Collecting your cookware and utensils piece by piece gives you the freedom to choose exactly what you want. You can use items from home, borrow pieces from friends or even raid garage sales.
But purchasing a backpacking cook set will save you space, weight and time. Cook sets (specially designed collections of pots, pans and lids) are designed to "nest" together so the entire set takes up only the space of the largest pot. Many are also designed so stoves (and other utensils) fit inside for even more space efficiency. Because they're designed specifically for outdoor uses like backpacking, most cook sets are made of lightweight, durable materials that weigh very little but last season after season.
Some people wonder if using aluminum cookware is unhealthful. Based on reports from the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration and the London-based Alzheimer's Society, no health risks are associated with the use of aluminum pots, pans or skillets. States the Alzheimer's Society: "There is no conclusive medical or scientific evidence of a link between aluminum and Alzheimer's disease."
An FDA report estimates that a person using uncoated aluminum pans for all cooking would ingest 3.5mg of aluminum per day. Meanwhile, a person consuming antacids (at approximately 50mg per tablet) may accumulate up to 1,000mg of aluminum per day.
A fact sheet published by the Alzheimer's Society states: "Cooking in uncoated aluminum utensils can increase the amount of aluminum in certain foods such as fruits that are high in acid. [Example: tomatoes.] Cooking foods in coated, non-stick or hard anodized aluminum pans adds virtually no aluminum to food."
While not a health concern, cooking leafy greens in aluminum cookware is not recommended since it can impact the taste and appearance of greens. In addition, one REI.com reader wrote to us expressing a belief (based on personal experience, he tells us) that greens cooked in aluminum cookware can cause stomach distress. Cauliflower is another vegetable to keep out of aluminum pots. Because it contains sulfur compounds, cauliflower may turn yellow when cooked in aluminum cookware.
When it comes to utensils, minimalist backpackers often make do with nothing more than a knife, spoon and a pot scrubber for clean up. But everything from garlic presses to miniture espresso makers are available these days, if you care to treat yourself and bring them along. The utensils and "extra" cookware you carry with you should match your tastes and your menu. REI carries a wide variety of cookware extras to spice up your backcountry kitchen, including:
By T.D. Wood
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Last updated: 10/05/2012
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