How to Brew

How To Make Coffee While Camping

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The fresh smell of the air, millions of stars overhead, and great company around a warm fire are some of the best parts of camping. But when the cold, damp morning rolls around, you need a steaming cup of coffee to warm you up and get you moving.

Whether you’re camping on the side of a mountain or glamping in a three-bedroom RV with a flat-screen, you have several options to make coffee while camping.

Each year, tens of millions of Americans go camping. With a steadily increasing number of American adults enjoying a daily cup of coffee, it’s safe to say that a good number of those campers require a morning cup of joe. Whether you’re a seasoned camper or headed to the woods for the first time, we’ll show you how to make coffee while camping. Of course, you’ll need coffee grounds and clean water to use any of the methods available.

Camping Coffee Must-Haves

The destination is programmed into your GPS, the tent is in your vehicle, and your backpack packed with all of your camping and hiking gear…except your coffee essentials.

To make sure you don’t forget anything you need to make decent coffee while on the trail, we’ve put together a list of essentials. If you’re the type of person who can’t get going without caffeine, you’re going to want to make sure you have these camp coffee must-haves.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A coffee maker of your choice — no worries if you’re unsure of what kind of brewer you should get; we’ve got a few suggestions below
  • An airtight storage container for keeping your coffee fresh until you’re ready to brew
  • A manual coffee grinder, because freshly ground whole beans always trump pre-ground coffee in the flavor department
  • A stainless steel mug or coffee thermos
  • A travel kettle
  • Coffee, of course! 

Camping Coffee Hacks

Instant Coffee

There’s no better time to put those packets of instant coffee in the back of your cabinet to good use than on your next camping trip! Dissolving the dried ground coffee into hot or cold water is the quickest way to get your coffee fix at the campsite, and you’ll barely have to lift a finger!

All you’ll need to do is use a fire or camp stove to heat your water in a kettle, pour the water into a mug, and add one or two tablespoons of instant coffee granules, stirring until the joe is completely dissolved. You can use the stuff if you’re an iced coffee drinker, too; just skip out on heating the water and pour it into your cup while it’s still cold. 

If you’re stocking up for your next trek into the woods, pick up a box of Waka instant coffee. Each box contains eight packets of 100 percent arabica coffee beans that were lightly roasted, ground, and freeze-dried before making their way into your cup. Each instant coffee packet makes a single serving, which makes brewing for multiple people a breeze. Plus, there are Indian, Colombian, and decaf options to choose from, depending on your personal taste.

Cowboy Coffee

If you’re the sort of camper who backpacks for a week, carrying minimal gear and longing to get back to nature, try making your coffee the cowboy way. The cowboy method is probably the simplest way to brew with limited resources, as the only tool you’ll need is a kettle or something to heat water in — well, that and your favorite coffee, of course!

To make cowboy coffee, start by filling your kettle with water and bringing it to a boil. Next, remove your kettle from the heat source and let it cool enough to stop boiling; thirty seconds should be plenty of time here. Stir in two tablespoons of ground coffee per serving. You should hear a sizzle when the grounds hit the hot water. You may even see a little foam.

Let the drink rest for two minutes. Stir it up again, then rest for two more minutes. Once the grounds settle to the bottom, pour your coffee in a mug slowly to avoid as much grit getting into your cup of cowboy coffee as possible.

Percolator

So you’re not a fan of instant coffee or the cowboy coffee way? No problem; there are still plenty of other types of coffee brewing methods for you to try on your next camping trip, like the percolator, for example.

An old-school enamel percolator can be used over a campfire, and it doesn’t require a lot of extra accessories to get the job done; all you’ll need is your favorite freshly ground coffee, water, and, of course, the percolator.

Unfamiliar with how this brewing method works? It’s pretty cool. As your water heats up, it’s pushed up a tube and sprinkles over your coffee grounds, then trickles back down into the kettle. This cycle continues until the water becomes black coffee.

To brew with a percolator, you’ll open the lid and remove the tube and basket insert. Fill the kettle with water. Place two tablespoons of coffee grounds per serving into your basket. You may use a round paper filter in your percolator basket to keep the grounds mostly out of your coffee.

Next, put the tube and basket assembly back inside the kettle, and place the lid on top. Set your percolator on your heat source. If it has a clear top, you’ll be able to watch the water go from clear to brown as it perks.

Even if you don’t have a good view, you’ll want to let your coffee perk for eight to ten minutes. Let it rest for two minutes before serving so any grounds that made it into your brew will settle before you pour.

Camping Drip Coffee Maker

This option is about as close as you can get to the drip coffee maker sitting on your kitchen counter at home. But note that this brewing process can’t be used with an open fire, as it’s designed specifically to sit right on top of a camping stove burner.

The base of the coffee maker has two legs that rest in front of and behind the burner. This design allows you to see the flame as your coffee brews and makes it easy for you to adjust it accordingly.

This camping coffee maker works much like the drip maker you have at home. Just pour water into the back reservoir, add high-quality coffee grounds into the front filter basket, and turn on the machine. You can brew a full pot of coffee in about 10 minutes!

You can also use this coffee maker as a kettle to heat water for tea or hot chocolate or quickly rehydrate dried foods!

MacGyver Coffee

To use this little trick to brew yourself a cup of coffee, all you’ll need is a heavy-duty rubber band and some cotton cheesecloth. Oh, and patience…you’ll also need some patience.

Place your cheesecloth or filter on top of your cup. Fold it over the edge of your cup, then use one hand to hold it in place. Using your other hand, press the center of the cloth down into your cup a few inches, so you’ve made something that looks like a little bowl. Wrap your rubber band around the outside to secure your cheesecloth filter, and finally, add two tablespoons of coffee grounds into the filter.

Boil water in a pan or kettle, then allow it to cool for about 30 seconds. It should no longer be boiling but still steaming hot. Soak your grounds with a little hot water, then let the coffee bloom for a minute. After that, slowly pour water through the grounds until your cup is full. The slow pour is important here; if you pour too quickly, you’ll overflow your filter.

Once your mug is full, carefully remove the rubber band and filter, and you’re ready to drink your coffee!

French Press

When you think of coffee makers for camping, your mind probably doesn’t turn to fancy glass and copper French presses right away. However, because French press coffee makers are available in durable materials, like double-walled stainless steel and plastic, even the most dedicated coffee snobs can get their fix while camping.

To make French press coffee, add one tablespoon of grounds per cup. Boil one cup of water per serving, then let the water cool for about 30 seconds. Pour half the water into your press and let the coffee bloom for one minute. Add the rest of the water, then let the coffee steep for at least three minutes. The longer you let it steep, the stronger your coffee will be. Gently press the French press plunger down as far as it will go. Then, all that’s left to do is pour the brew into a mug and enjoy your French press camp coffee!

Note: If you choose a plastic French press, be sure it’s of reputable origin and free of bisphenol-A (BPA), so your brew is delicious and safe to drink.

Coffee Bags

Admittedly, lugging a French press around in your pack isn’t the easiest thing, especially if you’re an ultralight or lightweight hiker. But have no fear: keeping it light doesn’t mean you have to leave your beloved coffee at home. Bringing individual coffee bags to be brewed teabag-style is a great way to save space in your bag while making sure you get your caffeine fix. 

And here’s the best news: you probably already have everything you need to make these coffee bags at home! All you’ll need to do is fill a paper coffee filter with a couple of ounces of your favorite ground coffee. Then, twist the coffee filter to a close. Use a piece of string to tie the coffee pouch closed, and repeat each step until you have enough coffee to last your whole trip!

When you’re ready to use the coffee bags, you’ll need to submerge the bag in hot water and let it steep for about five minutes. Then, you’re ready to enjoy!

Single Serve Filter

If you love the portability of the rubber band and cheesecloth method but aren’t crazy about the process, you can get a filter that’s created to rest atop your mug without falling in — no rubber band necessary.

This single-serve filter by Primula is one of our most portable picks, lying completely flat when it’s not in use, while other filters take up slightly more space. It’s one of the best options for brewing coffee when you’re backpacking.

To use this type of filter, you’ll follow the pour-over coffee method. Start by pouring coffee grounds into the filter. Boil water in a kettle, then let it cool for a few minutes; you want it to be hot but no longer boiling. Slowly pour the water into the grounds. You may want to pause to let the coffee bloom before pouring the rest of the water in.

If you want a little extra zip in your cup, lift the filter above your cup and squeeze the remaining liquid and oils from your coffee grounds. Drink immediately.

Collapsible Silicone Pour Over

This is another beautifully portable option for making drip coffee while camping. Much like the above offering, this reusable filter collapses into a flat disc when you’re finished using it and uses the pour-over method to brew a grit-free cup of coffee quickly.

A silicone filter cone like this one is a great option for your next camping trip because the material doesn’t hold odors or leach chemical tastes. Plus, silicone won’t break when packed in your camping gear as other pour-over makers could. When you’re finished brewing, just rinse, wipe, and collapse it, then you’re ready to pack it up.

You’ll pop open this cone, then set the bottom ring on top of your coffee mug. Place a number two or four coffee filter inside, then add two tablespoons of medium-coarse ground coffee. Pour just enough hot water to saturate the coffee grounds, then give it a minute to bloom before pouring the remaining water in. Then, all you’ve got to do is remove the cone and enjoy a mug of fresh coffee before you hit the trails!

Submersible Filter Cup

This product is similar to other pour-over products, except with this filter, your coffee grounds are submerged into your coffee cup.

The little canister looks like a reusable coffee filter with a lid, and a little tab on each side of the lid rests on the top of your coffee cup, leaving the canister itself inside your mug to steep the coffee. 

To use the submersible filter cup, fill it with coffee grounds (or tea leaves, if you’re not a fan of joe). Secure the lid, then place it on your mug. Slowly pour hot water over the grounds until they’re saturated, then allow the coffee to bloom for a minute before you slowly pour the rest of the water through the filter. It’s as simple as that!

AeroPress

If there were an award for easiest cleanup for a method of coffee brewing, the AeroPress would win hands-down! The portable coffee maker can brew up to three cups of coffee, and once you’re finished with it, all you have to do is dump out the grounds and rinse it. 

Because it’s made from BPA-free plastic, the AeroPress is safe and durable, but unfortunately, it’s far from being the least bulky of our coffee makers. If you’re looking for ultra-compact solutions, this isn’t it. But to make storage even easier, you can store the press and all its accessories together in a zippered storage bag.

To brew using an AeroPress coffee maker, put a filter in the bottom cap before tightening it onto your press. Put two tablespoons of coffee into the larger tube of the press, called the brewing chamber, then set it on top of your mug. Boil water, then let it cool slightly before pouring into the chamber. Use the paddle to stir your grounds and water for a few seconds before inserting the plunger into the chamber and slowly pressing it down until you can’t go any farther.

Pro-Tip: Choose a sturdy mug when using the AeroPress so it won’t tip over when you begin pressing the plunger down.

On Sale

Pour-Over Travel Mug

This could be the easiest camp coffee brewing solution of all because your coffee brews right inside of your mug, thanks to the included metal filter. The mug itself is vacuum-layered stainless steel, so your freshly brewed coffee stays hot for a long time. Plus, it’ll hold up well under the abuse of being hauled around with the rest of your camping gear. 

Place the filter on your pour-over travel mug, then add one to two tablespoons of coffee grounds. Soak the coffee grounds with hot water, and let the joe bloom for a minute before pouring in the rest of the liquid.  Remove the filter before you place the lid on your travel mug and sip on it as you enjoy your outdoor activities throughout the day. 

And one more thing…

Use whole coffee beans! All coffee connoisseurs know the best brew comes from whole beans over the pre-ground stuff. So, if you’ve got space in your pack for a manual coffee grinder, bring it so you can grind your joe right before brewing. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you make iced coffee when camping?

What if you’re someone who thinks coffee tastes better cold? How do you get your iced coffee fix on your camping trip? 

The easiest way to enjoy iced coffee on a camping trip is to prepare it ahead of time and bring it with you. Use your trusty cold brew maker to brew java the night before you leave, and bring your steeped coffee to the campsite with you in an airtight container.

But, if pre-brewing isn’t an option for you, there are a couple of ways you can make iced coffee.

As we mentioned above, you can also use instant coffee grounds to make a cup of cold coffee; just pour the granules into cold water instead of hot. You can also use any of the methods we mentioned above to brew your coffee, then let it cool for a few minutes before adding ice to it. 

How do you make coffee without a campfire? 

The easiest way to make coffee without a fire is to invest in a quality camping stove. A little gas stove (or an electric heater, if you have access to electricity) will be your saving grace when you find yourself wanting to make strong coffee at your campsite. 

What do you do with coffee grounds when backpacking?

If you’re an avid outdoorsman, you know the number one rule of camping is to leave no trace. So, how do you apply that to coffee ground disposal?

If there’s a trash can nearby, the best thing you can do is, of course, toss the used grounds into it. But just in case there isn’t a designated trash area near your campsite, or you’re unsure of when you’ll come across one, you should carry a sealable bag or container in which to store your grounds until you can properly toss or compost them. 

Wrapping Up

You might have to go without a hot shower while you’re camping, but you don’t have to give up your hot coffee. Whether you’re backpacking in Nepal, sleeping on the side of a mountain, or glamping in an RV with your own bathroom, you can still brew fresh, hot coffee every day.

The next time your adventurous spirit calls you into the wilderness (or to the designated camping area at your nearest state park…same thing), try one of these simple methods of making your morning coffee while in the great outdoors.

Happy Caffeinating!

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