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Adventures In Frugality / Stanley Adventure Camp Cook Set: Excellent Bang

May 30, 2023

Photo: Amazon

After returning from my Trans Labrador Highway jaunt in 2019, I decided I needed to streamline my cooking kit. I’d been riding with a Coleman single-burner, dual-fuel stove and an army surplus cookset. This was a Keep-It-Simple-Stupid solution, but unfortunately, it didn't pack well on my cramped WR250R. What to replace it with, for shorter trips where I didn't need multi-fuel capability?

In the early days of COVID-19, with cash running low and a desire to get outdoors, I picked up a made-in-China multi-piece kit off Amazon—a butane canister-top stove, semi-nesting pots, folding utensils and a steel cup for $32.99 CAD. It was a screaming deal, but not without its limitations. Although it didn't let me down, I wanted something a bit more squared-away. So that cookset was passed on to a family member (still highly functional), and I looked for something just a bit better. That's when I found the Stanley Adventure Camp Cook Set.

Although you can get the cookset in various configurations, mine came with a 24-ounce steel pot, and two plastic mugs that nest inside. I paired it with an MSR stove and a military-style canteen holder as case (perhaps we’ll look at those later).

Breakfast on the road in Newfoundland. This Stanley pot has been my constant companion during travels through the COVID years. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

For the unpretentious ADV traveler, I think this is one of the best deals you’ll find.

I paid just over $25 CAD for my Stanley cookset, but they’re higher-priced in Canada. In the States, this set is readily available around the $17 USD mark.

For that, you get a pot that you just. can't. kill. This is no fancy-pants titanium kit that you have to baby. It will last you forever, unless you subject it to extreme abuse. But what I particularly like about it is the way it encourages a modular, self-contained setup. If you take one of the plastic mugs out, you can stuff a small nozzle-style butane stove, a gas canister, and a single cup inside the pot, along with some instant coffee or instant soup packets and a tiny Bic lighter. If you’re storing it in a case, like I usually do? Wal-Mart's cheap stainless steel Ozark Trail mug just barely slips over the base of the pot; a GSI Ultralight Java Drip coffee filter is roughly the same diameter as well, making it easy to haul a fair amount of useful camp cookwear without significantly increasing the size or weight of your setup.

Check it out. The GSI coffee filter is barely any larger than the pot, and the affordable Ozark Trail cup on the bottom is just big enough to fit over the cookpot. This gives you a lot of capability for very little space. Photo: Zac Kurylyk

The pot itself has graded markings on the side, if you need to measure water for some culinary project. There's a vent in the lid, reducing boil-overs.

Obviously, because it's a tall, skinny pot, it is slightly more difficult to clean and you have reduced recipe options. You aren't going to be frying bacon or a fresh-caught trout, or grilling a steak in it. You will have to bring along more cookware, if you want more versatility. But if you’re like me, and camp food is often packets of instant oatmeal (which work nicely in the included plastics cups), canned soup or ramen, and coffee? It's perfect for the traveler who doesn't need anything fancy. If you do want more protein in your diet, you can even fit a couple of eggs in there, but it's much easier to boil small/medium eggs than it is to fit two large eggs inside.

Don't just take my word for it. Although I’m often suspicious of Amazon's reviews, this cookset currently has 84 percent of reviewers giving it a five-star rating, and another 12 percent giving it four-star ratings. That's one of the best-rated pieces of inexpensive outdoor kit I’ve ever seen. Walmart's US website seems to have similar enthusiasm in the review section. Same for REI!

In summary: This is a simple, affordable piece of kit for uncomplicated and thrifty users. The price of mil-surp cooksets has crept so high that I’m not sure you’d save much money shopping at your local army surplus store. This works for me, and I highly recommend it for the frugal adventurer. I even use mine around the house, occasionally…

you just. can't. kill