Skip to main content

The Manual may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site.

Aeropress, VSSL, Frazy, and more: How to make great coffee while camping

Don't feed or caffeinate the bears, though, please

A woman sitting and drinking a warm beverage by a green tent.
Julian Bialowas / Unsplash

Savvy world travelers know the single most important thing to pack is their passport. Without it, nothing else matters. For most campers, that one most important thing — the crown jewel of every camp load out — is coffee. Some would rather forget their underwear, their best backpacking tent, or their significant other at home than head out into the wild java-less.

There are plenty of ways to brew the perfect cup at home and almost as many for doing so in the wild. Most campers have pretty strong opinions on their preferred method — the right way, if you will — to make the best cup o’ joe. We’re not here to tell you which is best, but we can help steer the ship. Here is our favorite go-to gear for making great coffee while camping (or traveling or anywhere on the go, really).

A hot water kettle pouring water into an AeroPress Go Portable Camping Coffee Maker.
AeroPress

AeroPress Go Portable Coffeemaker

If you’re serious about making great camping coffee, there are two real contenders: A French press or an AeroPress. We like both. But for sheer convenience, ease of clean-up, and overall taste, we give a slight edge to AeroPress, and its AeroPress Go, in particular. We also like how easy it is to adjust the brew strength.

Flat lay of a VSSL Java Portable Coffee Grinder and a cup of coffee on a wooden table.
VSSL

VSSL Java Coffee Grinder

Good, fresh coffee starts with good, fresh grounds (more on that below). Most of us don’t want to pack the electric countertop grinder in our camping backpacks. VSSL’s Java Coffee Grinder is the next best thing. The beautiful design packs down ridiculously small, so it takes up little space in your pack, and the included carabiner makes it easy to stash wherever you need it. When you’re ready to brew, just pop open the handle, and you can have 20 grams of fresh ground — perfect for a single cup — in less than a minute.

Botlte of Frazy Vietnamese Coffee drink over ice in a cup.
Frazy

Frazy Flavored Ready-to-Drink Coffees

If you’re more of a “Trenta latte, extra whipped” drinker than a “double espresso, no sugar” sort, Frazy delivers the goods. The company’s ready-to-go coffee drinks are completely customizable. Start with your preferred flavor — say, Vietnamese Coffee — then customize it with your type of milk and sweetness level. Every bottle comes ready to drink, so all you need to do is pop the top and enjoy. Bonus: No refrigeration is necessary, so they’re backcountry-friendly.

Shop Now

Bottle of Pop & Bottle's Classic Coffee Super Concentrate isolated on a white background.
Pop & Bottle

Pop & Bottle Super Coffee Concentrate

Of course, packing a handful of ready-to-drink bottles of specialty coffee is fine if you’re planning to car camp. But it’s less than ideal if you’re eyeing a trip into the backcountry where space and weight matter. Pop & Bottle solves that problem with a unique coffee concentrate. Every eight-ounce bottle of concentrate makes up to 16 cups of joe. Drink it piping hot, add ice, or customize it with your favorite creamer or sweetener.

Nanopresso Portable Espresso Maker isolated on a plain white background.
Wacaco

Nanopresso Portable Espresso Machine

Coffee is fine, but if espresso is your jam, you need a way to make it on the go. Wacaco’s Nanopresso Portable Espresso Machine packs everything you need to make a solid cup of black into a ridiculously compact footprint. Fully collapsed down, it’ll fit inside your favorite water bottle with room to spare. Plus, it requires zero batteries or electricity. Just add coffee grounds, hot water, and less than 60 seconds of elbow grease, and you have the finest espresso shot you’ve ever sipped in the wild.

Box and packet of Death Wish Coffee Dark Roast Instant Coffee against a plain white background.
Death Wish Coffee

Death Wish Coffee Dark Roast Instant Coffee

For decades, instant coffee got a bad rap. But we’re living in 2023, and Death Wish Coffee finally figured out how to actually make it good. Its Dark Roast Instant Coffee is, hands-down, the simplest way to prepare a cuppa in the wild. The packets are ultra-compact and only require adding hot water and stirring with minimal waste and zero prep work involved. They’re even astronaut-approved! But be warned, every packet contains a whopping 300 milligrams of caffeine — that’s more than three times stronger than ordinary coffee.

Stainless kettle heating over a campfire grate.
zapCulture / Pixabay

A few final tips for making great camp coffee

No matter which camping coffee-making option you choose, there are a few universal tips to ensure an optimal brew. These apply to every method, from making cowboy coffee to your camp-friendly French press to a Nanopress.

Use the highest-quality coffee you can afford

Coders and chefs know, “Garbage in, garbage out.” Your final product is only as good as the ingredients you start with. Good coffee doesn’t have to cost a fortune. But, in general, more expensive coffee is usually better quality. That’s why we suggest buying the best quality coffee you can afford.

Start with whole beans and grind fresh

There’s no denying that already-ground coffee is easier to pack and work with when you’re camping. But coffee starts to go stale rather quickly once it’s ground. For the best-tasting cuppa, we highly recommend grinding your beans fresh right before brewing.

Get the water temperature right

It’s easy just to wait till your water’s boiling to assume it’s ready. But boiling water can (and usually does) actually burn your coffee grounds. The ideal hot water temperature for camping coffee is around 200 degrees. To achieve this in the wild, bring your water to a boil, then take it off the heat and let it sit for about 30 seconds. Then brew your coffee.

Editors' Recommendations

Mike Richard
Mike Richard has traveled the world since 2008. He's kayaked in Antarctica, tracked endangered African wild dogs in South…
How to organize your pantry so it actually makes sense
These tips will save you time every time you open your food pantry
Pantry full of jarred food

Spring has sprung, and now summer is almost here. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and the golf course is packed again. The arrival of this time of year ushers in the dreaded (but usually desperately needed) spring cleaning (which you can do in the summer, too). A great place to start your cleaning day is in one of the most used but often overlooked spaces in your home: the kitchen pantry. But how do you organize a pantry?

We spoke with Elisabeth Shake of Yourganized, a Chicago-based certified professional organizer and accredited staging professional, to get the best tips and tricks for organizing your pantry. Even if you don’t have a pantry and instead use cupboards, you will still benefit from this organizational guide, tips, and tricks.
What is a pantry?

Read more
Coffee vs. tea: Is one healthier than the other?
If you drink one or both, read our guide on coffee vs. tea
Cups of tea, coffee and hot chocolate

Over the last several years, there have been many debates about coffee vs. tea and which is better for you. And people ask the questions, "Is coffee good for you?" and "Is tea good for you?"

Some influencers and health advocates advise switching to green tea, chai tea, or matcha to forgo the "jolt" that often comes with drinking caffeine from coffee. You can instead opt for the slower and steadier stimulation that comes from the caffeine in green tea or the more concentrated version of green tea, matcha.
What is coffee and tea made of?

Read more
How a taco stand won a Michelin Star
Taco stand gets top honor
Cilantro in tacos

Michelin Stars are not just for white table cloth restaurants and dishes plated by careful tweezers. As of now, taco stands are in the mix, as one popular Mexico City place just revealed.

Tauería El Califa León is the first restaurant of its kind to garner such honors. Call it another nod to amazing Mexican cuisine or a long-overdue celebration of street food. Whatever the rationale, the formality is significant for a restaurant hocking $5 dishes and operating out of a cart.

Read more