Imagine hiking for miles carrying 25+ lbs of gear on your back. Maybe throw in some steep inclines and uneven terrain. When you finally decide on a campsite and start to unpack, most likely your first thought is going to be food. For me, I’m thinking of food while still on the trail! (Hip belt pockets = snack stash.) What all do you need to prep and cook your well-deserved meal? Or how about a steaming cup of coffee or tea? This list of backpacking kitchen gear will ensure hot food and beverages as well as a lightweight backpacking experience.
The feature to look for in backpacking kitchen gear is collapsible. Can it fold down to a small, easy-to-pack size? That will create a manageable camp kitchen. It will also allow you to nest items into other items to achieve a compact packing system.
Backpacking Kitchen Gear
There are many different brands, shapes, and sizes. Really it’s up to personal preference. My husband, Nat, and I use the Snow Peak Giga Power Stove with Auto Start* and so far it’s held up well after many backpacking trips. My older brother, Oliver, has the same one and agrees it’s a good compact burner. It folds up and comes with its own case for easy storage. Nat keeps the burner in one of our titanium pots.
Fuel + extra fuel
Fuel is required to properly operate a compact burner – you twist them onto the bottom. They’re available in small canisters usually at around 230 grams or 100 grams. Just make sure to purchase the recommended fuel type and canister size for your specific burner. For our burner we like Jetboil Jetpower* fuel the best – it even comes with a cap to protect the nozzle. We also like to bring a spare – so 2 total – just in case one is defective and doesn’t properly seal. Perhaps this is unnecessary, but we have encountered a few bad canisters and now always bring backup.
Pot with handle
If you plan to cook hot meals, such as freeze-dried food, you’ll want to invest in a sturdy pot. Particularly one with a handle (trust me). Titanium is a sturdy, lightweight material but quite expensive. If a titanium pot is out of the question, there are plenty of other great options such as stainless steel. My husband, Nat, and I use the Snow Peak Trek 1400 Titanium Cookset* – we really like it. We used to just bring an old, large metal bowl with no handle, so we’re happy with the upgrade. Get creative and bring what works best for you!
Quick tip: if you have a pot with collapsable handles, such as the pot linked above, be sure to prop the handles open while cooking. This way the handles won’t heat up with the sides of the pot.
This doubles as a stirring device and eating utensil. You can find a variety of options from double-sided sporks to standard individual utensils. They’re also available in a variety of materials such as Tritan™ (a plastic material), stainless steel, and titanium. I personally like my double-sided Light My Fire Titanium Spork*. It’s small, lightweight, and has a serrated edge along one of the outer fork tines. Three utensils in one!
I always bring my Snow Peak titanium mug* to eat oatmeal, portioned freeze-fried meals, and ramen. I also use it to drink herbal tea. Since not everyone drinks coffee or tea I don’t consider this 100% essential for backpacking kitchen gear. However, it does help create a seamless cooking session. You can cook food in the pot (with handle!) for several people and then divvy it up in everyone’s mug. Or you can eat from your pot and enjoy a beverage from your mug.
French press, coffee filter, or tea strainer
For some the taste of coffee or tea is all the motivation they need to crawl out of the tent. (My aching hips do it for me.) ;] So why not make it just the way you like it instead of using instant coffee or tea? Or single-use bags? For many this totally works and they couldn’t care less about it. For those who cherish a freshly brewed beverage, it might behoove you to bring a lightweight French press, filter, or tea strainer. You would just need to make sure to bring ground coffee or tea leaves.
This knife would be used separately from a safety and/or first-aid knife. It would come in handy if you bring fresh fruits and veggies such as apples, avocados, carrots, etc. Nat always brings a knife and we use it to slice avocado and carrots into our ramen. It really kicks it up a notch! Typically we bring fresh produce on a shorter trip or eat it within the first day or two during a longer trip.
A pot lid will simply help water boil faster as well as keep bugs and debris out of your food. Our Snow Peak Trek 1400 Titanium Cookset* comes with a lid and we use it every time we boil water and cook. Some lids, such as ours, double as a pan.
Plate or bowl
This will come in especially handy when cooking for multiple people. Or if you just want a more manageable vessel from which to eat. You can cook in your pot, enjoy a beverage in your mug, and eat from your plate or bowl. There are so many styles, materials, and sizes available in store and online. Some are even collapsible for easy storage. I personally don’t bring a plate or bowl and instead use my mug. I can definitely see where they are nice to have, though!
Small hand towel
There’s something so magical about having a hand towel to dry cold, wet hands after rinsing dirty dishes. Or just drying wet dishes. Or, who am I kidding, for scrubbing off dried-on food from your last meal. All you need is one small, lightweight hand towel to get you through – washcloths work great as well. I packed a washcloth for our 3-night backpacking trip at Waldo Lake, Oregon and it was perfect. As long as you lay it flat or hang it up to dry – maybe shake it out a few times – your hand towel will have your back. You’ll want to keep this hand towel separate from the one you use for personal hygiene.
I hope this list of backpacking kitchen gear aids you in prepping for your trip. It can be overwhelming to decide what to bring and what to leave at home. Use this guide as a starting point to research and learn what works best for you. In my opinion one of the most satisfying parts of backpacking is cooking and enjoying a well-deserved meal.
Are you looking for more tips and advice about what to bring backpacking? Check out my other outdoor guides!
* this is not an affiliate link – I’m not compensated in any way – and all opinions and recommendations are my own