The Best Camping Coffee Makers of 2020
Best Overall Camping Coffee Maker
Hario V60 Plastic Dripper
The Hario V60 Plastic Dripper takes home top honors for camping coffee, yet again. It should come as no surprise that the plastic version of the adored ceramic cone used by coffee-nerds worldwide, is also our favorite choice for camping — just in a lightweight and durable format. The V60 makes excellent tasting coffee and is straightforward to use, once you've honed your pour-over technique. Plus, this little dude is wicked lightweight, weighing a mere 2.95 ounces (3.37 ounces with its measuring scoop). The AeroPress ranked slightly higher in our taste tests, but it is triple the price, more than double the weight and a bit more complicated to use — especially when brewing for multiple people.
Making delicious coffee with the V60 may take more skill, intention, and finesse than your average french press, and you will need to find V60-specific filters. That said, there is not much negative to report about this elegant cone filter. For the best tasting coffee, you will want to use uniformly and finely ground coffee. Additionally, weighing your coffee and water, and timing your bloom and brew, will take your brewing game to another level. Once you've honed your craft and mastered the pour-over process, this brewer will consistently produce the cleanest and best-tasting coffee you can have, whether on the back of your tail-gate, several miles into the backcountry, or on the kitchen counter in your home.
In case you were curious, the Hario V60 Ceramic Dripper is also one of our favorite ways to make coffee at home. You could 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 looks like a cheaper doppelganger to the Hario V60. However, the Melitta is both lighter-weight and has a view hole so you can monitor the level of your brew. There are some additional differences between these pour-over-style drippers that affect the overall taste, but this is a solid option if you want something cheap with easy-to-find filters.
While the Melitta can produce decently excellent coffee (especially if you measure your beans and water), the V60 has a greater potential to produce a delicious cup — though reaching that potential does require skill and finesse. That being said, most folks are unlikely to discern much of a difference between these two devices, especially with the haphazard non-measured brewing that tends to take place while camping. When our reviewers put the pour-over devices head-to-head, the Melitta scored consistently lower in taste-tests, but it is hard to beat for the price. Overall, the Melitta makes a decent cup of joe and is less expensive than almost every other option, which is why it is ideal for those camping on a budget.
Read review: Melitta 1-Cup Pour-Over
Best Value for Backpacking
Primula Coffee Brew Buddy
If you are searching for an economical and lightweight camping coffee maker for backpacking and through-hiking, then look no further than the Primula Coffee Brew Buddy. This tiny brewer is wicked compact, decently durable, and weighs about as much as a stroopwafel. Pour after pour, the Brew Buddy provides a consistently delicious cup of coffee without the fuss of paper filters. Other pour-over contenders require a precise pour, which is challenging with a JetBoil or camping pot, but the forgiving nature of this filter isn't as hard to master.
The only downside to this brewer is that you must be sure to remove it from your cup in a timely fashion. If you forget about it, your coffee will steep like tea leaving you with a bitter, over-extracted cup. Whether you're backpacking or hotel-hopping for work, the Brew Buddy is a lightweight and cheap option that consistently brews delicious coffee, an ideal Best Buy winner in our book.
Read review: Primula Coffee Brew Buddy
Best for Gourmet Taste
AeroPress Coffee Maker
The AeroPress emerges as the leader in our taste tests, time after time, year after year. 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 for camping coffee 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
Best for Camp Espresso
If the thought of going without delicious espresso is as horrifying as a life without adventure, the Bialetti Musa is a must-have. The folks at Bialetti have outdone themselves with the Musa, revamping their classic stove-top espresso maker for a 21st Century crowd. This stainless steel redux of the iconic Bialetti Moka Express brews a delicious cup of espresso in a matter of minutes. It is easy to clean, easy to finesse, and was a clear crowd favorite among nearly all of our taste-testers. The Musa delivers not only in terms of function but in form as well. This elegant brewer is by far the most stylish of the brewers tested. Indeed, one of our reviewers loved this brewer so much, it became her go-to coffee-maker for daily brewing at home and while camping.
The downsides with the Musa are few and inconsequential. The plastic handle that lends to easy maneuverability and pouring make it an odd shape for travel. Additionally, it is not an ideal candidate for making massive quantities of coffee for all your buds. Despite this, it does make coffee quickly and with minimal fuss, so in a pinch, it could power through several rounds of coffee for your crew before leaving camp for the day. Finally, at almost 20-ounces, this brewer is too heavy for backpacking, though it proved to be an ideal companion on a pack-rafting trip. Bottom-line, the Musa proved to be the best brewer for camp espresso.
Read review: Bialetti Musa
Best Backpacking Coffee Maker
So you're going on a backpacking trip, and you want a coffee brewer that's lightweight, easy to clean, and produces consistently tasty coffee? Then the MSR MugMate is your match. Weighing in at just under half an ounce, this steadfast, tried-and-true coffee-maker gets the job done. All you gotta do is add coffee grounds and hot water, steep for a few minutes, and go. In a pinch, the MugMate cleans easily by tapping it into the trash, though for a more thorough cleaning, you will want to give it a quick rinse with your water bottle or a nearby stream. This brewer can also double as a loose-leaf tea brewer, though you will want to thoroughly rinse it to avoid tainting your tea with the flavor of coffee.
There are very few negatives to report with the MugMate. While this coffee brewer scored consistently well in our blind taste-tests, it wasn't our go-to for a gourmet taste. Then again, it requires very little expertise to produce a consistent cup of coffee, while most of our top-rated coffee brewers demand more finesse and technical skills to produce a gourmet flavor. Given the rigid plastic frame of the MugMate, it does require some forethought to pack well, but our reviewers found that it nests perfectly in some mugs and most cooking pots. This isn't the ideal option for brewing coffee for more than one or two people, and you must lift the brewer out of your cup to prevent over-steeping, but beyond these minor complaints, this little dude is our top choice for backpacking.
Read review: MSR MugMate
Best for Large Groups
Planetary Design French Press
It can be challenging to find a brewing method that is simultaneously compact enough to throw in the back of your rig for car-camping and big enough to accommodate a large crew. 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 process five times in a row so everyone can have coffee with their breakfast. If you want to avoid this disaster and are looking for a versatile brewer to make tasty coffee for the whole squad, then look no further than the Planetary Designs French Press. This bombproof beast is big, durable, insulated, and offers a patented "bru-stop" screen which halts the brewing process after pressing to avoid over-extraction. Our posse enjoyed every cup of camping coffee we drank from this proficient device.
The drawbacks to this press are minimal and fairly obvious. It is large, and subsequently, the heaviest brewer we reviewed. This beast would make an unruly coffee companion on a backpacking trip, but if you're car camping with a large crew, you'll be hard-pressed to find a better option. Sadly, it will set you back a pretty penny — this is one of the most expensive brewers in our review. We tested the 32-ounce size, but Planetary Designs also produces a monumental 48-ouncer and an approachable 20-ounce version. Our reviewers found the ESPRO P1 Travel Press to be a cleaner and more versatile press overall, but if you want a traditional design built for a large group, this is the press for you.
Read review: Planetary Design French Press
First Ascent Instant
Unreal! We found an instant coffee that doesn't suck. Leave it to a bunch of dedicated climbers and skiers to produce a decent cup of instant coffee. Our crew of bleary-eyed reviewers continues to scour the market to find a better instant coffee, and time-and-time-again, we return to First Ascent for all of our alpine starts and quick coffee needs. First Ascent is a craft coffee company in Crested Butte, Colorado that roasts high-quality beans and produces handcrafted packets of instant coffee. They have both single origins and blends, both perfect for those days in the backcountry where everything goes flawlessly. We continue to be blown away by this utterly drinkable instant coffee.
Will a coffee connoisseur still notice this is instant? Absolutely. It is not completely devoid of the weird instant coffee smell and slightly chemical flavor. The keyword here is "slightly." In our blind taste-tests, some of our taste-testers did not immediately recognize they were drinking instant coffee, which is a rare phenomenon. However, First Ascent, like other instant coffees, does require some finesse. The recipe suggests adding 8 ounces of water, but we found it was too weak to drink with that much water — we recommended starting with 6 ounces or using two packets. Particularly if you're tweaking the recipe, this is not a cheap option for getting your fix. On top of that, if you can't find it locally, you may be on the hook for shipping on top of the already premium price-tag. Then again, for those no-sleep alpine-starts far in the backcountry, a delicious tasting instant coffee is absolutely worth it.
Read review: First Ascent Instant
Notable for Delicious Espresso On The Go
Heading into the backcountry has traditionally meant that coffee lovers must leave behind the caramel crema of their dream espresso. Not any longer. The Wacaco Nanopresso produces expert-level espresso with a crema to rival the "Guinness Effect" on a freshly pulled shot at your favorite cafe. The Nanopresso scored nearly the highest in every blind taste-test, almost edging out the AeroPress for our Top Pick for Gourmet Flavor. Brewing with the Nanopresso is decently straightforward, requiring minimal expertise to produce an excellent shot of espresso — once you figure out how all the parts work together. Fill the mini-portafilter with finely ground coffee, tamp it down with the provided scoop, add hot water to the reservoir, and pump like a bike pump — Voila, a fantastic shot of espresso!
While the Nanopresso delivers consistently delicious coffee, it has a few drawbacks that kept it from earning a higher mark in our review. For die-hard espresso lovers, the steep price tag is hardly a deterrent, but it will set you back a pretty penny. And, even though it is fairly straightforward to make excellent espresso, this device comes with many small parts that are somewhat difficult to clean and easy to lose. Using the Nanopresso while camping could prove challenging without access to water or a drying rack, thus it is a more ideal coffee maker for van-lifers than backpackers or casual car-campers. Despite these drawbacks, it stole our hearts by producing consistently delicious espresso with a beautiful crema, day after day.
Read review: Wacaco Nanopresso
Why You Should Trust Us
Our camping coffee review is spearheaded by Mary Witlacil, OutdoorGearLab tester and life-long lover of coffee. Mary has over fifteen years of backcountry experience riding bikes, hiking, backpacking, and climbing rocks, ice, and mountains. While her preference for outdoor pursuits has changed over the years, her love of coffee has not. Indeed, she ascribes to the belief that no good adventure ever starts without a strong cup of black coffee. This gal subjected every camping coffee maker to rigorous testing in and out of the backcountry, with craft coffee from all over Colorado and Utah.
To ensure that each coffee brewer was tested thoroughly and in the broadest range of situations possible, we took these little dudes everywhere. From car-camping and van-living to multi-day backpacking trips and alpine bivies, we assessed 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 a lot of us, coffee is the best part of a morning ritual and a critical element to starting the day off on the right foot. Coffee is an extremely personal process, and there are innumerable options and resources for brewing types and methods. 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 for serving multiple people, and — most importantly — how deliciously they brew up that precious nectar of liquid black gold.
Related: Buying Advice for Camping Coffees
Items in this review range have a pretty broad range in price — enough of a spread to warrant some time and thought when making a purchasing decision. We suggest considering where you will be brewing and how important flavor is to your coffee enjoyment experience. 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 according to what we deemed most important to the average camping coffee drinker. The Editors' Choice winning Hario V60 has the highest performance and one of the lowest prices of all our contenders, thus representing an outstanding value. Likewise, the Best Buy winning Primula Brew Buddy and Melitta 1-Cup Pour-Over represent an excellent value with regard to a lightweight and compact backpacking brewer or an inexpensive car-camping pour-over.
No surprise here, 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. Most coffee drinkers don't want to sacrifice delicious coffee while camping and recognize that instant coffee 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 slamming coffee on the trail during the wee morning hours. We can help you achieve that, even with a bare-bones backpacking or car-camping 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 and the Wacaco Nanopresso are close seconds. These impressive brewers are closely followed by the ESPRO Travel Press and the Bialetti Musa. Some tasters did prefer the V60 and the Nanopresso over the AeroPress, though 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 Nanopresso scored surprisingly well in our taste tests, producing a rich shot of espresso with a caramel crema to rival the best baristas in the industry. The Bialetti Musa also scored fairly high in our taste tests. This stainless steel stove-top espresso maker produces a consistently delicious cup of coffee, as long as you remove it from the heat as soon as it finishes percolating.
The ESPRO 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 coupled with a patented system that stops extraction once pressed, you get an impressively delicious brew every time. The ESPRO also has special paper filters for use between the 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 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 you would prefer to avoid creating more 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 and the MSR MugMate both deliver 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 with hot water. That said, how you prepare and use your chosen pour-over dripper will dramatically affect the taste. There are many essential variables: quality of beans, freshness, the quantity used, grind size, water temperature, and how you physically pour the water. Videos abound on the internet, offering tutorials and advice on honing your technique to make consistently good pour-over coffee.
Ease of Use
If you are one of those people who doesn't wake up until after your first cup of caffeine, then the simpler the brewing process, the better. Resources are often limited while camping, so models with easier cleanup are absolutely appreciated. Whether you want a second or third cup or you prefer hitting the trail as quickly as possible, a complicated coffee brewing process 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 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'll be camping, then a french press may be the best option and an easy way to accommodate multiple people. If you're in a dry area with limited access to water, then another brew style that requires less water for clean-up will be ideal.
The AeroPress is a breeze to clean — just remove the piece that holds the filter and press the plunger to pop out the puck of coffee grounds. However, this device requires a bit more knowhow to use and has more parts to contend with. Both the Bialetti Musa and the GSI MiniEspresso are easy to use and clean. With both of these, it is fairly easy to pound the portafilter into the trash and then wipe the coffee grounds out with your finger.
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, and all of the pour-over devices require some finesse to produce a consistently drinkable cup of coffee. 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 and the Sea to Summit X-Brew 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 Brew Buddy is the easiest to clean because of its shape and small surface area — simply turn the filter inside out and voila, it's clean. The MugMate isn't far behind, though its rigid design makes it a tiny bit harder to rinse clean. For a quick and dirty clean-up, you can simply tap the MugMate to evacuate the grounds and clean it more thoroughly when you have access to a stream or water source. Both the MugMate and the Brew Buddy score well on this metric because they are simple to perfect, have minimal pieces to contend with, and are relatively easy to 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, with regard to ease of use, instant coffee will always be king. Nothing is easier than opening a packet and pouring water (hot or cold) to mix with the grounds. 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 ups the ante for this category. First Ascent roasts specialty-grade beans so you get a much better tasting cup than cheaper mainstream brands — just make sure to add less water than the packet suggests, unless you want bean-tea. Alternatively, Kuju Coffee Pocket Pour-Over sources single-origin coffee for their near-instant single-use pour-over. After steeping the coffee for a few minutes, clean-up is a breeze. Simply throw the filter in your trash bag, rinse your mug, and move-on to the next part of your day.
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 20 or 48-ounce version. 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 greatest capacity and if you're willing to test the limits, it 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 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 options from First Ascent and Kuju score the highest. We include instant coffee in our review for all you gram-counters and alpine-starters. Sometimes you need to shave every gram possible even if it means sacrificing a little flavor. However, with instant coffees as good as these two options, you 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 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, of course, the MugMate, our Top Pick for Backpacking. 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 Sea to Summit X-Brew, the GSI Collapsible Java Drip, and the Snow Peak Collapsible. The first two are made out of silicone, and the third is made out of stainless steel. They are all highly portable, decently lightweight, and highly durable. We much prefer the Snow Peak for flavor, but the X-Brew and GSI are compressible which is wonderful for saving space in your pack.
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 can be clipped with a carabiner onto the outside of a pack if you run out of space on the inside.
None of the brewing devices tested can 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 and Kuju are ideal for backcountry missions where you don't want to burden an already heavy pack weighed down with gear. However, for long-distance backpacking or through-hiking, instant coffee can get pretty dang spendy, so we recommend saving some money and carrying a reusable option that will produce far more delicious coffee for a fraction of the cost.
After weighing each contender individually on a scale, the MugMate was the lightest, weighing just a single ounce with the optional lid/coaster and 0.7 ounces without it. The Brew Buddy and GSI Ultralight are just a smidge heavier at 1.1 ounces, and the Melitta 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, Cafellissimo, and and X-Brew are some of the next lightest options, with all three hovering right around 3 ounces. The V60 requires filters, however, while the Cafellissimo and the X-Brew do not, and the X-Brew is compressible, taking up a fraction of the space. 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.
For all you savvy backpackers out there, the Snow Peak Titanium French Press is another rad option. While it does weigh much more than the previous options at 6.2 ounces, you can place the vessel of the press directly on the stove, eliminating the need for an additional pot for boiling water (or, at the very least, freeing up your pot for other tasks). If you're psyched on going fast and light and don't plan to fuss around with complicated meals, the Snow Peak proves rather versatile by quashing the need for an additional pot.
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 find instant coffee acceptable, but others want 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 so you can hone in on the perfect brewer for your sacred morning ritual.
— Mary Witlacil and Penney Garrett