Guides

The Complete Guide to Coffee While Camping

by Tyler D. WaySep 10, 2021

One of the greatest benefits of getting outside and camping is the relief it provides from our daily routines. Getting away from the day-to-day is one of the biggest reasons why many of us get out and unplug.

But, that doesn’t mean you should leave your coffee behind. Quite the contrary, my friend.

Buy Good Coffee

While traveling the country on the Find Your Campspot tour this past year, Kendra and I have enjoyed the opportunity to try dozens of coffees from roasteries and coffee shops along our route. Not only does trying different coffees support local businesses, but it also injects some variety into your daily cup.

My first tip for a great cup of coffee is: buy good coffee.

Support specialty coffee roasters by purchasing directly from local coffee shops

Grind Your Beans + Use Filtered Water

I can understand how easy pre-ground coffee makes life, but with that added convenience comes a great loss of flavor. Take your beans in your own hands and opt for a bag of whole bean coffee and pack your grinder for the freshest cup possible.

As you’ll come to find out, different brewing methods may call for a more coarse or finer grind, so remember to pay attention to the details.

While the vast majority of Campspot locations have electricity at your site or nearby in a common area, if you’re opting for a rustic camping experience, be sure to bring your hand-grinder and leave the corded one at home.

PRO TIP: Water quality will play just as a significant role as the beans. Use good, cold, and clean water.

AeroPress coffee brewing at Roadrunner Travelers Campground (Terlingua, TX)

Discover Your Favorite Brewing Method + Equipment

Camping is the best time to slow down, experiment, and enjoy the little things in life — including how you make your coffee. While we may not aspire to become a barista master, there are a few things you might be able to add to your camp coffee repertoire.

Here are a variety of brewing methods we’ve experimented with along with some tips, and some pros and cons we’ve learned along the way to further enhance your next cup of camp coffee.

BREW METHOD: AeroPress

Wild Fox Cabins & Campground (Lakeville, ME)

AeroPress coffee making process: Grind, Pour, Press, Enjoy

Designed to brew rich, espresso style coffee but with reduced acidity and bitterness, the AeroPress requires a finely ground bean and can either be brewed the traditional method (pictured above), or inverted for those looking to live on the wild side.

All-in-all, this was our most regularly used method of coffee drinking on a daily basis.

Pros:

  • Makes clean, flavorful coffee with less acidity or bitterness
  • Durable, portable, and easy to clean
  • Full-immersion brewing method
  • Minimal environmental waste from AeroPress micro filters
  • Reusable metal filters available to replace need for paper micro filters
  • Great for single cup morning drinkers or afternoon pick-me-ups

Cons:

  • Makes one cup at a time
  • Limited capacity (approximately 8 oz. per press)

BREW METHOD: AeroPress with Prismo Attachment by Fellow

Crane Prairie Resort (Deschutes County, OR)

CAUTION: Not to be used as a squirt gun.

If AeroPress coffee is your preferred method, then you should add the Prismo attachment made by self-described coffee-nerds at Fellow. The attachment allows for a build-up of pressure to get that “pull a shot” espresso-style smoothness through a pressure-actuated valve.

It comes with a reusable Fellow-branded filter, so no need to pack any paper filters.

BREW METHOD: Pour-Over

Oceanside RV Resort and Campground (Coos Bay, OR) / Saratoga Escape Lodges and RV Resort (Greenfield Center, NY)

Pour-over brewing provides the ultimate control to make a custom-cup of coffee

After several months of using an AeroPress, we must admit that we ended up switching to the manual pour-over method. This enabled us to brew a larger 10-12 oz. cup of coffee and has been easier to store in our Airstream than any other coffee brewing method.

There are a variety of collapsible pour-over products available in all different sizes, shapes, colors, materials, and price points. The Miir Pourigami (black) comes apart in three pieces and easily slides away into its travel case that’s roughly the size of a business cardholder. We gravitated towards the Snow Peak Collapsible Coffee Drip that folds flat and hangs from the inside of our kitchen cabinet on a couple of hooks we installed.

Both pour-over products use a standard V60 paper filter cone sold in most coffee shops, but the more readily available No. 2 Size filters sold in the majority of grocery stores could be used in a pinch if need be.

Pros:

  • Makes a clean, rich cup of coffee
  • Provides manual control of brewing process
  • Collapsible, transportable, and durable
  • Widely available by outdoor brands
  • Easy to clean and use

Cons:

  • Makes one cup at a time
  • Requires V60 paper filters

NOTE: If you prefer the manual pour-over method but wish to brew 6-8 cups at once, a Chemex might be a good option. However, their size and fragility make them a bit more difficult to have at the campsite.

BREW METHOD: French Press

LOCATION: Dark Sky RV Campground (Kanab, UT)

The Stanley Classic Stay Hot 48oz. French Press can stay warm for up to 4 hours

The French Press is arguably the most widely used coffee brewing method in the world. But, does that make it right for your next camping trip?

While a French Press can easily make rich, heavy cups of coffee for 2-4 adults, you don’t want to draw the short straw and be the one that has to clean it. The mess and difficulty cleaning it will deter many people from finding a spot for it in their rig, but the bold flavor and thermos-quality heat retention might tip the scales for others to pack it.

We’ve tried both the Stanley Classic Stay Hot and Bodum french presses and decided the storage space it required and mess of cleaning them were too much for us. But don’t let our limited experience stop you from pressing down your next cup at camp.

Pros:

  • Makes multiple cups of thick, bold coffee
  • Insulated presses may retain heat for up to 4 hours
  • Limited prep work (“Set it and forget it”)

Cons:

  • Very difficult to clean
  • Require significant storage space
  • Doesn’t filter out terpenes and other oils as well as paper filters do

NOTE: Although we haven’t tried one ourselves yet, our fellow Campspotters rave about the JetBoil Flash Java French Press kit.

BREW METHOD: Percolator

LOCATION: Screamin’ Eagle Campground (Ocean City, WA)

A coffee percolator is self-contained brewing method that can be used directly over campfires

The percolator has been around for a very, very long time. Like, since the early 19th century. It’s that old! Does that make it a timeless brewing method, or one that should have gone out with the horse and buggy?

Similar to the French Press, the percolator requires coarse-ground coffee. Instead of immersed in the bottom of the container, the beans are placed in a separate top chamber. A percolator is a closed system that heats the water from the bottom reservoir to a boil that then bubbles up and percolates over top of the grounds before sifting back down through the built-in filter.

The ability to brew with it over a campfire without the need for electricity make it a common go-to for some who favor tried-and-true traditions over the latest and newest gadgets. But, be attentive once it starts to boil to ensure not to over-extract the flavor of the beans by letting it percolate over and over again for too long, otherwise you’ll have a very bitter cup on your hands.

Pros:

  • Makes multiple cups of robust tasting coffee
  • Durable and can be used directly over a campfire or stove
  • Fun to wait and watch for it to percolate
  • Keeps grounds out of your coffee better than “cowboy coffee

Cons:

  • Can acquire a bitter taste if over-extracted for too long
  • Requires water to boil, which can burn your beans
  • Difficult to manage ideal water temperature and brew control
  • Not very compact and difficult cleaning process

BREW METHOD: Nanopresso

LOCATION: The Ramblin’ Redwoods Campground and RV Park (Crescent City, CA)

For an espresso on the go, the Nanopresso uses a hand-pump action to “pull” your own shot

The Nanopresso by Wacaco is one of the unique, compact, and self-contained espresso makers I’ve ever seen. It opens almost like a Matryoshka doll set as you unpack the espresso cup, coffee scoop, built-in filter, and even a brush to clean out any finely ground coffee residue.

For your first few extractions, you’ll likely find yourself closely following along the provided instructions card, but after a couple uses, you’ll quickly learn this hands-on approach for a great espresso jolt wherever you find yourself.

Pros:

  • Very compact and self-contained
  • Hand-pump action (No electricity required)
  • Makes a great pull of espresso
  • Can be used to make a latte or cappuccino

Cons:

  • Makes one espresso shot at a time
  • Can be a very manual and detailed process

Wacaco also makes the Cuppamoka, which is a compact and lightweight travel pour-over coffee maker system the size of an insulated to-go mug. Although we haven’t tried one ourselves, our fellow Campspotters highly recommend it.

NOTE: Neither the Nanopresso or Cuppamoka heat water or grind beans.

BREW METHOD: Instant Coffee

LOCATION: Sawyers Rapids RV Park (Elkton, OR)

Swift has modernized instant coffee by partnering with specialty roasters

A few years ago, instant coffee may not have been a serious recommendation, but the instant industry has made large strides thanks to companies like Swift Cup Coffee.

They’ve worked with specialty coffee roasters to master the art of a delicious cup of coffee no matter where you are, whether that’s at your campsite, out on the trail, or fly fishing in the middle of a stream.

Pros:

  • Just add hot water
  • Variety of coffee roasted by specialty coffee partners
  • Everyone can try their own roast variety
  • Quick and easy to make
  • Biodegradable packaging

Cons:

  • Only found in select specialty coffee shops
  • Have to order online to be shipped
  • Slight sweetness flavor from instant coffee crystals

Another bonus of Swift coffee is its versatility. Sprinkle it on anything you’d like to have a subtle, rich powdering of coffee. We even added it to our S’more Sundae concoction.

Add Swift Instant Coffee for a sprinkle of coffee goodness on almost anything, including a S’mores Sundae

BREW METHOD: Steeped Coffee

LOCATION: Santa Cruz Redwoods RV Resort (Felton, CA)

Steeped Coffee enables you to steep quality-roasted coffee however you take it

Just like the rise of instant coffee over the past few years, single-use coffee has also risen to the top of the coffee industry and Steeped Coffee has been the one leading the way.

That’s right: steeped. Just like your favorite tea, except with specialty coffee in a single-serve bag. Plus, they made it fully compostable. That’s what we call a win-win.

Steeped Coffee has worked with specialty coffee roasters to master the art of a delicious cup of coffee no matter where you are, whether that’s on the road in your car, climbing a mountainside, or forest bathing deep in the Olympic Peninsula.

Pros:

  • Just add hot water
  • Variety of coffee roasted by specialty coffee partners
  • Everyone can try their own roast variety
  • Quick and easy to make
  • Fully compostable packaging

Cons:

  • Only found in select specialty coffee shops
  • Requires some patience for a stronger flavor steep
  • Coffee may cool down while steeping if not using an insulated mug
  • May have to order online to be shipped

PRO TIP: Steep bags in a mason jar in the fridge overnight to enjoy iced coffee to go the next day.

Steep overnight for a refreshing iced coffee ready by the time you wake up

BREW METHOD: Single-Serve Pour-Over

LOCATION: Ride Out Ranch (Florence, AZ)

Single-use pour-over coffee that can travel in your pocket – just add hot water!

It’s not quite instant coffee and you don’t steep it either. Instead, it’s a single-serve bag of pour-over coffee that fits in your pocket by Kuju Coffee. Once you tear open the packet, the paper filter unfolds like a pop-up book to enable you to easily anchor it to your cup and pour your hot water over the prepackaged grounds. Simple as that.

Pros:

  • Just add hot water
  • Quick and easy to make
  • Variety of roasts and blends available
  • Available in major outdoor shops and select grocery stores

Cons:

  • Single-use packaging
  • May have to order online to be shipped

BREW METHOD: Keurig

LOCATION: Peaceful Woodlands Family Campground (Blakeslee, PA)

Brew your own coffee with the reusable My K-Cup

It wasn’t that long ago when Keurig took the coffee drinking world by storm. Their K-Cups made single-cup coffee more convenient than ever. But, at a steep cost for both the environment and to those who prefer a stronger cup of joe.

Pros:

Cons:

  • Makes a limited-strength cup of coffee
  • K-Cups are single-use plastics
  • Take up counter and storage space
  • Require electricity
  • One cup of coffee at a time

BREW METHOD: Drip Coffee Machine

LOCATION: Ride Out Ranch (Florence, AZ)

Drip coffee that can caffeinate the whole family

While the classic drip coffee machine isn’t the first thing you’d think of when you consider camp coffee, but yet you’ll likely see at least a couple being used at most campgrounds.

Pros:

  • Can make 8-12 cups of coffee
  • Quick and easy to make

Cons:

  • Take up counter and storage space
  • Not very durable
  • Requires electricity

No matter which coffee brewing method you use, all that matters is that you’re able to sip it while sitting back and enjoying the great outdoors.

Cheers to that.