11 Best Backpacking and Camping Mess Kits of 2022

By Joshua Davis •  Updated: 07/30/22 •  13 min read

My father was a serious camp cook. The aroma of coffee, pancakes, and bacon filled our campsite each morning as we geared up for another day in the wilderness.

Later, as the sun set, thick-cut grilled pork chops and roasted corn on the cob dripping with butter and chives sizzled on the charcoal camp grill.

Meals were never just fuel to him; they were an important part of the camping experience. He took pride in his ability to create country-style meals in the great outdoors, and I always looked forward to seeing what he would whip up next.

Now, as a husband and father of two ravenous sons, it’s my turn to be the camp chef!

Back then, dad’s preferred cookware set included hefty cast iron skillets and pots … not exactly my preferred option for backpacking or lightweight camping. But then, heavy camping gear was the norm in the ’80s.

Like the military surplus 8-person canvas tent, he had salvaged from … somewhere. I swear that thing weighed more than the Buick Skylark we traveled in!

Fast forward to today, and camping and backpacking gear has gone through some marvelous evolutions.

There are now lightweight options for just about everything, and that includes mess kits. No longer do you have to sacrifice home-cooked meals for the sake of weight or space!

In my hunt for the best backpacking mess kit, I’ve compiled a list of my personal favorites, perfect for any camper or hiker who enjoys good food in the great outdoors!

Backpacking vs Camping Mess Kits

Truth be told, it’s difficult to draw a definitive line between backpacking mess kits and camping mess kits.

Obviously, backpackers will prefer ultralight, minimalist kits that provide the bare necessities.

Alternatively, if you’re car camping, you have the prerogative of packing a heavier camping cookware mess kit with more amenities.

Many of the kits on both lists could technically be used for either purpose, but I’ve tried to focus on those that are geared more towards backpacking and ultralight camping.

That said, whether you’re looking for the best camping mess kit that ensures efficiency and low maintenance in the campgrounds or the best backpacking mess kit that will perform admirably without weighing you down on the trail, any of these will work.

Ultimately, your preference, type of backpacking and camping, and budget will be the deciding factors.

OFHQ’s Favorites

1. MSR Pocket Rocket Stove Kit

MSR has been around for over 50 years researching, designing, and manufacturing high-quality gear for outdoor adventures. They have been my go-to for backpacking and camping for 20+ years.

The best of the best mess kits, in my opinion, is their 2-person mess kit. It includes everything you need to cook gourmet meals on the trail, and yet it all fits neatly into one small carrying case.

Most importantly, the balance between included gear and weight is, in my opinion, hard to argue with.

Best Truly Complete Backpacking Mess Kit
MSR Pocket Rocket Stove Kit
Pros:
  • A truly complete mess kit for two (except the propane cartridge)
  • The stove can boil up to 16 liters of water on a single 8 oz. fuel canister
  • Water boils in less than 2 minutes
  • Very lightweight for a complete kit
Cons:
  • We would prefer a nonstick pot rather than an uncoated one
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The kit includes a stove, a pot, a bowl, a mug, a mini-sink, and eating utensils – everything but the fuel canister – for a total of 1 lb. 12 oz.!

The stove, a Pocket Rocket 2, is one of the best backpacking stoves on the market. It’s incredibly lightweight and compact, yet it boils water quickly and evenly.

The pot is also top-notch, made from hard-anodized aluminum that holds up well to repeated use. It has a strainer lid and is big enough to cook for two people, yet small enough to pack easily.

2. Soto Amicus Stove Cookset Combo (Best Ultralight Combo Mess Kit)

This is an excellent ultralight backpacking mess kit that includes a stove and cookset in one. The entire kit weighs in at just 12.2 oz., making it one of the lightest on the market!

Best Ultralight Combo Mess Kit
Soto Amicus Stove Cookset Combo
Pros:
  • Ultra-minimalist load out means less to maintain and keep up with
  • Ultralight makes it great for long treks
  • 11,000 BTU burner runs 90 min. on 8 oz. canister and is equipped with a stealth igniter
Cons:
  • Eating utensils (sporks) are sold separately
  • Pots don't lock together when stowed – nothing a rubber band can't fix
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The included MicroRegulator stove is one of the smallest and lightest canister stoves on the market, yet it provides consistent performance, even in cold weather.

The cookset is also very well designed, with a pot that has a heat-resistant base and a strainer lid. The pot is just the right size for one person (or even two).

Backpacking Mess Kits

Ultra-lightweight material and compact design – these are the definitive qualities of an ideal backpacking mess kit.

You don’t want to be weighed down by unnecessary bulk, and you definitely don’t want to sacrifice good food just because you’re in the wilderness!

The following mess kits are my favorite options for ultralight backpacking and camping.

1. MSR Quick 2 System Cook Set

Important Features and Specs:

MSR Quick 2 System Cook Set
$93.50
Pros:
  • Bowls and cups to accommodate two people
  • Non-stick coating makes for easy clean up
  • 2 types of cooking pots provide good versatility
  • Nesting feature
Cons:
  • A bit on the bulky side for longer backpacking excursions
  • Eating and cooking utensils are sold separately (sporks or cooking spatula)
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10/02/2022 08:45 am GMT

The MSR Quick 2 System Cook Set is a great all-in-one backpacking mess kit for couples or small groups.

It includes everything you need to cook and eat, except for utensils.

I like that it has two different types of pots, as this provides good versatility when cooking: a nonstick for foods that may burn and potentially stick to plain aluminum, and an uncoated pot for boiling water or making coffee.

The nesting feature is also helpful in saving space when packing. However, at 1 lb. 12 oz., this mess kit is on the heavier side, and may not be ideal for longer backpacking trips.

2. MSR Pocket Rocket Stove Kit

Important Features and Specs:

Best Truly Complete Backpacking Mess Kit
MSR Pocket Rocket Stove Kit
Pros:
  • A truly complete mess kit for two (except the propane cartridge)
  • The stove can boil up to 16 liters of water on a single 8 oz. fuel canister
  • Water boils in less than 2 minutes
  • Very lightweight for a complete kit
Cons:
  • We would prefer a nonstick pot rather than an uncoated one
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A truly complete backpacking mess kit, the MSR Pocket Rocket Stove Kit comes with everything you need to cook and eat, except for the propane cartridge.

And it’s less expensive than buying the cookware, bowls, mugs, sporks, and stove separately!

The stove is incredibly efficient, boiling 16 liters of water on a single 8 oz. fuel canister.

It’s also very lightweight for a complete mess kit for two, making it a great option for ultralight backpacking and camping. For solo campers, leave the duplicates at home and travel even lighter!

The only downside is that the pot is uncoated aluminum, which means that foods may stick and burn more easily than with a nonstick pot. That means you’ll just have to be a more attentive cook!

3. Sea to Summit Alpha Mess Kit

Important Features and Specs:

Sea to Summit Alpha Mess Kit
Pros:
  • BPA-free plastic is always a better choice for food
  • Innovative rotating pot handle combined with strainer lid makes for easy handling
  • Ideal weight for long backpacking trips
Cons:
  • Eating utensils (sporks) are sold separately
  • We would prefer a nonstick cooking pot
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Ideal for the solo backpackers on the long haul, the Sea to Summit Alpha Mess Kit is incredibly lightweight at just 12.2 ounces.

It’s made with BPA-free plastic and aluminum, and it even comes with a dishcloth – which is always handy!

I like the rotating pot handle combined with the strainer lid – this makes it easy to handle the hot pot without getting burned.

However, the pot is uncoated aluminum, so again, be aware that foods may stick and burn more easily. And don’t forget your sporks!

4. GSI Outdoors Halulite Microdualist II Cookset

Important Features and Specs:

GSI Outdoors Halulite Microdualist II Cookset
Pros:
  • Halulite aluminum provides better heat conduction; more resistant to scratches and warping
  • Storage sack doubles as a wash basin
  • Fully equipped mess kit for 2
  • Ideal weight for backpacking
  • Provides room for an ultralight stove and fuel canister
Cons:
  • We would have preferred a non-stick pot
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Including everything but the stove and fuel, the GSI Outdoors Halulite Microdualist II Cookset is a great choice for backpacking.

The Halulite aluminum pots provide better heat conduction than traditional aluminum, and it’s also more resistant to scratches and warping under high temperatures.

The storage sack doubles as a wash basin, which is really handy. And at 1 lb. 0.7 oz., it’s a great choice for ultralight backpacking.

However, the included sporks could be of better quality and a non-stick pot would be nice.

So, if you’re looking for a complete mess kit that is both lightweight and has good quality cookware, the GSI Outdoors Halulite Microdualist II Cookset is a great choice.

5. GSI Outdoor Pinnacle Dualist HS Cookset

Important Features and Specs:

GSI Outdoor Pinnacle Dualist HS Cookset
Pros:
  • Teflon-coated non-stick pot makes clean-up much easier and is scratch resistant
  • Nicely equipped for 2 people
  • The nested design leaves room for an ultralight stove and fuel canister
  • The integrated heatsink allows for 30% faster heating and saves fuel
  • Stuff sack doubles as a wash basin
Cons:
  • A bit heavy for longer treks
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Sure, you’ll be adding about 6 ounces; but, the trade-off may be worth it. The GSI Outdoor Pinnacle Dualist HS Cookset is a great choice for car camping and shorter backpacking trips.

A pared-down version of the larger GSI Pinnacle Camper mess kit for car camping, this mess kit still has all the features you need for backpacking.

The Teflon-coated non-stick pot is scratch resistant and makes clean-up much easier.

It’s also nicely equipped for 2 people, with mugs, bowls, and even foons (fork/spoon combos).

The nested design leaves room for an ultralight stove and fuel canister, and the integrated heatsink allows for 30% faster heating – which saves fuel.

And, the stuff sack doubles as a wash basin. So, if you don’t mind the extra weight, the GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Dualist HS Cookset is a great choice.

Helpful Tip: for larger groups, consider the GSI Pinnacle Camper or Bugaboo Camper mess kits.)

6. GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Backpacker Cooking Set

Important Features and Specs:

GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Backpacker Cooking Set
Pros:
  • BPA-free is always a healthier choice for food
  • A non-stick cooking pot makes for easy cleanup
  • Well-equipped for two people
  • Easy to clean with scratch-resistant PFOA-free Teflon coating
Cons:
  • Woof ... heavy!
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Constructed with durability more in mind than weight, the GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Backpacker Cooking Set is a great choice for car camping and base-camping but may be too heavy for longer backpacking trips.

The BPA-free plastic is a healthier choice for food storage and the non-stick cooking pot makes for easy cleanup.

It’s also well-equipped for two people, with mugs, bowls, and a pot gripper.

And, the PFOA-free Teflon coating is scratch resistant and easy to clean. However, at 1 lb 12.8 oz., it’s quite heavy. So, if weight is an issue, you might consider going with the next option and splitting the weight between the two of you.

7. Soto Amicus Stove Cookset Combo

Important Features and Specs:

Best Ultralight Combo Mess Kit
Soto Amicus Stove Cookset Combo
Pros:
  • Ultra-minimalist load out means less to maintain and keep up with
  • Ultralight makes it great for long treks
  • 11,000 BTU burner runs 90 min. on 8 oz. canister and is equipped with a stealth igniter
Cons:
  • Eating utensils (sporks) are sold separately
  • Pots don't lock together when stowed – nothing a rubber band can't fix
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If you’re of the less-is-more school of backpacking thought, then the Soto Amicus Stove Cookset Combo is a great choice. At only 11.2 oz., it’s one of the lightest options on our list.

The ultra-minimalist load out means less to maintain and keep up with – which is great for ultralight hikers on a long trek.

And, the 11,000 BTU burner runs for 90 minutes on an 8 oz. canister and is equipped with a stealth igniter.

However, eating utensils (sporks) are sold separately and the pots don’t lock together when stowed – but, nothing a rubber band can’t fix (so it doesn’t rattle in the included mesh bag).

8. Coleman Stainless Steel Mess Kit

Important Features and Specs:

Coleman Stainless Steel Mess Kit
Pros:
  • BPA-free bowl and mug are a safe choice for food consumption
  • Economical option for a single backpacker
  • Stainless steel is durable and corrosion-resistant
Cons:
  • Stainless steel is heavier than aluminum
  • Cooking some foods can be tricky on stainless steel making for a troublesome cleanup
  • Eating utensils sold separately
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An inherent truth about backpacking gear: weight and price are directly related.

The less you spend, the more the gear will weigh. This is why stainless steel mess kits cost less.

That’s why the Coleman Stainless Steel Mess Kit is a good option for single backpackers on a budget.

The stainless steel is not the highest quality; but, it’s durable and corrosion-resistant (if appropriately cared for), making it a good choice for extended backpacking trips.

And, at 1 lb. 7.5 oz., the weight of the gear may not bother you if you’re not carrying the weight of having spent too much on it!

However, cooking some foods can be tricky on stainless steel making for a troublesome cleanup. Also, eating utensils are sold separately.

9. Light My Fire 8-Piece BPA-Free Meal Kit

Important Features and Specs:

Light My Fire 8-Piece BPA-Free Meal Kit
$24.97
Pros:
  • Great for a backpacking duo who already have cookware and a stove
  • BPA-Free plastic is ideal for food
Cons:
  • Nothing that we could find
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10/02/2022 12:59 am GMT

If you are already equipped with cookware and a stove, then the Light My Fire 8-Piece BPA-Free Meal Kit is a great choice for you and your backpacking buddy.

The BPA-free plastic is ideal for food safety and, at 0.84 lbs., it’s one of the lightest options on our list.

It’s also equipped with a harness which allows you to clip it to your pack for easy transport.

It’s a good, simple, no-frills meal kit!

10. MalloMe Camping Cookware Mess Kit

Important Features and Specs:

MalloMe Camping Cookware Mess Kit
$19.99
Pros:
  • Non-stick cookware makes for easier cleanup
  • BPA-free plastic means it's food-safe
  • Priced nicely for budget backpackers
  • The pot and panhandle design folds nicely into the contour of the kit
  • Weight isn't terrible
Cons:
  • 2 bowls and 1 spoon ... really?
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10/02/2022 02:28 am GMT

Another option for the budget backpacker, the MalloMe Camping Cookware Mess Kit comes in at 1 lb. 2.2 oz., a surprisingly lightweight option given the price.

The aluminum, stainless steel, and BPA-free plastic construction make it a food-safe option for backcountry mealtime.

And, the non-stick cookware is great for those who don’t want to spend a lot of time cleaning up after meal prep.

However, the kit only includes 2 bowls and 1 spoon which means you’ll need to purchase another spoon if you have a companion.

Allin all, it’s not great, but a good mess kit for an affordable price.

11. UCO 4-Piece Camping Mess Kit

Important Features and Specs:

UCO 4-Piece Camping Mess Kit
$16.95
Pros:
  • Lifetime Warranty
  • Built like a BPA-free tank
  • Bowl and plate are equipped with a freshness-seal gasket for storing leftovers safely
  • The spoon is contoured to the plate/bowl so you can scrape it clean of every tasty morsel
  • The spoon, fork, knife combo eating utensil is a nice touch and it works with the tether to hold everything together
Cons:
  • None that we determined
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10/02/2022 02:58 am GMT

Accompanied by two ravenous boys, I never have the luxury of leftovers on a backpacking or camping trip. I’m lucky if I’m able to get some scraps.

However, in the event that you cook too much for yourself and the crew, the UCO 4-Piece Camping Mess Kit has you covered.

The bowl and plate are equipped with a freshness-seal gasket which will keep your leftovers safe during outdoor activities until you’re ready to eat them.

The kit also includes a spork that is contoured to the plate/bowl so you can get every last bite.

The spoon, fork, and knife combo eating utensil is a nice touch and it works with the tether to hold everything together.

And, if you have any issues with the product, UCO offers a lifetime warranty. What’s not to love?

So, When’s Dinner?

Now that you know what to look for in a backpacking mess kit, it’s time to get out there and hit the trail!

There are a lot of great options on the market to choose from, so take your time in selecting the one that best suits your needs.

And, don’t forget to enjoy the process of trying out new recipes and techniques in the great outdoors!

Now, get out there!

Joshua Davis

Being outdoors is freedom! Being outdoors with my wife and two boys is LIVING! Whether in my backyard or getting lost in a National Park, there’s nothing I’d rather do than explore, discover, and experience the paradise that surrounds us. Give me my family, a backpack, and a trail and my life is full!