Some say camping without beer is just sitting in the woods. Most MEC staff feel the same way about camping without coffee. As of this summer, we carry more than 100 different kinds of coffee-making products. So to help campers get their buzz on we created a guide to outdoor coffee creating to help you drag yourself out of your tent and get appropriately caffeinated for a day of camping shenanigans.
A warm cup of joe is like warm company in the morning while you wait for a fellow camper to start the fire and whip up a skillet of scrambled eggs, or while you scrounge through the cooler for a leftover hot dog wiener from last night’s dinner.
Some coffee addicts are more selective than others, so use this spectrum – ordered from most expedient to most refined – to help you narrow your options and match your coffee style.
For example, if you prefer a bolder, grittier coffee then opt for the French press or reusable filter. Alternatively, if you’re looking for a cleaner, brighter flavour, you might prefer the pour-over or AeroPress method as part of your camp coffee routine. Read on for more details, coffee lovers.
Gu Espresso Love Gel
At first sight, the espresso gel might be the least appealing; however the 5-star reviews tell us there’s more to this untraditional ‘spro than meets the eye. Reviewers describe the taste as “just awesome” and “more like a dessert.” Plus, you can get your caffeine boost in about 7 seconds, without ever boiling a cup of water. Give it a try and let us know if you’re feeling the espresso love.
Method: Tear open package. Squeeze in mouth. Swallow.
Fussiness level: Completely and utterly unfussy
Flavour profile: Gooey, chocolatey
Bean grind: None. It’s the easiest way to get caffeinated, even easier than chewing on a handful of beans.
Pro tip: These are gluten and dairy free. Can double as dessert.
A re-usable, submersible filter made of mesh is almost as simple as it gets. We like the MSR Mug Mate Coffee Filter version. You can brew your favourite cup o’ joe with minimal fuss and bother. Just put in a few scoops of your select roast, pour in boiling water, and voilà, fresh coffee.
Method: Dump grinds into filter. Pour boiling water over top
Fussiness level: Minimal fuss
Flavour profile: Bold, gritty, rich
Bean grind: Coarse
Pro tip: For slightly less gritty coffee, remove the filter from your cup after 1.5 minutes. Works for tea too.
Want to make a lot of coffee in a hurry? The French Press is your new camping companion. Make almost 1L of seriously good coffee. We carry several styles of the French Press and the GSI Java Press is one of best reviewed. The plunger has a silicone ring to eliminate stray grounds from getting in the brew. Plus, the insulated nylon cozy keep things hot in case you like sleep later than the early birds among your camping crew.
Method: Dump grinds into pot. Add boiling water. Cover. Wait a bit. Press.
Fussiness level: Not very fussy
Flavour profile: Thick, gritty, rich
Bean grind: Coarse
Percolators were all the rage before electric drip machines became a staple in most households. This stainless steel Stanley percolator is tough enough to withstand boiling over an open flame. Plus the ergonomic handle makes for easy pouring even for the sleepiest of campers.
Method: Fill chamber with grinds. Add boiling water. Wait and watch the knob as the water becomes coffee.
Fussiness level: Medium fuss, patience required
Flavour profile: Smooth, mild
Bean grind: Coarse
Pro tip: When you’re done making coffee, remove the ground chamber and use the base pot to boil hot water for oatmeal or to re-hydrate meals.
At age 76, the inventor of the Aerobie flying ring decided he wanted a way to create a single perfect cup of coffee without turning on the electric coffee machine. After 40 iterations, the AeroPress coffee maker was born. The AeroPress is arguably one of the best ways to make coffee while camping or at home. It delivers a perfect cup with crema and all, and weighs less than the average hiking boot. Coffee snob approved.
Method: There are several different styles, but you could try this one: Dump one scoop of grounds into the chamber. Add splash of water to bloom. Wait 20 to 30 seconds. Add the rest of the water filling to the top. Stir. Wait 45 to 60 seconds. Place microfilter in the basket and twist onto plunger. Plunge.
Fussiness level: The multi-step AeroPress process is a welcome ritual and celebration for refined coffee addicts. If you were to make a fuss about one thing while you’re camping, let this be it.
Flavour profile: Smooth, clean, crisp
Bean grind: Fine
Pro tip: Rinse your AeroPress filter once it’s in the basket to get rid of any paper flavour. Pre-heat your mug by swishing it with hot water.
Pour over drip
Drip coffee has become widely available and most local coffee shops and roasters. It’s one of the simplest ways to deliver a clean and bright cup of coffee without all the bells and whistles, especially this 5-star rated GSI Collapsible Java Drip version. It’s a civilized compact drip setup that brews coffee for 1 to 2 groggy campers, and collapses into a flat portable circle.
Method: Place filter in cone. Add grounds. Add a splash of boiling water to bloom grounds. Wait 20 to 30 seconds. Add the rest of the water is a swirling motion.
Fussiness level: It’s not fuss; it’s a labour of love.
Flavour profile: Clean, crisp, delicate
Bean grind: Medium-coarse
Pro tip: Place the cone directly over your travel mug so the coffee stays hot for longer.
For amateur or experienced baristas, the Handpresso will get you the perfect shot, and impress your fellow campers. It may look a bit like a bike pump, but it makes a fine shot of espresso topped with perfect crema.
Method: Pump the unit up to the green bar. Pour in boiling water. Fill the DomePod with ground coffee or ESE pods. Lock on the lid and press out the elixir of life (aka high quality espresso).
Fussiness level: Once you find the perfect grind, prepare your pod, heat your water to 92 degrees, and give it just enough pressure, this tool will work better than an expensive Italian espresso machine. Worth the fuss.
Flavour profile: Clean, crisp
Bean grind: Fine
Pro tip: Pick up a DomePod case which allows you to pre-load your grinds into individual pods for each espresso, reducing your prep time at camp.
If you found this post helpful, share it on social. And don’t forget to tag @mec in your camp coffee photos on Instagram.
Canada’s go-to place for outdoor gear, know-how and inspiration, MEC is a co-op owned by the people who shop here. A lifetime membership is $5, the same since 1971. New to MEC? Learn all about member benefits.