The Best Cookpot for Backpacking for 2019
We aggregated outdoor media and customer reviews on the best backpacking cooking pots—and then tested the most popular outdoor cookware for dozens of meals. Here's our findings.
We researched and tested the most popular backpacking cooking pots—the ones that have multiple positive reviews in outdoor media as well as from happy customers. We found the best cookpots for backpacking including titanium pots, anodized aluminum cookware, stainless steel cooking pots, and camping cooksets. We considered cooking efficiency, heat distribution, and pots that were lightweight. The cookpots we considered work best with backpacking stoves vs. putting over a campfire. If you are looking for a backpacking stove, check out our Best Backpacking Stoves guide.
Table of Contents
TOAKS Titanium 750 mL-Best Titanium Backpacking Cooking Pot and Best Budget Titanium Cookpot
The Toaks Titanium 750 ML cookpot is the #1 seller on REI and Amazon for a reason: it offers quality construction at an affordable price. The sleek and lightweight design make it a favorite among lightweight backpackers seeking a single bowl/mug/pot to do it all. Its foldaway handles and pot lid provide just enough easy gripping to get the job done without adding unnecessary weight. It fits a 110g fuel canister and a stove while its shape and size make it relatively durable for titanium cookware. The Toaks Titanium pot is designed for minimalists, but works so well (and is so affordable) it’s well-suited for every lightweight backpacker.
What makes the Toaks Titanium 750 mL our favorite of the vast and sometimes overwhelming Toaks Titanium collection is its compact and convenient shape and size. With the 750 mL, you get a vessel that doubles as a mug and pot. Sometimes, pots can be too pot-like to work well as a mug. They’re too wide to sip from without worrying about dribbling. Meanwhile, sometimes mugs can be too mug-like to work well as a pot. They can be too tall or tippy when boiling water and have stability issues. The Toaks 750 mL is just the right size to work well as both.
With the Toaks 750 mL, you can fit a 110g fuel canister and a small backpacking stove like the MSR Pocket Rocket 2 (see our Best Backpacking Stoves guide if you’re looking for a one that will fit this pot). It also works with alcohol stoves, which we didn’t cover in our stove guide. 750 mL is right in our target zone for a good volume for a solo trekker (or a group trekker who cooks their own meal). At 3.18 cups, it’s enough to make a typical freeze-dried meal and have hot cocoa after.
The TOAKS 750 mL is also a great shape to give the titanium pot some extra durability. We were tempted to recommend the 900 mL TOAKs Titanium stove, which has a squat shape that distributes heat quickly. However, in our experience (and those of customer reviewers) that size/shape combo was much more prone to going from circular to ovaloid and becoming slightly warped. The 750 mL, in comparison, can handle getting banged around in a pack better.
The only complaint we’ve seen (and it’s true for most Titanium pots except for the MSR Titan) is that the lid doesn’t “snap” into the pot. The lid is fairly loose, which means it’s easy to pull it off. That can be a boon if you’d rather not burn yourself removing a pot’s lid. But it also means that you’ll need care when draining water. More annoyingly, when your pot is in your backpack, you’ll need a rubber band to keep the lid from drifting off your pot and spilling its contents (hopefully only a stove and fuel can).
We also wished that the Toaks’ handles and pot lid handle were covered in insulation, like we find on the excellent contenders, the Evernew Titanium UL pot and the Snow Peak Trek. Instead, be prepared to use potholders or gloves to handle your material. Titanium is quite good at cooling quickly, so if you have patience, it shouldn’t be a big deal.
Like all Titanium cookware, the Toaks 750 has a few drawbacks. Titanium spots when exposed to heat sources, so don’t expect your pot to look like new for long. It transfers heat more rapidly than other materials, so “real cooking” can lead to scorched food if you don’t watch it. Like all Titanium cookware, the Toaks 750 mL cookpot is best if you boil water most of the time and are prepared to use a lower temperature when you do cook.
Compare prices on the Toaks 750 Titanium Pot
MSR Titan Kettle-Upgrade Titanium Cookpot
A perennial favorite of almost all the professional reviewers we surveyed, the MSR Titan Kettle is a pot that will stay in your collection for literally a decade. The MSR Titanium Kettle has the lightweight and design aspects we love in the Toaks 750 mL with some extra features that put it above the other pots we tested. It’s greatest convenience is that the lid stays flush against the pot, meaning you can use it like a kettle--controlling liquid as it comes from the spout without worrying that the whole lid will fall off and spill water everywhere. While the MSR Titanium Kettle is pricey, we think it’s worth paying extra for something that will likely last your entire backpacking career.
As with the TOAKS cookpot, the MSR Titan Kettle is the perfect size for a solo backpacker. It fits a small backpacking stove and 110g fuel canister (see our Best Backpacking Stoves guide if you’re looking for a stove that will fit this pot). The MSR Titan also makes ramen, rice, and Mac N Cheese or a freeze-dried meal with some extra cocoa water to spare. But the MSR Kettle has a few benefits over our overall budget pick that we found well worth the extra money:
What convinced us the MSR Titan Kettle is the best pot titanium solo upgrade pot is that the lid snaps onto the pot, staying in place as you pour and allowing you to control the flow from the spout. This seems minor but makes a world of difference when cooking. The lid is rolled, which gives it extra stability and reduces the risk that it will warp. Unlike the TOAKS 750 mL, the MSR Titan Kettle lid always has a consistent fit, whether you’re cooking a meal or stashing your cookset in your backpack. The snug lid on the MSR Titanium kettle makes it perfect for straining noodles.
In fact, the lid on the MSR Titan Kettle is so snug that you have to hold down the handles to pull the lid off. Unlike the TOAKS, its lid handle has insulation so you can peek at your meal as it cooks without having to put on gloves first. But depending on how you cook, the un-insulated handles can get sometimes get hot, so we suggest using gloves when handling (as recommended with the TOAKS pot).
The MSR Titan Kettle is a favorite of TrailGroove, Greenbelly, the Well Traveled Mile, and Adventures in Stoving. It’s also a best seller on Amazon and REI. It has 4.7/5 stars out of 89 reviews on REI--the best of any pot we’ve seen and among the highest customer ratings we’ve seen on any item ever.
The only complaint we saw after reading hundreds of customer reviews is that for some of the newer models, fuel canisters may sometimes not fit in the pot snug enough to snap down the lid. An Amazon reviewer found a quick way to fix this. Recent REI reviewers haven’t had the same problem with this pot, so it’s possible that different suppliers were given access to different designs.
It’s worth noting that while we love the MSR Titan Kettle, the Evernew Pasta Pot has almost the identical design with an additional feature that we adore: in the newest models, the handles and the lid handles both have rubber insulation. On the MSR Titan Kettle, only the pot lid has insulation. The Evernew Pasta Pot has long been our pot of choice and would have made our upgrade pick, especially with the dual insulated handle feature. But in recent years, Evernew has reduced their US distribution, driving up the price, shipping, and making it more difficult to return items. For this reason, we think the MSR Titan Kettle will give you almost everything we love about the Evernew for a more reasonable price.
Compare prices on the MSR Titan Kettle
GSI Outdoors Halulite-Best Anodized Aluminum
An REI and Amazon bestseller for hard anodized aluminum, the GSI Outdoors Halulite 1.1 L Cookpot is an incredibly strong and affordable non-stick pot that can handle elaborate backcountry meals. If you intend to fish on your backpacking trip and cook what you catch, or just want some breakfast eggs, anodized aluminum will handle subtle temperature differences better than titanium. It’s more durable than titanium as well and comes with a non-stick coating that prevents meals from burning to the bottom. Unlike titanium, it can also be used directly on a fire and on a stove and provides quick and even heat distribution. While many of the GSI’s benefits are true for all anodized aluminum pots, the Halulite has thoughtful features that make it easier to use than similar pots on the market.
One of the advantages of the Halulite over other anodized pots we considered is GSI’s thoughtful insulated handle system. Rubber-like insulation protects your hands from the heat when handling a hot stove. Its handles fold away and keep the lid in place when you’re storing your pot in your backpack (a nice feature compared to the TOAKS, which requires a rubber band to keep it in place). The handles keep the lid secure so well that one customer reported cold soaking oatmeal overnight in the stove while bear hanging the stove from a tree. That seems like a breakfast disaster waiting to happen, but it’s a testament to the secureness of the lid system.
Like all the pots that made our winners list, the Halulite fits a fuel canister and backpacking stove inside (see our Best Backpacking Stoves guide if you’re looking for a one that will fit this pot). The Halulite’s shape allows for it to work well as a pot, bowl, and mug without being awkwardly shaped for any of those uses. As this pot is larger than others we considered, we were pleased to see that it can also fit a 450 mL mug inside.
At 1.1L, the Halulite may be too large for some solo backpackers. But couples found it to be the perfect size for two people. At 8.7 oz, the Halulite is heavier than other pots we considered for backpacking. But split across two campers, 4.3 oz isn’t unreasonable. For comparison, the solo titanium TOAKS 750 mL, the lightest pot we considered, is 3.6 oz. The Halulite has a 0.7 oz weight penalty per person for some price savings and the heat distribution benefits of aluminium over the lighter weight titanium. The Halulite is an affordable, reliable, durable option for backpackers who want more versatility in cooking than offered by titanium cookware.
Compare prices on the GSI Outdoors Halulite Boiler 1.1 L
MSR Ceramic Solo Pot-Best Anodized Aluminum Cookpot Upgrade--Ceramic non-Teflon Non-Stick
If you’re avoiding non-stick cookware, but know you want to do more than boil water in the backcountry, we recommend the MSR Ceramic Solo Pot. Despite the name, this 1.3 L pot is actually a good size for two people at a weight per person that is just as light as the titanium pots we considered. Most notably, instead of a Teflon coating like found in other hard anodized aluminum pots, it has an inert ceramic coating. The MSR Ceramic Solo Pot has all the heat distribution benefits of other anodized pots without non-stick coatings.
With Teflon or PFOA non-stick coatings, over time and with heat, the chemical components can flake off and enter your food. There’s some evidence that this isn’t healthy to consume, and as with all chemical exposure, risks increase with repeat exposure (i.e. as you consume it over many meals). There’s more evidence that the chemicals used to make Teflon can enter waterways and cause serious ecological problems.
While “ceramic” implies heavy weight to many people, the MSR Ceramic Solo Pot is surprisingly lightweight. In fact, at 7.5 oz, it is 1.2 oz lighter than the Halulite, the other hard anodized aluminum cookware of the same size. It’s also a bigger pot than the Halulite, so well suited for two people. At 3.75 oz per person, it’s the same weight per person as our lightest weight option, the titanium Toaks 750 mL.
The MSR Ceramic Solo Pot also has an insulated pot lid and handles to prevent burns while cooking. The handle contracts to keep the lid in place while carrying the stove in your backpack. The Ceramic Pot lacks a spout, but its lid does have an ok strainer for draining out pasta water. It will fit a 110g fuel canister and small backpacking stove (see our Best Backpacking Stoves guide if you’re looking for a one that will fit this pot).
If you want a non-stick backcountry pot that doesn’t use Teflon, the MSR Ceramic Solo Pot is a well-designed, nicely featured pot that will meet your needs. It’s more expensive than other aluminum pots, but you won’t have to worry so much about scratching the surface, so it’s possible it could have a much longer lifetime than similar pots. Note that like all titanium and aluminum cookware, MSR advises that you don’t want to put this one directly on a fire.
If you’ll be cooking for more than one or two people, it’s available in a Ceramic Two-Pot Set as well.
Compare prices on the MSR Ceramic Solo Pot
MSR Alpine Stowaway-Best Stainless Steel
If you know you want to do some real cooking in the backcountry and don’t mind the extra weight, the MSR Alpine Stowaway is almost every professional reviewers’ favorite stainless steel pot. It’s a top seller at REI and Amazon and a favorite of Section Hiker, Well Traveled Mile, and Adventure Junkies.
The MSR Alpine Stowaway is affordable but still thoughtfully designed for backpackers. It is relatively compact. It is designed for backpacking, so is more compact and lightweight than other stainless steel stoves we considered including those by Stanley. Rounded corners push heat up along the sides for more efficient cooking, the thoughtful kind of feature that makes it a quality product, even at a budget price.
As one may expect for a stainless steel cookset, the MSR Alpine Stowaway is by far the most durable pot we considered. If you intend to mostly car camp or don’t mind carrying extra weight, it’s hard to beat the MSR Alpine Stowaway for the price. It’s an excellent pick for guides who want to cook up real meals and know that their pot will see so much use, it’s not worth risking a non-stick coating. You can fit a 110g fuel canister and a small backpacking stove like the MSR Pocket Rocket 2 (see our Best Backpacking Stoves guide if you’re looking for a one that will fit this pot)
Unlike other pots we considered, the MSR Alpine Stowaway has the advantages of stainless steel: including that it can be used directly in a fire. The 0.775 L size is the one we recommend for most solo adventurers. But it’s also available in the bigger 1.1 L and 1.6 L size if you will be cooking for two or more people.
Compare prices on the MSR Alpine Stowaway
Best Cookset: GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Cookset
If you want to purchase one cookset to cover the entire family’s camping or backpacking trip, the GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Cookset is the most widely recommended all-in-one set-up we saw. This multi-piece cookset has all the pots, pans, plates, bowls, and mugs you need for an outdoor trip and doesn’t require you to choose pots and pans piece-by-piece. It’s a bestseller at REI and Amazon and is highly recommended by Outdoor Gear Lab, Well Traveled Miles, and Adventure Junkies. The GSI Pinnacle has a well-thought out design with well-executed features that make it the best camping cookset we saw.
First, what you get with the GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Cookset: 2 pots, a frying pan, 4 plates, 4 bowls, 4 mugs with sippy lids, pot gripper, and a welded sink/stuff sack to carry it all in. This should be enough to cover a family of four on a camping and/or kid-friendly backpacking trip. The hard anodized aluminum pots and pans heat evenly for real cooking and frying in camp. The entire system is durable enough to last decades, but lightweight enough to take on a short family backpacking trip.
What put the GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Cookset on top of other cooksets is the thoughtful features to make camp life easier. The pot lids come with easy-to-lift strainers to make draining pasta water easier. The mugs come with sippy lids so you won’t spill and insulators so small hands won’t burn on hot beverages. Everything is color coded so you can tell which set is yours and which piece got dragged off by a bear. All the pieces nest together to reduce space in your car’s trunk or backpack. Most importantly, everything is dishwasher safe for when you get home (so don’t bother doing dishes if you’re out for one night.)
When looking at the GSI Pinnacle Cookset, it’s clear that the designer has backpacked and camped a lot with a goal of eliminating every common complaint a cookset user could have. Mugs work for left and right handed people. The pot gripper locks onto the side of the pots and pans at an angle where it’s impossible for it to scratch the pan’s nonstick coating. The carry bag can double as a sink basin. While it’s odd to get excited about a cookset, it’s hard to not look at the GSI Pinnacle and think repeatedly, “Oh, that’s really clever!”
Most users report that the pots and pans work well on Coleman stoves and with the Jetboil Flash and a pot stand. But we did see a few reports of it warping on a Coleman stove. Customers also complained about plastic plates scratching. Some users also were unhappy with sticker placement.
The downside on the GSI Pinnacle Cookset is it’s expensive. But when you consider the sheer amount of cookware pieces you get in the set, the price seems more reasonable. Sure, you could assemble a set of disposable or Dollar Store plastic plates and cups for a lower price, but the GSI Pinnacle is the sort of quality set that will last a childhood of car camping, backpacking, and canoe trips. Additionally, the plastic pieces are BPA-free, which you may not find so easily when assembling your own discount set.
For two-person groups, the same set is available in a double set (two of each item instead of four) for a better price.
Compare prices on the GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Cookset
The Evernew Titanium UL Pasta Pot and Evernew Titanium UL Pot are both long time favorites of backpackers including Section Hiker and Greenbelly. We wanted to make it a pick, but the Evernew has significantly cut back their US distribution and both these pots are getting increasingly difficult to find except at specialty shops. We did find both Evernew pots on their Amazon store, but the shipping takes a while (it comes from Japan). In the small chance that you aren’t happy with it, customer reviews complain that returns are nearly impossible.
We like that the Evernew Titanium pots are sturdier than our overall/budget pick, the Toaks Titanium 750 mL. The most stand-out feature on Evernew pots is that all the handles are insulated (not just the lid like on the MSR Titan Kettle). Both Evernew pots have thoughtful pour spout lips, as found on our upgrade pick. If you can get your hands on the Evernew Titanium UL 0.6 L or Evernew Pasta Pot, it’s well worth the price and will serve you for decades. Just don’t expect any refunds if you change your mind.
Snow Peak Trek
The Snow Peak Trek has long been a favorite of backpackers and was mentioned by Adventures Junkies and Section Hiker. It’s also an REI best seller. But the Snow Peak Trek is in an uncanny valley of “more expensive and better featured than our budget/overall pick” while also being “less expensive but not as featured” as our upgrade pick. We had to draw the line somewhere. Nonetheless, the Snow Peak Trek is a great pot and highly recommended, especially if you can get it on sale.
Optimus Terra Solo Cookset
The affordable Optimus Terra Solo anodized aluminum pot looked like a promising competitor to the GSI Halulite. It has a nice spout and measurement markers on the inside as well as insulated handles on its pot and “lid.” But the “lid” is actually a frypan. While at first glance, this could be convenient, in the field we found that it’s too small to fry up anything but a minnow and too pot-like to snap on the pot like a normal lid. The pot size is also 0.6 L, which is too small to make a full ramen or box of Mac N Cheese. 600 mL is enough to boil hot water and put in a freezer bag meal, but not enough to rehydrate a meal inside of your pot.
TOAKS 900 mL D130 wide titanium pot
We purchased and used the TOAKS 900 mL D130 (wide) for thousands of miles but ultimately found the 750 mL version (our Overall/Budget Pick) to be a size and shape that better holds up to the weathers of backpacking. We haven’t tested it yet, but are more optimistic that the TOAKS 900 mL D115 has the rigidity of the 750 mL version that we recommend. It’s a good option if you like the 750 mL version but want a little more space.
TOAKS 550 mL titanium pot
Treeline writers have given the TOAKS 550 mL a thousand miles of backpacking use and abuse, but concluded it’s too small to cook up enough food for most adventurers. Our writer reports, “I got the [this pot] purely to save on weight knowing I just needed to boil a little water. But it’s really not much weight savings.” We recommend the 750 mL version. It weighs 1.0 oz more, but is far more useful than this mini “pot.”
MSR Quick Solo Pot
A favorite of Section Hiker, we couldn’t find many other reviewers who found the MSR Quick Solo Pot worth mentioning over the other excellent Titanium pots available. It’s also getting harder to find and we suspect MSR is phasing it out. For almost the same price and weight, we think you’ll be better off with the MSR Ceramic 1.3L, our upgrade aluminum pick.
I’ve backpacked 18,000+ miles, most of it carrying a stove and cookpot. While I once was known for breaking the Fastest Known Time on the 2,181-mile long Appalachian Trail (women’s self-supported), I’ve learned to relish the joy of a leisurely backpacking trip with multiple hot meals throughout the day and plenty of warm beverages. As a hot food afficionado, I’ve cooked dinner and lunch and hot coffee on many a chilly trip. Over years of adventures, I’ve taken more than a dozen cookpots on months of use and have opinions on this humble-seeming piece of gear.
In addition to using gear during my adventures, I write about outdoor gear for numerous publications including Backpacker and previously, the New York Times’ product review site, Wirecutter. My book, the National Outdoor Book Award winning Long Trails: Mastering the Art of the Thru-hike, has chapters on gear, cooking, and nutrition--all of which are relevant to finding a good cookpot. Additionally, I regularly speak to outdoor clubs, non-profits, and universities about backpacking as well as gear clinics. Here at Treeline Review, I’m Editor-in-Chief and oversee all of our outdoor gear guides.
How we Researched
To research this guide, we used our own experience and paired it with review-based meta-research. To complete the meta-review, we read the dozen top articles on cooking pots and analyzed them to determine the most popular models recommended across multiple review sites. We also included the most popular models on REI and Amazon. Then we read hundreds of customer reviews. What we were left with is the top cookpot models for most backpackers and campers.
The professional review sites we analyzed were Adventures in Stoving, Adventure Junkies, Backpacking Light, Bike Magazine, Greenbelly, Outdoor Gear Lab, Reddit, Section Hiker, and TrailGroove.
We also read numerous posts on forums like Reddit and Backpacking Light to inform our decisions. See our Sources section for links and more info on specific articles that we found useful during the research phase.
What Makes a Good Cooking Pot
All the cooking pots we considered have multiple review sites recommending them as well as happy customer reviews. Because we considered a variety of materials from titanium to ceramic, weight, cooking efficiency, and even cooking differed significantly. However, across all the pots that made our short-list, we took this non-negotiable criteria into account. All the pots that made our short-list came with these attributes:
Cooking Pot Volume
We considered pots 750 ML to 1.3 L in volume. This is widely considered to be the ideal volume range for most solo or couple cookers according to numerous forums on Reddit, Backpacking Light, and my favorite backpacking book, Ultralight Backpackin’ Tips by Mike Clelland. It’s the perfect size to make a freeze-dried meal (plus have extra hot water for hot cocoa). It also is big enough to simmer a full package of ramen noodles, box of Mac N Cheese, or cook up oatmeal, rice, or spaghetti (break the noodles in half!). You can save weight with smaller pots, but having carried a 550 mL before, our writers have found it’s annoying to have to boil water multiple times to get enough water for a full meal.
Cooking Pot Handles
We’ve tried pots without handles like the original version of the Vargo Bot (a bottle-pot that comes with a screwable lid but no handles). While we appreciate the weight savings, a handle-less design is inconvenient for all but the most gram-saving weenies.
We prefer pots with a bit of rubber insulation on their lid and side handles to avoid burns from handling a hot pot. But we didn’t hold it against a pot if it lacked the insulation. As backpackers who are sensitive to weight, we know that most of the time, a pair of wool gloves will do the trick (be wary of those with high synthetic fabric mixes, which can melt when exposed to heat).
Cooking Pot Size and Shape
If you’re backpacking with your camping equipment, size and shape of your pot should be one of your top criteria in choosing a pot. To make our short list of cookpots, all the pots had to be of a size and shape that could hold a 110g fuel canister and a small backpacking stove.
Size and shape are a balance of stability, usefulness, and fuel efficiency. A big pot may not fit nicely into the outside front mesh pocket of a backpack, which is our preferred spot to stash cookware. Why? Because cookware can afford to get wet (unlike stuff that needs to stay inside your backpack to stay dry, like your warm clothes). A cookpot also may have residual soup or soot on the outside, so keeping it outside your pack is good practice to reduce the chance that food odors and juices may end up on your sleeping bag.
Squatter pots like the TOAKS 900 mL D130 wide pot that we tested, can have some benefits. They tend to be less tippy than tall pots. They also are slightly more efficient at using fuel and cooking quickly. This is because the flame hits a wider surface area of the pot so more heat transfers to your pot’s contents more quickly. Ideally, your pot is just slightly wider than your burner’s diameter so it’s able to capture your flame and the hot exhaust gas that otherwise would escape from the sides. Squatter pots also fit more flatly in your backpack making them more convenient for packing and (theoretically) better for weight distribution in your backpack.
However, we’ve found that squatter titanium pots can also be more susceptible to warping and turning from circular to ovaloid. Pot size and shape are a balance of usefulness vs. structural durability. It’s a spectrum. Backpackers’ tolerance for one benefit over the other will vary.
Cooking Pot Lids, Spouts, and Strainers
The least sexy part of choosing a pot is actually sophisticated. Just like cooking at home, lids keep heat inside your pot which reduces the amount of fuel needed to boil water (and also time to do so). A snug lid keeps heat in better, but some aluminum foil can do the trick, too.
Lids also reduce splatter. While reducing splatter is a nice feature of a pot in a home kitchen, when you’re in bear country, it’s nice to keep all your smelly food on one pot instead of all over your camp.
But cookpot lids can get quite sophisticated when it comes strainers, spouts, and handles. Strainers allow you to drain that pasta water quickly. Spouts turn a pot into a kettle, especially if they stay on well like on the MSR Titan.
To make our short list, all cookpots had to come with a lid, preferably with handles. We gave extra points to pots that had a way to secure their lid to the pot, at least while in transit if not during the cooking process.
Cooking Pot Liquid Quantity Markings
Most of our picks have notches in their material to indicate how much water is in your pot and help with measurements. Most notches are in mL and ounces. The best notch systems are visible from the inside of the pot. If you have a pot that does not have a notch system, we recommend this practice at home: fill your pot with desired measurements then put your camping spoon into the pot. Note where the water level reaches on your spoon and make a notch on your spoon with a knife or oil-based Sharpie. Next time you’re camping and need a measurement, put your spoon in the pot and measure water up to the notch on your spoon.
How to Choose the Cookpot for You
All the pots that made our shortlist meet our minimum criteria to be an excellent pot. But to find the pot from that list that will work best for you, you need to think about your outdoor needs. For additional reading, see REI’s Advice on How to Choose a Cookpot.
These questions will direct you to find the right cook pot for you:
Are you car camping or backpacking?
If you’re backpacking: you’ll want something lightweight. It should stay stable on a backpacking stove, avoiding becoming tipping or tall enough to be top heavy. Backpacking cookware should also try to maximize surface area hit by your backpacking stove’s flame. After all, if you carry in the fuel, you’ll want your cook system to be as efficient as possible. Backpackers care about weight, though they may be willing to carry something heavier if they intend to cook up a fish they caught in the backcountry or otherwise make a “real” meal. Lightweight backpackers may only want to boil water for a freeze-dried meal, so can get away with lighter weight titanium pots.
If you’re car camping: chances are you’ll be cooking on a grill or two-burner Coleman Classic Propane Campstove. If that’s the case, you’ll want a flat bottomed piece of cookware that can afford to be heavy. Chances are if you’re car camping, you’ll want to show off your backcountry gourmet skills to friends and family. We recommend a hard-anodized aluminum cookpot as well as a ceramic non-stick pot that can handle subtle changes in temperature for simmering, baking, and sautéing.
If you intend to put your cookware directly into a campfire, stainless steel is the only material that manufacturers recommend can survive that kind of flame. The MSR Alpine Stowaway (our best stainless steel pick) is the pot that we’d recommend.
If you’re car camping, you will likely have more burners available and should get as many pots as you have burners. You’ll also want plates, deep bowls, and mugs as well as a frying pan. For this story, we’re only considering cookpots, although the GSI Pinnacle cookset that we recommend includes a pot, pan, plates, bowls, and mugs.
What’s your budget?
You can get the lightest cookpot out there made of titanium, but aluminum is slightly heavier and a heckuva lot more affordable. Anodized aluminum conducts evenly (it’s often used as a material for the pots and pans in your kitchen, too). But it can be more expensive and often comes with a non-stick coating that some folks may wish to avoid.
How durable does this need to be? Are you ok with hot spots getting discolored?
Titanium and aluminum are lightweight, but can warp, dent, and scratch easily. This can really drive some people nuts.
Titanium and stainless steel are sensitive to discoloration in the area closest to the flame. But stainless steel cookware will survive some serious backcountry abuse, even if it turns a funky color. Stainless steel is the only material that manufacturers suggest will be ok if you put it in a campfire.
If you know you’re tough on gear, or are backpacking with kids, you may want something heavier duty, like anodized aluminum or stainless steel. Somewhat less robust but better for even cooking, hard-anodized aluminum is the most durable and resists dents and scratches you may normally experience while camping.
What’s your cooking style? Are you cooking, simmering, baking, or boiling water? How much does heat distribution matter to you?
Your cooking style will determine your preferred cookware material. While we recommend anodized aluminum for car campers, if you know you’re the type of backpacker who goes all out on making a backcountry feast, lightweight anodized aluminum cookware will be your best friend. Hard anodized pots take longer to cool than other materials but are corrosion resistant.
If you’re cooking eggs, fresh meat or veggies, go with hard anodized aluminum. Real ingredients (aka, not pre-packaged freeze-dried or dehydrated) are more sensitive to temperature changes while cooking and will appreciate how hard anodized aluminum can evenly spread the heat across the pot. Hard anondized aluminum has a better heat distribution than other materials, making it better for cooking real ingredients.
Aluminum is best for conducting heat (think simmering without burning the bottom of your pan). Even if you’re cooking soup, if it requires a simmer, the aluminum pot can usually handle that job better than titanium (which can get soup chunks burnt to the bottom of the pot).
If you know you’ll mostly be boiling water in the backcountry, titanium cookware is the lightest material and will do the job. It’s the favorite cookpot of those going fast and light like thru-hikers, alpine climbers, and bikepackers.
How much weight are you willing to carry?
Different outdoors people have different Willingness to Carry Weight. That’s why we considered pots of different weights.
As mentioned above, thru-hikers, alpine climbers, and bikepackers with fast and light goals will likely prefer a titanium pot. Titanium cookware is about 45% lighter than steel and stronger than aluminum, according to Outdoor Gear Lab.
Backpackers and adventurers who intend to catch fish or forage for mushrooms and fry them up may prefer a pan that can distribute heat more evenly and prevent against scorched food, like anodized aluminum or ceramic. Anodized aluminum is, in our calculations, about 150% heavier than a titanium pot of the same size.
Campers concerned about durability and price may prefer a stainless steel pot. It’s the heaviest, but will last a long time (and is the only material that can safely go directly in a campfire).
What do you think of non-stick coatings?
Due to highly publicized articles about potential dangers associated with non-stick materials like Teflon, many outdoors people are thinking more about the coatings on their pans.
When you’re at home, it’s relatively easy to avoid scratching Teflon-like non-stick home cookware. In the backcountry, there’s a high likelihood that a scratch will develop during the packing or unpacking phase or as your cookware jostles around in your backpack.
Ceramic non-stick coatings are popular in home cookware and are beginning to appear in outdoors cookware as well. Unlike Teflon, the non-stick materials that flake off into your food are inert. This is in contrast to Teflon and other chemical non-stick materials, which some scientists believe could potentially have harmful effects on human or ecological health.
As far as Titanium or Stainless Steel cookware, there’s no non-stick coating. Don’t expect non-stick coating to prevent your food from sticking to the bottom if you do any actual cooking. But also, you don’t have to worry about potential health risks from that non-stick coating, either.
How much does efficient cooking matter to you?
As we wrote in our backpacking stove guide, fuel efficiency usually should not be a top concern for solo outdoor cooks. The exception is if you are out in the boonies in a place where it will be impossible to replenish your fuel supply, like some international trips. Especially long trips (7 days or more between resupplies) may also require you to worry more about fuel efficiency. Group guides who are cooking for multiple people may want to consider efficiency. Lastly, and perhaps most of note, if you anticipate having to melt snow to get water, you may want a more efficient pot (and stove).
Outdoor Gear Lab reports that a cookpot can transfer heat better if it has heat exchanging fins on its base. These fins have welded or soldered a circular ring of corrugated metal that captures heat, preventing it from escaping it to the sides. The captured heat is redirected towards the inner circle of the pot to speed up cooking. Outdoor Gear Lab reports that these heat exchange rings can boil water 24% faster than pots without.
Best Cooking Pot/Best Budget Pot: Toaks 750 mL
Best Titanium Cookpot-Upgrade: MSR Titan Kettle
Best Anodized Aluminum Cook Pot: GSI Outdoors Halulite 1.1 L Cookpot
Best Anodized Aluminum Cook Pot -Upgrade/Ceramic Non-Teflon Non-Stick: MSR Ceramic Solo Pot
Best Stainless Steel Cook Pot: MSR Alpine Stowaway
Best Camping Cookset: GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Cookset