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REVIEW: Sea to Summit Collapsible Cookware

Foldable cups, plates and bowls have been around for some time - I've had a Sea to Summit bowl in this series for a few years - but until now I've not used pots and kettles that are completely collapsible, and yet still able to take the heat of a camping stove. I wouldn't normally say this about something as mundane as cookware, but I was genuinely keen to try them out. While various items in this X-series are available individually, to get a good sense of the range Sea to Summit sent me two different sets which between them cover all the camp cooking bases.

Ideal for family trips and car camping, 169 kb
Ideal for family trips and car camping
© Dan Bailey

This cookware is pretty clever. The sides of each piece are made from a rubbery silicone that concertinas into itself so that the item can be stored more or less flat for easy packing, with the various parts of a set nesting neatly inside each other in the manner of Russian dolls. Underneath, meanwhile, are solid bases.

I'll start with a summary:

Though by no means a budget option these cook sets are cleverly conceived and well made. In addition to the novelty of cooking in a rubbery pot, the folding design makes this kitchenware unusually packable. While the pots compare pretty well for weight and utility with top-end aluminium rivals, the cups and bowls look both heavy and expensive compared to bog standard plastic alternatives. Taken in their entirety these sets best suit car campers, as they're too heavy for backpackers and mountaineers. However individual items are a more practical proposition for life on the trail, particularly the kettle, which is excellent for solo walkers who only need to boil water. Pieces are available singly, but at greater cost per unit, so for best value consider buying a set - and if you get only one then make it the X-Set 32.

Nice neat sets, but you may not want to carry the whole thing for miles, 150 kb
Nice neat sets, but you may not want to carry the whole thing for miles
© Dan Bailey

X-Set 31                                                                                                                                                  £90

This consists of a 2.8 litre pot, 2 x 600ml bowls and 2 x 480ml mugs, and weighs 657g all-in.

X-Set 31: folding 2.8L pot, two folding bowls & cups (beside it is the X-Set 32, packed away), 242 kb
X-Set 31: folding 2.8L pot, two folding bowls & cups (beside it is the X-Set 32, packed away)
© Dan Bailey

Bowls

These have a rigid plastic base, and while the soft sides are a little disconcerting with a full load of pasta - particularly if they're being used by small children prone to spill things - you soon get used to the rubbery feel. The base is heat-resistant and so too, surprisingly, are the silicone sides, although you can certainly feel the heat of the bowl's contents more through the walls. Their stated 600ml capacity brings you up close to the brim, which with a liquid load feels a bit precarious. Given the squashable nature of the sides, I'd say the effective capacity is more like 550ml - something you can gauge pretty accurately thanks to a volume scale on the inside. Some would call that generous, but if you eat as much as me you'll probably be coming back for seconds at dinner time (and nothing wrong with that).

  • Weight: Though very packable, folding down into a disk not much more than 1cm deep, the bowls seem fairly heavy for their size, at 84g each versus 32g for a bog standard plastic alternative of not much smaller capacity (and a fraction of the cost) that I found in the gear cupboard. 

Foldable bowls take a little getting used to, 150 kb
Foldable bowls take a little getting used to
© Dan Bailey

Mugs

The mugs are squishy silicone throughout, bar a rigid plastic band around the rim. This gives structure, and in the absence of a handle serves as something to hold when full of scalding coffee (you won't want to wrap your hand around the sides unless wearing gloves). Boiling water can be poured straight in with no fear, and there are two volume scales (mls and something mysteriously archaic which I guess must be Oz). Again the stated capacity takes you right to the brim, but even less full they're still a reasonable size for a camping brew. However the base is fairly small, making them less stable than a more traditional mug.

  • Weight: As with the bowls, the mugs may be very compact but they are not notably lightweight - 70g apiece compared with 56g for one of my cheapo plastic camping mugs of similar capacity. Given that a foldable mug costs £12.50 to buy individually, I'm not convinced the ability to collapse really trumps the weight and cost savings of a far cheaper alternative.

Collapsing flat is nice for packing, but the cups and bowls are neither lightweight nor cheap , 157 kb
Collapsing flat is nice for packing, but the cups and bowls are neither lightweight nor cheap
© Dan Bailey

Pot

Here's where things get fun. Naturally the pot is slightly more structured than the bowls, with a metal base and a reinforced rim that resists deforming. Still it seems counter-intuitive, crazy even, to set something that looks like it's made largely of rubber over the heat of a roaring stove, and I was initially dubious. Yet provided the flames stay beneath the aluminium base of the pot rather than licking up the sides, everything's fine. You would not want to let it boil dry however, as warning notes on the bottom make clear. Once the heat is turned off you can safely lift the pot after only 30 seconds, using the stretchy silicone handles on each side. These same handles also secure the lid in place when the pot is collapsed. The lid is clear plastic, so you can keep tabs on your moules marinieres as they steam, with an added detail that I particularly like, a lattice of holes on one side for neatly draining noodles or pasta. This pot is pretty roomy too, safely swallowing 2 litres for boiling (that extra 800ml capacity gives you the necessary safety margin at the top); depending what you're cooking, that's plenty for two or three people. A conventional hard metal pot can be a pain to pack, and you have to stuff it with food, gas canisters or dirty socks in order to use space efficiently in the bag. Not so this Sea to Summit X-Pot, which collapses to less than 4cm deep (lid included).

  • Weight: At 355g, lid and all, this may not look that light until you remember that the effective boiling capacity is 2 litres. An anodised aluminium pot from my gear cupboard, top notch about 10 years ago from a different manufacturer, weighs 324g (including lid) and comes in at 1.5 litres max; you might find lighter pots this kind of size, but there won't be much in it. Used in cups and bowls the silicone does not offer a weight advantage over conventional plastic, but versus an all-metal pot it seems to at least hold its own.  

X-Set 31 - Sea to Summit Say:

Sea to summit X-Set 31 product shot, 191 kb

A collapsible, two-person cook system featuring an award-winning 2.8L X-Pot for camp stove cooking, two 600ml X-Bowls and two 600ml X-Mugs.

Cooking and dining for two collapsing to 50mm

Weight: 663g (my weight - Sea to Summit say 607g)

Packed Size: 21.5 diameter x 5 cm

Construction: 70% Silicone, 15% aluminium, 15% nylon

Price: £90 

X-Set 32                                                                                                                                                £110

With the X-Set 32 you get another of those 2.8 litre pots and a 1.3 litre folding kettle, both of which nest inside a frying pan of 8-inch diameter. The fit is so snug that the set is held together by friction alone, and you'd really have to be trying in order to shake them apart. This set comes in at a fairly hefty 791g, but you're getting a lot of cookware for this weight, enough to turn out a pretty elaborate meal for two or three people.

X-Set 32: frying pan, pot and kettle (and none of them are black), 204 kb
X-Set 32: frying pan, pot and kettle (and none of them are black)
© Dan Bailey

Frying pan

When camping, a frying pan is a nice-to-have but nowhere near essential; in fact this is the first I've ever used. But while you can get by frying bacon etc in a conventional metal pot, I'm not sure it would be advisable in Sea to Summit's silicone-walled X-series. Hence this 8-inch pan is all metal, anodised 5052 aluminium that feels both tough and reasonably lightweight. It also scrubs up well after you've charred your lunch. There's enough space here for a one-person cooked breakfast, or for frying up your veg to go in a pasta sauce. The pan is reasonably thick, holding its heat well without tending to burn in the way that cheap lightweight cookware can. Without going all Rick Stein, it is a pleasure to cook on. Its heat-resistant silicone-coated handles give a non-slip grip for oily fingers, and mean you can pick up the pan when it's still hot. They also fold down for easy packing.

  • Weight: I'm not sure if 243g is a lot for a frying pan designed for campers, or par for the course. The weight is largely irrelevant since surely no one takes a frying pan backpacking - in my book at least it's a luxury extra for car camping only.    

Sausages - wild camp luxury, 233 kb
Sausages - wild camp luxury
© Dan Bailey

Pot

In this set the pot is identical to that in the X-Set 31, bar the colour. 1.4 litre and 4 litre versions of the same are also available, sold separately, so there's a pot in the range for everyone from solo campers to groups.

Kettle

Squat-shaped and bright green, the kettle is pretty cute. That's a sentence I never dreamed I'd write one day, but for me this is the fun item of the lot, and possibly the most useful too. Folded down it's genuinely compact, and at less than 200g it won't break your back; yet it has enough capacity for a lightweight solo camper. If all you want to do is boil water - for instant noodles, say, or reconstituting a dehydrated meal-in-a-bag - then you could get by fine with the kettle alone. Its twin folding plastic handles work well, the spout pours perfectly with no dribbles, and the transparent lid gives you something to watch when you're sat on your own in a tiny tent in the rain. However, to find fault, its stated 1.3 litre capacity is misleading, taking you right up to the brim. The max safe fill line for boiling water (and what else does a kettle do?) is only about 875ml.

  • Weight: 194g 

Getting a morning brew on with the X-Kettle, 171 kb
Getting a morning brew on with the X-Kettle
© Dan Bailey

X-Set 32 - Sea to Summit say:

Sea to Summit X-Set 32 product shot, 160 kb

A comprehensive cook system for those interested in a variety of meals while camping. The set includes one orange X-Pan 8”, one grey 2.8L X-Pot, and one lime 1.3L X-Kettle. 

Collapses to 50mm height

X-Pot 2.8L can be secured inside X-Pan 8” by friction fit.

Weight: 792g (my weight - Sea to Summit say 756g)

Packed Size: 23 diameter x 5 cm

Construction: 70% Silicone, 15% aluminium, 15% nylon.

Price: £110

 

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