From cowboy coffee to pour-over stands to portable espresso makers, we cover all the different ways to make a great cup of coffee while camping.
Coffee. Sweet, sweet coffee, the lifeblood of outdoor adventurers and campers everywhere. While we are willing to forgo a great many things while camping, a good cup of coffee is not one of them. Thankfully, there are countless ways to enjoy a good brew in the wild.
Here are a few of the many, many, ways to make coffee while camping.
This list is ordered from the lightest and simplest methods of brewing coffee to the heaviest and most elaborate. We have tried the majority of methods on this list, but not all of them. Where relevant we note our personal experiences with the products we’ve used as well as those we’ve researched.
Instant Coffee | Cowboy Coffee | Single Serve Pour Overs | Pour Over Stands | Aeropress | Moka Pot | French Press | Cook System with French Press | Percolator | Portable Espresso Maker | OXX CoffeeBoxx | Coffee Mugs | Grinders
CAMP COFFEE BREW METHODS
1.) Instant Coffee
While instant coffee is lightweight, packable, and otherwise ideally suited for camping, it doesn’t have the best reputation when it comes to taste. Thankfully, there has been a lot of innovative advancements in the instant coffee world over the past few years! If you haven’t tried instant coffee in a while, it’s worth checking a few of these brands out.
Ideal Use: Backpacking, bikepacking, and anyone else with an incentive to save space and reduce weight.
Method: While the exact instructions will vary from brand to brand, the general idea is to put the instant coffee grounds into a cup and add boiling water. Wait a few seconds until powder is dissolved and then enjoy. We can’t imagine a simpler brewing method.
Here are a few of our favorite instant coffee brands:
Seeking instant coffee you actually look forward to in the morning? Search no more. Alpine Start instant coffee was created by a climber and a foodie to be the best on-the-go cup of joe you can get. In addition to their classic coffee, Alpine Start also offers an instant Dirty Chai Latte and a Coconut Creamer Latte. I drank Alpine Start for 19 days on the John Muir Trail and would definitely recommend it!
Check price at Amazon // REI
This German-brand of organic fair-trade instant coffee has been Megan’s go-to choice whenever we go backpacking. It’s reasonably priced but offers a very well-balanced cup of instant coffee. This is what she drank for 19 days on the John Muir Trail, and would drink it for 19 more!
Check price on Amazon
The ultimate gourmet instant coffee, we can’t say enough good things about Voila. They partner with local coffee roasters and use a proprietary freeze-drying technique to create a cup of instant coffee that tastes as good as a fresh cup from your local coffee shop. No joke. However, this exceptional instant coffee is priced accordingly, so we save it for special occasions.
Check price on Voila.Coffee
While it doesn’t come in individual packets, this is one of the best instant coffee + creamer combinations we’ve tasted. We picked up a bag to test a while ago and Megan was literally addicted to it. It’s a coconut milk-based creamer, so if you’re backpacking and want to pick up some extra calories in your morning cup of coffee, this is a great option.
Check price on Amazon // REI
2.) Cowboy Coffee
Just add coffee grounds to hot water. It doesn’t get much simpler than that. In terms of equipment needed, cowboy coffee is the simplest way to make coffee while camping. Although, since the grounds don’t dissolve into the water, clean up can be a little messy, making it less ideal for backpacking or anywhere that you’d need to pack out your waste.
Ideal Use: For those who want to look tough. Also, those who forgot all their fancy coffee-making gear at home. Good for small or large groups, depending on the size of your kettle.
Method: For something as simple putting coffee grounds in hot water, there are a surprising number of ways to brew cowboy coffee. One popular way (at least according to the internet) is to include either broken eggshells or a whole raw egg into the coffee grounds (no joke). With the rampant state of salmonella in this country, we’re just going to go ahead and skip that one entirely. But here are some far less risky ways to brew a perfect cup of cowboy coffee. Fine grounds are recommended.
Clean Cup Method – You’ll need a cloth coffee sock, cheesecloth, or bandana. Boil water. Remove from heat. Place coffee grounds inside the cloth and then place in kettle. Return to low heat to steep.
Sink Down Method – Heat a kettle of water until boiling. Remove from heat and dump coffee grounds in. Return to low heat and simmer. The coffee grounds should start to sink to the bottom after a few minutes. If they don’t, drizzle some cold water on top to help them sink to the bottom.
Scoop Top Method – Heat a kettle of water until boiling. Remove from heat and spoon coffee grounds in. Return to low heat and simmer. With a spoon, skim the coffee grounds off the surface.
We’ve used this kettle to make coffee nearly every morning for the past two years and have nothing but good things to say about it. Durable stainless steel can be placed over a campfire or stove, the spout doesn’t dribble, and the compact size is perfect for 2-3 people.
Check the price on Amazon // Backcountry
3. Coffee in a Bag
There is a beautiful simplicity to steeping a teabag. So why not do the same for coffee? For the longest time, the only coffee-in-a-bag option was Folger’s singles – which tastes just like you’d expect. But there are a few new startups trying to revive the tried-and-true brew method and bring coffee-in-a-bag into the 21st century.
Ideal Use: Short trip backpackers, bikepackers, and anyone who doesn’t want to go full instant but also doesn’t want to deal with a brewing apparatus.
Method: Place the brew bag into a cup and fill with hot water. Steep until your desired strength is reached and then remove. If you can steep a cup of tea, then you brew a bag of coffee just as easily.
We recently got a chance to try out the new High Side Brew Bag and it was one of the tastiest cups of coffee we’ve had in a while. By steeping the coffee in a brew bag, we have complete control over the strength. Another big plus for us: The packaging is recyclable and the brew bag itself is compostable. Check them out here: HighSideCoffee.com
4.) Single Serving Pour-Overs
The next step up from instant coffee and cowboy coffee (at least in terms of ease of use) are single-serving pour-overs. These are a relatively new type of product designed specifically for campers. Since the grounds are kept separate from the water, clean up is a lot easier.
True, you’ll have to pack out both the paper filter and the wet grounds, but you’ll have a cup of coffee that tastes a lot closer to a typical pour-over. For something that comes in a small, lightweight package, single-serve pour-overs can be a very appealing alternative to instant coffee.
Ideal Use: Backpacking, bikepacking, and people who want to save space and reduce weight, but can’t or won’t commit to going full instant.
Method: Single serving pour-overs consist of a paper frame and pouch that is filled with coffee grounds. The frame is expanded and placed over the top of your cup. You then pour boiling water through the pouch-like pour-over. Remove and enjoy.
Our favorite single-serve pour-over brand, Kuju was one of the first to bring this innovative brew method to the outdoor industry. They have fantastic tasting coffee, they offer blends and single-origin, plus they donate 1% of sales to the National Park Foundation. What’s not to love!
Check prices on REI // Amazon
Libra Coffee is a mission-based company based out of Oceanside, California. For every premium, small-batch pourtable coffee packet they sell, $1 goes toward a water filter for people living without clean drinking water. Each filter has the power to provide clean drinking water to 100 people for 5 years. We’ve tried their coffee, we love it, and we’ll certainly raise our cup to the good work they’re doing.
Check price: Amazon
5.) Pour-Over Stand
If “ease of use” is less important than “cost per use” then you can also go with a non-disposable pour over stand. The pour-over stands found in coffee shops are often made from ceramic, but there are many lightweight and compact pour-over stands designed specifically for campers.
Ideal Use: Serious coffee drinkers (or people who want to be perceived as serious coffee drinkers). Good for groups of about 2-4 people.
Method: Using either a paper or cloth filter, fill with coffee grounds and place over your cup. Heat your water until nearly boiling and then slowly pour into the filter in a circular motion. A kettle that can pour a smooth, steady stream of water without dribbling is critical for pour-over. While serious baristas use fancy gooseneck kettles to control the flow of water, we can’t say enough good things about our GSI kettle. Small, compact, and not a single dribble.
Just when you thought you knew every conceivable way to brew coffee, this thing comes out of left-field. The Bripe is hands down the most novel coffee brew system we’ve seen to date. In the bowl of the pipe, add coffee grounds and water, and boil using a lighter. Let cool and sip through the attached straw. A mesh filter strains out the grounds. Hilarious in concept, but surprisingly efficient in practice. It’s definitely a conversation starter, but we can’t argue that it makes a fine shot of espresso-like coffee
Ideal use: Somebody on the go who wants a quick pick-me-up, but who is also willing to answer a lot of questions from everyone around them.
Method: Place the grounds and water into the cup of the pipe, boil the water using a lighter or stovetop, then sip through the attached straw when at a safe temperature (thermometer included).
This is our #1 favorite way to make coffee. A combination between a pour-over, French press, and a pneumatic press, the Aeropress is an innovative brew method that delivers incredibly rich and smooth coffee. It compresses the grounds into a small puck, making cleanup a cinch. We’ve been using the Aeropress to make our coffee every morning for the past few years.
Ideal Use: Car camping, VanLife, and RVs or backpackers really dedicated to their coffee. Good for groups of 2-4 people.
Method: There are two different ways to use the AeroPress. Either way, you’ll want to use fine espresso grounds.
Top Down – Insert the filter, place base over your cup, dump coffee grounds into the base, drizzle a little bit of hot water to degas the grounds, then fill to the top. Water will start to slowly drip out the bottom into your cup. Wait for about 10-15 seconds, then depress the plunger. This method is similar to a pour-over, but with the addition of the plunger as a press.
Inverted – Place plunger on a flat surface facing up. Place the back of the base on top of the plunger and insert slightly. Dump grounds into the base, drizzle hot water to degas, fill compartment, and wait. The Aeropress is now functioning like a French press. Attach the filter to the top and place your cup upside down on top of the filter, and then carefully flip the Aeropress and cup over. Depress plunger.
For more info (with videos!), check out our in-depth article on how to use an Aeropress.
8.) Moka Pot
If you like strong Italian style coffee then the Moka Pot might be for you. This stovetop espresso maker produces powerful Italian style coffee, which can be enjoyed on their own or combined with hot water to make an Americano. The Moka pot comes with a built-in metal filter basket, so you’ll never need to worry about buying or throwing away paper filters.
Ideal Use: Any camper who wants to experience the peppy bravado that only a shot of genuine Italian espresso can imbue.
Method: A moka pot consists of three parts: the bottom reservoir, the metal filter in the middle, and the serving carafe at the top. Water is placed in the bottom and the grounds are packed into the middle filter. When placed over a stove, the water boils, steams up through the grounds, and collects in the top carafe.
9.) French Press
While many people enjoy the simplicity of a French press, the typical glass carafe is not really designed for the rough and tumble life of camping. Thankfully, there are a lot of more durable models on the market. French press is great for making a lot of coffee, but it does use a lot more (coarse) grounds than other methods.
Ideal Use: Car campers, Vanlife, RV, and anyone else who enjoys a simple brew method that produces rich tasting coffee.
Method: Spoon coarse coffee grounds into the bottom, drizzle a little bit of hot water to degas, fill the container with hot water, stir, wait for about 8-10 minutes, and depress the plunger.
If you crossed a French Press with a Hydroflask, you’d get the Coffee Gator. This is a heavy-duty, stainless steel French Press that is double-walled and vacuum-sealed. That means your coffee stays warm 60 minutes longer than a typical glass French Press. Plus the Coffee Gator comes in a lot of really fun colors.
Check price: Amazon
10.) Cook Systems with French Press Attachments
Many integrated cook systems like Jetboil, MSR, and Biolite now offer French press plungers. These plungers are designed to work with these rapid hot water makers, reducing the amount of gear you need to carry. The only problem is that most of these cook systems are intended for the backcountry, but French press style coffee (which uses a lot of grounds and can be difficult to clean) is better suited for front country use.
Ideal Use: If you already use your integrated cook-system in the front country to rapidly make hot water (which we often do). Or you really really like French press style coffee that you don’t mind packing the wet grounds out. Yes, pack them out. Burying them in a cat hole is not an acceptable answer here.
The good old fashioned percolator has been a go-to for camp coffee drinkers for generations. A metal tube runs up into a metal basket filled with coffee grounds. As the water boils, it percolates up the tube and into the basket. This method is great at making lots of strong coffee over a camp stove or campfire.
Ideal Use: Car camping, vanlife, RV. Making coffee like your father. Making coffee like your father’s father. Good for small and large groups.
Method: Fill kettle with water, place a paper filter in the basket (or just use the metal filter), fill with grounds, and boil until ready. Most percolators come with a glass/plastic viewing bubble at the top so you can see when the coffee is the correct color.
The biggest gripe we’ve seen on the internet is that they just don’t make percolators like they use to. But here are few quality options still out there:
12). Portable Espresso
Portable hand-powered espresso makers are all the rage these days. It unites people’s combined love of coffee, the outdoors, and new fancy gadgets. If you like espresso shots, then this type of coffee maker might be up your alley.
Ideal Use: Car camping, Vanlife, RVs.
Method: While exact instructions vary model to model, the general idea is that fine coffee grounds are packed into one compartment and hot water is added to another compartment. The pressure builds and steam is pushed through the grounds – essentially “pulling a shot”.
We haven’t used this model in particular, but it gets very positive reviews on Amazon. We’ve used another brand, that we won’t name here, but it rhymes with RandPresso… and we weren’t crazy about it. Anyways, we’ve read that a lot of people have switched over from it to the MiniPresso and they have been very happy with it.
Check price: Amazon
13.) Coffeeboxx by Oxx
Finally, the most over-the-top option when it comes to camp coffee has to be the OXX Coffeeboxx. It’s basically the industrial hard hat version of a Keurig. Crushproof, spill proof, impact and water resistant, this indestructible coffee maker produces a great cup of coffee at the push of a button.
Ideal Use: RVers, EarthRoamers, Tailgates, the craft service table on a Ford F-150 commercial, or anywhere else you have access to a 120v wall power outlet.
Method: Fill up the water tank. Put a K-cup in in the slot (They even sell reusable pods so you don’t have to use actual K-cups). Push button. Coffee.
Being the coffee enthusiasts and outdoor bloggers that we are, we’ve tried many of the camping coffee mugs on the market. Here are our current favorites:
These lightweight mugs were a backpacking game-changer for us. Before we got them, we used to have to quickly gulp down our coffee before it got cold. Now, these super-light, double-layer vacuum insulated mugs allow us to slowly sip our coffee and enjoy the morning.
Check Price on REI// Amazon // Backcountry
Another great backpacking mug with a much smaller price tag than the above mentioned Snow Peak. The GSI Infinity Mug isn’t vacuum-sealed, but comes with a neoprene sleeve that keeps your drink warm for a solid 20 minutes. (Pretty much all the time we need anyways). It’s cheaper and lighter than the Snow Peak mug and ultimately what we decided to take with us on our JMT thru-hike.
Check Price on REI// Amazon
While bringing pre-ground coffee is arguably the easiest way of making coffee while camping, there is definitely an argument for bringing whole beans and grinding them fresh in the morning, especially if you’re packing more specialty beans. Luckily, there are a number of manual coffee grinders on the market perfect for adding to your camp coffee making routine: