Best Camping Mess Kits for Hungry Hikers

If you are in a hurry and need to know what the best camping mess kit is, we recommend the GOLD ARMOUR 17-pc Camping Cookware Mess Kit for its quality, accessories, and function.

Whether you are camping for a day or a few weeks, keeping you and your group well-fed with the proper balance of nutrition can be a difficult task, especially if you want to include foods other than protein bars and nuts. Of course, the limiting factor in this situation: How can I cook anything? 

With the proper cooking equipment, you will be able to prepare and serve a variety of meals, both hot and cold, to fill the nutritional needs of yourself and your group, while keeping your palettes pleased. In this article, we have put together a guide for choosing the best camping mess kit and included reviews of five of our top choices. 

Camping Mess Kits Reviewed in this Article

Before You Begin

Number of People

There are several things you should consider before starting your search. If you plan to camp with a group, you will need to have enough plates and silverware, in addition to pots and pans. On the other hand, you don’t want to carry too much camping cookware either, especially if you are backpacking. Decide ahead of time how many people you plan to camp with and determine whether you can divide the items among yourselves. 

group of campers eating around campfire at dusk

Types of Meals

Think also of the types of meals you plan to cook. In the reviews below, we assumed you would be preparing hot meals, and so the cookware you use should be able to withstand the heat of an open flame. 

Will you be cooking soups? Will you be feeding yourself by hunting or fishing? Your mess kit should include the proper dishes, such as bowls or mugs, or a cutting board for cleaning meat. And if you plan to store food that you have prepared, the mess kit should include containers that seal. Of course, for soup you would probably want a spoon, but for meat and vegetables a fork and knife.

Water

Naturally, the items you cook and eat with will need to be cleaned. Will you have access to water, such as a stream or lake? Or will you be using packed water for some meals? If you won’t have any extra water, how do you plan to clean the cookware once it is used? 

Purpose

Lastly, how do you intend to use your camping mess kit? Some people don’t like to cook at all during their camping experience, but they still require plates and forks. 

There are four basic types of mess kits available, depending on how you plan to use them:

  • Minimalist – These kits are simple and provide just enough for one person to cook and eat a basic meal. 
  • Eating Kits – These kits are focused on the items for consuming the meal, such as mugs, plates, bowls, forks, and spoons. They might not include any pots at all. 
  • Cooking Kits – These kits will contain pots and pans, along with serving utensils such as a soup spoon and rice ladle. Occasionally, they might have a plate or bowl, but you shouldn’t count on it. These kits are geared toward larger groups.
  • All-Inclusive – These kits will provide everything you need to prepare a meal and consume it. They will contain multiple pieces, but may be designed for one person or several. 
blue kettle and cup in front of tent

Choosing the Right Camping Mess Kit

Portability

When evaluating the portability of your mess kit, consider these two factors first: weight and packability. 

The weight restrictions you place on your cookware will depend on the nature of your trip and the number of people going with you. Car camping makes the weight of your mess kit largely irrelevant, but if you are backpacking, all of your cooking gear will be hauled on your back. For larger groups, the weight of the tent, the food, the cookware, and anything else you may need at camp can be distributed among your group members. However, backpacking alone severely limits the weight you can carry by yourself. In these instances, a lightweight camping mess kit is a must, and you may be willing to leave behind certain accessories to reduce the overall weight. 

However, regardless of the type of camping you plan to do, your cookware should pack easily. Having to lug around a box of pots, pans, forks, knives, spoons, plates, bowls and mugs is a ridiculous hassle! Many manufacturers have figured out ways to pack all of these items (and more) into a small, compact bundle that is both lightweight and easy to handle. 

pot heating on grill over wood fire as man holds handle

Accessories

When choosing the right camping cookware, you might be surprised at how minimalist you can be. You can generally get away with having only two things: a pot and a bowl. The pot can usually function as a pan or kettle, and a bowl may serve as a mug or a plate. If you’re anything like us, though, you may prefer to have a little more convenience. 

On the other extreme, camping mess kits can come with a ton of accessories, some of which might be unnecessary to you. Many items can serve multiple functions. Also, while you may want both a pot and a pan, one of each will be plenty. Lids can sometimes function as plates. Forks and spoons can be combined, either as “sporks” or as a fork on one end and spoon on the other. 

Consider the types of meals you will be preparing, as this will determine some of the items you will need for preparation and consumption. Think of how you will be transporting your cookware; the amount of space you have available may change what you bring. And finally, estimate the number of people you will be cooking for. If serving large groups, you may need several pots and pans, as well as plates and everything else. 

Materials

Camping mess kits can be made with a variety of materials, as can backpacking mess kits. In general, camping cookware will be heavier than its backpacking counterparts, but the materials affecting weight may alter the way the items will heat and cook food. 

For instance, aluminum heats more evenly than steel or titanium. However, titanium items will usually be lighter than either of these (The Humble Trekker explains why below), but more expensive. Steel is more durable, but the heaviest of the three options. In most cases, steel is the cheapest material, but it can be prone to rust. 

Aluminum that has been anodized is an excellent compromise for weight, price, and performance. As the AAC explains, “Anodizing is an electrochemical process that converts the metal surface into a decorative, durable, corrosion-resistant, anodic oxide finish” [1]. In other words, it lasts a while, cleans easily, and looks nice. 

Some of the non-cooking items, such as plates and forks, will be made of BPA-free plastic. Silicone is also becoming a popular material for its compressibility. At the end of the day, you should choose cookware that suits your individual needs, finding a balance of weight, durability, and functionality.

Versatility

The value of camping cookware kits can be greatly increased by the various ways the items can be used. Of course, the primary purpose is for cooking and eating, but some manufacturers have cleverly designed mess kits that also function as storage containers, so that you can preserve leftover food for a later meal. 

You should also take into consideration how easy the cookware will be to clean after meal preparation, whether or not you have water available. Additionally, some cooking kits come in combination with a stove. Whatever version you choose, finding a versatile camping mess kit now will save you hours of frustration down the trail. 

foldable pot heating food on blue camping stove

5 Best Camping Mess Kits

GOLD ARMOUR 17-pc Camping Cookware Mess Kit

Price: $$

This mess kit comes at a great price for the number of items included. Not only does the kit include the basic pot, frying pan, bowls, and eating utensils, it also comes with a small, Piezo ignition stove and fire starter. And everything packs together in a compact, lightweight bundle that users say is great for backpacking. 

The pot and pan are made from non-stick, anodized aluminum. The spoon, fork, spork, and knife are stainless steel, while the two bowls and soup ladle are made of BPA-free plastic. Included also is a lid, rice ladle, carabineer, sponge, and a nylon carry bag. 

Many users like the portability of this kit and its value. Some customers have reported that the pot and pan scratch easily and are too small (pan is 6.10 inches and pot is 5.70 inches in diameter). Still, most users like how evenly the pots cook and the convenience of how they pack together. As a word of caution, the stove can be unstable on uneven ground, and many people recommend testing the ignitor before taking it out in the wild.

Pros

  • non-stick, anodized aluminum pot and frying pan
  • 17pcs camping cookware accessories set includes folding stainless steel spork + spoon + fork + knife + mini stove with Piezo ignition + hard anodized aluminum nonstick pot (1 liter capacity)
  • Space saving/easy to carry: all the objects in this outdoor camping cookware set can be stored together in a mesh bag for space saving and convenient carry.
  • Mess kit comes with a 100% satisfaction . 10 years included by gold armour, a US-based company.
  • cooks evenly
  • compact, great for backpacking

Cons

  • stove has flimsy arms and is not good for uneven ground
  • pots scratch easily
  • customers report trouble with ignitor, so test before taking out on a camping trip
  • may be too small (pan is 6.10 inches in diameter; pot is 5.7 inches in diameter)

HONEST OUTFITTERS 10-pc Portable Camping Mess Kit

Price: $

This 10-piece mess kit was made for compactness and efficiency. The anodized aluminum pot and pan fit together well for easy packing, and can all be fit in the included nylon bag. The kit also includes a lid (for the pot only) two bowls, a spork, bamboo rice and plastic soup ladles, and a loofah. People like that the kit is easy to use and clean, and that it heats quickly. 

Several users have complained that the metal is weak and tends to scorch when used over a campfire, and that the outer coating melts off quickly. Additionally, some have reported that the plastic handles melt if they become too hot. However, the metal and handles seem to perform well over a small butane stove. 

It should also be noted that the cookware in this kit is small, measuring just over 6 inches in diameter. For this reason, we would not recommend using this mess kit for more than two people. As for price, this kit falls at the lower end and would be an excellent choice for a lone backpacker. 

Pros

  • Anodized Aluminum Camping Cookset
  • portable and easy to carry, all parts are loaded into a nylon bag
  • Honest cookware include 10 pieces for 1-2 adults,include nonstick pot (approximately 1 liter capacity) + non-stick pan + pan cover + soup spoon + bamboo spoon + cleaning sponge + nylon travel bag+2 BPA Free Bowls + Folding Stainless Steel Spork
  • Easy to use
  • easy to clean
  • heat fast
  • works best over small butane stove
  • lightweight

Cons

  • small (6.3 inch diameter pot and pan)
  • metal is weak, tends to scorch
  • outer coating melts off
  • plastic handles melt if they get too hot
  • lid only fits the pot

BISGEAR 13-34-pc Stainless Steel Tableware Mess Kit

Price: $$

Many people like this mess kit for its durable, stainless steel. The kit includes a cup, bowl, plate, mesh carry bag, carabiner, bottle opener (wine or beer), chopsticks, and dishcloth, as well as two forks, knives, and spoons – one rigid and the other foldable. You can purchase the 13-piece kit for an individual, or upgrade to settings for multiple campers. Unfortunately, this mess kit does not include a pot or pan, and you would need to bring your own stove. 

Even though it is made of steel, many users comment on how light it is and comfortable to use. Also, the material does not absorb odors or bacteria, which gives some customers a greater peace of mind when there might not be sufficient water to wash the mess kit thoroughly. However, some users did comment on how easy it is to clean. 

When compared to the competition, this mess kit includes fewer accessories and is therefore more expensive, piece-to-piece. A few people who bought this cookware also complained that the mesh carry bag has a solid bottom which tends to catch water. On the positive side, though, the manufacturer offers a 100% guarantee on its product, and people who encountered a problem reported excellent and quick customer service. 

Pros

  • A COMPLETE SET WITH EVERYTHING YOU NEED – Bisgear 13pcs Dinnerware Mess Kit set includes 8.5″ dinner plate + 10 oz cup + 6″ bowl + 7″ spoon + 7″ fork + 7″ knife +7″ chopsticks + FOLDING STAINLESS STEEL SPOON + SPORK + KNIFE (expand is 6″ x 1.5″ x 0.04″ , folding is 3.46″ x1.5″ x0.04″(approx.)) + Carabiner + Wine Opener + Dishcloth + Mesh Bag.
  • highest quality 18/8 stainless steel. Nontoxic materials, and won’t stain, absorb odors or rust, giving you years of durability.
  • Mesh bag for convenient carry
  • Comes with a 100% Satisfaction Guarantee.
  • does not absorb odors or bacteria
  • carabiner, dishcloth, mesh bag, spoon, fork, knife, and chopsticks, foldable spoon, fork and knife, plate, bowl, cup
  • sturdy
  • easy to clean
  • comfortable to use
  • lightweight and compact
  • great customer service

Cons

  • mesh bag has a solid bottom which catches water
  • does not include a pot or pan
  • more expensive, since it does not include pot, pan

GEAR4U 14-pc Camping Cookware Kit

Price: $$$

This compact mess kit comes with a variety of accessories that are cleverly designed to fit together in a lightweight, nested bundle. Gear4U offers three versions of this kit in 10-pieces, 13-pieces, and 14-pieces, all of which come at a competitive price. 

The 14-piece set includes a pot with a lid and a pan; two plates, two bowls, and two 3-in-1 sporks; a spatula, ladle, and deep dish bowl; two silicone folding cups, a sponge, and a piezo ignition stove – all of which fits in the included carry bag and is advertised as 1.85 pounds. Many users appreciate the weight and compactness of this kit designed for two people, but some customers have commented that the items are smaller than they expected. 

While this set fits together very well, several people were disappointed that the lid did not lock for storage and fit only the pot. Also, many have noted how flimsy the ladle is, which could be a result of the lightweight plastic and hinged handle. However, some of the items are made with bright orange plastic handles to make them easy to see in the dim light of evening or morning, and many people were pleased with how easy the items were to clean. 

In addition to the cooking and eating pieces, the 14-piece set also includes a mini stove with piezo ignition. All of the plastic items are BPA-free, and the pot and pan are composed of durable, non-stick anodized aluminum. Only a few users stated that food stuck to the pan, but if you are not entirely happy, the manufacturer offers a 100% satisfaction guarantee. 

Pros

  • Mess kit includes 1 anodized aluminum non-stick pot with lid, 1 anodized aluminum non-stick frying pan, 1 BPA-FREE deep dish, 2 BPA-FREE tritan sporks, 2 BPA-FREE plates, 1 mini stove w/piezo ignition & carrying case (BONUS ITEM), 1 silicone folding cup w/ lid, 1 BPA-FREE soup ladle, 1 BPA-FREE spatula & 1 sponge for easy cleaning! All items stack together and fit into the included nylon bag for easy carrying. Weighing only 1.85 pounds this kit also saves space
  • 100% Satisfaction Guarantee
  • super compact, nesting design
  • lightweight
  • easy to clean
  • bright orange, easy to see
  • comes in 10, 13, and 14 piece mess kits
    • 10- Tritan Sporks: 3-in-1 forks with serrated edge and concave handle for spoon
    • 13- foldable spoons and forks
    • 14- Piezo ignition stove, two plates, serrated fork-spoons, two bowls, one large, 7″ deep dish

Cons

  • lid does not lock for storage
  • ladel seems to be cheaply made and flimsy
  • pot and pan comes smaller than some people expected
    • pot 6″, pan 5.5″
  • lid fits pot only

ODOLAND 10-pc Camping Cookware Mess Kit

Price: $$$

This mess kit comes with a pot, pan, kettle, two cups, and a spoon, fork and knife, and these items can be packed together in the included mesh bag and hung from your pack using the included carabiner. The nesting design makes the pieces easy to organize together, although some customers were surprised that the lid did not fit flush when the cups were packed inside the kettle. The pot, pan, and kettle are made from an aluminum alloy and coated with teflon for a durable, non-stick cooking experience. By contrast, both 4 ounce cups are stainless steel, and several users have commented that the cups were well-made. 

The handles on the pot, pan, and kettle can be folded for storage, and the manufacturer advertises them as heat resistant. It seems, however, that many users have found the handles to feel flimsy and loose, and we would not recommend letting them get too close to the source of heat. The foldable silverware include a locking mechanism, but some have noted that the spoon, fork, and knife show wear after only one washing. Other customers have found that the locking mechanism occasionally comes unlocked while you are using it. 

Depending on the amount that you eat, it may be too small for any more than two people, and some individuals would find it too small for just one person. Also, many people who bought this kit were confused as to why it comes with two cups, one set of silverware, and no plates or bowls. According to the description by the manufacturer, one cup would be used for dinner and the other for breakfast, to save you the trouble of washing at night in the dark. As for the plate, the lid can easily be converted, or you can eat right out of the pan and save on extra weight. 

Pros

  • The 10 pieces hiking cooking gear includes 1 aluminum non-stick pot + 1 aluminum non-stick frying pan + 1 tea kettle+ 2 stainless steel cups (4 oz) + 1 spoon + 1 fork + 1 knife + 1 carabiner + 1 carrying bag.
  • Heat-Resistant Handles
  • non-stick Teflon coating for easy cleaning and durability.
  • Foldable handles on pot or stove can be folded to save space.
  • Nesting design
  • Mesh bag for easy carry
  • pot, pan, kettle, two cups, one each spoon, fork, knife, carabiner, carry bag
  • stainless steel cups (4 ounces)
  • aluminum alloy pot, pan, and kettle

Cons

  • locking mechanism on utensils sometimes unlocks
  • the lid does not fit flush when cups are packed inside the pots
  • many complaints about the silverware being cheap, folding easily or showing corrosion after one washing
  • many users have reported that the handles feel loose
  • two cups but only one set cutlery, no plates

Our Top Choice for the Best Camping Cookware

After examining the benefits, features, and qualities of each of these mess kits, we concluded that the GOLD ARMOUR 17-pc Camping Cookware Mess Kit offers the best value at a great price. This mess kit comes with a variety of accessories while remaining both compact and lightweight. It would be a great addition to any type of camping trip, and aside from the food and the fuel, it includes everything you would need for a delightful campfire meal. Of the five products we reviewed here, it lands right in the middle for price, but with the stove and all the additional pieces, it’s definitely a bargain. 

So that’s it! Have you tried other mess kits? Let us know your experiences and recommendations below. 

Sources:

  1. “What is Anodizing?” Aluminum Anodizers Council: Anodizing…the Finish of Choice. https://www.anodizing.org/page/what-is-anodizing
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