Tent packed, sleeping bags rolled up and ready to go, map stored away safely and bikes secured to the car rack? OK, you’re ready to go camping!
But nothing can ruin a camping trip like hunger. Having the right frying pan allows you to cook a well-earned meal at the end of a long day on the trail.
I like the Alpine Frying Pan because the stainless steel construction is sturdy while being light enough to carry easily. But there are other things to consider.
If you’re not familiar with backpacking cookware, you might be at a loss as to what to look for. Don’t worry, though. I’ve broken down several of the best backpacking frying pans for camping. Find the features, materials, capacities, and more.
Ready to find the best backpacking cookware for your next camping trip? Keep reading to get started.
What to look for in the Best Backpacking Fry Pan
Before you rush into buying a pan that you might find unsuitable when you are already halfway up a mountain, make sure that you have considered these five crucial factors:
When I go camping, I find that my bag seems to get heavier as the day goes on. Backpacking cookware is available in a variety of weights. Of course, you need to be sure that your pan is robust enough to withstand the challenges of the great outdoors but don’t forget that the more lightweight the pan, the lighter the kit overall.
The weight is important, but it’s highly individual. It varies according to your body weight, fitness level, the other items in your pack, and the path you’ve chosen to hike.
A good rule of thumb is to keep your total backpack weight under 25% of your body weight, so every pound (or kilogram) counts! The pans on my list range from a lightweight 9.8 oz (280 grams) all the way to a heftier 26.4 oz (750 grams).
The handle of the pan is just as important as the weight of the pan. Maneuvering your hot pan can be easier said than done when cooking outside. Burns are one of the most common hiking injuries, so it’s important to do all you can to avoid them.
The handle must be safe and secure to prevent spills and injuries. Not to mention that using an inferior handle can sometimes result in the evening’s food all over the ground…leading to some very unhappy campers!
Most backpacking cookware will come with a long folding handle, allowing the pan to fit into a rucksack. Some of these handles will also lock into place to enable extra stability.
Certain handles come with a silicone cover so that you can better hold them when hot. Some other pans may even come with an additional secondary handle for maximum portability.
Whichever you choose, I would recommend trying out the handle in advance of your purchase. Look for a comfortable, secure handle with a good grip and a nice balanced feel. If you are concerned about lifting a pan when full, you might try to find one with a helper handle.
When it comes to backpacking cookware, I have yet to find a non-messy and fun cooking method on my camping trips. You just have to accept a little mess as part of the deal.
Although there are a few backpacking frying pans on the market made from cast iron or stainless steel, I much prefer to pack a lighter, non-stick pan for such expeditions. Another option is titanium. Titanium pots are not as common, but they’re popular for backpacking cookware because they’re lightweight. You can find more titanium pots in my complete review of titanium backpacking cookware.
They are much easier to clean, and most cook the food quickly and evenly. Who wants to be spending time scraping out a sticky pan when that time could be better spent toasting those after dinner marshmallows?
Most non-stick backpacking pots and pans are made of lightweight aluminum with a Teflon coating on the cooking surface. Teflon does contain PTFE (Polytetrafluoroethylene), which some might wish to avoid.
While PTFE is perfectly harmless at normal temperatures, it can release mildly toxic fumes when overheated. To be on the safe side, use your non-stick backpacking pots and pans over as low of heat as possible while still cooking the food through completely.
While it is crucial to bear in mind your pack’s overall weight, the overall volume is also significant. It is critical to choose a pan that will fit snugly into your kit and be large enough to cook up a filling meal at the end of a long day.
Some pans allow you to nest additional items inside the pan when packing – a great help when you want a few backpacking pots and pans.
Make sure you consider both how many people and how many meals your pan will be serving at any one time.
You can use your fry pan to cook a myriad of dinners. Everything from skillet lasagna and scrambled eggs to hash and pancakes. Your backpacking pots will be your best friend on the trail.
For a couple, you might be fine with a smaller diameter pan, around 8 inches (20 cm). For a family of four, you’re better off with 10 inches (25 cm). For a larger group, you could go up to 12 inches (30 cm) or even invest in two pans.
How to Clean Backpacking Cookware
The last thing you want is gastrointestinal illness or distress on the hiking trail. That’s a surefire way to ruin your camping trip. So cleaning your cookware properly is an absolute must.
If your backpacking frying pan has a non-stick lining, be sure to use only non-abrasive sponges for cleaning. Rinse with warm water and mild detergent, being careful to avoid scratches.
If your pan does not have a non-stick coating, you have a few options for cleaning it. Scrub the pan with either sand or dirt with water, steel wool, a Brillo pad, or a pot scraper. After scrubbing the pan, rinse it with soap and water.
….and, finally, how will you be heating the pan?
I am very much a traditionalist when it comes to campfire cooking and love the crackle, smell, and smokiness of a campfire.
But campfires aren’t the only way of cooking your food outside these days! The cooking method you choose can have a big impact on which backpacking cookware is best for you. After all, the best backpacking frying pans are the ones you can actually use!
Nowadays, it is possible to find backpacking frying pans that, besides being used on the traditional campfire, can also be used with induction cooking, gas-fired stoves, and outdoor electric hobs.
Remember, whichever cooking method you choose, make sure that the pan is compatible.
Perhaps you might consider a backpacking cookware kit?
For the more ambitious outdoor chef, there are full ranges of backpacking cookware sets available. These include not only a frying pan but also pots, mugs, and other pieces that may well come in useful.
These sets are often very lightweight, and most are designed so that the individual elements ‘nest’ inside each other. They take up hardly any space! Why stop at only the best backpacking frying pan when you could own a whole set of the best outdoor cookware?
I love that these backpacking cookware sets come with everything that I need for my group camping trips and allow me to choose individual items such as a single frying pan when I’m off for a day’s solo hiking.
If you want to know more, check out my article on backpacking cookware.
Now it’s time to turn to the reviews of the best backpacking fry pans.
MSR Alpine Frying Pan: Best Backpacking Frying Pan
Size: 7.75 x 1.9 inch (19.8cm x 4.8cm)
Weight: 11.4oz (323 gr)
This Alpine frying pan is made with stainless steel, so it is a little harder to clean after use than some of the other pans on offer. The steel, however, is strong and durable and well suited to cooking on an open fire. You also don’t have to worry about a coating breaking down after a while, which is always a concern with non-stick.
The backpacking frying pan has a heat-diffusing aluminum disc welded to the underside, much like many of my pans at home. This disc provides even and efficient heating, allowing a broad scope of cooking options. Whether you prefer cooking over an open fire or a portable induction hob, you’ll be able to use this pan safely and effectively.
While detachable, the handle does not fold into the pan, which caused me a few issues when looking through a busy backpack to locate it when it came to dinner time!
The Alpine frying pan is lightweight and easy to carry. Even though it’s a little tougher to clean, the durability and versatility makes it worth it, in my opinion.
- Even cooking across the pan surface
- Tough and hard-wearing
- A little harder to clean
- Handle detaches completely rather than folding into the pan
Jetboil Summit Non Stick Skillet: Best Non-Stick Option
Size: 8 x 1.9 inch (20cm x 5cm)
Weight: 10.6oz (300 gr) (with turner)
This striking, bright orange fry pan combines your home kitchen cookware’s performance and elegance with the hardiness needed for outdoor cooking. It’s large enough to easily cook food for two people. I wouldn’t recommend this for a large family, though.
Made from robust, ceramic-coated aluminum, it enables you to produce quick and evenly cooked food on the go. This frying pan is also lightweight, so it’s great for those looking to go light.
The non-stick ceramic surface allows food to slide easily from the pan and also makes for speedy washing up. Ceramic might not last as long as a Teflon coating, but unless you’re camping every weekend, you should get a lot of use out of this frying pan before having to replace it.
I particularly like the angled turner tool that fits within the handle, allowing you to flip, stir, and fry with minimal effort. Once clean, the turner locks back into place for easy storage, and the handle flips back over into the pan.
For a nice-looking, easy-to-use pan for one or two people, you’d be tough to beat the Jetboil Summit Non-Stick Backpacking Frying Pan.
- Lightweight frying pan
- Foldable handle
- Angled turner tool that nests inside the handle
- Orange color can show marks from open flames
- For one, or at most two, people
Chinook 41480 Frying Pan: Best Anodized Aluminum Pan
Size: 7.75 x 2 inch (19.5cm x 5cm)
Weight: 9.8oz (280gr)
Chinook offers this hard-anodized aluminum frying pan. It has a non-stick, easy-clean coating with impressive heat conduction.
The handle, rather than folding into the pan, actually has a split down the middle. The two sides of the handle then lock into place on either side of the pan itself. This is particularly useful when space is at a premium, as you can use the whole pan to accommodate other items.
It also comes with a handy carry sack.
I was impressed with the high sides of this pan as it allows you to stir hearty stews and casseroles without fear of splashing or spilling. The downside is that it’s small in diameter, which limits how much food you can cook at one time. This is probably best for two people.
This Chinook frying pan isn’t always in stock. If you’re in a hurry to stock up before your next camping trip, you might try another option that’s more readily available.
- Innovative folding handle design
- High sides help to contain food
- Carry sack included
- Hard-anodized aluminum construction
- Plastic handle and campfire don’t mix well
Size: 10 x 2 inch (25 x 5cm)
Weight: 26.2oz (742 gr)
The Slip Stone fry pan has a four-layer non-stick coating designed to look like and replicate a natural stone surface. One of the benefits of this material is that you can cook without using butter, grease, or any other type of oil.
It has a diameter of 10 inches (25 cm), perfect for cooking meals to feed three or four people. It might be a little too large if you’re hiking solo or in a pair.
This backpacking cook pot has an easy-to-fold-away, stay-cool comfort handle making it a cinch to clean up and pack away.
The manufacturer recommends using this pan on medium heat, which I find more than adequate to cook all my camping food.
Like most non-stick aluminum pots, the non-stick surface lets the food slip easily off the pan. This is the ultimate convenience when cooking backpacking meals.
My main criticism of the is pan is that I suspect that, despite appearing as a stone surface, it likely contains PTFE. PTFE is the active ingredient of Teflon, and there are some concerns if it is overheated. If you’re cooking over an open flame, it’s difficult to manage the heat level to a reasonable amount.
Keep it on medium heat, and never heat it empty, and it will be fine.
The Slip Stone Pan can be tougher to find. It’s not always available, so I wouldn’t recommend it as my first choice unless you have a compelling reason.
- Foldaway handle
- Healthier food served without using oil or butter
- A bit heavy
- Likely contains PTFE (Teflon)
MasterPan Non-Stick Grill Pan: Best Grill Pan
Size: 8.6 x 1.6 inch (22 x 4cm)
Weight: 26.4oz (750 gr)
If you want something a little different from your backpacking cookware, you might try this MasterPan Non-Stick Grill Pan. This fry pan is officially a grill pan rather than a frying pan, but when it comes to perfectly cooked food with those chargrill lines that we all love, it certainly takes the steak!
It’s suitable for use on any heat source, so you can use it over the campfire at the end of a long day’s hike.
It is made from aluminum, which distributes the heat evenly, and the double layer non-stick coating means that you can effortlessly lift food from the pan, time after time.
It also has a convenient foldaway handle that allows you to easily slip it into your backpack with the rest of the kit.
- Foldaway handle
- Produces great looking chargrilled food
- Heats quickly and evenly
- A little more challenging to clean due to the ridges
- Quite heavy
Best Backpacking Skillet: Final Thoughts
So, which pan will I be packing into my kit bag and taking with me out into the wild?
I used to recommend the Jet Boil non-stick skillet below, but it’s not top of my list any more for two reasons:
- Non-Stick is just not as robust and it can flake / peel. This is exacerbated when it’s in a backpack, or outdoors
- I’ve found the Jet Boil is hard to get hold of these days
That’s why I recommend the MSR Alpine–it’s super robust and usually easy to get hold of. The downside is it will be harder to clean. Try to use as much oils as possible, and if need be, don’t be afraid to use steel wool or metal utensils to scrape food off the surface.
There’s no doubt for me that this is the best frying pan for backpacking. If you want something for the whole group, my suggestion is to bring one of these per person.
Best Non-Stick Backpacking Skillet
I am going to plump for the Jetboil Summit Non Stick Skillet. I love the fact that the handle collapses into the outside of this ultralight fry pan. This gives me that little bit of extra room when I am packing my bag.
I also really appreciated the turner that comes with the pan. As it folds in with the handle, this utensil doesn’t add to the space taken.
The non-stick surface allows you to slide eggs, bacon, and various other camping staples straight off the pan and onto the waiting plates. What’s more, it gives you a few extra magical minutes under the stars, rather than scrubbing away at a sticky pan at the end of the meal!
It will work on a portable stove or a campfire. On the campfire, it is likely to get sooty.
Pro Tip: You can make the outside easier to clean by coating it in detergent before cooking with it.