Our Favorite Ways to Make Coffee While Camping
For anyone with a love of the road or of wilderness, camping is the natural satiation of both. As liberating as a road trip feels, it’s even more gratifying to throw some supplies in your trunk and know you can sleep comfortably almost anywhere you end up—even if that means sleeping in your car. Whatever the travails, an open night sky and waking up to the outdoors always makes camping feel worth it.
The challenges to mobility brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic have made camping all the more alluring as a means to get out of the house and get some space (literally and figuratively). It’s possible to camp and stick to yourself, avoiding any close contact with other people.
Of course, as coffee people, no road trip or camping experience is complete without brewing up some delicious coffee to enjoy in the outdoors! We thought we’d share a bit about our coffee camping set-up, with a few options to fit different styles and levels of commitment.
No matter how you’re choosing to make coffee while camping, you’re going to need water and a way to heat it up! When car camping, we typically fill up a five gallon reusable water jug with spigot so that we have ample and easily-accessed supply. Aside from keeping hydrated and making coffee, keep in mind that you’ll likely want to use water for cleaning dishes and utensils!
To heat water, there are a few options. A JetBoil works well for boiling water quickly, though if you’re making coffee for more than 2 people you might need to do multiple boils. You can also bring a simple butane burner camp stove, which essentially replicates a stovetop burner, and heat water in a normal kettle (note: those burners also make cooking food pretty easy — just bring a cast iron or other pans). Also worth noting this biomass-burning campstove by BioLite, which looks cool, though we don’t personally have one!
Either way, we do like to bring a kettle for ease of making the coffee. Water can either be poured directly from a JetBoil in, or heated within the kettle on a stove.
Once your water boils, it’s really important to use some to pre-heat your brewing vessel and/or your cups! Cold mugs, Chemex and outside air are all likely to zap the heat from your coffee very quickly! Just remember not to pour the just-boiled water on your coffee, as it can make for a bitter cup.
If you’re pouring hot water INTO the kettle, keep in mind that the water will cool somewhat when it hits the cold kettle! You could choose to use a little water to pre-heat the kettle first, discarding that water before filling with fresh hot water.
Coffee can be pre-ground before you hit the road (as always, we recommend investing in a burr grinder to produce the cleanest, most consistently good cup of coffee!), or bring along a hand-grinder so you can grind your coffee fresh right before brewing.
Wouldn’t it be great if you could just pour water into a cup and instantly have delicious coffee? Well, fortunately, that’s the whole point of our Canyon Instant! Recently featured by NYTimes’ Wirecutter as the best instant coffee, instant coffee is featherweight and travels extremely well (you can literally bring it in your pocket). When you’re ready for a coffee, simply add hot or cold water and you’re good to go. For anyone hiking in, climbing, or anything besides “car-camping,” this also requires the least amount of supplies and weight to carry.
PRO’s: super convenient, lightweight, coffee at a moment’s notice
CON’s: less of a ritual, no big batch for everyone to share
FRENCH PRESS (CAMP STOVE)
Some campstove makers, like JetBoil, actually make a stove that comes with a French press attachment. This is also a super convenient way to make coffee. You can either pre-grind or hand-grind the coffee coarse and basically add it to your JetBoil to steep for four minutes before plunging. Just one thing to be wary of — make sure that (1) you’re still using some of the water in the JetBoil to pre-heat your cups, and (2) you’re letting the just-boiled water sit for at least a minute before adding your coffee, giving a good stir to promote an even extraction.
PRO’s: convenient, just requires bringing coffee with your JetBoil
CON’s: need to ensure the JetBoil has been cleaned well to avoid any residue from the oatmeal you might have just made! Doesn’t bring the clear cup or ritual of a pour over
For making pour overs while camping, we like to pack a basket or crate with all of the coffee supplies. We usually bring the Chemex over a multiple piece unit, like our V60 Set, just because it involves fewer loose pieces to keep track of. On the flip side, the indicator lines on the V60 server make it easy to be precise with your brewing without the use of a scale, if you’re still new to making pour overs!
Either way, you have the choice to pre-grind a bag of coffee, or bring a portable hand-grinder along to grind fresh. This is definitely a part we love about brewing in the outdoors. Hand-grinding adds to the ritual and doing it with a view of desert, forest, mountains, or wherever you find yourself just adds to the zen of the moment.
Here’s a list of the supplies we bring when making pour overs while camping:
- Chemex (or V60 Set)
- Chemex filters (or V60 filters)
- Our favorite mugs and/or travel thermos
- Coffee (whole bean or pre-ground)
- (optional) hand grinder
- (optional) scale — yes, we like using one that much!
- Several towels to protect glassware on the drive. These are also used to clean and insulate Chemex and kettles from cold surfaces
When brewing, once again, be sure to pre-heat your filter and Chemex, as well as your mugs or thermos! Make the pour over as usual (here’s our how-to video if you’re new to it!).
It’s a good move to bring a thermos, even a large one like a Stanley, that you can pre-heat and then pour the entire contents of your pour over into to stay hot for hours. Especially a good move if you’re the early-riser of your camp and have made coffee before anyone else is awake!
PRO’s: bring your ritual into the wild, make the most delicious cup!
CON’s: more stuff to bring (doesn’t work as well for hike-in camping)
Hope our camp coffee guide is helpful for you! Would love to hear any other tips you have for making great coffee on the road or in the wild.
Desert photos by Laura Dart