I’m a simple guy. I love bacon, football, and camping. A Saturday afternoon in the fall is perfect for me if I’m in the woods, have a football game going, and I’m having breakfast food in the afternoon. To do that, I need to get away from work, have a laptop with WiFi, a trick to bring eggs, and a camping mess kit.
It’s actually more difficult to bring and make food when you are out camping. When I’m in the woods, I prefer meats like bacon, hot dogs, and hearty stew. But, these are often difficult to bring with you without a cooler and even harder to make.
But what about a cast-iron skillet?
Well, they’re absolutely great for cooking while camping. So great, in fact, that I wrote a whole thing about how I clean my skillet.
BUT: skillets have a huge limitation, which is the weight. If you’ve ever picked one up before, you know that they are exceptionally heavy. I would NEVER bring skillet with me camping unless I could drive my car right up to the campsite and could carry the skillet 10 feet from the car to the campfire and then back.
You don’t want to carry a skillet with you for the weekend. If you do, then you’ll have a miserable time. With a skillet, plus all of your other gear, you’ll have an unnecessarily heavy pack to carry.
So, you need something to cook food with but can’t be that heavy. Enter: the camping mess kit.
The camping mess kits are very easy to carry around and do not take much effort to pack. Moreover, selecting the best camping kit will give you an experience that no other bulky pots or utensils can give.
So, here are the 5 best camping mess kits for you to check out and make a decision.
For this post, I’ll highlight:
- A buying guide of what you should be thinking about when looking at a mess kit
- The five best options in 2020
- A FAQ section on key questions you might have regarding mess kits while camping
So, let’s get started!
Camping Mess Kit Buying Guide
When you buy a mess kit, there are a couple of things that are worth thinking about before you buy it. This list covers what I think is most important before you invest in your own mess kit.
- The number of servings: A mess kit should be big enough to cook enough food for you and whoever you are with, if you aren’t alone, while you are camping. Some kits are small and are meant for only one person. Some kits are much larger and are meant for 4+. If you are buying a camping kit, then make sure it is at least the appropriate size for the number of people you’ll have when camping.
- Lockable storage: Always buy a camping mess kit that has a lockable lid or closing system. When you are camping, it’s often impossible to perfectly clean your pots and pans. For that reason, you will likely have small amounts of food scraps in there. You don’t want day-old chili sliding out of your mess kit into your bag or onto yourself. Make sure the thing can lock!
- Resistant to dents/bumps: Mess kits, due to their overall size, tend to get banged around a lot. Most mess kits will get at least one hard knock each week. For that reason, you want something quality that isn’t going to fall apart when it gets hit for the first time.
- Portability: If you’re carrying it around, then make sure it is designed to be portable. Since mess kits tend to come with a lot of parts, you should look for a kit that can fold into itself, where all the materials can be contained within the biggest piece, which is typically a pot.
- Weight: As always at Explore Camping Life, I care about weight. I already said you should get a mess kit instead of cast iron skillet if your car isn’t right next to you so you don’t have to deal with the weight. But, that doesn’t mean you should skip prioritizing weight. Always look to get the lightest possible mess kit you can!
So those are some of the key features of the mess kits you should think about. Now, here are some of the five options you should think about!
Best Camping Mess Kits 2020
My Overall Favorite Mess Kit: REDCAMP Camping Cookware
This amazing camping cookware mess kit by REDCAMP weighs only a half-pound but contains three different cooking pots and pans. This is extremely light, you won’t even realize you are carrying something in your backpack. Moreover, you don’t have to remove other items from your bag because it is small in size and can fit without discomfort.
Backpacking Cooking Set for 2-3 Persons, Anodized Aluminum, Compact Lightweight Camping Pots and Pans Set
The anodized aluminum coating on the pot and the frying pan will not take you much effort to clean the stuff. Best suited to hikers, trekkers, and campers, it includes 1 frying pan, 1 medium-sized anodized aluminum pot, plus 2 bowls, plus 1 survival bracelet, 1 tool card, 1 Loofah sponge, 1 stainless steel folding spoon, 1 Mesh bag.
I don’t know how much I cared about the survival bracelet or tool card, but I’m not above taking the extra stuff!
It is a budget-friendly cooking mess kit that can take care of almost every essential cooking items when you are out in the wild. Four people can easily manage with this kit. REDCAMP 9 piece camping mess kit comes with an oxford bag to store and carry your kit or you can just hang it in your backpack or put it in your bag.
An important caveat- you will have to wash this kit with your hands and avoid the dishwasher when you are back home so that your kit can have a long-lasting life.
- Extremely lightweight
- Easy to fit, pack and carry
- Very easy to clean
- Value for money
- The no dishwasher thing is annoying when I get home
Most Portable Camping Mess Kit: MalloMe Cookware
Second, on the list, I have the KitMalloMe offering you a built-to-last camping cookware mess kit. MalloMe is a great brand (I love the MalloMe sleeping bag) so it’s no wonder their mess kit is pretty high quality as well. While it’s a great kit, what really makes it unique is the extreme portability the kit has.
Backpacking Gear & Hiking Outdoors Bug Out Bag Cooking Equipment 10 Piece Cookset | Lightweight, Compact, & Durable Pot Pan Bowls - Free Folding Spork, Nylon Bag
It comes with 10 pieces, which can be collapsed on one another to make it easy to pack and carry around. All the materials are built with non-toxic anodized aluminum which easily conducts heat and cooks your food in no time. This camping gear is approved by FDA as the Highest Quality- so you don’t have to worry about it contaminating your food with any chemicals. I have no data to back this up, but my guess is that also lends itself well to its durability, meaning it can easily last for years.
You get, an aluminum nonstick pot with a 1-liter capacity, pot cover, nonstick pan, 2 bowls, folding stainless steel spork, 1 soup spoon, 1 wooden spatula, 1 cleaning sponge, 1 Nylon Travel Bag, Marshmallow Roasting making guide with 10 recipes free EBook. I don’t know if you need the ebook, but I guess it’s nice to have!
- Highly durable
- Easy to clean
- Good for traveling
- Pricey for some campers
Best Ready-Made Mess Kit: Light My Fire
BIO Camping Mess Kit with Cup, Bowl, Plate, Spork and Storage Containers, Hazyblue
This 8 piece designer mess kit by Light My Fire is for stowing and serving food on the go. That makes it a great fit for ready-made meals or instant meals. Since it’s high-quality BPA, you can easily heat up water in a kettle and then pour that into Oatmeal or Instant Noodles, then eat that. Oatmeal is one of these Light My Fire’s is extremely popular at one place I go camping.
The kit comes in 4 colors and all of them give a modern classy feel and look. This Compact sized kit holds 1 lid + 1 bowl/plate + 1 Snap Box oval + 1 Snap Box original + 1 Pack-up-Cup +1 Spork + 1 Harness and 1 cutting board. The Snap Boxes have tight-fitting and are waterproof, Pack-up-Cup can expand in order to drink and collapses to carry around.
The Spork original won’t scratch the cookware and the cutting board that is included in the kit can also be used as a strainer. The whole pack is very handy for people who love backyard adventures or are wood survivalists. Take it out for camping, trekking, hiking, or any other outdoor adventure, it won’t fail you!
It is also BPA-free. The high temperature will not affect the kit (obviously, due to the oatmeal) so it is safe to clean in the dishwasher when you are back home. You can also use it for microwave purposes.
- Easy to clean
- Safe in microwave and dishwasher
- The strainer board it comes with (I believe for pasta??) is pretty useless
Highest Quality Mess Kit: MSR Quick 2 System Cook Set
If you are a quality person and want the best money can buy, then may I present the top-rated Quick 2 System Cook Set by MSR?
This set weighs in at about 1 pound in weight and comes in a compact size suitable for backcountry trips. It is a two-person backpacking mess kit that includes one anodized aluminum 1.5-liter capacity pot, one 2.5L anodized aluminum pot, one strainer lid, two deep dish plates, two insulated mugs, and one-pot handle.
It’s perfect for couples who are camping together. My fiancee and I like this one since we can cook out of it, collapse it down, and then leave out the coffee mugs for the morning.
This camping mess kit offers a small non-stick pot for simmers and sauces, while a large uncoated non-stick pot can be used for boiling water and meal prep. Mugs (12.5 ounces) are insulated with sip-thru lids. All the components of the Quick 2 System Cook Set are easy to pack and carry.
- Nest perfect
- Convenient for 2 travelers
- Includes many features
- Lifetime Warranty
Most Popular Mess Kit: Camping Cookware by Terra Hiker
Nonstick, Lightweight Pots, Pans with Mesh Set Bag for Backpacking, Hiking, Picnic
It’s one of the most popular pieces of camping gear on the market. If you go to any campground, you’ll find this mess kit all over the place. It’s somewhat like the Toyota Camry, you see them everywhere no matter where you go.
For that reason, you can never go wrong with Terra Hiker’s Camping cookware mess kit, it is functional, versatile and above all, it fulfills all the necessary cooking which is required by campers and hikers. With 1.8 pounds in weight, this has a pot that can boil 400 ml of water in just 2-3 minutes.
This is very convenient if you want it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. It has got your back.
With non-stick pans you can cook without any discomfort and moreover cleaning will be effortless. It is made with non-toxic aluminum. Serving ladle and bowls are made of PP plastic (Food safe, approved by FDA)
Along with that, you get a heat-resistant handle to avoid getting any heat sensation on your hands, plus the grip on the handle is anti-slip designed meaning you will have a firm and comfortable hold.
The only reason it’s not higher is that I don’t think this kit is great at anything. It’s kinda a good-at-everything, not great at anything kind of product.
- Suitable for traveling
- Study built
- Very easy to clean
- Firm grip on materials
- Questionable quality – (Non-stick pans)
Mess Kits for Camping FAQ’s
The ever-popular FAQ’s!
I typically include an FAQ section in these reviews to handle any frequent questions or comments I get. However, I can’t say I’ve ever really had any questions about these mess kits!
Which, I totally get. They’re pretty self-explanatory products and easy to use once you have got them set up. The biggest question is how to wash them when you aren’t using them, but most campsites these days have running water that allows for dishwashing.
And, of course, when you are home, you can throw most of these into the dishwasher to get completely clean.