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  • 5 Ways to Make Coffee While Camping

    Be honest: What's better than a good cup of coffee around the campfire?

    OK, sure, there are other great things in life, and maybe you're not even really into java (though—wait a minute—you are reading this article!). But let's just say that a whole lot of us can probably come together, put aside our differences, and agree that a piping-hot mug of joe in the great outdoors is one small-scale version of heaven. As with basically anything else—and forgive us the cliché—coffee never tastes better than at a campsite.

    Maybe you're rolling out of the tent or bivy sack ultra-early to catch the first hint of a mountain sunrise, prepping for a summit attempt or some dawn casting at that nameless tarn. Or maybe you're still snuggled in your sleeping bag, and it's the aroma of coffee made by an earlier-rising buddy which draws you out of dreamland for a lazy morning around the fire. Either way, that close-clutched coffee mug is a fabulous way to kick off a day in one gorgeous wildland or another.

    All right, enough with the word paintings: How do you go about making coffee on a camping trip? You've got a slew of options that we will detail below—just in time for the kickoff of peak camping season! Whether you're hauling along a coffee grinder for car camping or packing pre-ground goodness (or instant powder!) on an ultra-light backpacking adventure, we've got you covered as we explore five of the best ways to make coffee while camping.

    (And before we dive in, consider pairing this little camp-coffee tutorial with some other useful and relevant tips, including “Simple Yet Tasty Food for Camping With No Fridge” and our ever-popular “7-Day Camping Food Meal Plan.”)

    1. Campsite Classic: Cowboy Coffee

    They call this method “cowboy coffee” on account of its timeless, no-frills rough-and-readiness. This is a good route to go if you fancy yourself extra-rugged—but also if you forget your coffee filters, French presses, or other more advanced coffee makers.

    All you need for cowboy coffee are coffee grounds, a coffee pot of one kind or another (we suppose you could use a cowboy boot, in a pinch), and hot water. Get water to a boil in said pot—over a campfire is the classic way, of course—and then remove the pot and let it cool off a little. Add whatever amount of grounds suits your taste, stir, and let stand a bit. Before pouring, add a little bit of cold water to encourage the grounds to settle.

    There are numerous other little tricks to avoid getting grounds in your cup of cowboy coffee, including spooning out any floating grounds or pouring through a bandanna or some other readymade filter. But, hey: A few gritty grounds in your coffee are part of what makes cowboy coffee, if you ask us!

    2. Portable Perfection: The AeroPress Approach

    Lightweight components and low-fuss cleanup make the AeroPress a go-to for many campers and backpackers. Place a filter (paper’s standard, but for sustainability’s sake consider the reusable stainless-steel version AeroPress markets) in the cap, screw it into the AeroPress chamber, then ladle in a couple of scoops of coffee grounds into the chamber. Place the chamber atop your drinking mug or thermos.

    Aeropress next to coffee beans and cup.

    Photo by Elin Melaas on Unsplash

    Pour in hot water up to the desired level—there are graduated markings in the chamber that will help you gauge the strength of your campsite coffee—and stir the grounds. Let rest for a minute or so, and then insert the plunger and slowly press down. Add more hot water to your mug or thermos depending on your taste, and bada-bing, bada-boom: You’ve got a fresh-made, campsite-friendly cup of top-notch joe!

    The grounds and filter can easily be expelled by pushing in the plunger, and the components rinsed or washed off.

    It’s worth noting there’s a travel- (and camping-) specific version of the AeroPress: the AeroPress Go, complete with its own mug.

    3. Backcountry Elegance: Pour Over Coffee

    Who says you can’t be a little fancy in the campsite when it comes to that essential morning (or afternoon, or evening) beverage? The pour-over route is many a coffee connoisseur’s go-to, including when roughing it in the woods.

    At this point, there’s quite a variety of custom-made camp-friendly pour-over setups. Collapsible pour-over stands are especially attractive to the space-conscious camper or backpacker.

    Fine- to medium-ground coffee is best for the pour-over approach. If you’re using a paper or cloth filter, wet it first. Gently tap out your grounds to ensure as even a distribution upon the filter as possible. Pour your stove- or fire-heated water in a spiral fashion over the grounds, starting with a small amount at first and then pausing a short while to let the coffee “bloom.” Then spiral more hot water from the center of the grounds outward and back again to fill up your mug to the desired level.

    4. Traditional Charm: French Press

    The French press approach is pretty straight-forward and low-fuss: just a notch or two above your average cowboy-coffee process. You spoon in coarse-ground coffee within the carafe, pour in hot water up toward the top, then place the cover on top and let sit for a few minutes before depressing the plunger.

    French press coffee maker.

    Photo by Rachel Brenner on Unsplash

    That simplicity and the minimal waste involved—just the coffee grounds to properly dispose of—count as big pluses for the French press when it comes to camp coffee. You just want to be selective about what sort of French-press carafe you’re taking: A traditional glass one isn’t very well-suited to the rigors of camping, needless to say. And the relative bulk of a French press doesn’t lend the method to backpacking.

    5. Campsite Convenience: Instant Coffee

    Even cowboy coffee—given the “grounds-management” required—is a bit more involved than the super-simple, super-quick instant-coffee approach. Tap out the freeze-dried coffee powder into your coffee mug, then pour in boiling water, and voila: No wait time involved, and you’ve got your get-up-and-go juice ready to dump down the hatch!

    Admittedly, some coffee aficionados start gagging at the idea of instant coffee, but let’s remember two things: (a) everything tastes better outdoors, and (b) instant coffee has come a long way over the years, with some very good, even downright excellent, powders that can hold their own (gasp!) with freshly ground coffee readily available on the market these days.

    Start Your Day With Campsite Coffee & a Mountain House Breakfast!

    Play around with different campstove and campfire coffee methods, and—unless you’re backpacking, in which case you’re going to want to pare things down to essential tools—consider bringing a couple of coffee-maker setups on your camping trip to compare and contrast. From the speediness of instant and cowboy coffee to the performance art of a backcountry pour-over, it’s hard to go wrong.

    Camper having a Mountain House breakfast with coffee.

    That’s especially true when you’re pairing that campsite coffee with a Mountain House breakfast, from our Classic Biscuits & Gravy to our Veggie Chorizo Breakfast Scramble, Scrambled Eggs With Bacon, and Granola With Milk & Blueberries! This is the most important meal of the day, and you want to come prepared—including, naturally, with your tried-and-true coffee-brewing method.

    Featured Photo by Shelby Cohron on Unsplash

    Inspired for an Adventure? Check out Beef Stroganoff - Pouch and Beef Stew - Pouch