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Best Backpacking Stoves and Pots for Cooking Simple One Pot Meals

Cooking a one pot meal on a wood stove
Cooking a one pot backpacking meal on a wood stove

Simple one pot backpacking meals are a great option if you want more variety in your backpacking diet, you want to eat real food with less preservatives, or you want to adapt your meals to seasonal or locally available ingredients that you encounter on your hike. But if your existing stove and cook pot are only designed for boiling water, you may need to upgrade your cooking system with a stove that can simmer and a pot that has the capacity to hold food and water at the same time.

Best Stoves for One Pot Meals

In order to cook one pot meals, you need to get a stove that is designed for cooking food and not just boiling water. This includes the ability to simmer, which eliminates all-or-nothing alcohol stoves from consideration. You will also want a stove with the widest possible burner head so that the heat from your stove is spread out as evenly as possibly on the bottom of your cook pot. This is the most effective way to avoid burning meals that start out soupy like polenta, rice, and bulgur, but absorb all of the liquid that you cook them.

Most canister, white gas, or multi-fuel stoves have a simmering capability. Many white gas stoves also have fairly wide burner heads, as do multi-fuel stoves with remote canisters. Wood stoves can also be a surprisingly good option because you can simmer them by reducing how much wood you feed them and because they produce a fairly wide heat source under your cook pot.

While the MSR Reactor Stove has a very wide burner for a canister stove, it's ability to simmer makes it difficult to use for cooking one-pot meals
While the MSR Reactor Stove has a very wide burner for a canister stove, its inability to simmer makes it less than ideal for cooking one-pot meals

Here are a few stoves of each type that can simmer and have fairly wide burner heads that are good to cook one pot meals  with.

Worst comes to worse, you don’t absolutely need a stove with a wide burner head to cook one pot meals with, but you will have to be a lot more careful about burning the ingredients in your cook pot. The best way to avoid this is to frequently stir your meal with a flat-bottomed stirrer (not a spoon), so you can prevent the ingredients from sticking to the bottom of your cook pot and burning. There are also certain ingredients like milk powder that burn more easily than others and that you’ll always want to avoid cooking with.

Best Cook Pots for One Pot Backpacking Meals

The best cook pots for making one pot meals are between 1 liter and 1.5 liters in size. Your cook pot should have liquid measurements embossed on the inside of the pot, insulated fold out handles, and a strainer lid. Wider pots are much better than narrow tall pots because they are easier to mix your ingredients in and because they have a larger cooking surface. But the material your pots is made out of, be it aluminum, titanium or steel, is far less important because all backpacking pots are so thin.

Personally, I prefer uncoated pots to ones with non-stick coatings because they stand up to the abuses of the trail (such as cleaning with river sand) and frequent stirring with titanium utensils, far better than pots with teflon or ceramic coatings.

Cooking Alpine Spaghettin in the 1 Liter Evernew Titanium Pasta Pot
Cooking Alpine spaghetti in the 1 Liter Evernew Titanium Pasta Pot

Pots with heat exchange fins welded to their bottoms can be tricky to use because they retain heat far longer than ordinary pots. While more fuel-efficient, they make it harder to use shared cooking recipes because they have such different heat retention properties from other pots. I’d steer away from them to keep things simple.

I also recommend that you steer away from the smaller 0.8 liter Jetboil pots. They are awful for cooking anything less soupy than ramen noodles, which is about as soupy as you can get. They’re too small and narrow to boil water and cook food with and the stove’s burner head projects such a narrow flame that you’re much more likely to burn your food.

My favorite cooking pot for making one pot meals is the 1 liter Evernew Titanium Pasta Pot, which has embossed measurements stamped on the pot, a locking strainer lid so you can strain with one hand, and insulated folding handles. With a width of 4.3″ and a height of 4.25″, it’s large enough to hold 2 cups of water plus my meal ingredients without boiling over and an 8 ounce isobutane canister or a Solo Wood Stove can fit into it for ease of packing.

Other good “cooking” pots include the Evernew 1.3 liter titanium pot, the Snow Peak Trek 1400 Aluminum Cooker, and the MSR 1.3 L aluminum Quick Solo Pot.


If eating one pot backpacking meals sounds like an interesting way to make your backpacking meals more enjoyable, you will probably need to upgrade your stove and cook pot if your cook system can only boil water. Cooking actual food in a pot requires a stove or heat source capable of simmering and a pot that is large enough to hold about two cups of water and your meals’ ingredients. There are many existing lightweight options that fulfill these requirements and which can also be used to boil water for the freezer bag meals or commercial dehydrated backpacking food you eat today.

Written 2013. Updated 2015.

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  1. For me pot choice is simple the “Evernew 1L Pasta Pot’, I only have one!

    I use the Pasta Pot with the MSR Micro Rocket, Trail Designs 12-10 and a MYO cone, Honey Stove and MSR Whisperlite. I cook up everything from home produced dehydrated meals to Super Noodle/ pasta concoctions. Simmering is never an issue as I use a MYO pot cosy (an old CCF mat) that keeps food above 80C for 30mins, nothing ever gets burnt to the bottom of the pan and I save fuel at the same time!
    I’ve also found that adding soup or sauce mixes to Pasta/ noddles after bringing to the boil and popping in the cosy saves a lot of the stirring required to stop burning the pan.

    I have tried a canister top stove with a wide burner head, similar to the MSR SuperFly, along with the Pasta Pot but I found the gas consumption increased by 25%, presumable due to a lot of heat going up the side of the pot. I’ve also found that the MSR Micro Rocket is controllable enough to produce a very light simmer if required.

  2. Thin titanum is worse for burning than thin aluminum. Conductivity is more than heat from the flame, it is the distribution along the bottom. The thinner the material, the more concentrated the heat is where the flame meets the pan, the primary cause of burning. Wide burner heads or heat sources can help, if turned down very low.

    A basic stew recipie is protien of choice, dried onions, potatoe squares, carrots, peas, green beans, mixed with about 2-3 cups of water. Add a couple tbs of instant potatoes at the end to thicken. I do this with rice, quick barley, noodles or little macaroni’s for a soup. Adding olive oil makes it a bit different, more like ministrone, if you have dried red beans.

    • Check out Thru-hiker’s experiments with titanium and other pot materials. I think that the relative differences between the materials is too small to care about since the pots diameters are so small.

      • Yeah, that test was just boiling water and I pretty much agree there is little difference between pots, excluding HE pots. Concentraied heat through the TI, or, slightly more distributed heat through aluminum makes no real difference to times or fuel consumption. But, concentrated hot spots on a Ti pot lead to burning. Distributed heat is better for cooking. Try this, cook a couple rolls in a cople pots (bisquick, water, cinamon & sugar thined out to about 1/3″ and cooked in a tbs of olive oil.) The one cooked in the Ti pot will tend to be browner in the middle (over the flame) than the Aluminum one. The better conductivity will let the aluminum pot brown a bit more evenly. This is different from just boiling water.

        Of couse, a very thin aluminum pot, say a KMart Grease Pot) will be just as difficult as a Ti pot(Trek 1400.) Sort of like trying to cook over an open fire on alumim foil. I have an old aluminum pan about 1/16″ thick I use for frying the rolls. It does NOT stick and will brown the entire roll evenly. But, I hate to carry the ten extra ounces just to cook rolls. I make do with the Grease Pot.

  3. I’m not fussy about what I eat in the mountains. Most important things in a stove for me are boil time and reliability in windy, sub zero weather conditions. I’m a big MSR Reactor fan.

    • The intent here is to point out the difference in stoves/pots that boil water and those that can cook. What is surprising is how few single person pots there are out there that are adequate for actual cooking. I have migrated from simple meals to more complex and harder to prepare ones (vs ramen and freezer bag) for two reasons: boredom with freezer bag/ramen and because the meals you cook provide much better nutritional value in terms of calories/weight and wholesomeness. As a for instance, 1/2 cup of polenta, a 1/2 cup of walnuts, 1/4 cup of raisins, and two tsp of brown sugar come out to 880 calories. Delicious to eat with excellent texture and a great breakfast. Doesn’t even take that long to cook.

  4. Now that breakfast sounds great, I would probably substitute oats for polenta but otherwise the rest is good, do you add milk powder to it? I agree on the wider style pots, though I did wonder wether the pasta pot would work well on the Olicamp stove as the flame is quite wide. I wondered what stoves are your go to stoves? Especially as alcohol stoves do not rate a mention. The book sounds interesting though not available in my part of the world.

    • The book is so-so. It contains a lot of recipes that are probably more appropriate for car camping, but there are about 2 dozen that work very well as one pot meals. My go to stoves are a whisperlite, soto OD-1R, and a Solo wood stove. I might get a Honey Stove at some point. I avoid milk powder like the plague. Guaranteed to burn in a cook pot. I’ve even had my wife try (she’s close to a pro) and she burns it. She even burns it in a regular thick-bottomed pot on a fancy stove! Agree that the Olicamp WG is probably better with a wide pot, like 1.3 Liters. I also sub the polenta for oatmeal, with those exact same ingredients! Mix and match to keep meals from getting boring.

  5. I know there are lighter combinations, but my go-to ClickStand stove and the GSI Ketalist pot.I’ve used that in all kinds of weather. I like the nested cups that come with it. Brew a bit O tea while waiting for my freezer bag dinner to finish rehydrating.

  6. I’m using a 20grams Zelph’s StarLyte and a very sooty 8oz enamel cup. And that’s really all I need. I own fancier gear like a Jetboil, but I don’t really use it .. whenever I go for a “real” hike/backpack, I tend to grab the StarLyte, and the trusty old cup as my only pot. Plenty sufficient for hot oatmeal in the morning, and ramen or polenta or mashed potatoes at night. No need to get fancy unless you are really going for a thru-hike of >1 weeks, then variety becomes important. But for a single week, I readily could survive on ramen and tuna baggies alone. Backcountry cooking is overrated :).

  7. I was surprised you did not discuss use of a reflective cozy for using to finish cooking versus simmer mode……saves gas and reduces burning on things like a pasta meal.

  8. I use a small titanium pot and usually a smaller canister stove, and I’ve found a convenient–and weightless–way to cook and not burn polenta and other recipes that thicken. Once what I’m cooking begins to thicken I take the lid off the top of the pot and put it between the stove and the pot–that is, under the pot. This diffuses the heat generated by the stove. I’ve also had good fortune with a pot cozy.

  9. I guess you might never actually have used the Vargo Hexagon Ti Wood stove? While it is light, that is it’s only redeeming feature. It’s quite a non-functional design as it is too small and even though it somewhat burns ok without a pot on it, once you put a pot on it it works very poorly and the burn is so poor it develops a lot of smoke and to maintain a fire is difficult, not to mention that the heat output is poor. Just FYI, I use only wood burning stoves currently, so it’s not like I’ve not had any practice. I even tried to modify the Vargo stove by adding extra vent holes in the bottom of the side panels and increasing the air outlets on the upper edge, both too small. While it improved the stove, it’s still no good. I would not recommend that stove to anyone.

  10. I can vouch for the Olicamp Xcelerator Ultra Titanium stove. I took it on a 5 night backpacking trip to Lassen National Park in Northern California this summer. My two friends and I used it with a GSI Pinnacle 2L hard anodized aluminum pot. One of our communal meals involved simmering for 20 minutes to cook rice with chicken. There was no burning, scorching or uneven cooking. And the stove was fuel efficient as well, using less than one 220g Gigapower canister despite being used morning and evening to cook food for three people.

  11. You’re missing out if you haven’t tried the Trangia or Esbit alcohol stoves. Both have great simmer rings, which makes their cooking capabilities virtually unlimited. I’ve cooked backcountry Pizza with mine, and it will burn 2oz for nearly 45 minutes with the simmer ring.

  12. I’ve personally never tried your suggestions, I can only speak from my experience. For a canister stove I use the Optimus Crux, it does a great job has a decently wide burner and a really smooth control for the summer option. I use my Bio fuel stoves more. I have the Bushcraft Essentials Bushbox Pocket Ti for my light weight travel as well as the Bushcraft Essentials Ultra Light weight. They just offer more options. You can use a Trangia, wood, esbit, basically wherever burns. I’ve never had a single issue making one pot meals with my options. Just to throw some ideas out there.

  13. I disagree with your assessment that alcohol stoves are all or nothing cooking utensils. I use a modified cat can stove with a simmer ring. Zelph sells one for an ungodly price but I made my own for around two bucks. Once the water boils, add the ingredients, cook for one minute then slip on the simmer ring. I’ve gotten a nice low simmer with this system that has lasted up to 10 minutes. Plenty long to cook rice or pasta, all with only 1 once of alcohol.

  14. How safe do you think it would be to use food grade silicone in the bottom of your pot to aid in slow cooking? I use a titanium caldera cone and snow peak hybrid summit pot that comes with a silicone cup. I thought about cutting the cup to create a liner for the bottom of the pot that would help diffuse and prevent hot spots/scorching. Anybody have any real world experience with silicone?

  15. There is one stove that sould be considered. It is by Suluk 46. It is for wood, but I have used esbit also. Very light. 1.3 oz. It is the CT titanium. I purchased the small one and keep it assembled by using some light weight wire. It fits in my cup which sits in my cookpot. I don’t like getting soot on my fingers. They get dirty enought when camping…;-)

  16. Great article Phil. Don’t discount alchohol stoves completely. The brass lite has a very effective simmer ring. I frequently use the alchohol stove and built a small wood fire inside my ti windscreen to simmer as well.

  17. Great article. I’m also considering this pasta pot. Just curious why do you prefer the pasta pot over a shorter wider pot for cooking?

  18. You don’t ‘cook’ polenta, oats, walnuts, raisins, or milk powder – you just rehydrate and heat them. Boil water, remove from stove, add ingredients and wait 2 minutes. ‘Simmering’ is just not required, and carrying extra fuel and larger pots, more complex stoves etc to prepare and ‘simmer’ such simple food seems utterly absurd to me.

    If I want bacon and eggs for breakfast I’ll take a Trangia, otherwise a small pot of boiling water does all my ‘cooking’ for me.

  19. If you think MSR Reactor can’t simmer, you’ve either had a defective unit or used it incorrectly.
    My current slow boild record is 38 minutes to boil a liter of water, consuming 9 g of fuel. Compared to the speed record of 3 minutes 21 seconds consuming 6 g of fuel.

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