Camping and coffee are like peas and carrots: it would just feel wrong to have one without the other. And while it’s nice to be serviceless out there in the great outdoors, it’s not so nice to go without all those little luxuries we so appreciate day to day, including a quality cuppa Joe.
For those of us who have been-there-done-that when it comes to cowboy coffee, we know what it’s like to get that quick, sacred caffeine fix early in the morning, only to be reminded of that sweet little moment hours later when you find leftover grounds stuck between your teeth. Yuck.
And then, of course, there’s coffee of the instant variety. Easy to carry in and even easier to make (add it to a cup of hot water and voila), it’s gotten much better in the last few years, especially if you’re carrying Alpine Start packets. If, however, you’re looking for something closer to what you’re used to brewing at home, you’re in luck; cowboy and instant coffee aren’t caffeine junkies’ only options when camping. There are so many different camping coffee systems that yield genuinely delicious, high-quality coffee, brew-able from wherever you’ve pitched your tent. Don’t accept another bleary-eyed morning in the woods: your caffeine dreams have been realized.
The trick to consistently delicious coffee? Fresh beans. If you want the very best, don’t forget to bring your own grinder along on the trail so you and your camp buddies can enjoy the ultimate cup every time you brew. If you’re going to take any coffee accessory on your travels (besides the beans, of course), make it a grinder.
Once in households everywhere back in the ’70s, percolators are the predecessor to automatic drip coffee machines. But they’re back, and with good reason. Percolators are inherently perfect for camping (their size, simplicity, and efficiency are bar-none), and will usually give you a decently full six cups every time you fire it up. Everyone will be happier, sooner, as soon as they see one of these bad boys come out.
And as an added bonus, it’s a one-step process with a percolator, which means no boiling water first, adding grounds second. A percolator exposes the grounds inside to higher temps and therefore brews through beans very effectively. Percolator enthusiasts everywhere tend to believe that this handy little caffeine-machine is not only convenient, but that it also creates some very robust coffee. When you’re desperate for something hot and caffeinated, you can always count on a percolator.
Bring along your trusty French press and your mug, and you’re set to go. Or, get a little fancier with one of those clever coffee mugs with an integrated press kit inside. Yes, those exist, and they’re very cool. A French press is a particularly solid choice for backpackers because it weighs practically nothing and fits just about anywhere in your pack. You can also pack it full of beans and other coffee accoutrements in order to really take advantage of your space. And as an added bonus, a French Press can easily make the transition from your backpack to your kitchen counter. A press is nothing if not convenient, oui?
A camp stove coffee kit will give you a similar experience to a French press, and it provides everything you could ever need when it comes to coffee in the wild. With an adjustable burner, you can make either a piping hot thermos-full to be taken along on the trail, or warm coffee for immediate drinking and instant gratification. As opposed to percolators or French presses, though, we suggest a stove setup for only 1-2 people per brew since it yields about 6 ounces. But of course, it’ll continue working hard as long as you and your camping buddies need.
Shimmy out of your sleeping bag and lace into your hiking boots fast! Because you’ll be ready to take on the morning quicker than ever before with pour-over camp coffee options. Great for camping and backpacking in particular because they’re uber-lightweight, pour-over options meet coffee snobs and instant-coffee enthusiasts in the middle, delivering impeccable taste at a fast, convenient pace.
Coffee drips have also become increasingly popular of late—first in Brooklyn (where we know the hipsters like their coffee slow and deliberate), and now at campsites everywhere. Drips are ultra-compact, simple, and deliver great coffee on the go. You can always just bring the Melita from home, but there are a number of different camp-friendly options, too, like the GSI Java Drip, which features a drip cone that locks directly onto a very large insulated mug. If you’re seeking something a bit more compact, the GSI Collapsible Java Drip and Ultralight Java Drip certainly do the trick without requiring you to lug something bulky on those minimalist treks into the backcountry.
There are a few new options out there as well that eliminate the inconvenience of having to measure coffee into a filter and then dispose of the messy used cone afterwards, namely, the Kuju Pocket Pourovers. Just pull it out of the packet, pop the wings over the edges of your mug or thermos, and pour. Easy.
If you want to drink some really stellar espresso while in the great outdoors and don’t have much space in your pack, we have you covered with the ultra-compact Handpresso Wild Hybrid (in action below) that works with both coffee grounds and pre-packaged Easy Service Espresso (E.S.E.) pods. You’ll just need a bit of hot water (50 milliliters in this case), either finely ground coffee or an E.S.E. pod, plus some pumping action to get it to the desired 232 psi. You’re now ready to enjoy a delicious cup of espresso while you watch the sunrise over the rolling hills and expansive forest surrounding your tent.
If you’re thinking your camp companions would like to join in on the espresso action, the Handpresso Outdoor Set comes with everything you need to serve four people, excluding the finely ground coffee or E.S.E. pods to get the job done. And for those campers who enjoy the convenience of car camping, the Handpresso Auto makes a cup of espresso without any pumping required – thanks to its wired connection that plugs directly into your vehicle’s 12 volt charging port.
While a bit on the pricier side, if you’re an espresso lover, we’re willing to bet that you like what you like and are willing to spend a bit more for that ultimate pleasure. Manual espresso presses are just oh-so nostalgic, and when you’re out in the wilderness–no service, no connection–what’s better than reveling in that feeling?