Best Backpacking Mess Kit of 2021 (Guide & Reviews)

by Julien Heron
Last Updated: February 5, 2021
Close-up on intermediate climber tying her shoelace

Just because you’re backpacking in the great outdoors doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a fantastic meal on the road! To ensure you stay healthy and your taste buds are happy, you need to have the best backpacking mess kit for your outdoor adventures.

Owning the right mess kit with all the necessary supplies will greatly simplify your life on the trail, making it much easier to cook your favorite dishes when and where you like.

Keep reading for the top 5 best backpacking mess kits you’ll want to consider for your next trek!

The top 5 backpacking mess kits we recommend for 2021:

How to Select the Best Backpacking Mess Kit

Whether you’re brand new to backpacking or are searching for a mess kit to replace your current one and aren’t quite sure what to look for, here are some questions you need to ask to select the right one for you.

Is It Durable?

The first element you need to consider when selecting the best backpacking mess kit for your outdoor adventures is its durability. While this may seem like an obvious point, not all mess kits are created equal and some are far more or less durable than others.

The majority of mess kits are designed to be lightweight and easy to carry, so a heavier mess kit does not necessarily mean that it is more durable. The best backpacking mess kits weigh just 2 to 3 pounds, so this is a good target weight to aim for when selecting a quality kit to last you for many treks to come.

What Are Your Usage Needs?

You should also take your usage needs into account when hunting for the best backpacking mess kit. The type of meals you like to cook on the road will be a significant determinant of the mess kit you ultimately pick.

For example, if you like to keep things simple and only alternate between a few basic recipes, you might do just fine with a mess kit featuring fewer pieces. On the other hand, if you like to go all out and cook a feast at the campsite, you’re going to need more pieces that are larger and more durable.

What Material Is the Mess Kit Designed From?

You should also consider the material a mess kit is designed from before making a definitive choice. The vast majority of mess kits feature anodized aluminum with silicone handles. Some mugs and plates sport ABS plastic which is typically free of BPA for user safety.

Does the Mess Kit Include Accessories?

Very basic mess kits for backpacking probably aren’t going to feature accessories, and will likely just include more standard items such as foldable pans and pots, a lid, and not much more. However, the best backpacking mess kits sport much more than simple pots and pans, with accessories like sporks, wooden eating utensils, and even cleaning brushes.

Everything You Need to Know About the Best Backpacking Mess Kit

Here’s your quick guide to everything you need to know about the best backpacking mess kits.

What Exactly Is a Mess Kit?

A mess kit is simply a foldable set of cooking essentials like pans, pots, utensils, and accessories that you can use on your backpacking and camping trips. Mess kits provide a solution to keep your body running on full with the right foods and ensure you get the nutrition you need on the road.

Because mess kits feature foldable and compact items, they are also very easy to transport in your gear.

Do You Need One?

Unless you plan on eating only dried foods or eating cold food from a can on the trail for a few short days, a mess kit is going to be your essential backpacking companion. After a long day on the trail, you need to make sure you can enjoy a nice hot meal to fuel your body and prepare you for the road ahead.

Without the proper nutrition and food on the road, you will not only feel exhausted but risk depleting critical minerals and vitamins your body needs to thrive. By staying hydrated and having the supplies you need to cook tasty, healthy meals, you’ll not only beat the trail like a pro but have something to look forward to once you hit the campsite.

What Should the Best Backpacking Mess Kit Include?

The best backpacking mess kits feature anywhere from 8 to 10 pieces. These include:

  • A stainless-steel utensil for eating
  • A mesh or nylon bag to store your kit in
  • A 1 to 2-liter pan
  • A 1.5 to 2.5-liter pan
  • 2 plates
  • 1 or 2 mugs
  • A cover (typically glass)
  • A pot handle
  • A wooden utensil
  • A cleaning brush

Remember, not all mess kits are alike so not every kit is going to feature all these pieces. However, this list offers a good idea of what to look for in the best backpacking mess kit. Determine what meals you want to cook, how many days you’ll be on the road, and how many people you’ll need to cook for to decide which of these pieces you’ll actually require.

How to Clean Your Mess Kit

Of course, you need to keep your mess kit clean and ready to go for the next meal! Most mess kits are fairly lightweight, so there’s not typically much stainless steel involved, save for utensils. The most common material you’ll deal with is anodized aluminum, which ensures the kit pieces don’t corrode and that you can clean them easily.

Use a gentle soap to clean your mess kit and always clean each piece as soon as you’re done eating. Let your mess kit air dry before packing it up and putting it away so water doesn’t build up and generate bacteria.

How to Transport Your Mess Kit

While mess kits contain pieces that are foldable or compact enough to not take up too much storage space, they are still a bit bulky. The ideal spot to store your mess kit is in the part of your gear nearest your back.

With a standard backpacking pack, keep your mess kit closer to the top of your gear for easy access.

The Best Backpacking Mess Kit Reviews

It’s time to dive into our reviews of the best backpacking mess kits so you can decide which one is ideal for your trekking and culinary needs while on the road.

Light My Fire 8-Piece BPA-Free Meal Kit

Light My Fire 8-Piece BPA-Free Meal Kit on white background
Light My Fire 8-Piece BPA-Free Meal Kit
A compact meal kit for serving or storing food on the go
The Light My Fire 8-Piece BPA-Free Meal Kit has snap-lock lids that are waterproof, and it uses BPA-free polypropylene that won't break or melt under harsh conditions.
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  • BPA free design
  • Durable polypropylene material that is easy to clean
  • No warping at high temperatures
  • The strap isn’t very durable
  • Some backpackers might not get much use from the strainer

Our first pick for the best backpacking mess kit features waterproof SnapBoxes to hold your food so no need to stress over anything spilling. We really liked the fact that the mess kit is designed from polypropylene that is free of harmful BPAs. The polypropylene material is also super easy to clean and is even safe to be used in a microwave or dishwasher.

Another good thing about this mess kit is that the pieces won’t warp and bend if exposed to high temperatures, which is an important feature to look for. There are a couple of areas that are worth noting however that may not be to everyone’s taste. For one thing, the mess kit includes a strainer, which is a nice touch but might not be particularly useful when camping out on the trail.

Also, the strap included with the mess kit isn’t very durable so you might not get much use out of that. Otherwise, this mess kit features quality construction and really user-friendly design to meet a range of backpacker needs.
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Terra Hiker Camping Cookware

Terra Hiker Camping Cookware on white background
Terra Hiker Camping Cookware
Nonstick pans and pots that heat up quickly and resist corrosion
The Terra Hiker Camping Cookware set will boil water in under two minutes, prevent food from sticking, and they have heat-resistant handles that stay cool to the touch.
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  • 10-piece mess kit
  • Foldable lade and bowl
  • Aluminum, wood, and plastic pieces
  • Super lightweight
  • The non-stick coating isn’t as durable as some
  • Not ideal for lengthy, wilderness camping trips

The Terra Hiker Camping Cookware Mess Kit is a great option if you’re looking for a basic best backpacking mess kit to serve your cooking needs on occasional outdoor adventures. It features all the main pieces you would need in a mess kit, with 10 different items included. Much of the cookware is designed from aluminum, along with a handy wooden spoon and the plastic strainer included in the set.

We liked that the kit includes a foldable ladle and bowl designed from 100% user safe PP plastic. Even better, the handles fold to fit the shape of their respective cookware piece, so the kit is incredibly easy to pack up and transport.

The mess kit also weighs in at just 1.65 pounds, so you definitely won’t get a backache from carrying it in your gear. The kit sports a scrub brush to keep your dishes and pans sparkling clean.
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MalloMe Camping Cookware Mess Kit

MalloMe Camping Cookware Mess Kit on white background
MalloMe Camping Cookware Mess Kit
A compact mess kit for hiking or minimalist camping trips
The MalloMe Camping Cookware Mess Kit features an aluminum construction that heats quickly, resists rust, and collapses into a compact bundle to slip into your backpack.
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  • 10-piece kit
  • Durable stainless steel fork
  • Anodized aluminum kit design
  • Includes free eBook with purchase
  • Good for cooking for 2 to 4 people
  • Not ideal for cooking directly over a flame
  • No lock on the kit so it’s pretty noisy when transported in your pack

We love the MalloMe Camping Cookware Mess Kit because it is not only incredibly affordable but includes 10 total pieces for all your cooking needs on the trail. The 10 piece mess kit includes essentials like a foldable fork made from durable stainless steel and a nylon bag to store your cookware in. The mess kit is designed from anodized aluminum to be corrosive and wear resistant.

The anodized aluminum material also means that you’ll have no problem cleaning your mess kit with total ease. The largest cooking piece is a 1-liter pot featuring folding handles for easy carrying.

We were impressed to see that MalloMe also sends you a free eBook about cooking on the road with your cookware mess kit purchase, so you’ll have plenty of recipes to try out at the campsite. The mess kit is great to cook for 2 to 4 people as needed, making it excellent value for the functional pieces you’ll receive.
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G4Free Outdoor Camping Pan Hiking Cookware

G4Free Outdoor Camping Pan Hiking Cookware on white background
G4Free Outdoor Camping Pan Hiking Cookware
A durable cookware set suitable for camping, backpacking, and hiking
The G4Free Outdoor Camping Pan Hiking Cookware has an aluminum design with a nonstick coating, and they stack together to make them easy to transport over different terrains.
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  • 13-piece set
  • Sturdy and easily cleaned anodized aluminum design
  • Very lightweight
  • Easy to transport
  • Affordable
  • Not meant to use over a direct flame
  • A bit bulkier than some other mess kits

The next best backpacking mess kit on our list is the G4Free Outdoor Camping Pan Hiking Cookware set, with an astounding 13 pieces to work with! We love that you get so many pieces for a very affordable price, including essentials like a complete set of utensils for eating, a lanyard, and even a wooden spoon.

We would note that the G4Free Outdoor Camping Pan Hiking Cookware set is definitely bulkier than some of the other selections in our review. However, if you have space in your gear, you’ll love the user-functionality of those bonus cookware pieces.

The mess kit is also very lightweight, at a mere 1.3 pounds. So, while it might take up more space in your pack you won’t notice much of a difference in terms of weight.

The design sports anodized aluminum, so you’ll have no trouble cleaning each piece after using it. These pieces aren’t designed to be used right on a direct flame, but you can transport the whole kit with ease in the included mesh bag and secure it to your pack if you so desire.
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REDCAMP Camping Cookware Mess Kit

REDCAMP Camping Cookware Mess Kit on white background
REDCAMP Camping Cookware Mess Kit
A smaller and more lightweight cookware kit for camping or hiking
The REDCAMP Camping Cookware Mess Kit has a non-toxic anodized aluminum alloy with a nonstick coating, and it's compact, lightweight, and small enough for one person to carry.
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  • Great for 1 person
  • Compact 5-piece set
  • Easy to bring on the go
  • You can affix the kit in a mesh bag to your back for easier carrying
  • Only weighs about 0.5 pound
  • Not ideal if you’re going to be cooking for more than one person
  • Fewer pieces included than other kits

The final best backpacking mess kit on our list is by REDCAMP and is a great choice for solo backpackers and wilderness wanderers. It is very compact, so you can grab it and take it with you on the go for lengthier treks without issue. The mess kit includes just 5 pieces, but if you’re solo traveling or don’t need to cook for anyone else at the campsite, then you’re good to go.

The REDCAMP Camping Cookware Mess Kit also comes with a handy mesh bag, so you can store your mess kit in that and secure it to your pack instead of storing it inside. If you’re hunting for a very basic cookware mess kit to serve your meal needs on the road, for long or short hikes, the REDCAMP Camping Cookware Mess Kit is a quality option to consider.

We also liked that it features foldable handles that are easy to store and have an excellent grip.
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Our Top Pick

Our final pick is — drumroll please — the MalloMe Camping Cookware Mess Kit! Now, in all honesty, we were pretty impressed by all of the picks on our list. They serve a solid range of backpacker needs and there’s definitely something for everyone there.

The reasons we selected the MalloMe Camping Cookware Mess Kit as our top pick are simple. The price was incredible, and the 10-piece set suffices to serve solo travelers or groups of 2 to 4 people on the road, making it a highly versatile choice.

The anodized aluminum design is just what we look for in the best backpacking kit, plus we loved that you get a free eBook all about cooking when camping included.

Whether you like to cook gourmet meals on the road or simple fare, cook for a group or just for yourself, the MalloMe Camping Cookware Mess Kit is the best backpacking mess kit for trekkers everywhere.

Julien Heron
I’m passionate about all things outdoors, bridging the gap between generations and sharing my passion for hiking and camping. My goal is to spread the endless benefits of being outside, always striving for better performance, new challenges, and ways to explore responsibly.
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