Backpacking Frying Pans – What Works Best on the Trail?

Home » Camping » Kitchen » Backpacking Frying Pans – What Works Best on the Trail?


If you’re in a rush and want to find out what the best backpacking frying pan is, we recommend the Jetboil Summit Skillet.

Backpacking is hard work, which means you need to have a proper method for refueling at the end of the day. Good food is the way to do it, but when you’re on the trail, it can be hard to accomplish this without overloading your pack weight. There are various ingredients and backpacking meals that work well, but that doesn’t matter too much if you don’t have the cookware to prepare it in.

The best backpacking frying pan is going to be lightweight, durable, and multifunctional. There are several out there to choose from, but we’ve listed some of our favorites below.

In this article, we’ll be reviewing the following backpacking frying pans:

Backpacking Frying Pan Material

cast iron frying pan on a grate outside

Frying pans aren’t all made the same way, or with the same materials. To help you understand what would work best for you, here’s a brief overview of the common materials that backpacking frying pans are made out of:

Stainless Steel

You really can’t go wrong with stainless steel. Durable, rust and corrosion resistant, and easy on the eyes, it’s not hard to see why it’s one of the most popular cookware materials. I would totally tell you to get something made from stainless steel if it wasn’t for one major factor – weight.

Steel is heavy, and even a small frying pan will weigh you down. If you were car camping, I’d tell you that a 3 pound skillet is nothing to sweat over, but for backpacking? You’ll probably want to find something else.

Titanium

Lightweight and resistant to corrosion, titanium is the ultimate cooking material. However, because of its superior quality, it tends to be the most expensive material as well. We’ve included one product made from titanium in the review below, because we believe it’s a good option, and we wanted to give you a variety of products to choose from.

Titanium is naturally non-stick, though you may find that it doesn’t perform quite as well as a different material that makes use of a non-stick coating. It also heats up quickly, which is helpful when you’re backpacking and don’t want to waste fuel. However, heat distribution tends to be a little uneven, so you’ll have to keep a close eye on your food while it’s cooking.

Aluminum

Most backpacking frying pans are made from aluminum, simply because the material is so cheap and lightweight. In fact, the vast majority of products that we’ve mentioned below are going to be made from aluminum.

Most weigh under a pound, and have a handle that folds in for convenient storage. And since they’re aluminum, they all come with some form of non-stick coating. However, you have to be careful when you cook with aluminum. It has a lower melting point, so if your burner is too hot and you keep the pan on the heat for too long, it may start to melt.

Weight

egg over a frying pan with oil

When you’re backpacking, there are few things more important to consider than weight. Since everything is going to be resting on your back, every ounce really does add up, especially if you’re going to be on the trail all day.

If you’re a thru hiker, or just enjoy trekking for long periods of time, going with a lighter option is crucial. On the other hand, if you only tend to go 5-8 miles a day, you can probably get away with something heavier. As a rule of thumb, I’d try to keep the weight of the frying pan under a pound, regardless of your style of backpacking. Your shoulders will thank me later.

Size

Similar to weight, you also have to pay close attention to the size of the frying pan. There’s a limited amount of space inside your backpack, so being able to compress your gear as much as possible will help you with packing and organizing.

Going with an 8″ pan will allow you to conserve both space and weight, especially when compared with something like a 12″ pan. Likewise, a foldable handle will let you shrink the pan into a nice package, opening up a few more inches of space that you wouldn’t have had otherwise.

Multifunctional

pan with onion over an open fire hand holding chopsticks

To reiterate what I’ve just said, saving space and weight is key for any backpacking trip. One of the best ways to accomplish this is by purchasing gear that can serve more than one purpose. In the case of a frying pan, wouldn’t it be great if you could also use it as a plate? Or what if the sides were steep enough where you could use it as a tiny pot? Finding a pan that can do both of these things will allow you to forgo packing a separate plate and pot, which would only take up more space and weight in your pack.

Pot Grippers

Both the pan and the handle can get hot while you’re cooking. Pot grippers are a nice tool to keep in your back pocket when you need to take your cookware off the heat, since you can attach them whenever you’re ready. It’s especially convenient if you’re using your cookware to prepare a meal over an open fire.

Backpacking Frying Pan Reviews

Jetboil Summit Skillet

  • Diameter: 8 Inches
  • Weight: 0.66 Pounds
  • Material: Aluminum

I have never come across a piece of cookware by Jetboil that I didn’t like. From their single propane burners to their pots and pans, they make the best backpacking kitchen gear – in my opinion.

Regardless of how you feel about the brand, you can’t deny that the Summit Skillet was well designed for trekking. At a reasonable 10.6 ounces, even ultralightweight backpackers might be tempted to carry this with them. I’m not much of an ounce counter myself, but I do have a rule that my frying pan can’t weigh more than a pound, so I’m pretty satisfied with this skillet in that capacity.

The aluminum cooking surface comes with a ceramic non-stick coating. It’s PFOA free, which is also a bonus in my book. For those of you who don’t know, PFOA is short for perfluorooctanoic acid (a bit of a mouthful, I know), and it’s a chemical used to make products that are resistant to high heat, water, oil, and stains. I can’t say I’m a big fan of chemicals in my cookware, so I really appreciate what Jetboil has done here by removing it.

Pros:

– Lightweight
– Non-stick surface
– Chemical free
– Spatula included
– Even heat distribution

Cons:

– Ceramic coating may chip

GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Fry Pan – 8″

  • Diameter: 8 Inches
  • Weight: 0.825 Pounds
  • Material: Aluminum

GSI Outdoors went ahead and made a pan that’s absolutely non-stick, heating evenly and efficiently. Bacon, eggs, fried potatoes, and anything else will easily come out of the Pinnacle, thanks to the non-stick coating. I’m not a huge fan of Teflon, but I can’t deny how well it works. Cleanup is one of the worst parts about cooking on the trail, but with this pan, you won’t have to do anything other than give it a quick wipe.

The handle is removeable, which is great for when you’re cooking over an open fire. You can also fold it out of the way if you don’t want to remove it entirely, allowing you to use the space inside your backpack wisely.

At 13.2 ounces, it is a tad heavy for a backpacking frying pan, but you could certainly do worse. For the quality that you get, its overall durability, and the price point, I don’t think you’re going to find too many options that are better than this.

Pros:

– Absolutely non-stick
– Easy cleanup
– Removeable and foldable handle
– Very durable
– Multifunctional

Cons:

– A tad heavy
– Teflon coating

MSR WindBurner Ceramic 8″ Skillet

  • Diameter: 8.5 Inches
  • Weight: 0.475 Pounds
  • Material: Aluminum

Now, if you want a pan that’s completely non-stick and free of Teflon, the MSR WindBurner might be the one for you. The ceramic coating is both PFOA and PTFE free, keeping the cookware safe for use without any additional chemicals.

At 7.6 ounces, it’s the lightest backpacking frying pan that we’ve covered so far. And along with the even heat distribution and enclosed, heat capturing ring, it’s one of the most efficient pans in this review as well. You could easily toss a whole steak inside of it, and on that first flip, you’d find that every inch was cooked exactly the same.

Hard to say if it’s really a bad thing, but it’s worth noting that this pan was designed for exclusive use with the WindBurner stove system – something that’s not included. It’s definitely worth the money, and if you don’t have a full stove set yet, you’re going to want one before you hit the trail. If it’s something that interests you, the full set can be found here: MSR WindBurner Combo Stove System.

Pros:

– Very lightweight
– Non-stick
– Efficient use of fuel
– Chemical free

Cons:

– A little pricey
– Uneven heating

Sea to Summit Alpha Pan – 10″

  • Diameter: 10 Inches
  • Weight: 0.73 Pounds
  • Material: Aluminum

One of the largest pans that we cover here, the Sea to Summit Alpha pan is perfect for big food items. But don’t be fooled – even though it’s bigger, it isn’t necessarily heavier. At 11.8 ounces, it’s fairly comparable in weight to many of the smaller pans that we’ve covered so far. Part of the reason for this is because the metal is so thin, which is mildly concerning from a durability perspective. I wouldn’t be too concerned about it breaking, but I would still recommend handling it with care.

Heat transference is better than average, allowing for even cooking across the whole surface of the pan. The handle also swivels and locks into place, though you may have issues with that functionality as the years pass. Generally speaking, the locking mechanism works perfectly, but I have heard stories from people who had issues with it staying in place.

Overall, it’s a well thought out design that folds down into a nice, compact package. If you have other products from the Alpha series, they nest inside each other perfectly, making it easy to stuff as much as you need inside your backpack.

Pros:

– Larger cooking surface
– Even heating
– Locking handle
– Can nest with other Alpha series products
– Compact

Cons:

– Really thin material
– Handle locking mechanism may fail over time

OXO Carbon Steel Fry Pan – 8″

  • Diameter: 8 Inches
  • Weight: 2 Pounds
  • Material: Carbon Steel

I’m going to say it right off the bat…this is a heavy pan. In fact, it’s the heaviest in this review, primarily because it’s made from carbon steel. For serious backpackers looking to go more than a handful of miles each day, I’m going to tell you to skip right over this one.

However, if you aren’t looking to do a super intensive trek, there’s a lot to appreciate about this frying pan. For starters, steel is going to be a lot more durable than aluminum. You’ll get the most longevity out of this OXO carbon steel frying pan, especially compared with every other product that we’ve reviewed up to this point.

It works on all stovetops, both indoor and outdoor, and can be used in ovens up to 660 degrees. The steel is also pre-seasoned, so you won’t have to worry about seasoning it before your first cooking session. Over time, the more you use it, a non-stick patina will form on the cooking surface of the pan.

Unfortunately, it is hand wash only, but that’s a small price to pay for something this high quality. The handle is also removeable, and can be reversed for easy storage at home and in your pack.

Pros:

– Very heavy-duty
– Removeable and reversible handle
– Oven safe
– Pre-seasoned surface
– Heats quickly

Cons:

– Very heavy
– Hand wash only

Chinook 41480 Frying Pan

  • Diameter: 7.75 Inches
  • Weight: 0.6 Pounds
  • Material: Aluminum

What I like the most about the Chinook frying pan is how versatile it can be. It’s an 8 inch pan, like many that we’ve talked about so far, but the depth is over 2 inches. Because of that, you could easily turn it into a “pot,” or a shallow bowl to eat from when the food is ready.

Of course, the price helps too. As the cheapest product in our lineup, it’s easy to see why it would be an attractive offer. I will caution you, though, that you do get what you pay for. In this case, that means getting a pan that’s a little flimsier and more prone to bending than some other options.

But, as long as you’re careful with it, it’s a surprisingly reliable piece of cookware. It heats evenly and efficiently, and it weighs just over half a pound. For a budget backpacking frying pan, you really can’t do better than this.

Pros:

– Lightweight
– Inexpensive
– Even heating
– Can be used as a pot or plate
– Fairly non-stick

Cons:

– A little flimsy
– Handles are a bit short

Keith Titanium Fry Pan

  • Diameter: 7.9 Inches
  • Weight: 0.4 Pounds
  • Material: Titanium

The only titanium fry pan on this list, this product by Keith Titanium is definitely worth checking out. Weighing a mere 6.6 ounces, you’ll barely notice the difference after adding it to your pack. Despite the incredibly lightweight design, though, there wasn’t any reduction in total cooking space. It’s an 8 inch pan with a 2 inch depth, allowing you to get a bit creative with the meals you prepare on the trail.

Perhaps surprisingly, the entire frying pan is made out of pure titanium. This is something of a rarity in the cooking world, as most titanium cookware is actually an alloy of titanium, steel, and aluminum. Considering the exorbitant cost of titanium, it makes sense why most pots and pans only use it as a top layer.

That’s why it’s rather admirable that Keith Titanium made their product fairly affordable despite the purity of the material. It’s worth noting that titanium by itself is odorless, tasteless, dishwasher safe, non-stick, lightweight, and very durable. Unfortunately, in its pure state, it doesn’t do very well with heat distribution, so you’ll have to keep a close eye on your food while it’s cooking.

Pros:

– Odorless
– Tasteless
– Ultralightweight
– Very durable
– Multipurpose
– Folding handle

Cons:

– Uneven heat distribution

FAQ

What Frying Pan Should I Get?

The perfect backpacking frying pan for you is entirely dependent on your personal needs. However, it’s always smart to get something that’s lightweight, durable, and multifunctional. Our favorite is the Jetboil Summit Skillet, simply because it checks these boxes so well. On top of that, it’s also chemical free and packs down to a convenient size for easy storage inside your pack.

Griddles are square or rectangular in shape, whereas frying pans are circular. Frying pans also tend to be deeper, and can be used over a single propane burner more easily – exactly what you want for backpacking. However, if you have a double burner, or you plan on cooking over an open campfire, a griddle can be a nice option for pancakes, eggs, bacon, and other meat products.

Final Thoughts

There’s nothing like a hot meal after a long day of trekking. But in order to prepare said meal, you’re going to need some cookware and a single burner propane stove. Many backpacking meals are freeze dried, simply requiring you to boil some water before adding it to the food bag. But sometimes you want something a bit more…tasty.

A backpacking frying pan will allow you to make bacon and eggs, pancakes, and much more. But in order to pull it off, you’ll need something that won’t wreck your shoulders after you add the weight to your pack. The frying pan should also heat evenly, be non-stick for easy cleanup, and be pretty durable. With all those points in mind, we felt that the Jetboil Summit Skillet did it best. At just over half a pound, it’s a minimal amount of weight for the quality of pan that you get. It’s a simple and effective piece of cookware, and you can be sure that it will last you many years to come.


Spencer Yeomans

Spencer Yeomans

A lover of the outdoors, and especially the mountains, Spencer has always enjoyed pushing people to step outside their comfort zones. His mission is to help others get out of their homes to have fun and stay active in nature.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Scroll to Top