When I’m backpacking, there’s a few necessities I always make sure to pack. At the top of that list is coffee. Some may call it a luxury item, but to me, it ranks right up there with my tent and sleeping bag.
When it comes to brewing coffee outdoors, you have a lot of choices. The nice part is you’re not limited by a single brewing method. From French press, to pour over, to espresso. If you have the tools and ambition, you can become a certified backcountry barista. If you’re overwhelmed where to start, this article will highlight some of the best products for brewing coffee while backpacking.
While this article isn’t meant to be an official product review, we’ll be making some observations based on the following criteria.
- Taste – this one speaks for itself.
- How well does it pack
- Clean up
We realize everyone’s criteria may be different. But for us, these are the most important factors when choosing a backpacking coffee setup.
Pour Over Methods
We may be a bit bias, but our Trail Packs are one of our favorite ways to enjoy coffee out in the backcountry. Each Trail Pack is filled with our freshly roasted coffee and has paper wings that allow the pack to sit over any mug. The final step is to slowly pour hot water over the coffee grounds. Each Trail Pack will make 10 ounces of coffee.
Aside from our coffee, what makes our Trail Packs unique is the packaging. Once you’re done making your coffee, you can put your used pour over back into our resealable package and easily pack it out. Because the inside is metal lined it won’t leak through, which makes for easy clean up.
If you don’t mind packing your own coffee grounds, the GSI Outdoors Ultralight Java Drop Coffee Maker is one of the lightest options on the market. This portable drip filter weighs less than half an ounce and can easily be stored under a standard fuel can.
The Java Drip has a nylon filter supported by three lightweight plastic legs. As with most ultralight products, it’s on the delicate side, so whether it will take on years of abuse depends on how well you treat it. This filter has the ability to make a great cup of coffee. As with any pour over, the rate at which you add water is important. Add water too fast, and the coffee will likely be weak. When we used our GSI Halulite Kettle, it was easy to offer a precise pour and achieve a good flavor, but out of something like a JetBoil, it would be much harder.
The Miir Pouragami takes the trophy as one of the coolest coffee makers on the market. It’s minimal design packs down into a pocket-sized carrying case. As with the GSI Java Drip, you’ll need to pack your own coffee grounds as well as some pour over filters. This may be a deal breaker for those that like to pack minimal supplies, but for those that don’t mind, it’s a great option to consider.
The Miir Pouragami comes in at 4 ounces and takes up about as much space as a standard wallet. However, what stands out the most to us was how well it tasted. Compared to the Java Drip, the Pouragami we felt made a superior cup of coffee.
French Press Methods
For those that love French press, GSI has a great backcountry option, the Outdoors Java Press. One of the advantages to using a french press is that you can brew for multiple people. The Outdoors Java Press allows you to brew 20 ounces at a time, plenty to get two people going in the morning. It also has nylon sleeves to insulate both the press itself and the additional mug, so your coffee will stay warm for longer.
When it comes to taste, the french press typically makes coffee than a pour over. It likely won’t be the best cup of coffee you’ve ever had, but if you prefer a strong cup of coffee, look no further. The only downside was how bulky the Outdoors Java Press is. It weighs just over 10oz but takes up a considerable amount of space in your pack. For anyone looking to save on space and weight, you may want to consider a different option.
If you carry a Jetboil and love french press coffee, the Silicone Coffee Press is a great way to get more out of your Jetboil cooking system. This simple accessory allows you to turn your Jetboil into a french press. This regular-size press is compatible with Jetboil Zip, Flash, Flash Lite, MicroMo, PCS Sol and Sol TI.
In a side-by-side comparison, the Silicone Coffee Press performed marginally better the Outdoors Java Press when it comes to filtering coffee grounds. As far as taste goes, both made a good cup of french press coffee.
Last but certainly not least is the Aeropress Go Travel Coffee Press. Of all the brewing systems we’ve reviewed, the Aeropress allowed for the most variability when making a cup of coffee. When we used it, we found that the AeroPress had no bitterness and made an exceptionally smooth cup of coffee.
While it’s not a true espresso, it comes close. To make an Aeropress espresso, use finely ground coffee, a small amount of hot water, and a quick plunge. It's not as concentrated as true espresso, and it’s not as intense. But, if you do it right, you’ll find it is well balanced.
Quality and versatility aside, the Aeropress is one of the heaviest options on our list. The Aeropress Go packs down into a nice convenient mug and weighs just under 12 ounces. It’s neither the biggest nor the smallest option out there, but considering what it’s capable of, most people may be willing to sacrifice the added space in their pack.
We’re not going to go as far as saying cowboy coffee is dead, but there’s certainly more options today for brewing coffee in the backcountry. In the end, we’re choosing not to recommend one method over the other, because everyone’s preference is different. It depends on what style of coffee you prefer and how much gear you’re willing to pack. In the end, hopefully we’ve supplied you with enough information to make a decision that’s right for you. If you're still undecided, hit the trail and test some options for yourself!