Camping, food, gear and clothing, Reviews, Travel Tips

Making the Perfect Cup of Camp Coffee

How to Make Perfect Camp Coffee

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.

Camp coffee for the win!

Ricker Pond, Groton State Forest, Vermont

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

Camping coffee for the win!

There’s nothing like a mug of coffee to go with your campfire.

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.

Pour over coffee works really well at camp.

We make pour over coffee at home and at camp.

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.

Keep your camp coffee hot in an insulated mug.

My favorite hiking partner.

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.
Make the perfect cup of camp coffee.

I love my tea kettle, but I rarely bring it camping.

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.

Make the perfect cup of camping coffee.

Words to live by?

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.

Make the best camp coffee ever.

A cute picture of Rowan just because.

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.

I’d be eternally grateful if you could share this post on Pinterest:

If you love coffee, it can be hard to give it up in the back country. Here's how to make a perfect cup of coffee while camping.

Please note that a few of the product links in the post are affiliate links, which means I receive a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking through.These purchases help support my blog at no extra cost to you, so if you do decide to buy something using my affiliate links, thank you!!


  1. I’m a big fan of camping and coffee. But I have never think about that before. Next trip, I will try some of your idea, yeah!

  2. Astrid

    Hey Tara,

    My first time here! It’s the smell of great coffee that drew me in!

    I’m a coffee connoisseur too! Hubby, not so much, he’ll drink any coffee, as long as it’s not caffeine free!

    We’re a camping family too, 2 peeps and 3 dogs. I have to take my Bialetti along for camping trips. I use it every morning at home on gas so it’s great for camp fires too.

    I prefer whole beans at home but on camping trips that’s not practical. So I opt for ground beans. The cool thing about using the Bialetti is there’s no need to boil water and it’s an all-in-one setup.

    But, I do have to get my hands on one of those Hydro Flasks!

    Thanks for a great post!

    • Hi Astrid –
      You’ve totally peaked my interest. We had a Bialetti years ago, but it always seemed like my coffee was sludgy. I may have to give it another shot. It’s certainly easy enough to pack, and there’s no filter to throw out.

  3. I use a coffe press from Wacaco (minipresso) and I am completely happy. The cleaning is a bit tedious, but the coffee compensates for it. 🙂

  4. Oh, this is something N would totally love to have during our trips, he is in a very bad mood when he has not his coffee ! Thanks for the tip 🙂

  5. Coffee is a necessity and coffee is also a luxury 🙂 While camping, basics will most likely do and so, this is a great post. I would certainly add a ceramic mug to my kit, though. Somehow, I prefer that to drinking out of a disposable mug or a thermos.

    • I agree, Punita – a ceramic mug is lovely if you have the room. I broke a few when I first started, so now I just bring unbreakables…

  6. It’s so nice to have the comforts of home while hiking or camping. Great article, so necessary!
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  7. I have for many years tried all different ways to get the right cuppa when out on the trail, and as a lot of the time I can be out for weeks to months I really want to get a good cuppa with out the complication. I would for a long time just do the old bushmans brew, grounded beans at the bottom of the pot and boil then let it sit before carefully pouring in my cup. Now, after a girlfriend gave me the best ever gift, i have a plunger cup! It has travelled many trails and i get the best cuppa!

  8. LC

    I don’t like coffee, but I adore tea. I think I’d be one of those people taking their kettle along with them, haha.
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  9. Oh, this is a really good articule.
    I love trekking and camping, specualy with a perfect cup of tea.

  10. Bob

    Wow you’re fancy. In the military we made sock coffee. Take a sock, preferably clean, fill it with grounds and put it into a boiling pot of water. My Uncle used to make camp coffee by putting the grounds directly into a pot with water, boilibg it and then straining the grounds out.
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  11. I have about 1000 nights of camping at this point, and you are exactly right. It is easy to get light weight gear to make coffee like you do at home so you have good coffee. I am always amazed at the complicated gear people invent to make such a simple drink.

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