Ah, a warm cup of camp coffee in the morning…it’s not just something I want when I’m camping, it’s something I need when I’m camping!
If you’re like me, coffee is an essential part of your daily routine. When I wake up in the morning, the first thing I need is a piping hot cup of joe to wake myself up.
Yet camp coffee can be slightly difficult to make. You usually don’t have access to electricity or a readily available hot water supply. Bringing your normal coffee maker usually doesn’t cut it.
Luckily, the dilemma is easily solved. A variety of methods are available to make camp coffee whether you’re backpacking, car camping, or RV camping.
Evaluate Your Needs and Preferences
Before we look at the top methods to make camp coffee, it’s essential that you evaluate your needs and preferences.
A few of the most important things to keep in mind include:
- Camping or Backpacking? – Space is at a premium when backpacking. Your coffee maker/method must be small and lightweight. Camping (usually) doesn’t have such space and weight limitations.
- How Many People? – How many people are you making camp coffee for? Some methods only serve a single person at once while others brew up enough for a large group of serious coffee drinkers.
- Flavor or Convenience? – Do you prefer your camp coffee to taste just like it does at home or the café? Or are you willing to sacrifice flavor in terms of space-saving convenience?
- Fire or Stove – Do you plan to heat your water on a campfire or on a stove? Some methods work for both, but others only work for one or the other.
So How Do You Make Coffee While Camping?
Here are the top ten best ways how to make coffee while camping:
1. Instant Coffee
Instant coffee is undoubtedly the easiest way to make camp coffee in the great outdoors.
The key is finding a decent brand. Coffee aficionados have long considered the instant variety to taste terrible.
Luckily, certain brands of instant coffee have become surprisingly tasty in recent years. Starbucks Via is, in my opinion, the best tasting.
Several different varieties are available. I prefer the Starbucks Via Italian Roast Instant Coffee. It’s a dark roast with bold flavors that tastes rich and full without nearly any bitterness.
Instant coffee for camping has a variety of other benefits. These include its incredible light weight and the fact that no equipment is required to make it.
All it takes to brew up a fresh cup of instant coffee is boiling your water (I usually use my Coleman Classic Propane Stove, but a pot on the campfire works just as well), pouring the water into a mug, mixing in a packet of instant coffee, and stirring.
Despite the ease of instant coffee, I usually prefer another method of making coffee for car camping.
When it comes to backpacking, however, you’ll be hard-pressed to find me without a few packets of Starbucks Via tucked away into my backpack.
2. Coffee Bags
Another pain-free method of making coffee while camping is using coffee bags.
The method is similar to instant coffee, but the grounds are kept in a “tea” bag. You don’t just dump the grounds straight into the water. Instead, you place the coffee bag into a mug full of hot water to steep.
Like instant coffee, these coffee bags have a reputation for tasting horrible. I don’t find that true at all. I like the taste of Folgers Single Roast Coffee bags almost as much as I like Starbucks Via.
Coffee bags are also lightweight and easy to clean up. They’re an excellent choice for backpackers that just can’t go without a morning cup of brew.
Not a fan of any store-bought coffee bags? Then why not create your own? Create your own “tea” bag and fill it with your favorite coffee grounds. It’s a win-win as far as flavor and convenience are concerned.
Lifehacker has a great DIY resource on making these portable coffee bags for camping.
3. Espresso Pot
One of my favorite camp coffee gadgets is undoubtedly the GSI Outdoors Mini Espresso Pot.
Simply fill the small device with your favorite espresso grounds, set it on your camp stove, and wait for it to boil. Once the water is hot and ready to go, it drips from the built-in spout to your eagerly waiting cup.
Best of all, this camping coffee pot takes only 90 seconds to brew up a double shot of espresso for your foggy brain. You’ll have that caffeine boost you crave in just minutes.
There are few negatives to this mini espresso pot from GSI Outdoors (unless you don’t like espresso).
The only drawback I can think of is its size. At only 8.2 ounces it certainly isn’t heavy or bulky, but lightweight backpackers might want to steer clear of it.
Another concern for backpackers: this sucker gets hot. The camp coffee pot takes a long time to cool down – not ideal if you plan to hit the trail right after your morning cup of espresso.
Car campers have no such worries. You don’t have the same space or weight concerns. You also have plenty of room to set the pot aside while it cools down.
Buy a mini espresso pot for one of the best cups of camp coffee you’ve ever tasted.
4. French Press
Not a fan of espresso or instant coffee? Then a French press might be your campfire coffee solution.
A French press allows you to brew coffee that tastes just like the good stuff from home. In fact, many people use a French press for their coffee at home – not just while camping.
Heat up the water via your preferred method. Fill up the French press with your choice of coffee grounds while you’re waiting for it to boil. Once the water is hot, pour it over the top of the grounds inside the French press.
Let the coffee steep for a few minutes. Everyone recommends a different length of time, though Craft Coffee’s four minutes is a reasonable bet.
Once your coffee is done steeping, press the plunger down through the French press so the brewed coffee cleanly separates from the grounds.
The quality of the French press camp coffee you make depends largely upon the type of French press you’re using. I’m a fan of the simple and affordable Bodum Brazil French Press Coffee Marker.
Prefer a French press designed specifically for camping? The MSR Reactor Coffee Press Kit is a good choice.
The biggest con of using a French press for your camping coffee is size. Like the espresso camp coffee pot, it takes up too much room for most serious backpackers.
5. Aero Press
Don’t make your next camping trip miserable by sacrificing great tasting coffee. Bring along an AeroPress instead!
An AeroPress is one of the best ways to brew camp coffee. In fact, I think the finished product tastes even better than French press coffee!
The way the two coffee makers work is actually quite similar. The difference is that the French Press pushes the ground to the bottom. The AeroPress actually pushes the coffee out of the top of the device.
Another benefit of the AeroPress for camping is its small size. It’s lighter and has a lower profile than a French Press.Though it’s still much bulkier than instant coffee or coffee bags, it’s a decent option for making coffee while backpacking.
Best of all, an AeroPress Coffee and Espresso Maker won’t break the bank and will last you for years on end.
6. Pour Over
Another one of my favorite ways to make coffee while camping is the pour over method.
Like French press coffee, a steaming hot cup of pour over coffee tastes so good that I often utilize this method at home!
The thing I like most about the pour over method is that it produces actual drip coffee. The grounds and the hot water are never in the holding vessel together.
Instead, you place your coffee grounds in a filter inside of the pour-over holder. The holder goes into a camping coffee pot (or directly into your camping coffee mug). Pour hot water over the grounds and it drips through the filter into your pot/mug.
Voila! A delicious mug of camp coffee to drink by the fire!
Some people aren’t big fans of the pour over method though. Their main complaint is how slowly you must pour the water to get a cup that tastes good.
When you take the small size of camping pour over coffee makers and the tasty cup they create, that extra time is more than worth it, in my opinion.
If I’m not going with instant coffee or coffee bags on my next backpacking trip, I always bring my Snow Peak Folding Coffee Drip.
If you really want to take it back to the basics, consider using a camping coffee percolator.
One of the classic camping methods of coffee creation, a percolator is ideal for large groups of people. The coffee doesn’t taste as good as the other methods discussed above, but it gets the job done.
Place the grounds in the small basket inside of the percolator. Fill the rest of the vessel with water.
Next place the percolator on a hot surface (your campfire or stove). As the water begins to boil, it rises out of a small pipe inside the percolator and drips through the basket full of coffee grounds.
A camping coffee percolator is easy to use. It also requires minimal cleanup. It’s a great choice for car camping trips but is too heavy to lug around if you’re backpacking.
Be careful when using a percolator though – an inattentive job can quickly lead to an overly thick, overly bitter cup of joe if you’re not careful.
My favorite camp coffee percolator is the classic GSI Outdoors Enamelware Percolator.
8. Camping Coffee Maker
Avoid the mess of a French press, percolator, and other coffee brewing methods with a camping coffee maker.
The Coleman Camping Coffeemaker looks just like a basic coffee maker used at home. The only real difference? There’s no plug.
Instead of using electricity to boil the water, a camping coffee maker fits over the top of most camp stove burners. The burner heats the steel base which then heats the water for your coffee.
The Coleman Camping Coffeemaker is perfect for car camping with big groups of people (or small groups of people who need multiple cups of coffee each). A single pot is enough for up to 10 cups of coffee.
9. Normal Coffee Maker
If you’re RV camping, why not just bring a normal coffee maker?
Though it’s always fun to make coffee on the campfire, nothing beats the fresh, perfectly brewed taste of a cup of coffee brewed with your favorite coffee maker.
When access to electricity isn’t a problem, any normal coffee maker does the job.
10. Cowboy Method
Last but not least when it comes to making coffee on a camping trip is the cowboy method.
The cowboy method is similar to using a camp coffee percolator except there’s no basket involved. Instead, the grounds are poured directly into the same pot as the water.
The pot is then placed on the campfire or cook stove and the grounds and water are boiled together.
The cowboy method is a no-nonsense way to make coffee. All you need is a pot.
The downsides are pretty big, however. The cowboy method creates thick, bitter, sludge-like coffee. There’s also a thick, sticky residue left at the bottom of your camp coffee pot.
While I wouldn’t ever recommend the cowboy method, it’s a good backup to know about just in case your go-to coffee making method fails.
My Choice for the Best Camp Coffee Maker
So, which of these ten ways to make camp coffee is my favorite?
Out of the three, I’d have to say that the pour over method is my favorite. I like drip coffee where the grounds and water are never in the pot together.
The other reason I like the pour over method is its versatility. Pour over devices are small and lightweight enough to easily take on a long backpacking trip.
I think pour over is the best way to make coffee while camping and backpacking.
Other Camp Coffee Makers We Recommend
There’s a lot of great coffee camping products on the market today.
I’ve already listed a few of my favorites above. If none of them meet your needs, here are a few others that are sure to:
Stansport Aluminum Percolator Coffee Pot – A durable, easy-to-use camp coffee percolator for under $10.
Stanley 32oz Coffee Press Cook + Brew Kit – Boil your water, brew your coffee, and drink the finished product in this gigantic 32oz coffee press.
GSI Outdoors Collapsible Java Drip – Serious backpackers love this pour over drip for its small size, collapsible design, and the delicious coffee it brews.
Coleman QuikPot Propane Coffeemaker – It just doesn’t get easier to brew a pot of coffee for your friends and family then it does with this propane-powered coffeemaker!
OUTAD Portable Coffee Maker Set – This rugged set comes with a camping coffee grinder, French press, and set of nesting mugs for an all-in-one camp coffee kit.
Coleman Enamel Mug – Sip your morning cup of joe out of this rugged and durable camping coffee mug.
GSI Outdoors Infinity Backpacker Mug – Drinking your coffee on the go? This insulated camp coffee mug comes with a sip-it lid to keep your coffee warm and to prevent splashes on the trail.
KitchenV Manual Coffee Grinder – Grind your own beans for the freshest taste with this top-of-the-line camping coffee grinder.
GSI Outdoors Java Mill – Unlock the true flavor of your beans with this camping coffee grinder designed specifically for the outdoors.
Additional Camp Coffee Tips
Using the right coffee maker isn’t enough if you don’t do everything else right. Here are a few additional tips to keep in mind for your next camping trip:
- Different Methods – Use a variety of camp coffee methods depending on your trip. I use a different coffee maker for car camping, backpacking, and RV camping (Also, make sure to check out our free Family Camping Guide!)
- Before You Leave – Double check your supplies before you leave (nothing is worse than forgetting your coffee maker at home!). I also pre-grind my coffee and place however much I’ll need in a Ziploc bag, especially when backpacking.
- Boiling Water – You can boil your water directly in the device for some coffee-making methods. Others require a separate pot (make sure to pack one). You’ll also need a heat source. If there’s a campfire restriction, a camp stove is your best bet.
There you have it – ten of the best ways of how to make coffee while camping.
Now that you know these ten methods, there’s no reason to go without a cup of coffee on a camping trip ever again.
What’s your favorite way to make coffee while camping or backpacking? What do you value more in your camping coffee maker: flavor or convenience?
Let us know your thoughts on camp coffee in the comments below!