5 Foolproof Ways to Brew Coffee at the Campsite

Imagine waking up to the crisp air of the outdoors.

The hustle and bustle of the city has faded into obscurity. Car horns have become bird songs, street lamps have transformed into towering trees, and stress has slipped into relaxation.

The only thing that could make your mountainside morning perfect is a fresh cup of coffee.

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But you’re dozens of miles from the nearest Starbucks! You’ve got to play the role of campsite barista to satisfy your caffeine craving. Don’t fret though, I’ve got you covered with a few easy techniques and tips on how to make coffee while camping.

Start With a Heat Source

First ask yourself : How are you going to get hot water?

You may try and rebuild the dying embers of last night’s campfire, but that can be a lengthy, frustrating process. Or, you could use a camping stove to heat up your water.

Personally, I prefer to utilize the campfire when available, but always carry with me a MSR WindBurner stove and gas canister in case of inclement weather.

Camper's Tip: Many National Parks have strict ‘burn bans’ and are constantly updating their policies based upon wildfire potential. Make sure you read each location’s rules and regulations before heading out. No cup of coffee is worth hundreds of dollars in fines or damaging the environment!

Choose Your Brewing Method

Now that you have heated your water, let’s take a look at 5 methods of brewing campsite coffee.

1. The Easiest Way?  Cowboy Up!

The cheapest brewing method by far is to whip up a pot of gritty cowboy coffee. Simply add regular coffee to your pot (or mug), pour in hot water, wait five minutes, and drink!

You may get grounds stuck in your teeth, but you’re in the middle of the woods, who cares?

Camper's Tip: To reduce the amount of ingested coffee grit, place a few paper coffee filters on top of the grounds, and hold them in place with a spoon. It may sound primal, but it truly does work!

2. Bag Your Coffee

Similar to tea bags, coffee bags provide a simple solution to obtain your caffeine fix. Place the bag in your mug, pour in the hot water, then steep for a few minutes just as you would with tea.

Although simple, the quality of coffee sometimes falls victim to the bag’s convenience.

Here's how you can skip the store prices and make your own: Take a normal coffee filter, then add one heaping scoop of coffee grounds in the center. Fold up the sides of the filter and tie off with twine (unscented dental floss works surprisingly well too).

Camper's tip: Ensure there is a tail of twine at the end of the filter so you can steep the bag.

3. Filter One Cup at a Time

For those of you traveling solo, one-cup filters are a cheap, lightweight option to brew your morning coffee.

The plastic cone typically comes with a built-in mesh, which can be placed directly on top your coffee mug or thermos. Slowly pour hot water over top, letting the freshly-brewed liquid to drip down into your cup. Make sure you put the mug or thermos on a firm surface before you start to pour, as some of these plastic filters can be flimsy, and you don’t want to spill scalding hot water all-over the campsite.

Camper's Tip:  While plastic is cheap and convenient, think about investing in a stainless steel, paperless filter. They are slightly easier to clean and tend to last a longer, especially in the harsh outdoors.

4. Le French Press

One of my favorite luxury items on the campsite is the French Press.

There is just something about this contraption that makes coffee taste much more…fancier! While your typical kitchen coffee press may take up too much room in your backpack, a travel version, like the Espro Travel Coffee Press, will slip right in. The best part is that you can drink right out of the press, saving the hassle of washing multiple cups!

Camper's Tip: If you’re going to be out for a while, consider purchasing a Coffee Press Kit that attaches straight into the Windburner Stove. This way you can make a fresh cup of hot liquid goodness every morning.

5. Instant Satisfaction

While nothing beats a freshly-brewed cup of Java, lugging around a giant brewing device can be taxing and expensive.

For times that you want to pack light on the trail, try out single serve instant coffee packets. Just heat up your water, add the dissolvable grounds, and enjoy!

Camper's Tip:  If you are in a morning rush, mix together one Starbucks VIA Italian Roast single serve instant coffee packet, one Justin’s Maple Almond Butter packet, and one cup of oatmeal. Add a cup of hot water and let sit for five minutes. This surprisingly tasty camper’s breakfast will wake you up, and give you the fuel needed to embark on your next adventure.

Your Brewing Gear Checklist

Let’s review a few of the essentials you need to make a great cup of camping coffee.

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    Heat source - campfire, gas/alcohol/wood camping stove (MSR PocketRocket 2)
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    Coffee -  Coffee grounds, coffee bags, or instant coffee (Starbucks VIA Italian Roast)
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    Metal Pot to heat water
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    Brewing Device - French Press (Jetboil MiniMo with coffee press), paperless filter (Open Kitchens stainless steel coffee filter), regular paper filters
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    Trash bag to pack out used coffee grounds

Camper's tip: leave these at home!

  • A Keurig (or any typical kitchen device), even if you’re car camping
  • Any outdoor coffee makers, such as the propane-powered Coleman QuikPot. They are not versatile and serve no dual purpose.
  • Ceramic and glass mugs and cookware. These items can easily break, causing you to pick up the pieces of your cup, and your camping trip.

Your Turn

There’s no reason for you to miss out on your morning cup of coffee while camping.  There are dozens of techniques to get your caffeine fix in the wild, but all of the aforementioned methods have been fully tested by yours truly (and trust me, I get the jitters without my morning cup of Jo).

Do you have a burning question about being a campsite barista? Do you have another outdoor brewing technique we left out?

Comment below to spread the camping love and get outdoors!

Jay toes the line between hiking enthusiast and vagabond as he treks across the world, soaking in it’s natural wonders. When he’s not exploring the trail, he writes articles to help guide others through their outdoor conquests.

2 thoughts on “5 Foolproof Ways to Brew Coffee at the Campsite

  1. Thanks Jay, this is a great article. I love to use a single brew coffee cone. The one I have is Coleman brand, but I’ve even seen them in the coffee aisle at my local grocery store. It’s ideal for camping because it’s so easy and light. The coffee tastes just as good, if not better than from an electric coffee making appliance. I even use it at home when only one person wants a cup! I like your suggestion to get a stainless steel version. When mine finally wears out, I think I’ll do that!

    Cara

    • Hey Cara,

      Awesome! Single brew coffee cones are brilliant. So glad to meet a fellow camping coffee drinker.

      -Jay

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