I started car camping with my wife this year and the spartan cook system I use for solo backpacking quickly proved to be insufficient for cooking more elaborate meals. That point has been hammered home by my wife, particularly since she is a foodie, with a wall of cookbooks at home. We started using GSI’s Pinnacle Camper Cookset because it satisfied my wife’s need for a diverse set of cooking pots and pans and my preference for a lightweight, integrated cook system. In the process, we’ve come to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the Pinnacle Camper Cookset very well, and while overall it is a well-thought out camping cookset, it has a few quirks that are worth knowing about ahead of time.
Car Camping Cookset for 4 People
The Pinnacle Camper Cookset is designed for use by 4 people who are car camping. The contents include a clever nesting system of cook pots, plates, mugs, and bowls including:
- 3 liter pot with strainer lid
- 2 liter pot with strainer lid
- 9″ frying pan
- 1 interchangeable pot griper
- 4 x 14 fluid ounce insulated mugs with sip lids (polypropylene)
- 4 x 14 fluid ounce bowls (polypropylene)
- 4 x 7.5″ plates (polypropylene)
- A combination kitchen sink, water carrier, and carrying case
Having purchased and used many other cooksets over the years, the inclusion of plates, mugs, and bowls, really sets the Pinnacle Camper Cookset apart from most other manufacturer’s products. The only thing missing is flatware and cooking implements like a spatula, a large stirring spoon, and a soup ladle.
Cookset Pots and Pans
The cook pots and frying pan in the Pinnacle Camper cookset are made out of hard anodized aluminum and come with a teflon coating, which GSI claims is tough enough to withstand scratching with metal utensils. It seems to scratch pretty easily to me and we recommend you only use plastic cooking utensils with this cook system.
Both the pots and the frying pan are quite wide and should only be used with stoves that have wide pot stand racks or supports such as a Coleman two-burner cook stove or a Coleman Perfect-Flow one-burner stove. Canister-style backpacking stoves like the one shown above are too unstable to use with wide cook pots. Canister stoves also have very narrow flame patterns which can cause hot spots on the bottom of cook pots and burn food onto the bottom of your pot. If this happens, scrubbing the burned food off the bottom of your pot can take days, regardless of whether it has a teflon coating or not. Unfortunately, I know this from experience!
The pots and pans in the Pinnacle Camper Cookset have significantly better heat diffusion properties than most simple backpacking pots because they’re made out of a thicker aluminum material. This is quite noticeable when you are cooking with them, especially when stewing ingredients or cooking off extra liquid. Still, you need to be careful to continuously stir foods with certain delicate ingredients like milk, to prevent them from burning on the bottom of the pot.
The two pots and the frying pan in the Pinnacle Camper Cookset require the use of a detachable pot gripper. Unfortunately, GSI only includes one of these with the cookset, effectively limiting the number of pots and pans that you can cook with to one at a time. This is a curious omission because car camping meals are often much more elaborate than simple one-pot backpacking meals, and it’s pretty typical to have a main course and a side dish cooking at the same time in different pots and pans.
Given the design of the pot gripper and the way it locks to the Pinnacle Camper Pots, you shouldn’t try to switch the grippers between different pots and the frying pan while cooking. It takes two hands to detach the gripper from a pot and it’s too easy to burn yourself in the process. If you get the Pinnacle Camper Cookset, we recommend that you buy a second nForm Pot Gripper (sold separately.) This is easily stowed into one of the insulated mugs where the other pot gripper is stored, and won’t interfere with the packability of the integrated cookset system. Please note that this style of pot gripper is different than the ones included in other GSI Outdoors Cooksets – it’s unclear whether these are interchangeable or not.
Pot Lids and Strainers
The Pinnacle Camper Cookset comes with two pot lids that have strainer holes in them to vent steam and pour off excess liquid. But the pot lids don’t attach to the lip of the pots or slot into them to form a complete seal.
Instead they float on top of the pot rim, making it necessary to push the lid and the pot together with both hands to retain a seal when straining off liquid. This is potentially dangerous because the hand holding the lid onto the pot is so close to scalding liquid and it’s steam. While the use of plastic lids helps reduce the weight of the cookset, their usefulness is reduced because they can’t be used to cover food during frying like a metal pot lid. There are also warning labels on the inside of the pot lids that advise you not to use them with a wind screen because they can overheat and melt. Since the overall weight of the cookset is less important for car camping than backpacking, it would have made sense for GSI to include a sturdier metal lid system with the Pinnacle Camper Cookset that could be used for frying and which provides for a more secure seal between the pots and pot lids for straining hot water.
Mugs, Bowls, and Plates
The Pinnacle Cookset comes with mugs, bowls, and plates for 4. The mugs and bowl are the exact shape and size, so you can use them interchangeably for drinks or bowls, except that the “mug” has a removable insulating sleeve on the outside so you can grip hot items.
The shape of the mugs/bowls is sort of strange since they’re not round, but understandable given the packability requirements of the system. Still, if you try to serve soup or stew using a traditional round ladle, it is easy to overshoot the sides of the bowl and spill food on the ground. Cleaning can also be an issue, because the insulated sleeves absorb water and will get mildewed if you pack the cookset away while they’re still wet.
The Pinnacle Camper Cookset is very convenient to pack up and go car camping with because it has all of the pots, pans, mugs, bowls, and plates that a couple or family of four needs for car camping. The color coding of the plates and mugs makes if easy for campers (and kids) to keep track of their plates and drinks during meals and the non-stick coating on the pots and pans makes cleanup easy. While you could reconfigure the system for backpacking use, the pots are really too large to use with smaller backpacking stoves and their non-stick surface is prone to scratching if handled roughly. overall this is an excellent cookset for basic camp cooking, although you’ll probably want to augment it with a second pot gripper and a standalone colander for maximum flexibility.
- Plates, bowls, and cups for 4 people
- Packs up very compactly
- Color-coded dishware helps distracted husbands pack the system up properly
- Integrated kitchen sink/carrier really helps with cookset cleanup
- Only one pot gripper for three pots
- Pot lids don’t lock onto pot rims making straining tricky
- Insulated mug sleeves must be dry before packing to prevent mildew
- 4 Person Camping Cookset
- Weight: 3 lbs. 10 oz.
- Dimensions: 9.10″ x 9.10″ x 5.80″
- Non-Stick Coated, Hard Anodized Aluminum, Clear Po?
- Recommended Use: Car Camping
- Includes: 3 L Pot, 2 L Pot, 2 Strainer Lids, 9” Frypan, 4 14 fl. oz. insulated mugs, 4 14 fl. oz. bowls, 4 7.5” plates, 4 Sip-It Tops, Folding Pot Gripper, Welded Sink.
Disclosure: GSI Outdoors provided Philip Werner (SectionHiker.com) with a Pinnacle Camper Cookset for this review.
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