Selecting a skillet(s) size (and type) is a matter of calculating:
1) The number you will be cooking for
2) The meal you will be preparing
3) The method of cooking and amount of room on cooking surface (wood, propane stove, charcoal, liquid fuel stove, backpack stove, etc.)
4) The method of transportation (hiking, tailgate camping, camper camping, canoe camping, etc.)
5) Aluminum, cast iron, stainless steel?
Decisions, decisions, decisions! Personally I prefer cast iron Dutch ovens (which can be used like two skillets in one with the pot acting as a deep skillet and the lid turned upside down acting as a shallow skillet/griddle. My next choice would be large (10 – 12-inch cast iron skillets. If divided up among an eight-man patrol one skillet each will only add a couple of pounds to a knapsack when hiking or canoe camping and cooking over hot coals or charcoal. The weight doesn’t matter when canoe camping but be forewarned; cast iron will not float so I would suggest you lash your skillets and Dutch ovens under the canoe seats or to the thwarts.
Next I would choose smaller skillets (6 – 8 inch) if I’m to cook on say, a regular size propane or liquid fuel camping stove. Two of these can replace one larger skillet. For small backpacker stoves I would naturally go with smaller (3 – 5-inch) cast iron skillets.
I like cast iron in that it’s easy to cook with, heats uniformly, it doesn’t have hot spots, it’s easy to clean and maintain (no scrubbing), and it is practically indestructible. A word of caution here: cast iron is brittle so don’t drop it on a hard surface and always heat it up slowly and cool it down slowly – otherwise it may crack or split in two.
NOTE: Never wash cast iron in soapy water; use a scrub brush and hot water only. Dry it and coat with a thin film of oil before storing. If food cooked in cast iron is sugary (ham) or has a tomato base (spaghetti, chili, etc.) then just put water in it and bring it to a boil and the goo will come off and float to the top. Pour out, wipe dry, coat with oil, and wipe again before storing.
Last I would say, “Learn to use what you have (aluminum, stainless steel, stamped steel, larger patrol nested camp kits, or smaller Boy Scout mess kits) until such time as you can buy some cast iron skillets and Dutch ovens. I think you will love the difference.
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Ray McCune

He has lived in Waynedale for over 45 years. He has taken to his lifelong dream of being a full time Outdoor Freelance Writer and author. Ray has authored one book and has written Kampfire Kookin' as well as other outdoors articles for the newspaper. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer