BACKPACKING KITCHEN GEAR PRIMER

backpacking kitchen gear list headerWhat’s the best backpacking kitchen gear for me?

When were are out on the trail, we spend a lot of time thinking, talking, and fantasizing about food. (Burning through a couple thousand calories a day will do that to you.) That is why it’s important for us to have a solid setup of backpacking kitchen gear.

There are lots of different gear options to choose from. We feel the ideal backpacking kitchen is one that compliments both your hiking style and cooking style. A few questions to ask yourself: Would you like to reduce your pack weight so you can hike more comfortable during the day? Or would you like to enjoy a well cooked meal at night? Are you okay with eating boil-in-bag meals?  Or do you want to prepare food yourself? Will you be mostly traveling solo or with another person?

The good news is there is no “right” answer. Each backpacking kitchen gear setup should be tailored to the individual. Below, we share some of the gear we use in our current setup as well as a few pieces we wish we had. We often mix and match our gear depending on the type of trip we are going on, so not everything listed below comes with us out into the field.

easy to used backpacking stove
STOVES

MSR Pocket Rocket – One of the most popular backpacking stoves on the market, the Pocket Rocket has been our go-to for many of our backpacking trips. It works perfectly with a lightweight pot or skillet, allowing us to prepare our own meals. It’s not great great in a windy conditions, but we get around this by either blocking the wind with our body or moving behind cover.

JetBoil Sumo – Sometimes for short backpacking trips, we’ll pick up a few boil-in-bag meals to make our lives easier. On those occasions, we’ll bring along our Jetboil Sumo. This integrated stove system is great for all making a lot of hot water really fast. Since we always backpack as a couple and we’re both impatient around meal time, the extra size of the Sumo allows us to heat enough water for 2 boil in bag meals at once.

MSR WindBurner – A new addition to our gear closet, this integrated stove system uses MSR’s patented Reactor® technology to improve performance during windy conditions. It primarily functions as a hot water maker, but can also be used to cook self-prepared meals as well. It also comes with a handy collapsible press for making french press coffee.

WISH WE HAD: JetBoil Mini MoWe would love to try this integrated cook system out. In addition to boiling water fast, this version of the Jetboil allows you to cook your own food in it as well. So it could we could pack a mix of boil-in-bag meals and meals we prepare ourselves.   

best backpacking cookwear
COOKWARE

Snow Peak Cook N Save – This has been our go-to pot for quite some time. It’s on the larger end of the spectrum for a backpacking pot, but it allows us to cook two servings at once. It’s made from titanium so it’s super lightweight, however it’s thin bottom can be prone to scorching so a watchful eye and constant stirring is in order.

MSR Ceramic Flex SkilletWe’ve been looking for a lightweight, nonstick skillet like this for a long time. The pan’s ceramic surface does an excellent job of keeping food from sticking to the bottom, but we’ve found the coating to be less than durable when exposed to high heat.

WISH WE HAD: GSI Halulite BoilerWe’ve heard a lot of great things about this pot. In addition to being lightweight, durable, and relatively inexpensive – it’s anodized aluminum surface is non-stick enough for prepare-yourself meals.


backpacking cups, spork and utensils

CUPS & UTENSILS

Snow Peak Insulated Mug This is our go-to coffee mug for almost all occasions. Not only is it super lightweight but it’s double walled insulated – so our hot coffee stays warmer longer. Some people prefer the single non-insulated version because you can use it to cook. But we’re big enough coffee enthusiasts that we pack along a dedicated cup, allowing us to eat our breakfast AND drink our coffee at the same time.

Sea to Summit Cup – Stores flat, but expands to a full sized cup. If you’re looking for a dedicated cup to bring along with you, this Sea To Summit Cup is a great space saving solution.

Human Gear Uno – With a spoon on one end and fork on the other, this simple utensil design is perfect for backpacking.

HumanGear Duo – Perhaps the most innovative backpacking utensil since the spork, the Human Gear Duo allows you the option of both a normal fork and a normal spoon, or an extra long fork or an extra spoon.

Opinel Knife – While there are lighter, more versatile knives out there, we love the simple elegance of our Opinel knife. A razor sharp stainless steel blade in a beech wood handle. We’d rather have an simple knife that performs well, than an Inspector Gadget multi-tool.

WE WISH WE HAD: GSI Collapsible SpatulaWe always end up using a fork, but we can think of more than one occasion where an actual spatula would have saved use a few burned fingers.

keeping backpacking food in a bear barrel
PANTRY

Bear Barrel – Required if you’re backpacking in National Parks and a good idea just about everywhere else, a bear-proof barrel is where you should keep all your food when out in the backcountry. We use the Bear Vault BV500 because the clear sides allow us to easily locate what we’re looking for.

Biodegradable Plastic Bags – To conserve space, it sometimes makes sense to repackage your food into plastic baggies. But this can force you to use a lot of single-use plastic bags. Instead, consider switching to a biodegradable bags. These still need to be packed out with you, but you can at least feel better about using less plastic.

Little Plastic BottlesSmall resealable bottles are perfect for cooking oil, your favorite hot sauce, spice blends, or even your dish washing soap.

camp soap and dishwashing
CLEAN UP

Dr. Bronner SoapBiodegradable soap is essential for cleaning dishes in the backcountry. But even still, make sure you use it at least 200 yards from a water source. The soap requires bacteria in the soil to properly biodegrade.

Hand SanitizerBeing dirty is an unavoidable part of backpacking. But a quick squirt of hand sanitizer can ensure your hands are clean and you can prepare your food safely.

ShammieA super-absorptive shammie is great for drying off dishes at the end of the night. Especially when it’s cold outside and you want to get into your sleeping bag, nobody has time for air drying.

Half SpongeCut a standard kitchen sponge in half (or quarters). While you can clean out most dishes by hand, if you accidentally scorch the bottom of your pan, you’ll be grateful a tiny little sponge. We like this biodegradable one. 

Thanks for checking out our backpacking kitchen gear primer. We hope this helps you fill your pack with the right kitchen tools for your next trip.


Now that you’ve got your backpacking cooking gear, be sure to get this recipe for backcountry breakfast burritos. Thanks to Fresh Off The Grid for both of these awesome guides!