Building Your Backcountry Kitchen, Part 3: Cookware & Stove Pairings

Building Your Backcountry Kitchen, Part 3: Cookware & Stove Pairings

Keeping yourself well fed and well fueled is key to enjoying your time in the backcountry, and so is building a camp kitchen that’s right for your trip. MSR has created a wide array of cookware and stoves to meet the needs and preferences of everyone from fast-moving soloists to gourmet basecamp chefs. Here are three questions to ask yourself and several camp scenarios that can help you select the ideal cookware and stove pairing for your adventure.

1. How many people am I cooking for?

Are you cooking for just yourself, or are you camping with a friend? Is it a big group that you’ll have to feed? The numbers matter; if you’re a group of four, it doesn’t make sense to haul in four stoves and four 1L pots when bringing one 4L pot can accommodate everyone more efficiently.

2. What type of trip am I taking?

Will you be backpacking, basecamping or using assisted travel (e.g. car camping, rafting, horsepacking)? The nature of your activity, along with your meal preferences, will influence your stove and cookware choices. Thru-hikers and mountaineers, for example, typically prefer ultralight stoves and minimalist cookware that let them pack light and prepare simple meals. Campers and epicureans may choose more elaborate cook systems.

3. Which cookware material meets my needs best?


There are several important differences between stainless steel, aluminum and titanium cookware, but the basic advantages to weigh are durability, weight and cost. Stainless steel is the most durable of the three materials and is great when your cookware takes a lot of abuse. Aluminum is lighter than stainless steel and nearly as durable, and it makes a great option for weight- and budget-conscious backpackers. Titanium is similar to stainless steel in durability yet extremely lightweight, but it’s also a more expensive option.

Help me choose

Here are camping and cooking scenarios that may help you determine the cookware and stove pairings that will work best for your activities.

1. Overnight and multi-day backpacking trips

Who: Fast-moving soloist backpackers


Meal prep: You want to keep meals simple, since you won’t have room in your pack for a big stove or lots of cookware. Meal prep typically involves heating water in a small vessel for quick, boil-only meals.

Cookware & stove recommendations: An ideal pairing for making simple, one-pot meals is the Titan kettle and the MicroRocket stove, which fits inside the kettle. Use the do-it-all kettle as your water-boiling vessel, meal dish and drinking mug. If you need a bigger pot for cooking soup, you might consider the Quick Solo System. A third lightweight and compact option is a super-efficient stove system (more on this later).

Who: Backpacking pairs

Photo: Kennan Harvey
Photo: Kennan Harvey

Meal prep: Backpacking pairs can share a stove and cookware and split the pack burden. To enjoy nicer meals on your backpacking trip, you can take along a 2-pot set and plates and sit down to a simple but real meal (quesadillas, anyone?).

Cookware & stove recommendations: Bring a bigger pot like the one included in the Trail Lite Duo System, which features a tall pot that’s great for cooking and for nesting the rest of the cookware inside. When cooking, the aluminum pot disperses heat more evenly, so you don’t have to contend with hot spots. Any add-ons are up to you, such as a coffee press or an ultralight kitchen set, both of which work with the Trail Lite Duo. If you need a two-pot set and still want to travel ultralight, the Titan 2 is a good choice for you.

Who: Alpinists and snow campers

Photo: Paul Bride
Photo: Paul Bride

Meal prep: When you’re traveling through the snow-covered alpine, your meal preparation will likely entail melting snow for drinking water and for rehydrating bagged meals. In these rugged conditions, you’ll want a convenient, fast, and fuel-efficient cooking system.

Cookware& stove recommendations: You might pair a hardwearing stainless steel pot with an extremely hot stove that runs on hot white gas, like the extreme-condition MSR XGK-EX. But the most efficient choice for general alpine adventures is a windproof stove system that comes with its own specially designed pot and works in harsh alpine conditions. Stove systems such as the MSR Reactor or WindBurner—the two fastest and most fuel-efficient stove systems in challenging weather—will actually be lighter than a traditional stove when you consider how much less fuel you’ll need to use and carry. This speed and efficiency also makes stove systems a great choice for fast-packers looking to conserve fuel weight.

2. Large groups and vehicle-assisted travelers

Who: Large groups of backpackers hiking to camp

Photo: MotoFish

Meal prep: You’re backpacking, so space matters, but you’ve got your mind set on enjoying a real meal with the whole group.

Cookware & stove recommendations: Bring several stoves along with a big 2.5 pot (great for cooking pasta), or multiple pots that nest together for easy packing. The DragonFly stove has wide pot supports to handle pots up to 10” in diameter easily, and it’s a master at simmering. The WindPro stove makes a lighter, canister-fuel, still simmer-capable option. For cookware, the MSR Flex 3 and Flex 4 cook systems and the Alpine™ 4 Pot Set are designed for groups and offer the versatility for you to bring only the items you need for the particular trip—backpacking one weekend, car camping the next.

Who: Car campers, rafters, horse packers

Meal prep: Whether it’s a family camping trip, a vehicle-assisted rock climbing excursion, or a rafting adventure, you have the means to bring a full camp kitchen.

Cookware & stove recommendations: Cook like you’re at home with a traditional 2-burner camp stove and MSR stainless cookware, or perhaps one of our Flex cook systems. For a one-burner option, the DragonFly stove offers heat adjustment, a unique feature not always available with white gas stoves. If you’re all about the amenities, you might get the Alpine Deluxe Kitchen Set or other MSR accessories designed for your camp cooking pleasure.

Whatever your cooking style or trip requirements—fast, boil-only meals, simple two-pot recipes, or simmered gourmet feasts—there’s a stove and cookset designed to support it.

Part 1: Building Your Backcountry Kitchen

Part 2: Building Your Backcountry Kitchen: Essential Ingredients

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