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Whether your campsite tends to be a dozen feet from a car or in the middle of the Pacific Crest Trail, there’s a powerful, invigorating feeling evoked when the aroma of freshly brewed coffee floats amongst the tents on a chilly, mist-shrouded morning. A successful camping trip requires — at a minimum — certain essential items, right? Shelter, dry clothes, food, and a great camping coffee maker — because even when all else goes to hell, having a hot cup of joe can set your mind right and help salvage the worst of camping experiences.
But camping by definition makes cooking, in general, more challenging than when you’re at home, and this is also true for making coffee. You can’t just throw a Mister Coffee into your backpack, so now you’ve got to decide how to brew the nectar of the gods. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. By the time you’ve finished this guide, you’ll know exactly what kind of camping coffee maker you should get to ensure that, no matter what may come during your next outdoor adventure, at the least you’ll face it properly caffeinated.
As always, personal experience, internal and external expert opinion, product research, and user reviews help decide what to include in this guide. I’ve spent a lot of time camping, backpacking, and hiking in Alaska, the Smokies, along the Appalachian mountains, and areas in between (to say nothing of deployment time in austere environments), and access to coffee is always a prime consideration. So I started pulling this list together by using this experience to scour the internet for coffee makers that could feasibly be used in the great outdoors.
Since any camping gear necessitates a certain degree of ruggedness and portability, these two characteristics guided our choices considerably. Plus, the product had to be functional in the isolation of a campsite (or deployment site). Weight and size are key considerations for campsite coffee makers, and you’ll see that, with one exception, all the gear on this list are very lightweight and compact. Bottom line, the coffee makers that made this list had to be able to produce a good cup of joe, with minimal setup and teardown. Plus, it had to be tough enough to be banged around a bit.
As I narrowed down the contenders, I compared my list to other gear experts to see how our picks lined up. The outdoor experts at OutdoorGearLab, CleverHiker, and REI all curate great lists, and there are a number of areas where we overlap. I then determined the finalists by carefully reviewing product pages, both from the makers when possible, and on Amazon or other third-party vendor pages as well. Only products with an overwhelming percentage (greater than 70 percent) of positive reviews could make the cut. Click here for more info on our methodology.
If you research camping coffee makers at all, you’ll find that the AeroPress is the clear king of the mountain.The AeroPress Original rolled out in 2005, and because of the simple yet solid design, it is a great choice for camping in its own right. However, in 2019, the company introduced the AeroPress Go, a slightly smaller version that can be transported in an accompanying cup and soft gel cap, making for extremely easy packing.
The magic with the AeroPress Go is in the plunger design. After placing a paper microfilter in the filter cap and attaching it to the bottom chamber, simply put one to three scoops of fine ground coffee beans into it. You then add hot water until it rises to the easily read number on the side that corresponds to the number of scoops (so, one, two, or three), and then stir for a few seconds. Finally, insert the plunger and press over the cup until you can’t press any more. What results is concentrated espresso. To get “American coffee,” just add hot water to make one to three cups. Once finished, unscrew the cap, pop out the filter and grounds, and rinse. It’s ready to go for your next cup.
If there’s one drawback, it’s the need for the specialized paper microfilter. You get 350 of them with the AeroPress Go, which will last quite a while. Interestingly, the company made a deliberate choice to not make a metal mesh filter. It insists the coffee simply tastes better with its paper filter. That may be the case, but for a camping trip (and especially for a backpacking trip where “less is more”), having a reusable filter would be a nice thing to have. Fortunately, there are third party reusable filters on the market that fit the AeroPress. But be careful, as AeroPress says that while it’s cool with these filters, it won’t honor the one-year warranty for any damage that might result from the use of someone else’s product.
- Type: Pressure
- Weight: 11.2 ounces
- Filter type: Paper microfilter
Compact and lightweight
Innovative design maximizes simplicity and flavor
Easy to clean
Uses microfiber paper filter, so be sure to not run out of them
The kind of camping you plan on doing will likely dictate just how fancy a coffee maker you’ll want to bring with you. If you’re going on a long backpacking trip where you need to shed every ounce possible from your load, then the smaller and lighter the gear, the better.
That’s where the Primula Brew Buddy shines. This barebones device weighs in at just about an ounce, and fits over most coffee mugs. All you have to do is put a rounded scoop of coffee into the fine mesh pouch suspended in the middle of the brew buddy, place it on top of your mug, and then slowly pour hot water over the coffee until the mug fills. The packaging of the Brew Buddy says “coffee in 30 seconds,” but that makes for a weak cup of joe. I let it steep for at least four to five minutes (like you would for a French press), after which you get a great cup.
Since the filter is a flexible fine mesh (kind of like a tea bag), to clean it all you have to do is push the filter through the center, dump the used grounds, and then rinse. This filter may not meet with every coffee snob’s approval. After all, paper filters absorb bean oils and remove some bitterness from the coffee, and the Brew Buddy doesn’t do that. But I found the coffee it produces quite smooth, and definitely worth your consideration. This is especially so, considering the price point ($6.99 at Amazon as of this writing).
- Type: Steeping/pour over
- Weight: 0.96 ounce
- Filter type: Fine mesh
Simple design makes coffee in minutes
Very easy to clean
Can brew only one cup at a time
Coffee can be weak unless you let it steep at least 5 minutes
In a way, the French press is ideal for camping. By just adding water and pushing down a plunger, you can have fantastic coffee in minutes. The trick is having one that isn’t bulky, doesn’t weigh too much, and won’t break when you need it most.
Enter the ESPRO P0 Ultralight Travel Press. It’s lightweight, coming in at less than eight ounces, but made of stainless steel to help it endure the rigors of being strapped to the outside of a ruck or backpack. Although it has a couple of parts to keep track of, they’re contained within the thermos. When you’re ready, just add your coffee, then the hot water, then after a few minutes of steeping, press down the plunger like any other French press. Once you’re finished, just pull out the plunger, rinse, and repeat when needed.
A cool thing with the P0 is that you have the option to use a paper filter with it (sold separately). So, if you’re the type who likes your coffee with a little less bean oil, then you can slide a filter inside the double micro-filter. But if somehow your filters get ruined or you just run out, you’re not dead in the water.
- Type: Steeping/French press
- Weight: 7.40 ounces
- Filter type: Double micro-filter
Lightweight but durable
Can make coffee with or without paper filter
Double-walled and vacuum-sealed helps keep coffee hot
Although 16-ounce capacity, only makes 12 ounces of coffee
Plunger can be hard to push down
The French press is a great design for camping coffee makers, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that these types show up frequently in top product lists. The Widesea Camping Pot is another of this variety, but it has the advantage of making enough coffee for a couple of cups at once. With a 30-ounce total capacity, the Widesea can produce just over three eight-ounce cups of coffee, which is great if you’re the designated coffee maker in your group.
Most camping coffee makers need to have hot water added to them to make your joe. What that usually means is you pretty much have to bring another pot that you can boil water in, which takes up more room and adds more weight. But the Widesea Camping Pot gets around this by making the coffee maker your boiling pot as well. Simply pour in water, set the Widesea on your fire or cooking device until it reaches a boil, then remove, add your coffee, and press.
This innovation and brewing capacity are fantastic, but there are a couple of things to make note of, especially if you’re a coffee snob. First, a common issue noted by reviewers is that the filter doesn’t keep all the grounds out of your coffee, so be prepared for that. Secondly, although it’s great that the Widesea can brew up to 25 ounces of coffee (the other five ounces of the 30-ounce capacity are taken up by the press itself and the grounds), the aluminum metal doesn’t hold heat well, so if you’re drinking that yourself, expect it to cool pretty fast. But all told, this is a solid coffee maker for a good price.
- Type: Steeping/French press
- Weight: 8 ounces
- Filter type: Metal microfilter
Larger (25-ounce) brewing capacity
Coffee maker can double as your mug
No paper filters
Aluminum mug means heat retention not great
Filter doesn’t keep all grounds from getting into your coffee
For the true coffee aficionado who refuses to go without an espresso, even when trudging through the Appalachian Trail, the Wacaco Nanopresso Portable Espresso Maker is for you.
Normally, espresso is made by using high pressure to force hot water through finely ground coffee beans. The Nanopresso delivers this pressure by a patented manual pump mechanism. Once you’ve added the coffee and hot water, a pump on the side is engaged. After about 30 pumps, you’ll have about three ounces of potent, delicious espresso to enjoy with your oatmeal or powerbar.
As you’ve probably guessed, the Nanopresso is a little more complicated (and a bit more expensive) device than most of these other camping coffee makers. Cleaning is still relatively easy, but there are more parts to keep track of, so be careful when you strike camp. Plus, the instructions indicate that you’ll want to measure out eight ounces of grounds, which you certainly won’t do when camping. So be sure to practice with your Nanopresso before your next outdoor adventure.
- Type: Pressure/espresso
- Weight: 11.9 ounces
- Filter type: Integrated filter basket
Delicious espresso with no battery or electric power needed
Comes with durable travel case
Cup included and attached to espresso maker
Some precision needed for best results; may want to practice before camping
More complicated than most camping coffee makers
When it comes to the basics, there are two very simple sources for coffee. The first is “cowboy coffee,” where you just toss your grounds into boiling water, pour it in a cup, then cross your fingers and drink. The second is the venerable percolator, which can be as basic as a metal pot with an upper chamber connected by a metal tube. Your great-grandparents probably used this kind of coffee maker, which was invented in the late 19th century and is still widely used to this day.
The Coletti Bozeman Percolator Coffee Pot is more than a basic metal pot. Made of stainless steel, with a glass knob in the lid and wooden handle on the side, this pot is durable and made for the campfire. The company was founded in 2016 by a U.S. Army veteran, who knew a thing or two about the rigors of the field. Functionally, it operates like any other percolator, by putting water into the metal carafe, and then coffee grounds in the upper basket (this percolator can also use a paper filter if that suits your taste buds). Put on the lid and then place the Bozeman on your fire or camp stove, and wait for the percolations.
Some of the Bozeman’s best selling points are also potential liabilities, however, depending on what kind of camping you plan on doing. It’s large enough to supply nine to 12 cups at a time, which is fantastic for those large camping getaways, but not so much if you’re camping deep in the wilderness. The Bozeman is the heaviest coffee maker on this list by far, weighing in at two pounds. There are few backpackers who would be willing to lug this very far, but if your camp is close to your car, then this is a great choice.
- Type: Drip, percolator
- Weight: 2 pounds
- Filter type: Metal mesh, paper optional
Stainless steel and durable
Optional paper filter use
Can make 9-12 cups (depending on model)
Heavy, not ideal for backpacking
Percolator knob can chip if dropped
The GSI Outdoors Personal JavaPress delivers the essentials for a French press coffee maker for the campsite. It’s light (combined with the nested mug, it still weighs under 11 ounces), it’s durable (made of copolyester/polypropylene), and it makes a clean cup of coffee (up to 20 ounces, although the mug can only hold 17 ounces). Fortunately, both the French press carafe and the drinking mug are insulated, so if you have to hold on to some extra for a bit, it’ll remain hot a little longer.
Making coffee with the JavaPress is as easy as any other French press. Add your coffee, then your water, let it sit for a few minutes, and then press. Once you’re finished, just remove the plunger and clean. Some buyers have indicated the JavaPress is hard to clean in places with limited water, which could result in making it tougher to operate the plunger, so keep an eye out for that when finishing your morning brew.
- Type: Steeping/French press
- Weight: 10.8 ounces
- Filter type: Mesh filter
Comes with nested drinking mug
Tight sip-it lids prevent spills, great for uneven campgrounds
Silicone-ringed plunger ensures grounds don’t mix with coffee
Lifetime warranty against defects
None to speak of!
Although it uses a different brewing style, the GSI Outdoor Ultralight Java Drip is built in a similar manner as the Primula Brew Buddy. By this, I mean it uses a silicone platform (in this case a cone) to support a filter to brew coffee. Unlike the Brew Buddy, however, the Java Drip acts more like your coffee maker at home. After placing the cone over your receptacle, place a #4 filter in it and measure the right amount of grounds for how many cups you need to make. Then you can simply pour in the hot water and the coffee will drip through, ready to drink.
So you may wonder why the Javdrip is our choice for best coffee maker for backpackers, when the Brew Buddy is a little smaller and weighs a good five ounces less. The answer is because you can make up to 12 cups of coffee with the Java Drip. That means if you’re part of a group, one person can supply coffee for everyone, which removes the need for multiple coffee makers. Or you can just make a single cup. So it’s this flexibility that makes the Java Drip a great choice for backpackers.
The main drawback, of course, is the need for filters. Be sure to pack as many as you’ll need for your trip, and keep them in a waterproof container. Otherwise, you may have some explaining to do to a cranky group of people, if you’re the designated coffee maker.
- Type: Drip
- Weight: 6.3 ounces
- Filter type: Paper
Collapsable and lightweight
Uses standard #4 coffee filter
Able to brew up to 12 cups of coffee
Lifetime warranty against defects
Separate paper filters to keep track of
Our verdict on camping coffee makers
There are a lot of choices when it comes to camping coffee makers, and the trick is to make sure what you want fits the type of camping you plan on doing. If you want to ensure your camping is fueled by great coffee, you can’t go wrong with the simple and durable AeroPress Go. If you want to spend a little less and demand a smaller footprint, then the Primula Brew Buddy is the perfect coffee companion.
What to consider when buying a camping coffee maker
While there are numerous types of coffee makers, there are four broad categories: those that brew via pressure, those that allow the grounds to steep, those that brew via drip, and, finally, those that brew by boiling.
Types of camping coffee makers
This kind of coffee maker extracts the coffee goodness by forcing boiling/hot water through it via high pressure. Espresso is the result, and products like the AeroPress Go and the GSI Outdoors Personal JavaPress use it quite effectively using only manual power. To make a full cup of coffee, you typically have to add additional water after it’s brewed. These are less common (and tend to be a little more expensive) for camping simply because of the need for perfect seals and high-pressure mechanisms.
A steep brew is one of the most simple, yet effective, methods of brewing up your coffee. While it’s often associated with the French press, all you need is a pot to add your hot water to the grounds; let it steep for three to five minutes, depending on taste; and then use something to push out the grounds and leave behind just the coffee (in the case of the French press, this would be the plunger).
There are other steep brew coffee makers out there, including coffee in tea bags, and the siphon-style that does a cool little magic trick by heating the water in a lower vessel, which is connected to a higher vessel via a tube of some kind. When the water gets to the boiling point, pressure forces the water into the upper chamber where the coffee grounds are. You then remove the heat source, and as the coffee cools, it slowly trickles down through a special filter back into the lower chamber. It’s not actually too complicated, but awkward enough that you probably don’t want to take it camping.
Dependable coffee makers like the Mister Coffee you have at home, and the trusty percolator coffee maker, fall into the drip brew category. This is a fundamentally simple type of coffee maker and is capable of making a lot of coffee at once. Water is boiled, then rises (in the case of a percolator) into the where the grounds are stored, where it continues to boil until the heat is removed and the coffee drains through a filter to leave behind the grinds (and some oils, if you’re using a paper filter).
This simplicity of design makes percolators great coffee makers for camping, although the larger ones are likely too bulky and heavy for backpacking into more remote areas.
This is the most basic way to make coffee, and the most common example is often called “cowboy coffee.” While there are some ways of making the most of this (check out this post from The Roasterie for a more nuanced method), you’re literally just boiling water with coffee grounds in it. After a few minutes, the grounds will be floating on a layer at the top, so sprinkle some cold water on top to make it sink. Then just pour carefully for a stout, slightly crunch cup of joe.
During my research for this article, I asked a Facebook group for Appalachian Trail hikers what they did for coffee, and a couple of them actually replied they use this method. Their reasoning was simple: They needed a caffeine jolt but didn’t want to carry around a coffee maker. The trade-off, unfortunately, is flavor and smoothness.
Key features of camping coffee makers
Coffee makers designed to make your brew while camping are more spartan affairs than the ones you have in the kitchen. At home and with electric power, you’ve got a number of key features you want: temperature setting, brew strength, type of filter, and how fast it produces the good stuff. Unless you’re glamping and simply lugging around a full-sized espresso machine in your RV, the camping coffee maker has only a couple of essential features to consider.
How large of a coffee maker do you want to transport to the campsite? If you’re car camping, then a larger and heavier coffee maker will serve you and your party very well. But if you’re backcountry camping or backpacking, then you’ll likely pay closer attention to how much room it takes up. But remember, most coffee makers have cavities that can store other things while you’re hiking, so you may be able to offset the room taken up by a larger pot by putting your coffee and other small items within it.
Pretty much all coffee makers need a filter of some sort to keep grounds from getting into the finished product. Coffee makers use either integrated filters (like the mesh filters on a French press plunger), or they need paper filters. The downside of some camping coffee makers is they need specially made paper filters, which is only a problem when you realize you’re out of them, or maybe you forgot to pack them.
One can debate the flavor superiority of paper vs metal/mesh filters, but the important thing is understanding what you have and planning accordingly. While it’s true that integrated filters never run out, some mesh filters can fray over time, which leads to a crunch coffee experience.
As with size, the weight of the coffee maker comes into play depending on the type of camping you plan on doing. Large metal percolators can easily liven up your car camping experience, but you may be cussing about dragging it to your campsite on top of a mountain. Many backpackers who shed every possible extra ounce from their loads will identify a “luxury item” to bring. Like many, my luxury item is my coffee maker. Be sure to factor in the weight you’re willing to carry to your campsite.
Pricing for camping coffee makers
For the most part, camping coffee makers are pretty simple pieces of gear: You need something to hold your coffee grounds, something to boil water in, and something to put the two together in some way. Because of this, there are coffee makers that are extremely inexpensive that can give you a good cup of joe. Typically, coffee makers under $20 will be a steep style, meaning it’ll have a mesh that holds the grounds that you let steep in hot water. These almost never come with a mug to drink it with, so you’ll need to supply that yourself.
As you go up in price, the coffee makers get a little more complex. You can find percolators and French presses for $20 to $40. The cheaper ones will often use aluminum to cut down on weight. These are fine although they blacken and discolor pretty quickly.
The higher-quality coffee makers will use more stainless steel. Once you go over $40, you can get some pretty high-quality, more sophisticated coffee makers like the AeroPress Go and the ESPRO P0 Ultralight. At this price, the coffee makers should be durable, well-made, and able to produce a great-tasting cup of coffee.
Tips and Tricks
As with something you do for decades upon decades, you pick up a few tips and tricks along the way in terms of selecting the right product, and/or using it. That’s the case with us and camping coffee makers. To help you bridge the information gap, here’s a selection of what we’ve learned along the way.
- Remember the golden rule of camping is “leave no trace.” If you’re drinking coffee in the great outdoors, don’t dump your grounds just anywhere. Most experienced campers will tell you to haul it out with you like any other garbage. It’s the right thing to do.
- If in a group, split up the weight. Have one person bring the coffee maker, another the coffee, and another the water pot for boiling if needed. Most camping coffee makers make multiple cups or quickly make single cups so you won’t wait a long time.
- Practice with your camping coffee maker before your trip. There’s nothing worse than trying to enjoy a morning with a weak cup of joe because you can’t get the mix right.
FAQs about camping coffee makers
You’ve got questions. Task & Purpose has answers.
Q: What kind of coffee do you use in a camping percolator?
A: You’re better off using a coarse grind if your percolator is using an integrated metal filter, as this will result in fewer grounds sneaking into the coffee. If your percolator is high-quality and also uses a paper filter, you can get away with finer grinds.
Q: What is better: French press or percolator?
A: This truly is a matter of your tastes. Personally, I find the French press the better option because I can better control how long the coffee steeps and, therefore, the strength and bitterness of the brew. But string percolator coffee has its place.
Q: Are camping coffee makers worth it?
A: If you love coffee, they’re not only worth it, but they’re indispensable. The great thing is that there are some very inexpensive and simple coffee makers out there that make great coffee, as well as more costly premium options if you’re a true snob.