What is the Best Camping Mess Kit in 2021?

cooking on a campfire

If you’re in a rush, the best camping mess kit today is the MSR Quick 2 System Cook Set.

Cooking while camping might seem stressful.

In the great outdoors, you don’t have the ingredients, equipment, and tools that are regularly available in your kitchen. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat well when you’re out in the wilderness.

With the right camping mess kit, you can completely change the way you eat on your next camping or backpacking trip. And best of all, you don’t even have to sacrifice packing space or weight!

Best Camping Mess Kit: Our Top 5 Recommendations

MSR Quick 2 System Cookset

MSR - Quick 2 System Cook Set
The MSR Quick 2 System Cook Set is the ideal mess kit for camping duos.

This 7 piece set includes 2 non-stick pots (2.5L and 1.5L) with a strainer lid, 2 deep dish plates, 2 insulated mugs, and a removable pot handle.

Everything included in this set nests quickly within the 2.5L cooking pot for secure storage and packing. And since everything is made out of lightweight materials, the entire set only weighs 1 pound 12 ounces. This makes it great for backpacking and other long camping trips.

This set packs up nicely and will fit in any size bag. Which reminds me, here are some great daypacks for every occasion.

Pros:

  • The 7 pieces easily nest together for comfortable storage and packing
  • All items fit inside the largest pot, and the lid (that doubles as a strainer) fits over everything
  • The 2.5L pot allows you to cook bigger meals for larger groups
  • The pots are made out of lightweight aluminum, and the plates, cups, and strainers are made out of heat resistant plastic – everything is light yet sturdy
  • The deep-dish plates have high walls, so they can also be used as bowls
  • The mugs are double-walled insulated to keep hot drinks hot and cold drinks cold

Cons:

  • This set only comes with one removable handle for both pots, so cooking with both at the same time can get tricky

Best for: campers who want an all-around epic mess kit that can be used for big meals.

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GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Backpacker Cookset

GSI Outdoors - Pinnacle Backpacker, Nesting Cook Set
If you’ve only got two people on your trip, the GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Backpacker Nesting Cook Set is another suitable option for you.

This set includes a 2-liter pot, 8” frying pan, folding handle, waterproof stuff/sink sack, 2 insulated mugs, 2 lids, and 2 nesting bowls. That’s about everything you need for cooking, but there’s only one pot (while the MSR kit includes two).

My favorite feature is the waterproof stuff sack. It has convenient handles for carrying and doubles as a dish rack, so you can wash your utensils in peace.

Pros:

  • The waterproof stuff sack allows you to store everything and also doubles as a sink
  • The entire set nests smoothly inside the large pot for easy packing and carrying
  • Both the pot and frying pan have a durable Teflon coating to distribute heat evenly and reduce hotspots
  • The mugs are insulated, so you can sip warm tea or coffee while on the road
  • The pot lid doubles as a strainer for maximum convenience

Cons:

  • This set only has one handle for the pot and pan, so it can get complicated if you want to cook with both at the same time.

Best for: smaller groups (two people) who want to cook a variety of foods.

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GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Camper Cookset

GSI Outdoors - Pinnacle Camper, 4 Person Camping Cook Set
The GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Camper 4 Person Camping Cook Set is another reliable option for larger groups or families.

This cooking set comes with a 2L pot, 3L pot, frying pan, folding handle, stuff sack/sink, 4 plates, 4 insulated mugs with lids and sleeves, and 4 bowls.

While this whole set comes with enough cookware to feed four people, it can easily be customized to fit fewer people just by leaving a few items behind. Its materials are very durable, and this cookware set will last you a long time.

Pros:

  • This cooking set comes with enough cooking equipment to cook for four people
  • It can comfortably be sized down to work for fewer people just by leaving a few items at home
  • The plates, bowls, and mugs that come in this cooking set are made out of Infinity Clear Polypropylene that is very durable
  • Each set of 3 (plate, bowl, & mug) is also color-coded
  • The lids in this cooking set are crushproof and heat resistant – they also double as strainers
  • This cooking set comes with a 3L pot, 2L pot, and frying pan that all have Teflon non-stick coatings to make cleaning painless
  • The entire cooking set is nestable and compact enough to make packing and storing stress-free

Cons:

  • Only one handle for all three pots – not fun
  • Not suitable for high temperatures (due to Teflon)

Best for: large groups or families that want multiple pots.

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Coleman – Stainless Steel Mess Kit

Coleman - Stainless Steel Mess Kit
Did you know – Coleman makes more than just excellent tents? Their Stainless Steel Mess Kit is a one-person kit that’ll last for years.

This set comes with a stainless steel 2 qt. pot with a lid that turns into a frying pan, interchangeable handle, BPA free microwave-safe bowl and mug, and a mesh drawstring bag.

Cooking when camping doesn’t have to be a hassle with this cooking set. Everything fits into the stockpot for firm storage, and the mesh bag doubles as a carrying bag as well as a bag for quick cleaning.

Pros:

  • Although this set has six pieces, it’s small enough for a one-person trip
  • Everything in this set fits easily inside the included stainless steel 2 qt. pot (whose lid turns into a frying pan)
  • Affordable and stainless steel – what more could you want?
  • Despite being made of rugged steel, this set is still easy to pack and carry

Cons:

  • Like many others, it only comes with one handle
  • Since it is stainless steel, it’s not non-stick like Teflon – but it will last longer

Best for: solo campers who want a set that’ll last for generations.

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Bulin – Camping Cookware Mess Kit

Bulin - Camping Cookware Mess Kit
If you’re a passionate camper looking for a deep set of kitchen tools, look no further.

This set includes 2 pots with lids, a frying pan, a kettle, 4 BPA free bowls, 2 BPA free plates, a BPA free foldable soup spoon, a rice ladle, and a cleaning sponge. That’s a lot!

Unlike other camping cooking sets, this set includes a heat resistant folding handle for each piece of cookware. This, along with its compact nesting feature, makes this mess kit the swiss army knife of camping cookware.

Pros:

  • This cooking set comes with everything you need to cook for four people
  • You’ll get 2 pots, 1 frying pan, and a kettle, all at an affordable price
  • Everything in this set fits together like a nesting doll for compact storage and packing
  • Each pot and frying pan has collapsable handles built in so you do not have to share one handle between the three pieces of cookware
  • The handles are also heat resistant and won’t burn your hands
  • You can use this cookware in a variety of different ways, including over gas or fire
  • This set also includes extra items like a rice ladle, a foldable soup spoon, and a cleaning sponge

Cons:

  • While this is a four-person set, it only includes two plates
  • The non-stick coating on this set is not as good as it is on other sets

Best for: people serious about cooking when camping who want to buy the whole kit and kaboodle.

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Factors To Consider

someone cooking noodles on a gas stove

When picking out a mess kit, there are a few things you need to decide.

Ask yourself:

Which type of mess kit do you need?

Which materials are going to best suit your needs?

How many people are going to be using the mess kit?

Do you plan on carrying your mess kit long distances?

Once you determine which type, material, size and weight you’re after, you’ll have all the criteria you need to find the perfect mess kit.

Type

There are a few different types of mess kits out there.

All-inclusive mess kits, as the name suggests, contain everything you need to cook and eat a meal. From cookware, to cups, plates and utensils – they’ve got you covered.

Cooking mess kits primarily contain cookware. That being said, they do also contain basic utensils most of the time.

The pot lids can double as plates, too. So, you can really get away with using these are all-inclusive kits most of the time.

Eating mess kits, on the opposite end of the spectrum, contain only plates, bowls, cups, and utensils. These usually don’t come with any pots or pans at all.

Material

When it comes to material, you’ve got a few different options:

  • Stainless steel
  • Aluminum
  • Titanium
  • Plastic
  • Silicone

Stainless steel is highly durable and affordable, but it’s also the heaviest of all the materials out there. If you’re going car camping, it’s a great choice. Backpackers, however, should definitely consider other options.

Like an aluminum mess kit, for instance. Look for anodized aluminum, specifically. It’s lightweight, durable and also fairly affordable. This makes it a good option for every kind of camping trip.

Not light enough?

Fair enough.

Titanium is lighter yet. Plus, it’s impressively durable.

Backpackers looking for the lightest possible mess kit should definitely consider titanium – if they can afford it, that is. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come cheap.

When it comes to plates, cups and utensils, they’re usually made of either plastic or silicone.

Now, don’t get me wrong – plastic utensils are great. The plastic they’re made of is usually very durable and insulates well.

But, I personally prefer silicone. It’s incredibly light and compact, making it super convenient for backpacking trips.

Size

Make sure you get the right size!

Consider how many people are going to be using the mess kit.

Mess kits come in all shapes and sizes, from small mess kits for solo campers, to larger kits with enough utensils for up to 5 people.

It’s important to get the right size, so that nobody is left without a plate, cup and utensils.

Weight

Now, if you’re going car camping you probably won’t be too concerned about a few extra pounds.

However, backpackers know all too well that every ounce counts.

If you’re planning on taking your mess kit with you on the trail, you’ll want to make sure you go for an option that’s as compact and lightweight as possible.

What Do You Need For Camp Cooking?

a frying pan over a campfire

Cooking while camping isn’t much different to cooking at home. The only difference is that you are outdoors and probably don’t have all the standard tools at your disposal.

While you usually want to pack light on a camping trip, you still want to set aside room for gear to make cooking easier. Keep reading to learn what you should bring to make sure you can cook with ease and comfort at the campsite.

Heat Source

When you’re at home, your heat source is obviously your stove. But when you’re camping, you need to find something else.

The standard option is a campfire. Cooking over an open flame is very enjoyable, and gives you that rustic cowboy experience.

However, you could also invest in a camping stove. These stoves usually run off propane, so there are extra precautions you should take if you choose to use one.

Click here to learn more about tent stoves.

Food

Now, obviously, you need some food.

When backpacking, you may find that your options are limited. Packing a cooler full of food won’t be possible. In this scenario, freeze-dried foods, like pasta, are going to be your best bet.

However, if you’re car camping and can pack a cooler full of food, your possibilities are virtually endless. You can pack all kinds of meat, dairy, vegetables, and more to complete any crazy recipe you can dream of.

Cookware

The last thing you need is the toolset to cook your food with.

This is where your mess kit comes in. The mess kit includes camping versions of stuff you use in the kitchen every day – pots, pans, plates, cups, cutlery, etc.

While they are smaller, they serve the same function. Sure, these tools might be lighter, but you should be able to whip up some yummy food regardless.

To go with your cookware, you should make sure to pack cooking utensils like a spatula, tongs, or a wooden spoon.

Our Verdict

If you’re ready to change the way you eat when camping, then invest in a camping mess kit. They come in a variety of materials with a ton of different features to meet your needs.

If you’re looking for the best, I suggest you purchase the MSR Quick 2 System Cook Set.

This mess kit includes 7 pieces, so you have everything you need to cook for two people, maybe even more. Everything in the set is durable and heat resistant, so you don’t have to worry about this set ending up in the trash.

With other features such as the high walled plates that double as bowls and the insulated mugs for keeping your drinks warm, this mess kit is a no brainer. If you’re ready to take your cooking to the next level, check out these mess kits!