How to choose a Stove and Utensils for Outdoor Cooking.

A guide to preparing food in the mountains

Outdoor stove, an essential item. Photo: MSR Equipment

Outdoor Kitchenware?

Outdoor Kitchenware?

In the past, cooking utensils were an essential part of your gear for mountain activities. Fast, done-in-a-day activities were not as common and modern mountain huts offering hot food were few and far between.

Since then the number of huts has continued to grow. And the improvement in infrastructure brought the large urban centers much closer to the mountains, allowing activities to be carried out in one day that previously required two or three days of logistics.

Due to their weight and volume, cooking utensils became less common and were relegated to bivouacking or winter conditions where snow has to be melted for cooking and hydration.

They’re Back. Slow Mountain

For this reason, there are many outdoor enthusiasts who are unaware of the huge advances made in outdoor kitchenware in recent years. The materials are now ultralight and the compact designs are highly advanced.

Nowadays, for example, you can find a lunch set that includes a plate, bowl, 2 lunch boxes, cup with lid, cutting board and fork-spoon-knife at under 300 grams and in a packable, compact design that takes up very little space in your pack.

Light My Fire Lunchkit

And since the "slow mountain" movement has returned - something that makes us extremely happy - and the bivouacs, the treks, and the calm are returning to the mountains, perhaps it is good to present these possibilities to those who have recently arrived to this world, and remind those who have many years of experience that things have changed.

Freeze-dried Food

It is not the topic of this article, but we want to remind you that, to a large extent, the main advance that has been made in these issues, in terms of weight and space, is brought about by the combination of new stove systems (which we will see in the next section) and new freeze-dried food.

These are dishees that use organic ingredients and not any type of artificial additives or preservatives in its preparation. In addition, a sachet barely weighs 200 grams and, with it, you avoid having to carry plates and pots.

In this other article you can learn all about them: The Latest Freeze-dried Mountain Meals. For all Situations.


Stoves have changed a great deal during the past decade both as far as the burners as well as the overall design.

It all began with the compact system made popular by Jet Boil. This featured:

  • Secure connection between the stove and pot: it cannot fall off when attached
  • Protected burner minimizes heat loss and provides wind protection.
  • The whole system can be hung from the tent ceiling, etc.
  • Compact storage.

The entire system (burner, support and pan) weighs approximately 400 grams.

Jetboil Flash
This system has been further developed in the Windburner and Reactor from MSR, which, in addition to the safe connection between stove and pan and the compact storage, have created a system that features:

  • 100 percent wind protection, as the radiant burner is completely enclosed by the heat exchanger
  • Zero heat loss, which saves energy and is more efficient
  • 100% primary air combustion that uses radiant heat. Conventional systems use a direct flame that draws 40% secondary air, making it vulnerable to wind.
  • In the protected space between the burner and pot, there is a radiation system, which uses 40% less fuel, as there is no heat loss nor exposed flame.

The boiling time of these stoves, under normal conditions, is about 2 and a half minutes. In order for a conventional stove to reach this heat output, it needs more gas and a much heavier burner.

A very important feature is the compact storage system: the stove, gas cartridge, and support all fit inside the pan, which has an optimized elongated design and there is still space for extras, like a cloth or light folding cutlery.

MSR Reactor. On the right is the packed system for taking up minimum space in your pack

This type of stove-pot system is often compatible with accessories that filter tea or coffee.

MSR coffee/tea filter accessory

It wasn’t long before manufacturers realized they could apply some of this technology to more conventional stove systems, both by optimising the burner and by making the system more compact for transport. For this reason:

  • Nowadays, even the simplest stoves are able to boil a litre of water in under 4 minutes and they consume less gas than the older models.
  • Most stove systems have a compact design which allows the stove and gas cannister to fit into the pan and take up less space in your pack.
  • Systems have been redesigned to offer greater stability, both for stove itself and pan support.

Of course, multi-fuel, expedition stoves still exist, but they are now lighter and feature improved energy efficiency.

Primus Omnifuel II, multifuel stove for difficult situations or when gas is unavailable.

Pots & Pans

Here, we find a combination of classic elements with updated systems designed for specific stoves.

Whether the design is classic or modern, pots are now much lighter, thanks to the materials used.

Sea To Summit Sigma Pot

Today's classic sets feature several pots and pans in a compact design for easy transport. Kits like the GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Base Camper L, feature a 3 litre pot with strainer lid, 22cm frying pan and foldable handle that all fit into the larger 5 litre pot, also with a strainer lid and the set stores in a bag that doubles up as a small sink.

GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Base Camper L

Modern pots and pans, whether specific for integrated systems or for traditional stoves, usually feature radiance technology that optimizes boiling time and saves energy.

MSR Reactor, with heat exchanger

An interesting item that is much more useful than it may seem, is the: ultralight pressure cooker. With a capacity of almost 3 litres and a weight of just over 1 kilogram, it allows you to cook in record time.

One kilo may seem too much to carry in your pack and even with the faster cooking time many will dismiss this item as capricious.

However, it will appeal to those who enjoy multi-day treks in the wild, as the 66 percent reduction in cooking time means you will save almost the same amount in gas. While this matters little on a two day trip, multi-day treks and expeditions, which require you to pack numerous gas cannisters, will benefit greatly from the space and weight saved.

Gsi Outdoors Halulite 2,7L, pressure cooker for mountain use

Kitchenware and Other Utensils

There is no comparison between the metal dishes of yesteryear and modern kitchenware kits. For example, the practical, lightweight and easy-to-clean two-person kitchen set, Light My Fire Pack'n Eat Kit is made of BFA-free materials and is safe to use in the microwave and dishwasher.

At just 339 grams, it includes: two 500ml plates, a 900 ml bowl, two 260 ml cups with lids and two sporks.

The hermetic boxes are ideal for packing more varied dishes than the classic sandwich.

Light My Fire Pack'n Eat Kit

It doesn’t end there. A huge range of products for outdoor use is now available: flasks, light coffee pots, 40-gram folding cooking spatulas, salt shakers, spice shakers and ultra-lightweight lunchboxes, emergency matches and lighters...everything you need and more.

To give you an idea of the weight you can save, this titanium kit from Edelrid includes a fork, spoon and knife at just under 50 grams.

Kit Edelrid titanium cutlery

Or the Primus Lightweight Trailcutlery Tritan, knife, fork and spoon kit at 24 grams.

Primus Lightweight Trailcutlery Tritan

It is also worth mentioning Vango tableware. Made of lightweight and highly resistant bamboo, it is ideal for picnics and avoids having to use single-use plastic plates and cups.

Vango Bamboo Set 2p

On-line store: Barrabes Ski & Mountain

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