Integrated 'cooksets' that nest pans and flatware for backpacking aren't that new; most manufacturers have a version in their range. This is a good one. The Sea to Summit Alpha Set 2.2 builds on their extensive range of camp and expedition accessories, giving you a reasonably lightweight set of cooking and eating gear for two campers.
Sea to Summit is a brand that I have been using for most of my working life outdoors, although not always consciously. When they sent me this cookset to try out I hadn't really given the brand much thought. But on opening the gear cupboard to dump the newly-arrived review sample into it I noticed that I've actually got a fair amount of kit from this Australian brand – mostly drybags or 'camp kitchen' accessories. That gave me a little more confidence in the cookset, so I made a mental note to give it a try on the next adventure.
So what you get in the set is a pair of nesting anodised aluminium alloy pans with folding handles, a microfibre towel, a pair of bowls, and two insulated mugs. The pans are fairly conventional in shape, with a loose-fitting lid with drain holes and folding-swivel-handle-thing. The smaller 1.2L pan sits comfortably inside the larger 2.7L one, and the two DeltaLight bowls (1L and 0.9L) and pair of 350ml Insul mugs stack tightly inside. The microfibre towel stacks somewhere between the bowls and the pans, and the whole set weighs 765g. For backpacking that is not an insubstantial weight, but bearing in mind the size and robustness of the set it does seem fair enough.
Field Testing (occasionally in an actual field)
I had to go and dig out a proper gas stove (as opposed to an interlocking stove system) to use these pans with, and it didn't go that well with my first choice as they were a little too wide for that canister-top micro stove, an Alpkit Kraku. The pans are quite squat and wide, with the smaller (1.2L) one still being 135mm wide. There is a slightly textured base on each pan to help stop them slipping, but they still need careful placement on the stove supports.
The handles are… a bit weird. Sea To Summit call it the PIVOT-LOCK and it takes a little getting used to. The silicon-insulated handle rotates out from the side and then locks in place with a small catch. When stowed the handle keeps the lid firmly on the pan preventing any rattling, and does secure well when properly 'deployed'. However it isn't that intuitive – I tried handing it to several friends and colleagues who all took a few moments to work out how to open the handle – and the catch mechanism can be a bit fiddly. I have been told that my ape-like sensibilities might have something to do with that…
The lids have a row of strainer holes at one edge and a single hole at the opposite, and an insulated rubberised grab handle that mates with the pivoting handle when packed away. There's also a clever little flap on the underside that allows you to lodge it on the side of the pan when stirring.
The choice of hard-anodised aluminium alloy is OK by me. I tend to prefer alloy pans to titanium, and find that anodised surfaces strike a happy balance between heat transfer and food not sticking to the metal – although I still managed to weld some porridge to one of them.
The DeltaLight bowls are BPA-free glass-reinforced polypropylene and stack together tightly, one being slightly smaller than the other. They sit snugly between the two pans – outside the smaller pan and inside the larger. They are comfortable enough to hold confidently with one hand, and deep enough to hold semi-liquid food without too much stress about spillage.
The two 350ml Insul mugs are made from the same material and, like the bowls, are microwave and dishwasher safe. They have silicon lids that can be tricky to fit and a neoprene-like sleeve that helps keep the contents warm. I can attest that they certainly keep hot drinks warm enough to burn a tongue if not used carefully, which I suppose marks them out as a thucktheth...
The microfibre towel is nothing too fancy, but is a nice addition and works well both for handling hot pans when straining food and as a washcloth.
Reflections on a pair of pans
Although that handle can be a bit fiddly it is robust, and works every time, and it does help keep everything snugly nested when in transport – I have never noticed any clattering when it's in my pack.
The whole set is solid, and seems rugged enough for any likely expedition use, but I do have two main issues with the set as a whole. The first problem is more about this style of pan than the set itself: small pans with handles on one side are a little unstable, especially lightweight ones. The smallest pan weighs just 140g with the lid on, and thanks to the handle its centre of gravity is noticeably off to one side. The weight of food/liquid in the pan does help keep it balanced, but careful placement is still required.
The next problem is the insulated sleeves on the mugs. They seem to absorb a significant amount of moisture and can harbour mould if not properly dried out – and they seem to take an age to dry out. I've left them to dry on the kitchen counter for a few days before packing away and still found them damp enough to allow some crusty whiteness to have reappeared when brought out for use again. It's going to potentially be an issue when used on multi-day trips in humid conditions, but could be alleviated by storing the sleeves separately. It's also worth noting that you HAVE to remove the sleeves when packing the mugs into the pan as per the manufacturer's diagram – they won't nest properly with them still on.
This well made and versatile set is certainly worth a look if you often camp as a pair and want the option of cooking slightly more elaborate meals – or keeping one pan for cooking and one for boiling water. I like the neatness of integrated cooksets like this, and knowing that you can throw one tightly-fastened bundle into your kit and still have all your pans, bowls and mugs accounted for is reassuring for the disorganised.
If you make allowances for the absorbency of those insulated mug sleeves and are careful not to leave any weld-able foods in the pan for too long then you will fare well with this set. It's a bit pricey, but you are paying for that weight-saving. You're also getting a fair bit for the money. In the final analysis, this is a functional set, which seems robust enough for years of adventure.
Sea to summit say:
Sea to Summit's Alpha Cooksets provide lightweight and compact camp kitchen solutions for groups and individuals. The space-saving DeltaLight Bowls and Insul Mugs conveniently nest inside the Alpha Pots, providing generously sized and functional four, two and solo person sets.
The hard-anodised Alpha Pots feature straining lids with a unique drain hole pattern, textured base for stability and graded measurement scale. The unique horizontally pivoting handle ensures a secure and ergonomic grip when in use and folds away with a low profile. The foldaway handle also locks the lid to the pot for storage, keeping the contents contained and secure when packed.
- Alpha pots: Hard anodised aluminium
- DeltaLight Bowls and Insul Mugs: BPA-free, glass reinforced polypropylene. Lightweight, durable, easy-care, microwave and dishwasher safe.
- Set weight: 765g
- 2.2 set includes 1.2L + 2.7L + Alpha Pots, 2 DeltaLight Bowls, 2 DeltaLight Insul Mugs
For more info see seatosummit.co.uk
About Richard Prideaux
Richard Prideaux is the owner of established North Wales outdoor skills training and activity business Original Outdoors. He spends on average one night per week sleeping in a forest, up a mountain or on a beach somewhere in the UK and further afield and the rest of the time teaching navigation, foraging, tracking and other wilderness skills.
For more info see originaloutdoors.co.uk