Our Guide to Cookware

Regular pot

Our mission is to get people outdoors. Since most people aren't enthusiasts who venture outside regularly, you can buy or rent cookware. Specifically, about our cookware rentals:

  • We rent cookware that are higher end than those rented elsewhere, but still offer competitive pricing
  • We offer a rent-to-buy program so you don't have to worry about losing money from renting
  • Our self-service allows you to hire cookware whenever is convenient for you

Core function: Cookware fundamentally depends on how you're cooking. We recommend reviewing our companion guide on stoves, or thinking through how you will want to prepare food, first!

Do you really need it?

Food is essential, but there are many ways to plan food that don't require this (e.g., energy bars or non-perishable foods). Sometimes people rent pots & pans to keep their personal cookware safe (e.g., home chefs with well-seasoned cast irons that don't want other people to do something that will mess it up!) .

For more info, read our 'what you really need' protip

What we carry

Type or Style Regular, kitchen-like cookware Small cookware for small stoves Cookware Accessories
Model Xtrema Versa pot Cuisinart French Classic Tri-Ply Stainless Steel pot Cuisinart French Classic Tri-Ply pan MSR Stowaway pot MSR Alpine Fry-pan Cuisinart tools Bambu cutting board with Cuisinart Titan knives
Xtrema Versa pot Cuisinart French Classic Tri-Ply series MSR Stowaway pot MSR Alpine Fry-pan Cuisinart kitchen tools Cuisinart Titan knives & Bambu Undercut board

Buy

MSRP with tax

$217
value
4 quart size
$108

6 quart size
$130
$76 1.1L size
$22

1.6L size
$27
$33

$68 total

  • $17 - Can & bottle opener
  • $16 - Tongs
  • $9 - Peeler
  • $14 - Box grater
  • $12 - Whisk

$56 total

  • $24 - Cutting board
  • $16 - Chef's knife
  • $16 - Utility knife
$5 Bambu cooking spoon or spatula $6 Bambu long eating spoon
Rent
includes cooking or eating utensil
$15+ $8+ $3+ $6+, includes all pieces
Online rental Catalog name Dutch oven Regular pot Regular pan Pot for pocket stove Pan for pocket stove Kitchen tools Knives and cutting board
Material Ceramic Stainless steel Titanium & bamboo
Capacities 5.5 quart 4 or 6 quart 10in (25cm) diameter 1.1 or 1.6L 8in (20cm) diameter
Can be used in fire or on coals
Weight 7lbs
3.2kg
4 quart size
4lbs
1.8kg

6 quart size
6lbs
2.7kg
3lbs
1.4kg
1.1L size
16oz
440g

1.6L size
19oz
550g
11oz
320g
General Notes
  • We choose what we carry based on extensive research on what's the best value to our customers (e.g., price given performance & durability features) across all the top brands. We specifically do not carry every brand & model; for details on why we do/don't carry certain items in the following What To Use & How To Choose section
  • Buy prices a grayed out box indicates we don't sell it (we may only rent cookware of this model)
  • Rent prices are the starting prices; enter trip dates on our Catalog to get exact prices (based on total trip length, not per day!). We also don't charge sales tax, an automatic savings of almost 10%!

When you hire cookware online, you can select from available options or we'll pick out something for you. You can also write-in any preferences on the last page of checkout. This section describes the majority of our models & options, but sometimes we carry others.


What to use & how to choose

Sometimes it's easy to get lost in all the hype of something new (over-spending often happens on features). Our guide focuses on the fundamental factors you should always keep in mind (thus, this short list is similar across all items). Then only at the end do we have some questions to get you thinking about other minor features. Also take advantage of renting cookware to try out what works for you!

We highly recommend reviewing Type or Style first, where we review what you can use to address the Core function--a regular item you have at home may work! The other factors are secondary & depend strongly on the Type or Style you've picked; in fact, for other factors data charts are generally only for a specific Type or Style that we carry (e.g., as a gear shop, would be outdoor-specific products).

We've organized the most commonly used items people use to address the Core function below, with example images, characteristics, features, etc.

We strongly recommend first reading our info on stoves since cookware is heavily impacted by what you're cooking with.

NOTE: Here we refer to cookware as pots & pans. Smaller items that we also carry but that have fewer decision factors are quickly reviewed in the What We Carry section.

Cooking technique Using hot coals or a campfire Using a portable stove
Regular stove (like a portable kitchen stove) Wood burning stove Liquid fuel stove Canister stove Alcohol stove Tablet stove
Cookware Cookware has to tolerate directly sitting on hot coals or in a flame* Use regular cookware you'd use in the kitchen May be able to use regular cookware or small cookware (description at right), depending on stove size Cookware needs to be smaller since the stove top surface is smaller (a heavy, hot pot can tip over!)
Example images Ceramic cookware Regular cookware See note above Lightweight cookware
Effect on other factors Price
Per piece
$20-200 $10-100 $10-70
Capacity
For pots
Heavier & larger (1-10L) Smaller (~500mL to 2L)
Material
  • Cast iron
  • Ceramic
  • Porcelain
Any
  • Aluminum
  • Stainless steel
  • Titanium
Weight & Size Heavier & larger Lighter & smaller
Depends more on material, see section below
Rationale No size restrictions imposed by stove = less technical Size restrictions imposed by stove = more technical

Why we do/don't carry it

= we rent
= we sell
We prefer ceramic to cast iron for cleaning purposes, but unfortunately these break too easily for us to reasonably rent

Standard for most outdoor uses in car camping.

On our Catalog, this is indicated with 'for portable stove'

Same as regular or smaller cookware (at left & right)

Standard for most outdoor uses in backpacking.

On our Catalog, this is indicated with 'for pocket stove'

*Regular cookware can get discolored or warped, or have handles that will melt

If you don't go very often, of course you're going to want to spend less money, but this often means real trade-offs in terms of the experience that you will have with the gear. Even if you do go often & are ready to invest in quality gear, having the upfront funds can be hard!

Now, it may seem like this price & quality trade-off is disappearing, because you can find a cheap version of almost anything for tens of dollars that still has good reviews (assuming the reviews are real). So you might be thinking: I'll just buy something cheap, and because the price is so low it doesn't matter if it's less featured or heavier or whatever compared to something higher end. When that breaks, I'll buy something cheap again, and so on. Just remember:

  • What's better than cheap? FREE! And we have a gear library of items you can borrow for free!
  • Many reviews are written after only a trial use or first use: We've seen entire review videos of gear done at home, which is very different than actually being outdoors! And reviews after the first use don't tell you about dudrability at all
  • You're headed outdoors to relax and enjoy life! Saving money only to have a trip ruined due to quality issues will feel terrible. Our program to rent cookware is designed to help you avoid this trade-off: you get to rent high end, quality cookware for around the same price as buying cheap ones (sometimes even for less!)

For this item specifically, the price vs. quality trade-off issues center around performance & durability.

For the outdoors specifically, durability may be more important than in a home kitchen:

  • Cooking outside is often done in smaller spaces & surfaces; it can be easier to drop coowkare
  • Outdoor-specific utensils, especially ultralight ones, tend to be metal, so you need cookware that won't scratch (e.g., not non-stick)
Methodology notes on prices shown on this page

For most people who have experience cooking at home, the only new lens with which to think about capacity is when you need smaller cookware imposed by small stoves.

For example, if several people are sharing a single, small backpacking stove that can only take cookware up to 2 liters maximum, you may need several "boils" to get enough hot water for everyone's coffee or backpacking meal. Is it OK then if people eat at different times? Or should you get more stoves? These are exactly the decisions that backpackers think about when planning a trip! Renting pots & pans can therefore help you figure out what works best for you.

As you can imagine, as capacity increases, so does price and weight & size.

If you're thru-hiking 20+ miles (32+km) per day, every advantage counts! In this case, size refers to compactness. You can carry more gear in the same size backpack if all of it is very compact, or for more weight savings, you can get a smaller size pack.

Note, even if you have a small 1.5 Liter pot in your home kitchen, backpacking specific pots are designed to be compact in a way kitchen cookware is not. For example, they're thinner (the stainless steel is usually single-ply, not sandwiching other materials that help heat conduction), and have handles that tuck "into" the pot. Renting a pot is only a few dollars, and worth trying out!

Small-stove specific pot
1.5 Liter Capacity
Regular
Stainless Steel Material
Ultralight
Titanium Material
Weight 5.6oz
(159g)
4.1oz
(116g)
Effect on other factors Price ~$20 ~$70
Rationale Less technical material More technical material

Why we do/don't carry it

= we rent
= we sell

Standard for most outdoor uses for durability reasons

Much more expensive relative to the improvements in weight savings

An in-depth discussion of the different materials used in cookware is beyond the scope of our protip. You could look at things such as heat retention vs heat conductivity, risk of material leaching into food & toxicity, and consider that with many cookware, the material isn't pure (e.g., copper, aluminum, and titanium cookware usually have other metals used as liners or as bases to complement functionality), or there are other treatments to cookware to improve it (e.g., anodized aluminum or enameled cast iron). That's why we will only quickly overview 8 materials as they generally are viewed (averaged across composition). Given the variances, the lists should not be viewed as rankings.

How it rates Higher Lower
Non-stick rating
  • Cast iron*
  • Carbon steel*
  • Ceramic
  • Porcelain
  • Aluminum**
  • Copper**
  • Stainless steel**
  • Titanium**
Effectiveness rating

Heats slowly but retains it well

  • Cast iron
  • Ceramic
  • Porcelain

Heats quickly & cools quickly as well

  • Aluminum
  • Copper
  • Carbon steel
  • Stainless steel
  • Titanium
Durability rating
  • Cast iron
  • Carbon steel
  • Stainless steel
  • Titanium

Will shatter if dropped

  • Ceramic
  • Porcelain

Can dent or scratch easier

  • Aluminum
  • Copper
Effect on other factors Price
  • Cast iron
  • Ceramic
  • Porcelain
  • Carbon steel
  • Copper
  • Titanium
  • Aluminum
  • Stainless steel
Weight

Heaviest

  • Cast iron
  • Ceramic
  • Porcelain
  • Carbon steel (lighter than above 3)

Depends on exact composition

  • Stainless steel
  • Copper
  • Aluminum
  • Titanium

Why we do/don't carry it

= we rent
= we sell
All our cookware is stainless steel, which we prefer for durability reasons (you don't need to worry about having a non-metal utensil to avoid scratching it)

*Assuming it's been seasoned

**Assuming it doesn't have non-stick coatings applied. If it does, then should be rated "Higher"

Here, we give you a list of questions to start thinking about other features. We hope our approach of savings these features for last gets you to more critically think about what you need & not get caught up in the hype of what's cool and over-spend your budget. Remember, we allow you to hire a cookware so feel free to try out various models with different features.

  • Is there a handle?
  • Does it come with a lid? If so is the lid transparent?
  • How do the sides taper?

Usage tips

Small cookware for small stoves (for backpacking)

If it's your first time using smaller cookware for the smaller stoves, a few things to keep in mind:

  • They're thin. That means they're quick to heat, it can be easy to burn foods. Keep a close eye & stir consistently
  • They may not come with handles. Seriously, sometimes handles are sold separately to reduce weight & size! Even if they are attached, they may heat up. Always have a plan to take the pot off the stove!
  • They are usually not treated to be non-stick. Save yourself cleaning headaches in the backcountry & avoid foods that require searing, frying, etc.

Therefore, these smaller cookware are generally used for boiling water for beverages or backpacking meals or light simmering (e.g., soups, pasta, oatmeal, etc.). By the way if you're in a pinch, you can use a fully stainless steel water bottle as a pot! Check manufacturer instructions to verify. The bottle must be wide enough to balance on the stove, you will need a way to hold it (the metal will get hot & there's no handle!)

When washing, follow Leave No Trace principles and take water away from the water source to use at camp for washing. Never wash directly in a water source. Even eco-friendly soaps or other personal care products can contaminate water as the compounds present occur in a mucher higher concentration than they would in the wild.


Maintenance tips

Cleaning

It's important to clean between uses. No one wants food pieces to go bad inside! Thoroughly rinse with soap & water after use

We have a general protip on how to store & maintain gear that we highly recommend reviewing as well. If you send us video or a good photo series, we may be able to help you evaluate your repair needs.


The exact numbers (e.g., weights, dimensions, prices, etc.) used were updated as of September 2019 .