How to Make Coffee While Camping: 11 Easy Methods to Get Your Fix of Brown Magic in the Wild

Are you the kind of human who hyperventilates when straying too far from the nearest coffee source? If so, our guide on how to make coffee while camping is a must-read!

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How to Make Coffee When Camping: All You Need to Know

Looking for the best way to make coffee while camping?

You’re in the right place! In this guide, we will be covering the following:

    • Pros and cons of each method of making camping coffee
    • 11 ways to brew coffee in the outdoors
    • Further tips on how to make camp coffee
    • Recommended kit to help you make a tasty cup of coffee when camping

Unwilling to miss out on that oh-so-necessary, life-giving cup of mud in the morning when you’re out in the wilds? We hear ya!

Getting your fix of the blessed brown stuff while camping can be tricky, but our guide on how to make coffee when camping will reveal 11 ways that will let you get your fix no matter how far you stray from the coffee shop or your electric mud-maker at home.

From cowboy coffee to aficionado-approved espresso, our list has a brewing method for all budgets and tastes!

How to Make Coffee While Camping: 11 Brewing Methods

1. Instant Coffee

You’re not alone if the idea of instant coffee makes you balk. Historically, instant coffee has been reserved for the bravest folks who don’t mind a bit of chewiness to their brew.

Luckily for you, there have been considerable advances in the realm of instant coffee in the past few years. Remove your memories of chewy, chalky instant coffee and step into the future of ease and convenience while drinking your camp coffee. 

Bringing along an instant coffee packet is perfect for the lightweight backpacking enthusiasts out there who still need their kick of morning joe. It also saves a lot of precious space. Furthermore, it’s the simplest way to make your mud while camping, as it just takes a mug and a little hot water. 

All you have to do is put the instant coffee grounds into your mug and slowly pour hot water over the top. Stir until the instant coffee is dissolved and voilà!

What We Like

  • Lightweight
  • Easy to brew

What We Don’t

  • Less caffeinated than other methods
  • Will fail the taste test with aficionados

2. Coffee in a Bag

This method is just like using a tea bag. You’ll utilize the principles of steeping the bag much like you would your dose of English Breakfast, but here you’ll get more of a kick out of the deal.

There are a plethora of coffee bag brands to choose from to get the perfect cup. Since the ground coffee is not physically dissolved in the hot water, this will taste the closest to the steeped coffee coming out of the coffee pot at home. 

Coffee bags are best for people who don’t want to take the plunge all the way to instant coffee but also don’t have the space, time, or motivation to bring along a more fragile French press. 

This method is almost as simple as it gets. Place the bag in your camping mug of choice and fill it with steaming hot water. Steep it until it gives you the kick you need. The bags are easy to dry out, and you can dispose of them properly after you finish your backcountry trip. 

What We Like

  • Lightweight
  • Easy to brew
  • Easier to carry than even instant

What We Don’t

  • Waste needs to be packed out
  • Again, not the highest-quality cup of joe you’ll ever have

3. The Sock Method

A wonderfully simple way to get your fresh cup of joe in the outdoors is the ‘resourceful’ sock method. You can use an old sock or t-shirt of choice or even step up to one of the commercially produced sock-like filters. 

The sock method works exactly as you think it might. All you have to do to get your cup of (surprisingly) amazing coffee is fill your sock (preferably freshly rinsed to remove any remaining funk) and lower your sock into a cup or pot of boiling water that you’ve warmed on your camping stove. 

Next, you’ll want to allow the sock and coffee combo to steep for a few minutes. Again, if you want your mud to be more akin to motor oil, let the sock steep for longer. 

Not only will this method give you a delightful taste of your morning coffee, but the brewing process is likely to elicit some laughter from your group. The joke is on them, however, as they will also be impressed by your ingenuity. 

One issue with this method is the cleanup process. Instead of one soggy filter or bag to deal with, cleaning finely ground coffee out of a sock requires a bit more labor. Post-brew, the sock in question will likely be suitable for coffee brewing only, unless you want to walk around with coffee grounds on your feet for the remainder of your camping trip.

What We Like

  • Works just as well as a regular coffee filter
  • Only a sock (or shirt) is required

What We Don’t

  • You have to sacrifice a sock

4. Single Serving Pour-Overs

Single-serving pour-overs are an incredibly easy way to make your morning cup of freshly brewed coffee in the backcountry and require only one essential piece of gear: the filter itself. This method will give you a cup of delicious coffee without taking up a lot of space or breaking the bank.

The pour-over coffee brewing method involves using pre-ground beans in a disposable paper pour-over stand. Simply expand the paper frame and place it over the top of your mug or coffee thermos. Then, slowly pour boiling water over the pouch to enjoy a delicious cup of rich brewed coffee. 

One downfall of this method is the soggy, grounds-filled filter you have to deal with. If you’re car camping with a garbage can nearby, this is no big deal, but for backpackers it’s a different story. 

What We Like

  • Lightweight
  • Disposable

What We Don’t

  • Have to pack out waste

5. Pour-Over Drip Stands

Pour-over drip stands offer a huge step-up in taste and convenience from single-serving pour-overs. While your local coffee shop may have these in glass or ceramic forms, there are now lightweight and collapsible backcountry versions to get your cup of coffee while romping in the woods. 

This method is best for those of you who take making coffee seriously. Generally, this is for those looking for a fancier cup of the good stuff while camping but don’t want the weight of a French press. 

Simply fill the filter with grounds and clip the contraption onto your coffee mug. You’ll ideally have a kettle with a tapered neck to avoid spilling your hot water all over the place, as it can be a bit difficult to balance the filter while brewing coffee.

These tiny filters can be a bit finicky to use, but they will give the solid kick of taste you might be craving. They’re also remarkably packable; you can just keep yours in your empty coffee cup while backpacking or traveling. 

We find drip coffee stands work best with coarsely ground coffee.

What We Like

  • Lightweight
  • Compact
  • Tasty

What We Don’t

  • Pouring takes practice

6. AeroPress

The AeroPress revolutionized the morning brew of the masses. Why not take it with you on your next camping trip? It’s small, lightweight, and simple to brew coffee with, especially if you’ve already had some practice using it at home. Its short brew time also means it won’t be quite so acidic. 

The method is foolproof in the backcountry: simply put the grounds in the apparatus and slowly pour hot water over the grounds. Allow the combo to brew for as little as 30 seconds. Then just push the plunger into the mug for a cup of smooth, steaming joe. 

The AeroPress takes up a bit more room in your backpack or car, which is especially important if you’re trying to travel light on your camping trip. The cleaning process is also a little more involved than with other methods – you’ll need a garbage can nearby or a bag to pack out your trash if you’re backpacking. 

Yet for those that already know they love their AeroPress, this is the best way to brew coffee on your mornings in the wilds. 

What We Like

  • Smooth taste
  • Quick brew time

What We Don’t

  • Involved cleanup
  • Bulky

7. French Press Coffee Makers & Coffee Percolators

While we don’t recommend carrying your classic glass French press or coffee percolator with you on your remote backpacking trip, there are plenty of new models out there that offer more durability and are made with the camper in mind. 

The French press is ideal for making a cup of coffee for groups of 2-4 people. The brewing process is a bit slower than other methods, but you’ll get a rich-tasting mug at the end of the process. 

Here you’ll want to add coarse ground coffee to the bottom of the apparatus. “De-gas” the container by drizzling a bit of hot water over the grounds. Then you’ll simply fill the press with hot water and stir. Brew for 8-10 minutes. Then, press down the plunger so the grounds are pushed to the bottom, pour, and enjoy!

The French press camp coffee method is not ideal for the lightweight backpacker or someone who is short on space. But for the car camper or RVer, you can grab your French press from home and know what you’re getting. 

What We Like

  • Can make multiple cups in one press
  • You may already have one

What We Don’t

  • Long steep time
  • Takes up a lot of space
  • Fragile

8. Integrated Cook Systems

An integrated cook system consists of a small pot that converts into a French press-style brewing process in a jiffy. Integrated cook systems are great if you’re hoping to save space and cut down on gear, provided you’ll be bringing your cooking system along with you anyway. 

This method is easy if you know how to use a French press already. Simply boil the water, add the grounds, stir, and allow the combination to steep for around 10 minutes. Plunge the coffee grounds to the bottom and you’re good to go! In our experience, medium-fine ground coffee works best.

The only downsides to this method are that integrated cook systems are pricey and, on backcountry camping trips, you’ll have to either carry out or bury your wet grounds. For the latter, we recommend carrying a camping shovel.

What We Like

  • Saves bringing an extra coffee maker if you already need a camp stove
  • Easy to brew
  • Boil water quickly

What We Don’t

  • Pricey

9. Moka Pot/Espresso Maker

Want extra-strength Italian-style coffee that sacrifices nothing in the way of taste? If so, a Moka Pot is the way to go. 

While this method is ideal for making espresso, if you’re an Americano drinker, all you have to do is add a little hot water to customize your brew. And there’s no need to worry about filters here, either, just the grounds. Included with a Moka pot is a built-in, reusable metal basket filter that helps you cut down on non-biodegradable waste. 

To make your backcountry espresso, simply place water in the bottom reservoir brewing chamber and pack coffee grounds into the middle metal filter. Place the Moka pot over a stove to ensure the water boils and steams up through the grounds. The steamy espresso then collects in the top serving carafe.

What We Like

  • Wins the taste test
  • Fairly compact
  • No filters needed

What We Don’t

  • Takes longer to boil
  • Heavy

10. Portable Coffee Grinders

You don’t have to sacrifice freshness when brewing camp coffee. Modern technology like a portable manual coffee grinder makes grinding your coffee beans in the woods accessible – as long as you’re happy to put in a little effort in return for that extra-fresh coffee. 

Even if you’re a regular and happy-to-admit-it Folgers lover, there’s no denying that freshly ground coffee simply packs more of a punch than pre-ground coffee beans. 

The bottom line? For those who like their coffee fresh, hand coffee grinders are a must-have.

What We Like

  • Freshness
  • Stronger than pre-ground beans

What We Don’t

  • Takes a bit more work
  • Bulky

11. Cowboy Coffee

Perhaps the most basic yet revered of all the methods of making coffee while camping or off the grid is the cowboy method. It’s the most rugged of all of the options we’ve listed and will likely get you the most street cred and appreciation from your friends – especially if they’re the ones that forgot to bring the filter. 

All it takes here is boiling some water in a pot or kettle and tossing in your grounds. You heard us right. Stir up the mixture with a spoon and allow it to boil for a bit (more boiling equals more caffeine for you and more patience to put up with your friends griping about the missing French press). 

If you’re especially brave or fancy yourself a true cowboy, pour the concoction directly into your mug and sip carefully. Your teeth will serve as something of a filter for the coffee grounds, so it’s wise to double-check you’ve packed your toothbrush if using this method. 

A somewhat more posh version of the cowboy coffee involves skimming the grounds off the surface of the hot water rather than staining your teeth with grounds. To earn you further nods of respect from your pals, try the sink-down method: simply sprinkle a bit of cold water across the surface of the water and then pray for the grounds to sink. 

The biggest perk of this method is that all you need is a kettle and a lot of Wild West spirit.

What We Like

  • Simple to make
  • Cred and kudos from camping cohorts

What We Don’t

  • You may be spitting coffee grounds out of your mouth for the rest of your day

So, Which is the Best Way to Make Coffee When Camping?

If done right, you can still feel like you’re at your favorite European cafe sipping camp coffee while camping from your car or even backpacking. From the bourgeois Moka pot all the way to the classic cowboy method, there’s no shortage of options for your caffeination needs. 

But which method is best? This, of course, depends on a number of variables, including your budget, how much space you can sacrifice in your pack, and how fussy you are when it comes to taste.

How to make sure your coffee is sustainable

If you enjoy time in the outdoors, it’s likely you also care about where your coffee is coming from so you can feel good drinking it. Below, we’ve described how to make coffee while camping in a way that minimizes environmental impact and/or that gives back to the community.

  1. Pick a company that uses ethically sourced beans and sustainable packaging if possible. You can do some research about where your company of choice sources their beans. Likewise, if you’re looking for ways of brewing coffee that cuts down on packaging, go to the bulk aisle of the grocery store for your beans or ground coffee.
  2. If you use creamer, pick one that is plant-based. The most sustainable milk out there is the now-trendy oat milk. It takes much less water to produce than its counterparts of soy and almond milk. Soy milk, however, is preferable to dairy as it takes ⅓ of the resources to make. Better yet, skip the creamer altogether and enjoy the taste of your brew as is!
  3. Invest in a nice thermos to avoid using single-use cups and cut down on garbage on your camping or backpacking trip. A thermos, of course, also keeps your brew hotter for longer.

For car camping, our favorite brewing method is the Aeropress or French press, both of which will give you a cup of joe every bit as good as you get at home. 

For backpacking, we’re big fans of the low-bulk, low-weight options like pour-over drips stands, or biodegradable coffee bags if we’re truly short on pack space.

And if you’ll only settle for the best of the best, and like your mud as potent as can be, the magical Moka pot is hard to beat.

What did you think of our tips? Did we miss anything? Comment below to share your own mud-making methods! And if you’d like to share this post with your friends, share away!

Last update on 2022-05-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Monica is a freelance writer, ski patroller, and raft guide based out of Colorado, and is passionate about mountain biking, rock climbing, and playing Irish music on her fiddle in her spare time. Growing up in rural Minnesota, she learned how to brave the cold in the pursuit of adventure from an early age.

In the winter you’ll find Monica skiing at her home resort of Wolf Creek, near Pagosa Springs, which she now calls home. In the summer, you’ll find her guiding the Class III-IV whitewater of the Arkansas River nearby. She’s also taught skiing, environmental education, kayaking, and canoeing. 

Her favorite adventures have involved backpacking the Rockies with her best friends and mountain biking the slick rock of the deserts of Utah. Even better are long meanders through the woods and mountains on her backcountry skis. She’s also done irresponsible things internationally like sledding down a volcano in Nicaragua and surfing off the northwest coast of Ireland. 

She holds certifications in avalanche rescue, professional ski instruction, and wilderness medicine. She enjoys reading and writing about all of the above.

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