Spoiler Alert: Conquerwild chose the Light My Fire BPA Free 8-Piece Meal Kit as the best backpacking mess kit overall!!
When it comes to eating in the wilderness, things can get messy. If you plan on having an actual meal during your backpacking adventure, then you’re going to need some form of dinnerware. That’s where a mess kit comes in.
You can’t bring an entire kitchen with you on your camping expedition, but the mess kit ensures that you have all the essentials in a small, portable package. Let’s take a look to find out which is the best backpacking mess kit for your needs.
The Products We’ll Be Reviewing:
- Mallo-Me 10-Piece Camping Cookware Mess Kit
- Light My Fire 8-Piece BPA-Free Meal Kit
- UST PackWare Dish Set
- Wealers Unique Complex Messware Kit
- UCO 4-Piece Camping Mess Kit
- Wealers Camping Silverware Kit
Mallo-Me 10-Piece Camping Cookware Mess Kit – Most Versatile / Best Kid‘s Mess Kit
- Anodized, non-stick, 1 Liter pot
- Pot cover
- 2 BPA free bowls
- Folding stainless steel spork
- BPA free soup spoon
- Wooden spoon spatula
- Cleaning sponge
- Nylon, drawstring carry pouch
- S‘mores recipe E-book
When it comes to camping with kids, the Mallo-Me 10-Piece mess kit may be your best option for meal consumption and preparation. This camp mess kit is super lightweight and a great size for children to take on the go. What makes this set so special is the inclusion of cookware (the non-stick pot and spatula) in addition to dinnerware. Coming with a grand total of 10 pieces (which includes a drawstring pouch and a sponge), it’s also easy to pack together and transport.
Since the Mallo-Me is such a popular choice for kids, it’s important that the product avoids potentially harmful chemicals like BPA’s. Regardless of your age, this is something vital to look out for in anything you’ll be eating food from.
The inclusion of a cleaning sponge is another feature I really appreciate in this set. To top it off, Mallo-Me allows you to redeem an E-book that details different s’mores recipes. This is a nice touch that adds even more functionality to an already-great product.
If you’re looking to cook the king’s feast, then this set might be a bit small for you. However, that’s not what this was crafted for. This camping cookware mess kit was made specifically to emphasize convenience, efficiency and safety while cooking in the wild.
- Weighs only 0.9 pounds!
- Cookware is non-stick and made of durable anodized aluminum.
- Can purchase it with a 1 liter, 2 liter or 3 liter pot.
- Comes with an E-book!
- Cookware isn’t well-suited to be used over a campfire due to the plastic handle. Works better with a camp stove.
- Some adults may want larger dinnerware, this product is designed specifically for children and portability.
Light My Fire 8-Piece BPA-Free Meal Kit – Best Pick Overall
- Snapbox standard container
- SnapBox oval container
- Strainer/cutting board
If you want a mess kit that’s both durable and attractive, consider the Light My Fire 8-Piece Meal Kit. This mess kit gives off a bit of a more sleek, less rugged look than most others, with its polypropylene material. The contrast between the matte and shiny surfaces here make it my favorite mess kit when it comes to visual appeal (and most other aspects as well). It also comes in 3 different colors and each will bring a nice dose of stylishness to your camping trip.
One of the best features of this camping mess kit is its waterproof SnapBoxes. These are great for when you need Tupperware or airtight storage. The spork has a nicely serrated edge and will not scratch the dinnerware, no matter how aggressively you use it. Also, the inclusion of a cutting board/strainer allows campers to diversify their meals a bit when out in the wilderness.
With lids that can also be used as meal plates, this set does a great job of multitasking and minimizing weight. It clocks in under a pound, meaning it can come with you anywhere. Also, the entire set can fit inside the large container that’s included. This means that everything stays protected and everything is easily accessible when you need it.
- Comes in orange, black or red.
- Made of BPA free polypropylene.
- Comes with a chopping board and a strainer (2 in 1).
- 8 oz. pack-up-cup folds within itself for easy storage.
- Super durable with a high melting point.
- Cup holds only 8 oz. of liquid.
- Rubber harness can be hard to use. Some customers report that it snapped after a couple of uses.
UST PackWare Dish Set – Most Affordable Mess Kit
If affordability is your greatest concern and you don’t need a fancy set of dinnerware, then the UST PackWare Dish Set may be a great option for you. This collection comes in a simple, mesh bag which will allow your items to drip dry if need be. The entire set is made of polypropylene, which means it’s durable and lightweight.
This kit is not quite as versatile as some of the other sets on this list, as it comes with the basics only. However, the material is both strong and easy to clean. It’s not your grandma’s fine china by a long shot, but this mess kit will surely get the job done if you just need some camping dinnerware.
- Most affordable mess kit on this list!
- Includes separate fork, knife and spoon as opposed to a spork.
- SUPER lightweight at 7.2 oz.
- Large plate has a 10″ diamter.
- BPA free.
- Dishwasher and microwave safe (I DO NOT recommend putting any type of plastic into the microwave).
- No pots, cutting boards or any tools for heavy duty cooking.
- Mesh bag doesn’t protect this kit from the elements of nature.
Wealers Unique Complex Messware Kit – Best Mess Kit For Large Groups
- 4 cups (10 oz. each)
- 4 plates (8.5” in diameter)
- 4 bowls (6” in diameter)
- 4 forks (7”)
- 4 knives (7”)
- 4 spoons (7”)
If you’re camping with and feeding more than just yourself, you might want to look for a mess kit that’s a bit more expansive. Depending on the version you purchase, the Wealers Unique Complex Messware Kit can serve up to 4 people. It’s equipped with 6 items per person and provides enough dinnerware for each camper to enjoy a full meal.
This kit comes with a cutlery bag, which is a convenient place to keep your utensils. You can then roll the bag up and use it as a transportation pouch for your spoons, forks and knives.
Speaking of the silverware, this kit offers some high quality stuff. It’s definitely a step up in quality compared to most of the other mess ware kits that use plastic sporks.
Being made of stainless steel, this set is a bit different from the previous products. You can look at this as both a pro and a con. The stainless steel means that all of the items here are super durable. This also means that they‘re going to be a bit more heavy and noisy. This all depends on what your preference is. If you’re looking for a rugged, expansive and heavy duty mess kit, then this one is a great choice.
- All dinnerware is made from dust/scratch proof stainless steel.
- BPA free, lead free and non-toxic.
- Dishwasher safe.
- Comes in a convenient mesh bag with adjustable closers.
- Very easy to clean.
- Allows food & drinks to retain temperature for long periods of time.
- Comes in single person, 2 person or 4 person variations.
- Stainless steel is more noisy during travel.
- A bit heavier than the rest of the sets on the list.
- If left in the sun, stainless steel will heat up quickly. Be careful to avoid burns.
UCO 4-Piece Camping Mess Kit – Best Value Mess Kit
- Reusable Tether
Now for a trusty, minimalistic mess kit that I personally own and have put to great use, the UCO 4-Piece. This set comes with nothing more than a bowl, lid, spork and tether, but it’s the epitome of backpacking efficiency. If all you want is a surface to eat your food from, it doesn’t get any better than this.
The UCO stays sealed just as well as any piece of Tupperware I’ve ever used. Even if you have this thing bouncing around everywhere- what you put inside, stays inside. It stays warm too, as the polyethylene provides great insulation.
The efficiency of this kit is mainly due to its details. From the anti-slip grips on the bottom of the bowl to the reusable bungee tether that helps the spork stay in place. My favorite detail is the way that the angle of the spoon perfectly matches the curvature of the bowl. This is a real game changer when it comes to scooping up rice or tiny bits of food.
Durability and weight are another highlight of this product. Weighing in at 0.6 pounds, the UCO is super light. It’s made of polypropylene, meaning it’s non-toxic and it can take a real beating. Also, this kit can be purchased in blue (like mine), retro sunrise (an orange-ish color) or venture (a dark gray). Overall, this kit provides fantastic quality at a low price.
- Very affordable
- Features a rubberized, non-skid base to keep the bowl in place.
- Silicone gasket provides a perfect seal.
- BPA and phthalate free.
- Quite large with measurements of 8” x 8” x 3.”
- Dishwasher/microwave safe (I DO NOT recommend putting any type of plastic into the microwave).
- Not the most versatile kit- only a 4-part set.
- “Serrated” end on the fork isn’t sharp enough to cut through anything- consider bringing an additional knife if you need one.
Wealers Camping Silverware Kit – Most Elegant Mess Kit
- 2 forks
- 2 knives
- 2 butter knives
- 2 spoons
- 2 stainless steel dinner plates (8” in diameter)
- 2 napkins
- A cutting board
- A bottle opener
Potentially the most fashionable mess set on this list, the Wealers Camping Silverware Kit is anything but a mess. This set comes in a perfectly organized, canvas, mildew-resistant, zippered pouch. From the outside, it looks more like a pencil case than a mess kit. You’d never know what’s inside this thing.
Including (almost) everything you need and then some, this set’s most unusual feature is its bottle opener: a super handy tool that most mess kits seem to forget. I also like the inclusion of table napkins, as they‘re much more environmentally beneficial than using disposable ones.
Aside from the carry pouch, the silverware also exudes pure style and fashionability. The handles on the spoons, forks and knives look like they’ve been stolen from a 5-star restaurant (okay, maybe not that fancy, but close enough).
Don‘t be mistaken, this kit has a durable and rugged side too. The Wealers Camping Silverware Kit is made of stainless steel, and it‘s sturdy enough to withstand almost any outdoor adventure. This is a fantastic mess kit for camping or any time you need portable, durable and fashionable dinnerware.
- Comes with stylish, breathable, polyester carry pouch.
- Low-priced for the amount of items included.
- 3 unique features: a cutting board, a bottle opener with a corkscrew and table napkins.
- Easy to clean.
- Doesn’t include cups.
- A bit heavier than most plastic mess kits.
Why Do You Need A Mess Kit?
Unless you plan on eating with your hands, you need some type of dinnerware when you‘re dining in the wilderness. Though, it‘s not always a good idea to use items from your kitchen for backpacking- they‘re usually not rugged or portable enough.
Disposable options are not a good idea either.
Mess kits are a great way to reduce your waste. When you have a reusable set that you’re able to take with you on every camping trip, it erases the need for single-use paper, styrofoam or plastic dinnerware.
The use of disposable dinnerware often leads to litter, which is absolutely terrible for the ecosystem. It‘s far too often that I find pieces of garbage and debris scattered throughout the woods.
Mess kits will help keep the environment clean and lower the demand for these single-use products. If you’re going to be camping or backpacking more than once, I definitely think that you should invest in a mess kit.
What Makes A Good Mess Kit?
When we get down to it, the term “mess kit” is super broad. There are many variations to these dinner sets and many people have different preferences. However, there are certain elements that separate the poorly crafted products from the great, effective ones.
Material Can Make Or Break
In more ways than one, the material makeup of your mess kit is super important. You want to find yourself dinnerware that’s durable and able to withstand the elements of nature. Here are some of the most common mess kit materials to keep an eye out for:
- Stainless steel– Out of pretty much all the mess kit materials you can find, stainless steel is the strongest. It’s both rust and corrosion resistant. Stainless steel mess kits are also great at retaining the heat of your food/drink.
- Aluminum– While it’s not quite as durable as stainless steel, aluminum is generally cheaper and more lightweight. The downside is that it can change the taste of your food. If you find a product that’s made from aluminum, make sure it’s anodized. This means it’s been electrochemically altered to be more durable, decorative and corrosion resistant.
- Polypropylene– This is a versatile type of plastic that’s used in everything from utensils to car batteries. It has a high melting point and doesn’t break down easily when it interacts with other chemicals or foods. Also, it’s durable and crack-resistant.
When it comes to silverware, stainless steel tends to be the best as it’s sturdy enough to penetrate any type of food. While plastic cutlery is less durable, it’s also less likely to scratch your dinnerware.
Look Out For Toxins!
Sometimes, we forget to think about our health when it comes to the bowls, plates and utensils we use. Always make sure that your dinnerware and camp cutlery is toxin free, especially if you’re backpacking with kids. A lot of companies get away with using unsafe chemicals in their products.
Make sure whatever you purchase is BPA free.
BPA (bisphenol A) is a toxic industrial chemical that’s sometimes used to make plastics. It’s often found in food and beverage containers. Scientific research has shown that BPA may be able to seep into your food and endanger your health.
You should also stay away from products that use phthalates. These are a group of chemicals that are often used in plastics to make them more durable and flexible. While phthalates haven’t been shown to cause harm in small doses, larger doses may be harmful to the reproductive system.
The Importance Of Weight
It goes without saying that your mess kit is not going to carry itself. It’s best to find a collection that’s relatively light weight.
Obviously, the weight of your set largely depends on the amount of items it comes with. However (as mentioned previously), the material of your mess kit also plays a huge role in how heavy it is.
Generally speaking, plastic (including polypropylene) is the most lightweight material for a hiking mess kit and stainless steel is the heaviest. Aluminum is somewhere stuck in the middle.
The more compact your mess ware set is, the easier it’ll be to carry during your backpacking adventure. The most efficient sets are usually designed so that all of the pieces can be packed together.
Some mess kits work with a gasket (a material layer that creates an tight seal) to ensure that your food stays airtight on its journey. If you want your kit to double as Tupperware, this is what you need. With some collections (like the Light My Fire 8-Piece Meal Kit), you can fit the entire set inside one of its airtight containers. This makes for a super compact mess kit.
If you want your dinnerware set to be completely protected from the elements of nature, then consider buying a kit that comes with a carry bag.
Some mess kits come in nothing more than a mesh bag. These are useful if you’ve just cleaned your dinnerware and want to let it drip dry.
What Pieces Do You Need For Your Camping Mess Kit?
Depending on your needs and circumstances, you can choose a set that’s as minimal or expansive as you’d like. If you don’t want something overly complex, then maybe choose a product like the UCO 4-Piece Camping Messware Kit. This is what I use. I‘m perfectly satisfied with nothing more than a bowl, plate and a spork.
Are you satisfied with a spork? Or do you need a separate spoon, fork and knife? Do you have bottles that need to be opened? Then you should choose something like the Wealers Camping Silverware Kit, which comes with a bottle opener and corkscrew.
Are you backpacking with pre-made food? Or will you be preparing your meals on sight? If you’ll be making your own food, then you need a mess kit that also includes cookware. The Mallo-Me 10-Piece Camping Cookware Mess Kit is great for this as it includes a pot and wooden spatula.
I also appreciate when a mess kit for camping comes with reusable napkins, because this eliminates the need to use single-use ones.
How Many People Are In Your Group?
It’s important that no backpacker is left behind when it comes to meal time in the wilderness.
Mess kits are often defined by the amount of people they serve. If you’re a lone backpacker, then one set of dinnerware should be fine. However, if you’re camping with 3 other people, you’ll need a larger set.
Some of the products listed in my mess kit reviews can be purchased in multiple sizes.
Don’t Forget About The Clean Up!
It goes without saying that mess kits can get a bit messy. If your set doesn’t have an airtight seal, leaving residue on your dinnerware can attract bugs or other animals. It’s highly unlikely you’ll find a dishwasher in the wilderness, so you’re going to need alternatives.
Some mess kits come with a sponge. If you have a body of water nearby, you can use this to remove the residue from your plates and cutlery.
If you want a more efficient clean, then consider buying some eco-friendly dish soap (Dr. Bronner Hemp Peppermint Pure Castile Oil is a great, safe choice). Using a little bit of this in conjunction with water will leave your dinnerware clean enough for your next meal.
In general, the best mess kit for you is really going to depend on your preference. You shouldn‘t make a decision without first sorting out your priorities and circumstances.
It’s also important that you think about each and every key factor mentioned above. Be sure that you take safety, durability and convenience into account.
Each of the products we‘ve discussed excels in one area or another. However, I believe that one backpacking mess kit is the best overall.
Our Top Pick Is…
This flashy looking set is a great choice for any camper who needs functionality, durability and versatility. It’s got all the essentials, plus more with a strainer/cutting board combo and multiple waterproof, SnapBox containers. The Light My Fire is an amazing BPA-free, lightweight mess kit for any backpacker who‘s looking for easy dining in the wilderness.
If you need something fit for more than just one backpacker, then I’d go with the Wealers Unique Complex Messware Kit. It’s a bit heavier than the rest, but it makes up for its weight in quality and functionality.