I don’t know about you but when I think of camping, the first thing that comes to my mind is not usually delicious well-brewed specialty coffee. I can still remember growing up we used to go on lots of multi-day hikes into the beautiful back country of New Zealand. And one of the treats we would bring with us was that us kids would have a tube of hot chocolate and Mum and Dad would have a tube of camping coffee. I don’t even know if they still sell it but the tube of coffee was advertised as coffee for camping which you only had to add hot water to. And back in the day this at least felt like cutting edge stuff!
Well, needless to say, camping coffee has come a long way since the late 90’s! Now there are a wide range of coffee makers intentionally designed to help you bring your love of good coffee to whichever wilderness or hike you find yourself upon. Because let’s be honest, there is something particularly satisfying about brewing a good cup of coffee in the rugged outdoors. And lack of electricity is no excuse for a poor coffee!
In this article we will review a number of number of different coffee makers for camping to help you figure out which might be the right one for you.
We believe that, depending on what camping looks like for you, it is hard to beat the Aeropress for versatility, durability, and ability to make great coffee literally anywhere! The old and proven Aeropress is our pick for the best coffee maker for camping.
The Best Coffee Makers for Camping 2020
The Aeropress is the brainchild of inventor and Stanford Professor Alan Adler. This coffee maker that resembles a large syringe has now been around for almost 15 years and even has an annual world championship. What really sets the Aeropress apart on this list is its versatility. There are literally as many ways to use an Aeropress as there are people who own them. The Aeropress is made of strengthened BPA free polypropylene which is both very durable and relatively light. To brew with it requires hot water, a paper filter, ground beans, and a mug to brew into.
This coffee maker is really for the hiker or camper who is utterly committed to speciality coffee. It is both heavier and less compact than some of the other coffee makers on this list but punches far above its weight in terms of the possible flavour results. It is also worth noting that its brewing capacity is 1-2 cups which is on the smaller side. As such we recommend the Aeropress for individuals or couples who are either doing overnight camping or shorter multi-day hikes. It is also worth noting that Aeropress has also recently released a new travel version of this coffee maker that is both smaller and comes with a built in travel mug.
GSI are a company committed to equipping you with gear that is intentionally designed for the rugged outdoors and their Java Press is no exception. This coffee maker is a French Press with a 30 oz capacity which equals out at around 3-4 cups. The French Press is made of copolyester which again is a form of strengthened plastic that is BPA free, shatterproof, and very durable. This is then placed into an insulated sleeve which both keeps the coffee hot and keeps you from burning yourself.
Part of the strength of this coffee maker is its simplicity. As a French Press is it both simple to use and hard to stuff up. Basically you just add your grinds, add your water, wait, and then press down the plunger. It is easy to use, easy to clean, and can even be strapped to the outside of your hiking pack so that its doesn’t waste precious space. This is a great coffee maker for camping and is particularly geared at parties of 3-4 people who love good coffee. They also offer a smaller 20 oz personal version for those brewing only for themselves.
One of the complaints made about this brewer is that because the mesh filter is so small it can be hard to slowly pour water from a camp pot over the grinds. This leads to coffee grinds everywhere and can even lead to scalded fingers if you are not careful. It is also worth noting that understandably the flavour of the coffee is not as nice as some others on this list. However, this is a great option for hikers with little space or weight available who nonetheless want a decent cup of brew.
The Bialetti Moka Express is really the father of all stovetop coffee makers and has now been producing great coffee for over 100 years! This stovetop coffee maker is made of high quality aluminium and can easily deal with some rough and rugged use. This makes a superb cup of coffee especially for those who prefer their coffee quite dark and bitter. The main downside to use stovetop coffee makers on camping trips is weight and that it can be finicky to find the right heat for brewing the coffee over a little propane cooker. If the heat is either too high or too low then this does impact the flavour of the coffee. This also tends to take longer than some of the other coffee makers on this list.
However, all the potential negatives aside, if you love intense coffee and do enjoy the taste and process of moka pots then the Bialetti will make a ripper start to a morning on the track. It is solid as anything, hardy enough to take anywhere, and can make a really enjoyable brew.
Anyone who has come to know and love speciality coffee will likely have at least heard of the V60. This pour over coffee maker is capable of producing a superb cup of coffee that is very light and bright with often fruity tones. While this is mainly designed for home use, it can also be used in a camping scenario for the committed. The plastic version of this iconic brewer is lightweight, fairly durable, and can give great results. The main downside of using this for camping or hiking is that it is a fairly unforgiving brewer that requires close attention and careful measurements. As such it is usually used alongside scales, a gooseneck kettle, and a timer.
This could be a great option for an overnight camping expedition and would be a sure way to impress any group of friends!
Somewhat similar to GSI, Coleman are known for their wide range of camping gear designed for the outdoors. This coffee maker is basically a drip coffee maker designed for overnight camping. It works basically like a normal drip machine but instead of being powered by electricity it is powered by a propane cylinder that is sold separately. As the size of the coffee maker suggests this is aimed at overnight camping rather than multi-day hikes (unless you are ridiculously game!). The strength of this coffee maker is basically that it is consistent, easy to use, and has a large brew capacity.
In terms of flavour this is again similar to a normal drip machine. So if you love drip coffee and regularly do family or friend camping trips then this might be a very worthwhile investment.
This amazingly light and compact pour over coffee maker is absolutely ideal for those who love good coffee but have no space or weight left in the hiking pack. It is similar to the Primula above and the more popular GSI Ultralight Java Drip. It is a Japanese made single-serve pour over which produces surprisingly good results. Like other pour overs after folding out the Tetra you simply insert a standard paper filter, pour in your grounds, and then slowly add your hot water.
The advantages of this coffee maker are basically that it is incredibly light (the weight of a single AA battery!), durable, and is known to be able to produce some fantastic coffee. So if you are looking for a coffee maker small enough to slip into your pocket but able to produce good coffee you may just be in luck!
The final item on our list is intentionally designed to double as either a coffee maker or a general camping pot! This rather ingenious coffee maker from Stanley is advertised as able to do anything from brew to boil to cook. It is made up of a stainless steel container with a fold out handle and a heat and melt resistant lid and plunger. It is able to make 32 ounces or 4 cups of coffee as well as boil water, cook soups or do anything that you could do with a camping pot. Somewhat predictably it is not the highest quality french press but it is a fascinating idea! So this coffee maker is certainly not for everyone but some people might find this a helpful way to save space!
Things to Consider in a Camping Coffee Maker
Different Types of Camping Coffee Makers
It wasn’t so long ago that if you wanted coffee on your hiking trip you could either buy instant (perish the thought!) or else find a small and durable home coffee maker and bring it anyway. Well hopefully by now you can see that the world of camping coffee has come a long way. And one advantage of this is that we are spoiled for choice in relation to different types of camping coffee makers. Basically if there is a brewing method you prefer you can be assured that there will be a camping version on offer! Some of the most popular types of coffee makers for camping are as follows:
French Presses are still a popular choice in the world of campers and hikers. The French Press extracts coffee by pouring hot water over ground beans and then allowing the water and the grinds to sit together or ‘steep’ for a few minutes before the plunger is gently pushed down trapping the grinds at the bottom of the press. This is a great choice for camping because it is simple and hard to stuff up. Unlike pour over you only have to pour the water once which is a jolly helpful if your pouring device happens to be a camping pot. In terms of flavour French Press produces quite a heavy brew which retains many of the coffee oils. French Presses also tend to be good for brewing for more than one person.
There are a somewhat surprising amount of different camping pour overs on the market at present. It is surprising because pour overs are usually associated with the specialty coffee movement and with careful precision and complicated methods. However, as the boom on the market has shown, it is possible to make enjoyable pour overs on the top of a mountain or deep in a forest even without your fancy acaia scales. Pour over coffee is kind of like a manual version of drip coffee makers. You usually insert a paper filter, add your coffee, and then slowly pour water through the coffee grinds. In terms of flavour pour over happens to be my personal favourite. When done well it produces a very light and bright cup of coffee which is similar in look to tea and is great for showcasing the nuances of different single origin beans. The advantage of pour overs for camping is that they tend to be very small and light. Pour overs are a good choice for the hiker who is openly a coffee snob (a term of respect and not insult) and enjoys the texture and process of this brewing method.
Stovetop Coffee makers are a favourite of many hikers and campers. And the reason for this is that these coffee makers are as robust as anything, look amazing anywhere, and produce a satisfying and intense cup of coffee. To use a Moka Pot you add your grinds to the grind chamber, pour in boiling water to the bottom chamber, and then put the coffee maker over low heat on the camp cooker. The flavour of this brewing method tends to be quite bitter and intense and somewhat similar to espresso (which is why they are often called stovetop espresso makers). The biggest downside for camping is that they are a lot more bulky and heavy than other coffee makers and can be tricky if you don’t get the heating temperature right. A solid option however which many swear by.
Finally, the Aeropress is really a category of its own due to its versatility. This popular coffee maker can make a wide range of coffee textures and flavours from short and intense, to heavy like a French Press, or lighter like a pour over. One advantage of using it in a camping/hiking scenario is that it is intentionally designed to be used without extra equipment. So the brewing chamber has numbers down the side which make it easy to regulate the amount of water and the coffee scoop is the size for about 15g of beans which is the normal amount for 1 cup of coffee. A downside to using it is that there are more pieces to it that many other coffee makers which could possibly get lost. But overall the Aeropress is a great option for coffee brewing in general or camping coffee in particular.
Ease of Use
Another important factor to consider in camping coffee makers is ease of use. One of the most frustrating things in life is to have an amazing looking coffee maker that you don’t seem to be able to get good results from. So our advice is to get a coffee maker that is appropriate for your coffee brewing experience. If you are fairly new to the coffee world then a V60 is more likely to drive you to despair than to give you good results. If you have little brewing experience then a French Press is a good option as they are easy to use and easy to get fairly good results from. The single serve pour overs can often provide okay results for the inexperienced but do require some skill to optimise. However, if you do love speciality coffee and have some experience then either the V60, Aeropress, or the Tetra are great options!
This is a fairly key consideration. Who are you likely to be brewing coffee for when you are camping? Is it just for yourself or you and a friend/spouse or is it for a larger party? Because to do anything in the outdoors requires more effort, you don’t want to be having to make three brews of coffee in the morning before you get on the track. Similarly, it is a pain to be bringing a huge coffee maker to make a single coffee in. Find a coffee maker that is appropriate to the amount of people you will be brewing for.
Weight and Size
Especially if you are intending to take this coffee maker on long and rugged multi-day hikes or hunting trips then make sure it is compact and light. However, if you are just camping overnight or doing a two day hike you can get away with a heavier and bulkier coffee maker like the Coleman. If weight and size are the key considerations for you then either the Tetra or the Primula are the way to go. These two pour overs are made to just slip into a pocket or small compartment of a bag and are fairly hardy as well.
Tips for Brewing Coffee like a Pro while Camping
Brewing Coffee while on a mountain is actually rather similar to brewing coffee in your kitchen. What I mean by that is that to do it well you simply do the things you should always do when brewing coffee…
- Use Fresh Quality Coffee Beans – The taste of your coffee will never exceed the quality of the beans you use. So don’t get your beans from the grocers but ideally find a local coffee roasters or else buy some good ones off amazon [add link]. A good indicator of quality beans is that they show the roast date on them. So find some delicious single origin beans and remember that beans taste best in the month following their roast date.
- Grind on Demand – One temptation when hiking is to succumb to the temptation to use pre-ground beans. DON’T DO IT! Coffee beans begin to go stale almost immediately after grinding so bring whole beans and grind on demand. The downside of this is that it does mean that you need to bring a hand grinder with you. However, there are some great small but good grinders out there. For camping we recommend either the Portlex or the Aergrind Hand grinder. Both of these grinders are small and even fit inside an Aeropress. If you want the best flavoured coffee then grind on demand. For single night hikes you can even keep your whole beans in the grinder.
- Be Consistent – This is perhaps the hardest of these tips to put into action. But if you want great coffee then you need to be consistent, especially with the amount of water and coffee beans used. Find creative ways to do this. You can’t bring a set of scales for a long camping trip so at least bring a scoop that you know approximately how much it holds. Or get a marker and mark a water level line in your camp pot to show how much water you need.
Well we hope this article has convinced you that even in the rugged outdoors you can have quality coffee at your fingertips. And that you shouldn’t settle for anything less.
Our recommendation is that the Aeropress is the single best coffee maker for camping especially for groups of 1-2 people. However if weight and size are an issue then the Tetra Drip is as compact and consistent as they come!
Happy Camping and Happy Brewing!