10 Best Mess Kits: Your Buyer’s Guide (2019)

mess kit

A reliable mess kit is a staple piece of equipment in every backpacker’s gear locker. When traveling or trekking as light as possible, owning cooking ware that’s both lightweight and highly packable yet still fully inclusive with all the utensils, pots and pans you need is not just a luxury — it’s a necessity.

Fortunately, there’s a ton of awesome mess kit options available on the market that are exceptionally light weight and compact. We’ve tracked down some seriously righteous mess kit options that you’ll no doubt be impressed with. You don’t have to sacrifice any cooking ware or utensils with a lot of the options we’ve tracked down for this top 10 list.

If you’re interested in some of the minimalist mess kit options here that only include cooking ware, you might want to consider buying a compact utensil and kitchen accessory set that you can pick and choose your required essentials from. While you’re at it, consider what kind of portable camp stove might pair nicely with your new mess kit!

Whether you’re preparing for a road trip and want to save cargo space in your vehicle or are prepping for a backpacking trek where every ounce and square inch in your backpack is precious, we’ve got you covered with some super packable and highly affordable mess kit options. Carry your cooking ware and utensils anywhere you go no matter your backpack size and be prepared to unfold your own personal kitchen wherever the trail or your travels take you!

If you’re prepping for a big trip and trimming weight and backpack space everywhere you can, don’t forget to check out our posts on the best ultralight backpacking tents, camp stoves, and sleeping bags — there’s a ton of awesome and affordable products there you’ll definitely want to check out!

What Are The Best Mess Kits?

gsi outdoors mess kit Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Excellent solo camper option
  • Great set for fuel conservation
  • Minimalist, aluminum design
Price: $44.95 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
stanley mess kit Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Vented nylon lid acts as a strainer
  • Mug/bowl has volumetric markings
  • 18/8 stainless steel is BPA free
Price: $29.78 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
gsi outdoors bugaboo mess kit Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Three different sizes available
  • Strainer lid
  • Teflon coated for easy clean up
Price: $74.95 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
gsi outdoors pinnacle mess kit Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Great for more intensive camp meals
  • Can stash a micro fuel canister within
  • Three layered coating on the cook ware
Price: $94.95 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
gsi outdoors mess kit Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Sip through lids
  • Halulite is an excellent heat conductor
  • 1.4 liter pot
Price: $49.95 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
mallome mess kit Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Highly affordable, budget option
  • Cleans up easily
  • Just 14 ounces
Price: $19.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
wenzel mess kit Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Just 10 ounces!
  • Great mess kit for kids!
  • Super affordable
Price: $14.18 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
coleman aluminum mess kit Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Can cook over open flame or on coals
  • Super affordable
  • Heats and cools quickly
Price: $9.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
solo stove mess kit Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Cooks well over open flame
  • Lightweight for the pot volume
  • 304 stainless steel
Price: $49.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
prohealth mess kit Amazon Customer Reviews
  • Impressively packable
  • Can be employed as a double boiler!
  • Titanium cooking ware
Price: $47.99 Shop at Amazon Shop now Read our review
Our Unbiased Reviews
  1. 1. Best Minimalist Solo Mess Kit: GSI Outdoors Unisex Pinnacle Soloist Cook and Eat Set

    • Superior craftsmenship makes this one of the best solo mess kit options on the market
    • Minimalist, aluminum design keeps this set exceptionally lightweight at just 10.8 ounces
    • Cooks quickly and evenly so you can maximize the life of your fuel
    • 1.1 liter pot is fairly large for solo use meaning you can make some hearty meals for yourself after those particularly long days on the trail
    • The aluminum of this set is pretty thin in order for it to achieve its lightweight - it’s built tough but be careful not to ding this one up
    • Fairly expensive for a solo kit - but you’re paying for quality
    • Complaints about the included spork

    Here’s one of the top quality mess kits available for solo use. The Pinnacle Solist Cook and Eat set from GSI Outdoors is very comparable to their Halulite Microdualist cook set, but even more light weight and compact.

    At just 10.8 ounces this is a minimalist mess kit that won’t weigh you down. There’s nothing included here that you don’t need, it’s a minimalist mess kit that includes the essentials and the essentials only.

    A 1.1 liter non-stick hard anodized aluminum pot, 14 ounce bowl/mug and a Lexan lid that operates as both a pot cover and sip-through lid provide you with everything you need for camp meals without including anything excessive. The pot’s folding handle is both built durably and also secures the mess kit together when fully collapsed.

    The included stuff sack also doubles as a wash basin — it’s a mindfully designed kit overall that covers all the bases. GSI Outdoors has also included a nice quality spork with this set so all you really need in order to attain ALL the camp kitchen accessories is a camping or hiking knife.

    A small fuel canister can fit inside this kit when fully nested which is always appreciated. Some camping reviews also insist a pocket rocket stove can fit within this set as well — but it depends on the size of the unit you’re using. If you have a separate place to stash your fuel, you can fit some additional camp cutlery or perhaps a compact fire-making kit within the Pinnacle set.

    For the serious solo backpacker who has a passion for top notch gear, the Pinnacle cook set is no doubt worth checking out.

  2. 2. Best Packable Stanley Mess Kit: Stanley Mountain Compact Cook Set

    • Vented nylon lid acts as a strainer and can also be used a sip lid
    • 18/8 stainless steel is BPA free, fire safe and super durable
    • Mug/bowl has volumetric markings for precise measurements
    • Can fit a standard fuel canister or ultralight camp stove into this unit when collapsed enhancing it’s packability stats!
    • Very reasonably priced for the quality of all the included pieces
    • Pretty minimalist kit - everything you NEED is here but if you prefer to have a bit more of a camp kitchen then consider purchasing an additional camp kitchen set
    • Some complaints about the integrity of the plastic lid around high heat
    • Not great for group use

    Stanley is a classic go to outfitter for quality camping gear. This cook set is a solid choice for a lot of camping/backing scenarios, and it comes at a very reasonable price. The Stanley Mountain Compact Cook Set is ideal for minimalist camp cooks who don’t require much to make a meal.

    The 24 ounce, 18/8 stainless steel pot is perfect for heating canned foods or for dicing up and sauteing veggies. It’s BPA free and resistant to rust and heavy wear and tear, so you’ll own this one for years and years of camping.

    You really don’t need much more than this — it’s a great sized unit for solo meals or for boiling water for two. The melt-resistant, nylon lid is vented and operates as a strainer for the pot so you can even cook portions of pasta with ease. You can also drink through the lid when using the mug/bowl in order to keep beverages hotter longer as well as keep insects out.

    The included mug/bowl nests into the pot and has volumetric markings so you can make precise measurements when necessary. There’s a folding spork included with this set so you’re covered on cutlery as well. Don’t forget to check out this righteous 24 piece kitchen set from GSI Outdoors if you want to add some additional cutlery and kitchen essentials to your backpacking gear — it’s an awesome purchase that includes everything you might want to enhance your camp kitchen.

    The Stanley Mountain Compact Cook Set can even fit an ultralight stove, standard sized fuel canister or can of food when packed down which saves you some much needed space. It’s a simple, yet all inclusive mess kit that you’ll learn to make due with — definitely an awesome buy from Stanley you’ll own for years of regular camping and back country use.

  3. 3. Best Packable Cook Set for Car Camping: GSI Outdoors – Bugaboo Base Camper Mess Kit

    • Comes in three different sizes so you can choose the set that’s just right for your needs
    • Strainer lids are a simple but awesome feature for all sorts of cooking applications
    • Teflon coated pots and frying pan heat and cook evenly and scrub clean with ease
    • Collapsible handle design is unique and effectively reduces this kit’s bulk
    • Don’t over expose the lid to high heat - there’s customer complaints about the material melting
    • Definitely not one of the most lightweight options listed here for use backpacking, but still highly compact and packable
    • A bit on the expensive end - but you’re paying for top notch quality with this one

    Here’s a top notch camping or light backpacking cook set from GSI Outdoors. This outfitter is renowned for crafting some seriously well designed mess kits — their gear is certainly a bit expensive but if you’re a serious outdoorsmen this brand is one of the best options in camp cooking on the market.

    The Bugaboo Base Camper is not meant for more intensive backpacking treks — this is a fairly heavy cook set compared to a lot of other options on the market. This set is however impressively compact and collapses quite nicely. For RV use or for car camping, this is an excellent choice you’ll learn to love to cook with.

    Don’t rule it out as a backpacking set if you’re a strong hiker or if your hiking backpack is otherwise fairly lightweight — it’s more heavy than it is cumbersome. If you’re hiking with a lightweight sleeping bag, backpacking sleeping pad and highly packable rain jacket to name a few crucial items, then your backpack might have plenty of space/weight capacity for this unit.

    The cool thing about the Bugaboo Base Camper set is that it’s offered in three different sizes. The small weighs two pounds seven ounces, the medium weighs two pounds ten ounces and the large set weighs in at three pounds four ounces. The large set is recommended for family use while the small set is ideal for the solo camper.

    All three sets include two pots, two nylon strainer lids, a frying pan, cutting board and a stuff sack. There’s also a highly reviewed folding pot handle included that secures to the exterior brackets of the cooking ware.

    There’s no cutlery included here, so you might want to consider purchasing GSI’s lightweight and highly packable 24 piece destination kitchen set for a truly complete camp kitchen. The pots and pan are coated in Teflon Classic to be exceptionally non-stick and easily cleanable. A lot of cuisine fanatics prefer not to cook on Teflon, but this set is designed for hassle free cooking — eggs are no problem to clean up with this set which is always appreciated.

    This unit is very highly reviewed for heating and cooking evenly — you get what you pay for with this one. A quality mess kit for the serious camp cook, the Bugaboo Base Camper set is the real deal.

  4. 4. Best Inclusive Cook Set for Backpacking Pairs: GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Backpacker, Nesting Cook Set

    • Awesome array of cooking ware for preparing some pretty involved meals while in the backcountry
    • Excellent, highly inclusive design for backpacking pairs that doesn’t exceed and unreasonable weight or packable size
    • Even when fully nested there’s space to stash a micro fuel canister or ultralight stove
    • Three layered coating on the cooking ware makes this unit exceptionally durable — this is one tough mess kit
    • There’s no cutlery included - check out GSI Outdoor’s Kitchen Set to fill in the blanks of your camp kitchen
    • There’s more here than you NEED for a back country mess kit - but it’s a matter of preference
    • Fairly expensive option

    Here’s a killer mess kit for backpacking or camping pairs that has everything you need and more without exceeding an unreasonable size or weight. The Pinnacle Backpacker Cook Set is an awesome option for solo or two person use that allows you to cook with some creative freedom without crossing the cumbersome, “not-so-packable” threshold.

    GSI Outdoors describes this set as being fully equipped for two “gourmet backpackers”. There’s definitely more compact, lighter mess kits available that have everything you need, (see #6 on this list) but this set is certainly more pleasurable and easier to cook with than most highly packable units. It’s always nice to have a little extra pan space and pot volume if your backpack allows for it — this is one of the best designed units for achieving exactly that!

    This set includes a non-stick Teflon coated two liter pot with a nylon strainer lid, an eight inch pan, two insulated mugs, two bowls, two sip through lids and a collapsible pot handle. Everything nests beautifully into the waterproof, welded stuff sack which also doubles as a sink for washing everything after meals.

    It’s a pretty dam ingenious design — but that’s to be expected from GSI Outdoors. There’s even space to store an ultralight camp stove or eight ounce fuel canister within this unit when packed up because the cups/mugs only occupy about half the pot volume — sweet!

    Both the bowls and mugs are 14 ounces and are both compatible with the included lids so if you want to trim a little weight you can leave one of the sets behind. The coating on the pot and pan is three-layered and designed to provide even heat distribution. It both minimizes hot spots while cooking and also adds some serious durability to the cook set overall — this unit can take a serious beating.

    Another gem of a camping companion From GSI Outdoors.

  5. 5. Best Minimalist Mess Kit for Backpacking Pairs: GSI Outdoors Halulite Microdualist Camp Cook Set

    • At just 5.6 by 5.5 by 5.9 inches and only 1 pound, this is a highly portable unit that won’t break the back or pack
    • Halulite is an excellent conductor of heat that even out performs titanium — this set will save you some fuel further reducing your pack weight
    • The two sip through lids fit both the mugs and bowls
    • 1.4 liter pot is the perfect size for backpacking pairs
    • Not recommended for cooking over an open flame
    • A bit on the expensive end of packable mess kits, but you still get more than you pay for with this one
    • Will struggle to use this kit efficiently with more than two campers

    Here’s another top quality mess kit from GSI Outdoors you’ll definitely want to consider. The Halulite Microdualist Camp Cook Set is an all inclusive, yet highly compact and lightweight (one pound) unit that performs with flying colors in the field. This set is also designed for backpacking pairs like the Pinnacle Backpacker set but is a bit more minimalist and significantly more lightweight.

    You and your hiking buddy or significant other can pack just one mess kit between the two of you at almost half the weight of the Pinnacle Backpacker Set. If you’re embarking on some serious treks where pack space and weight is absolutely crucial, this is the set you should be considering from GSI Outdoors.

    The 1.4 liter pot is an ideal size for shared meals — not too big not too small. There’s two 14 ounce bowls and two 14 ounce insulated mugs as well as two sip through lids that fit both units. The pot lid is perforated in order to act as a strainer which definitely adds some versatility to what you can effectively cook with this set.

    The handle is built solid and collapses on top of the pot when everything is fully nested to keep this kit snug and secured. There’s also two sporks included rather than one like some other “two person” mess kits so you and your pal can enjoy your meal at the same time.

    I think this cook set is a really nice balance between minimalist and fully inclusive — everything you NEED is here with just a few added items rather than including an excessive array of utensils and cooking ware. With a bit of practice and forethought you’ll learn to cook some pretty righteous meals with what this set has to offer.

    The material employed in the design of the pot is Halulite — it’s an alloy from GSI Outdoors that conducts heat more effectively and evenly than even titanium! This means you can save on fuel, further reducing your pack weight if backpacking. It’s the superior material and mindful, compact design that you’re paying for with this one. Another excellent choice from GSI Outdoors perfect for camping pairs

  6. 6. Best Budget All Inclusive Mess Kit: Mallome 10 Piece Camping Cookware Mess Kit

    • Highly affordable, budget option
    • Heats fast and evenly for fuel conservation and easily cleanable
    • Highly collapsible and lightweight at just 14 ounces - solid choice for backpacking use
    • Black on green color scheme makes for a badass looking mess kit
    • You may require some additional camp cutlery and kitchen items to have a fully inclusive kitchen
    • Long term durability of this kit doesn't compare to higher end brands
    • Not great for larger group use

    This kit by MallowMe is well reviewed and praised by camp cooks and hikers alike. For around $20, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better value set. Made of anodized aluminum, this mess kit conducts heat quickly and washes clean with ease. It’s an ideal size for the solo backpacker or camper, but could still no doubt operate well for camping pairs.

    The pieces included are a one liter nonstick pot and cover, a nonstick pan, two BPA free bowls and a BPA free soup spoon, a folding stainless steel spork, a wooden spoon spatula, and a cleaning sponge. Everything’s there! There’s also a nylon travel drawstring pouch included for transport.

    At less than one pound, this is a highly inclusive set for the weight! Customer reviews insist all the pieces to this kit other than the cleaning sponge are of great quality (some users did favorably review the loofa) — and that’s easily replaced!

    The BPA free bowls are a great portion size for camp meals and the included soup spoon and spork are up to par with what’s included with a lot of far more expensive mess kits. The pot and pan handles are built sturdy (don’t overlook this detail — it’s important!) and the set overall is pretty dam tough — you should own this one for years of camping if you’re not too hard on it.

    What I like most about this kit is it provides you with everything you need and more — if you’re even more minimalist than this simply pull the items out you don’t have a need for! On a final and less practical note, this mess kit has a real badass look to it with the green on black color scheme.

    It’s an impressively collapsible, easily washable and exceptionally lightweight mess kit that comes at a more than reasonable price. Certainly not the most advanced option on the market, but this is an excellent set at an excellent price — MallowMe is absolutely one of the go-to’s for this style mess kit.

    If you prefer to cook on stainless steel than check out this equally inclusive and comparably priced mess kit from iGopeaks — it’s another great value set.

  7. 7. Best SUPER Budget Mess Kit: Wenzel Deluxe Mess Kit

    • Super affordable
    • Includes everything you need to cook camp meals, just be careful handling and storing this set because it’s not terribly durable
    • Great mess kit for kids!
    • Very lightweight at just 10 ounces! and nests together super tight
    • Free shipping on orders over $25 — purchase a few sets for the kids or friends and save a bit of cash!
    • Aluminum is thin and susceptible to denting and burning — be careful with this set
    • Plastic lid handle on the pot can melt if you’re not mindful while cooking
    • No camp cutlery included — you’ll need to purchase a set to be truly ready for dinner

    Here’s a super budget mess kit from Wenzel that will still get the job done. If you’re a serious camp cook, then definitely stay away from this set, but if you need something for a weekend of camping or a music festival that won’t see a ton of use this is a fine option.

    This set is made from thin aluminum and will dent fairly easily so it’s not going to hold up through the heavy abuse that camping/backpacking usually entails. That being said, it’s quite light weight at about 10 ounces and includes everything you need to cook plenty of different camp meals. This could be perfect as a back-up unit to have in your vehicle, for last minute camp outs or as an introduction to camp cooking for kids.

    There’s an aluminum frying pan (about five inches in diameter), a plate with a raised rim (about six inches in diameter) and a slightly smaller pot. This unit is best used on a camp stove rather than on an open flame, but it’s fine for warming canned foods and soups close to the fire when there’s no camp stove available.

    There’s a detachable handle that’s fairly sturdy considering the laughable cost of this set that also secures the set together before storing it in the included vinyl carry case. The included plastic cup/mug is eight ounces — fine for a cup of morning coffee or a bed time cup of tea.

    There’s no cutlery included here so you’ll need to purchase some camping utensils in order to be ready to rock. Check out this budget set of utensils if you really want to keep your camping cook set at a minimal cost.

  8. 8. Best Value Budget Mess Kit: Coleman 5 Piece Aluminum Mess Kit

    • Highly packable at just 8 by 3 inches collapsed and only 10 ounces
    • Super affordable yet effective mess kit option that will get the job done
    • Can cook over open flame or on coals if you don’t mind discoloring this set
    • Heats and cools quickly
    • Food has a tendency to stick to this cooking ware, keep a close eye on your meals
    • There are health risks associated with cooking with aluminum
    • This set is built somewhat durably, but it will likely get pretty dinged up if you’re hard on your gear
    • Eight ounce cup is poorly insulated, consider replacing it with a better quality camp mug

    Here’s a trusty mess kit from classic camping outfitter, Coleman. This simple, no frills five piece aluminum mess kit will perform just fine for you in most camp cooking scenarios. This set is best for solo use — it includes an eight ounce cup, seven inch diameter frying pan, a six and a half inch diameter dish pan and a 16 ounce pot with a lid.

    The whole set nests together nicely and is only about as large as the seven inch frying pan. The packed dimensions are eight inches wide and three inches tall and all the items only weight about 10 ounces.

    I would recommend ditching the eight ounce cup for something a bit more insulated and durable if you’re a serious camper, the rest of the set however is pretty decent. Check out our list of best camping mugs for some ideas on what to to trade out this camp cup with.

    For the price, this unit is tough to beat. It heats and cools quickly, can be used to cook over an open fire and won’t weigh you down — I’d say it’s pretty dam versatile for the cost. For simple camp meals like canned food and bacon and eggs you really don’t need anything more. It’s awesome to own a top notch mess kit, and you can certainly tell the difference in quality through your cooking experience, but if you’re strapped for cash this is a set worth buying that will get you by.

    There’s some customer complaints mentioning this set can be difficult to clean, so keep a close eye on your food while cooking. Coleman has made a standard mess kit at a great price that will suit most of your camping or backpacking needs just fine — definitely a solid buy!

  9. 9. Best Wood Fire Capable Mess Kit: Solo Stove 3 Pot Set

    • Compatible with Solo Stove’s wood burning stoves, and great for cooking over an open fire
    • Light weight (23 ounces) for the amount of pot volume you get with this set and all the pieces nest together nicely (4.2 inches by 7.7 inches)
    • Camp Cooks rave about the cooking quality of the 304 stainless steel used to craft this set
    • Pick the pot or pots you need if you want to trim some weight and use this set for backpacking
    • No camp cutlery or camp mugs included - you’ll have to make some additional purchases to have a fully equipped kitchen
    • Although this is a relatively lightweight set - there’s definitely lighter options for backpacking use
    • Packs fairly cumbersome

    Here’s a simple, but high quality stainless steel pot set from Solo Stove that could be perfect for your compact, camp kitchen needs. This a three pot set with a lid/plate, so there’s no camp mugs or cutlery included with this purchase.

    We’ve included it here because of this set’s superior cooking ability — the food grade 304 stainless steel used to craft these pots is beloved by camp cooks for its heat transmission, durability, easy clean up and light weight.

    This set will work great on a camp stove or over an open fire — Solo Stove recommends pairing this set with any of their wood burning stove kits for optimum performance, but any old fire will do if you rather save the pack weight and just utilize what mother nature has to offer! Great for making large, multi ingredient meals when you want to really do it up, Solo Stove allows you to make some serious camp cuisine with this set!

    There’s a two liter, one and a half liter and one and one quarter liter pot included in this set that all nest together nicely. It’s a great array of pots for cooking larger camp meals for bigger groups, but if you’re a solo backpacker or camping as a pair then you might only require one or two of the pots and save on weight.

    All three units and the lid/plate add up to 23 ounces, so it’s not a terribly heavy set even if you choose to take all three pots. There’s also an aluminum pot gripper included with the set for effectively handling the cooking ware when cooking.

    Everything collapses into the included nylon stuff sack with ease so you’re ready to hit the trail! A high quality camp cook set at a more than reasonable price that packs great and cooks better — definitely a solid buy from Solo Stove!

  10. 10. Best Titanium Cook Set for Use as a Double Boiler: ProHealth Titanium Lightweight 3-Piece Pot and Pan Mess Kit

    • Impressively packable at just five inches high and five inches in diameter when nested together
    • Titanium cooking ware heats evenly and is super lightweight (whole set is under 10 ounces)
    • Can be employed as a double boiler!
    • Non allergenic
    • Despite its light weight, this set is tough as nails due to its titanium construction
    • This set will require a camp cutlery and accessory set to operate as a full mess kit
    • High price to pay for a three piece set without any cutlery - but the quality is certainly there.
    • A bit bulky

    This pot and pan set by ProHealth is a great addition to any camp kitchen. The titanium construction of this set makes it super lightweight (just under ten ounces) without sacrificing durability. In fact, most customers review’s of this set rave about how it weighs next to nothing.

    There’s no cutlery or any other kitchen accessories included, so consider pairing this set with a portable camp kitchen set. All the pieces are tasteless, odorless, and won’t corrode or rust — this three piece unit will be around for years of camping and hiking.

    They are also completely non-allergenic for those campers or backpackers who keep an eye out for that. The lid-pan and pots can be nestled together to form a double boiler or can be used separately — this is a versatile cook set for the ambitious or creative camp chef.

    The whole set nests together quite nicely when it’s time pack up and it also comes with a mesh carrying pouch included. When collapsed, this set is just over five inches tall and five inches in diameter — impressive considering the largest pot is 1.2 liters! All three pieces may at first seem to be a bit excessive for the solo backpacker, but upon further consideration this set is A-ok to hit the trail.

    It’s a really well rounded cook set in the sense that it’s both highly portable and will also make an for an excellent addition to a more stationary camp kitchen. This cookware set is also dishwater safe, so you may even consider using it in the home given the quality of the materials used.

    Exceptionally lightweight, durable as can be, non-allergenic and impressively compact, this is an excellent camp cooking option once you pair it with some cutlery and additional accessories.

See Also:

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