One of the most enjoyable parts of any camping trip is enjoying delicious food out in nature. It’s not exactly easy to bring in plates, forks, spoons, bowls, and cups though. Enter the camping mess kit. These are compact and lightweight flatware and utensil systems designed with the hiker and camper in mind. Today we’re searching for the best camping mess kit available, and presenting a lot of other really nice contenders.
- 1 What is a Mess Kit
- 2 Best Camping Mess Kits
- 2.1 GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Camper 4 Person Camping Cook Set
- 2.2 Winterial Camping Cookware and Pot Set
- 2.3 MSR Trail Mini Duo (With or Without Stove Kit)
- 2.4 MSR PocketRocket Stove Kit
- 2.5 Keith Titanium Canteen Mess Kit
- 2.6 Sea to Summit X Series
- 2.7 Stanley Camp Cook Set
- 2.8 MSR Quick 2 Cooking System
- 2.9 Stanley Base Camp Cook Set for Four
- 2.10 GSI Outdoors Bugaboo Backpacker
- 2.11 MalloMe Camping Cookware Mess Kit
- 2.12 Light My Fire Meal Kit
- 3 Buyers Guide to Buying the Best Camping Mess Kit
- 4 Final Thoughts
What is a Mess Kit
Camping mess kits, like a lot of modern hiking gear, have their origins in the military. They were created as an effective way for soldiers on the march to eat.
At their most basic they include a bowl or plate and possibly a cup. They’re generally designed to pack down to a very small size and made from durable yet lightweight materials.
Best Camping Mess Kits
There are a lot of factors that go into camping mess kits. Some kits are designed with ultralight hikers in mind, others with the needs of car campers and glampers.
Picking out one single best camping mess kit isn’t really possible because of this.
We’ve picked out several great mess kits across a range of prices, sizes, and capabilities. There are solo mess kits, two person mess kits, and kits designed to be used by larger groups.
GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Camper 4 Person Camping Cook Set
The GSI Outdoors Pinnacle 4 Person Camping Cook Set is a comprehensive set of cookware, plates, bowls, and other eating tools. It has everything you need to cook and eat a meal for 4+ people while out camping.
- Four Plates
- Four Insulated Mugs with Sip Lids and Carry Sleeves
- Four Bowls
- 2L Pot with Strainer Lid
- 3L Pot with Strainer Lid
- Fry Pan
It also comes with a handle that works with all three of the pots and pans plus a drawstring carry sack that doubles as a camp sink. That’s a ton of gear that packs down in a relatively small space. Everything is designed to fit snugly into the 3L pot and then the drawstring pouch.
The pots and single pan are made from anodized aluminum while the plates, bowls, and cups are made from Infinity clear polypropylene. This makes them both lightweight and extremely durable.
We really like the overall design of this cook system. The two pots and one pan all use a single handle. It’s designed to quickly switch between them for quick use. The lids of the pots include a strainer and have heat resistant silicone rims.
If you frequently take the whole family out camping the GSI Pinnacle Camper 4 Person Camping Cook Set is the perfect way to prepare and serve your meals.
Winterial Camping Cookware and Pot Set
The Winterial camping Cookware and Pot Set combines a highly capable set of camping cookware with a basic mess kit for two. It comes with 11 items, including:
- 2 Qt Large Pot and Lid
- 1 Qt Tea Kettle and Lid
- 1 Qt Frying Pan
- 2 Personal Bowls
- Serving Ladle, Spoon, and Spatula
- Cleaning Sponge
- Cutting Board
Everything but the cutting board fits right into the carry case. It all fits cleverly into the included carry case. The bowls are definitely on the small side but they’re good enough for eating oatmeal and other camping foods.
The cookware is made from anodized aluminum with a scratch resistant coating. The pots also have a non-stick Teflon layer to aid in cooking.
The Winterial Camping Cookware and Pot Set gives you everything you need to cook, serve, and clean up after a meal while in the backcountry. It’s reasonably priced, relatively lightweight, and packs down into a very portable package.
MSR Trail Mini Duo (With or Without Stove Kit)
The Duo kit provides you with just what you need to cook and eat without any extras. Weight reduction and portability are clearly at the forefront of its design.
It’s made up of a single anodized aluminum pot, a 28 oz plastic serving bowl, lid, and pot lifter. That’s it.
You share the single serving bowl between the two of you. This doesn’t make for the most convenient serving method but it definitely helps you save on oz. The whole kit weighs just 10.2 oz.
For those looking to carry as little as possible the MSR Trail Mini Duo is one of the best available mess kits.
MSR PocketRocket Stove Kit
The MSR PocketRocket Stove Kit is a stove, cookware, and mess kit combo. It includes MSR’s wildly popular PocketRocket 2 stove plus an anodized aluminum cook pot and serving plates.
There bowls, insulated mugs, and utensils for two. All the included gear nests securely inside the cook pot. The whole system weighs just 25.8 oz including the stove.
The MSR PocketRocket Stove Kit is a high-quality and reasonably priced stove and camping mess kit set. It has everything needed for two to dine anywhere they find themselves.
Keith Titanium Canteen Mess Kit
The Keith Titanium Canteen Mess Kit is a simple and incredibly lightweight piece of gear. It’s made up of a titanium canteen and serving bowl that fits snugly around the base of the canteen.
It includes a small carry case and a lid for the serving bowl. It’s definitely on the basic side but its titanium construction allows it to weigh next to nothing.
The canteen and serving bowl together weigh less just over 10 oz. The only real downside to this awesome little mess kit is price. It’s significantly more expensive than most of the other camping mess kits on our list.
If you’re looking for the lightest and strongest camping mess kit the Keith Titanium Canteen Mess Kit is an excellent choice. Just make sure you’re ready to pay for it.
Sea to Summit X Series
The Sea to Summit X Series of camping mess kits and cookware is one of the most innovative lines of gear we’ve seen in a while. They’re made up of several different pots, pans, and serving bowls.
They’re made from heat resistant collapsible silicone with an anodized aluminum base. This allows you to use them to boil water and cook other liquid foods then pack them down into a really tiny space when you’re done.
This design also saves on weight, with similarly sized X series pots weighing noticeable less than their competitors. You can choose from a variety of sizes and packages including those without aluminum bases strictly for serving.
The Sea to Summit X Series provides exceptional flexibility and value for the modern camper, especially if you need a way to save on space without sacrificing capability.
Stanley Camp Cook Set
The Stanley Camp Cook Set is a neat little camping mess kit that allows you to quickly cook and serve basic camping food and beverages. It’s made up of a BPA-free stainless steel cookpot and a pair of 10 oz insulated cups that nest inside.
It has a folding handle that doubles as a strap to hold the metal lid in place. It’s great for whipping up coffee, tea, and cocoa while out in the woods or boiling water for other camp foods. Even better, it’s affordably priced and designed to fit in the space of a small water bottle.
The Stanley Camp Cook Set is a good way to prepare and serve camping food in a pinch. It doesn’t have the same capability as some of the other camping mess kits we’ve reviewed but is a good value for its price.
MSR Quick 2 Cooking System
The MSR Quick 2 Cooking System is a lightweight backcountry mess kit designed for two. It comes with all the gear you need to cook and serve a meal with drinks while out in the woods.
The main body of the set is a 2.5 L cook pot. This holds all the rest of the gear, including a 1.5 L cook pot, a pair of plastic drink cups, two DeepDish plates, and a Talon pot handle.
Everything weighs just 28 oz and takes up about as much space as a Nalgene bottle. This gives you a lot of flexibility for how you pack and use it.
If you’re looking for a lightweight camping mess kit for two, the MSR Quick 2 Cooking System is a very strong contender.
Stanley Base Camp Cook Set for Four
The Stanley Base Camp Cook Set for Four is designed to be the perfect camping mess kit for larger groups. It’s a 19 piece cook set including a large pot and fry pan plus plates, bowls, cups, and utensils for four.
Everything fits into the large cook pot and snaps shut with an elastic band. It’s large enough to cook just about anything and has plenty of plates and other serving dishes to go around. Some really neat extras include a cutting board, integrated drying rack, and silicone trivet to protect surfaces.
The pots are made from stainless steel. This helps reduce costs but does make the Base Camp quite heavy compared to similarly sized kits.
The Stanley Base Camp Cook Set for Four is an excellent multi person mess kit, though decidedly on the heavy end of the spectrum.
GSI Outdoors Bugaboo Backpacker
The GSI Outdoors Bugaboo Backpacker is a two person camping mess kit. It uses a nesting design with enough cookware and serving dishes for two.
The main pot is 2 L and made from anodized aluminum. The serving bowls and cups have a rounded triangular design. This allows them to fit perfectly inside the main pot. The whole thing slips down into a carry case that doubles as a dish sink.
The GSI Outdoors Bugaboo Backpacker is a compact and lightweight camping mess kit. It has everything two people need to cook and eat a tasty meal.
MalloMe Camping Cookware Mess Kit
The MalloMe Camping Cookware Mess Kit is a value priced cook set that has everything needed to prepare a meal in the backcountry. It includes a pot, pan, spatula/spoon, soup spoon, spork, and cleaning sponge.
It’s designed to fit snugly into an included carry case and
Light My Fire Meal Kit
The Light My Fire Meal Kit is a comprehensive camping mess kit that includes everything you might want for eating in the woods. It’s made from BPA-free plastic and includes eight different bowls, cups, plates, and utensils.
The main body of the Meal Kit is large triangular plate/bowl combo with a lid and elastic harness. This contains the pair of Snapboxes, pack up cup, a strainer/cutting board combo, and one of Light My Fires iconic spork.
This gives you the flexibility to eat just about any kind of meal comfortably. It weighs just 13.5 oz and packs into a very packable triangle. You can choose from a wide range of different colors and patterns.
Overall the Light My Fire Meal Kit gives you everything you need from a camping mess kit. It’s inexpensive, lightweight, and offers a comprehensive range of bowls, plates, and utensils.
Buyers Guide to Buying the Best Camping Mess Kit
The best camping mess kit for you really comes down to what kind of use you intend to put it to. Ultralight hikers are going to have drastically different needs than glampers or car campers. Before reading our buyer’s guide you will also enjoy our guides on the best hiking stoves and best wood-burning stoves.
Like a lot of hiking and camping gear there’s a fairly broad price range for camping mess kits. You can get serviceable basic or military surplus kits for $10-$20, or spend over a hundred on a top-of-the-line mess kit made from the latest and greatest materials.
You need to balance the features you’re looking for with your budget to pick out the best one.
The most obvious use for a camping mess kit is while on a camping trip. They allow you to serve and eat your meal wherever you find yourself.
Many of the newest camping mess kits combine a cook pot with the serving dishes or pack other dishes into a central pot.
For decades stainless steel was the only choice when picking out a camping mess kit. Nowadays though you can choose from a massive variety of different materials.
Plastic, silicone, wood, aluminum, copper, and titanium are some of the most common. Plastic kits are by far the most popular.
They combine light weight, low cost, and high durability for a really nice mess kit. For the vast majority of hikers and campers a plastic camping mess kit is the way to go.
For those who want the lightest and best of everything titanium is the material of the day. Titanium cook pots have long been the standard for ultralight hikers, with featherweight titanium mess kits growing in popularity despite their noticeably higher price.
Size and Weight
The size and weight of your camping mess kit varies tremendously based on how you intend to camp. If you’re a car camper to the core you can pick up really nice plate and utensils sets that are very similar to home use ones, just in camping friendly colors and patterns.
For those who have to pack all their gear in reducing the weight and making it more packable is a major concern. Old school military surplus mess kits were generally made from stainless steel, bulky, and quite heavy.
New models are designed to take up as little space as possible and weigh next to nothing. They aren’t capable of serving as many types of food as larger models are, so figure out the balance you’re willing to accept between functionality and portability.
Number of Pieces
The most basic camping mess kits are little more than a plate with raised edges to double as a bowl. These are great for ultralight hikers and those looking to get the best possible value, but they don’t offer nearly as much utility as more comprehensive kits.
As you move up the price and weigh spectrum you have kits that include a plate, bowl, hot/cold drink glass, trivets for cook pots and kettles, as well as utensils and even spice storage.
If you’re looking for a complete mess kit with everything you could need there are plenty of options out there.
Does It Include Cutlery?
One of the biggest choices you need to make when picking out a camping mess kit is cutlery or no cutlery. More comprehensive mess kits usually include a spork or similar utensil designed to fit into the body of the kit.
This is great if you want to get everything at once. If you already have some camping cookware and utensils though they aren’t nearly as useful.
Ease of Cleaning and Repacking
When you’re out in the backcountry cleaning and packing your mess kit can be a major chore. Check and see how difficult it’s going to be to properly clean, dry, and pack your mess kit before you buy.
Smooth materials designed to resist stains and scratches are a great place to start.
Some bonus items you’ll often see in camping mess kits include:
- Cleaning Tools
- Sink Pouches
- Pot Grabbers
- Salt/Pepper Shaker
These definitely aren’t essentials but they are nice to have.
Durability and Construction
The materials used is the biggest factor in how durable your camping mess kit will be. Plastic kits are the least expensive and most widely available but are also the ones most likely to be damaged.
If you aren’t careful you can actually melt plastic plates and utensils whole out camping. This is especially true if you’re cooking with an open fire.
Titanium camping mess kits are the lightest and most durable. They’re also by far the most expensive.
If you’re looking for a value priced yet highly durable mess kit old school stainless steel is still the way to go.
Other things to keep in mind are folding or collapsible mess kits, mess kits that contain multiple parts or mess kits designed to double as cookware.
How your camping mess kit packs down is almost as important as how it works. You want to be able to securely stow your cookware and utensils in as compact and convenient a space as possible.
Common methods of packing mess kits include drawstring punches, small plastic cases, and our personal favorite, the flatware/bowl itself.
Some of the best camping mess kits are designed to snap together to create their own carry case when you’re finished eating.
With the vast range of camping meal kits to choose from picking a single best one is pretty much impossible. Balance what you’re willing to spend with the level of capability you need.
If you’re okay making do with a single bowl/plate and prize low weight, go for one of the hiking style meal kits.
If you want to be able to eat hearty meals in comfort you should check out the more comprehensive camping meal kits.