There are a lot of options to choose from when considering what cook-set to bring on a world tour. Stainless steel for "expeditions", aluminum for pretty much everything, titanium for the weight weenies and various teflon coatings for all. Add to that at least five manufacturers of quality products in each material and suddenly things start getting a little overwhelming.
If I remember correctly I'd thrown in the towel, refusing to do any more reading about anything gear related when we decided to simply pick a set from the shelves at REI. Our completely uninformed choice, the GSI Outdoors Pinnacle 2L turned out to be a truly awesome piece of kit. But, like the old saying goes, "you don't know what you've got until its gone."
For the first four months of our trip, we used and abused our teflon-coated cookset daily. It was an absolute dream to cook on and cleanup required nothing more than a swipe of a rag no matter what we made. When we were done, we stored our aluminum pie tins, can opener and various other metal implements inside. At no point did we consider that they would be bouncing around the pan as we rode, destroying the non-stick coating. We also neglected to read the directions which clearly stated not to fry things in our pan while using the lexan top. After four months on the road, this is what we were left with:
So, I decided it was time to do some research. We wanted something sturdy! We wanted something that would stand the test of time. We wanted a cook-set we could rely on. Everything I read said that people who go on "expeditions" take stainless steel. Stainless steel cookware is indestructible! My stainless steel pots and pans have been in my family three generations! Stainless steel is what real chefs use.
We liked our GSI set well enough so we decided their stainless Glacier line would do. We ordered the medium model, excited about having real expedition cookware and had it sent to Tara's parents who would later deliver it to us when we met in Italy.
Fast forward one month, we've been using our "expedition quality" cookware for about two weeks at this point. Here is a list of things we hated about it:
The pot gripper is a truly worthless, flimsy piece of aluminum that bends easily and subsequently looses grip of whatever scalding hot pan you are holding.
There are no grooves on the bottom of the pans like the Pinnacle set. We lost several meals to the very slippery pans flying off our stove.
Cleanup is an absolute nightmare, especially after a long day on the road.
The pans feel flimsy, the metal is too thin for our taste.
The pans ping and pop and warp like crazy when heated.
The mesh bag the cookset comes with is utterly useless for protecting the pans.
The pathetic little bungie strap that holds the packed cook-set together barely functions and could very easily be lost.
One of our all time favorite breakfasts, crepes, has been rendered almost impossible to make.
Here is a list of things we liked about it:
Needless to say, we ordered another Pinnacle set. This time we're going to take care of it and we feel confident it'll last a very, very long time. Here is a list of things we like about it:
Very sturdy pot gripper which, by design, can't let go of the pan accidentally.
The bottoms of the pans have ridges which prevent them from sliding off of the stove.
Cleanup is a total breeze.
The 'bag' for the pans doubles as a very effective and useful wash basin.
The lexan lid with its own handle and built-in strainer is really nice.
We love to brown/burn cheese into noodles. Nonstick makes this and all sorts of other tasty dishes possible.
We just recently watched Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman's Long Way Round again and I think I've stumbled upon the secret of why stainless steel is considered expedition grade cookware. "Hardcore" expeditioners don't cook. They boil water and pour it into a bag. Unless you are skilled at cooking in stainless steel and know how to simmer effectively with your stove, you will burn just about everything you make in it.
Hopefully in seven more months I'll be posting about how well our teflon cookware is holding up!