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Best Cookware for Camping (Car camping, not back-country)?

So much of the joy and agony of camping is about cooking, cleaning up and lugging stuff around. My camping kitchen is stocked with random odds and ends--mostly kitchen cast-offs. I'm thinking I'd like to chuck all of that and get some light, compact, new high-performing stuff. We usually cook for 2-3 people. So, I was looking at these things:

BASIC COOKWARE:
Snow Peak Titanium Multi Compact Cookset
http://www.rei.com/product/668927

At $75, why is it so much cheaper than REI's own version (that's $110)?

REI Ti Ware Nonstick Titanium Cookset
http://www.rei.com/product/764178

Do I need something as extensive as this 50-piece cookware set or is that just overkill? Am I better off just getting one of the basics ones above and supplement with the few items I need?
Open Country Deluxe 50-Piece Camp Set with Organizer Bag
http://www.rei.com/product/686896

COOKING UTENSILS:
I liked this MSR Alpine Kitchen Set where the handles of all the spatulas etc fold over.
http://www.rei.com/product/627609

And there's this one where the handles are telescoping
GSI Deluxe11- Piece Kitchen Set
http://www.rei.com/product/739923

Finally, DISHES:
I liked this Orikaso dinner set (lightweight, folds flat).
http://www.rei.com/product/736993

But, this Light My Fire set looked neat, too, and like it would be fun for hiking/picnicking:
http://www.rei.com/product/737337

Would love your opinions on these things and any other suggestions you have for cooking paraphenalia you love for camping...(for instance, I love my soccer ball ice cream maker and marshmallow sticks with the telescoping handles...oh, also, my half-dozen egg holder...).

I'd kind of like the stuff I buy now to last me for the rest of my camping life.

Thank you!

~TDQ

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  1. What kind of stove do you use? For car camping--where weight is not an issue--I would probably go to Target or Wal-Mart and get some inexpensive stainless steel pots and pans and some plastic plates and utensils. Its easy to get REI fever.

    11 Replies
    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

      We use a Coleman camping stove.

      Your Target/Wal-Mart suggestion isn't a bad one... But, (and I hate to say it, )but even though we're car camping, I'm still looking for cookware that is lightweight and compact. I find every time we go camping, we seem to bring more and more junk along (I think it's a matter of, as we age, there are more and more things we need for our "comfort")...and it's getting hard to get it to fit all the junk in our vehicle. So, for that reason and reasons of off-season storage, I'd like it to be compact. Plus, we would like it to be lightweight to make it easier to lug around--to our campsite, etc. We car camp, but often we try to get campsites that are father from the parking area--1/4 mile, 1/2 mile in, that sort of thing.

      Also, we hike and cycle a lot on "day trips" and it's nice to be able to have some compact, light-weight pieces to toss in your daypack...

      ~TDQ

      1. re: The Dairy Queen

        Along with what paulj said, cooking on backpacking gear is not a lot of fun. Light pots (that dent) and pans that don't transmit heat all that well, are often a bit difficult to handle...

        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

          Ugh--I hadn't thought about the lighter-weight ones not transmitting heating well. I don't care about the denting--you should see the ones I'm already using!

          ~TDQ

          1. re: The Dairy Queen

            The problem with thin pans is that they develop hot spots. Where the flame hits it gets hot, but the heat doesn't transfer laterally. So you get uneven cooking unless you keep stirring.

            paulj

            1. re: paulj

              Yes, that makes complete sense. I supposed I was imagining that the titanium had some wonderful heat smoothing properties. Do you think the Cuisinart "Stowaway" pans I link below would be a better compromise? http://www.chowhound.com/topics/49759... Or, is my rag tag cast-off collection still better.

              I was thinking a new set of cookware would be a good gift for a camping-loving family member...which is why I keep coming back to this...

              ~tdq

              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                I don't know anything about the Cuisinart set, except for this post:
                http://www.elementownersclub.com/foru...

                here's another camp cookware thread
                http://expeditionportal.com/forum/sho...

                1. re: paulj

                  Thank you, paulj. Very helpful. Maybe the GSI hard-anodized pans are a good compromise, as you suggest. I have to look into these lexan products--until this thread today, lexan wasn't on my radar much at all, except for water bottles. But, people seem excited about it!

                  ~TDQ

      2. re: Sam Fujisaka

        Ditto what Sam said. The only real camping splurges I would make is a dutch oven and the Colemen Campfire Drip Coffee Pot. It is a drip coffee maker that fits on a campstove burner so you can get drip coffee. You could also opt for a lexan or stainless steel french press.

        We use a lot of cast offs when we go camping. The only other special items we purchase are the lexan coffee cups and wine glasses. They are compact, easy to clean, and retain heat better than metal camping cups.

        1. re: adventuresinbaking

          I'd don't have any titanium pots, but have looked at them in stores, and read discussions on a lightweight backpacking forum. To save weight and material costs, they use the thinnest titanium possible. This means it can dent, and does not spread heat well. So it is good from boiling water, but poor for frying. But if weight is important at your walk in campsites, this type may be worth it.

          I use a Trangia alcohol stove. Given its windscreen design I can only use the pots that came with it, plus a few others that just happen to fit.

          One pan that does work with it is a GSI anodized/non-stick wok. With smooth sides, and a nonstick interior, it is great for any cooking that might stick, such as eggs and grits.

          In general I think GSI's hard-anodized pans are a good choice, balancing price, quality and durability. I also have a number of GSI plastic items:
          - lexan spoons etc
          - lexan coffee grinder
          - cheapest plastic bowls and cups
          - pepper grinder
          - mini spatula (which is a copy of a German design from the 1970s)
          - hard anodized aluminum dutch oven

          I considered getting the GSI pressure cooked, but got the smaller Hawkins one (1.5 l), which fits my stove nicely. It's been useful at home, but I haven't used it on a camping trip yet.

          I have a Orikaso set - it's worth buying on sale. I use it more for lunches than for regular camp meals.

          If you like silicone bake ware, REI sells silicone bowls - Goyot quishy bowl and cup set.

          paulj

          1. re: adventuresinbaking

            I like the idea of a Dutch oven--but, golly, that's going the wrong direction in terms of weight! Ha!

            Thank you all for opening my eyes to the disadvantages of cookware designed to be ultra lightweight for backpacking--while I'd like more compact cookware than the rag tag collection I have now, and I wish it were lighter weight in general, I don't need it to be "backpacking" light.

            Is there compact, nesting cookware that's geared more towards car camping than backpacking? Is that what GSI is?

            This cuisinart "stowaway" set looks pretty cool. I just like the fact that it's all nesting. It's not especially light-weight, though. Would this be a decent compromise option? http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/...

            ~TDQ

            1. re: The Dairy Queen

              Wow! That stuff looks good. I'd still go check out Target or where ever similar to make a quick comparison first. That set does look good, though.

        2. Two great pans for one pot camping cooking are an old beaten up teflon coated pan and a cheap wok. Every couple years I "retire" my large teflon pans once the non-stick surface gets beaten up. These are great for camping as they are usually aluminum and typically pretty large. I also keep a cheap old well seasoned wok. This is subject to hot spots, but if you are stir-frying the food it should be moving around pretty quickly anyway. It can also be used to fry for doing a shore lunch. These would not work for ultralight camping stove, but for bigger Coleman stoves or fire grates they work great. Thay are also both easy to clean up. Nothing is a bigger pain in the but than having to scrub camping pots wihtout spilling the detrius all over your campsite while using a flashlight.

          Also a set of nesting pots for boiling water, making soup, oatmeal etc. is critical and can be the thin camping type since I usually use these for liquids.

          1. I liked the Light my fire kit.....cool and not too pricey.

            I agree with the first reply....... much better to just save money and go buy what you need on the cheap from a shop, at the end of the day unless their self cleaning (wishful thinking), you still have to wash up. Their going to be stored in a car so as long as they ain't massive and dont weigh a ton you can make do with cheaper ones.

            Having said that, the REI kit does look pretty funky.. if you have money to burn, then buy the 'gucci' kit.

            4 Replies
            1. re: Anthony D

              Among backpackers seeking light but cheap gear, a 'grease pot' from Wally-world has been a favorite. This is a aluminum can with strainer, intended to store bacon drippings. Remove the strainer and you have a lightweight pot just big enough to boil water to rehydrate a freeze dried meal for one. Combine that with a homemade alcohol stove (made from a pop can), and you have a cheap mess kit that is as light as the most expensive titanium set.

              paulj

              1. re: paulj

                Oooooh thats a funky idea.....

                A favourite of mine is to make your food, then wrap it in tin foil (make it as water tight as poss) and then put it in a heavy duty food bvag.... then you can drop it in the boiling water in your mess tin, heat your food up and make a cup of tea from the water..... voila.

                1. re: Anthony D

                  If you are car camping, you shouldn't care about weight all that much, but if you are hiking 1/2 or more, that changes things a LOT. Its a big decision, impacting cost and what you can get away with cooking.

                  For base camping, get a good Lodge dutch oven - if your campsite allows open flames, just make a bed of coals, place the oven over them, lay more on the top over the oven, and cook away. I'd also invest in a nice Lodge cast iron griddle. Its amazing what you can do with those two - the Dutch oven covers a main course at dinner, the griddle most of breakfast.

                  If you are using pans on a open flame, a nice trick is to "soap" the bottom of them - makes getting the black crap off the bottom a whole lot easier.

                  Cooking in tin foil (make sure you avoid acidic things, of course), has some of the benefits of "en papillote" recipes if you are using a campfire and coals. As a scout, we had many a meal cooked wrapped in foil sitting in the coals.

                  1. re: grant.cook

                    Also just from a purely aesthetic viewpoint -- there is almost nothing more beautiful than bacon and a couple of eggs cooking in a cast iron frying pan over a campfire..