backpacking cooking system reviews

Backpackers hiking past a tarn off the Highline Trail (CDT) in Wyoming's Wind River Range.

The Best Backpacking Gear of 2024

By Michael Lanza

Glacier National Park. The Wind River Range. The Maze District of Canyonlands National Park. Iceland. The John Muir Trail, Wonderland Trail, and Teton Crest Trail. Yosemite. The Grand Canyon. Yellowstone. Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains. Southern Utah’s Escalante canyons. The North Cascades and Pasayten Wilderness. The High Uintas Wilderness. The Tour du Mont Blanc. These are just some of the numerous places where I’ve tested the backpacking gear and apparel reviewed at The Big Outside—so that I can give you honest and thorough, field-tested opinions that help you find the best gear for your adventures.

And that’s exactly how I came up with these picks for today’s best backpacking gear.

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The Jetboil Flash backpacking stove.

Review: Jetboil Flash Backpacking Stove

Backpacking Stove
Jetboil Flash
$125, 13.1 oz./371g

On chilly, windy, early-April mornings and evenings in camp in Arizona’s Aravaipa Canyon and calmer but still cool mealtimes on a section of the Arizona Trail along the Gila River, plus a seven-day, nearly 70-mile backpacking trip in September in Glacier National Park and a three-day hike on the 22-mile Boulder Mail Trail-Death Hollow Loop in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in early October, the Jetboil Flash did everything you want a backpacking stove to do: assembled quickly and easily, fired up immediately every time, and boiled water so fast that even our group of five hungry backpackers were content sharing just that one stove.

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The MSR WindBurner Group Stove System.

Review: MSR Windburner Group Stove System

Backpacking Stove
MSR WindBurner Group Stove System
$250, 1 lb. 5 oz.

When cooking for more than two hungry people in the backcountry—especially if that includes kids—having a large pot and powerful stove keeps the team from waiting so long that they threaten revolt. But the stove’s performance in wind matters, too. On family backpacking trips of three days in Hells Canyon, four days on Nevada’s Ruby Crest Trail, and six days in Utah’s High Uintas Wilderness, plus a five-day hike with three friends in The Maze District of Canyonlands National Park, MSR’s WindBurner Group Stove System not only staved off rebellion, it boiled and cooked quickly in a range of temps and even surprised with its fuel efficiency.

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The MSR PocketRocket 2 backpacking stove.

Review: MSR PocketRocket 2 Backpacking Stove

Backpacking Stove
MSR PocketRocket 2 stove
$60, 3 oz. (4 oz. with plastic case, included)

On three-season backpacking trips of two days to a week, with one or two companions—especially when you’re oriented toward cooking simple, one-pot meals—a single-burner canister stove offers efficiency and versatility in a very lightweight, compact, affordable, and durable package. On various trips, including an 80-mile, five-day backpacking trip with a friend in the North Cascades National Park Complex, and a three-day, 40-mile hike in Utah’s Dark Canyon Wilderness, the MSR Pocketrocket 2 demonstrated to me why it’s a leading choice in this category of ultralight stoves, on top of representing an improvement over its predecessor.

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The Sea to Summit X-Pot.

Gear Review: Sea to Summit X-Pot Set 31

Collapsible Cook Set
Sea to Summit X-Pot Set 31
$120, 1 lb. 6 oz.
Set includes a 2.8L X-Pot with lid, two X-Bowls, two X-Mugs, all collapsible

At Helmet Falls camp on the first night of a four-day, 34-mile, family backpacking trip on the Rockwall Trail in Kootenay National Park in the Canadian Rockies, a group of backpackers cooking near us looked at my X-Pot set and one asked, “What is that and who makes it?” When I answered him, he responded, “I gotta get one of those. Or I’m going to watch which bear locker you put your food and cooking gear in later and take it.” I was pretty sure he was kidding—but not entirely certain. The collapsible X-Pot cooking set is sure to change the way we think about cooking systems for backpacking, and many backpackers will covet it.

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