Coffee and camping go together and not just because they start with the same letter. The outdoors are great, but that shot of morning caffeine does wonders when you haven’t gotten the best night’s rest. And you always appreciate the potential health benefits of coffee.1 Coffee on the go doesn’t have the best reputation. However, times are changing, and there are many ways to make a great cup of coffee while camping. The right method depends on the type of camping you’re doing and the equipment you’ve got available. For those with a sensitive palette, a little more time (and equipment) might be in order.
How to Make Fast Coffee While Camping
These three methods work well if you’re trying to keep your pack weight down. They’re also useful if you’re the type of person who doesn’t want to mess around with breakfast.
Instant coffee sounds perfect for camping. In the past, taste has been an issue. However, new varieties, versions, and products have drastically improved the instant coffee options. Each manufacturer has its own instructions, but the basic idea with instant coffee is that you add the powdery grounds directly to the boiling water, stirring until they dissolve. Simple, lightweight, and a pick-me-up that may not taste much like your usual cup of Joe but works under the right circumstances. Plus you’ll also appreciate the potential for an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effect.2
Coffee-in-a-bag works like a teabag because, well, it is a teabag except, it’s filled with coffee. Boil the water, and put the coffee bag in the water, letting it steep until it reaches your preferred strength. That’s it. Once again, simple and lightweight. If you’re camping where you need to pack out garbage, you will need to take the coffee bag with you.
Single-serving pour-overs are specifically designed for camping. They include a paper frame and pouch filled with coffee grounds. You expand the pouch to fit over the top of a cup, then pour boiling water over the pouch. Easy—check. Lightweight—check. There is a little garbage to pack out when you’re done. However, like other quick options, it doesn’t quite taste like authentic coffee.
How to Make Cowboy Coffee
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Add coffee grounds to hot water, and you’ve got cowboy coffee. No equipment is needed. Something to consider—coffee grounds don’t dissolve in water, so there’s some clean-up involved. If you’re camping where ‘no trace’ rules apply, you’ll have to pack out the wet, used coffee grounds. Is it great coffee? Mostly no, but it will do in a pinch; especially if you need to prevent a caffeine headache.3
Considering that you literally put grounds in water, there are a surprising number of ways to make cowboy coffee, including:
- Scoop Top: Heat the water to boiling. Remove it from the heat, and add coffee grounds. Place the combined water and grounds back on the burner on low heat to finish steeping. Scoop the coffee grounds off of the surface before pouring.
- Clean Cup: Put the grounds in a bandana, cheesecloth, or other fabric to act as a strainer. Boil the water and remove it from the heat. Then, place the loaded cloth in the water, returning it to the burner set on low heat to finish steeping.
- Sink Down: Heat the water, removing it from the heat when it starts to boil. Add the coffee grounds. Put it back on the burner/fire to simmer. The grounds should sink to the bottom after a few minutes. If they don’t, at a little cold water. When you pour, the grounds should stay on the bottom.
How to Make (Great) Coffee While Camping
Now that we’re through the simple methods let’s look to the methods that work in the outdoors but create coffee that definitely tastes more like what you’re used to.
So you’ve never heard of a bripe? You’re not alone. This neat (if not a little strange-looking) device works well if you’ve got room for a piece of extra gear. The bripe features a cup with a pipe attached to it. The grounds and water are placed in the cup. Then, the cup is placed on a camping grill or even a lighter to bring the water to a boil. Once the water reaches a safe temperature (thermometers are usually included), sip the coffee through the attached straw. The bripe is a little different and conversation-starting for sure, but a delicious cup of expresso-like coffee is the result.
Percolators used to be the camping go-to coffee method. They’re still a great way to make coffee if you’re car camping or staying in an RV. Fill the percolator with water, and place a filter in the basket. Fill the basket with grounds and boil. The water percolates up a tube to the basket as it begins to boil. This makes a strong cup of coffee and easily works as well over a fire as it does a camping grill or stove.
If Italian-style coffee calls your name, pack yourself a Moka Pot. A Moka Pot is basically a stovetop coffee maker that produces strong, espresso-like coffee. The bottom of the Moka Pot is filled with water while the grounds fill the middle section. As the water boils, it steams through the grounds and collects in the top of the Moka Pot.
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Skip the fragile carafe French presses for a sturdier, camp-friendly model, and you’ll get delicious coffee that’s nearly identical to what you make at home. Place coarse coffee grounds in the bottom of the French press, and drizzle a little hot water on the grounds. Next, fill the container with hot water, stir, and let it sit for eight to ten minutes. Depress the plunger, pour, and drink.
An AeroPress combines several methods for a tasty cup of rich, smooth coffee. These devices can function similar to a pour-over (except with a plunger) or as a French press, depending on how it’s set up. Either method requires fine grounds, timing, and a little practice to know when to press (and depress) the plunger. It’s best to practice at home a few times before you venture out on a camping trip with an AeroPress. Once you get the hang of it, you can make delicious coffee while camping.
Final Thoughts on Camping and Coffee
As you’re deciding on the right method, think about your camping style. Do you need to keep your pack weight down or pack out all of your garbage? If you’re staying in a campground, a simple percolator and camp stove can do the trick. However, if you have a more refined palette, don’t underestimate the flavor achieved with a portable French press or an AeroPress.
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- Nieber K. The Impact of Coffee on Health. Planta Med. 2017;83(16):1256-1263. doi:10.1055/s-0043-115007
- Hoezler, C, et al. Instant coffee with high chlorogenic acid levels protects humans against oxidative damage of macromolecules. Molecular Nutrition. 2010; 54(12); 1722-1733. doi: 10.1002/mnfr.201000048
- Morava A, Fagan MJ, Prapavessis H. Effects of Caffeine and Acute Aerobic Exercise on Working Memory and Caffeine Withdrawal. Sci Rep. 2019;9(1):19644. Published 2019 Dec 23. doi:10.1038/s41598-019-56251-y