Camp Cooking Gear – Pots, Pans, Silverware etc.

camp-cooking-fire-potAt some point, you’re going to want to cook, probably, when you’re camping. All our checklists show cooking gear as a take along item. It isn’t usually necessary to buy any camp cooking gear designed specially for camping, except backpacking. You probably already have everything you need at home.

Pots & Pans


A skillet is nice to have for the bacon. Well, eggs and burgers and maybe home fries, too. Steer clear of the light weight aluminum ones that are used as the lid to most camp cooking gear kits. They are great for boiling water but they are so thin that cooking without sticking is almost impossible. A nice heavy non-stick stainless or anodized aluminum skillet is a good item to carry.  A nice seasoned cast iron skillet works well, too.

Sauce pan

A 3 quart pan with lid is your most versatile choice.  Again, you probably have one already at home.  Stainless, with an aluminum or copper base are best.  If you plan on using wood to cook with, coat the bottoms of your cooking gear with liquid soap before you leave home.  Don’t worry about a  little black that gets on the bottom.  A steel wool pad will remove the soot.  If you have some really tough spots, try a little Bar Keeper’s Friend.  It’s a mild abrasive powdered cleanser. We recommend against those sets with the tempered glass lids. The tempering only helps ensure that when they break, they do so in small, less dangerous pieces.  This is small comfort in the middle of the woods with a pound of spaghetti boiling in your pan

CAUTION: Most cookware has Bakelite handles.  These handles do NOT like direct flame or heat much over 350. Be sure to keep them away from open flame.

Dutch Oven

A Dutch oven can be a nice addition to your camping box. They are useful for stews, soups, roasts, cakes, pies, muffins, cornbread, heating wash water, for use as a warming oven when you are making items that aren’t going to be served immediately. With a spacer in the bottom, also known as a trivet, they are very efficient at keeping your waffles or pancakes hot until you’ve made enough for everybody. Large is better than small, a lid and bail (handle) are essential and it doesn’t need to be enameled or otherwise coated.  Yup, leave the Le Cruset home.

Coffee pot

If you want to have coffee, nice to have. If you don’t plan on coffee, leave it  home. If you are going to make coffee, remember your only options for doing to involve boiling water and adding coffee at some point. We encourage you to bring the right stuff for coffee. Freshly perked coffee and a rasher of bacon cooking are the best known aromas in the camping world. Grown men, grizzled from weeks in the bush, have been known to cry when confronted with this potent combination. Kingdoms tumbled, great warriors humbled, the old made young, peace and tranquility restored to the world. Just remember, at most sites, you won’t have access to electricity.  The Krups cappuccino maker won’t work.

Plates and cups

The common choices are plastic, melamine, paper or enameled metal.  Each has it’s advantage and draw back.  The most versatile is, of course, paper.  If you have something to back the paper plate, they are pretty good for camping.  And the clean up is a breeze; just burn the dirty dish.  Since they are not washable, you need to plan how many you are going to need very carefully.  Same with paper cups.  While they are more durable and may last for more that one use, don’t plan on it.

Most low end tableware sets for camping rely on plastic for the plates cups and bowls. These are easy to clean, don’t transmit heat well, and are very durable. They also can be sensitive to hot foods, including bacon, and impart a “taste” to food.  They tend to mark from cutting.

Melamine has been used for tableware since 1920.  While it has many advantages over plastic, cautions have recently been issued by the FDA against its use as tableware.  We don’t recommend Melamine plates , cups, or bowls.

Metal tableware has been around for centuries.  From pewter to stainless, metal has provided eating vessels for all applications.  Those with military service will remember the stainless mess hall trays.  Without examining all the options for camping tableware, we like the enameled metal variety.  It holds up well, is relatively comfortable in use, very durable and is unaffected by heat.  A 12 piece set can be found in most big box stores for under $30.


You’ll need a knife, fork and spoon for everybody.  You may well have suitable candidates at home. Gear gets lost camping. Eating utensils are particularly susceptible. Look for something you don’t mind loosing a few pieces of.  You’ll also need large spoons, a long spatula, and a great, big pair of tongs.  If you use any non-stick cookware, a non-metallic spatula is a good idea.

Cutting Board

Another item you probably have at home is a cutting board.  We’re going to try to prepare everything at home, chop and bag all our ingredients, but a cutting board can be very useful for slicing that Italian bread, cutting up potatoes that we didn’t finish at supper for home fries at breakfast, and the inevitable onion for the grilled burgers.

Where to get low cost option.

Thrift stores have a terrific variety of inexpensive camp cooking gear.  Pots, pans, utensils, even complete scout cooking kits.  Use these stores if your are planning to add to your camping box on a budget.  We picked up at the local thrift shop.  The 3 quart sauce pan with lid is like new.  Farberware, stainless, with an aluminum heat sink on the bottom.  $4.99.  The tall pot we use  for boiling water during canoe trips.  We could of course use the Dutch Oven or sauce pan, but if we are cooking in it, we’d have to wait until we’re done then clean it, before we could start heating water.  The spaghetti pot works well. its aluminum skin heats quickly, and we can have it sitting on the back of the grate while we are cooking.

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