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Making the Perfect Cup of Camping Coffee

Are you a daily coffee drinker? Want to continue to drink your favorite cup of morning coffee when you go camping? Me too! Fortunately, it’s not that hard to make a perfect cup of camping coffee, provided you have the right gear.

A collage of photos featuring coffee and campfires

Don’t worry, you don’t need anything too fancy to make coffee while camping, although there are plenty of fancy gadgets out there. We’re going to make our camping coffee the easiest and most delicious way possible. Ready for a little caffeine boost to go with your wilderness sunrise?

Is There Such a Thing as Perfect Camping Coffee?

Like most coffee lovers, I have a very hard time going without, 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.

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 while camping.

Next, I tried fancy french press coffee with an Aeropress that’s designed especially for campers, backpackers, and travelers. The coffee was fantastic – dark, rich, and strong, and I still bring my Aeropress with me occasionally.

My biggest beef with the Aeropress is that it’s a pain to clean in the woods and has a bunch of different components. There are people who swear by Aeropress coffee, and I won’t turn down a cup if that’s what you’re brewing, but I was still searching for an easier way.

Finally, I decided to make my camping coffee exactly the way I make coffee at home, using a simple pour-over method that requires three small pieces of gear and ground coffee. It’s easy. It tastes fantastic. It’s easy to clean up afterward. I just wish I had thought of it sooner!

If you’re a coffee-lover, I think you will love this camping coffee best. Add a beautiful walk, the song of a hundred birds, and a cool mist rising off of your favorite mountain lake, and you’ll be good for the whole day!

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!

Your camping coffee is only as good as the freshly roasted coffee beans in your camping kitchen, so don’t be cheap with your beans. If you don’t already have a favorite coffee roaster, that should be your first step. I order whole-bean coffee from Dean’s Beans, but every locale has great coffee roasters these days, even if you have to have it shipped to you.

A photo of a drip cone for coffee and a small hand-held coffee grinder by GSI Outdoors.
Photo: GSI Outdoors

We won’t go so far as to say that you need to grind your coffee each morning while camping, but we won’t stop you either. If you do want to grind your own beans at camp, consider this coffee-making kit from GSI Outdoors. It includes a small hand-held coffee grinder, and a collapsible drip cone (to hold a #4 cone filter). Otherwise, grind your coffee beans right before your camping trip and you’ll be fine.

Simple Gear for Making Coffee While Camping

Here’s all you need to make the best damn cup of camping coffee in the outdoors:

  • 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. The silicone drip cone above would also work perfectly.
  • 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 use #2 filters.
  • Hydro Flask Mugs – If you want your coffee to stay hot while you prepare breakfast, walk down to the lake, or start a campfire, use an insulated mug. We love these 12 ounce insulated mugs from Hydro Flask. They come in bright colors and feel good in the hands (very important). There are 6 ounce and 24 ounce mugs as well.
  • Optional carafe – An insulated carafe is useful if you’re making coffee for more than two people and want to keep it warm. Otherwise, we just brew right into our camping mugs.
  • And the coffee, of course

The Camping Coffee Details

This camping coffee is just about as easy to make as boiling water, but I’m going to do my due diligence here and give you all the juicy details.

  1. Roll out of bed and fill a camping pot with water and bring it to a boil over your camp stove while your family sleeps.
  2. Add two tablespoons of coffee grounds per person to a paper filter set inside a drip cone. I don’t bring a tablespoon camping – just guess.
  3. Place the coffee set up over top of an inulated mug or your carafe.
  4. Pour boiling water over top of coffee and let it drip into the mug. If you are making two cups, you can move the drip cone between the two so that both coffees are strong and flavorful.
  5. Enjoy with your favorite outdoor view or inside your sleeping bag.
A blue camping mug with a small drip filter on top for making camping coffee.

What to Put in Your Camping Coffee?

ir?t=backr 20&language=en US&l=li2&o=1&a=B07KFDK6SFDo you need a little something extra in your morning coffee? I keep sugar and maple syrup in my camping spice kit. Maple syrup in my coffee is the absolute best, but I’m good with a teaspoon of sugar as well.

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, but it isn’t always practical on longer trips.

I’ve tried non-fat dried milk poweder, which tastes awful and ruins most coffee. 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 bag of Wildland Coffee sits next to a camping coffee mug.
Wildland Coffee is pretty tasty!

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.

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 and tea bags in a pinch. The caveat is that all of the best instant coffee and coffee “tea” bags are incredibly expensive, and they aren’t much more convenient than the pour-over coffee you can make with freshly roasted beans.

Still, if you’re really trying to pack light, check out Wildland Coffee bags, which have a rich, almost chocolatey flavor that I love. I actually prefer Wildland Coffee in the afternoon after a long hike. If you don’t mind the price, these are very convenient.



How do you make coffee when you’re camping? Drop us a comment and let us know your favorite method!

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A collage of photos featuring camping coffee and how to make it outdoors. Caption reads: How to Make Camping Coffee perfect every time.
 

Colonel Panic

Friday 4th of February 2022

I like my coffee on the light side so I throw a handful of Land O'Lakes Mini Moos in my pack. They are tiny and lightweight.

Tara Schatz

Saturday 5th of February 2022

I had to Google the Land O'Lakes Mini Moos. Great idea. Sounds like the shelf life is rather short, but they would certainly last through a camping trip without refrigeration. Thanks for the tip!

Judy

Thursday 3rd of February 2022

I motorcycle camp, so packing space is at a premium. On the road I opt for Starbucks Italian roast packets. They will do to get my motor running in the morning.

Tara Schatz

Thursday 3rd of February 2022

That works too! I used the Starbucks instant on a canoe camping trip and I didn't hate it. Plus, they're more affordable than some of the instant stuff out there.

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!