Camping is all about getting away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and enjoying some time in the great outdoors. Although we do our best to escape our daily routines, eating is something that we still need to do, but you can’t exactly create the same meals that you do at home when you’re out in the wilderness.
Camping cookware was designed for this very purpose, and it’s a must-have for all types of campers. These utensils and accessories were made for specifically for camping and they should be durable, lightweight, and versatile enough to handle anything the outdoors can throw at them.
All camping enthusiasts have at least a few pieces of dedicated camping cookware in their kit, or maybe even an entire set. The cookware that’s right for you will depend on many things including what type of camping you do, the food you like to prepare, and how much you really want to take along with you.
Camping can be a great source of joy, especially when you’ve got the essential supplies packed and don’t have to give them a second though. This comprehensive guide to camping cookware will ensure you never leave home without the important stuff and get the very best use out of your utensils.
What Is Camping Cookware?
When you’re new to camping, you might not understand the fuss about finding cookware designed specifically for this purpose. Some people attempt to pack their regular pots, pans, and plates from home without realizing the added burden they bring, and how they’re just not suitable for this type of cooking.
Regular cookware was made to use in a kitchen which means it’s never ideal for the outdoors. The combined weight of your cookware would be far too heavy and bulky to carry, it wouldn’t be durable enough for outdoors, and the pots and pans probably couldn’t be cooked in the same manner they would be when you’re camping.
Camping cookware has been designed with this specific purpose in mind so it’s everything that regular cookware is not. It uses durable materials that won’t break, many types can be cooked on an open flame, everything is lightweight and nests within the other pieces for convenient carrying, and it’s easy to keep clean and maintain.
Camping Cookware Materials
Any time you’re choosing new camping gear, you need to make certain considerations. One of the most important things to consider with cookware is the material it’s been made out of because this will have a lot of impact on its overall use.
You might need something light and no frills for hiking and camping or prefer a full kitchen setup if you’re a dedicated car camper, and the right material will determine what’s best. There are a few common materials used for camping cookware and each of them come with pros and cons to weigh up.
There are two types of aluminum in camp cookware: standard aluminum and hard anodized aluminum. Standard aluminum is usually the cheapest of all the materials and does a good job of heating up the food. It’s lightweight but not exactly durable, with some pieces tending to warp or dent easily.
Hard anodized aluminum is a popular choice for camping cookware because it has the best parts of aluminum but with a much stronger and more durable feel. It’s a lightweight choice and does a great job of conducting heat evenly without hotspots. The downsides are that higher price and the fact that you’ll need to take extra care when cleaning and maintaining it.
Stainless steel is a tough material for cookware but with that toughness comes a lot of extra weight. This would be better suited to car campers or people who don’t mind carrying a lot. The upside to using stainless steel is that it’s seriously tough so it can take a beating, and you can throw it in with the rest of your gear without worry. Cleaning is also minimal when using this material.
Titanium is another popular choice for camping cookware due to its lightweight feel, and a standard piece can weigh around 45 percent less than the same made of aluminum. However, the thin nature of it means it’s not ideal at conducting heat evenly and you will end up with hot spots. It’s also a bit more expensive to use, but because it’s fast and light, titanium is a favorite for those who don’t want to travel with much.
Many people have some cast iron cookware at home, so they know how heavy it can be. Cast iron requires care when cleaning and regular seasoning, and it’s also a lot heavier, which is why it’s recommended for car campers only. The benefits of cast iron are the amazing cook quality, heat dispersion, and that it works on stoves and campfires, so it does have a lot to offer.
Common Pieces of Camping Cookware
It can take years to assemble all of the parts of your camping gear checklist until you find what works for you. Camping cookware can be a hard part of your gear to organize because people don’t realize what they’ll need until they get out there. You’ll need to consider the type of camping you’ll be doing, what facilities will be available to you, and how many mouths you’re feeding when choosing your utensils.
These are the basic supplies you’ll want to take, and this would be a suitable list for ultralight camping. Bear in mind, these supplies will only be suitable for camp meals where you only need to add water, so you might want to bring more along.
This type of setup would suit ultralight campers who really want to keep things simple. However, other campers will need a lot more. Consider adding these to your cookware kit if you have the room to spare or prefer more variety with the food you make. Larger camping parties may need to double up on things to meet the size requirements.
Lids and Handles
When you’re shopping for camping cookware, you might notice that lids and handles are counted as separate pieces. Having a bulky handle sticking out would take away the convenience and portability of the cookware and that’s why they’re not included in the overall design.
A standard cookware pot might come with a detachable handle that can be connected as needed, but it’s not available on every type. If the pot doesn’t have a handle, you can purchase a pot grabber to do the job and keep your fingers from getting burnt.
Lids are another item that isn’t always considered a necessity in these cookware kits, but they will be helpful. Having the lid on during cooking will speed up the process of heating and if it has a strainer built in you’re getting two products in one. Be sure to check that the pot you’re buying comes with a lid or at least has the ability to find one that matches separately.
In an effort to make things easier, some brands now make complete sets that have everything you need. These could be as basic as just a few pots and pans, or a comprehensive kit with cutlery, cups, and cleanup gear. They range in price depending on their content, how many people they’re designed for, and what materials they’re made out of, so you can get one for a low price if you’re not too bothered about quality.
You might prefer to buy a cookware set as it means less assembly of all of the individual items and usually comes in at a cheaper price. Others might want to start with a basic set of pots and pans and then add their own supplies. Whatever works for your camping style and the facilities that will be available at your site is the best approach.
Another benefit of using cookware sets is that they’ve been designed to be compact. They usually stack together and nest with the other pieces of gear so they take up minimal space. Some also have room for you to add extras if you wish, so they make the packing process a lot more efficient.
What Type of Cookware Is Right for You?
Most campers are loyal to the style of camping they prefer, whether it’s taking the car along to the backcountry or hiking to a secluded spot for some ultralight camping. To determine what cookware will suit the type of camping you like, ask yourself the following questions to find out what considerations you’ll need to make.
How many people will be in our camping party?
You’ll need to ensure there’s enough cookware to make meals big enough, but also to serve everyone.
What facilities are available?
Will you have access to running water, a sink, BBQ, or other amenities?
How will you cook?
Do you have your own gas burner, a portable camp stove, or do you plan on cooking on the campfire?
What food are you making?
Are you only relying on prepared camp meals that require boiling water or would you prefer to cook fresh meals each night?
How often do you camp?
Do you need to invest in more durable gear or will basic supplies be adequate?
How much stuff do you want tp take?
If you have a car for camping you can afford to take more, whereas ultralight campers will only want the basics.
Keeping Your Cookware Clean
The materials that your cookware is made out of will impact the cleaning process, but regardless of what you choose this will play an important part in how long it lasts. Nobody really enjoys the cleanup process after eating, and it can be even harder when you’re camping due to a lack of running water and facilities. Here are some tips you can follow to keep your cookware clean:
For shorter camping trips, you can simply wipe out the pots and pans when you’re done without having to wash them.
For longer trips, bring along some biodegradable soap, a soft dishcloth, and a harder one for scrubbing. Ensure you have a portable sink or bucket for washing up.
When you get home, you can give everything a more detailed clean before packing it away again. Some cookware is dishwasher friendly, but check the manufacturer’s recommendations before commencing.
You may need to remove soot from cookware when you get home due to cooking on flames or coal. The easiest way to do this by coating the outside with dish soap and letting it sit for a while before scrubbing. For more stubborn stains, you can make a paste of baking soda and water, leave it for half an hour and then wash.
Consider using pot liners if you are capable of cleaning up the extra waste they make.
Boil water in your pots and pans before using them again while camping. This will help to kill off any harmful bacteria that could be left after cleaning.
Putting Cookware on an Open Flame
One of the best parts about camping is the campfire, and it’s a central location where everyone can come together and bond over a hot meal. If your preferred method of cooking is to use an open flame from a campfire or other source, what you’ll be looking for in cookware may be unique.
Not all materials were designed to withstand the heat of an open flame, so don’t assume that any old cookware will do. You should always avoid anything containing plastic as it will undoubtedly melt and the same goes for pots and pans that feature rubber coated handles.
Always check the manufacturer’s recommendations about what type of cooking is suitable for their products. Don’t assume that just because something seems durable or is made of metal that it should be used on an open flame. Your goal is to keep your camping cookware for many years, and one wrong move could cause instant damage.
There are additional items you can bring along that might make it easier to cook with flames. You might use a metal grill for barbecuing over the fire, take some skewers along for marshmallows and kebabs, or you could even bring a Dutch oven and get all of the potential of a home kitchen from the campfire.
Organizing Your Camping Cookware Utensils
One part of camping that’s never enjoyable is organizing where all of your gear will fit and how it should be sorted.
When it comes to cookware, you can either go basic or advanced with how much you’re bringing, and each will require different storage and organization methods.
Lightweight campers won’t have a lot to bring and will usually find that everything nests within the larger pot that they take.
You might want to keep it covered with a drawstring bag or something similar so that no parts become lost.
Some might prefer to keep the cookware separate from the serving gear, like your utensils and cups. You can purchase camp kitchen organizers that do this job for you, but you’ll still have to assemble all of the individual items yourself. Otherwise, a large storage box with a secure lid will be adequate.
Purchasing a preassembled camping cookware kit solves this problem and means less work for you and a compact place to keep everything, as they nest within each other and don’t require additional storage solutions.
The Meals You Should Avoid Cooking
Camping cookware doesn’t allow for as much diversity as you have at home so you have to know what foods to avoid for safety. When you’re cooking on an open flame or with portable stoves, it’s best to avoid anything that has a lot of dripping fat, so keep that in mind when you’re planning a camp menu.
These types of foods include steak and bacon, so be careful if you’re attempting to cook them. The dripping fat can cause a flare-up in the fire and turn dangerous quickly, so try to avoid foods that use oil in their cooking or have the potential to splatter oil.
Another important thing to remember with camp cooking is the storage of meat and other delicate ingredients. You’ll need to keep everything under 40 degrees Fahrenheit for safety until it’s time to cook, and never leave food sitting out for too long. Even the best cookware won’t be able to kill off harmful bacteria that can breed, and if in doubt you can also use a thermometer to check your meat has been cooked thoroughly.
Anything too detailed should probably also be avoided, as you won’t have all of the amenities that you usually do at home. Meals that require a lot of mixing, stirring, and assembling should be avoided, as well as anything that requires an appliance in order to make.
Best Meals For Camping Cookware
If you’re not a fan of pre-made camp meals that require you to add boiling water to eat, you’ll need some ideas for stress-free cooking in the great outdoors. When you have the right cookware you can make just about anything, but you should still aim to keep everything simple yet hearty. Here are some ideas for camping foods that you can add to your menu:
Everyone’s favorite breakfast meal can be made easily in advance, so all you have to do is add water and stir the batter. Toppings can include fresh fruit or jarred condiments.
A simple breakfast skillet that can include things like chopped potatoes, eggs, bacon, scallions, herbs and anything else you have on hand.
Take along some precooked and refrigerated rice to fry up with eggs and vegetables when you’re camping.
Put your cookware pots to good use by creating a soup with whatever you have on hand. Broth, vegetables, herbs, and meat all form the basis for a delicious and hearty soup.
Use bagels or pita bread and bring along some toppings to create your own pizzas. These can be heated in a pan or over the grill and require very little cleanup.
Fill your camping pan with corn chips, cheese, and salsa then cover with some foil and heat. You can add further toppings like sour cream and avocado when you’re done.
An Essential Part of Camping Gear
Food is a part of everyday life and we rely on it, even more, when we’re on a camping trip. Without the amenities and luxuries that we have at home though, special consideration needs to be given to our camping cookware and what we bring along with us.
Just as there are many different types of campers, so too are their many different needs for what each of us will take on an outdoor adventure. You might prefer to travel light and only want the basics, or you could love nothing more than cooking up a three-course meal by an open campfire.
Finding the perfect fit for your camping cookware can take time, which is why it’s often better to go with a pre-assembled set. These sets can be as basic or advanced as you need, but they take some of the hassles out of packing and organizing your cookware every time you head out for a spot of camping.
We’ve compiled a detailed buying guide that can show you what options you have for cookware kits, and even recommend some of the top-rated ones on the market. Having the right cookware is essential when you’re camping and it’s something that should be on the top of your list, so it’s a worthwhile investment for any style of camper.