How to Make Coffee While Camping: The Ultimate Guide

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There’s no feeling quite like waking up on a brisk morning surrounded by towering pines, colorful desert cliffs, sparkling aqua blue lake waters, or another scenery you set up camp around and enjoying a nice cup of camp coffee. Even better if you’re sitting around at sunset enjoying campfire coffee brewed on the burning hot flames.

At home, you may be accustomed to using an espresso machine, glass french press, old-school drip camping coffee maker or K-cup machine, but those options just won’t fly while camping. If you’re tent camping or on an overnight hike, you won’t have electricity and you’ll be counting the grams in your backpack, so you probably don’t want anything too heavy or too complicated.

Just because you may not have the comforts of home while you’re enjoying nature in a tent or your car, camping coffee doesn’t have to suffer. If you know the right ways to make it, having a nice cup of coffee in the morning can make your camping trip a whole lot better.

This ultimate guide for how to make coffee while camping goes through 13 different ways you can make yourself a fresh cup of Joe in the morning, letting you enjoy the real reason you went camping in the first place.

While there are many different methods for making coffee while camping, this guide is divided into two non-electric methods: an easy-cleanup method that’s better for packing out your trash while conserving drinking water and a messier cleanup method that’s better if you’re staying at a campsite with running water.

How to Make Coffee While Camping: Minimal Cleanup Methods

1. Cold Brew

Cold brew coffee is my favorite kind of coffee for a few reasons. The cleanup is extremely easy and you don’t have to wake up and make it. A single batch of cold brew coffee can last you up to a week or more and keep the decadent taste you crave.

Cold brew camping coffee is perfect for many types of camping because you don’t need a fire or refrigeration. All you need is a bottle, coffee grounds, a mesh bag and some filtered water.

  • Camping Uses: Large and small camping groups, backpacking, bikepacking and camping without fire
  • What You Need: A mason jar or a plastic container with wide mouth and a disposable mesh brewing bag
  • Brewing Method: Fill the disposable mesh brewing bag with coffee grounds, place it in the jar or container, fill it up with water and let it sit for 12 to 16 hours (in a cooler or a shaded place that doesn’t get too hot). After you let it sit for 12 to 16 hours, simply take out the filter and your coffee is ready!
  • Expert Tips: If you’re backpacking on a multi-day trip, take an extra water bottle with you, stuff the mesh coffee bag filled with grounds inside the bottle, fill it up with water and you’ll have deliciously strong coffee ready for you when you wake up in the morning!

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2. Coffee in a Bag

For those of you who aren’t privy to cold brew coffee and like a hot cup in the morning, coffee in a bag is the easiest cleanup method that doesn’t sacrifice the taste of a bold cup of Joe.

Coffee in a bag works similarly to tea. Just snag a tea bag, or another small cloth filter, fill it up with coffee grounds and let it steep in your cup until it’s ready! TSome companies pack and sell single-serve coffee in tea bags, too!

  • Camping Uses: Backpackers, bikepackers and anyone traveling light
  • What You Need: Single-serve coffee in a bag or small cloth filter similar to tea bag (you can also use a tea bag) and hot water
  • Brewing Method: Fill a tea bag with coffee grounds and let it steep in a hot cup of water for about 10 minutes
  • Expert Tips: While buying coffee in a bag from an established company can get expensive on long camping trips, making your own with a tea bag and fresh grounds tastes just as good!

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3. Single-Serve Pour-Over

Pour-over coffee has a distinct flavor that’s both bold and rich. While pour-over coffee can be found in some of the most upscale coffee shops around the United States, this pour-over coffee for backpacking has an upscale taste at a lower price and easier cleanup. Single-serve pour-over coffee is an easy and lightweight way to get a bold and flavorful cup of campfire coffee in the morning.

There are three distinct methods for making pour-over coffee while camping: getting a pour-over stand, filtering it in the mug or buying a travel mug with a built-in pour-over compartment ready to go. For the cheapest method, a pour-over coffee filter is your best bet.

A. Pour-Over Stand

A pour-over stand simply attaches to your coffee cup to lift it above your mug. It utilizes a small coffee filter or similar mesh filter to put your grounds in. Just clip it to your mug, fill up the filter with grounds, slowly pour hot water over the grounds and you’ve got yourself a hot cup of coffee!

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B. Pour-Over Filter

If you don’t want to purchase (or carry) a small pour-over stand that attaches to your mug, you can just use the pour-over filter instead. Just get a rubber band or something similar, attach the filter around inside of the cup, fill it with grounds and pour over the hot water. It’s an easy, lightweight and clean way to make a cup of coffee!

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C. Pour-Over Travel Mug

If you love pour-over coffee and don’t want to fool around with filters, you can buy an insulated pour-over coffee mug with a paperless filter that makes the perfect cup of coffee every time!

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  • Camping Uses: Backpackers, bikepackers and anyone traveling light
  • What You Need: Pour-over coffee mug with built-in filter or a small coffee filter with a stand or rubber bands and hot water
  • Brewing Method: Place the pour-over filter over your coffee mug, fill it with coffee grounds and slowly pour hot water on the grounds in a circular motion for 10 to 20 seconds until all the grounds are damp.
  • Expert Tips: A single-serve pour-over filter or pour-over coffee mug can save you a lot of space in your backpack and a lot of time in the cleanup process.

4. Reusable Filter Cup

A reusable filter cup is similar to the coffee-in-a-bag method but instead of utilizing a disposable tea bag, it uses a reusable coffee filter cup that’s similar to a refillable K-cup. After the filter is full of coffee grounds, you just drop it in a hot cup of water for about 10 minutes until it becomes a steaming cup of coffee!

  • Camping Uses: Backpackers, bikepackers and anyone traveling light
  • What You Need: Reusable coffee filter and hot water
  • Brewing Method: Put coffee grounds into the reusable filter cup, put it in your mug, pour hot water in and allow about 10 minutes before drinking
  • Expert Tips: While a reusable filter cup is better for the environment than a mesh filter, it can be a bit messier.

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5. Portable Drip Camping Coffee Maker

A portable drip camping coffee maker is the same thing as that drip coffee maker you had growing up and may still have at your home. But the camping version is powered by batteries instead of electricity. If you’re a traditionalist who stands by drip coffee and you want it while camping, this is your best option! However, it’s pretty bulky, so hiking with it is out of the equation.

  • Camping Uses: Camping with large groups in a stationary place
  • What You Need: Portable drip non-electric coffee maker for camping
  • Brewing Method: Just like at home, fill the filter with grounds, fill the back with water, press the start button and wait for hot coffee!
  • Expert Tips: While a portable drip coffee maker is bulky and can’t be taken while hiking, it’s the best hot coffee alternative for campers who don’t have a portable propane stove and don’t want to make a campfire every morning.

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6. AeroPress

The AeroPress is a new and innovative way to make coffee around the campfire without a ton of work. An AeroPress works similarly to a French Press but doesn’t have to steep as long, which means your cup of coffee is less acidic and, thanks to its disposable filters, takes far less time to clean up!

  • Camping Uses: Backpackers, bikepackers and anyone traveling light
  • What You Need: AeroPress, included filters and hot water
  • Brewing Method: Put the filter filled with grounds in the AeroPress, pour hot water over it and push the filter down with your hands to make a smooth cup of coffee in seconds.
  • Expert Tips: If you love French Press coffee but hate the messy cleanup involved with them, the AeroPress is a great alternative to get a delicious cup of pressed coffee.

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7. Instant Coffee

While I absolutely despise instant coffee, I had to put it on the list because it’s super easy to make and has no cleanup involved. If you’ve never had instant coffee, it’s just a powdered soluble coffee mixture (similar to powdered chocolate milk) that dissolves in hot water or milk and turns it into a cup of coffee. I haven’t had too many varieties of instant coffee, but I still haven’t come across one that I like.

  • Camping Uses: Backpackers, bikepackers and anyone traveling light
  • What You Need: Instant coffee mixture and a hot cup of water
  • Brewing Method: Put instant coffee mixture in a cup, pour over hot water and stir until the mixture is dissolved
  • Expert Tips: While I don’t like the taste of instant coffee, it’s an easy alternative for long-term backpackers and those who just want a daily dose of caffeine in the morning.

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How to Make Coffee While Camping: Messier Methods

8. Cowboy Coffee (Campfire Coffee)

Cowboy coffee is one of the most popular ways to make a cup of Joe for those long-haul backpackers counting weight and cutting back on unnecessary supplies. The name is derived from cowboys back in the day who didn’t care to carry more than they needed and is one of the simplest ways to make coffee around a campfire.

It’s messy to drink and clean-up since it involves throwing coffee grounds into a kettle or other metal cup, pouring it into a mug and drinking it. Since coffee grounds don’t dissolve, you’ll have to grit your teeth or risk sucking back a mouth full of coffee grounds with each sip.

  • Camping Uses: Backpackers, bikepackers and anyone traveling light (and those who don’t mind eating some coffee grounds)
  • What You Need: Kettle or metal cup that can take high heat, coffee grounds and source of heat
  • Brewing Method: Bring water to a boil, pour in the coffee grounds and drink after it cools down a bit
  • Expert Tips: Use a knife or other straight edge to try to filter out as many coffee grounds as you can.

9. Camping Percolator

Camping percolators are old-school methods of campfire coffee that produce a steaming hot and delicious cup of Joe each morning when you’re camping. The only downside is that camping percolators are big and bulky, so they don’t do well backpacking.

Camping percolators work simply. They have a built-in filter that goes inside the percolator. As the water in the camping percolator heats up, it works its way up to the grounds and back into the bottom of the container, creating a perfect cup of coffee that’s mostly free of grounds and tastes delicious!

  • Camping Uses: Camping with large groups in a stationary place
  • What You Need: Camping percolator, coffee grounds and a heat source
  • Brewing Method: Fill the filter inside percolator with coffee grounds, fill the percolator with water and put on a heat source for about 10 minutes until it turns to coffee
  • Expert Tips: Camping percolators are usually big and bulky, making from six to 12 cups of coffee at a time, so they’re only ideal for those campers staying in a stationary location.

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10. Camping French Press

Using a French Press coffee is one of my favorite ways to make hot coffee. The taste comes out extremely vibrant and you can let it steep for longer or shorter depending on your desired strength. But bringing a glass French Press camping isn’t a good idea — because it could break and injure campers in your group or other campers who will come later.

Luckily for all you French Press lovers out there, there are gadgets specifically designed for campers that are called camping French Press makers. These devices can be one-stop-shops for making and drinking coffee, minimize the messy cleanups of a typical maker and are far less bulky so you can bring it with you in a backpack if you’d like!

  • Camping Uses: Backpackers, bikepackers and anyone else who is a French Press lover and want a fresh cup while camping
  • What You Need: Camping French Press, coffee grounds and hot water
  • Brewing Method: Put the coffee grounds and water in the container, let steep for 5 to 10 minutes, press and drink
  • Expert Tips: If you like French Press coffee and want to take it on multi-day hikes, you may want to take a look at the AeroPress

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11. Portable Camping Espresso Maker

For those campers and hikers who need to start the morning with a shot of espresso or luxury coffee drink like a cappuccino or latte, a portable camping espresso maker is right up your alley. They’re lightweight and make a full-flavored, high-impact espresso shot in minutes!

  • Camping Uses: Backpackers, bikepackers and anyone else loves espresso
  • What You Need: Portable camping espresso maker, coffee grounds and hot water
  • Brewing Method: Simply put the coffee grounds and water in the maker and let friction and hot water do the rest
  • Expert Tips: The MiniPresso Espresso Maker is the perfect lightweight addition to your pack for a full-flavored punch of caffeine in the morning

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12. Stovetop Espresso Maker

For those of you campers who don’t want to shell out $30-plus on a brand new portable espresso maker, your run-of-the-mill stovetop espresso maker will work just fine. As long as you have a source of heat, that stainless steel stovetop addition used for espresso and Cuban coffee is a great alternative.

  • Camping Uses: Backpackers, bikepackers and anyone else loves espresso
  • What You Need: Stainless steel stovetop espresso maker, coffee grounds and a heat source
  • Brewing Method: Fill the espresso maker with coffee and water, place it on the heat and get a hot espresso in a few minutes
  • Expert Tips: While the stovetop espresso method is great, it’s a pretty messy process that can be cut down with a portable espresso maker.

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Bonus: MacGyver Method

Pretty much everyone in the States is familiar with the saying “MacGyver,” as it’s used for just about anything that’s fixed or constructed using non-traditional methods. The MacGyver camping coffee method is no different. This is for the people who may have forgotten to bring their coffee-making supplies or just didn’t think about it before embarking on the trip.

It can mean just about anything in the world of campfire coffee — just as long as you get your cup of coffee in the morning, the MacGyver method will work. All you need to do is use the tools at your disposal, whether that’s filtering the grounds using cheesecloth, a cut-up shirt, a coffee filter or anything else you have at your disposal.

If you don’t mind drinking cold brew coffee, fill up a water bottle with cold water and coffee grounds. Let it sit for 12 to 16 hours and it’ll turn into coffee. You can either drink it straight and filter out the grounds with your teeth using the cowboy coffee method, or you can try to filter out the grounds with something else.

  • Camping Uses: Anyone who forgets coffee supplies while camping
  • What You Need: Anything that can help you make coffee like a cut-up shirt or cheesecloth
  • Brewing Method: It varies, but you’ll need hot water unless you go with the MacGyver cold brew method described above
  • Expert Tips: Getting creative is good as long as you don’t use something to make the coffee that could have negative effects when ingested

The Best Way to Make Coffee Camping

The best way to make coffee camping is cold brew, single-serve filters and pour-overs for their ease of use and minimal cleanup process. However, the best way truly depends on what kind of coffee you like to drink and the ease of cleanup you wish to achieve.

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