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Backpacking Coffee: 8 Lightweight Brewing Methods

French press for campingAh, the great outdoors! We love spending time in nature. There’s no better way to unwind and decompress than watching the wildlife, taking some deep breaths of crisp, clean air, and hearing the sound of gravel crunching under your boots. Backpacking is a rewarding hobby with many positive effects on mental and physical health, but it’s not all sunshine and roses.

If you’re a backpacker and a coffee lover, you know how much of a challenge brewing coffee can be on the trail. Instant coffee is one option, but it doesn’t taste as good as real coffee. Another option is to forgo your morning coffee while you’re in the backcountry, but we won’t even go there. In this article, we discuss eight options for brewing delicious coffee in the woods. Not only are these methods up to the task of making excellent coffee, but they also don’t tip the scales, making them perfect for the weight-conscious backpacker.

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1. Aeropress

AeroPress latte frothed milk

The Aeropress is our top pick for brewing coffee out in the wilderness. It’s lightweight and compact, making it easy to fit in almost any pack setup. Another benefit of the Aeropress is it’s solid. All of the pieces are made from thick, durable plastic, so they won’t even flinch if you happen to drop them on that particularly pointy rock near the fire.


2. Travel Press

Travel Press
Image Credit By: Brutek, amazon

Many companies make a travel version of the classic French press that is perfect for backpacking. Travel presses are lighter and more durable than traditional glass French presses since they’re made from plastic and rubber. Most travel presses double as a travel mug which further cuts down on stuff you need to bring with you.


3. Coffee Sock

coffee sock
Image Credit: Napassadol Chamsai, Shutterstock

A less common brewing method that’s great for making coffee in the wilderness is a coffee sock. If you’re picturing a regular sock filled with coffee, you’re basically spot on. Coffee socks are cloth sacks that you fill with coffee and steep in water, almost like a teabag. They’re ultimately flexible and weigh virtually nothing, so they’re the perfect choice for ultralightweight backpackers. The only downside is you have to deal with carrying the wet sock with you, which can be a nuisance.


4. Hario V60

Hario V60 brewing

Our trusty pour-over favorite, the Hario V60, is a good option for backpackers who aren’t concerned with every gram and have a little extra space in their pack. It’s not the smallest brewer out there, but the plastic version is light and won’t add much weight to your backpack. Unfortunately, you also need to bring paper filters with you, which can be annoying to save and pack out. Still, if you can’t live without your precious pour-over, throwing a plastic V60 in your pack is the way to go.


5. Cowboy Coffee

cowboy coffee on the campfire
Image: Jarno Holappa, Shutterstock

This one is only for the hardcore backcountry veterans. Cowboy coffee is one of the oldest ways to make coffee, and it requires almost no equipment. All you really need is a pot and some coffee, although a spoon certainly helps. Put the coffee in the pot, add water, give it a quick stir, and heat directly over the campfire; that’s it. It won’t be the cleanest cup you’ve ever had, but it gets the job done in a pinch, and as a bonus, you get +5 wilderness points.

Cowboy Coffee Recipe
You don't have to be a cowboy to try this rough and tumble recipe! Cowboy coffee is one of the easiest, most basic coffee brewing methods -- and you can do it over an open fire.
Try this delicious recipe!
cowboy coffee on the campfire

6. A Permanent Coffee Filter

Ninja Coffee Bar permanent filter

An interesting option is to steal the permanent filter from your automatic drip machine if you have one. It’s exceptionally light and great at filtering coffee, so it can be a good option for people that don’t have access to the other options. However, it isn’t so easy to pack since they usually are rigid and will take up a lot of space. If space isn’t an issue or you don’t have any other options, this is a good last resort.


7. Camping Percolator

how to make coffee while camping fire
Image: Dean Drobot, Shutterstock

We weren’t going to put this on the list since it is quite big and heavy, but percolators can be useful for short trips. These usually take up slightly less space than a camp stove but are fairly heavy. Some percolators are designed to withstand direct flame, and we prefer these since it makes it very easy to just slap on the fire to heat. A similar concept is to use a stovetop espresso maker like a Moka pot. These are not meant for direct flame, so you’ll have to be more careful with them.


8. Instant Coffee

instant coffee
Image Credit: Olichel, Pixabay

We aren’t going to sugarcoat this for you: instant coffee isn’t great. Most people who drink coffee don’t love the flavor or consistency of instant coffee, but there’s no denying how useful it is on a backwoods camping trip. Instant coffee tends to taste somewhere between weak and bitter – paradoxically – with a gritty, grainy texture.

We don’t recommend instant coffee to anyone who has a viable alternative, but we realize that some people don’t have an ounce to spare in their packs. If you need the lightest, easiest-to-pack option, instant coffee is for you. But don’t say we didn’t try to warn you.


Featured Image Credit: Unsplash

Sean Brennan

Sean’s obsession with coffee started when he received his first French press as a gift almost ten years ago. Since then, his love of coffee – and the number of coffee gadgets he owns – has grown considerably. A scientist by training, there is no stone he has left unturned in the never-ending quest for the perfect cup of coffee. He has spent many hours tuning his pour-over technique, thinking about how to best compare grind quality, and worrying about whether the Nicaraguan or Kenyan beans will make the best cold brew. These days he favors the Hario V60, and starts each day by hand grinding his coffee before enjoying a cup prepared with care and attention to detail.

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