There’s truly nothing better than a perfectly brewed cup of coffee in the outdoors. But, crafting that fantastic cup o’ joe while camping can be pretty tricky if you’re new to the process.
To get you started, here are 10 great ways to make coffee outdoors, whether you’re backpacking, river rafting, or car camping:
1. Instant Coffee
Hands down, the easiest way to make coffee while outside is to use instant coffee. You can find instant coffee packets at pretty much any grocery store and pack them with your food on your next trip.
Brewing using this method is super easy and just requires hot water. With instant coffee, there is no clean-up involved. Just keep in mind that you will need to pack out all of those tiny little foil packets that instant coffee comes in.
The major drawback to the instant coffee method is the taste. Instant coffee really doesn’t taste as good as the real stuff. But, if keeping up your caffeine intake is your sole concern, this method should do the trick.
2. Cowboy Coffee
For a better tasting brew without fancy gear, cowboy coffee is a solid bet. To make cowboy coffee, simply add grounds to hot water, steep for a few minutes, and drink carefully so you don’t ingest the grounds.
With cowboy coffee, you can make single servings in your own mug or use a pot/kettle to brew enough for a whole group. This method is very simple and tastes fairly good, but, it can get a little messy.
Since LNT principles and public land regulations almost always require that you pack out biodegradable garbage, you’ll need to figure out a method for packing out coffee grounds while camping. A plastic bag is often your best bet for packing out coffee, but make sure your grounds aren’t soaked with water, or you’ll carry around more weight than necessary.
3. Coffee In A Bag
One of the main advantages of drinking tea in the backcountry is that it’s easy to pack out used tea bags. Thankfully, we can also use this method for making a cup of coffee.
With the coffee in a bag method, you have two options: buy single-serving coffee bags or make your own. If you want to keep things simple, you can buy Folgers or Steeped Coffee brand single-serving coffee bags.
Or, for a cheaper alternative, you can make your own coffee bags using fillable tea filter bags. If you want to use this method, you’ll want to grind your beans so that they’re somewhere between French press and drip coffee size. This will allow your coffee to brew quickly without allowing grounds to sneak through the filter pores.
The pour-over method is a good way to get a great-tasting cup of coffee without heavy, bulky equipment. At home, most people don’t bother with the pour-over method because it is a bit more involved than using a pod or a drip-coffee machine. But, in the outdoors, pour-over coffee is a lightweight and efficient method that can taste as good as what you’d buy in a café.
All you need to make a pour-over coffee is a pour-over stand. There are some pretty good purpose-built pour-over stands for camping, including:
These pour-over stands don’t require filters. But, if you want to simplify the clean-up process, using them with an eco-friendly Number 1 unbleached coffee filter is a good idea.
For pour-over coffee that requires zero extra equipment, you can even try single-serving pour-over packets. Companies like Kuju Coffee and Tribo Coffee both offer a selection of different options.
The main drawbacks of single-serving pour-overs are that they are quite expensive and that they produce a decent amount of un-recyclable waste. But, they taste pretty good and are very convenient for short trips.
5. French Press
The French press is very popular in Europe but is less commonly used in North America. However, the French press is an excellent way to get a very good tasting cup of coffee, even in the outdoors.
To use this method, you’ll need a purpose-built outdoor French press and some medium-coarse ground coffee. Generally, it’s best to buy whole-bean coffee and grind it yourself as using grounds meant for drip machines will result in a bitter brew.
Then, all you have to do is place coffee in the French press and then fill it with hot – but not boiling – water. After letting it brew for 3-4 minutes, you can carefully lower the plunger the French press and pour your coffee into a mug.
The downside to this method is that it’s annoying to clean up, especially outdoors. Also, many French presses are too large for a solo camper. In this situation, an integrated French press thermos might be your best bet.
Stovetop or Moka coffee is very popular in Italy for its strong flavor. This method allows you to make espresso-style coffee, even when you’re in the backcountry.
To make stovetop coffee, you’ll need a Moka pot. The classic option is a Bialetti Moka Pot, which even comes in a 1-cup version that’s great for solo camping. Alternatively, you can try the GSI Outdoors Moka Espresso Pot, which can make 10 double shot servings in just a few minutes.
Using a stovetop coffee maker is quite simple, which is the method’s main benefit. All you need to do is pack finely-ground coffee into the filter and fill up the bottom pot with water. Then, you just start up the stove and wait a few minutes for quality coffee.
However, the stovetop method isn’t very convenient for backpackers, because a Moka pot is quite heavy and bulky. Plus, clean up can be a bit messy with a Moka pot, so this method is best for frontcountry car camping adventures.
The Aeropress is a popular method for making espresso-like coffee in just minutes because it is lightweight and durable. Plus, it allows you to make an espresso-like brew, which is tricky when you’re outside. To use this method, you’ll just need an Aeropress and a set of filters.
That being said, the Aeropress is somewhat bulky and if you use it, you’ll have to pack out the used filters and soggy coffee grounds. Additionally, the Aeropress creates quite a strong cup of coffee, which isn’t for everyone.
The percolator is an old-fashioned method for making a lot of coffee. While percolators are generally quite large and heavy, you can find some slightly more compact options, like the GSI Outdoors Stainless Steel Percolator.
To use a percolator, you simply need to fill up the metal basket with ground coffee, pour water into the container, and place it on the stove. When the water in the percolator boils, it then gets shot up a tube and filters through the coffee basket to create a nice brew.
This method isn’t great for backpacking because even a camping percolator is fairly bulky. But, it’s a solid option for car camping with a large group or for anyone that really likes strong coffee.
9. Mini Espresso Makers
The mini espresso maker method is perfect for anyone that really loves a good espresso but doesn’t like the consistency of strong Moka coffee. There are a handful of portable espresso machines out there, including the Wacaco Minipresso and the GSI Outdoors Mini Expresso.
Both options offer a quick and easy way to make espresso coffee in the outdoors. The downside is that they’re fairly expensive and bulky. However, if you really can’t do without espresso in the morning, they’re a great choice for short backpacking trips and car camping adventures.
10. Camping Espresso Machines
This final coffee-making option is really only suitable for vanlifers who want a single serving coffee that doesn’t require using a stove. There’s really only one good option for camping espresso machines and that’s the Oxx Coffeeboxx.
The Coffeeboxx is basically a rugged version of a Keuring machine. To operate it, you just need an outlet, water, and a K-cup (or reusable pod). Then, you just push a button, wait a few seconds, and you’ll have coffee in your cup.
Since this option is heavy, bulky, and requires an outlet, it’s not useful for backpacking. But, for vanlifers and RVers, it’s the easiest way to get coffee on-the-go.