The humble Dutch oven isn’t something you would pack for a speed hike of the Pacific Crest Trail, but these heavy, thick-walled pots have long represented the easiest and most pleasurable means of making gourmet food in the outdoors. Dutch ovens distribute heat evenly so you are less likely to burn chili or spaghetti sauce, and they churn out perfect cornbread, cobblers, crisps, stews, and meat every time.
While the original Dutch ovens date back three centuries to the Netherlands, the pots have seen significant upgrades in the past few years. Most cast-iron varieties now arrive from the factory pre-seasoned, making maintenance less of a hassle. Aluminum versions use a manufacturing method to hard-anodize the walls, making seasoning unnecessary. All Dutch ovens are relatively heavy, though, and more appropriate to sites within a mile from the trailhead (and even then, we recommend slipping them into the pack of the least-popular member of your group).
Here are two of our favorite ovens, along with a few accessories to go with them. We chose the five-quart size, which serves six-eight hungry people.