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Best Backpacking Cook Pots: Titanium, Aluminum, or Stainless Steel?

Best Backpacking Cook Pot

Backpacking cook pots are available in titanium, aluminum, and stainless steel but there are significant differences in the cost, performance, and durability between them. What are the pros and cons of each material and other factors that you should consider when choosing a backpacking and camping cook pot?

Titanium Backpacking Pots

Titanium cook pots are the best choice if your top priority is saving weight. But titanium backpacking pots are more expensive than aluminum or stainless steel pots and are best used for boiling water to rehydrate food rather than cooking or frying more complex meals.

Evernew Titanium Pasta Pot (1L) 4.1 oz

  • Pros
    • Ultralight-weight
    • Stronger than steel or aluminum
    • Corrosion-resistant
    • Cools quickly, so you can use your cookpot as a multi-purpose bowl or mug
  • Cons
    • Heats unevenly, so not good for slow cooking or frying
    • Most expensive

Look for models with folding handles and colander or pressure relief holes in the lid to help prevent messy boilovers like the Evernew 1L Titanium Pasta Pot (4.1 oz), Toaks 650ml Titanium Pot (2.8 oz) or Toaks Titanium 500ml Pot (2.6 oz).

Aluminum Backpacking Pots

Aluminum cook pots strike a good balance between low-cost and lightweight. They retain heat well and cook evenly, making them ideal for more complex meals and group meals. While you can use them to boil water for simple meals, they take longer to cool than titanium and are more difficult to eat or sip from if you’re in a rush. Most aluminum cook pots are hard anodized (HA). This process makes aluminum more durable and corrosion-resistant. This is important for backpacking when you’re likely to pack a wet or damp cook pot. Some aluminum frying pans and cook pots also come with non-stick surfaces, which makes sense if you plan on cooking real food like bacon, eggs, or pancakes, although the non-stick surface will eventually wear out if they’re heavily used or abused.

GSI 1.1 Boiler Hard Anodized Pot

  • Pros
    • Lightweight
    • Less expensive than titanium
    • Heats evenly, so it’s good for cooking more complex meals and group cooking
    • Hard anodized aluminum pots are corrosion-resistant
    • Non-stick pots are available
  • Cons
    • Takes longer to cool
    • Not as light as titanium

Look for models with sturdy handles and locking lids like the GSI Halulite 1.1L Boiler (HA, 8.6 oz) or the MSR Ceramic 2.5L Pot (Non-stick, 10.1 oz) when cooking for a couple or group. You can also buy a non-anodized 0.7L IMUSA aluminum mug (2.4 oz) and make a lid for it out of a pie tin. But it’s pretty thin aluminum and will dent easily.

Stainless Steel Backpacking Pots

Stainless Steel backpacking and camping pots are the workhorses of the backcountry. They’re ideal for people who are very hard on their gear, including guides, scout groups, and outdoor organizations. Performance-wise, stainless steel pots are more heat efficient than titanium pots, but not as easy to cook with as aluminum. Stainless steel pots are also heavier than both titanium and aluminum pots but are by far the toughest choice and the most affordable.

MSR Stowaway Stainless Steel Pot

  • Pros
    • Super durable. Lasts forever
    • Least expensive
  • Cons
    • Subject to hot spots like titanium.
    • Not as light as titanium

Look for pots with sturdy long, locking handles that let you store your stove and cooking supplies inside like the 1.6L MSR Alpine Stowaway Pot (19.5oz), which is available in several smaller sizes. Hanging kits like GSI Outdoor Stainless Troop Cookset are also good when cooking over campfires.

Additional Selection Tips

Here are some additional features and tips to consider when selecting a backpacking cookpot or camping cookware.

  1. If you plan to measure liquid, get a pot that has liquid quantity markings scored in ounces and ml.
  2. If you plan on boiling water and pouring it into a cook-in-the-pouch freeze-dried or dehydrated meal, get a pot that has a pour spout.
  3. Most commercially prepared backpacking meals need 2 cups of water or 473 ml. When sizing a pot, don’t forget that your food will displace some water if you cook food inside the pot, and don’t just boil water with it.
  4. If you buy a titanium cookpot, make sure the pot lid is made of titanium and not steel.
  5. Avoid pots that don’t have fold-away handles and require the use of a pot gripper. The grippers are easy to lose or forget.
  6. The Halulite pots made by GSI Outdoors are hard anodized. Halulite is their confusing way of branding a hard anodization process.
  7. If you cook with gas, make sure the cookpot you choose can hold a small or medium-sized gas canister and your stove when packed.
  8. If you use a windscreen when cooking, get one made of titanium foil that will roll up inside your pot when packed.
  9. Most integrated cook systems like those from Jetboil (Flash, Zip, etc) and the MSR Windburner come with hard-anodized aluminum pots.
  10. Wide pots capture more stove heat than narrow pots.

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15 comments

  1. I still have my Coleman Peak1 stainless. A very tidy set for two. I’m sure they are 35 yrs old now.
    My Primus ETA 0.8L, Practical and light.

  2. Stainless Steel. Hard stop!

  3. I shop for pots at the Salvation Army and second hand stores. I have a wide, 550 cc, stainless steel pot that weighs the same as a titanium of the same size. Cost – I think I paid $1.
    It’s fun shopping for stuff at second hand stores.

  4. Are there any titanium pots with the heat exchanger fins on the bottom?

    • Not that I’m aware of. Titanium doesn’t hold heat very well. In the past Jetboil had a titanium pot with aluminum fins but they failed a lot (fell off) so their killed the product.

  5. What’s the best UL skillet. I’ve been exploring backcountry baking & skillets. It’s been nice for my winter trips.

    • Boundless Voyage sells non-stick titanium skillets on Amazon. I have not used one yet but they are very lightweight and affordable. The coating probably won’t last very long, but once that happens you can sand it off and turn it into a normal titanium skillet.

  6. Also, one needs to be aware if it is a consideration, that hard anodized products can not be put through the dishwasher as this can permanently damage them. Hand wash only.

  7. The MSR 1.3 liter aluminum pot with the nonstick ceramic lining and folding handle rules supreme in my kit. I dehydrate my food. I am not exact with the portions and water, so each meal requires a little simmering — especially if I’m adding some fresh stuff in camp. I’ve used this pot for years up and down the AT and it never stops rocking. And never sticks, so clean up is always a breeze.

  8. I love my Toaks 750 titanium pot for just heating water and for a featherweight kit when combined with a homemade alcohol stove, but switch out to the GSI Halulite 1.1L boiler when we’re actually cooking something.

  9. My GSI Bugaboo set has lasted for years. I bought the 3 pot set with the lids that double as frying pans, back when I was acamp nurse and needed to outfit my cabin, along with making meals for my kids. I almost exclusively use the one person set which is fine even for two. I looked at their new solo version which is bigger. I returned it. The non-stick finish is going strong on my old set. It’s aluminum with the non-stick finish. I have the Amicus Soto pot set that the stove fits in. Great for boiling water. I also have the Vargo 700 titanium pot with a screw on lid. Great for soaking but oh so fussy when heated. On bike trips I have the Bugaboo pan, the Amicus Soto in its pot, the Vargo 700 and a GSI covered mug neatly fitted into my Arkel Tail Rider. It may seem like a lot but allows me to prepare a nice meal at the end of a long day of bicycling, or at the start to fuel my ride.

  10. Re non-stick coatings. If you stow a stove, gas canister and abrasive cleaning pad inside the pot, some of that coating and its underlayment will end up in your food and drink eventually. This could be harmful over time. Then again, many of us surrounding ourselves with plastics, coatings and chemicals when we play in the woods. I’ll stick with titanium cookware and a bamboo spoon, the tiny one I never used in my kitchen works great with a 900L pot and I don’t burn my mouth.

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