When pioneers trekked across the U.S. prairie, the family fry pan was one of the first items packed because it was the one cooking provision needed to accomplish a variety of meal preparation tasks.
Today’s campers are equally enthused about this essential because it is so versatile. We recommend eight products that represent cutting edge design. Each is worthy of your attention, even if you’re not crossing a prairie in a stagecoach!
Check out this quick list of our favorites if you’re in a hurry, or continue scrolling to see our full list with in-depth reviews.
- Best backpacking frying pan overall: MSR Alpine Fry Pan
- Best full fry pan set: Stanley Adventure Prep & Eat Fry Pan Set
- Best nonstick surface in any pan: Sea to Summit Alpha Pan
- Most affordable classic iron pan: Lodge Cast Iron Skillet
- Best Takibi Japanese iron frypan: Bushcraft Takibi Frying Pan
MSR Alpine Fry Pan
Whether all you care to pack for food prep while camping is a single fry pan or you go trekking so often with friends, you want a collection of these essentials, you’ve struck gold with this single MSR fry pan or an entire set.
Manufactured in Thailand of stainless steel, this Alpine skillet is up for any job you throw its way. The “nerve center” is this pan’s heat-spreading aluminum disk that is welded to the bottom, a feature cooks usually find only in the high-end cookware they use at home.
Because this skillet is compact – the handle folds down, or it can be removed — you save room in your backpack or gear bag for other items, and if you buy the entire set, you can take all of them with you because they nest to take up less room.
Designed for heavy use and extreme conditions, the price is affordable, and at just 11.4 ounces, this lightweight fry pan comes with impressive consumer ratings, too.
Stanley Adventure Prep & Eat Fry Pan Set
This prep and eat set is more than just a single fry pan; it’s a 9-piece collection of components that makes the ideal set-up for newbie campers who haven’t yet built a library of cooking tools.
The pan is fabricated of 18.8 stainless steel, and the set weighs a hefty 5.4 pounds. At 32 ounces, this 8.6(W)- x 2.19(H)- x 10.37(L)-inch BPA-free skillet fries like a dream, whether your end game is pancakes or burgers.
The locking fry pan handle won’t collapse when you tackle fish just retrieved from the lake near your campsite. Use this pan over a campfire or commit it to a camp stove; either way, expect it to churn out yummy meals at a price that could surprise you.
Just make sure the only item that hits the fire is the pan, since other set components in this set are made of plastic.
GSI Outdoors Bugaboo Frypan
Not every camper is enamored with the idea of non-stick surfaces at home or on camping adventures, so you can stop reading now if you’re one of them.
This 12.8-ounce nonstick coated aluminum fry pan measures 9.2(L)- x 8.6(W)- x 2.6(H)-inches, it is lightweight, features an easy-clean nonstick Teflon® surface and the Exclusive SureLock™ folding handle disappears when it’s time to pack up and leave the campsite
Offering an even-heating surface that delivers everything from a quick bacon fry to a gourmet meal, the spiral-turned base helps keep the fry pan anchored and the grill arms secure, even if you get carried away whipping up an omelet in the morning.
Prepare dishes over an open fire or atop a liquid or gas-fueled camping stove. Brand fans say they love it most because it is so easy to clean and stow when it’s no longer on duty.
Sea to Summit Alpha Pan
Small but mighty, the Sea to Summit Alpha Pan may weigh only 8.6 ounces, but it’s up for the job. Delivering 8-inches of interior cooking space and an abrasion-resistant nonstick surface, cooking and clean-up are a breeze.
Owners say that the Halo® surface with an interlocking matrix does an excellent job of moving heat evenly across the skillet surface. Tests prove this skillet transfers the heat up to 62-percent faster than other nonstick finishes, so keep that in mind.
Graduated sizing allows you to nest this pan if you decide to expand your inventory, and why wouldn’t you since this skillet can save you fuel thanks to excellent heat conductivity?
The Pivot-Lock™ stainless steel handle swings under the pot for storage and features a silicone rubber grip. This pan sells out fast at retail and online outlets, so plan to conduct a search if you find that you can’t live without it.
Lodge Cast Iron Skillet
Get a big helping of nostalgia at no extra cost if you add this cast iron skillet to your camping gear. The manufacturer doesn’t list this skillet’s weight but it’s probably the heaviest one on our list because it’s made of iron.
This 8-ounce fry pan is ideal for preparing scrambled eggs or classic cornbread baked in a skillet. It heats up fast and distributes heat uniformly, performing like a pro.
Use it at home if you can’t get enough of cast iron cooking or just keep it in your camping gear inventory. Care and feeding? Hand wash, dry and rub the interior with cooking oil to season it.
Made in the U.S.A., this skillet is oven safe and measures 12.63(L)- x 10.13(W) x 6.75(H)-inches; plenty of room to show off your outdoor culinary skills. Wait until you see the price of this affordable essential!
GSI Outdoors Glacier Stainless Frypan
Admit it: This is one cool-looking fry pan but you’ll pay for the privilege of owning it since it’s a pricier product than six options on our list. With good looks comes a solid reputation that includes high reviews for this lightweight, durable 10-inch stainless steel skillet that GSI swears will “take a beating and keep on cooking.”
Built for the long haul, the construction of this 11(L)- x 10.5(W)- x 2.7-inch fry pan is complicated. The 18/8 stainless steel exterior surrounds a heavy-gauge aluminum core that delivers quick heat-ups.
A laser-etched nonstick surface offers excellent food release and easy cleanup. When you’re ready to pack it in, the SureLock handle folds down and disappears. Weighing 1-pound; 7.5-ounces, you won’t feel like a Sherpa if this fry pan winds up in your backpack.
Primus Campfire Frying Pan
Whether you prefer the 21cm or 25cm version of this fry pan, this brand promises extremely high quality so if you envision yourself camping for decades to come, consider it.
Both Primus skillets are crafted of 18/8 stainless steel and feature aluminum-clad bottoms designed for maximum heat distribution. Use this skillet over an open fire or on a cookstove.
Either size does a great job of cooking meals, both come with foldaway handles made of stainless steel and these skillets come with handy storage bags that keep them tidy when they are not being used.
Go for the small version, and you’ll have plenty of room in your gear bag for other items. The small version weighs only 6.56-ounces, and the larger version doesn’t weigh much more, so you needn’t worry about either hogging space in your backpack.
Bushcraft Takibi Frying Pan
If your mother told you that “last is best,” call her and tell her that she was right. This pricey, colorful product is loaded with extras, and it’s almost too pretty and exotic to use, but you will want to once you find out how efficient and reliable it is.
Even the name is authentic: Takibi is the Japanese word for campfire, and this gem is made of solid iron. Boxed and accessorized by a travel bag and an eye bolt for hanging, this is the ultimate gift for a camper if you’re willing to put out a few more bucks.
This pan doesn’t come with a handle. You cut a branch from a tree and shape one end, so it fits into the host hole at the edge of the pan. As the priciest product on this list, you get a lot of eye candy, a solid brand, and a fun experience, courtesy of this 1.11-pound, 8.86(L)- x 8.86(W)- x 0.71-inch skillet.
So if the idea of cutting a branch long enough for dinner prep intrigues you, spending a few more bucks to own it won’t be an issue!
What are the best, most durable materials for backpacking fry pans?
According to the REI, these materials give you plenty of choices when you shop:
-Aluminum is a lightweight, affordable material offering good heat conduction, but it’s more likely to dent and scratch as well as break down faster when used to cook acidic ingredients.
-Hand-anodized aluminum is a better option because it resists scratches and abrasion.
-Stainless steel will last longer because it’s a sturdier metal and won’t scratch easily. Still, it’s heavier than aluminum and not as good as conducting heat uniformly across the expanse of pans.
-Titanium tends to be extremely expensive, but if money is no object, this material is the antithesis of quality: Strong, light, corrosion-resistant, and it heats up fast. That stated, titanium isn’t perfect: it’s less efficient at heat conduction than stainless steel.
-Cast iron: As long as they are properly seasoned, cast iron skillets can last many generations, but they’re so heavy, you might want to take a pass if you usually trek long distances to reach campsites. Proper long-term care is also essential.
-Nonstick interior coatings make clean up fast and easy, but metal utensils easily scratch these coatings. Once the surface starts deteriorating, a skillet’s durability may be questionable.
Related: Best Camping Knives for Outdoor Cooking
The right pan handle for your camping chores
Seven of our fry pan picks feature fold-down handles, while one asks you to bring a knife along on your trips so you can cut a branch to the size you prefer to make your own handle.
Fold-down handles are obviously a plus when it comes to stowing and carting your fry pans, but you probably noticed that you couldn’t find a cast-iron model with a fold-down handle for obvious reasons, and a fixed handle adds to the weight.
That affixed handle can make packing hard, awkward, and a pain in the neck.
According to Camping Sage guru Keith Longmire, there is no shortage of cast iron fry pans on today’s market, and some come with removable handles to streamline the skillet when packing it into tight spaces.
But Longmire warns that removable handles that come with cast iron pans tend to go missing, so if you choose this option, you may wish to purchase a second handle just in case.
Does size matter for frying pans?
As a rule, popular and best-selling backpack fry pans range between 8-inches and 14-inches, and with size increases, prices tend to rise. Is one size better for your camping excursions than the other?
A better question is: “Why would you want to bring along an overly-large fry pan if you’re the only person you plan to feed?” An 8-incher is an ideal size because it works for one or two people, and the interior expanse is large enough to handle most dishes you intend to prepare outdoors.
Confused and need advice? We turn to a Wirecutter review published in the “New York Times” last year for help. According to experts in the research and testing kitchen, “a 12-inch skillet is the ideal size for most home kitchens.
A typical 12-inch skillet will have a cooking surface 9- to 10-inches in diameter,” so if you apply this advice to your camping food prep purchases, an 8- or 12-incher is likely to do the job for you if you’re not planning to cook for a crowd.
How important are packability and weight?
It’s no mystery that the advent of fold-down fry pan handles revolutionized the camping cookware industry because, with the exception of affixed and DIY handle options, this skillet style is probably the most often-listed feature when it comes to design.
Weight, on the other hand, is serious business for trekkers aiming to measure their recreational fun in miles rather than feet. But aside from the “schlep factor,” did you know that some foods taste better if they’re fried in a heavier pan?
Camping gourmets likely already know it, so if you prioritize taste over a willingness to turn yourself into a pack animal, consider this additional info from Wirecutter:
“If a pan is thin and lightweight, your food will burn in spots due to uneven heat distribution. If a skillet is too heavy, it will retain too much heat, and adjusting temperature can get difficult. Most of our testers preferred skillets weighing between 2- and 3½-pounds, which was still lightweight enough to comfortably toss ingredients.”
How to care for your camping fry pans
These solutions were harvested from Camping Panda and we thank them for the hack..
If you buy cast iron: according to the husband and wife team responsible for filling the DecideOutside.com website with great advice, if you camp with a cast iron pan, you’ve got lots of cleaning options while making sure this type of skillet retains its seasoning.
Because surfaces rely upon maintaining a slick surface, a paper towel or rag are adequate for cleaning unless food matter remains behind. In that case, use a “salt slurry” to do the job. Make a paste of a tablespoon of table salt and a few drops of water.
Scrub the paste into the pan to remove food particles. In a pinch, use sand and a plastic scrubber. Rinse and dry. Wipe the pan with oil before you store it.
If you buy aluminum, stainless steel, or titanium: to clean titanium camping cookware, fill the pan with water, bring it to a boil and then add a small amount of liquid detergent, using a nylon scouring pad to remove anything that remains.
Stainless steel skillet cleaning is equally easy. Fill the pan with water, sprinkle baking soda into the interior, bring the water to a boil and cook for half an hour before wiping and drying with a towel.
To wash up aluminum skillets, mix baking soda with biodegradable soap. Pour them into the pan, add a little water, and allow the thin paste to soak.
If that doesn’t work, fill two-thirds of the frypan with vinegar. Boil the mix up to 15 minutes and then use a non-abrasive towel or rag to wipe out and dry the pan.
If you chose a hard-anodized aluminum skillet, adopt the same measures as you would if you were cleaning regular aluminum: Put equal parts of water and vinegar into the pan, add baking soda and boil for no more than 15 minutes. Done and done.