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Titanium or Aluminum cookware?

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  • 1 month later...

Aluminum is cheap and light but has the danger of leaching into food. I use it to heat water and eat of sometimes;. Titanium is expensive, so I have never tried it. Stainless steel is very durable and does not interact with food.

For boat trips I like to bring an aluminum Dutch oven. For truck camping and horse trips cast iron works great.

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Stainless steel has all of the disadvantages of Titanium and none of the advantages of Aluminum. Stainless Steel is strong, so cookware can be thinner than aluminum, but it has poor thermal conductivity and is still a bit heavy. Stainless and Titanium are both good for boiling water, but aren't a good choice for cooking (that's camp cookware, not kitchenware). If  I want to cook something, I usually go for hard anodized Aluminum. The hard coating makes it more inert and is reasonably nonstick. Although Aluminum has higher thermal conductivity, camp cookware is still too thin to avoid hotspots, so cooking in camp can still be a challenge. Aluminum is so reactive that it forms a surface layer of Aluminum Oxide that inhibits reaction with the metal. Acid foods are somewhat reactive with Aluminum, but alkaline foods are much more reactive with Aluminum. We don't see much in the way of alkaline camp food, so this isn't normally a problem.

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  • 11 months later...

I know this is an old post, but I noticed that there were no factual data posted about the safety of aluminum cookware. As a critical thinker and an REI employee, I believe that people should make informed decisions based on facts from credible sources, not someone's own personal beliefs. (Disclaimer: This post in no way represents the opinions or recommendations of REI and I am not posting as an employee, but as a private individual.)

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), aluminum is safe to cook with. Aluminum is naturally present soil, water, and the air, but account for minimal exposure in humans. Primary exposure (about 7-9 mg/day) is via ingestion of aluminum containing food, including baked goods and goods containing anti-caking and coloring agents. Aspirin contains 10-20 mg. of aluminum and antacids have 300-600 mg of aluminum hydroxide, very little of which is absorbed. Most of the aluminum ingested passes through the digestive system and leaves the body in the feces. Smaller amounts that enter the bloodstream are voided via urine. Aluminum is applied topically via cosmetics and antiperspirants.

Aluminum poses no health risks in these very minute exposure because healthy individuals do not store aluminum. However, some people who have kidney disease do store aluminum that enters the bloodstream as the kidneys fail to remove it. Some studies show aluminum in high levels are correlated with Alzheimer's; but other studies contradict that finding and there is no scientific consensus of a link between aluminum and Alzheimer's.

The CDC recommends that concerns regarding typical aluminum exposure should be addressed by reducing or eliminating aluminum containing processed foods and avoiding cooking acidic foods in aluminum pots, although the levels of aluminum found in food cooked aluminum pots are safe.

From here: https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/phs/phs.asp?id=1076&tid=34

With regard to anodized aluminum, according to Clemson University, anodized aluminum is hardened to prevent reaction to acidic foods cooked within, but storing acidic foods in the pot does cause pitting like non-anodized aluminum contact with acidic foods. From here: https://www.clemson.edu/extension/hgic/food/pdf/hgic3864.pdf

Since it's uncommon for backpackers to cook or store acidic foods in their cookware, I would suggest that unless you have kidney disease you should be fine with aluminum pots, whether anodized or not, and would be better off basing your decision on factors other than safety such as weight, cost, and durability.

Here comes my "gear nerd" answer:

Titanium is chosen primarily for weight-saving and strength, but is generally much more expensive than aluminum/anodized aluminum. Aluminum is an excellent heat conductor making it a more efficient metal for cooking. However, the difference in heat transfer is negligible because even though titanium is more of an insulator than a conductor of heat, its greater strength allows for extremely thin walls which pose little barrier for heat to pass through. This is why I can't hold my titanium pot filled with boiling water with bare hands and why it's as efficient as an aluminum pot.

Whether it's worth the added cost is really an individual choice. I am personally very happy with my 600 ml titanium cup that weighs 88 grams and can easily boil 2 cups of water. But I would also greatly consider anodized aluminum as an alternative since the weight cost is negligible and the cost is much less. The GSI Hallulite Minimalist is a 600 ml anodized aluminum pot with a cover, folding plastic spork (useless, IMO), a silicone pot gripper, and an insulating sleeve for 177 grams. If you ditch everything but the pot, you're down to 92 grams, only 4 grams heavier than titanium for (currently) $9 less.

Hope that helps anyone considering new cookware or replacing old cookware. 

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  • 2 months later...
  • 2 months later...

I've heard from many hikers that silicone cookware is a tricky option, mostly because the quality of it highly depends on the brand. 

Susan, which silicone pot you got? What is your experience with it?

Great info, Ann! 

Edited by JeffreyH
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  • 1 year later...

I still have some original aluminum from my Boy Scout mess kit from 1960.

Aluminum is fine or small stainless steel. 

You will not catch me with any titaniumm except for the rod in my femur used to repair a mule wreck. 

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