Tent packed, sleeping bags rolled up and ready to go, map stored away safely and bikes secured to the car rack? OK, we’re ready to go camping! But, before we set off, let’s decide which would be the best backpacking fry pan to cook a well-earned meal at the end of a long day on the trail.
What to look for in the Best Backpacking Frying 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 pans are 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. Yet don’t forget that the more lightweight the pan, the lighter the kit overall.
As important as the weight is the handle of the pan itself. Maneuvering your hot pan can be easier said than done when cooking outside. The handle must be safe and secure to prevent injuries.
Not to mention that using an inferior handle can sometimes result in the evening’s food all over the ground and some very unhappy campers!
Most backpacking fry pans will come with a 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.
I have yet to find a non-messy and fun cooking method on my camping trips.
Although there are a few backpacking fry pans on the market made from cast iron or stainless steel, I much prefer to pack a lighter, non-stick pan for such expeditions.
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?
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 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. Have a look at this open fire couscous idea which I love:
….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!
Nowadays, it is possible to find backpacking fry 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 fry 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 fry pan when you could own a whole set of the best outdoor cookware?
I love that these sets come with everything that I need for my group camping trips and allow me to choose individual items such as a single fry 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.
Size: 8 x 1.9 inch (20cm x 5cm)
Weight: 10.6oz (300 gr) (with turner)
This striking, bright orange skillet combines your home kitchen cookware’s performance and elegance with the hardiness needed for outdoor cooking. Made from robust, ceramic-coated aluminum, it enables you to produce quick and evenly cooked food on the go.
The non-stick ceramic surface allows food to slide easily from the pan and also makes for speedy washing up.
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.
- 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
Size: 7.75 x 2 inch (19.5cm x 5cm)
Weight: 9.8oz (280gr)
This hard-anodized aluminum pan has a non-stick, easy-clean coating with impressive heat conduction.
The handle, rather than folding into the pan, actually splits 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 spilling any.
- Innovative folding handle design
- High sides help to contain food
- Carry sack included
- Plastic handle and campfire don’t mix well
Size: 7.75 x 1.9 inch (19.8cm x 4.8cm)
Weight: 11.4oz (323 gr)
This 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.
The 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.
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!
- Even cooking across the pan surface
- Tough and hard-wearing
- A little harder to clean
- Handle detaches completely rather than folding into the pan
Size: 10 x 2 inch (25 x 5cm)
Weight: 26.2oz (742 gr)
This pan has a four-layer non-stick surface 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 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.
The non-stick surface lets the food slip easily off the pan.
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.
Keep it on medium heat, and never heat it empty, and it will be fine.
- Foldaway handle
- Healthier food served without using oil or butter
- A bit heavy
- Likely contains PTFE (Teflon)
Size: 8.6 x 1.6 inch (22 x 4cm)
Weight: 26.4oz (750 gr)
This pan is a little different, being a grill officially a grill pan rather than a fry pan, but when it comes to perfectly cooked food with those chargrill lines that we all love, it certainly takes some beating!
It’s suitable for use on any heat source so that you can use it over the campfire at the end of a longs 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
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.