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Cooking a meal for the family with a cast iron skillet is one of the most rewarding experiences there is. But if you’ve been having your home frying pan play double duty for more than a couple of seasons, chances are that you’re ready to upgrade to a dedicated option. To help you decide, I tested out the best cast iron skillets for camping from Lodge, Barebones, Camp Chef, and GSI on both a traditional camp stove and over open fire.
- Best Overall: Lodge Cast Iron Skillet
- Best Upgrade: Barebones All in One
- Best Value: Camp Chef Cast Iron Skillet
- Best Lightweight: GSI Guidecast Frying Pan
- Best Handle: Camp Chef Heritage Skillet
How I Tested the Best Cast Iron Skillets for Camping
I tested the best cast iron skillets for camping by assessing their weight, ease of use, evenness of the cook, seasoning retention, and ease of cleaning. First, I confirmed the weight of each cast iron skillet using a kitchen scale. I then checked whether the skillets came pre-seasoned or not and, where not, I followed manufacturer directions to season the skillet.
The evenness of the cook and seasoning retention were tested outdoors over both a camp stove and a campfire. To test the evenness of the cook, I heated up a little oil in each skillet and then added an 8-inch tortilla. After a little had gone by, I flipped it over once and checked to see if it was browning evenly. I repeated this test with each skillet.
|Camp Iron Skillet
|Ease of Use
|Evenness of Cook
|Ease of Cleaning
|Barebones 10-inch All in One
|5 lb, 9.5 oz10 lb, 5.5 oz (with lid)
|Camp Chef Cast Iron Skillet 10”
|4 lb, 14.1 oz
|Camp Chef Heritage Skillet 10”
|4 lb, 12.4 oz
|GSI Guidecast 10-inch Frying Pan
|3 lb, 1.2 oz
|Lodge 12-Inch Cast Iron Skillet
|7 lb, 7.6 oz
The quality of the seasoning of each pan was tested over an open fire. For this test, I cooked bacon and an egg. If you’ve ever owned a cast-iron skillet, then you know that eggs are notorious for sticking to the bottom of cast iron skillets unless they are perfectly seasoned.
The results of the seasoning test looked delicious, so delicious that the bacon from one of the cast iron skillets was already missing when I got around to snapping this picture.
The egg was flipped once, while still on the campfire, during testing. The open-flame campfire also allowed me to assess how easy it was to use the skillet when conditions weren’t ideal. Finally, when I got home I checked to see how easily each skillet wiped clean using paper towels.
Best Cast Iron Skillets for Camping: Reviews and Recommendations
Best Overall: Lodge Cast Iron Skillet
- Available sizes: 3.5, 5, 6.5, 8, 9, 10.25, 12, 13.25, and 15 inches
- Tested Weight of a 12-inch Pan: 7 pounds, 7.6 ounces
- Affordably priced
- Cooks evenly
- Comes in a wide variety of sizes
- Stuck slightly during the egg and bacon test
The classic Lodge Cast Iron Skillet has been a staple of my home kitchen for years, often serving double duty whenever I head out camping with the family. And after testing the competition, I’ll be sticking with it: this no-frills affordable skillet gets the job done. It had a very even cook (on par with the Barebones All In One) with the tortilla test and barely stuck at all on the egg test.
Because I had been using a 10-inch version of the Lodge skillet at home for so many years, I tested a 12-inch version of this frying pan to see how that size compared to the 10-inch in different contexts. While the 12-inch version was easier to balance over the campfire, it took up a disproportionate amount of space on the camp stove. It fit, but you might have to wait until you’re done cooking with it to add anything to the second burner. For that reason, I’m recommending the 10-inch version as a better all-round option.
Read Next: Best Camping Stoves
I also liked that the Lodge skillets are manufactured as a single piece of cast iron, and that it comes in a wide variety of sizes, from 3.5 inches all the way out to 15 inches. Whatever your needs, whatever your plans, Lodge has got a skillet that will work for you at a reasonable price.
Best Upgrade: Barebones All in One
- Available sizes: 10 and 12 inches
- Tested Weight of a 10-inch Pan: 5 pounds, 9.5 ounces
- Best seasoning in my test
- Comes with a lid
- Even heating
- Fewer size options than others I looked at
The Barebones 10-inch All in One was very impressive during testing. It tied the Lodge skillet for the most even heating during the tortilla test. But when it came time to test over an open-flame campfire, it pulled away from the competition. When I flipped the egg, it easily pulled away from the pan in one piece. If the pre-seasoning of cast-iron skillets haven’t been living up to your expectations, then this is the one you want.
The Barebones All in One does come with a lid, which is handy if you want to make cornbread or otherwise bake with your skillet. However, it is still extremely expensive, over three times the price of my best overall pick.
Best Value: Camp Chef Cast Iron Skillet
- Available sizes: 10, 12, and 14 inches
- Tested Weight of a 10-inch Pan: 4 pounds, 14.1 ounces
- Very affordable
- Reasonably even cook
- Worst out-of-the box seasoning in my test
- Handle conducted significant heat
If you’ve been using cast-iron pans for a while, then you probably already know how to season your pan to your expectations. Which you’ll want to do with the Camp Chef Cast Iron Skillet as the test egg was essentially destroyed when I went to flip it over. And while it performed OK during the tortilla test, the handle picked up more heat than anything else I looked at.
But, still, this cast-iron skillet that costs less than my best overall pick (and one fifth of my best upgrade pick). And it works perfectly fine; I wouldn’t hesitate to take it camping. If you’re on a budget, go ahead and grab this one—just plan to season it a bit more often than you would other choices on this list.
Best Lightweight: GSI Guidecast Frying Pan
- Available sizes: 8, 10, and 12 inches
- Not pre-seasoned
- Tested Weight of a 10-inch Pan: 3 pounds, 1.2 ounces
- Affordably priced
- Not pre-seasoned
- Concave shape can make it difficult to keep foods separated
One of my gripes with cast-iron skillets for camping is that they feel so heavy. Often when cooking I find myself needing to use two hands just to give the pan a little shake. So I definitely noticed that the GSI Guidecast weighed over a pound less than other cast iron skillets. And it was noticeable in my test, as well, with this cast iron pan being the easiest to move off the burner and campfire.
The thinness of the cast iron did, however, have one noticeable downside: it was the only skillet that had a noticeable cold spot during the tortilla test. I also found that the concave shape made it so that the egg and the piece of bacon ran together during my campfire test, due to the concave shape of the pan. Don’t snag this one if you have plans for cornbread or other gourmet items. But if you’ve got dreams of taking a cast-iron skillet into the backcountry on a horse-packing or backpacking trip, this could be just what you’re looking for.
Read Next: Best Dutch Ovens for Camping
Finally, this is the only cast iron skillet for camping that did not come pre-seasoned. While seasoning a cast-iron skillet for camping isn’t difficult (and the GSI Guidecast came with directions) it is time-consuming. Plan to give yourself a couple of hours (ideally overnight) to complete this task before heading out on your camping trip.
Best Handle: Camp Chef Heritage Skillet
- Available sizes: 10 and 12 inches
- Tested Weight of a 10-inch Pan: 4 pounds, 12.4 ounces
- Comfortable handle that doesn’t absorb heat
- Expensive for what it is
- Steep walls make flipping over objects somewhat more difficult
If you’ve ever used a cast iron skillet, either for camping or at home, you know that one of biggest pitfalls is the handle. Those things can heat up, fast, and take forever to cool down. You’ll probably grab a handle that’s hot enough to burn you at least once, maybe twice.
That is unless you choose the Camp Chef Heritage Skillet. The handle on this one is a separate piece of metal with silicone wrapped around the middle. I was worried that would mean it wouldn’t be able to perform in a camping setting, but I was wrong. This was the last skillet I tested over the campfire, right after one of my supporting logs had collapsed. I reshuffled the fire to make an even base for cooking again but that, of course, meant that the fire was reinvigorated. Despite having direct flame licking at the handle, the Camp Chef Heritage Skillet was not only fine, the handle was almost cool enough to pick up directly. When I tried to pick it up, it wasn’t enough to burn me but it was enough to be uncomfortable after holding onto it for several seconds. At the end of the tortilla test, the handle was cool to the touch, the only cast iron pan that was true of. (According to Camp Chef, the handle is oven safe up to 250 degrees.)
One knock against this skillet is that it was the only one in my test to pick up some cosmetic blemishes that did not come off when I wiped it down with paper towels.
How to Choose a Cast Iron Skillet for Camping
Many of the best cast iron skillets come pre-seasoned, simplifying matters for first-time users. Even if it does, however, you’ll want to make sure that you maintain the seasoning over time by reupping it periodically. If you’re new to cast-iron, the instructions are pretty straightforward. First, heat up your oven. Then apply a thin sheen of cooking oil or other fat to your cast iron pan, and pop it inside upside down for an hour. After that, turn off the heat and wait for the oven to cool with the door closed. Once it’s completely cool, your pan is seasoned and ready to go.
During testing, I found that a 10-inch pan is the right size for most people for camping. Larger sizes were a bit too much for a typical camping stove while smaller sizes would be more difficult to balance on a campfire. However, you may want a larger size if you are looking to cook something large (like a fresh-caught fish). Conversely, you may want a smaller size if you have limited space in your camping bin.
Read Next: Camping Checklist
Several of the cast-iron skillets I looked at came with optional bundles that included various accessories that may be useful to more gourmet cooks, including lids (helpful for making cornbread and other baked goods) or griddles (helpful for getting a nice char pattern when grilling at a high heat).
Cast iron skillets are extremely durable and don’t deteriorate over time (although they may require additional seasoning), making them an excellent choice for camping.
The only foods you should avoid cooking in the best cast iron skillets are acidic foods (like tomatoes and lemon) as they can both take on strange flavors and harm the seasoning of the pan. If you are cooking something white (like rice), be aware that a cast iron may color it slightly gray.
What size skillet is best for camping depends on a number of factors, including the size of your camping box, whether you intend to cook over open flame or on a camp stove, and what it is you are planning to cook. Most people should stick with a 10-inch pan, as these are small enough to fit on a camp stove, but large enough to easily balance between two logs over an open flame.
While the quality of cast-iron skillets does mostly depend on the care you take of them, during testing I did find that the most expensive cast-iron skillet (from Barebones) did perform at a higher level than others.
Cast iron can rust if left to air dry overnight, so do your best to dry off it after cleaning. If it does rust, simply scrub the rust off, clean, dry, and then reseason.
A great cast iron skillet for camping can elevate any outdoor dining experience. We tested out top models from Barebones, Lodge, Camp Chef, and GSI to give you plenty of options to choose from.