Making Coffee While Camping | Brewing Your Favorite Cup

A morning coffee or even an afternoon pick-me-up is a daily ritual for many of us. Perhaps you are planning a camping adventure but are wondering how to keep up with your coffee habit when camping off-grid or in a remote location.

Your go to coffee method should depend on the type of camping you’re into. Instant coffee, coffee bags, cowboy coffee, and an insertable travel filter are the best coffee making options for those traveling light. For car camping enthusiasts, AeroPress, French press, and percolators are the best.

What kind of coffee-making methods do campers use? Which ones can you use for car camping, and which can help you on a more remote trip? Read on to find out.

How Do Campers Drink Coffee While Camping?

For a huge chunk of the population, a morning coffee or two is a vital part of our morning routine. Some of us, myself included, are barely recognizable until we’ve had our first caffeine hit of the day.

When we’re camping, it’s just the same. Many relish the morning ritual of a steaming mug of coffee, sitting in camping chair, and enjoying a beautiful view.

Camping certainly doesn’t mean that we have to leave our precious beverage behind. There are a plethora of ways in which you can ensure you get your fix.

Before we consider making coffee while camping, we should note that what kind of camping trip you are on can vary wildly.

Perhaps you’re trail hiking and need to carry a sizable supply of provisions, or you are on a family trip at a well-serviced campsite.

Campers have different requirements and needs depending on their trip length and type.

A sophisticated coffee-making method that is ideal for use if you are car-camping and have no weight restrictions will not necessarily be practical if you carry all your gear on your back and hike for miles through the woods.

Here we’ll consider which coffee-making methods are most suitable for the type of camping trip you are on. Luckily, there’s a coffee-making method to suit most camping styles.

How Do Campers Drink Coffee While Camping

The Best Coffee-Making Methods For Those Traveling Light

For those hiking or on a backpacking trip, space and weight are both limited so lugging around a lot of coffee-making equipment is not going to be an ideal option.

A coffee-making press is unlikely to be viable when every pound is a pound more that you need to carry around on your back.

Fear not, however, as plenty of coffee-making techniques are available for the lightweight or minimalist camper.

1. Instant coffee

Perhaps the most obvious choice for minimal packing is instant coffee.

Light and incredibly easy to make, freeze-dried varieties can be a go-to for backcountry camping campers prioritizing caffeine intake over a rich flavor.

The supplies you need are negligible – just bring instant coffee. It’s a good idea to separate your coffee into individual rations or buy pre-packed individual sachets to bring along.

These are easier to slot into your pack, fit around your other gear, and save weight on any other packaging.

As long as you bring along your camping stove and a cup or mug, no extra equipment is required, and it will take as little as 5 minutes to get yourself a hot morning pick-me-up.

The most obvious downside here is the taste. Although instant coffee quality varies, it is generally valued for its ease of making rather than its flavor.

However, instant coffee may be for you if you’re after an intake of any kind of coffee with minimal effort and preparation.

2. Coffee bags

A similar lightweight alternative, but perhaps less well-known, is coffee bags. As we’re used to with tea, the coffee grounds are kept in a ‘tea bag’ to be used individually for each cup.

Coffee bags are easy to pack and barely noticeable in weight since they require no additional supplies or equipment, so long as you have a method to heat water and drink from.

As with instant coffee, all you need to do is pour over your hot water, and within minutes you’ll be set. Clean-up is also easy and requires minimal fuss and time.

There are several coffee bag brands available, or you could make your own using empty tea bags and a ground coffee of your choice.

Campers have reflected that the taste improves instant coffee, but it doesn’t compare to a French press or pour-over coffee.

Nevertheless, if you’re in a fix and don’t have a lot of room in your pack, coffee bags are an idea worth considering.

Coffee bags

3. Cowboy coffee

Many campers swear by this traditional coffee-making method, which is almost legendary.

Believed to be used by historic cowboys who herded cattle in the 19th century U.S., this simple coffee-making method is still prevalent among the camping community today.

To make cowboy coffee, all you’ll need is some coarsely ground coffee (the coarseness is important to ensure the grounds settle to the bottom of your pot while preparing), your cooking pot, and a mug, making it another preferred option for campers who don’t want to carry extra equipment.

This method takes a little longer since you need to boil water, stir in the grounds and wait for them to sink to the base of your pot before drinking.

The recommended waiting time is 5-8 minutes to brew a decently strong, ground-free cup of coffee. Then you’ll need to carefully pour it into your cup to avoid the grounds.

While this method can take a little practice and some extra time to brew, campers, particularly in the backcountry, swear by it and maintain that the taste is superior to instant coffee.

The thought that you’re making your coffee the same way as people who camped out under the stars centuries ago adds a certain romance to this simple method. 

4. Insertable travel filter

While the methods we have looked at so far have required no additional equipment, other coffee-making methods are a negligible addition to your kit.

Still, they may make a huge addition to the quality of the coffee you drink in camp. Consider purchasing a mesh travel coffee filter that you can clip to your mug.

Incredibly light and easy to use, it won’t take up much space in your pack but can be reused every morning with no other equipment required.

Just fill it with coffee and clip it to your mug or thermos, and you can get a great pour-over coffee with no extra strain on the weight of your pack.

While not as quick to make as instant varieties, it’s certainly more efficient than cowboy coffee, requires minimal cleanup, and, as long as you use quality coffee, it should give you a good flavor.

Insertable travel filter

The Best Coffee-Making Methods For Car-Camping

Although the options considered above can be used for camping trips of any type since they are lightweight and convenient, you may be compromising on the flavor of your drink in favor of the method’s practicality.

On the other hand, if you want to get the full, rich flavor of the coffee and have a little more leeway in terms of your pack size and weight, some options require a bit more in terms of equipment, but that deliver much better in terms of quality.

Perhaps you’re going on a shorter camping trip, where you don’t have to carry quite so many supplies, or perhaps there’s a big group of you so that you can share the weight of equipment more.

These coffee-making options might be just right for your camp if this is the case.

Before we look into the options, a good tip for all the methods considered here is to grind your beans before you set out on your trip so you can prioritize your coffee-making equipment over your grinder.

1. Aeropress

A lightweight Aeropress is one method touted by many experienced campers who value the taste of a good cup of coffee but don’t want to lug about heavy equipment.

Although it’s an extra piece of kit solely useful to feed a coffee addiction, a travel Aeropress can weigh as little as one pound and will give you an improved flavor that’s adaptable to your preferences.

All you need to do is fill your Aeropress with ground coffee and hot water, pump it, and the pressurized chamber does all the work, and you’re set to go.

Affordable and lightweight, this coffee-lovers kit is frequently mentioned on campers’ forums as a preferred option for making a quality cup of coffee.

Perhaps one downside, though, is that depending on your group size, this compact tool may take a lot of time to give you more than one or two cups of coffee, so while it’s lightweight and convenient, it may not be completely suitable for a communal breakfast set up around a larger camp.


2. French press

A French press is synonymous with high-quality coffee.

If you already love to steep your coffee in one of these contraptions every morning, you’ll be pleased to know that camping-friendly options are readily available.

To use the French press method while camping, you’ll need your beans and grinder (preferably pre-ground coffee), your travel press, a water-boiling method (depending on the press type), and your cup or mug.

It’s almost certain that you’ll need to invest in a travel or camping model rather than bringing along your press from home since it’s likely to get damaged either in transport or around camp.

While a French press is not necessarily the sleekest or lightest bit of kit, the good news is that many travel presses can be used for more than one purpose.

You may use the press to boil water, meaning you can skip out on other bits of your kit if possible.

Depending on the press size you’re able to carry, you can get the coffee ready for all the camping family, but this method may require a little more cleanup since the mesh plunger can be tricky to clean if you don’t have warm running water.

Nevertheless, making a great cup (or cups) of coffee with the French press is still possible if you’re prepared to carry a little extra weight.

3. Percolator

If strong, espresso-style coffee is what you must have every morning, and nothing else will do, then a percolator may be your best bet.

Associated with a more traditional camp from decades or centuries ago, a percolator heated over your camp stove can deliver you a coffee with a good kick.

As with the French press, you will need to bring some equipment that may be bulky and awkward to carry.

However, unlike the travel French presses, you can’t use it for anything else other than to brew coffee.

It will depend on how important the quality and taste of your coffee are to you when camping to determine whether bringing a percolator is worth the extra weight.

Perhaps, therefore, a percolator can be a great option if you’re car camping, and extra strong coffee that will get you to kick start in the morning is what is required.


What About If You Want To Make Coffee With Style?

Of course, for some campers, their trip is not about bringing minimal supplies to survive or creating a liveable camp for a few days to enjoy nature.

Instead, it can be about bringing the comforts of home to enjoy in a different location.

Some campers love to bring chair and table setups and all the mod-cons to get the most comfort out of their holiday possible.

If this is the case, then concern about the compactness and weight of your coffee-making equipment is not a problem.

As long as you are connected to an electrical supply, you can choose the best equipment you can afford without compromising on taste.

If you don’t need to rush to pack up camp in the morning, you can indulge in a coffee maker like the Coleman Quikpot coffee maker to truly get the home away from home experience.

While for some campers, the desire to ‘rough it is part of the whole appeal of camping, if you prefer to camp in comfort, there’s no need to compromise on the quality of your coffee.

Final words

With many coffee-making options available for backcountry and car campers, thankfully, campers do not need to miss out on a dose of caffeine.

As long as you choose a method suited to your camping style, you’ll have no problem greeting the morning with a camp coffee or two before starting your day.

Shailen Vandeyar

A proud Indian origin Kiwi who loves to plant trees and play with his pet bunny when not out in the woods, exploring the infinite beauty of mother nature.

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