7 Ways to Make Coffee While Camping

By Molly Herber

Jan 6, 2017

green coffee mug with orange NOLS logo sitting in the snow with steam rising off it
Photo by Molly Herber

The morning ritual of making a hot beverage is precious to many an outdoorsperson (and a pain for the ones who like to get out of camp quickly). Interrupting that ritual could mean a full day of silence until you make up for it by giving up your last Snickers bar or promising to do dishes for the rest of the trip.

You might think that options are limited for making coffee while you’re camping, but you really have all kinds of choices.

Here we’ve listed just seven ways you can make coffee while you’re camping, from the simplest to the fanciest (we’ll leave it up to you to determine which one gives you the best quality).

Your method will probably depend on the type of trip you’re taking, whether it's a long backpacking trip, short road trip, river trip, or something in between.

Everyone has their personal touch for coffee making (like adding powdered coconut milk). Since we don’t include coffee in our rations at NOLS, coffee drinkers can experiment to figure out what works best for them.

Try out some of these ideas and see which coffee you like best!

Cowboy Coffee

pouring coffee from a metal container into a blue plastic bottle
Photo from the NOLS Cooking Show

Pros: Simplicity; no fancy equipment needed

Cons: May drink coffee grounds along with the coffee

How to make it

  1. Boil water (suggested 6 cups water for 4-6 Tbsp. of coffee)
  2. Stir in coffee grounds
  3. Let sit (*This is key so the grounds sink to the bottom of the pot)
  4. Pour into your drinking container
  5. Drink

Instant Coffee

Pros: No grounds at the end; efficiency; no fancy equipment needed; easy cleanup

Cons: Not quite as delicious as other coffee types

How to make it

  1. Choose your coffee type (you can find a huge variety of options at most grocery stores).
  2. Put the crystals in your drinking container (water bottle, bowl, mate gourd, etc.)
  3. Pour in boiling water
  4. Let sit for a few seconds, then drink

*Pro tip: Some brands can be made with cold water for “iced” coffee—perfect for an alpine start or when you don’t want to get your stove out.

**You can plan ahead by packaging your instant coffee into the serving sizes you want (empty spice bottles work well), or packing the coffee from a bulk container into its own plastic bag.

Coffee Sock

gloved hand holds out a white coffee sock
Photo from the NOLS Cooking Show

Pros: No grounds; when you aren’t camping, they’re more environmentally-friendly than paper coffee filters

Cons: Need to buy a one-purpose item; not easy to clean

How to make it

  1. Put grounds in the sock (we suggest using drip grind coffee grounds)
  2. Boil water
  3. Pour hot water over sock into your vessel
  4. Drink

Mug Insert (Infuser)

Dumping ground coffee into a mesh filter
Photo from the NOLS Cooking Show

Pros: More durable than a coffee sock; can also use for making loose leaf tea

Cons: Somewhat bulky item

How to make it

  1. Fill the insert with coffee grounds
  2. Place insert in your drinking container
  3. Pour boiling water into your container
  4. Let sit for a minute or two, then remove the filter and drink (the longer it sits, the stronger the coffee)

French Press

Pros: Delicious coffee; makes multiple cups of coffee at a time

Cons: More bulky item to pack; slightly longer brew time

How to make it

  1. Put the grounds into the French press (we advise slightly coarser grounds, 1 Tbsp. per cup)
  2. Add boiling water
  3. Wait about 4 minutes
  4. Plunge the French press
  5. Drink

Aero Press

hands using an aero press sitting on a table to make coffee
Photo from the NOLS Cooking Show

Pros: Delicious coffee; more portable and less likely to crack than a French press; makes one serving at a time

Cons: More bulky item to use; has several different pieces; makes one serving at a time

How to make it

  1. Put the grounds into the press (1 scoop per serving)
  2. Put press over your drinking container
  3. Pour in boiling water
  4. Plunge
  5. Drink


Pouring coffee into a red mug from metal bialetti
Photo from the NOLS Cooking Show

Pros: Delicious coffee, good for car camping

Cons: Heavy piece of equipment

How to make it

  1. Pour in grounds (espresso grind recommended)
  2. Add water
  3. Place on camp stove and heat until the coffee boils
  4. Drink

Watch: How to Make Coffee Outdoors

Come make coffee outside—explore NOLS expeditions today.

Written By

Molly Herber

Molly is a NOLS instructor and writer. She loves the smell of her backpack and does her best writing before 7:00 am. When she's not scouting the next post for the NOLS Blog, she's running and climbing on rocks in Wyoming. Follow her on Instagram @mgherber

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