When you’re tired and hungry after a long day of hiking, you need backpacking kitchen gear that makes preparing dinner a breeze. There is nothing quite like sitting down to take that first bite of a piping hot meal after a full day of backpacking. But not having the right gear can make what should be one of the most relaxing moments of your day in the backcountry incredibly frustrating. In this article, we’ll dive into all the backpacking kitchen essentials that we don’t hit the trail without.

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Backpacking Kitchen Essentials

There is an overwhelming assortment of different backpacking kitchen gear available, so how do you sort through it to figure out what you really need? Whether you’re new to backpacking or looking to refresh your backpacking kitchen gear, we’ve got you covered.

In this article, we’ll highlight each item in our backpacking kitchen. We’ll focus on kitchen essentials that are easy to use, lightweight, and reliable: everything you need from your backpacking kitchen!

After hundreds of miles on the trail, we feel we’ve just about perfected our setup, so we hope this article saves you some time and money as you perfect yours as well. 

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Best backpacking kitchen camp stove


  • Price | $125
  • Weight | 13.1 ounces
  • Liquid Capacity | 2 cups

The Jetboil Flash Stove is perhaps the most important piece of gear in our backpacking kitchen. After using a Jetboil, I will never use another camp stove again.

When we first started backpacking, we purchased a standard backpacking stove (like the MSR pocket rocket) because it was cheaper and seemed to be what everyone was using. But after struggling to keep the flame lit in windy conditions and many impatient nights in the backcountry waiting for water to boil, we decided to make the switch to our Jetboil Flash and we’re so glad we did! 

The Jetboil Flash is outrageously fast to boil water. While the cup fits 4 cups of water in total, it’s not recommended you fill it past 2 cups for safety reasons. The Flash can boil 2 cups in 100 seconds! When you’re tired and hungry in the backcountry, speed is key and the Jetboil Flash will certainly not leave you waiting. 

It’s also extremely fuel efficient, which means you can carry less fuel and feel confident that you won’t run out of fuel in the backcountry. 

Furthermore, the base of the Jetboil partially encloses the boiler and flame, which makes it super reliable to use even in windy conditions. Additionally, it feels more secure and less susceptible to tipping or blowing over than a freestanding stove, like the MSR Pocket Rocket. 

The cooking cup is insulated, keeping your food warm if you eat directly from it, and protecting your hands when boiling it. Plus the cup includes a color-changing heat indicator that allows you to easily tell when the water is done boiling.


  • Easy to use.
  • Boils 2 cups of water in 100 seconds.
  • Incredibly fuel efficient.
  • Stands up to wind.


  • More expensive than a standard backpacking stove.
  • Auto ignition can be finicky.
Making dinner in the backcountry with my Jetboil flash

Other JETBOIL shapes and sizes

  • Jetboil MiniMo | The MiniMo is the same size as the Flash, but with a slightly different shape. The cup is shorter and wider, making it easier to eat directly out of. 
  • Jetboil MicroMo | The MicroMo comes in the same shape as Flash, but the cup is slightly shorter. It has a cooking capacity of just under 2-cups, enough for most dehydrated backcountry meals. 

Don’t Forget | The Jetboil does not come with fuel. You’ll need to purchase the 100g fuel canister that fits inside separately. Head to your local outdoors store to purchase one.

Best kitchenware for backpacking

In the following section, we’ll cover backpacking kitchenware, including cups, bowls, and utensils.


  • Price | $9.95 or $12.95 with lid
  • Weight | 2.8 ounces, 5.2 ounces with lid
  • Size | 2 x 6.25 inches

The Sea to Summit Delta Bowl is super lightweight and great for eating dinner or breakfast in the backcountry. The optional lid doubles as a plate or cutting board and helps keep your food warm. 

Although the Delta Bowl weighs only 2.8 ounces, its shape makes it slightly awkward to pack and takes up more space than a collapsible bowl.


  • Lid doubles as a plate
  • Hex pattern on base helps protect your hands from hot contents 
  • Thumb grip makes it easy to hold


  • Shape is awkward for packing in a backpack and takes up more space


  • Price | $15
  • Weight | 2.8 ounces
  • Size | 5 x 2.25 inches open, 0.6 x 5 inches collapsed

Sea to Summit makes several of our favorite backpacking kitchen ware.

The Sea to Summit X-Bowl is the perfect vessel to eat your backpacking dinner out of. As the name implies, the sides of the bowl collapse down to minimize the amount of space taken up in your backpack. We typically eat dinner out of one of these or even the Sea to Summit collapsible cup.

The biggest trade off with the X-Bowl versus the Delta Bowl is that the silicon material can be incredibly hot to the touch if you’re eating something warm. You typically need to wear gloves or hold it with another piece of clothing to be comfortable.


  • Lightweight and collapses down small.
  • Large enough to hold dinner.
  • Inexpensive.


  • Silicon material gets hot to the touch.


  • Price | $15
  • Weight | 2.8 ounces
  • Size | 3.25 x 4.5 inches open, 0.6 x 4.5 inches collapsed

The Sea to Summit Cool Grip collapsible cup is perfect for sipping your hot coffee or tea. It can even double as a small bowl, especially useful if you are splitting a dehydrated backpacking meal with your hiking partner.

Better yet the corrugated “cool grip” solves our biggest issue with the X-Bowl: it protects your hands from the heat of the drink or food inside.


  • Corrugated “cool grip” keeps your food and coffee hot, but your hands comfortable


  • None!


  • Price | $9.95 or $12.95 with lid
  • Weight | 2.8 ounces, 5.2 ounces with lid
  • Size | 2 x 6.25 inches

It’s all about efficiency when building your backpacking kitchen, and the humangear goBites Spork is just that! A spoon and fork is perfect for eating breakfast or dinner and simplifies your backpacking packing list.

Coffee in the backcountry

If you don’t like to sacrifice a good cup of Joe in the backcountry, we’ve got you covered with two different means of making “real” coffee. Or if simplicity is your priority, keep reading to find our favorite instant coffee for backpacking.


  • Price | $19
  • Weight | 0.8 ounces

If you’re a coffee fanatic and just can’t bring yourself to switch to instant coffee, Jetboil has the perfect solution for you: the Jetboil Coffee Press!

It works just like a French Press but is compatible with your Jetboil Flash or MicroMo. It adds minimal weight and space to your backpack but allows you to enjoy a delicious real cup of coffee in the backcountry!

My one complaint with the Jetboil Coffee Press is that you have to put the coffee grounds directly into your Jetboil cup. Since it’s tough to thoroughly wash in the backcountry, this means the flavor of coffee can linger… let’s just say I don’t want to taste coffee in my Mac and Cheese! Nonetheless, it’s a nifty piece of backpacking kitchen gear.


  • Easy to use, compatible with Jetboil Flash or MicroMo.
  • Doesn’t take up a lot of space.


  • Putting coffee grounds directly in your Jetboil causes the coffee flavor to linger.


  • Price | $18
  • Weight | 2.9 ounces

I have to say the Sea to Summit X-Brew is far from perfect. It has several key flaws, and yet there’s nothing else like it in the market yet. 

What we love about the X-Brew is that it allows you to have real coffee in the backcountry, packs down small, and works well with the other Sea to Summit cups. 

What we don’t love is that the mesh screen is not perfect. It really needs to be used with a paper filter to avoid getting grounds in your coffee, which is particularly inconvenient for your backpacking kitchen.

Additionally, the mesh screen easily pops out of place. I’ve had to replace my X-Brew several times because the mesh popped out unbeknownst to me and got lost. I keep hoping that Sea to Summit will release a new and improved version of the X-Brew, but that has yet to be seen!

The largest advantage of the X-Brew over Jetboil’s Coffee Press is that you don’t run the risk of everything you cook tasting like coffee!


  • Lightweight and packs down small.
  • Fits nicely with Sea to Summit collapsible cups.
  • Avoid tainting your cooking system with coffee grounds.


  • Not particularly durable – the mesh filter tends to come unattached.
  • Need to use with a paper filter to prevent any grinds from dripping through.

Don’t forget the coffee!

  • Instant Coffee | It took me a long time to get on board with instant coffee, but I have to say these Beanie’s Flavored Instant Coffee sticks are a solid alternative to real coffee. The individual packs make them super easy to pack and use in the backcountry, and at less than 40 cents per packet, they’re super affordable. Plus they come in a variety of tasty flavors that don’t taste like dirt!
  • Creamer powder | As a substitute for real cream or half and half, I love using powder creamer in the backcountry. It’s lightweight and easy to pack – just make sure you double-bag it to prevent rips or punctures. Take your backcountry coffee up a level with flavored creamers, like Mocha, Caramel, or French Vanilla. 
Enjoying a coffee in the Sawtooth Mountains

Water filtration and storage

A solid water filtration and storage system is an essential part of your backpacking kitchen. In this section, we’ll cover our favorite water filters and storage devices.


  • Price | $50
  • Weight | 2 ounces
  • Liquid volume | 1 liter

Our favorite method of water filtration in the backcountry is our Katadryn BeFree. It’s super easy to use – just fill and squeeze! You can even drink straight from the mouth of the filter. Better yet, it’s lightweight and the plastic bag is surprisingly durable. 

Cleaning the BeFree is a breeze. Simply fill with water and shake!

But like most backpacking gear, the Katadyn BeFree does come with a drawback. You have to be really diligent about cleaning it, or you’ll risk the filter clogging up and not allowing any water through: a nightmare situation in the backcountry! 

When we first got our Katadryn BeFree we naively ignored the instructions to clean it after each use. I mean we never cleaned it! Then one day we were on a backpacking trip in Escalante, Utah, and started trying to filter water for dinner.

The filter was clogged, and water was barely dripping through. It must have taken us an hour to filter enough water to cook dinner. Luckily we had packed plenty of water for drinking, but we came pretty close to finding ourselves in a dangerous situation. 

Our immediate inclination was to curse Katadyn for making such a defective filter. But the truth is that our failure to properly take care of the filter caused this problem. We’ve since purchased another BeFree, and now we clean it after every use and soak it in vinegar regularly. Since then, we haven’t had another issue with the filter clogging. 

All that to say, if you purchase a Katadryn BeFree, its super important to take good care of it and clean it after every trip. We also recommend always having a backup water filtration system, because you never know when something is going to go wrong in the backcountry. It’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to water.


  • Super easy to use. No gravity required – just fill and squeeze.
  • To clean, just add water and shake.
  • Easy to drink straight from the filter.


  • Filter can get clogged, making it unusable. It’s important to be diligent about cleaning it after every backpacking trip.


  • Price | $41
  • Weight | 3 ounces
  • Liquid volume | 1 liter

We love our Katadyn BeFree, but also always carry a Sawyer Squeeze as a backup water filtration system. While the Katadyn is smaller, lighter, and all-around easier to use, the Sawyer Squeeze is more reliable. We’ve never had an issue with it clogging. 

Our biggest complaint is that the bag that comes with the Sawyer Squeeze is small and really hard to fill up from a lake or stream. However, you can attach an empty Smart Water bottle to the filter for a better flow rate and ease of use.

Additionally the Sawyer Squeeze is a little more cumbersome to clean, because you have to backwash it with the included syringe. It’s a little annoying but certainly not a deal breaker.


  • More reliable than the Katadyn BeFree. 


  • To clean you must use the backwash syringe.
  • Small mouth makes the bag difficult to fill.
  • Platypus | These platypus 1-liter bags are great for storing and/or carrying extra water in the backcountry, for example if hiking in the desert or through a section with no water sources. 
  • Osprey Hydration Reservoir | We both backpack with Osprey packs and prefer their 3L Hydration Reservoir over other bladders, like the Camelback Crux. The top is easy to close and the nozzle is less prone to leaking.

Backpacking Kitchen Meals

No backpacking kitchen is complete without the most important item: delicious meals! Spending the night in the backcountry doesn’t have to mean you can’t eat well. Below we’ll highlight a few of our favorite backpacking meals. 

Backpacker’s Pantry Pad Thai with Chicken

  • Price | $12.95
  • Calories | 830 cal

Our all-time favorite dehydrated backpacking meal is the Backpacker’s Pantry Pad Thai with Chicken! Topped with lime seasoning, peanuts and sriracha, this pad thai comes about as close to the real thing as you can expect from a dehydrated meal. 

It’s so filling that we typically share one unless we’ve had a particularly intense day on the trail.

Backpacker’s Pantry Three Cheese Mac and Cheese

  • Price | $9.95
  • Calories | 860 cal

Who knew a dehydrated meal could be so cheesy!? The Backpacker’s Pantry Three Cheese Mac and Cheese really hits the spot after a full day of hiking. It’s an essential in our backpacking kitchen.

At 860 calories total, it’s great for sharing between 2 people. If you’re hiking solo and don’t think you can put down 860 calories, you can open the package in advance and divide it into two plastic bags. 

Mountain House Yellow Curry

  • Price | $11.50
  • Calories | 500 cal

Although we’re partial to Backpacker’s Pantry, Mountain House also makes some solid dehydrated meals. The Mountain House Yellow Curry is really delicious. 

Most of the Mountain House meals contain fewer calories than the Backpacker’s Pantry meals, making them more manageable for one person. That being said, they aren’t any less expensive – you get fewer calories per dollar with Mountain House!

The Yellow Curry is just 500 calories in total meaning it’s really not enough for 2 servings, and yet still costs $11.50. 

Backpacking lunch ideas

Want to spice up your lunches in the backcountry? We’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite hiking lunches in the article below. Keep in mind that some of these lunches are more geared toward day hikes, while others are suitable for multi-day treks.

backpacking Food Storage

Food storage is one of the most important pieces of your backpacking kitchen. The wildlife and rules in the area you are backpacking will determine which food storage method is appropriate for you. 

bear vault Bear canister

  • Price | $80
  • Weight | 2 lb 1.6 ounces

If you’re hiking in Grizzly Country, we’d recommend bringing a Bear Vault bear canister. Certain parks and wilderness areas in the United States explicitly require you to have a bear canister, so always check with the park rangers before you head out.

Store your bear can at least 100 yards from your campsite. Keep it away from steep hills or drop-offs so that a determined bear isn’t able to roll it away. 

Of course the big advantage of a bear can is that it’s more indestructible than most bear bags. Importantly, the ​​Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) includes the Bear Vault on it’s list of bear-resistant products. On the other hand, they are quite heavy and clunky in your backpack. 

For most 1-2 night backpacking trips, we are able to share one BV450. For longer trips, you can take two BV450s or upgrade to a BV475 or BV500. 


  • Price | $100
  • Weight | 7.6 ounces

If you’re hiking in an area that does not require a bear can, the Ursack can be a good alternative. It’s significantly lighter and more flexible than a bear can.

The Ursack is also on the ​​Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee’s list of bear-resistant products. However, it’s known to be less reliable than a bear canister and isn’t approved for use in some areas.

We personally prefer to always carry a bear canister. We prefer not to take any chances when it comes to bears!

Sea to Summit Sack

  • Price | $100
  • Weight | 7.6 ounces

If you aren’t backpacking in bear country, it’s still a good idea to hang your food so that critters can’t get into it. We prefer to use a Sea to Summit Dry Sack for food storage. These are really lightweight and can be clipped directly around a tree or hung with a piece of rope.

Note: this photo was taken while unpacking. You should never leave your bear can near your tent unattended.

Other useful resources

Looking for more backpacking and hiking gear reviews and recommendations? You may also be interested in the resources below:

And there you have it: our complete list of backpacking kitchen essentials! Questions about any of the items in our backpacking kitchen?! What must have item are we missing? Drop us a comment below.

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Sarah Vaughan

Hello! I'm Sarah, one half of the couple behind Two Outliers! In 2023, I quit my job as a Data Scientist to travel around the world on an epic 15-month journey in search of the world's greatest hikes and outdoor adventures. Matt and I started Two Outliers in 2021 as a place for visitors to find concise, accurate, and honest information to plan their own adventures. We hope our experiences inspire you to hit the trail! Happy Hiking! Sarah


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