This article is a part of The Growler’s Outdoor Guide. Find more tips for outdoor adventure and dining here.
While backcountry camping, a full-flavored, fresh cup of coffee is one of those small luxuries that can lift one’s spirits. But how do you produce the highest quality flavor while keeping the amount of equipment and hassle to a minimum? Let’s run through your options.
Forget instant coffee: Instant coffee’s merits include its compact, lightweight nature and ease of use. Can you make a decent cup using instant coffee? Sure. But a great cup? Hardly. It’s not worth sacrificing flavor when you can make a great, traditional cup of coffee without adding significant bulk and weight to your pack.
Leave your percolator: A percolator can make a damn strong cup of joe and at large quantities for your group, but they are also heavy (weighing up to 3 pounds) and bulky. On top of that, percolators can be hard to regulate, making it difficult to get the best out of your beans. In short, there are better methods for brewing camp coffee.
Make drip coffee instead: There are plenty of camping-specific drip coffee makers on the market that give you the ability to make a cup of coffee that rivals what you can make at home. They are generally lightweight (weighing under 10 ounces), often compact, and easy to clean. While many are made for single servings and not ideal for group camping, there are some like the GSI Outdoors Collapsible Java Drip ($13 at Duluth Pack or GSI’s website) that can make up to 12 cups at a time with the appropriate filter. A couple of drawbacks that keep this from being my favorite coffee option for camping: it can be hard to get an even pour of hot water over the grounds and the drip process can take so long that the resulting coffee may not be as hot as you prefer.
Better yet, a French press: My favorite coffee solution for camping is the French press. It requires a little more grounds for the same volume as drip coffee makers and takes more to clean than drip coffee, but it yields a robust, strong, and filling cup of coffee at decent quantities. It’s also hands-off during the brewing process, allowing you to simultaneously tend to breakfast. And since the water is not exposed to air, the coffee is always hot. For sheer weight, utility, and function, I’d reach for Snow Peak’s Titanium French Press ($56 at REI or Snow Peak’s website). Water can be boiled directly in the press for coffee or other uses, it’s small enough to double as your personal camp cup for the rest of the day, it’s lightweight and compact at just 6.3 ounces, and it has a 24-ounce capacity.