This is a detailed introduction to choosing camping cookware for cycle touring and bikepacking trips. From individual pots, pans, and mugs to full cooksets, I’ll cover the options for all budgets and requirements.
But first, some good news: when it comes to cycle touring cookware, ‘best’ does not necessarily mean ‘most expensive’.
Yes, a high quality camping stove is a sensible investment for a long cycle tour or bikepacking trip when reliability is paramount.
But that doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune on cookware – the collection of pots, pans, mugs, and other cooking equipment you use with that camping stove.
Stoves are often complex and highly engineered pieces of equipment. A metal pot is just a metal pot. Metal pots don’t leak, break, wear out, or explode in a ball of flame. They don’t need maintenance, spare parts, or repairs. They just need to be metal. And pot-shaped.
What this means is that you can – if it will help you save money for your ride – take whatever cookware you already have in your kitchen, pair it with your very expensive, ultra-reliable camping stove, and start pedalling.
You don’t need the 5‑star-rated-on-Amazon, ultralight, all-in-one, folding, titanium, non-stick, lifetime-guaranteed, massively overpriced camping cookset your stove manufacturer would very much like you to buy. It won’t elevate your cookery skills, lower the boiling point of water, make instant noodles taste better, or improve your life in any measurable way.
So! Now we’ve put the role of cycle touring cookware firmly in perspective, let’s take a closer look at the type of cookware you might consider taking on your next overnight bike trip.
What Makes Camping Cookware Different To Regular Cookware?
I don’t want to assume anything about your prior knowledge of this subject. So, unlike AI-written blog posts created to put as many money-earning affiliate links in front of you as possible, I’d like to cover some of the basic principles first, starting with what actually defines cookware made specifically for the kind of camping you do on a bike trip.
The first thing to know about camping-specific cookware is that it is generally designed with the needs of hikers and backpackers in mind. This is by far the biggest market for such products. Hikers want their cookware to be light, packable, and compatible with the range of hiking/backpacking stoves they’re also likely to be carrying.
We cycle tourers and backpackers don’t have the luxury of an industry making cookware specifically for us. But, just like backpackers, we also have a limited amount of luggage space, and we also want to be able to camp and cook in a self-sufficient manner.
So it’s the hiking and backpacking department of your favourite outdoor retailer – as opposed to, say, the car-camping or caravanning department – in which you should be looking.
In terms of design, the most obvious difference when you pick up a piece of camping cookware and compare it to domestic cookware is the weight.
Heavy-based pots distribute and retain heat better and so, under normal circumstances, are usually favoured by chefs. Our priorities differ; we’re trying to minimise pack weight to have a better time cycle touring or bikepacking, so we’re willing to compromise.
For this reason, most lightweight backcountry camping cookware is made of aluminium (or, in North America, aluminum), which is less dense and therefore lighter for the same pot size and thickness than steel or copper. Thin grades of metal are typically used, sacrificing heat distribution to save weight.
Uncoated (ie: bare) aluminium is commonly used in the simplest of camping cooksets, including no-fuss military mess kits, and can take plenty of abuse being used over open fires and being scoured with sand and gravel from nearby streams. Bare aluminium is relatively soft, however, and the vibrations of a moving bicycle can – over time – cause surfaces to rub against each other, creating a greyish metallic paste that gets everywhere and is of little nutritional value.
Higher-grade camping cookware often has a protective hard-anodised coating – basically a dissolved, oxidised and hardened layer of aluminium on top of the base metal – which is more durable, has better nonstick properties, is less reactive to acidic foods, and is easier to clean. It isn’t indestructible; too many sand-scouring sessions will eventually tarnish even the best coatings, and it isn’t recommended for use over open fires.
Cookware with a non-stick coating may appeal to your inner chef, but avoid all but that which has been well and truly road-tested (see the listings below for some good examples); otherwise expect to find bits of black stuff floating around in your food after a couple of weeks of use.
Ultralight titanium cookware is growing in popularity, especially among bikepackers. It’s lighter, tougher, and significantly more expensive than aluminium. Usually uncoated, it stands up to a lot of the abuse that would wear out a more delicate cookset.
Camping pots, pans and mugs have either folding or detachable handles (aka: lifters or grippers) for portability. For the same reason, an all-in-one cookset consisting of several items will often be designed to pack into itself like a Russian doll. Any remaining space can then be stuffed with cleaning supplies, instant coffee sachets, crushed packets of instant noodles… you get the idea.
Experienced riders sometimes break down these kits and carry only the subset of the items that they actually use, using the remaining space for storage. How will you know for yourself? By going for a test-ride and finding out!
But Will You Really Be Cooking?
If you’re riding alone and your meals are going to be simple, there’s little point taking more gear than you need. Eating directly out of a cooking pot or mug is perfectly acceptable when you’re wild-camping and nobody’s looking. A separate, insulated mug is useful for hot drinks and leftover boiled water, especially on cold mornings. The simplest solo cooksets typically consist of little more than these two items.
Remember that your appetite will reach hitherto unimaginable proportions, and that the capacity of a ‘2‑person’ cookset may be appropriate for one hungry cyclist. Some ultralight solo riders get away with a single titanium mug and use it for everything, but may find themselves cooking two (or more) servings at the end of a long day.
On longer trips with two or more people, the evening meal can be quite a social occasion, and the carrying capacity of a group allows for a more extensive kitchen. Some such groups take one massive pot and share it around until all involved are stuffed. Others discover the joys of ‘proper’ on-the-road cookery further down the road and thereafter ride with a full blown catering operation in their bags.
This is the time to figure out your priorities and plan your equipment needs accordingly. Perhaps one simple pot and a high-powered gas burner makes the most sense. Perhaps two ‘simmer stoves’, a five-piece nonstick cookset and a portable titanium pizza oven are going to better satisfy your culinary ambitions. Maybe, like most of us, you sit somewhere in the middle.
And the best way to know what you’ll actually need is to go for a shorter bike trip, experience a few days in the life of your future self, and make a note of what you used, what you didn’t, and what you wished you’d brought, then adjust your kit list accordingly.
This simple exercise will answer more of your questions about planning and preparing for a cycle tour or bikepacking trip than any amount of blog-reading ever will.
The Best Camping Cooksets For Cycle Touring & Bikepacking
Basic principles covered – check! Let’s now go through some of the most popular and reliable cooksets, pots, pans, and other cookware for cycle touring and bikepacking, from low-budget options to the very top of the line, and from ultra-minimal to pro-chef gourmet.
As well as globally-available brands, I’ll list a variety of popular regional options for readers in the UK, USA and Canada. Affiliate links are marked with an asterisk (*); read my full policy here.
Again: this is not a list of stuff I found when I googled “best cycle touring cookware” for my new AI-generated spam blog full of affiliate links.
I’m not a robot. I’ve been riding the world and writing this blog for 15 years. I’ve known hundreds of other riders around the globe and have met thousands more on the road. So this post represents what cycle tourists and bikepackers are using in real life, not which company has the most effective influencer marketing campaign or paid for the most fake 5‑star reviews on Amazon.
Cheap & Basic Pots & Mugs For Boiling Water On A Bike Trip
If you’re trying to save every last penny or cent, simply grab the smallest metal pot or mug you can find at the nearest charity shop/thrift store/yard sale, or whatever people are giving away on Freecycle in your local area, or whatever your parents hoarded somewhere in case it one day becomes useful, or whatever you can swipe from your own kitchen without the landlord noticing. Pair it with a homemade beer can stove and you’re ready to go. You can stop reading and start riding now. Have fun!
(See this article for more tips on sourcing free gear.)
For cheap but durable cooking pots, a good place to start is with military mess tins, aka: mess kits.
In the UK, the British Army issue kit since 1937 has been a pair of rectangular aluminium mess tins with folding handles which fit inside each other and pack down as a storage box (which, with a depth of 6cm, will fit nicely into a full-size frame bag). Usually used to heat ration packs and boil water for a brew, the kit is designed for a type of solid-fuel stove commonly known as the hexi or Esbit, but will work fine on any camping burner. You’ll find them on eBay for less than £10.
Elsewhere in the world you’ll find similar military-issue mess kits (for my first big ride I used a set of Czech army cooking pots off eBay), as well as plenty of imitation military gear. Stick to original equipment if you can.
Elsewhere in the category of cheap camping cookware, it’s easy to find entry-level backpacking and hiking kits at big outdoor retailers and from mainstream global brands. Expect such cooksets to be lighter, flimsier, and possibly more colourful than the military kits. Avoid clever-sounding gimmicks and features, and look for simple offerings with as little to go wrong as possible.
In the UK and Europe (and increasingly beyond), Decathlon make and sell a basic stainless steel cookset for £10, which at just over 1 litre is about the right capacity for a hungry solo cyclist. It’s made of very thin metal and will doubtless burn anything but water, but it’ll get you through your first bike tour.
At Go Outdoors, among all the cheap and cheerful car-camping gear you’ll find a no-frills backpacking aluminium cookset under the Eurohike brand, as well as a military-style mess kit from Hi Gear, each for less than £10.
Slightly higher up the budget scale, Alpkit make the AliPots hard-anodised 2‑person cookset for £30, which won’t break the bank and will suit a couple or pair (or can be split up for a solo rider). The folding handles are slightly flimsy and you’ll eventually melt their rubberised coatings by accident, but that’s a criticism common to similar cooksets from other brands.
Individual pots and pans from the Trangia cookset range can be purchased very affordably, with either bare aluminium or hard-anodised finishes. It’s worth mentioning that if you’re planning on using the Trangia stove system anyway, the all-in-one kits will probably work out better value, and you’ll be sure that all the bits will fit together when packed – see the following section for recommendations.
Trangia products can be ordered worldwide direct from Trangia, and in the UK are available on the high street from Go Outdoors or Millets, as well as online from Amazon. Having been so popular for so long, second-hand Trangia cooksets can readily be found on eBay. The brand isn’t officially distributed in the USA but you can still find their products on Amazon.
For bikepackers looking to minimise weight and pack size but on a low budget, a single-wall metal mug can fit nicely in a frame bag or cockpit pouch and allow you to boil water on a stove or campfire for instant meals and hot drinks (don’t burn your lips!). Look for something with at least 500ml (18oz) capacity; a lid will speed up your boils and keep the contents hot for longer.
Affordable options in this category include this hard-anodised aluminium mug/bowl from Go Outdoors in the UK and a classic stainless steel mug from GSI Outdoors’s Glacier range in the USA (Amazon/REI).
Durable & Versatile Camping Cookware For Long-Haul Bike Trips
Thin, bare metal cooking pots – especially when used with tiny gas burners – diffuse heat poorly and therefore tend to suffer from ‘hot spots’. This can restrict your cookery ambitions to things that can be boiled, with a lot of stirring to avoid food sticking to the bottom of the pot and burning.
But with hard-anodised aluminium or titanium cookware, and perhaps a really good non-stick pan – plus a carefully-chosen camping stove with an adjustable flame – your culinary options open up considerably.
If you’re a keen cook, you may have already decided that you’re happy to invest in premium cookware. But if you are unaccustomed to the feeling of having cycled for eight hours while hauling half your bodyweight in luggage over mountains on bumpy roads, it is very easy to romanticise the end-of-day camping experience.
In reality, dinner on a bike tour tends to involve shovelling an alarming amount of calories down your throat with no concern for what it tastes like, let alone what equipment you used to prepare it.
This is yet another reason why it’s worth heading off on an overnight test ride in advance of departing on a big trip.
All of the premium camping stove manufacturers sell high quality cooksets to match the stoves themselves, but you’ll pay a premium for your brand loyalty. Affordable options from other makers can also achieve the same thing. In any case, let’s have a look at the most highly-rated options in this broad category.
Premium Camping Cookware For Cycle Touring & Bikepacking
Titanium single-wall cooking mugs are becoming more popular and affordable thanks to the bikepacking boom, being lighter and more resistant to denting and oxidisation, and fitting nicely in a cockpit bag – but the prices can still be double or more that of the basic steel or aluminium equivalent. As with so many types of outdoor gear, you pay more to carry less.
Good options in the UK include Alpkit’s MyTiMug range (I use the 98g/650ml version pictured above) and Snow Peak’s Trek range of lidded titanium cooking mugs, which come in 136g/700ml (direct / Amazon) and 175g/900ml (direct / Amazon) capacities and are designed to house a stove and gas canister. Snow Peak products are also well distributed in the USA, including the aforementioned Trek 700 (REI / Amazon) and Trek 900 (REI / Amazon) titanium mugs.
You’ll find tons of similar-looking no-brand or fake-brand products at big online retailers such as Amazon and eBay. Always remember: a metal pot is just a metal pot. Look for at least 600ml (21oz) capacity to ensure you can cook a decent portion of food – this is also roughly what a typical dehydrated meal requires – and a lid for more efficient boils.
Moving on to ‘real’ pots and pans, MSR’s Quick Solo cookset was a favourite among solo riders (including me) until it was replaced by the Trail Lite Solo, which appears almost identical but is yet to be road-tested in the long term.
Thankfully, the upsized Quick 2 cookset (Alpine Trek / REI / MEC / Amazon) lives on and remains highly recommended for couples and pairs. The set includes two insulated mugs, two sensibly-sized (1.5- and 2.5‑litre) hard-anodised pots with strainer lids and detachable handles, and two deep plates, all colour-coded for separation. The Quick 2 cookset has been in production for decades and continues to win awards for its tried-and-tested design and proven durability.
From Swedish manufacturer Primus, look for the LiTech range of hard-anodised aluminium pot sets, which come in 1.3- and 2.3‑litre sizes for soloists and pairs/groups respectively, again with a useful strainer lid and a detachable pot gripper. The non-stick frying pan from this range, bought separately, is one of the few whose durability and long-lasting non-stickiness have been proven on long haul rides.
Finally, and also hailing from Sweden, long-running stove makers Trangia also make hard-anodised pots and pans, both with and without a non-stick coating. Their products are broadly split into two counterintiutively-named ranges based on capacity: the 27 series is designed for soloists, and the 25 series for pair/group use.
A common criticism levelled at Trangia cooksets is their weight and bulk, but with a decades-long track record their durability is a big selling point for riders looking at months or years on the road.
A bewildering array of combination sets is available, or you can choose individual items. The classic example is the DofE-recommended 27–1 UL set for 1–2 people (pictured above), which consists of two pots, a frying pan/lid, a pot gripper, and the stove and windshield assembly itself, all made of ultralight bare aluminium.
Solo minimalist bikepackers should consider the ultralight Mini Trangia cookset (Amazon / Millets / REI / MEC), originally designed for adventure racers, which consists of a single 800ml pot with detachable handle, a non-stick frying pan which doubles as a lid, the spirit burner itself, and a windshield. It all packs down into a 67mm-deep unit weighing just 350g, and you can fry an omelette on it. Pretty neat.
Non-Stick Camping Cookware For Gourmet On-The-Road Cookery
Right at the top end of the camping cookware market are offerings such as those from US-based camping cookware specialist GSI Outdoors. Their Pinnacle fry pan (Amazon / AllOutdoor.co.uk / Backcountry.com) has been singled out as the go-to long-lasting non-stick camping frying pan for gourmet chefs on bikes. The aforementioned Primus LiTech non-stick frying pan comes with similar accolades.
No non-stick coating will last forever, no matter how durable or expensive. Years down the line it’ll be those bruised and beaten aluminium mess tins that are still serving up noodles as happily as they were on day one. You can prolong the lives of coated pots with a simple routine of protecting the inner surfaces when packed by stuffing them with cleaning cloths and making sure nothing rattles.
Bonus: A Short Rant About Camping Utensils & Accessories
You do not need a titanium spork.
You don’t need folding cutlery. You don’t need a miniature silicone chopping board, a branded 1‑shot moka pot, or any of the other bolt-on gimmicks that get sold alongside stoves and cookware to double the value of your shopping cart.
For most, a spoon and fork from your cutlery drawer will be all you need. If you’re concerned about non-stick cookware, grab a wooden spoon as well.
Get a simple, good-quality knife to prepare food, to eat with, and for other camp-craft activities, and learn how to sharpen it properly. A so-called Swiss army knife or a multi-tool such as a Leatherman or Gerber may seem like the perfect solution but the folding mechanism will end up full of cheese. A classic choice here is the much-copied and ubiquitous Opinel range, hailing from the French Alps and in production since 1890. The No.8 (Amazon / Backcountry.com / MEC), with an 8cm-long blade, is the original and most popular size – I’ve personally been using this knife for over a decade.
Do you need plates? Bowls? Plastic champagne flutes? Maybe – if your cooking style (and whim) demands it. I’ve travelled with riders whose mobile kitchens dominated their luggage, and for whom dinner was a two- or three-hour celebration of bush cookery and subsequent feasting.
My advice? Don’t spend any serious money on this stuff unless you absolutely know this is the way you do things. Especially if you’re alone, it’s far more likely that after a few weeks on the road you’ll be slurping noodles out of an upcycled food can with a tyre lever, having long since stopped caring about anything other than calories.
A few more hot tips from experience:
- Find a small, airtight container such as a film canister and top it up with salt whenever you have the opportunity, as you’ll need more salt in your diet to replace what you sweat out during the day,
- A larger, lidded, airtight ‘Tupperware’ container will serve you well as a leftover food container, spare plate/bowl, draining board, chopping board, and a whole host of other uses, ticking that all-important ‘versatile’ box which your titanium spork does not,
- Rinse out one of those free hotel shampoo/shower gel bottles, fill it with washing-up liquid, cut a standard abrasive dish sponge in half, and put both in a Ziploc bag to create a handy washing-up kit,
- One tough (ie: non-ultralight) drybag can be very useful for packing away damp, greasy, soot-covered cookware in the rain and keeping it isolated from the rest of your gear, and
- A touring cyclist can never have too many plastic carrier bags – in fact, you may find you become quite the connoisseur.
In general, the cooking/eating/cleaning scenario is either one for which you already know exactly how you like to do things (from experience), or for which you very quickly discover what does and doesn’t work for you (through experience). It’s difficult to design a routine in advance if you are not familiar with the circumstances in which you’ll be operating.
Luckily it’s also unnecessary – basic cooking and cleaning supplies will be found wherever you’ll find settlements, which on a road trip will be a daily occurrence.
By the time you reach anywhere remote enough that there aren’t any settlements (if that ever happens), you’ll have had plenty of time to whittle your routine down to a fine art.