For many of us, it doesn't matter if you're crawling out of a plush king-size bed at home or a lightweight backpacking tent high on the side of a mountain — getting that morning fix of coffee is priority number one! So what's the best way? To help you figure it out, we researched more than 50 camping coffee makers, hand-picked the best, and buckled down for some serious testing. A team of coffee aficionados took all our brewers from car-side campsites to backcountry bivies, making hundreds of cups of coffee in the process. Almost every type of brewing style comes in a portable version, from pour over to french press and even espresso — but not all are created equal. Read on to find your perfect camp coffee companion as well as our favorite backpacking options.
The Best Camping Coffee Makers
|Price||$8.47 at Amazon||$44.99 at Amazon||$14.50 at Amazon||$6 List||$29.75 at Amazon|
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|Pros||Gourmet flavor, well-conceived design, ceramic version available for home use||Brews a clean cup, insulated, durable, good size for a small group and available larger, no filters needed||No filter needed, great taste, stylish||Light, simple, affordable, design allows you to see level of coffee while brewing||Packs down flat, produces a good cup, lightweight for non-plastic, works on top of many different-sized vessels|
|Cons||Special shaped filters are harder to find, expensive for a plastic dripper, heavier than other brands||Takes more water to clean, heavy||Expensive, requires water and more time to fully clean||Not as refined a flavor as the V60, bulky||Can collapse while brewing if not careful, certain filters hang very low due to large bottom hole|
|Bottom Line||The iconic pour over model in a light plastic package, delivering a consistently great flavor.||This press is durable, insulated, and fully stops extraction once pressed so there's no sludge in the bottom of your cup.||The best model that does not require filters and one of the few that does not involve hot water on plastic.||This is a very light and inexpensive pour over option that provides solid taste and stellar value.||This collapsible stainless steel dripper is a bit on the heavy side but it folds down flat for easy travel and brews a nice cup.|
|Rating Categories||Hario V60 Plastic Dripper||Planetary Design French Press||Paperless Pour Over||Melitta 1-Cup Pour-Over||Collapsible Coffee Drip|
|Ease Of Use (25%)|
|Group Cooking (15%)|
|Specs||Hario V60 Plastic...||Planetary Design...||Paperless Pour Over||Melitta 1-Cup...||Collapsible Coffee...|
|Weight||dripper alone: 2.95 oz, dripper + scoop: 3.37 oz||1 lb 14.8 oz||3.3 oz||2.01 oz||4.8 oz|
|Brew Type||Pour Over||French Press||Pour Over||Pour Over||Pour Over|
|Main Material||Hard plastic||18/8 Stainless steel||Stainless steel||Hard plastic||Stainless steel|
|Notable Features||Cone shape, large hole, ribs along side||Double filtration system||No filter pour over||Can see cup without lifting dripper||Collasible cone filter|
|Notes||Makes strong, smooth coffee||Filtration system keeps more grounds out and double insulation keeps things hot longer||Requires some water to clean between uses||Doesn't brew as well as the Hario dripper||Folds down flat for easier transport than most other cone drippers|
Best Overall Camping Coffee Maker
Hario V60 Plastic Dripper
The same classic ceramic cone for your home is also our favorite choice for camping — just in a lighter and more durable plastic form. The Hario V60 Plastic Dripper provides excellent taste (which improves as your technique does) and is straightforward to use. Plus, it weighs just 2.95 ounces (3.37 ounces with its measuring scoop). The AeroPress just barely edged ahead in our taste tests, but it's triple the price, heavier, and more complicated to use — especially when brewing for multiple people.
There's not much negative to say about this simple and effective cone other than you will need to track down V60-specific filters. For optimal taste, you will also want to be sure your coffee is uniformly and finely ground. Weighing your coffee and water will also take your brewing game to another level. Once you've assembled your tools and dialed in your process, this dripper will deliver one of the cleanest and best-tasting cups you can have.
Of note, the Hario V60 Ceramic Dripper is also one of our favorite ways to make coffee at home. You could, of course, also take it camping, but it's much heavier and nowhere near as durable.
Read review: Hario V60 Plastic Dripper
Best Bang for the Buck
Melitta 1-Cup Pour-Over
At first glance, the Melitta 1-Cup Pour-Over appears very similar in design to the Hario V60 but with the added feature of a view hole so you can monitor the level of your brew. There are, however, some other differences between these pour-over-style drippers that ultimately affect the overall taste.
While the Melitta can be excellent (especially if you weigh and measure your beans and water), the V60 has a higher potential to excel when it comes to flavor — though reaching that level does take precision and attention to detail. At the end of the day, (or, more accurately, the beginning), most people probably won't be able to tell much of a difference between these two devices, especially with the haphazard non-measured brewing that tends to take place while camping. But brewing side-by-side with precise recipes reveals more subtle differences. However, the Melitta still makes a very decent fresh morning brew and can often be found cheaper than most other options.
Read review: Melitta 1-Cup Pour-Over
Best for Large Groups
Planetary Design French Press
Trying to stay relatively compact for camping and also accommodate multiple people can be tricky. While many single-serving brewers are easy to clean and will get you rebrewing right away, it can be annoying to have to repeat the coffee-making process five times in a row so everyone can have a cup along with breakfast. The tried-and-true French press remains the simplest and most straightforward method for this scenario, yet it can be hard to find a good one. Enter the Planetary Designs press. It's large, durable, insulated, and offers a patented "bru-stop" screen which halts the brewing process when pressed to avoid over-extraction. We enjoyed every cup we drank from this competent device.
Keep in mind that this is large and heavy, so it's certainly not something you'll be taking backpacking. But if you're car camping with buddies, it's a fantastic option. We tested the 32-ounce size, but it's also available in a whopping 48-ounce. We still find the Espro Travel Press to be a cleaner and more versatile press overall, but if you want a more traditional design built for a group, go with this one.
Read review: Planetary Design French Press
Best Backpacking Coffee Maker
Primula Coffee Brew Buddy
Whether you are backpacking or just want to ensure you always have pour-over coffee when traveling, the Primula Coffee Brew Buddy is the way to go. It's super compact, durable, and weighs about as much as an AA battery. It also gives consistent taste no matter how you pour. Other pour-over contenders in our review require a much more exact pour that can be highly challenging to achieve with a JetBoil or camping pot, but the forgiving nature of the Primula isn't quite so hard to master.
The only downside to this brewer is that you have to stay alert and be sure to remove it from your cup in a timely matter. If you don't, your coffee will steep like tea, leaving you with a bitter, over-extracted cup. Whether you're backpacking or hotel-hopping for work, the Primula is a light and cheap option sure to protect you against lousy camping coffee.
Read review: Primula Coffee Brew Buddy
Best for Gourmet Taste
AeroPress Coffee Maker
The AeroPress emerged as the leader in our taste tests, so we had to give it a coveted Top Pick award. With this fun and functional brewer, you can create smooth espresso-like shots as well as clean satisfying full cups. We know some people who use this as their exclusive coffee maker, even at home, yet it is portable enough to bring along while traveling or on camping trips. Cleaning is as fast as popping the puck of grinds out of the plunger — the squeegee action gives a pretty effective cleaning without the use of extra water.
There is a bit of a learning curve with the AeroPress — it has more pieces than many other camping coffee makers in our review (though not all of them are necessary) and you need to make sure you have a big enough cup for it to properly nest into for pressing. You will also need the special round filters, available in either stainless steel or paper. While not for everyone, coffee geeks will fall head-over-heels for this versatile brewer and its delicious results.
Read review: AeroPress
Cleanest French Press
Espro Travel Press
French press coffee has long been complained about because it continues to extract after pressing. This results in over-extraction unless you pour everything out as soon as brewing is complete. Additionally, the last pour is always sludgy and thick. Until now. Enter the Espro Travel Press, a clever design with a dual filter system that not only stops extraction when you press but also delivers a cup as clean as a filtered pour-over. You can even add a small paper filter in between the two mesh filters for more clean-up duty. We were beyond impressed with the final cup this press produced. On top of it all, you can press and walk away without needing an additional cup because the top of the Espro is a sippable travel lid that can be made leakproof. Top Pick material for sure.
The major issue with this press is its weight: at 12.3 ounces (not including coffee), this isn't a backpacking option. However, there is an ultralight version available that will get you down to 7.4 ounces. Still not really "ultralight," but a substantial improvement nonetheless. It's also designed for a single user at a time, so this won't be your brewer of choice for a group.
Read review: Espro Travel Press
Best for Camp Espresso
GSI Outdoors MiniEspresso
Are you an espresso drinker that dislikes switching to regular coffee when camping? If so, the GSI MiniEspresso Set might be your dream-come-true. This savvy brewer functions much like a Bialetti, but with a platform for a little espresso cup. It won't provide the crema of a shot from your favorite barista, but the flavor is quite decent and brewing time is fast. It's also a great way to brew just a little bit at once if your caffeine needs are lower or you want to make something fun like a dirty chai.
While this setup is quite compact for car camping, it's too big and bulky for backpacking unless you're a complete diehard. However, the base is small enough that it fits better on a small backpacking stove than on most larger tabletop stoves — something that caused us issue out in the field on multiple occasions. If there's too much a gap on your cooking surface, the MiniEspresso will fall through. You'll want to take some measurements before purchasing to make sure this brewer is compatible with your burner.
Read review: GSI Outdoors MiniEspresso
First Ascent Instant
Well, color us surprised, we found an instant coffee that doesn't make us cringe. Because instant is such a great and necessary option for certain activities, we have been diligent about trying to find one that isn't abjectly terrible. And it seems that day has come! First Ascent is a craft coffee roaster in Crested Butte, Colorado that roasts high-quality beans and also handcrafts instant packets. Currently available in their Hero Day blend and two single origins — Ethiopia and Honduras — we were shocked, impressed, and pleased throughout our rigorous taste tests.
Will a coffee connoisseur still notice this is instant? Absolutely. It isn't completely devoid of that weird smell and slightly off flavor, but the keyword here is "slightly." We had some taste testers not recognize right away that they were sipping instant — something that hasn't happened with any of the other brands we've tested. This isn't a cheap options though, especially considering they're not as widely available and so you may have to pay shipping on top of an already premium price. But for many folks out there — you know who you are — we know it will be worth it.
Read review: First Ascent Instant
Why You Should Trust Us
Our camping coffee review is spearheaded by Penney Garrett, OutdoorGearLab tester and specialty coffee professional. With over fifteen years experience in the craft coffee industry and passions for climbing, hiking, camping, and backpacking, Penney's knowledge and lifestyle perfectly situate her to evaluate the best ways to make coffee in the great outdoors. She is currently the Coffee Curator for Copper Door Coffee Roasters, where she manages the wholesale department as well as quality control. Additionally, Penney has served on the board of the Rocky Mountain Craft Coffee Alliance and has been a judge for the Coffee in Good Spirits competition circuit.
To ensure that our selection of brewing devices were tested thoroughly and in the broadest range of situations possible, we took these babies everywhere. From car camping to multi-day backpacking trips, we evaluated the strengths and weaknesses of each brew method specific to its potential camping applications. To level the playing field, we sourced high-quality coffee beans with a consistent flavor profile. This consistency removed a significant variable and allowed us to evaluate taste differences between brew methods accurately and reliably.
Related: How We Tested Camping Coffees
Analysis and Test Results
For many people, coffee is a critical part of their morning ritual, an essential component of getting the day off on the right foot. It's an extremely personal process, and there are a ton of available options in regards to what to brew and how to brew it. From dark roasts to light roasts, espressos to pour-overs, plastic to stainless steel… decisions abound, and each one will change the flavor and overall enjoyment of your final cup. Read on to learn about some of the savviest brewers on the market, how easy (or not) they are to use and care for, how conducive (or not) each is to serving multiple people, and — most importantly — how well they brew up that precious liquid black gold.
Related: Buying Advice for Camping Coffees
Items in this review range from under $10 to over $100 — enough of a spread to warrant some time and thought when going to purchase. It's wise to think about what situations you will be brewing in the most and what you want out of your final cup. Is taste your number one priority? Weight and packability? The number of people you can serve? After determining our rating criteria, we weighted each metric in regards to what we deemed most important to the average camping coffee drinker. The Editors' Choice winning Hario V60 had the highest performance and second to lowest price of all our contenders, thus representing an outstanding value.
No surprise, taste is the factor that we weighted the heaviest in our evaluation. If you don't care about taste and just want a caffeine jolt, you can skip the rest of this review and buy instant coffee. But most people don't want to do that and recognize that instant coffee, while convenient, will never taste as good as the real thing. Most of us want a smooth, rich, clean flavor, whether lounging on our couch at home or sitting comfortably in a collapsible camp chair. We can help you achieve that, even with a bare-bones camp kitchen.
Recognizing the importance of this rating metric, we conducted several blind taste tests with like-minded coffee lovers to evaluate which products produced the best final result. We found that all of them made an acceptable cup, but a few stood out for their ability to deliver an elevated flavor that was pleasing even to the pickiest coffee snob.
The AeroPress continues to stand out as the distinct taste winner, though the Hario V60 is a close second along with the Espro Travel Press (for the record, some tasters did prefer the V60 over the AeroPress). One taster began using the AeroPress at home every morning after the initial test because she loved it so much. The AeroPress brews a smooth, strong cup devoid of bitterness. By pushing water evenly through the grinds at high pressure, the result has some resemblance to shots of espresso, with a refined and clean flavor.
The Espro Travel Press also rose to the top in our taste tests. The double mesh filters are much finer than a traditional French press filter and when you couple that with a patented system that completely stops extraction once pressed, you get an impressively delicious brew every time. The Espro also has special paper filters that you can use between the two mesh filters for an even cleaner cup — the addition of paper removes extra fine particles that would typically remain and also absorbs all the oils. So you end up with a final product that's very similar to the V60 or a Chemex. All of this exists inside an insulated, leakproof travel mug that, while on the heavy side, is highly durable and can go with you anywhere.
The V60 is also a favorite for taste and the best of the pour-over style options in our review. It brews a clean-tasting cup with vibrant flavors and less bitterness than other drippers. The special angle of the cone (60 degrees to be exact), and the fact that it causes everything to coalesce at one point, means that the ground coffee gets very evenly saturated — flat-bottomed brewers are prone to over-saturation from water pooling at the edges, and this can cause bitterness.
If you would rather not have to use paper filters or pour hot water over plastic, the stainless steel Cafellissimo Paperless Pour Over gives almost as good a cup without creating any additional waste. The Snow Peak Collapsible Coffee Drip is also an excellent stainless option. While it does require a filter, it offers the useful feature of collapsing down completely flat for easy transport.
If you have a dripper that requires filters but prefer not to create waste, consider a reusable organic cotton filter.
Of note, most pour-over methods require careful pouring to get the best flavor. This is best done with a kettle like the Hario Gooseneck Kettle, but few people will choose to camp with such a specialized pouring apparatus. Though it doesn't score quite as high as the V60 or Snow Peak Collapsible, the Primula Brew Buddy delivers one of the most consistent tastes with the sloppy pour you often get from a pot or JetBoil while camping.
There's no doubt about it; fresh ground coffee is the gold standard. If you want to grind your beans right before brewing, there are many hand-grinder options on the market to consider. We have tested several and like the GSI Javamill best. It doesn't have any glass components, and it packs down nice and small.
Special Note on Pour-Over Methods
Yes, you can use a pour-over with no real plan by placing a random amount of ground coffee into the device and dousing it all with water. However, how you prepare and use your chosen pour-over will affect the taste dramatically. There are many essential variables: quality of beans, freshness, quantity used, grind size, water temperature, and how you physically pour the water.
Ease of Use
If you are one of those people who can't quite wake up until after your first cup of caffeine, then the simpler the brewing process, the better. Additionally, resources are often limited while camping, so models with easier cleanup are appreciated. Whether you want a second cup or to get on the trail as quickly as possible, a complicated coffee brewer shouldn't be the thing holding you back.
French press brewers are one of the simplest to use and don't require filters, but they are also a bit of a pain to clean. You have to flick and scoop out the messy wet grounds and then use water to rinse everything. If water is no issue where you usually camp than a press very well might be the best option and an easy way to accommodate multiple people. But if you're in a dry area with only the water you can carry on your back then another brew style will be a smarter choice.
The AeroPress is a breeze to clean — just remove the piece that holds the filter and press the plunger a bit further to pop out a puck of grounds. However, this device requires a bit more knowhow to use and has more parts to contend with. The various cone-shaped pour-over brewers we reviewed are all extremely easy to use and clean — especially those with a paper filter (just lift out the filter and toss) — and are therefore conducive to sleepy-eyed fumbling campers. Do keep in mind that many of these drippers, most notably the V60, require a special filter for optimum brewing. As we discovered in the testing process, you can make almost any filter work with a little folding, finagling, and careful pouring, but it's less than ideal.
Filterless options like the Cafellissimo involve more cleaning between uses. How much hassle depends on your standards as much as the filter design. You can get 90% of the coffee out with a quick pour of a 1/4 cup of water. If you want your filter 100% clean, you will have to sacrifice quite a bit more water. Of all the filterless options, the Primula is the easiest to clean because of its shape and small surface area. The MSR MugMate isn't far behind, though its rigid design makes it a tiny bit harder to rinse clean.
No problem! Using a carefully folded paper towel is almost as effective as a coffee filter. We recommend pouring water through to make sure you don't get any paper towel flavor, but this should be done with any coffee-specific paper filter as well. Alternatively, you can use a folded cloth handkerchief if you're in a bind. Again, pour water through it first so that it's saturated and ready to go.
Of course, instant coffee will always be king here. Nothing is easier than opening a packet and pouring water (hot or cold) in any which way over the top. No mess, no fancy filters or kettles, no clean up except for your mug and the bit of trash the packet creates. Obviously, you will be sacrificing flavor for this convenience, though the option in our review really up the ante for this category. First Ascent uses coffee from specialty roasters so you get a much better tasting cup than cheaper more mainstream brands.
If you are planning a camping trip with multiple devout coffee drinkers, it is worth looking for a method that can brew for more than one person and, hopefully, still deliver excellent flavor.
We awarded the Planetary Designs French Press our Top Pick for Large Groups. We tested the 32-ounce version, but it's also available in 48-ounces. This insulated press is the easiest and best-tasting way to satisfy a group quickly.
While pour-over style drippers are generally best suited for 1-2 people, you can always fill them with more grounds if you need to serve a group quickly. Just remember that this will affect extraction and, ultimately, the final flavor. Of our tested models in this category, the GSI Collapsible Java Drip has the best capacity and can brew for 4 or more. The GSI Personal Java Press is also great if you're in a party of two. While maybe not technically meant for sharing, it does brew around 20-ounces, so there's plenty to at least get two people started. It also comes with its own mug that nests inside the press — a nice feature if you don't already have a camp cup or need an extra one for your buddy.
Portability is our evaluation of how easy each item is to pack and carry. No surprise, the instant coffee option, First Ascent, scores the highest. We include instant coffee in our review for just this reason — sometimes every gram and millimeter counts, even if it means sacrificing flavor. However, with instant as good as these two options you at least won't be grimacing your way through breakfast!
Instant aside, it was neck-and-neck between several of our contenders. The GSI Outdoors Ultralight Java Drip is so compact it folds to fit under a fuel canister and weighs hardly more than an ounce. Another stellar option is the Primula Coffee Brew Buddy which weighs the same but is considerably more durable. It also requires less coffee to consistently produce a flavorful result, further cutting down on weight.
Another ultralight and durable option is the MSR MugMate. While it doesn't collapse down flat, it can nest inside your mug for travel, and it doesn't even weigh a full ounce. If a few more ounces are okay, we like the Snow Peak Collapsible Coffee Drip and the GSI Outdoors Collapsible Java Drip. The first is stainless steel, the second is silicone, and both are highly durable. We much preferred the Snow Peak for flavor though.
Even though many of the pour-over drippers are incredibly light and simple, their awkward cone shapes make them harder to pack into a backpack or camp kitchen box. But those with a handle like the V60 or an open base like the Melitta 1-Cup Pour-Over can be clipped onto the outside of a pack and carried that way.
None of the brewing devices tested can quite compete with the featherweight of a single instant coffee packet at less than a quarter of an ounce. However, they can be reused indefinitely, making them more cost-effective in the long run.
Instant coffee packets like First Ascent are often the most desirable option for ultralight enthusiasts of all kinds, though for something like a long-distance backpacking trip they would be on the expensive side. For a more economically minded adventurer who is unconcerned with weight, any of the coffee makers in this review are a far better option, save the large brewers meant for a crew. And, though there are exceptions, most people with functioning taste buds believe that there is no weight savings worth having to drink instant coffee.
After weighing each contender individually on a scale, the MSR MugMate was the lightest, weighing just a single ounce with the optional lid/coaster and 0.7 ounces without it. The Primula and GSI Ultralight Java Drip are just a smidge heavier at 1.1 ounces and the Melitta 1-Cup Pour-Over weighs in at just 2.01 ounces. None of these brewers except for the Melitta require filters which is an additional weight savings.
The V60 and Cafellissimo are some of the next lightest options, both hovering right around 3 ounces. The V60 requires filters, however, while the Cafellissimo does not. Next up are the GSI Collapsible Java Drip and the Snow Peak Collapsible at 4.76 and 4.80 ounces respectively. Both of these require filters, but their collapsible nature makes transport easier than a rigid cone shape.
Of note here is also the Snow Peak Titanium French Press. It weighs 6.2 ounces, but you can boil water directly in the press on your stove, removing the need for an additional water boiling pot (or, at the very least, freeing up your pot for other tasks). Granted, you probably need to have a pot with you anyway, but a savvy backpacker could undoubtedly use the Snow Peak for modest meal prep as well.
While it may be blasphemy to write this, switching to tea while camping or backpacking saves a lot of weight and clean up. Some of our testers found instant coffee acceptable, but others wanted nothing to do with it. For those folks, tea may be a nice option.
With so many choices out there, we know it can be challenging to select the right camping coffee maker (or home coffee maker!) for your needs. Hopefully, you find our ratings and tests helpful in narrowing down the plethora of options and can hone in on the perfect brewer for your morning ritual.
— Penney Garrett