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!
Here are the best camping mess kits on the market today:
- MSR Quick 2 System Cookset (Best Mess Kit Overall)
- GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Backpacker Cookset (Best Backpacking Mess Kit)
- GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Camper Cookset (Best For Families And Large Groups)
- Coleman Stainless Steel Mess Kit (Best For Solo Campers)
- Bulin Camping Cookware Mess Kit (Best For Serious Camp Chefs)
Best Camping Mess Kit: Our Top Picks
MSR Quick 2 System Cookset
Weight: 1.7 lbs | Dimensions: 7.5 x 5 in | Includes: 2.5L pot w/ strainer lid, 1.5L pot, 2x plates, 2x 10.2 fl. oz. mugs w/ sip-it lids, pot lifter | Materials: Hard-anodized aluminum, polypropylene, HDPE
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.
- 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
- 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.
GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Backpacker Cookset
Weight: 1.8 lbs | Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.4 in | Includes: 2L pot, strainer lid, frypan, 2x bowls, 2x mugs with sip-it lids, pot gripper, storage sack/sink | Materials: Hard-anodized aluminum, polypropylene, nylon
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.
- 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
- 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.
GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Camper Cookset
Weight: 3.6 lbs | Dimensions: 9.1 x 5.8 in | Includes: 3L pot, 2L pot, 2x lids, frypan, 4x plates, 4x bowls, 4x mugs w/ sip-it lids, pot gripper, storage sack | Materials: Teflon-coated hard-anodized aluminum, polypropylene, nylon
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.
- 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
- 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.
Coleman – Stainless Steel Mess Kit
Did you know – Coleman makes more than just excellent budget 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.
- 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
- 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.
Bulin – Camping Cookware Mess Kit
Weight: 2.8 lbs | Dimensions: 8.43 x 8.19 x 6.65 inches | Includes: 2x pots with lids, frying pan, kettle, 4x bowls, 2x plates, foldable soup spoon, rice ladle, cleaning sponge | Materials: Hard-anodized aluminum, BPA-free plastic
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.
- 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
- 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.
Factors To Consider
When picking out a mess kit, there are a few things you need to decide.
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.
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.
When it comes to material, you’ve got a few different options:
- Stainless steel
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?
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.
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.
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.
Your budget is, of course, an important factor to consider. Mess kits come with different price tags, so there’s surely something for you.
Of course, the price tag is in direct relation to the quality of a certain mess kit. So, you don’t need to spend a ton of money to be able to enjoy nice meals when you’re out in the wilderness.
But, a more expensive, high-quality kit can be something you’ll pass down to your kids.
Number of People
Mess kits are designed for a certain group size, typically ranging between one and three people. And that determines how many pots, pans, plates, and other pieces are included.
Having a large mess kit that’s suitable for a group is nice, but if you typically camp solo, bringing the whole thing with you just adds too much unnecessary weight and storage space.
In many cases, it’s more practical and economical to actually bring two 2-person mess kits, rather than a larger, 4-person mess kit. Those larger kits are typically too bulky compared to smaller versions.
Even if you’re already set on what type of mess kit you want, there are some differences in features between products. So when choosing a kit, you need a general idea of what you might want to cook on your camping trip.
Let’s say you want an eating mess kit. You still need to figure out how many plates you want it to feature, whether you want bowls or cups as well, etc.
What Do You Need For Camp Cooking?
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.
When you’re at home, your heat source is obviously your stove. But when you’re camping, you need to find something else.
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 (though they also may be a necessity if there are fire restrictions).
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.
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.
Can you boil water in a mess kit?
That depends on the product. Most mess kits come with a pot to boil water and cook food in, but that isn’t always the case.
Double-check that your kit indeed will come with a proper pot for boiling water.
How much does a mess kit weigh?
That’s also something that depends on the specific product. Most backpacking mess kits are designed to be extra light, weighing between one and two pounds.
On the other hand, larger kits can weigh up to four pounds or more, depending on the material. All of the mess kits on this list weigh between 1.7 and 2.8 lbs.
Can you cook with a mess kit?
That depends on what kind of mess kit you have. Eating mess kits contain only tableware while cooking and all-inclusive mess kits feature pots and pans, allowing you to cook any type of camping meal that you can dream up..
What is the best food to cook in a mess kit?
You can make practically any meal with a mess kit, given that it contains the necessary cookware for it.
From simple dishes like rice or stew to steaks and casseroles, you can make anything you want as long as you have what you need.
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!