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How to make coffee when camping

Two coffee mugs
Learn how to make coffee when camping in ten different ways! (Image credit: Getty)

Most campers are happy to forego a few creature comforts when heading to the wilds for a night or two under the canvas. If you’re the type of human for whom coffee is second only to oxygen in terms of necessity, however, then your a.m. cup of mud isn’t likely to be one of them. 

Getting your caffeine fix when far from home or a reputable purveyor of the blessed brew can be tricky, but our guide on how to make coffee when camping reveals a total of 10 ways in which it can be done - in ascending order by degree of drinkability and convenience for camping

To keep your coffee fresh and toasty throughout the day, check out our best hiking flasks. And if you like a dash of milk in your mug of mud, be sure to take a look at our selection of the best camping coolers.  

Camping stove on a rock

Boiling water for a morning brew in Glencoe (Image credit: Kieran Cunningham)

How to make coffee when camping: 10 methods

Instant coffee

If your tastebuds are not the discerning kind, or if faffing around with filters, beans, grinders, and all the rest of it simply sounds like too much hassle, this is – maybe – the way to go. 

Pros

Cheap

No post-brew cleanup

Minimal brewing paraphernalia required (a mug and spoon should do it – you’ll find these in our best camping utensils)

Cons

Suboptimal if you happen to have taste buds

The Natural Ice or Keystone Light of caffeine-delivery systems  

The sock method

This method was conceived by the author of this post circa 2008 when his last remaining store-bought filter met a premature end in a rainstorm on a hut-to-hut hike in northern Scotland.

But how’s it done? Grab a clean sock or any shape or form (smaller ones are better), rinse it out to avoid infusing your brew with a taste of laundry detergent, pour your coffee grinds down to the toe, hold it over your mug (see our best camping mugs), pour boiling water in and let your brew drip into your mug.

Pros

It works just as well as regular filters

No other coffee-making equipment required (sock only)

Cons

Your sock is unlikely to be wearable until washed

Cowboy coffee

This method is the most, eh, basic the lot. Simply throw your grinds in a pan, pot, or kettle or boiling water, then a) sieve them out with a bandana or piece of cloth, or b) skim the grounds off the surface of the water with a spoon once boiled.

Pros

Very little effort required on the part of the maker

Your camping cohorts with affix the title “Badass” to your name (i.e. “Badass Brian”)

Cons

Mouthfuls of coffee-grind croutons are an acquired taste

A camping kettle on a stove

You can make cowboy coffee by simply throwing your grinds in your pot then skimming them off the surface before drinking (Image credit: Getty)

Filter

This method is done by plonking a standard domestic coffee machine filer in your mug or pot, folding the edges over the rim and tying them down with cord (optional), then throwing in your grinds and pouring boiling water over them.

Pros

Easy to do

Filters weight next to nothing

Cons

Keeping the filter in place while pouring your boiling water can be tricky

Pour-over drip stands

There are now a number of lightweight, compact pour-over stands made specifically for campers on the market. These miniature filters aren’t always very easy to use, but weigh next to nothing, are far more packable than all of the options listed below, and deliver on the taste front far better than all of the options listed above. Our pick of the bunch are the GSI Outdoors Collapsible Silicone Java Drip and the GSI Outdoors Ultralight Java Drip.

Pros

Lightweight and compact

No recurring costs for filters

Cons

Careful pouring required to avoid spilling grinds

The Aerobie AeroPress Coffee Maker

This innovative tool transformed the lives – or at least the mornings – of countless campers across the globe when it first hit the market. It makes one to three cups of coffee per press, is very easy to clean, and its combination of pneumatic press and pour-over system means you avoid the long steep times that make coffee created in a French press bitter and highly acidic.

Pros

Quick brew time

Creates smooth delicious coffee

Short steep time avoids bitterness and high acidity

Cons

Quite bulky

Moka pot

If you’re car camping or simply happy to carry a few extra ounces of weight in order to ensure your morning brew is as tasty as can be, an Italian-style stove-top moka pot is a good option. These take a little longer to boil and a little more effort to prep and clean, but offer one the best alternatives for any connoisseur who’s unwilling to compromise on quality. Our favorite is the Bialetti Moka Express 3 Cup Stovetop Coffee Maker.

Pros

Makes delicious espressos

Integrated filter means no separate filters are needed

Cons

Not the quickest caffeine delivery system

Heavy

Moka pot on a camping stove

Moka pots are ideal for espresso-lovers (Image credit: Getty)

French press

Carrying your glass-walled French press from home on the trail or using it around camp isn’t something we’d recommend, but models like the GSI Outdoors JavaPress are made with tough, rugged materials specially designed to deal with a little rough treatment at the campsite.

Pros

Can make large quantities of coffee (4-8 cups) in a single press

Cons

Long steep time

Bulky

French press and camping stove on a camping table

More rugged French presses are ideal for camping in groups (Image credit: Getty)

Portable espresso makers

These newfangled devices take convenience to a whole new level. All you have to do is sprinkle your grounds in one compartment, load the other with water, hit a button, and wait circa two minutes before enjoying an espresso every bit as fresh, rich and smooth as the ones you make at home.

Pros

Highly convenient

Easy to use

Cons

Pricey initial outlay

Batteries required

Heavy and bulky

Integrated cook systems

Many all-in-one cook systems – and a few of those featured in our best camping stoves buying guide – can be converted into a coffee press by purchasing a separate French press plunger. While the cook systems themselves are a little on the bulky and heavy side, adding the plunger will only weigh you down an extra 2-3 ounces. Our favorites? The Jetboil Flash Stove and the Jetboil Silicone French Press Coffee Maker.

Pros

Gives you a French press coffee maker without the glass carafe

Can make 4-8 coffees per press, depending on the model

Cons

French press brewing requires a lot of grounds

All-in-one systems are bulky and heavy

Jetboil Flash camping stove

The Jetboil Flash all-in-one camping stove (Image credit: Jetboil)
Kieran Cunningham

Kieran Cunningham is Advnture's Channel Editor. Kieran is a climber, mountaineer, and author who divides his time between the Italian Alps, the US, and his native Scotland.

He has climbed a handful of 6000ers in the Himalayas, 4000ers in the Alps, 14ers in the US, and loves nothing more than a good long-distance wander in the wilderness. He climbs when he should be writing, writes when he should be sleeping, has fun always.

Kieran is the author of 'Climbing the Walls', an exploration of the mental health benefits of climbing, mountaineering, and the great outdoors.

kieran.cunningham@futurenet.com