Okay, I have to admit that when I’m camping by myself my cooking needs are pretty basic. When you go with a group however, whether it’s a Scout troop or a family trip, suddenly that little backpacking stove and tiny 1 quart pot aren’t going to cut it. With my wife getting involved with our daughter’s Girl Scout Troop over the past year and becoming more interested in family camping I figured it was time to bump up to something a little bigger.
There are a lot of options out there when you decide to move up to a bigger cook set but to me the best bet is finding a balance of the things you need, without going overboard. Having worked with a number of GSI Outdoors products in the past, which was one of the first places I looked for a cook set suitable for the family or a small group. After doing some online shopping on their website, I settled for the Large Bugaboo Base Camper set, which GSI recommends for use with 4 or more people. The Base Camper includes a 5 liter pot, a 3 liter pot, a 9 inch fry pan, 2 strainer lids, a cutting board, a folding pot “gripper” (pot handle), and a stuff sack. Total weight is 3 pounds 4 ounces and the set nests together so that it’s just 10 inches across by 6 inches high. Possibly still a little big for back for back packing unless you’re divvying up the group items, but actually rather compact for car camping, which is what its intended role was for our family. Cost of the Bugaboo Base camper is listed at $84.95.
Both pots and the frying pan are constructed from lightweight and conductive aluminum and then coated with two layers of Teflon coated for nonstick cooking and easy clean up. The exterior is finished with a deep blue high temperature paint to prevent oxidation. GSI puts some nice details into their products too such as the folding rubber covered handles on the big pot, and the strainer holes in both pot lids. Even the cutting board is sort of ingenious. It looks like a basic plastic plate but depending on which side you use it offers either a flat, or dished surface for cutting and it also acts to buffer the two pots when they are nested so as to keep from scratching up the Teflon finishes.
Being between group trips while working with the Bugaboo set, I set up a camp kitchen out on the deck. It was a good chance to use the set on a more frequent basis and some good practice for camp cooking in general. My wife, who until recently has definitely not been a camper, became quite enamored with the set and my double burner Coleman stove in the process and gained a good bit of confidence in camp cooking. The size of the set worked very well for our family of four and I think you could easily stretch that a bit and comfortably cook for 6 or 8 people depending what you were making.
The pots are great for things like soups, baked beans, rice, and especially pasta. When making spaghetti and macaroni and cheese the pot lids with the built in straining holes came in really handy. It save having to carry an extra item like a strainer, and is much easier to use than trying to hold a solid pot lid in place and draining the water out of pasta through the crack between the lid and pot. As to capacity, the small 3 liter pot easily held two cans of soup and had plenty of room for another two cans as well. My wife was confident that you could do at least 3 boxes of mac and cheese in the 3 liter pot as well, possibly even 4. That’s a lot of food and we aren’t even talking about moving to the bigger 5 liter pot yet!
The 9 inch fry pan worked well for bacon and grilled cheese sandwiches as well as pancakes. 9 inches is a tight for two sandwiches but it did work out okay. Sandwiches cooked evenly and even being the gooey, cheesy mess that they are did not stick at all on the Teflon coated surface. My wife was actually quite pleased with the heat transfer on the pan and how well things cooked in it. Clean up proved to be very easy as well with the pots and pans cleaning up thoroughly and quickly, again thanks to the nonstick coating.
The provided pot gripper is essentially a folding handle with a sturdy lock mechanism that snaps on to both the small pot and the frying pan. In use we found that it does heat up when left attached while you’re cooking so you probably still want to grab it with a towel, a hot pad, or a GSI silicone pot gripper. At times it would have been nice to have a second pot gripper available for both the small pot and frying pan and you can buy a spare if you do find that you really want one for $12.95 from GSI. The cutting board certainly works for its intended purpose too but we also used it for a serving plate as well, frequently using it to stack sandwiches, pancakes and bacon on as we moved cooked foods from the pan and prepped them to be served at the table.
The other thing we noticed with the Bugaboo set was that the aluminum pots and pan cooled fairly quickly once off of the stove or once the heat was removed. This was nice since you could start cleanup fairly quickly and you could get everything back in the drawstring bag and ready to go in with minimal time and fuss. The bag itself Is half mesh too so even if you’re pots aren’t totally dry some air can get to them and dry out between meals.
If you have need of a bigger cook set for your family or a small group then do yourself a favor and check out what GSI has to offer. The Bugaboo Base Camper is a great size and combines excellent build quality with a lot of well thought out features. It isn’t the least expensive cook set out there buts it’s a solid value for your money and definitely a step up from what you’d typically see in the camping aisles of the discount big box stores.
As seen in the Woods Monkey Gear Review column in Issue #22 of Self Reliance Illustrated! CLICK HERE FOR THE SRI ISSUE
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