Best Pot Grippers for Camping & Backpacking: The Top 5 of 2019
|Top Pick: MSR PanHandler||
|Runner-up & Best Value: Olicamp Pot Lifter||
|Best Ultralight Pot Gripper: GSI Outdoors MicroGripper||
|Vargo Titanium Pot Lifter||
We put five of the best pot grippers (aka pot lifters) to the test. After over a month of experiments and real-world testing, the MSR PanHandler was our top pick. It was durable, easy to use, and affordable.
The Olicamp Pot Lifter was our runner-up and our budget pick, with an incredibly strong and easy-to-use design for under $5. For ultralight backpackers, we recommend the minimalist GSI Outdoors MicroGripper.
Read on for our full reviews and information about how to choose the right pot gripper for your needs.
Top Pick: MSR PanHandler
The MSR PanHandler was our top pick all-around. It’s simple, straightforward, and easy to use. What’s not to love?
We could easily pick up any pot we tried this on without any fumbling, readjusting, or awkwardness. The wide, rounded handles are comfortable to grip and felt completely stable while moving and pouring boiling water.
The designs of the MSR PanHandler and the Olicamp Pot Lifter (our runner-up) are nearly identical, and our decision came down to minor differences.
One of those differences is that the rivet holding the two handles together fits noticeably looser on the MSR PanHandler than on the Olicamp. This means that the MSR PanHandler opens and closes as your hand does.
The Olicamp, on the other hand, needs to be pushed open to remove it from a pan, making the process just a little less streamlined.
Really, the only drawback to the MSR PanHandler is its weight. Although MSR states it as 1.9 oz, our scale measured it as only 1.5 oz. That still makes it the heaviest pot gripper we tested (tied with the Olicamp Pot Lifter).
The MSR PanHandler would be a great addition to anyone’s camping kit, while still being light enough for backpackers who need something stronger than the lightweight pot grippers reviewed below.
- MSRP: $9.95
- Weight: 1.5 oz
Runner-up & Best Value: Olicamp Pot Lifter
The Olicamp Pot Lifter was the cheapest in our test, and we found it to be pretty much on par with the MSR PanHandler for durability and ease of use.
It feels solid and well constructed, especially considering it retails for less than $5.
Like the MSR PanHandler, it was comfortable to grip and felt very stable with every pot we tried.
We mentioned above that the main difference between the Olicamp Pot Lifter and the MSR PanHandler was that the construction of the MSR was slightly looser, making it quicker and more streamlined to release from a pot.
This one stays on the pot when you release your grip on the handle, requiring you to push it open. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, and some people may prefer it to the looser design of the MSR.
Either way, for only $4.95, you can’t go wrong with the Olicamp Pot Lifter.
- MSRP: $4.95
- Weight: 1.5 oz
Best Ultralight Pot Gripper: GSI Outdoors MicroGripper
The GSI Outdoors MicroGripper is a brilliantly simple concept for backpackers, and it’s executed well. It is essentially a miniature silicone oven mitt that slides over two fingers and allows you to grip the side of a pot directly.
At less than half an ounce, it’s light enough that anyone but the most extreme minimalist could justify throwing it in their pack.
Of course, you have to sacrifice some functionality for the weight savings. We found that it was difficult to hold a larger pot because almost all the weight rested on your thumb, requiring quite a bit of grip strength.
The gripper also extended farther down into the inside of the pot than any other that we tested. Unless you leave a lot of empty space at the top of your pot, the silicone will dip into the water. This may bother some people as far as germs are concerned.
For us, it was more an issue of insulation — in our boiling water test, the heat from the water only took a couple of seconds to get too hot to handle. We had to set our medium-sized pot down mid-pour to let our fingers cool off.
Despite the minor hassles and limitations, the GSI Outdoors MicroGripper is so light (only 0.4 oz) and so cheap that we definitely think it has a place in lightweight backpackers’ kits.
- MSRP: $5.95
- Weight: 0.48 oz
Reviews of the 2 Other Pot Grippers We Tested
We were initially unimpressed with the Vargo Titanium Pot Lifter. After using it for a while and experimenting with the ideal grip, we came around a little but still weren’t totally sold.
Although it’s super light, it immediately felt flimsy. The thin titanium is easily bent and not so easily coaxed back into shape.
It’s definitely the least durable of the pot lifters we tested. If you accidentally stepped on this, you’d have your work cut out for you to bend it back into something that would lift a pot.
Once we started using it, we were pleasantly surprised to find it a little more stable than it had initially seemed. We could easily lift up a small pot with 1-2 cups of water.
With larger pots, it started to get uncomfortable and awkward. With more than 3 cups of water, the handle and grips started to bend and deform noticeably.
We experimented with some different grips, but we just couldn’t find a good way to lift a larger pot that didn’t feel awkward or start to bend the handle.
The Vargo was also prone to slipping when holding more than 2 cups of water — never enough to make us drop a pot, but enough that without the lip of the pot catching on the ridge of the bottom clamp, we probably would have had a problem.
This product might have a place for backpackers who don’t mind the price and want something slightly more substantial than the GSI Outdoors MicroGripper. Just be aware of its lack of durability, and don’t plan on lifting more than about 3 cups of water at a time.
- MSRP: $26.95
- Weight: 0.8 oz
The MSR LiteLifter seemed like an interesting concept, but it quickly became our least favorite once we started using it.
The biggest problem we had was that the handle is really uncomfortable to hold.
The thin single bars of the handle start digging into your palm and fingers almost immediately. With more than about 2 cups of water, squeezing the handle enough to get it to hold a pot goes from uncomfortable to a little painful.
With only three pieces of metal in contact with the pot edge, the LitLifter felt the least stable of all the products in our test. Each time we poured water with it, we felt that the pot was hardest to control.
These issues were less noticeable with a smaller cup, so the MSR LiteLifter would probably do the trick for a solo backpacker who only needs it for a small pot or cup.
It also has the benefit of being very compact — only the GSI MicroGripper was smaller. It feels more durable than the Vargo Titanium Pot Lifter, though not nearly as solid as our top picks.
At 1 oz, the MSR LiteLifter is right in the middle of the pack as far as weight. At $14.95 MSRP, it isn’t super cheap. Unless you really love the compactness of it, we’d recommend one of the above pot grippers over this one.
- MSRP: $14.95
- Weight: 0.9 oz
Here are the best pot grippers:
- MSR PanHandler
- Olicamp Pot Lifter
- GSI Outdoors MicroGripper
- Vargo Titanium Pot Lifter
- MSR LiteLifter
How to Choose the Best Pot Gripper for Your Needs
Types of Pot Grippers
Clamps: Like pliers specifically designed to grab pots, these have a handle that, when squeezed, causes the grips to clamp on the edge of the pot. This is by far the most common type of pot gripper and works with just about any type of pot.
Finger Grips: These are basically just insulation for your fingers to allow you to grip the side of a pot directly. They are more difficult to use but super light and small.
Brand-specific: Some brands make pot grippers that interface in a specific way with that brand’s cookware. These usually won’t work with any other type of pot, so make sure you know that what you’re getting is compatible.
Stability & Strength
The biggest thing you need to consider when choosing a pot gripper is: will it be strong enough for your needs? It doesn’t do you any good to save an ounce bringing an ultralight pot lifter only to spill your dinner because you couldn’t hold onto the pot.
For ultralight backpackers who are boiling 2 cups of water on a WhisperLite, a minimalist pot gripper will likely work just fine. For car camping and base camp cooking, you’ll likely be lifting larger and heavier pots and will want something more stable and durable.
How We Tested
Boiling Water Test
We boiled 1 liter of water in a medium-sized backpacking pot. We used each pot gripper to pick up the pot and pour it into a 750mL cup, then pick up the cup and pour it back into the pot.
We wanted to know roughly how much weight each pot gripper could lift. We added water to a pot one cup at a time and lifted the pot with each gripper to see when it started to become uncomfortable (when we first noticed anything unstable or awkward) and when it started to become difficult (when we felt we couldn’t hold the pot for more than about five seconds).
- MSR PanHandler & Olicamp Pot Lifter: Never got uncomfortable, 10 cups is difficult but more because the weight of the water is difficult to hold with one hand.
- Vargo Titanium Pot Lifter: 3 cups is uncomfortable. The grips start to slip a little, and the handle bends slightly. 6 cups is difficult — you have to squeeze very hard to get it to grip, and the handles bend considerably (see the video below for an example of this).
- MSR LiteLifter: 2 cups is uncomfortable, handle starts to dig into fingers. 6 cups is difficult, because the force required to squeeze the pot gripper really makes it dig into fingers.
- GSI Outdoors MicroGripper: 3 cups is uncomfortable, 5 cups is difficult
To get a feel for how the pot grippers held up to real-world use, we used these around the house and camp for everything from boiling water for coffee to scrambling up some breakfast.