Yes, You Can Make a Perfect Cup of Coffee While Camping Skip to Content

Making the Perfect Cup of Camping Coffee

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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 living it up in the woods, I usually settle for one insulated mug full of camping coffee to go with my sunrise.

Is There Such a Thing as Perfect Camping Coffee?

Over the years, we’ve tried all kinds of equipment and techniques to make the perfect cup of camping coffee. My husband tried to sell me on cowboy coffee once, showing me how easy it is to just mix ground coffee and water together, bring it to a boil, and drink. Well, one mouthful of that was enough to convince me that there had to be a better way of making coffee in the woods.

Next, I tried fancy french press coffee with an Aeropress 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 camping coffee exactly the way I make coffee at home, with the pour-over method. 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 with your morning beverage. There’s just nothing like it in all the world.

A foggy sunrise over Ricker Pond in Vermont.
This sunrise at Ricker Pond in Vermont was even better with a cup of strong camping coffee.

Back to the coffee. We got rid of our drip coffee maker years ago. At home, I grind the coffee fresh each morning (Dean’s Beans – Nicaraguan French Roast is our absolute favorite).

I put the kettle on as soon as I wake up. Then I add a paper coffee filter to my ceramic filter cone, pour my ground coffee into the filter, and set it up on top of a stainless steel coffee carafe. I pour the boiling water over the coffee and am ready to drink it within minutes. I like my coffee hot, fresh, and strong, and just thinking about it gets me up in the morning.  Pour-over coffee is the in thing these days, but that’s because it tastes so good!

How to Make Coffee While Camping: The Perfect Cup!

A woman sits near a campfire drinking a cup of coffee.
Relaxing around the campfire with a steaming mug of coffee is the best!

We try and pack light when we’re camping — definitely when we’re backpacking and canoe-camping, but even when we’re car-camping, we try and weed out non-essentials to make things easier. My camping coffee kit is small but powerful. Here’s everything you need for making coffee while camping without a lot of fuss.

A filter cone – I use a ceramic filter cone at home, which would never work on a camping trip. When camping, we use a metal filter holder that folds up and fits easily into our food box. I also use this whenever I’m traveling.
Cone Filter Papers – Filter papers are an important element, but they do add a bit of extra trash to your camping trip. We pack #4 paper filters into our camping kit. If I’m camping solo, I go with #2 filters.
Hydro Flask Camping Mugs – 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 boil water on my camp stove while the rest of my family sleeps. I use 2 tablespoons of coffee grounds per person. I love the pour over method because I can brew coffee when I’m half asleep, just like at home.

I put the coffee into my paper filter, into my metal filter cone. I prefer stronger coffee than my husband, so I put the filter on top of my mug first, pour water over the grinds, then do the same thing for his. Super easy. Super delicious.

Another warming-up by the campfire with a cup of coffee shot!

Do you need a little something extra in your morning coffee? I keep sugar and maple syrup in my camping 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 camping 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 options so far are to a) go without creamer altogether, or b) use organic whole milk powder, which I haven’t been able to find locally. 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 camping coffee.



Making a Case for Instant Camping Coffee

A blue camping coffee mug, a blue tea kettle, and an instant coffee packet called Stoked Stix
We love Stoked Coffee Roasters based in Park City, Utah

When I first wrote this post, I was a bit of a camping coffee purist. Only the prospect of a fresh, strong cup of camping coffee would get me out of bed. I’m happy, and maybe a bit reluctant to say, that I’ve changed my ways.

The instant coffee and espresso packets for camping have really improved since my early days of sleeping outside – so much so, that I whole-heartedly support camping coffee packets in a pinch. My favorite so far is Stoked Roasters Instant Coffee Packets, which are 100% organic, and come in a medium or dark roast. It’s not freshly brewed coffee, but it gets a gold medal for trying.

Why We Love Hydro Flask Insulated Mugs

A green tea kettle over a campfire, next to a black Hydro Flask insulated travel mug.
I love my tea kettle, but I rarely bring it camping unless we have lots of extra room in the car.

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 Hydro Flask mugs. First of all, they really do keep your hot camp drinks hot, even in the winter.

We put our Hydro Flask mugs through their paces, and they compare 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 Hydro Flask?

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.

A black Hydro Flask travel mug with a tea bag hanging off the side. The note says: Let your energy be used to build, not destroy.
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 camping coffee will never make it into my camera bag. A 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.

A view from inside a tent of a travel coffee mug, socked feet, and a pair of hiking boots.
My new favorite mug

In late 2018, Hydro Flask came out with another awesome camping mug. The 12-ounce insulated mug has a handle and a press-in-lid, and it feels like a real mug in your hand. This one doesn’t even live in my camping box. I keep it in the kitchen cabinet and use it every day. It will come along on our first camping trip of 2019. That’s a promise. 

Where to Buy Hydro Flask Mugs

Looking for a new Hydro Flask mug for yourself or a friend? You can get them at Dick’s Sporting Goods, REI, and online at the Hydro Flask website. Both REI and Hydro Flask have sales throughout the year, especially around the holidays, so get on their mailing list so you can stock up when they’re on sale! 

Enough about the mugs, it’s time for a cup of camping 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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A collage of camping photos with the caption: How to Make Perfect Camp Coffee
A gree tea kettle next to a black travel mug and a campfire. Caption reads: How to Make Perfect Camping Coffee
 
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Abby Smas

Wednesday 24th of July 2019

We're retired and just got a camper. I'm having fun stocking it and got a little Keurig but for real "camp coffee," you know I'm going to use my blue granite pot and mugs. To each his own.? I, too, love my half & half, but any substitute was unsatisfying until I found Nestle brand canned cream at Walmart in the Mexican food section. It's delicious by the spoonful, but I add water and it's great for coffee and cereal. Big bonus: I have room to store multiple cans so I can camp at a moment's notice and know I'm ready for that perfect cup of coffee in the morning!?☕?

Tara

Wednesday 24th of July 2019

I will have to try that Nestle canned cream, Abby! Sounds really good!

Rayyan

Thursday 3rd of January 2019

Hi Tara, It's a nice article for me. For a few days campaigning I always use Bialetti stovetop with me. Your article is helping me to take the decision to buy an insulated thermal flask to keep my coffee hot for hours. I think It'll able to hold the optimal temperature for hours without compromising the spick and span flavors & Tastes of my coffee.

Deann

Monday 21st of August 2017

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!

Astrid

Saturday 28th of January 2017

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!

Tara

Saturday 28th of January 2017

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.

JuliaSan

Tuesday 10th of January 2017

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. :)