Is Titanium Cookware Good for Camping?

Titanium has a certain cachet to it. If it’s good for aerospace engineering and medical implants (and let’s not forget expensive bicycles), shouldn’t it be good for camping cookware? Titanium’s high strength-to-weight ratio, low thermal expansion, and corrosion resistance sound like the perfect ingredients for a nice hot camping meal.

But hold up! Though titanium may be trendy, there are other more affordable materials available. Why would you choose titanium for your camping cookware over aluminum or stainless steel? The short answer is, personally, I wouldn’t.

I recently wrote a detailed post about titanium cookware for backpacking — multiday hiking where every ounce counts — and I’m a big fan of it for that use case. When you have to carry your cookware to your campsite on your back, titanium’s feather-light weight makes up for its drawbacks.

But if you’re camping — car camping, RV camping, maybe even bike camping — and weight is not an issue, there are better materials for cooking. I see a lot of people asking about titanium cookware for camping and I worry there’s a misconception afoot, and that misconception is resulting in a lot of charred meals and sad campers.

The truth is, titanium cookware is great for preparing simple dehydrated “just add hot water” backpacking meals, but not so good for real cooking with fresh ingredients like most car campers do. Read on for a quick overview of why this is and what materials you should choose instead.

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Why Choose Titanium

When it comes to cookware, titanium’s main advantage is lighter weight. It’s a lightweight metal to begin with, and its high strength-to-weight ratio allows for pots and pans with very thin walls. For example, the GSI Outdoors Halulite Boiler made from hard-anodized aluminum weighs 8.6 oz while the Toaks Titanium 1100 ml with identical capacity (1.1 liters) weighs a mere 5.6 oz. Though the extra 3 oz won’t bother everyone, gram counters will note that the aluminum pot is 1.5 times heaver.

Titanium pots are typically made with thin walls that transfer heat quickly. While this has downsides for cooking (see below) it’s very efficient for boiling water. Titanium also won’t leave a metallic taste in your food, doesn’t rust, and isn’t typically used with potentially harmful non-stick coatings.

Drawbacks of Titanium for Camping Cookware

Though many backpackers find the weight savings of titanium to be worth its drawbacks, there are some significant downsides to using titanium cookware for car camping or other less weight-sensitive activities.

Uneven Heat Distribution

Inferior heat distribution is perhaps the biggest reason not to use titanium cookware for camping. The relatively thin walls of titanium pots transfer heat to the contents quickly, but not evenly, which leads to scorched food if you’re not careful.

This is rarely a problem for lightweight backpackers, who often “cook” by simply boiling water and pouring it into a pouch of dehydrated food. Yup, we like to keep it simple. But most car campers are looking for a slightly more gourmet experience. If you want to fry fish or burgers, scramble eggs, or make pancakes in your camping cookware, titanium requires extra care. It’s possible, but you’ll need a stove with a good low-heat setting, plenty of cooking oil, and your undivided attention.

Or, you could choose a camping cookware set made from hard-anodized aluminum with ceramic coating, like the MSR Fusion 2-Pot Set, for a much more forgiving camp chef experience (and no potentially harmful non-stick coating to worry about either).

Cooking eggs in a titanium pan requires constant attention and a stove with good simmer control (low flame setting).
That same well-used titanium pan from above with obvious scorch mark in center. (This is an older style with non-stick coating, less common with Ti pots these days, but the poor heat distribution still applies.)

Cost

Titanium is a relatively expensive metal, so titanium cookware is never going to be the best bargain. These days a number of copycat budget brands are selling affordable titanium pots on Amazon, but your money will still go farther with a budget aluminum cookset. Since weight savings is a big part of what makes titanium worth the extra cost, it doesn’t offer car campers the best bang for their buck.

Limited Size Options

Titanium cookware is geared towards ultralight backpackers, who tend to hike solo or in pairs (it’s easier for most people to rally a group of friends for a weekend camping trip than a multi-month thru hike). This means most titanium pots are fairly small, often less than 1 liter of volume and meant to double as a personal mug or bowl.

If you want a large camping pot for cooking family meals, your titanium options are very limited. I don’t know of a single titanium pot bigger than 2 liters. On the other hand you can easily find aluminum and stainless steel pots with 3+ liters of capacity.

Esbit stove and titanium mug
Heating water in a little titanium “pot” (actually a mug) for an ultralight cup of coffee. Most car campers will prefer a larger-volume pot!

Durability

Though titanium pots stay functional for a long time, they may become warped or discolored sooner than others. This isn’t because titanium is weak — in fact it’s an extremely strong metal — but because it’s used in ultralight cookware made with very thin walls to save weight (and probably also cost). As such, a lightweight titanium pot may not stand up to the rigors of frequent camping as well as a heavier alternative like stainless steel.

Better Materials for Camping Cookware

So if titanium isn’t ideal for car camping cookware, what material is? Here are two better options to consider.

Hard-Anodized Aluminum

Aluminum on its own has excellent heat conduction properties, and the hard-anodization process makes it extra-durable. A hard-anodized aluminum pan is much less likely than titanium to scorch your meal, especially when cooking with temperature-sensitive ingredients like eggs.

When combined with a non-stick coating (either Teflon or, increasingly popular for health and environmental reasons, ceramic) aluminum pots are easy to clean and generally considered the ideal material for car camping cookware. Nonstick coatings do eventually wear off, meaning these pots won’t last forever, but in the meantime they making camp cooking a breeze.

Examples of hard-anodized aluminum camping cookware:

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is less forgiving than aluminum when it comes to even heating, but still better than titanium. Its main advantage for car camping is extreme durability. While non-stick coatings on aluminum pots eventually scratch and wear off with continued use, stainless steel has no such problem. The downside is a more intensive cleanup process since food does stick, but you can go at it with steel wool and not worry about damaging the pot.

Examples of stainless steel camping cooksets:

Recommendation

If weight isn’t a concern for your camping setup and you want to do more than boil water to rehydrate freeze fried meals, don’t choose titanium!

Though I adore my titanium pot for lightweight backpacking trips, I would never choose titanium cookware for camping specifically. My personal choice would be hard-anodized aluminum with ceramic coating, which avoids the health and environmental concerns of traditional non-stick Teflon coatings. Stainless steel is a good choice too – just be sure to bring your steel wool scrubber.

Sources

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About the Author

Hi there, I’m Alissa, founder of Exploring Wild. I’ve had the pleasure of hiking, cycling, skiing, climbing, and traveling in some of the world’s most gorgeous places. I love using what I’ve learned to help others enjoy these places with skill, care, and curiosity. Learn more about me here.

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