MATERIALS: There are a variety of metals that are used for cooking in your home kitchen. Here are the ones most commonly used for backcountry cooking though:
● Titanium. The most popular and my personal favorite. It is the lightest of all the material options and therefore, is ideal for ultralight backpacking. Despite being super light, it is relatively strong and is known for being highly corrosion-resistant. Because the material is so thin, it can transfer heat efficiently without using too much fuel. Note this is sometimes not ideal for "slow-cooking" as it can burn things.
● Stainless Steel. The strongest and heaviest option. Able to take a beating with minimal, or no, scratching.
● Aluminum. The best for actual cooking. It distributes heat the most evenly. The least durable option though and can require a little more non-stick maintenance.
● Cast Iron. This is not the 1800's. Don’t bring it. Way too heavy.
POT vs COOKSET: A single pot size should do. Cooksets with several pots, pans, cups, and bowls are mainly used for car camping and group outings. Most backpackers just bring one pot for themselves to make a simple one pot meal... or use it as a cup for coffee, etc.
LIDS: A well designed lid should fit your pots snugly. Keep in mind that lid will be hot most of the time you want to lift it. Therefore, a small knob or tassel to easily lift it is extremely important. If you are a pasta fan, a lid with a built-in strainer can be a helpful feature to have as well.
HANDLES: Most backpacking pots have hinged handles that fold away. Make sure these hinge and swing without much resistance.
These metal handles will get hot on the stove. Some pots add a rubber coatings to prevent from burning your fingers. These can melt off though and are not practical for any kind of fire use. I vote for your cookware to be with metal handles and use a small cloth (bandanna, towel, sock, etc) to hold the handles when it gets hot.
MEASUREMENT GRADIENTS: Little tick marks on the inside of your cup can be super helpful to quickly eyeball measurements. Measuring a little more accurately can prevent your noodles from turning into a watery sludge... or, on the contrary, a dry and crunchy paste.
CAPACITY/ VOLUME: Your pot size will be measured in milliliters (ml). Just to give you a sense of milliliters - a 12 oz Coca Cola bottle is about 350 ml. Therefore, a 700 ml pot is about the size of two bottles of Coca-Cola (24 oz).
I recommend a minimum pot capacity of 600 ml. This will give you enough to boil water for a simple backpacking meal - a dehydrated or freeze-dried meal, a cup of noodles, etc. Unless you are backpacking with a partner, anything above 1,000 ml (or 1 liter) will be extra weight and too clunky to carry around
Some backpackers like to fit their whole kitchen (stove and fuel canister) conveniently inside their pot like this...
Capacity: 700 ml Weight: 4.4 oz
"BOT" is short for Bottle Pot. What makes this piece of titanium so awesome is that it functions effectively as both a bottle and a pot. The BOT comes equipped with a watertight screw-top lid for an easy access drink on the trail. Once at camp, the lid doubles as a cooking lid for boiling or simmering. The pot includes graduated measurements and foldaway handles. Related: See the larger 1 liter BOT.
Capacity: 700 ml Weight: 3.4 oz
Super light weight, compact and strong pot. To my knowledge, this is the lightest pot on the market with this much capacity. On top of being feather light, the lid has a built-in strainer handy for letting steam out and straining your favorite noodles. Complete with graduated measurements and rubberized coated handles.
Capacity: 850 ml Weight: 4.2 oz
Just a few fractions of an ounce heavier than the Evernew, the MSR Titan Kettle is another great ultra light pot with a little bit more cooking capacity. A unique feature is that the lid fits tightly... and with a drip-free spout, it makes it easy to pour hot water without any mess or endangering your hands. The top-lid handle is insulated. The side handles are not though - making it great for sticking in the fire.
Capacity: 750 ml Weight: 3.9 oz
A great quality pot for a great price (under $40!). The Toaks Titanium pot comes with a lockable lid grip which means the triangle at the top will stand freely without falling - making it easy to take on and off while in use. Comes with a nice stuff sack, foldaway handles, steam holes, internal gradation. No rubber coatings either. Related: See the Vargo Ti-Lite 750.
Capacity: Pot 900 ml, Pan 400 ml
Weight: 6.6 oz
Sleek and seamless ultralight titanium construction. The lid is uniquely designed to nest on top of the mug or can be used separately as a pan. They fit snugly and are designed for double boiler cooking (boil water below in the mug and boil water on top in the pan). Foldaway handles without any rubber insulation. Nylon mesh storage bag included.
Capacity: Pot 900 ml, Pan 250 ml
Weight: 4.4 oz
Evernew continues to push the weight limits of titanium cookware with the Deep Pot. This is the lightest two-piece kit on the list by a full ounce. Both pieces come with insulated silicone handles, a nylon mesh stuff sack and internal gradations for easy measurement.
Capacity: Pot 1200 ml, Pan 400 ml
Weight: 6.5 oz
The massive 1200 ml pot is nearly double the capacity of our smaller single pots. This much capacity is perfect for serious backcountry chefs or small groups needing to cook larger scale meals. The pieces fit together to offer a double boiler function - up to 1600 ml at a time!. Foldaway and non-insulated handles. No gradation. Mesh storage sack included. Great price - the Keith Set is Under $60.
Capacity: Pot 1100 ml, Pan 280 ml
Weight: 5.6 oz
A great compromise 2 piece cook set - a little more volume without too much extra weight. This set is the set for those of you who want heat-resistant foldaway handles and don't care about a double boiler option. Overall, great mid size ultralight titanium cookware set.
By Chris Cage
Chris launched Greenbelly Meals in 2014 after thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail for 6 months. Since then, Greenbelly has been written up by everyone from Backpacker Magazine and Bicycling Magazine to Fast Company and Science Alert. He recently wrote How to Hike the Appalachian Trail and currently works from his laptop all over the globe.
650-calorie fuel in a ready-to-eat package.