A decent mess kit will make your next camping trip a lot easier to pack for. Instead of fussing over what kit to bring, you can grab your camping set and pop it straight in your pack.
You don’t have to worry about breaking anything along the way, and your typical mess kit will be far lighter than the cups and bowls in your kitchen cupboards.
Mess kits also fit together really neatly, so you won’t waste valuable space in your pack.
So, whether you’re heading off on a backpacking trip or going car camping with your family, this article will point you toward the best mess kit for you.
In a hurry? Here Are My Top 3 Picks
Quick view: My top 3 picks for the best mess kits for camping & backpacking in 2021
Best Camping Mess Kits Review
Wealers Messware Kit
The Wealers Messware Kit is what I would bring on a car camping trip. It’s not the best choice for ultralight backpacking, but there’s really no need to eat with a spork if you’re going to be driving up to your camping spot!
This polished stainless steel mess kit is organized into mesh bags to keep everything organized. It includes four sets of bowls, cups, plates, and cutlery. This set is rust- and scratch-proof to ensure that it stands the test of time.
It’s also BPA-free and food-safe. This set is suitable for a dishwasher, though I doubt you’ll be lugging one of those along on your next trip!
I love that this kit is high quality and simple. The cutlery organizer will help prevent you from losing anything, and the bowls are nice and deep. It makes for a nice change to eat your soup out of an actual bowl and not have to sacrifice your mug!
Perhaps this kit is a little on the pricey side for what you need. You could definitely find something cheaper if you wanted.
But I really like metal mess sets rather than plastic ones. I think they look a lot nicer, and they tend to last longer.
Barbeqa 4 Person Mess Kit
I think this is the best value mess kit for a family of four. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s absolutely up to the job. You get four cups, plastic bowls, plates, and sporks, all of which are brightly colored.
This way, you won’t get confused about whose cup is which.
The side of the fork is serrated, so you can use it as a knife, and you can store it in the mesh bag that it comes in. I know that the pop-up bowls or ultra-lightweight kits look cooler, but a simple set like this is more practical if you have the space for it.
The polypropylene is BPA-free, and it’s much more durable than your classic plastic camping set.
My only slight annoyance is that the company has labeled this set as ‘eco-friendly’ without qualifying that claim. It doesn't seem to be recycled plastic, so I’m pretty sure they’re just giving it that label because the items aren’t disposable.
Considering that none of the mess kits in this article are single-use, don’t get distracted by any greenwashing! Nonetheless, this kit is pretty nice.
Plus, when you divide the price by 4, it’s undoubtedly one of the most affordable options on the market.
Stanley Base Camp Cook Set
The Stanley Base Camp Cook Set is a little pricey, but it’s the highest-rated mess kit I have found to date!
This is a high-quality set that will stand the test of time. It’s scratch-proof, and the pans are multi-layered, so they provide some powerful frying power!
This cook set is designed for four people. It comes with bowls, plates, sporks, a spatula, and a serving spoon. It also has a rack to stack dishes, a heat-resistant trivet, and two pans.
One of the pans is for frying, and the other is a larger pot with a vented lid. Oh, and there’s even a chopping board in there for good measure!
All of that kit is foldable or collapsible, so it stacks together inside the larger pot. This is a proper pot you can cook a hearty meal in, not one of those tiny ones that looks like it was made for dolls!
The quality of this set makes it worth every cent. I like not just the materials, but also the little details like panhandle locks to ensure that you can cook safely after you’ve folded out everything.
This is a truly fantastic piece of kit that will last for a long time. It’s way too big for backpacking, though!
UCO 6 Piece Mess Kit
The UCO 6 Piece Mess Kit is a neat bit of equipment. This would be the best backpacking mess kit because it’s lightweight and compact.
It comes with a bowl, a plate, a cup, and cutlery. The bowl isn’t very deep, so you’d be better off having soup out of your cup! But I really like the cutlery. You have one fork and then a double-sided spoon/knife.
This is much easier to use than a spork, and the two pieces slot together when you want to put everything back in storage.
The really cool thing is that you can pop those two pieces of cutlery together to make an extra-long spoon. So, if you need to give your ration pack a good stir as it’s cooking, you don’t have to stick your hand into the hot pouch.
The cup is partly collapsible, but the top section is rigid, making it easy to use. Once you’ve popped it up, you can place it on a hard surface like any regular cup.
When you’re done, you collapse it back down so everything can fit inside the kit. Your plate now becomes a lid, and you can close up your ultralight mess kit for the journey home.
G4Free Camping Cookware
The G4Free Camping Cookware set is a cooking system and mess ware kit in one. The four pots and pans double as bowls, and they have extendable heatproof handles, so you don’t burn your hands.
It also comes with a compact stove, two mugs, folding cutlery, a mini wooden spoon, and a natural cleaning sponge loofah for washing up. All you need to pack on top of this are your gas bottle and ingredients, and you’re good to go.
This 19-piece set is meant for two people, and everything folds away into the larger pans like a set of Russian dolls. Then you pop it in its mesh carry bag and it’s ready to go back in your pack.
The only thing that bothers me about camping sets like this is that the stove head is tiny. That makes it great for backpacking, but it means you have to constantly supervise your pans to ensure they don’t tip over. But if you’re packing light, this would be a great choice.
Gear4U Camping Cookware
This Gear4U Camping Cookware set is another good option for backpackers. The set comes with a frying pan and cooking pot with a lid and two bowls, two stainless steel sporks, and two collapsible cups.
It also has a small ladle and spatula to help you serve up your grub, and it all stacks together for compact storage.
This BPA-free kit is made from non-toxic anodized aluminum. This is a compact and durable cookware set. Just bear in mind that it’s not suitable for more than two people.
So, you can’t just pack some extra bowls and use it with four people; otherwise, portion sizes will be pretty disappointing.
The panhandles are insulated so you won’t burn yourself, but make sure you don’t put them directly over the flame, or else they’re going to melt!
I particularly like the ladle because if you’re boiling water for a hot drink, it’s much easier to scoop it up in the ladle than to try and pour it into a small cup.
But the cups themselves don’t convince me so much. They’re collapsible silicone and don’t have a handle, so I’d worry about spilling hot liquid as I grabbed onto the soft container.
Odoland Mess Kit With Kettle
A kettle can be a really useful addition to a camping trip. You’ll boil water much faster, so you waste less fuel as you cook.
And if you’re eating ration packs on your camp, you only have to add hot water to your pouch and your meal will be ready. So, using a kettle makes perfect sense.
Yes, I’m also English, so I can never be found far away from a kettle and a cup of tea. But honestly, they aren’t an extravagance!
This kit might have two cups, but it’s got one of everything else. So, I would personally leave the second cup at home and take this on a solo backpacking trip. The pots can double up as bowls, and you’ve got a small camping stove and full set of camping cutlery.
You’d still need to bring along a gas canister and a wooden spoon for non-scratch stirring. But you’d be pretty much ready for a camping trip with this set.
The product description says that this set is suitable for a campfire, but I disagree. This isn’t heavy-duty enough to survive a real fire. For example, the handles are going to melt off!
Mess Kits Buying Guide
I’m pretty confident that, in this article, you’ll have found something that’s right for you.
But if you’re still not convinced that you’ve stumbled upon the perfect mess kit, this buying guide will give you some pointers for shopping further afield.
Mess Kit Vs. Messware Kit
First, make sure you know what you’re looking for. Mess kits were originally sets of pans that could also be used as bowls, whereas mess ware kits contained dishes and cutlery. But people use the terms interchangeably these days.
So, you need to decide whether you want your set to include pans and a stove or if you’re just looking for dishes, cutlery, and cups.
Once you’ve decided that, make sure to read the product description carefully. Don’t assume that anything will be included as a given.
The type of material you go for is totally up to you. Reusable plastic sets can be pretty bombproof these days, and they are lighter and cheaper than metal kits.
But metal kits are typically more durable, and you can often cook with them, too.
Metal kits are usually made from stainless steel or aluminum. Some people avoid aluminum cookware because they are worried about potential health risks. Others like it because it’s lightweight and cheaper.
You could also consider getting enamel cookware. Just bear in mind that the paint tends to flake over time.
You want something that will last. Check the user reviews and see what people are saying.
There will always be a few 5-star reviews from fake accounts, so check out the more neutral and negative reports to get an overall feel for how good the product really is.
Look for scratch-proof and rust-resistant equipment when possible. But bear in mind that companies will often make big claims that their kit doesn’t live up to!
A warranty is always a good sign because it means the manufacturer has some faith in their product.
A lot of mess kits come with tiny pans that will cook a meal for only two people tops. That’s ideal if you’re heading off for a wild camp. But if you’re car camping, you’ll want something that can cater to your hungry family.
Take note of dimensions because product photos can be deceiving.
Most mess kits are pretty light duty, so I wouldn’t want to use them on a campfire. This is especially true for any parts with silicone handles that could melt.
If you plan to use your kit on a fire, make sure it’s made completely of metal. You’ll need an oven mitt in that case, or you could burn your hand as you take things on and off the heat.
Mess kits come in a range of shapes and sizes. You’ll have to decide how many pieces you want to be included and whether you’d rather have nice big pans or prioritize lightness and portability.
My favorite choice is the Wealers Messware Kit. This stainless steel set packs away really neatly into its mesh bags, and I prefer the quality of steel versus the lightness of plastic.
If you’re shopping on a budget, the Barbeqa Four Person Mess Kit should do the job. But neither of those two options includes pans as part of the package.
If you want a good old-fashioned mess kit that lets you cook up a hearty meal for your family, you should go for the Stanley Cooking Set. This isn’t the cheapest of options, but it’s fantastic quality. It comes highly recommended by users, and it’s by far the best mess kit that I’ve been able to find.
I hope you found this article helpful, and I wish you many happy adventures and delicious camping meals with your new mess kit!
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Rachel is a freelance adventure writer and founder of Highly Sensitive Nomad. When she isn’t writing, she can be found wild camping in the mountains and swimming in the lakes of Europe.