Advice on Buying Coffee Makers for Camping

All three cone-style droppers during one of our head to head taste tests.
Article By:
McKenzie Long
Senior Review Editor
OutdoorGearLab

Last Updated:
Monday

Considerations for purchasing a coffee maker for camping are not as technical and involved as other outdoor purchases, but it may just be the most important. If you are reading this you are probably overjoyed that there are coffee makers designed for camping! All of the products in this review are portable and can adequately supply caffeine for your craving, but the really important factor is, does it satisfy your refined palette? We know that we won't settle for just any cup of cheap, muddy joe, so we searched out the best and most delicious ways to brew while outdoors.

Also, check out this review of the Hario Skerton if you feel the need for fresh grounds to go with your coffee maker. However, the Skerton, and all manual coffee makers we have tested take 2 or more minutes to grind one cup of coffee. We prefer just bringing preground coffee.

Some things to consider when purchasing one: are you looking for the best flavor or the lightest possible method? The easiest to use or the most packable? If you have to have coffee every morning, chances are you probably already have a preference for how you like it brewed, so you may already have an idea of what you are looking for. Here is a quick run-down of types of coffee makers aimed at the camper. Our Best in Class review gives a more detailed breakdown of the factors we find important when purchasing one for camping excursions.

Percolators
Percolators are the old school way of brewing while camping. (Well, short of cowboy coffee, where you just boil water and throw in the grounds.) Typically a percolator is a metal pot with a basket inside, which you fill with grounds. Then as the water below boils, it bubbles up into the grinds. It takes about three minutes and has a rough flavor.

French Press
French Presses are very easy use, but a pain to clean. You make your cup by adding grounds to the bottom of a container, adding water, and letting it steep. When you are ready to drink, push down a screen to stop the grounds and pour your drink out. French presses result in a distinctive murky flavor that some people love.

Pour-Over Style Drip
The pour-over is a simple, yet refined way of making your morning cup of joe. True coffee snobs have very particular methods for making it, down to hand grinding, measuring the temperature of the water with a thermometer, and timing how long the water sits in the grounds. For those of you who aren't that particular, it still makes a satisfying cup without much fuss. Since all it requires is a cone and a filter, it is easily portable.

Gas Grill Coffee Maker
Example: Coleman Camping Coffee Maker. We include butane/propane powered ones, such as the Brunton Brewfire, in this category as well. Essentially, these are pots suspiciously like the ones that sit on your kitchen counter at home, only they use either your gas grill or fuel canisters to power them. You still end up with a full pot, just like at home. These systems are bulky and rather expensive, but they can brew easily for groups, and are the most similar to a standard at-home apparatuses.

Espresso Makers
The AeroPress falls into this category, as do the tiny metal espresso brewers. These are for the purists who want the most from their coffee every morning, even if the brew process is slightly more complicated.

Instant
For those of you big on flavor, this is your least likely choice. For those of you concerned with weight, this is the best choice. Instant coffee requires no actual maker and hardly weighs anything. The downside is that is never tastes as good as a freshly brewed cup. However, for a backpacker, this would be the most ideal method.

Hungry? For tip and tricks while backpacking, check out the Best Backpacking Food. If you're car camping and weight is not a concern, consider learning how to use a dutch oven in the Best Camping Food article.

McKenzie Long wearing the Petzl Elia Helmet at dawn on a glacier approach in Patagonia.
McKenzie Long
About the Author
After graduating from University of Cincinnati with a degree in graphic design, McKenzie moved to the mountains to spend as much of her time climbing as possible. It started with an internship at Alpinist Magazine and a move to Jackson, Wyoming where she fell in love with the peaks of the West. Now she lives in Mammoth Lakes, California and runs her own freelance design business, where she is constantly balancing work and play.

 
 

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