Getty Images: Anastasiia Shavshyna
Getty Images: Anastasiia Shavshyna

The Best Lightweight Camping Cookware for Backpacking or Van Life

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For those who love the great outdoors, there are few moments as freeing and replenishing as those spent off the grid and immersed in nature. One of the most promising ways to get an extended stay in nature is to choose a campsite and pitch a tent. Additionally, things like car camping, van life, or even backpacking are common solutions when you're craving a quick weekend jaunt or have set out on a long road trip through America's abundance of natural lands as well. This method of enjoying the wild brings you closer to the bare necessities of life. Fresh air and shelter are provided — but what about food? You may feel more primitive when having limited space, but you don't have to cook like it. The best lightweight camping cookware sets provide a great middle-ground between the conveniences of modern life and all the rudimentary things you've set out to enjoy.

What makes the best lightweight camping cookware?

There are several factors to look for when shopping for a set of kitchen goods made for things like the car or your backpack. One of the primary things to focus on is space. Will your cookware stack or collapse in a way that saves you precious room? The last thing you want is for your copilot to have to navigate with a giant stockpot stuck in their lap. However, there are other sub-factors as it relates to space. Just because a piece of cookware can become smaller or nest within other pieces doesn't mean it's well suited for your needs. If the kitchen good in question is made from shoddy material, you'll spend more in the long run than if you had prioritized a mix of size and quality from the start.

Similarly, you'll want to keep an eye on the composition of the set you purchase. Are there enough pots, pans, plates, cups, bowls, and utensils to meet all your needs in the wild or on a long trip? Having a campfire is preferable, but the option to heat your food isn't always present. (Or, fire may be unnecessary if you're the living van life, for example). So, does your lightweight camping cookware come with a source of heat included? Finally - and this is an often-overlooked point — will your cookware stay silent as you're driving or hiking through breathtaking scenery, or is a persistent racket going to be tap-tap-tapping away somewhere in the trunk of the car 0r backpack? We chose the best options that will deliver great meals even with limited space. Our picks are below: 

1. The Smallest & Most Lightweight Option

GSI Outdoors Halulite Microdualist II Cookset - REI, $69.95

Clocking in at just over one pound, GSI Outdoors's camping cook set is lighter than a baby. It's designed with backpacking in mind, but the highly collapsible design is also ideal for car camping given its size. And the whole set has special latches that secure the pieces together to reduce any rattling noise as you're rolling your car through quiet hills. Although constructed from aluminum, the material is hard-anodized and can compete with even the toughest home cookware. Rather than being a fully-fleshed out collection of several pots, pans, and dining wear, the GSI Microdualist II has one 1.4-liter pot, two 14-ounce bowls, two 12-ounce mugs, and two folding sporks (along with the welded carrying case). That means you'll have to get creative with how you cook your food. That said, while it may not offer you the greatest range of cookware options, it distributes heat exceptionally well and comes with a crush-proof nylon lid that can strain the water from dehydrated meals in a cinch. If you're really limited on space, this is the best option. 

2. Best for Van Life or Families

Stanley Base Camp Cook Set for 4 (21 pieces) - Amazon, $90

If you have a family or have a little extra space in your car, consider the Stanley Base Camp Cook Set. For starters, with 21 pieces, this collection is certainly better for car camping families than for single or duo travelers. There is a 3.5-liter pot, a 7-inch frying pan, four 22-ounce bowls and 6-inch plates, and some extra amenities that will make cooking a pleasure: A cutting board, spatula, serving spoon, drying rack, and heat-resistant rivet are all included in this set, so you'll be fully prepared for whatever the road brings. Despite the numerous bits and pieces to the Stanley car camping cookware set, the whole kit nests together and then seals tight with a bungee cord. Not even nature has this much order — the stacking instructions are even engraved on the lid. The BPA-free, stainless steel body is non-stick and easy to clean.

3. Best Customizable & Lightweight Camping Cookware

Bulin Camping Cookware Mess Kit  - Amazon, $21.99+

We go camping for many reasons. Sometimes it's to relax and decompress in quiet, and sometimes, it's to have an exciting experience. For the latter, The Bulin camping cookware set is sort of like a "choose your own adventure" style of camping cookware. The set is sold in different quantities — you can order 24 components all the way down to four, so it's customizable based on what you need. The collapsible bundle is lightweight (2.8-pounds), easily stackable, and made of food-grade aluminum. Standard pots, pans, bowls, and sporks are included, but this set has an added piece yet to be seen: a tea kettle.  

4. Best for Solo Camping

Sea to Summit X-Set 21 Solo Camping Cookware - REI, 74.95 

If you are a solo camper, the Sea to Summit set is ideal for your needs. Even the 1.4-liter pot is highly collapsible — the base is hard-anodized aluminum while the sides are made from food-grade silicone. Although it cannot be set over an open flame, the Sea to Summit kit is highly portable (it weighs under a pound), and comes with a silicone mug, bowl, and translucent lid for you to easily monitor your meal.

5. Best Option With An Included Stove

Odoland Camping Cookware & Folding Camping Stove (16-Piece Set) - Amazon, $46.99

This Odoland set has a bit of everything you need in a car camping cookware set: There is a full utensil set for two people, two plate-bowl combinations, as well as two stainless steel cups that can double for hot drinks thanks to the heat-resistant, silicone sleeves. For cooking, Odoland has included a 1.9-liter pot, a 0.86-liter saucepan/skillet, and a tea kettle, all made from heat-distributing anodized aluminum. 

Although it only weighs around three pounds and nests to a compact size, the biggest attribute of this outdoor kitchen kit is an included burner. The quick-ignite camping stove will give you the ability to cook wherever the road has led you, campfire or not. This small, indispensable tool is not a given when it comes to camping cook sets, and Odoland deserves special recognition for adding one to the set.

And Don't Forget...


Eureka Ignite 2-Burner Camp Stove  - REI, $86.19

Having the proper set of lightweight camping cookware is great, but what about the heat you need to cook your food? As we've mentioned, not every set includes a fire, and not every set can be used over an open flame. That said, purchasing the Eureka Ignite Camp Stove will feel like a stroke of genius. The double burners sit 10-inches apart, providing enough space for duel cooking at 10,000 BTUs (British Thermal Units). Despite the rubber pads that keep this stovetop from slipping, you'll find it extremely mobile thanks to the 10-pound weight and an easy-to-carry, compact design. An auto-ignite switch and simmer-control knob give you full effect over lighting the flame and managing cooking temperatures. Plus, Eureka's proprietary JetLink connections allow you to extend the size of your kitchen with more Eureka stoves, should you need them. 


Coletti Bozeman Camping Percolator Coffee Pot (9-cup) - Amazon, $39.95

Coffee is such an essential drink in the morning that it can sometimes be easy to take for granted when we change the routine. But, there are no baristas in the backwoods, and the worst time to remember you forgot a coffee maker is when the bacon is sizzling hot on your new camping cookware. The Bozeman Percolator from Coletti has a hardwood handle that looks like it's been crafted from the very trees you'll be waking under. A 100% stainless steel body is toxin-free and ready for whatever rugged camping you've got planned. Designed by a veteran-owned business, this easy-to-use java maker has been 15 deployments in the making.

READ MORE: The Best Tent Fans For More Comfortable Summer Camping Trips