How do you take your coffee… camping?

Coffee is almost a universal ingredient to a camping trip.  Even on hot mornings, I usually have a cup or two.  There are several different methods commonly used to make coffee on the trail.  I’m going to show you the two methods I primarily use.

My coffee preparation typically depends on two things.

  1. How many people are going to drink it?
  2. How much space do I have to pack coffee making equipment?

The French Press Method

My preferred method is to brew coffee using a French Press.  This method requires some boiling water and ground coffee of your choice.  Put the ground in the bottom of the french press and pour the water over the top.  Place the plunger and lid on top.  The plunger should sit on the surface of the water.

Steeping coffee in my GSI Java Press

Steeping coffee in my GSI Java Press

Let the coffee steep for 3 to 4 minutes or a little longer if you prefer stronger coffee.

Once enough time has passed, slowly press the plunger down to the bottom of the press.  This forces the coffee grounds to the bottom of the press, leaving only liquid to pour out.  Drink up!

The French Press method produces a really good cup of coffee, the only problem is you need room to pack the press.  When I bought mine, I wasn’t thinking about having to store it.  I bought the one with the cheapest price per ounce of capacity.  Translation:  I bought the biggest one, even though I’m usually the only one drinking coffee.  Lesson learned.

[About my French Press:  Several years ago, I bought a GSI Java Press.  It is made from Lexan, so it is virtually indestructible.  It has a nonslip rubberized bottom and a sleeve, pictured above to help insulate to retain heat.  GSI has recently updated their Java Presses, now offering BPA-free plastic models or a stainless steel model.  Both are very nice.]

The Instant Option

The second method I use, mainly when I don’t have room to store my Java Press, is… single serve instant coffee packs.

Single serve instant coffe packets

Single serve instant coffe packets

I know there is a huge difference between the coffee produced in a French Press and instant crystals.  I think a lesser cup of coffee in nature tastes almost as good as a great cup of coffee anywhere else.

There are several companies producing single serve coffee products.  If you really need a better cup of coffee, try Starbucks Via.  I’ve never had it, but I hear it is very good.

I’ve also used coffee bags.  They are just like tea bags, only with coffee.  They work quite well but can be hard to find.

The benefits to this option are:

  1. Takes up less space in your pack or trunk.
  2. Easily fits in a pocket.
  3. No extra gear required — just a cup.
  4. Since the crystals just need to dissolve, you don’t have to wait for the coffee to steep.

Other Coffee Brewing Methods

A couple of other methods commonly used to brew coffee on the trail are using a percolator and making “Cowboy Coffee.”


Percolating coffee was the primary method in the United States until the 1970’s.  I think the main reason it still exists is nostalgia.  Some people claim it is possible to make a superior cup of coffee with a percolator, but I disagree.

Boiling water is forced up a tube in the center of the percolator.  This water washes over coffee grounds and back down into the boiling water.  The process repeats until the coffee is ready to drink.  The main problem with a percolator is that the same water is going through the grounds repeatedly.  Each time picking up more compounds and usually end up making the coffee bitter.

Cowboy Coffee

Cowboy Coffee is probably the simplest method of brewing coffee.  You pour coarsely ground coffee into your coffee pot and add boiling water.  Stir for a minute or two.  Then less the course coffee ground sink to the bottom.  Pour the coffee off the top and drink.  The main downside to this method is you’re never going to get all the coffee to sink to the bottom so you either have to filter it on the way to your cup or floss after drinking.

Choose whatever method you like, just don’t pass up the opportunity to drink some hot coffee on a cool morning at camp.

How do you prepare coffee while camping?  Do you just skip it?  Go for the Mountain Dew instead?  Share below!

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About Raun Lauterbach

Optimistic realist, life enthusiast, outdoor cook, Midwest traveler, husband, father... Follow me: Twitter | Facebook | Get updates in your email
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  • Ahawbaker

    I’ve always done instant which is never as good as I’d like. I’m considering the French Press method. Thanks for the info.

  • Raun Lauterbach

    The french press method is great as long as you have the space. There are also single cup drip coffee brewers like this: that might fit the bill for you. Thanks for stopping by and come back soon!