9 Best Mess Kits for Camping & Backpacking of 2019

Mess Kit Score Weight Serves
Top Pick: MSR Quick 2 System
97
1 lb 12 oz 2 People
Best for Groups: GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Camper
94
3 lbs 10 oz 4 People
MSR 2 Person Mess Kit
93
13.2 oz 2 People
Stanley Adventure Base Camp Cooking Set
90
5 lbs 9.6 oz 4 People
Best Backpacking Mess Kit: Sea to Summit Delta Camp Set
90
9 oz 1 Person
Light My Fire MealKit 2.0
84
12.7 oz 1 Person
Best Value: Coleman Stainless Steel Mess Kit
82
1 lb 4.2 oz 1 Person
Stansport Stainless Steel Mess Kit
78
1 lb 0.5 oz 1 Person
MalloMe Camping Cookware Mess Kit
74
1 lb 12 oz 1 Person

We put 9 of the best mess kits to the test over nearly 2 months of real-world use. The MSR Quick 2 System won out as our Top Pick for its versatility in cooking and eating as well as its high-quality construction.

For large groups, we loved the GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Camper, with its generous cookware and cleverly-designed dinnerware.

The Sea to Summit Delta Camp Set was our favorite backpacking mess kit. Although it didn’t include any cookware, it was by far the best and most complete kit for eating a meal. At 9 oz, it’s also the lightest mess kit we tested.

The Coleman Stainless Steel Mess Kit won our Best Value pick. It’s a simple and affordable kit, perfect for anyone looking for an inexpensive way to prepare and eat a meal at camp.

Read on for our full reviews, as well as tips on choosing the right mess kit for your needs.

The 9 mess kits we tested.

The 9 mess kits we tested.

Top Pick: MSR Quick 2 System

MSR Quick 2 SystemOut of all the mess kits we tested, the MSR Quick 2 System was the best mix of performance and convenience.

Its camping mugs were our favorite to drink from and did the best in our heat retention test, keeping water hot for almost an hour and a half.

Its pots were the quickest to boil water. While we missed the presence of some kind of skillet, the nonstick bottoms of the pots worked well and came in second in our egg cooking test. We also loved that the plates were deep enough to double as bowls.

The Quick 2 System’s pot gripper felt stable while being easy and intuitive to use. One minor gripe was that taking it off required pushing downward, which was difficult to do when the pot was balanced on an ultralight backpacking stove.

If you want a solid, reliable, all-around mess kit that has enough volume for camping while still being light enough for backpacking, we highly recommend the MSR Quick 2 System.

The pot gripper of the Quick 2 System.

The Quick 2’s gripper design is simple and intuitive.

Product Specs

  • Weight: 1 lb 12 oz
  • Material: Anodized Aluminum
  • Serves: 2 people

Best for Groups: GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Camper

GSI Outdoors Pinnacle CamperThe GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Camper is an awesome, well-designed mess kit that we absolutely loved for large groups.

With two pots—the largest of which holds up to three liters—as well as a generous skillet, this kit is more than capable of putting together some incredible meals. We loved the lids and found that the pasta strainer worked perfectly.

The included pot gripper is excellent—sturdy, easy to use without unbalancing the pots, and smartly designed.

The kit is a little lacking in the dinnerware department. The plates, bowls, and cups weren’t our favorite, though they did the trick for eating. The plates felt a bit flimsy compared to those in the Stanley Adventure Base Camp Cooking Set or the Sea to Summit Delta Camp Set.

While the camp mugs did a great job of insulating (coming in third in our heat retention test), they were awkward to drink out of. We’re not sure where the idea to put the drinking hole on the corner of the mug came from, but none of our testers who tried it liked using these mugs.

The bowls, which nestled over the mugs, were an interesting and clever design, but they were kind of awkward to eat out of. The thin plastic also provided virtually no insulation, making them impossible to hold when filled with hot liquid.

Still, if you’re looking for a comprehensive kit so you can wow friends or family with your gourmet camp cooking abilities, this is the one.

The pot gripper of the GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Camper.

The Pinnacle Camper’s gripper was another of our favorites.

Product Specs

  • Weight: 3 lbs 10 oz
  • Material: Anodized Aluminum
  • Serves: 4 people

Best Backpacking Mess Kit: Sea to Summit Delta Camp Set

Sea to Summit Delta Camp SetThe Sea to Summit Delta Camp Set was far and away our favorite set to eat with.

Its large plate and bowl were easy to hold, even with scalding hot food in them. Having a conventional, durable set of fork, spoon, and knife (instead of the ubiquitous camp spork) was a welcome luxury while camping.

We wish that Sea to Summit had included some sort of lid with the cup to make it more versatile for morning camp coffee. We also found the cup to be difficult to hold while full of hot liquid, and we were bummed that it didn’t attach to the rest of the set to keep everything together.

The Delta Camp Set is deceptively simple, but perfect for anyone who already has their camping or backpacking cookware sorted and just needs a set of durable camping dinnerware.

For backpackers who want to take a full mess kit, this set is our favorite. It weighs just 9 oz, making it the lightest mess kit we tested. If you already have a backpacking mug you can leave the included mug behind to save some weight.

Product Specs

  • Weight: 9 oz
  • Material: BPA-Free Food-grade glass-reinforced polypropylene
  • Serves: 1 person

Best Value: Coleman Stainless Steel Mess Kit

Coleman Stainless Steel Mess KitSimple, classic, and affordable—Coleman seems to have the market cornered in that department. Its Stainless Steel Mess Kit is no exception.

If you’re looking for a good mess kit for preparing and eating basic meals around the campsite, this will do the trick without breaking the bank.

The kit’s skillet was in the middle of the pack. The thin steel was prone to hotspots and burning over a backpacking stove. That same thin steel also made it quick to heat up and to boil water, though, and its 2-quart pot was plenty big for one person.

The mug is more useful as a measuring cup than an actual camp mug. While the bowl doesn’t feel as durable as some of the others we tested, it was great for everything from soupy ramen to fried eggs.

Overall, the Coleman Stainless Steel Mess Kit is a solid mess kit for the price.

Product Specs

  • Weight: 1 lb 4.2 oz
  • Material: Stainless Steel
  • Serves: 1 person

Reviews of the 5 Other Mess Kits We Tested

MSR 2 Person Mess Kit

MSR 2 Person Mess KitThe MSR 2 Person Mess Kit is a small nesting kit with a mug, bowl, and spork for 2 people. It’s simple, straightforward, and well-made. It was one of the least versatile kits we tested, though.

The bowls are excellent and were one of our favorites in our ramen test. However, we found ourselves missing having plates on a number of occasions.

The mugs were similar to those in the MSR Quick 2 System, except taller and thinner. They did an excellent job insulating, but one tester commented that they felt like they were “drinking coffee out of a flask.”

For a simple, compact mess kit with high-quality materials and a decent eating system, the MSR 2 Person Mess Kit is a great deal.

Product Specs

  • Weight: 13.2 oz
  • Material: Polypropylene
  • Serves: 2 people

Stanley Adventure Base Camp Cooking Set

Stanley Adventure Base CampApril 2019 Update: The Adventure Base Camp Cooking Set appears to have been discontinued by Stanley. For the time being it can still be found at some online retailers.

Overall, we were extremely impressed with the quality and durability of this kit.

We loved the durable plates, the generous bowls, and the fact that this kit includes a spatula and serving spoon. It was the only kit in our test that had absolutely everything you could need to prepare and eat a meal at camp.

The skillet is high quality, with a thick bottom that carries heat evenly. It was the only skillet in our test that cooked an egg perfectly with zero sticking.

Unfortunately, the skillet’s handle felt flimsy in comparison. Its fatal flaw is that the handle snaps into the open or closed position by squeezing it.

It’s easy to squeeze the handle a little too much as you’re using the skillet, causing the pan to fold. This can be catastrophic—during our egg cooking test, it resulted in our stove being knocked over and our egg spilling onto the ground.

The sporks are also a little on the flimsy side, bending more easily than the others in our test. The high-quality stainless steel of the cookware meant that it was slow to heat up, and the pot was the second slowest at boiling water.

Despite these flaws, we’re impressed at the quality and completeness of this mess kit. With a few tweaks, it’s a good option for a comprehensive camping mess kit.

Product Specs

  • Weight: 5 lbs 9.6 oz
  • Material: Stainless Steel
  • Serves: 4 people

Light My Fire MealKit 2.0

Light My Fire MealKit 2.0The Light My Fire MealKit 2.0 was the most unusual kit in our test. It contains a series of tupperware-like containers nestled in with a small silicone cup, a spork, and a cutting board.

The large container was fantastic for prepping and eating meals on-the-go. And of course, the iconic Light My Fire Spork makes this kit all the more awesome.

The other two containers…we honestly just weren’t quite sure what to do with. The oval one seems perfectly sized to transport a hot dog, and we’re not sure what else.

The triangular one was a decent size for sauce or a small side, but we couldn’t find much use for it. We occasionally found ourselves grabbing them to use a tupperware to store leftovers. The containers weren’t completely spill-proof, but even when filled with water and shaken, they only leaked a few drops.

The mug did passably in our heat retention test, although it was impossible to pick up and drink from until the liquid had cooled considerably. It’s probably best left to drinking cool drinks rather than hot ones like instant coffee.

Overall, this kit is a neat concept. If you want to be able to take pre-made food on the go for a short trip, it might be the perfect option.

Product Specs

  • Weight: 12.7 oz
  • Material: BPA Free Biobased Bioplastic
  • Serves: 1 person

Stansport Stainless Steel Mess Kit

Stansport Stainless Steel Mess KitThe classic “scout” mess kit did a decent job in our tests, though it lacked versatility.

We love how compact this kit is and how it has plenty of room inside the pot for nestling utensils, a small mug, or food.

However, the lack of a large pot limits versatility. We found ourselves struggling to make a full pack of ramen with only what was available in this kit.

Its tiny 2-cup pot was the slowest to boil water, and its skillet had a hard time with hot spots and sticking. The copper coating on the bottom didn’t play well with medium to high heat, and it started to crack and peel off during our testing.

Even so, this kit is a classic. It may not be the most versatile, but it’s rugged and durable enough for many camp meals.

Product Specs

  • Weight: 1 lb 0.5 oz
  • Material: Stainless Steel
  • Serves: 1 person

MalloMe Camping Cookware Mess Kit

MalloMe 10 Piece Camping Cookware Mess KitThe MalloMe is a popular budget mess kit option on Amazon, so we wanted to see how it held up.

While it has the basics and will get you through cooking a camp meal, it was our least favorite to use.

It was one of the weirdest kits to eat with. The bowls are absurdly tiny for any normal portion size. We most often found ourselves eating out of the pot, which led to the metal spork scraping and scratching the surface.

The ladle came in handy a couple of times, but we could have done without.

The pot boiled water very fast, but the MalloMe’s skillet was thin and burned easily, leading to hotspots and sticking.

We’ve seen this kit on sale for cheap (and similarly priced copycats litter Amazon). While it’s a decent budget option, we prefer the more durable stainless steel and larger pot/bowl combo of the Coleman kit.

Product Specs

  • Weight: 1 lb 12 oz
  • Material: Anodized Aluminum
  • Serves: 1 person

Summary

Here are the best mess kits for camping and backpacking:

  • MSR Quick 2 System
  • GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Camper
  • MSR 2-Person Mess Kit
  • Stanley Adventure Base Camp Cooking Set
  • Sea to Summit Delta Camp Set
  • Light My Fire MealKit 2.0
  • Coleman Stainless Steel Mess Kit
  • Stansport Stainless Steel Mess Kit
  • MalloMe Camping Cookware Mess Kit

How to Choose the Best Mess Kit for Your Needs

A mess kit isn’t a well-defined item. In general, these kits all provide some means of preparing and eating a meal out in the wild. Some mess kits are designed to cook and eat an elaborate gourmet meal, while others are designed to be simple and efficient.

We break down the different types of mess kits and what to consider when choosing the right one for your needs.

Types of Mess Kits

Minimalist: These kits are usually designed for just one person. They generally have a small pan, a small pot, and maybe a cup. It’s the bare minimum you need to cook and eat a simple meal. These kits are simple, compact, and often relatively affordable.

Cook Kits: These focus more on the cookware, while still providing some means of eating. This may be as simple as a pot lid that turns into a plate, or it might include a simple plastic bowl.

Eating Kits: Some mess kits are all about eating. They may not have pots and pans, instead providing a variety of dishes and utensils. These are great for people who already have cookware, or for people who will be camping with large groups where meals will be pre-made.

All-Inclusive: These mess kits aim to give you everything that you need to cook and eat a meal, and then some. They are typically large and bulky, often designed for groups, and better suited to camping than backpacking.

Material

Since mess kits include a range of items from pots and pans to sporks, they’re usually made of more than one type of material.

Titanium is the lightest material you can get for cooking. It’s extremely durable, but also extremely expensive. It doesn’t conduct heat very well, meaning that when cooking it’s prone to hotspots and uneven heating.

Stainless Steel is the heaviest material commonly used in mess kits but the most durable and affordable. Like titanium, it’s prone to hot spots while cooking. It’s more often used in camping mess kits than backpacking mess kits because of its weight.

Anodized Aluminum offers a middle ground as far as price, weight, and durability are concerned. This material is ideal for cooking, as it conducts and distributes heat well, leading to less burning and fewer hotspots. Handle aluminum cookware with caution, it gets hot fast.

Plastic is used for most utensils and dinnerware in mess kits. Most of the higher quality kits will use a type of durable, BPA-free reinforced plastic.

Silicone is a relatively new material used to make some compressible dinnerware and even some cookware. It doesn’t do much for insulation, but it’s lightweight and packs down small.

Mess Kit Alternatives

Here are some alternatives to the mess kits in this guide that we’ve also tested and reviewed:

How We Tested

Since each mess kit had slightly different elements, we devised as many tests as we could to thoroughly test each element, from the quality of the cookware to the usability of the system as a whole.

Heat Retention Test (Mugs)

For each kit that had a mug, we wanted to know how long each mug would keep liquid hot. We filled each one with boiling water and timed how long it took to cool to 120 degrees.

Boil Test

Boiling water on our camp stove.

Boiling water on our camp stove in the Coleman Stainless Steel Mess Kit’s pot.

We wanted to know how quickly each pot could bring water to a boil over high heat on a camp stove. The smallest pot in our test (the Stansport Stainless Steel Mess Kit) held 2 cups of water, so for consistency we used 2 cups across all pots.

Egg Cooking Test

Eggs are notoriously tricky to cook well. They stick and burn easily and make a perfect test for each skillet’s ability to cook over a flame. Using an MSR Pocket Rocket stove on its low to medium setting, we placed a quarter-sized drop of vegetable oil in each skillet and did our best to cook the perfect egg.

We ranked the skillet-equipped mess kits based on the amount of sticking and burning, plus the quality of the cooked egg.

Rankings:

  1. Stanley Adventure Base Camp Cooking Set
  2. MSR Quick 2 System
  3. GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Camper
  4. Coleman Stainless Steel Mess Kit
  5. Stansport Stainless Steel Mess Kit
  6. MalloMe Camping Cookware Mess Kit

Ramen Test

Ramen is one of our favorite quick and easy backpacking meals. We tested how easy and enjoyable it was to prepare and eat a packet of ramen using only what we had in the mess kit. For those kits that didn’t include cookware, we boiled water separately but prepared everything else in the kit.

Field Testing

We brought these mess kits along on our camping and backpacking trips for two months. We also used them as much as we could for cooking and eating our regular meals.

Cooking up a meal by headlamp.

Cooking up a camp meal by headlamp.