Black Table, Proboxing-Fans and others. A travel blogger, editor and writer, Thomas has traveled from Argentina to Vietnam in pursuit of stories. He holds a Master of Arts in international affairs from American University.

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