Cookset Review: GSI Bugaboo Backpacker + nFORM Kitchen

Andrew and I have used these two things GSI products together for the past year.  I figured this is a good opportunity to review it.  These are actually two different sets (the Bugaboo Backpacker and the nFORM kitchen), but I’ll review them together because that’s how we use them.  There’s a reason it’s called a bugaboo.

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The Bugaboo Backpacker set (find it at REI here) is about $70 and is a really versatile cookset.  It comes with a 2L pot, a lid with a strainer, a fry pan, a removable handle, two insulated “cups” (more on this in a minute) with lids that nest within two “bowls”, and a kitchen sink.
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The nFORM Crossover Kitchen is a little under $40 (you can find it at REI here) includes a small cutting board, a folding spatula, folding large spoon/ladle thing, folding tongs, a scraper, an absorbent towel, a “spice rocket”, a nylon storage bag, a mini oil holder and a larger squeeze bottle.  I replaced the larger squeeze bottle with an even bigger one (1 oz vs 2 oz I believe).  Our sporks (one titanium, one plastic) also fit in the bag.

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After taking these pictures, I weighed the entire kit.  Including spices and approximately 1 fl oz of oil, the kit weighs 2 lbs, 12 oz.

We also have our camp soap stored in one of the cups in the kit (this is included in the weight).

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Likes

  • I like how everything fits together.  No digging around in your pack looking for your spork – it is right here!

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  • When backpacking, I’m not content to just eat $9 a meal freeze dried food.  (1) It’s way too expensive to be sustainable for the John Muir Trail and (2) I really like to cook!  This cookset is flexible enough to allow you to actually cook.
  • Spice Rocket.  Oh man, it’s kind of heavy, but you can put a full tablespoon of flavor – times four flavors!  We stock salt, pepper, hot paprika, and herbs de provence in ours.  All hail the Spice Rocket!  You can buy an even bigger one (the Spice Missile) separate from this kit.  It comes with three self contained shaker lids that allow you to shake the right spice/fill the right spice up.

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  • Everything in this kit is really nonstick, so cleanup is super easy.  Anything that does stick can be easily cleaned in the kitchen sink.
  • It’s not so heavy that I have any trouble carrying it, but it’s also big enough to take car camping.  I made mac & cheese for 4 (a whole pound of pasta with lots of sauce!) and it was a full pot, but definitely not overflowing.
  • It’s stable on our stove, the MSR Whisperlite.
  • The pot gripper is really solid, unlike some other sets I’ve looked at.

 

Dislikes

  • This is pretty darn heavy for two people to carry for an extended period of time.  We’ve ditched the frypan and spatula while backpacking before, which saves a bit of weight, but it’s still a lot.  This Snowpeak cookset (without all of the kitchen stuff, of course) weighs less than a pound!
  • The webbing that holds it all together can get loose in your pack
  • It’s large!  The pot itself is 2L, so all together it’s probably 3L, which can be hard to find space for in your pack.
  • I hate eating and drinking out of the stupid triangle mugs/bowls.  I’m used to round things!  If we could put in some circular stuff, it wouldn’t be so bad, but there’s not really a way to fit that stuff well.  The only option that we’d have – and I did just try it out – is to replace the mugs & bowls (6.5 oz) with some old titanium bowls of Andrew’s that weigh 5 oz and repack stuff around it.  It’s an option we’ll have to try!  This does seem to make me unnecessarily mad.
  • The Wisperlite isn’t really going to fit in anything, but it definitely won’t fit in this.

Overall Opinion

  • If you want something that you can use both car camping and backpacking, I really like this kit.
  • If you want to bring gourmet food to the backcountry a la Backpacker August 2014, this is likely the best way to do it.
  • If you need to boil water for a lot of people (3 to 6!), this is a good kit for you!
  • If you’re ultralight and/or are only cooking dehydrated meals, stay away –  this kit has a lot of extras!
  • I like this kit a lot.  For me, the two combined are a 3.5/5.  If the bowls/cups were round, I’d give it a 4.5/5.
  • Will we carry this on the JMT?  Not exactly as purchased, but I would be shocked if we didn’t carry the majority of this cookset.

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