Most coffee lovers will agree that few things are as pleasant as savoring that first morning cup next to a still-smoldering campfire by bringing the brew routine camping. Sure, it's always an option to pack instant coffee instead, but aficionados know nothing beats going from coffee beans to brew (to camping mug). Even though camping means leaving your fancy espresso machine behind, you can still have great coffee. To ensure that, you just need a quality camp coffee maker.
By "quality," we don't mean that you need a fancy coffee maker with Bluetooth and all the settings—camping coffee calls for more simple, easy to use equipment. Most camping coffee makers are small, compact, and lightweight. Find the right one, and all that's left to decide is what kind of coffee to brew over the campfire (if you go whole bean, you'll need to bring along a compact coffee grinder, too).
Keep scrolling to learn more about the differences between types of coffee pots, and instructions on how to brew with each one, as well as what to consider when buying a camping coffee maker.
What Consider When Buying a Coffee Maker for Camping
Making the perfect cup of coffee with different types of makers means different brew methods and brew times. Some are quicker than others, some produce a greater volume of coffee, and all bring a unique flavor profile to your finished cup. What's more, different brewing processes require less or more attention—pour-over is pretty hands-on, for instance, while a percolator is somewhat scrutiny-free. Another thing to consider is whether you're cooking over a fire or a camping stove like a MSR Pocket Rocket, as direct exposure to a flame can damage some coffee makers.
Size of Coffee Pot
Remember that you're camping, so you'll have to carry whatever type of coffee maker you choose to camp. If you're car camping, you don't have to worry about size or weight, but a multi-day backpacking trip will call for a lightweight, packable setup.
Size of Your Group
How many people will be lining up in the campsite kitchen for a cup in the morning? Camping coffee makers designed for packability might only be able to brew a cup or two at a time, but others can handle a 10-person group.
For our top picks, keep reading below.
The 9 Best Camping Coffee Makers
Best Overall: AeroPress Go
Most coffee drinkers out there have probably heard of the AeroPress. It is a unique little coffee maker that stands in its own category and produces barista-quality, espresso-like coffee with its straightforward brew-and-plunge process. Our testers assure that the learning curve isn't steep, and you can adjust the brew process depending on the style of drink you'd like—add more water if you like your cup black or less for something akin to espresso that you can add milk to after brewing for a campfire latte. Aeropress coffee tastes as great as your at-home pour over and the company's newer Go model is even more compact than the original and packs down into a container that doubles as a mug, making it great for backpacking,.
Best Design: Snow Peak Titanium French Press
Weighing just 6.3 oz (200 g) with a capacity of 24 oz, this beautifully designed titanium model from famed Japanese outfitter Snow Peak is perfect for all types of camping, from long haul backpacking to car camping. The lightweight titanium vessel is extremely durable and can be used direct on the flame for boiling water. And the titanium and stainless steel combination lid and plunger ensure a well strained cup every time. This is our go-to camping coffee maker, and has been for years.
Best French Press: GSI Outdoors Java Press
In the Java Press, GSI faithfully adapted a classic French press design into one that's far better suited to camping (though admittedly a bit ugly). Instead of a fragile glass body, it uses a durable BPA-free plastic that can handle bumps against rocks and is insulated to keep your brew warm for any late risers at camp. The Java Press comes in 30- and 50-ounce sizes—both will take up more room in your pack than some of our other picks, but they'll serve larger groups.
Best Carafe: MiiR New Standard Carafe
The Chemex is generally viewed by coffee aficionados as one of the best ways to brew pour-over coffee, particularly for multiple people. But being made of glass, it's never been a great option for camping. MiiR's Standard Carafe takes that same hourglass form but brings 18/8 stainless steel and double-wall insulation into the equation, making it ideal for outdoor use. With the screw-top cone, you can even brew at campsite, pop on the included lid, and bring your coffee up the trail for a morning cup at a nearby summit, trusting that it'll still be warm when you get there.
Best for Pour Over: Sea to Summit X-Brew Coffee Dripper
There's a lot to like about this simple yet innovative collapsible coffee maker from Sea to Summit. Let's start with the basics: It's a dripper with enough capacity (16.2 ounces) to make two cups of coffee, which makes it ideal for camping as a pair. It's made of food-grade silicone and includes a super-fine reusable stainless steel mesh filter, which means you don't need to pack any paper coffee filters (but it's removable in case you want to). It's also collapsible, folding down to a compact disc that you can stash easily in even the fullest packs. And lastly, it's only $20, making it one of the most affordable coffee makers for camping that we've tested.
Best Ultralight Brewer: MiiR Pourigami
The Pourigami is far and away the smallest, most packable coffee maker we've found, which makes it perfect for bringing coffee on ultralight adventures. Made of three collapsible interlocking stainless steel panels, the Pourigami weighs four ounces and isn't much larger than a credit card when disassembled. It works with standard #2 filters and makes primo pour-over coffee.
Best for Cold Brew: MiiR Stainless Steel Cold Brew Filter
Made to be the perfect balance of function and brew quality this compact cold brew filter slots perfectly into your MiiR Tomo thermos ($60). It features a fold-down handle ease of use and the filter will ensure you get a delicious cup of smooth, sediment free cold brew.
Best for Big Groups: GSI Outdoors Glacier Stainless Steel 14-Cup Percolator
Percolators may be a bit old-school these days, but they're great if you need to brew a basic cup for a larger group of campers. This one can handle a group of 14 with its 112-ounce volume, and because it's stainless steel, you can brew directly on a campfire if you need to. GSI considered the details, too, giving it a glass viewer that lets you check the status of your brew (some other percolators have plastic viewers that get foggy or damaged over time). It's big and heavy at two pounds two ounces, so reserve this coffee maker for camping trips where you don't have to haul your gear too far, or, if percolators are really your thing, get GSI's smaller six-cup model.
Best for Espresso: Bialetti Moka Express
Bialetti is the name to know in the world of moka pots and making a stellar cup of joe. The company invented them back in the 1930s and the little contraption is ideal for brewing espresso-quality coffee on a camp stove or over a fire with its durable cast aluminum design. It comes in various sizes that'll suit solo travelers and small groups and is very easy to clean.
Different Ways to Make Delicious Coffee When Camping
As there are at home, many different options for brewing good coffee while camping exist. Don't worry espresso lovers, we've got you covered with these tips on how to make a great cup of portable coffee with coffee shop quality straight into your coffee mug.
How to Make French Press Coffee
With a French press, you place ground beans into a cylindrical coffee pot, add hot water, and then use a plunger with a built-in screen to filter the grounds out of the drink. The amount of grounds you need to add to a French press depends on how much you want to make, how strong you want the finished cup of coffee to be, and the coffee pot model you're using. Coffee maestros differ on the perfect coffee to water ratio, and it can range from 1:10 up to 1:16 by weight. You're camping though, so go by the number of scoops or tablespoons to simplify things (two rounded tablespoons of coffee to eight ounces of water will give you roughly a 1:16 ratio). Or just eyeball it.
Use hot but not boiling water. Let it cool down from boiling for 30 seconds before pouring it into the French press. Fill it up halfway and then wait to let the coffee bloom (blooming is a process in which carbon dioxide trapped during the roasting process is set free; it'll enhance the final flavor).
After 30 seconds, finish pouring the water and let the coffee steep for three minutes and 30 seconds longer, or four minutes total.
Once this is done, press the plunger down slowly. The plunger filters the infused coffee from the grinds. Of course, finely ground coffee bits can still pass through the filter of the coffee press, which is why medium-ground beans are recommended for use with a French press.
How to Make Pour-Over Coffee
You can liken pour-over coffee to what comes out of your countertop drip coffee maker at home. Making it requires a small filtering device and, usually, disposable paper filters that keep grounds from falling into your cup. The method lets you brew directly over a mug or other container (a large water bottle works well if you're making coffee for a group).
To brew, first, wet your filter to dispel any paper taste. Then fill the pour-over with coffee grounds—a 1:16 ratio works here too—then slowly pour hot water (just below boiling) over them. After you saturate the coffee the first time, pause for 30 seconds to let it bloom. Then continue to pour in rounds. The slower you pour the water, the more time it has to seep through the coffee grounds and collect flavor. Pour the water in a small circular motion to ensure that you cover all the grounds evenly. Patience is key to pour over—the aim is to get the coffee to drip into the cup, not flow into it.
Pour-over coffee makers for camping might be metal, silicon, or some other heat-resistant material. The benefit of making coffee this way is that the water continuously flows over the coffee grounds, extracting as much flavor as possible. Another plus is that pour-overs are simple and often very packable, and produce great-tasting campsite coffee.
How to Use a Percolator
Coffee percolators preceded countertop drip machines, and camping-oriented models allow you to make coffee right on a campfire or camping stove. In a percolator, water continuously circulates through a coffee until you remove the pot from the heat. Percolators are great for camping with large groups because they yield big batches.
Percolators are simple to use too: fill the pot with water, add coffee grounds to the basket (this acts much like the filter), close the lid, and place the coffee percolator over some heat. A firepit grate comes in handy for campsite percolator brewing, but you can always use rocks to perch it above hot coals too. Of course, camping stoves always work too.
The amount of time you leave the pot over the fire or on the stovetop will depend on the type of grounds you use and how strong you like your coffee. Remember that boiling water releases tannins from ground coffee, and brewing too long will make your coffee taste bitter or burned. Once your water comes to a boil, move it to the side of the fire or turn your stove to a lower setting. Most percolators have a bubble window so you can monitor the brewing progress—the darker the coffee, the more done it is. Aim for between seven and fifteen minutes.
How to Use a Moka Pot
A moka pot can get you pretty darn close to having an espresso maker out in nature. It's a silver, kettle-like contraption that works like a percolator. Brewing coffee in a moka pot is easy, too.
Start by unscrewing the moka pot and adding your hot water to the bottom chamber to just below the valve. (If you start with cold water, you'll wind up with more bitter flavors in the final cup.) Then add coffee grounds to the included filter basket and level it off but don't press down—you'll want to use a fine grind here, too. Place the basket into the bottom chamber, screw the top portion back on, and put the moka pot on the fire or a camp stove. As the water boils, it pushes up through the coffee grounds. Tip open the lid and witness a strong, fresh cup of espresso-like coffee accumulating in the top chamber. When it starts to gurgle, you're done.
How to Make Cowboy Coffee
Cowboy coffee is by far the easiest way to enjoy a cuppa joe on your next camping trip—but it's likely to leave you spitting coffee grounds out of your teeth for the rest of the morning.
To make cowboy coffee, start by putting a pot of water over heat and add coffee grounds when it's warm, just before it reaches boiling (two ounces of grounds for every 32 ounces of water should do the trick). Leave the pot on the fire for two to three minutes. Remove it from the fire and let it sit for a minute before adding some cold water to the mix to help settle the grounds. Give it a moment, then serve.
Some swear by adding crushed eggshells to the coffee brew (mixed in with the grounds). In this case, there is no need to add cold water as the eggshells attract the coffee grounds and settle in the bottom of the pot and, supposedly, help prevent bitterness.
Another alternative is to place the coffee grounds in a cheesecloth, empty tea bag, or even a clean sock. Add your DIY filter with grounds inside like you would otherwise, just before the water boils. The material will keep most of the coffee grounds contained and out of your coffee cup. Keep the cloth with the grounds in the simmering pot for two to three minutes before removing it from the heat.