Like most coffee lovers, I pretty much refuse to go without it, even when I’m paddling remote waters or backpacking far from the nearest Starbucks . At home, I’m a two cups a day girl, and when I’m camping, I usually settle for one insulated mug full to go with my sunrise.
Over the years, I’ve tried all kinds of equipment and techniques to make the perfect cup of camping coffee. My husband tried to sell my on cowboy coffee once, showing me how easy it is to just mix grinds and coffee together, bring to a boil, and drink. Well, one mouthful of that was enough to convince me that there had to be better way. Next, I tried a fancy camping coffee press made especially for backpackers. The coffee wasn’t bad, but the set-up was a pain to clean, and when it broke, I couldn’t bring myself to order another one.
Finally, I decided to make my camp coffee exactly they way I make coffee at home. Why didn’t I think of that sooner? If you’re a coffee lover, try adding a beautiful walk, the song of a hundred birds, and a cool mist rising off of your favorite mountain lake. There’s just nothing like it in all the world.
Back to the coffee. At home, I grind my coffee fresh each morning (Dean’s Beans – Nicaraguan French Roast, in case you’re wondering). I make it using the pour over coffee method, with paper cone filters, and a ceramic filter cone, poured into a small, stainless steel carafe. I like my coffee hot and strong, and just thinking about it gets me up in the morning.
Making the Perfect Cup of Camp Coffee
We try and pack light when we camp — definitely when we’re backpacking and canoe-camping, but even when we’re car-camping. My coffee kit is small, but powerful. Here’s everything you need to make seriously good coffee while camping.
- Plastic Filter Cone – I use a ceramic filter cone at home, and yes the coffee tastes a little better than using the plastic cone, but it’s a small sacrifice.
- #4 Cone Filter Papers – Once, I tried a reusable metal filter, but it was hard to clean and made the coffee gritty. I don’t mind packing out the paper filters when backpacking, but I usually bury the coffee grounds.
- Hydro Flask 16 oz. or 20 oz. mug – I always use an insulated coffee mug when road tripping and car camping. I’ll write more about our Hydro Flask mugs below, but I’ll say here that they’re pretty heavy, so we splurged on these lovelies to use on backpacking trips.
- And the Coffee, of course – Grind your coffee right before your trip, and store it in a plastic bag.
At camp, I get the water boiling on my camp stove while the rest of my family sleeps. I use 2 tablespoons of coffee per person. I love this method, because I can do it half asleep, just like at home. I put the coffee into my paper filter, into my plastic filter cone. I prefer stronger coffee than my husband, so I put the filter on top of my mug first, pour the water, than do the same for his. Super easy. Super delicious.
What About Cream and Sugar?
Do you need a little something extra in your morning coffee? I keep sugar and maple syrup in my spice kit, so that takes care of that. Maple syrup in coffee is a treat that I could get used to, but have you seen the price of maple syrup lately? I save that for special occasions (solo camping trips…).
Cream is another beast altogether. At home, I love a bit of half and half in my coffee, but in my camping coffee? That’s a tough one. I’ve been known to sneak the real deal into my cooler for short trips. That’s always fun, but not really practical. I’ve tried non-fat dried milk, which really hurts. I’ve also tried CoffeeMate, which hurts even worse. My favorite option so far are to a) go without creamer altogether, or b) use organic whole milk powder. If you go with the powdered milk, mix it with a bit of hot water first and stir it, so you don’t get lumps in your coffee.
More on the Hydro Flask Insulated Mug
Note: Hydro Flask generously provided us with one of their insulated 20 oz. mugs so we could write this post.
We’ve tried lots of insulated coffee mugs over the years, and while we’re not too picky, there are a few reasons to love the Hydro Flask mugs. First of all, they really do keep your hot camp drinks hot, even in the winter. We put our Hydro Flask through its paces, and it compares favorably to every insulated mug we’ve ever tried. In fact, at room temperature, our 190℉ coffee lost just 25° after two hours, which is still a bit too hot to drink (in my opinion). After a full five hours, our coffee was still hot enough to drink at 135℉. There are still lots of insulated coffee mugs out there that do a good job keeping drinks hot, why choose this one?
The two important features that we love most about the Hydro Flask mugs are 1) the lids are super easy to clean (even with lukewarm camp water and Campsuds) and 2) you cannot taste your previous drinks when sipping out of the flip lid. This is huge for us. We are coffee and tea drinkers, and there’s nothing worse than tasting green tea in your coffee or coffee in your green tea.
One of the reasons that the flip lid is easy to clean is because it doesn’t have any crazy, fancy locking mechanisms to keep your drink from spilling. This means that my coffee will never make it into my camera bag. Small price to pay. I did, however, try really hard to spill my camp coffee in this mug — I tipped it over, knocked it on the ground, and turned it upside down and shook it. Didn’t lose a drop. I love this mug, but I want it in red.
Also, the Hydro Flask water bottles will keep your water from freezing when you go skiing.
Enough about the mugs, it’s time for a cup of coffee. Want more inspiration for getting outside with a hot drink? Check out my favorite, FAVORITE hot drink recipes for kids and grown ups.
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