Sure, you can go camping without coffee, but only if you don’t mind waking up in the “okay” outdoors. If you’re looking for a fully great experience becoming one with nature and sleeping under the stars, you’re going to want to consider how to make a cup of get-up-and-go that will help you sustain through a good hard hike, a day of fishing, or even the very valid work of spending all day laying in a hammock reading a book. Believe it or not, while coffee might seem super fussy to make at home, there are a few life hacks and several easy, delicious, and backpack-friendly ways to bring your favorite brew along for the adventure.
The Basic Building Blocks
water to make coffee, and then finding a way to heat it. If you’re toting bottles on your trek, you’ll want to add at least 20 ounces per person per day for a reasonable caffeine ration, which would allow you to brew, say, 16-ounce servings—a perfectly respectable day-starter. For heating, if you’re not bringing a kettle that can sit on top of a campfire or portable burner, you can look into a portable heating element (available at some better-stocked camp stores) or plan to make cold-brew coffee, which can also be heated up in a pinch.One thing that’s easy to overlook in camping prep is to account for extra
Whatever brand and whatever origin you prefer, you’ll want to consider your needs when it comes to packing the actual coffee.
Depending on the load you plan to carry, remember that you’ll need to consider a grinder if you’re lugging along whole beans. A small hand grinder with conical burrs, like a Porlex, is portable, sleek, and just as effective as an electric countertop version, without being too much of a pain. (Bonus: They are a bit of a workout, which you can count as a warm-up for the day’s hike.)
If you really want great coffee but don’t want to bother with a grinder, you have our permission to throw conventional wisdom aside and pre-grind your beans, on just a few conditions:
- Grind the coffee as close to the time you set out as possible.
- Package it into airtight and waterproof containers.
- Promise yourself that this is the only circumstance under which you’ll pre-grind your coffee. (We’re kind of joking on that last one. Kind of.)
- If you have room among your gear to store small spice-style jars with sealed tops, it could be really handy to pre-measure out your coffee doses, to eliminate the need for a scale. (You can do the same with water in individual bottles, or by measuring out portions of water into a large jug and making a mark to indicate roughly how much 16 or 32 ounces is in the vessel.)
A Word On Instant Coffee
For the absolute most convenient option, it’s got to be instant coffee—and luckily, there are some that are tasty too! See our favorites: The Best Brands of Instant Coffee.
Brewing Methods and Tools
Venturing into the brewing method options, cold brew is hands down the easiest, least fussy, and lowest maintenance way to make coffee outdoors. You don’t need any special equipment (you can brew in a large Mason jar, and you can use a regular cheese cloth as a filter or you can purchase this handy kit), you don’t have to heat the water, and all it takes is five minutes of prep around lunch or dinner time in order to have coffee ready to drink by morning. You can also brew this stuff up ahead of time: Cold brew will keep for up to 36 hours before it starts to get bitter and cloudy.
To make cold brew coffee in a tent or around a camp, loosely satchel up some coarse-ground coffee in a cheesecloth and let it soak in a jar or jug of cold or room-temperature water for anything between 12–24 hours. Remove the filter and discard the coffee, and dilute the concentrate you’ve made to taste, starting with a 2:1 ratio of coffee to water and adjusting for your preference. While it’s better to drink cold brew, well, cold, you can also heat it up in a pinch on a chilly morning. Just be careful not to boil the liquid or you’ll end up with a cup so gross you’ll wish you’d fed yourself to a bear.
One of the most popular travel accessories is the slim, practically unbreakable, fast-brewing device known as an AeroPress, a brewing method invented by a guy who also invented a type of Frisbee-like flying disk, so he knows a thing or two about being outside. The tool is compact and plastic, and can be used in a few different ways. The instructions that come on the package will guide you to making a kind of concentrate, almost a faux-spresso; other techniques will result in a single brew of 8–10 ounces, which is perfect for a solo trip.
All you’ll need in addition to the AeroPress itself are specific AeroPress filters, hot water, and something to pour your finished coffee into: This last part is important because of the “Press” part of the brewer’s name, which is literal. Glass and cheap plastic, as well as collapsible gear, will not do the trick and will break your heart.
We know, we know—this sounds like we’re potentially venturing into “glamping” territory, but don’t worry, we’re still keeping it real while we try to keep it caffeinated on the trail. Lots of backpacking-gear companies make collapsible pour-over cones, and when they are folded flat they take up almost no room at all.
Pack one of these puppies, a stack of filters, and a mug to brew the coffee into, and you’re well on your way to mountain-coffee heaven. Just be sure you have the ability to heat water and be conscious of your grind: These coffees will be less forgiving of your decision to pre-grind. Nonetheless, even bad coffee tastes pretty great when mixed with fresh air, sunshine, and a solid couple days off in the outside, right? Now gear up, get out there, and get brewing!
Header image courtesy of Jan Kopřiva / Unsplash