Getting Your Caffeine Fix When Camping

For many people, their morning just isn’t complete until they have that first cup of coffee. When we’re at home, this isn’t a big problem for us. We might brew our own with the Keurig on the counter, or on our drive to work we stop at our favorite coffeehouse for our favorite flavor, or we might just hold off until we get to work where we can have unlimited cups of coffee for free. However you do it, your coffee is a major part of getting into the groove for the day. But what do you do when you’re in the backwoods camping? The nearest Starbucks is miles away (at least) and unless you brought several miles of extension cord, you aren’t using that Keurig either. How in the world are you supposed to enjoy your relaxing camping trip without coffee?!

Fear not, for there are several ways that you can get your coffee fix while you are enjoying the great outdoors. And honestly, at least some of these options you could use at home anytime as well, so don’t just think these are for camping only. Brewing coffee, while appearing simplistic, can actually have a lot of subtleties, and different brewing methods can give you slightly different flavors. So check out these different brewing options for camping and see which one you want to try out on your next outing.

Caffeine Fix When Camping

Instant Coffee

Instant coffee is perhaps the easiest option when you are out camping. All that’s required, besides the instant coffee itself, is hot water. There are lots of variety with instant coffee, but one of the nice aspects of it is the weight; its very light. This is because all of the water weight has been removed during the process of making it. Keep your instant coffee dry and it will keep for months, if not years, though the longer you keep it the less potent it will be when you finally use it.

There are single use packets of instant coffee, and there are bulk packages of instant coffee. It would be good to experiment some to find the brand(s) of instant coffee that you really like. Another added benefit of using instant coffee is that you can control the strength of the coffee by using more or less of the coffee crystals for each cup you make. This allows different members of your camping party to customize their own cup of coffee.

French Press

French Press

After instant coffee, other brewing methods require some additional coffee paraphanalia in order to make your desired cup of joe. The french press method of brewing your coffee introduces the french press device to your gear. Sometimes you will hear this device referred to by different names, such as a plunger pot or a coffee plunger. The use of a french press is straight forward: you add some ground coffee to the pot, then pour in near-boiling water and then add the top or cover, which houses the plunger. After several minutes of steeping the coffee grounds, you press the plunger down which separates the coffee grounds from the rest of the liquid. You then pour off the brewed coffee into your cup and enjoy.

What makes using a french press a bit more challenging is that you shouldn’t use regular ground coffee in it. The granules are too small for use in a french press. Instead, you would need to get coffee that is ground more coarse than normal. The reason for this is that the smaller the granules of coffee, the more surface area is exposed and the faster the desired attributes get released into the hot water. However, not all aspects of a coffee bean release at the same rate, so don’t go thinking that you’ll use an espresso grind for 30 seconds in a french press and get a good tasting cup of joe. Get the coarser grind and let it steep between 2-4 minutes and you’ll end up with proper cup of coffee.


If the french press didn’t seem antiquated to you, then a percolator definitely will. A coffee percolator consists of a pot that also contains a vertical tube, upon which sits a basket that houses coffee grounds. This basket has a perforated cover to allow liquid to enter the basket, filter through the coffee grounds, and then exit out the bottom of the basket. Hot liquid is forced up through the tube and is dispersed over the top of the basket. Often these pots are designed to be used on a stove top, but there are electric versions as well.

The coffee grounds for this brewing method can be the usual grounds that one might use in a coffee brewer at home. There is no special grind needed for the percolator, making it easy to simply pick up a bag of ground coffee at the store to use right away. However, it is strongly advised that you also use special filters to prevent the coffee grounds from mixing in with the brewed coffee itself. When you end up with coffee grounds in the coffee, it is often referred to as “cowboy coffee” and you will be using your teeth as the filter while you drink it.

The percolator happens to be my favorite method for brewing coffee when we’re camping. Some percolators have a glass or plastic knob in the center of the lid which allows you to see the color of the coffee as it brews. Once it reaches your desired shade of brown, you can remove it from the heat and drink. Percolator pots tend to be larger and make coffee for several cups at one time. Because the grounds are separate from the coffee, there is no worry about the coffee becoming bitter.

Camping Coffeemaker

Camping Coffeemaker

The camping coffeemaker is designed specifically for camping, and is also designed to be used on a camp stove, either propane or white gas. Coleman specifically makes one, but there are several others available as well. The basic idea is that it functions pretty much the same as your coffeemaker at home. You have a glass decanter that the brewed coffee goes into, a basket for the coffee grounds (use a filter here as well), and a reservoir for holding the water. The only thing this camping coffeemaker lacks is a heat source, and that’s where the camp stove comes in. The camping coffeemaker sits over a burner on the camp stove, and when the water heats up it is forced up into the basket with the grounds and filters down into the decanter.

You should end up with coffee that tastes nearly the same as it would if you brewed it at home. Of course, not only do you need the coffee and the water, but you need the coffeemaker and a camp stove as well. This is a lot more equipment than instant coffee, but if you are bringing your camp stove anyway, this might be the best option for you as the operation will be nearly identical to your home coffeemaker.

Other Options

Like almost everything else in this world, the options you have for coffee are seemingly unlimited. You can get coffee grounds in a small packet like tea and steep the packet for several minutes in hot water. There are a variety of pour over methods that are similar to a coffeemaker, but yet not really. You can also get hand-held and human-powered espresso machines that fit in the palm of your hand, if you like that sort of thing. All of these are more on the fringe of coffee making while camping, so I don’t go into detail here, but you might find you prefer one of these other methods over the four I’ve written about today. Personally I would LOVE to get my hands on one of the hand-powered espresso makers to test them out, but I also owned a coffeeshop for two years and loved making espresso drinks.

Wrap Up

Coffee helps make the world go ’round, and it helps make a camping trip that much more enjoyable. There are lots of ways to get that cup of coffee in your hands, it really just depends on how you camp and what you want from your coffee. Try a few of these methods to see what you like and don’t like about each. And be sure to let me and the other readers here know your favorite method.

Leave a Comment