Your cookware setup will be dictated by a number of factors – if you’re car-camping there’s little to stop you bringing a range of pots and pans and a twin-burner gas stove (and steak). If you’re backpacking you may think differently. My personal backpacking set-up is limited to a single pot with a capacity in the range of 900ml to 1400ml for non-winter use, perhaps stretching up to 2000ml pot when I envisage melting a lot of snow. It’s important to consider the number of people eating too – being able to boil enough water for two people in one go is far more sociable and fuel efficient than having to refill, reboil and watch whilst your companion is eating. Short and wide pots are more fuel efficient than tall and skinny, and heat transfer is improved by a thin wall, though a non-stick coating is undeniably useful if cooking rather than boiling water. If I’m really trying to save packweight I’ll dispense with a mug and drink out of the pot, but more often than not I’ll carry a cup that can be used throughout the day to drink from streams as well as allow me to have a drink with my meal.
So – not the most exciting and glamorous item to review, but here are a small selection of the pots, pans and cooking accessories on the market today. Note that stated capacities are generally the absolute capacity of the vessel – don’t assume you can actually boil that much water in it. As always, let us know your cooking system in the forum, whether you’re a boil-in-the-bag, dehydrator or steak aficionado.
Alpkit MytiPot & MytiCupRRP £40
Titanium cookware is the ultralight backpacker’s dream – it’s lightweight, conducts heat well and doesn’t seem to scratch or dent easily. It is pretty expensive, but this 1350ml pot and 450ml cup set from Alpkit is extremely well priced compared to the competition. The MytiCup nestles easily inside the pot for transport, and you can even fit the 750ml MytiMug (£25) inside as well like a Russian doll. The short and fat pot is the perfect size for optimal heat distribution and stability on a variety of stoves, and the capacity is great for boiling water for two people or a solo backpacker that likes a couple of hot drinks with their meal. The removable wire handle is a bit annoying – having to swap it between pot and lid whilst dealing with boiling water became a bit of a hassle and I found myself simply using a cloth instead. Leaving it at home also saves 12g – hurrah! The cup is lovely – really well made and a good size, but I personally don’t like drinking hot liquid from a metal cup. The lid can be flipped and used as a frying pan allegedly – I’m far too lazy to carry bacon when backpacking and then wash up afterwards – but it does makes a good plate or bowl. The ability to mix and match with the MytiMug is attractive, and for solo trips the Mug and Cup may be all you need, and that’s a very lightweight backpacking setup.
Material: titanium Weight (MytiPot, lid, handle & MytiCup): 223g
Vango 1 Person Non-Stick Cook SetRRP £16
I’ll admit that I’m no backpacking gourmet, but I’m struggling to work out what I would use all these pans for. Made from what appears to be steel with a non-stick coating this is not a lightweight set, but I would suggest leaving at least one of the pots at home unless you’ve got a desperate need for more than one. As it is, the two pots – 700ml and 900ml – are a good capacity for one person, and at 244g with lid and folding handles the 900ml pot makes for a well-priced solo pot. Even better – if you pack a piece of foil rather than the delightfully rustic lid this weight can be reduced further. The folding handles don’t inspire confidence with the plastic coating appearing to be low quality, but in use they can handle (ha!) a fully-laden pot with ease. The frying pan is pretty small but the non-stick coating is a definite blessing, and I love the 20g plastic cup, ideal for attaching to a rucksack strap for mid-walk water scooping. In fact – with an RRP of £16 it’s almost worth buying this set for one pot and the cup alone – you’d even get a spare pot to lend to someone else. Everything nests together nicely and fits into a drawstring bag, and if the plastic cup is left out a small canister-mounted stove will fit inside too. An excellent budget option.
Material: coated steel Weight (all pots, lids, frying pan & cup): 605g
MSR Quick Solo SystemRRP £40
The insulated mug is great if you like that kind of thing – it’s certainly better than a metal cup in my opinion – but it’s over 100g so you may prefer something simpler. The unusual shape not only aids packing into the pot, but also means it’s really comfortable to use, feeling very secure in the hand with thumb along the curved face, fingers across two of the shorter sides and little finger beneath. Yes – I’m explaining how to use a mug, but it really is a rather good design. Even the location of the vent hole in the lid is well thought-out. The Quick Solo Pot is equally well-designed – it can be purchased alone with an RRP of £30 and weight of 205g – and it’s a brilliant choice for those that need the 1300ml capacity (though you’ll only be able to boil around 900ml of water in it really). The hard-anodised aluminium may be heavier than titanium – the Alpkit MytiPot, lid and handle is 154g – but it seems durable and slightly easier to clean. The handle appears quite heavy and complex (it can be removed easily) but the locking action is great and by flipping it over the lid the resulting package feels very secure. There are a series of holes in the lid to permit draining and a smaller vent above the embossed MSR logo. A small metal tab on the pot and depression in the rim of the lid locks it in place, and the rubber lid handle fits snugly through the pot handle. It’s a very clever and high-quality design that seems to have become a staple component in my backpacking cooking system. Including that heavy but oh-so-lovely mug.
Material: hard-anodized aluminium Weight (pot, handle, lid & cup): 312g
Jetboil FluxRing Frying PanRRP £55
I love my Jetboil stove – for producing fast boiling water in the outdoors it’s hard to beat. But that’s the limit really – boiling water. The burner head and heat exchanger pot combo aren’t designed for cooking (seriously – don’t try it) so I was curious to see how the frying pan would fare. It doesn’t use a bayonet fitting to slot securely onto the burner like the Jetboil pot, rather you’ll need to install the Pot Support onto the stove and probably use the plastic stabiliser legs too. The heat exchanger FluxRing helps to keep the pan in place on top of the stove but still permits easy vertical removal. The increased distance between burner head and pan also helps the flame to spread and reduces the risk of hot spots which can result in burnt food. In use the pan gets very hot, very quickly, in part due to the FluxRing which improves efficiency and acts as a rudimentary wind shield. There is some evidence of a central hot spot, but as long as you pay attention it’s not a huge problem. A non-stick coating would be useful as the hard-anodised aluminium isn’t easy to clean in the outdoors, but if you’re going to carry bacon I suppose the weight of a scrubbing brush isn’t going to cause too much concern. I like the combination FluxRing protector and plate – there’s space to store a folding spatula within the bottom of the pan and the raised edges make for a practical plate. It’s a bit pricey, but I can see it appealing to those that desire more than dehydrated food when in the outdoors.
Material: hard-anodized aluminium Weight (pan & cover): 286g
Kathmandu Pot Set Camp Hard AnodisedRRP £35
A classic design, with two large pans of around 2000ml capacity (there are no volume markings on the pans sadly), a small frying pan/lid, cloth and pot gripper contained in a mesh storage bag. The relatively large pan capacities make it easy to heat boil-in-the-bag pouches or melt snow for a couple of people, and the low and wide shape seems stable on even canister top stoves. The frying pan lid has a raised concentric ring pattern on the base to keep it in place. Inverted and used as a lid it’s a bit fiddly to remove with the pot gripper, but that’s just being picky. When lifting the largest pan filled to capacity the gripper feels secure, and with the rolled lip pouring boiling water into a cup or pouch is hassle-free. The hard anodising has resulted in an attractive dark grey matt finish which seems to hold up to scraping with metal utensils well, and there is little evidence of discolouration after a good blasting with a Jetboil burner. It’s a basic cook set at a good price, and should last a long time. For winter group use when melting snow – particularly with a remote liquid feed stove – this is a great option, especially if you can leave one of the pans at home to save weight.
Material: hard-anodized aluminium Weight (pots, frying pan, cloth & handle): 510g