I adore a cup of coffee and can’t leave home for the wild without one. My wife knows it.
It’s my daily fix, and I usually have it first thing in the morning. I also enjoy a mug of coffee when it’s raining; it’s such a vibe, and I can’t even explain it.
But the most fantastic feeling about preparing camp coffee, at least in my opinion, is making it just the way I like it. Accomplishment, yes.
And in the wild, the feeling doesn’t get any better. It feels like winning over inconvenience and bringing civilization to the wild (without ruining it), regardless of how uncomfortable the whole experience is.
Now, I know many of you, or at least the campers I know, love to tag along with fancy coffee machines to pour the perfect mug.
Unfortunately, these machines can break, as mine did, and rather than going without a mug of coffee and feeling cranky the whole day, I’ll share other methods to make coffee while camping.
See, coffee-making shouldn’t revolve around French press, Coffee Drip Makers, or Percolators.
There’re several other amazing ways to make camp coffee while camping. And the good thing is most of these options are simple but quite effective.
My methods are handy at keeping your coffee high, particularly in times of emergency.
11 Ways to Make Coffee While Camping
I’ve brewed my coffee in several different ways but I’m a big fan of AeroPress and Stovetop percolator.
AeroPress and Stovetop aren’t the only methods. I’ve also brewed my coffee using other methods, and in the section below, I’ll share some of my new findings.
Here, I’ve included all the methods, their difficulty, and even list some of the best camp coffee makers.
Your choice will ultimately depend on your personal camp coffee taste, preferences, ease of use, standards, equipment, budget, and so much more.
1) Instant Coffee
Instant coffee is a popular choice for most campers and definitely one of the easiest to prepare.
But, in my opinion, it’s not the best.
Before you start throwing stones, let me explain. I consider myself a coffee connoisseur, and I would argue there’re equally simpler methods than instant coffee that would deliver amazing coffee.
Personally, it’s all about the flavor. Instant coffee flavor is weak, bland and doesn’t sit well with my discerning glands; they love a strong, flavorful coffee.
But flavor aside, there’re some really nice things about instant coffee.
Preparing instant coffee is as simple as it can get and doesn’t require any equipment. It also takes a minute to prepare.
Packaging of the instant camp coffee is also appealing, especially to backpackers. It takes zero room and is easy to tag along with.
Simply put, I’d recommend instant coffee to users who find the “weak” coffee tasteful and don’t need to spend a lot of time preparing a mug of camp coffee.
- Preparation Method: Exact instructions for preparing an instant coffee vary from the brand. But the general idea is to put the coffee grounds in your cup, then add hot water. Stir and wait for the coffee to dissolve and enjoy. I can’t imagine anything simpler than that.
- Equipment: Hot water & grounded coffee
- Coffee Quality: Depends on the type of coffee user.
2) Coffee In a Bag
We can all agree there’s simplicity that comes with steeping tea. So, why not coffee?
But for the longest time, coffee bags weren’t available until recently.
The idea of a steeped coffee isn’t any different from that of tea bags.
I’m a big fan of the coffee bags over the instant coffee because the coffee grounds don’t need to dissolve into the liquid. So, in a way, it tastes like a regular cup of coffee.
It’s a great coffee brewing method for users who loathe the flavor of instant coffee but still love its simplicity and ease of preparation. No brewing apparatus is required.
- Preparation Method: Prepare a cup of hot water, and dip your camp coffee bags, just like you would with a tea bag. Dunk it for a few seconds, and wait for it to steep before enjoying your brew.
- Equipment: Warm cup of coffee and coffee bag.
- Coffee Quality: Decent
3) Single Serving Pour-Overs
Single serving pour-over isn’t the most popular method of brewing coffee while camping, but I’ve started to see more of them in the market and the camping grounds.
I’ve tried this method, and in my opinion, it’s among the simplest way to brew a mug of coffee.
I consider it a step-up from the instant and steeped coffee since it offers really nice coffee quality.
My only markdown with this method is packing some pre-grounded coffee and paper filters. But this should be more of a concern when I’m backpacking or hiking and don’t need extra luggage.
Otherwise, it’s a great alternative to instant coffee and has a really nice flavor to it- something similar to an elevated pour-over.
- Preparation Method: Expand the paper frame, pour the grounded camp coffee inside, and place it over your cup. Slowly pour your water over the finely ground coffee, and allow the pouch to strain the coffee mixture into your mug.
- Equipment: Coffee granules, paper frame, and water.
- Coffee Quality: Nice
4) French Coffee Press
This might not be a popular opinion, but I don’t like the French press.
It produces a full-bodied coffee, which may sit well with some coffee drinkers. But I feel it does so at the expense of the brighter flavors that I like in my fruity coffee.
Either way, it’s a solid option for those seeking full-bodied coffee while camping.
It needs more equipment to bring than instant coffee and its alternatives, so it might not be a great choice for backpackers.
The bulkiest item is the French Coffee Press itself. Most of them are available in glass, but I’d suggest looking for those designed from BPA-free plastic for camping life.
But a nice thing with this brewing method is it can make lots of camp coffee with the least effort. More importantly, it delivers a deep rich-tasting flavor.
The only markdown with the French Press camp coffee requires more cleaning. Cleaning can be a pain.
- Preparation Method: Put coffee grounds into the French Coffee press brewing chamber and then boil water. Let it steep for a few minutes before pressing the plunger down.
- Equipment needed: French Coffee Press, coffee grounds, hot water, and coffee mug.
- Coffee quality: Deep-rich quality
5) AeroPress Camping Coffee Maker
I’ve tried numerous brewing coffee while camping, and the AeroPress is undoubtedly one of the best options to make coffee while camping.
Besides the quality of coffee, this method offers a nice combination of ease of use, portability, and convenience.
AeroPress also blends the benefits of the pour-over method, French press, and pneumatic press, offering the ultimate brewing experience.
Some of the unique selling points with this brewing method are the delicious coffee taste, portable size, and simple clean-up.
It’s a great option for backpackers, RVers, and hikers dedicated to their mugs. But you need to be patient with the process because it only coffee brews a single coffee mug at a time.
The real markdown with the AeroPress is that it’s a bit expensive to get all the equipment ready for brewing.
But that’s a small price to pay for the rich and smooth coffee flavor.
- Preparation method: One of the popular ways of preparing coffee using an AeroPress is through the top-down brew method. This is the traditional and most popular method of brewing coffee using AeroPress. A benefit of using this method is that it prevents the premature dripping of coffee. I’m a big fan because I can always control my brewing period.
- Equipment: Ground coffee, AeroPress machine, hot water, and mug
- Coffee quality: Excellent
6) Stovetop Percolator
The stovetop is an incredible coffee brewing method, but only if you’re willing to travel with your stove.
As its name suggests, the percolator might not be ideal for use over a direct campfire, but rather over thethe stovetop, and even then, ensure that only the burner is in contact with the flame.
But you can use old-school enamel percolators over a campfire.
Either way, I’m a big fan of the percolator because it doesn’t require much effort to brew a tasteful mug.
All I need to make a consistently good camp coffee is the percolator, ground coffee, water, and a coffee mug.
It’s such a great brewing method for coffee while camping that if you pick it, you’ll probably start using it over your electric stove at home. Personally, I even use it to prepare a full-strength espresso or café americano.
The way the stovetop percolators work is quite simple and effective. You simply pour hot water inside the percolator, and as it heals, it’s pushed through a tube so that it runs through a metal basket filled with fresh ground coffee.
Once it cools, it trickles back to the main section, and this cycle continues until your water turns into black coffee.
It’s an ideal use for backpacking & car camping. Depending on the size, the stovetop percolator can brew for a single user to a group of users.
- Preparation Method: Fill the percolator with water, then place a paper filter with grounded coffee. Boil water until you feel your coffee is ready. The good news is most of the stovetop coffee percolators come with a plastic or glass viewing top, so it’s easy to know when your percolator coffee turns to the correct color. Ready.
- Equipment needed: Espresso make and fine coffee grounds/ medium-fine ground coffee.
- Coffee Quality: Excellent (strong coffee), though it depends on the brewing skills and knowledge.
7) Cold Brew Concentrate
The cold concentrate is an incredible camping coffee brewing method for large users.
It’s also one of the easiest and simplest methods of preparing a mug of camp coffee-you don’t even need to heat the water.
But that’s also its greatest undoing- it doesn’t work well for the chilly morning or freezing conditions when you need a warm or hot mug of fresh ground coffee.
However, a camping mug of cold coffee concentrate is rejuvenating during the hot summer days, when you just feel like cooling your body.
Methods of preparation
Now, there’re two main ways of preparing a cold camp coffee concentrate.
The first one is the DIY method.
You simply need to add coarsely ground coffee to a cup of water. From there, allow the coffee concentrate to steep before straining.
The steeping period should depend on whether you want your fresh ground beans concentrated or diluted.
But generally, I recommend between 18 to 24 hours. For example, Starbucks uses 20 hours.
If you accidentally steep your cold brew coffee for a longer than recommended time, your concentrate may be a bit stronger and even bitter, which is fine. You can reduce the concentrate by adding some water.
The second method of making camp coffee is buying it pre-packaged.
Generally, most big coffee brands have a big cold concentrate, which you can bring to the camp.
You simply need to add the concentrate to your mug of cold water, stir it and enjoy your coffee.
- Coffee quality: Reasonable
- Equipment used: Coffee mug, cold water, and cold coffee concentrate.
8) Cowboy coffee
Cowboy coffee is probably the most traditional method of making a delicious cup of camp coffee in the wild.
It’s an awesome coffee brewing method, especially if you’re a minimalist and don’t like tagging along with a lot of gear.
Now, there’re two main ways of making cowboy coffee.
We’ll start with the most popular method known as the sink down method.
It’s probably the easiest way of brewing cowboy coffee, especially when you’ve limited resources.
Sink Down Method
The equipment you need for this camping coffee method is a vessel or kettle to heat water, heat source, and your favorite coarsely ground coffee.
Preparation is easy since all you need to do is boil the water in the kettle. After the boil, remove it and add your coffee grounds.
After 30 seconds, or rather after it stops boiling, return the coffee concentrate to the fire. But this time around, use ow heat and allow the coffee concentrate to simmer for a few minutes.
Some of the coffee grounds should start sinking at the bottom during simmering. You can encourage that sprinkling some cold water at the top.
When all or most of the cowboy coffee ground settle at the bottom, gently pour the resulting mix in your mug while taking special care not to agitate the grit at the bottom.
Scoop Top Method
The second cowboy coffee method is pretty similar to the sink down method and quite ideal if you’re put off by the idea of floating camp coffee grounds as with the first method.
To prepare your coffee using this method, you simply need to bring water to a boil.
Then remove the kettle from the fire and let it cool for a few seconds before adding scoops of ground coffee.
Stir the mixture, and then return it on low heat to simmer for several minutes.
Now, this part differentiates between the first and the second method. Rather than pouring the coffee concentrate slowly in your mug, the scoop top method requires you to skim the coffee ground off the top coffee with a spoon.
And now, you’ve a ready steeped joe, and you don’t need to worry about the gritty ground coffee greeting your taste buds when you drink coffee.
9) MacGyver Coffee
This is among the simplest DIY project you could ever use to prepare a cup of coffee on the road.
It doesn’t require spending on any items save for the grounded coffee itself.
While it doesn’t deliver the best camping coffee in terms of flavor and tastes, it’s a good way to keep you going when you don’t have the resources for a much better method.
The only equipment you need to prepare is a mug of coffee in a mug, boiling water, a rubber band, and some cotton cheesecloth.
You start preparing your coffee by placing the cotton cloth on your mug. Fold it over the edges, or even better, let it run over the edges.
From there, use the rubber band to secure the cloth to drape over the mug.
Press the center section of the cloth, and create something like a “bowl.”
Bring the water to a boil and cool to steaming hot. Soak your coffee ground and let them steep for a while, but not until the water gets cold. A minute is enough.
Next, slowly pour the coffee concentrate over the “bowl” on the mug. The cotton cloth should steep the grounded coffee.
Carefully remove the cloth over your filled mug, and enjoy your coffee.
- Equipment: Cottom cloth, Rubberband, and mug.
- Coffee quality: Decent
10) Moka Coffee Pot & Portable Espresso Coffee Machines
The Moka Coffee Pot and Espresso coffee makers are the ideal camp coffee makers if you’re into Italian-style coffee.
While there’s no doubt about the brewing prowess of these camping coffee makers, their greatest downfall is perhaps portability.
I mean, a camping coffee pot is quite bulky for camping, as with all the other machines.
But if you’re willing to sacrifice the convenience and portability of the simpler camping methods, the espresso pot will reward you with a peppy bravado of an Italian coffee maker.
- Preparation method: brewing camp coffee using an espresso coffee maker is quite easy since all you need to do is add boiling water to the packed grounds. Place the coffee maker over the camp stove fire, and let it boil for a while. The coffee concentrate will collect at the top carapace. Equipment needed: An espresso coffee maker/ Coffee pot.
- Coffee quality: Top-notch
11) Camping drip coffee maker
This camping coffee maker is probably the closest setup you can get on the drip coffee maker at your table countertop.
This camping drip coffee maker resembles the traditional drip maker in every design respect, but more importantly, even on the quality of coffee it makes.
Pour a cup of boiling water on the coffee maker’s back reservoir and add freshly grounded camping coffee.
Let it come to a boil, and then let it simmer before pouring it into your mug.
But one important thing you need to understand is that most camping coffee makers we’ve discussed, including the percolators and drip coffee makers, don’t use direct camp/open fire. Instead, they’re designed for use on a stovetop burner.
Making Camping Latte
If you’re a fan of the creamy, foamy latte, you can still enjoy its rejuvenating vibe, even when camping.
An espresso machine is a great way to achieve your latte, but assuming you left it at home or didn’t have one, I’ll share with you how you can still come up with a tasteful latter.
Understand making a latte will require some resources, much more than other methods of making coffee.
You’ll need a battery-operated or handheld milk frother for the perfect cappuccino.
Alternatively, if you’ve a bigger budget and can access a stovetop, you can consider a milk steamer.
Best Way to Make Coffee While Camping
The million-dollar question for all campers is what’s the best way to make their coffee.
It depends, and the right preparation method is quite personal. See, we all have different coffee preferences, and some users are appealed by one flavor over the other.
For example, I prefer an AeroPress with a Java Press Grinder, especially when I’m car camping. It tucks nicely in my van, but more importantly, it delivers a tasteful and rich-flavored camp coffee.
But that’s not to mean I can’t do with other preparation methods.
Depending on the circumstances and conditions, I can even use instant coffee grounds if it suits me.
For example, if I’m looking for an easy and simple way to prepare my morning coffee, bringing a couple of instant joe packets would be my go-to solution.
On the other hand, my better half loves to have control over the entire brewing process, so she’s a big fan of the pour-over filter.
Simply put, there’re plenty of options available, and only you can determine what is the best coffee method.
But the good thing is whatever preparation method you choose to go with; it’s reassuring to know that a fresh cup of coffee will always fix your day.
As I mentioned earlier, I don’t discriminate on the preparation methods, only that I’ve some discerning taste buds. But when push comes to shove, I’ll use anything that gets caffeine flowing in my blood.
Straining My Coffee
Assuming you’re done with steeping your hot coffee, the next crucial step is straining the camping coffee grounds out of your concentrate.
Now, there’re plenty of ways of straining coffee. But the most popular method is a French press filter or a fine-mesh sieve.
Even then, I don’t find the sieves quite reliable because you’ll still end up with a sludgy concentrate.
Another option I disapprove of is the use of cotton cloth. It’s clumsy to work with and somehow wasteful.
Two of my favorite straining methods are:
1) A thin paper coffee filter
2) Vintage handkerchief
I love these methods because they’re quite effective at straining my camping coffee and are not wasteful.
The second option, handkerchief, in particular, is quite a reliable solution because it’s reusable. I simply wash it for reuse.
How to Make the Perfect Camping Coffee
A morning cup of coffee is only as good as you make it.
While everyone likes their coffee differently, certain tried-and-true methods ensure a great cup of coffee every time.
See, the idea that no guidelines to subscribe to or ideas to follow when making coffee might make you think perfection is unattainable. The ideal cup of camping coffee is a personal thing.
Still, you can agree with me that even in the absence of standards, the ideal cup of coffee has richer and bolder flavors. It has a rounded flavor, and more importantly, delivers a “kick” into your senses, regardless of the method used.
Now, here’re some of the handy tips camp coffee makers should incorporate in their coffee-making routine in all their next camping trips.
Consider the Water Temperature
Water temperature is one of the greatest determinants of your coffee flavor. The right temperatures “unlock” the richness of every coffee bean in your cup.
You boil water too much; you’re left with a bitter taste in your mouth. You use cool water, and you don’t bring out the richness of your mug.
The right temperature for extracting flavors from your coffee cup of camping coffee is 200 °F.
You may not have access to a temperature gauge or anything in the field, but it’s still possible to achieve the right flavor at the right temperatures.
Remember, water boils at 212 F at sea level, so taking the kettle off the fire for 30 seconds to a minute will just bring it to the right temperatures.
Coffee to Water Ratio & Brewing Time
The strength, or rather how concentrated your mug of coffee gets, depends on two main elements; the water ratio and length of brewing.
Of course, how dark and deeply flavored you need your mug is personal, so the ratio can get a bit subjective.
But generally, I would recommend two tablespoons of ground for a glass of water (8 oz).
From there, you can experiment and determine what ratio is best for your needs.
The right consistency of your coffee grounds will determine the overall flavor and richness of your mug.
For example, the finer coffee grounds will expose more surface to the boiling water, resulting in a stronger and darker coffee.
But too much finely-ground coffee might just get lost on the water.
On the other hand, nothing is worse than ending up with a mouthful of camping coffee.
Of course, each level of ground consistency has its place and is useful for one method over the other.
For example, the finer ground coffee is most suitable for paper filter methods, while the coarse ground coffee will work for the mechanical brewing methods such as French press.
Fresh Grounds Vs. Pre-Grounds
The true coffee snobs prefer freshly brewed coffee even while on the road. The good news is that some brands have developed battery-operated grinders that help you achieve fresh coffee.
But most campers, at least the ones I know of, prefer grinding their beans at home and packaging them for use while camping. Alternatively, they purchase pre-ground coffee at their local shop market.
Type of Coffee/Brand
It’s important to carefully choose your fresh ground beans as they ultimately determine how your mug will taste.
The two main varieties of coffee beans are Arabica and Robusta. Under these two umbrella categories, there’re plenty of other strains and subfamilies, each with a unique flavor profile.
But to save you from all that hassle, I would splurge on Aar buckles’ Arioso Coffee.
It’s locally available in your local store and has a truly authentic and special flavor. You won’t regret it.
Even when I’m backpacking, there’re several luxuries and additions that I can never fail to carry.
See, some coffee ground essentials will enhance your camping trip and make it more pleasant.
So, what are these essentials? Here’re a few suggestions to throw in your bag on your next camping trip.
1) Coffee Grinder
If you prefer freshly-ground coffee over the pre-packaged ones, you might consider a grinder.
I prefer a manual/hand coffee grinder over the electric or battery-operated models. Convenience.
Grinders come in different shapes, sizes, and weights. So, it’s easy to find the right coffee grinder for your camping trip needs.
2) Miniature scales
While a scale might seem like a trivial addition, it’s one of the critical extras for your next camp outing.
My scale helps in determining accurate water to coffee ratio. So, I can always enjoy a deeply-flavored and rich coffee concentrate.
Most importantly, it saves me from wastage.
3) Camp mugs/ Coffee thermos
I know you could take your mug of coffee with any cup, but there’s a joy of using a cup specifically designed for coffee.
But for versatility purposes, I’d recommend you choose a travel cup, or rather something you could use or all your camping trip needs.
4) Camping stove
A camping stove is a convenient way to brew your coffee ground, saving you from all the mess that comes with setting up fire and all that.
Plus, most of the percolators in the market will only support the camping stoves and not direct fire.
Simply put, there’s so much convenience and ease of use with camping stoves over starting a fire.
What to Do with Coffee Grounds when Car Camping
Avid outdoorsmen are also environmentalists and conscious of their space.
When camping, the number one rule is never to harm nature and leave no trace.
So, how do you dispose of your used coffee grounds?
An easy way is to dump the ground in the camp trash.
But if there’s no designated trash area, or you’re camping off-grid, you can use a sealable bag or container to store the grounds until you find a convenient place to trash them.
There you’ve it. I’ve just shared some of the best ways to make delicious coffee when camping.
So, there shouldn’t be any reason to stay cranky, or go without your daily dose of fix, even when you’re camping.
And the good thing is you’ve a range of methods to pick from. Choose one that you feel will suit your camping needs.