How to Make Coffee While Backpacking

How to Make Coffee While Backpacking

Coffee is one of the most controversial beverages in terms of health benefits.  Some experts say it is complete garbage and others rave about the benefits it offers.   I personally think that the reported benefits (like antioxidants, B vitamins, and lower risk of Alzheimer’s) outweigh the drawbacks as long as you’re not adding a bunch of sugar to it.

Sipping on coffee out in the wilderness can be a magical experience.  Many hikers can’t go without their morning cup but brewing coffee on the trail can be a bit tricky.  If you’ve every wondered how to make coffee while backpacking, check out four of my favorite methods below.

Freeze Dried Instant Coffee

One of the simplest ways to make coffee while backpacking is to use freeze dried instant coffee.  The coffee crystals dissolve in hot water and all you have to do to prepare it is add the hot water and stir.  You can control the strength of your beverage by adding more or less of the crystals.  You can also make a cold coffee drink by adding cold water  rather than hot.  The advantages of this type of coffee is that it is super fast to make, it weighs less than ground coffee, and it has a fairly long shelf life. My favorite thing about backpacking with instant coffee is that it doesn’t require any extra gear and its really easy cleanup.  Mount Hagen is my go to brand because it is organic and I can find it at my local health food store.  They sell individual packets or you can purchase a jar of the crystals and bag it yourself.


$9.35 on Amazon, 25 count




Single Serve Drip Bag Coffee

I recently discovered these single serving drip coffee bags and instantly loved them.  These are not instant/freeze dried coffee but fresh ground coffee in individual bags.  To brew, you first place the tabs or arms of the bag around the lip of your cup.  Then, slowly pour hot water over the coffee grounds.  Next, let the coffee steep for a minute or two.  Last, remove the bag and stir your coffee.  Its really simple and fast.  You can have a fresh cup of coffee in about two minutes.  The bags are biodegradable but I still recommend packing them out with you.  The only thing I don’t like about these bags is that when I am solo backpacking my cookpot and my cup are one in the same so in order to make it work I have to boil my water and then pour it into a water bottle so I can use my cup.  Not a huge deal but I find instant coffee a little easier to use while solo backpacking.  I like the brand Aisen because they are brewed in small batches and decently affordable.  They have 8 different brews and a variety pack that comes with one of each so you can try them all.


$11.99 on Amazon, 8 count



Aeropress Coffee and Espresso Maker

If you really want to get fancy out on the trail invest in an Aeropress.  This device is really affordable and weighs only 6.4 ounces.  The easiest way to describe the Aeropress is that its like a French press but the coffee ends up underneath your grounds (in your cup) rather than on top of the grounds.  To brew a cup of coffee you place the chamber, which has a microfilter on the end of it, on top of your cup.  Then, you add your coffee grounds and hot water.  Finally, you put the plunger inside the chamber and press down, pushing the coffee through the filter and into your cup.  The Aeropress uses a microfilter so that you can use a fine ground coffee and not have any grits in the final product.  The micro filters are paper rather than metal and this is because during blind taste tests people always preferred the paper filtered coffee.  Paper filters are also healthier because they remove diterpines which raise bad cholesterol.  The entire process takes only about 2 minutes and you can make espresso or Americano, depending on how much water you add.  The resulting coffee has a rich flavor which is low in acidity and bitterness.


$29.95 on Amazon




MSR MugMate

The MSR MugMate is a reusable stainless steel and nylon filter for brewing coffee or tea.  The filter has two tabs on the sides so that you can hang it inside your cup.  Add course ground coffee to the filter and then simply pour hot water over the grounds, cover with included lid, and let it steep for a few minutes.  The included lid is really more of a coaster because it doesn’t snap onto the filter, but rather sits on top.  You can control the strength of your coffee by how long you allow it to steep.  If you like really strong coffee, you will need to let it steep longer and visa versa for weaker coffee.  This product weighs only 1 ounce and is easily stowable inside your cup or mug.  Cleanup with the MugMate is really simple since it just involves the one piece of equipment.  I get a much better tasting cup of coffee with this than from instant coffee.

$16.95 on Amazon




Coffee Extras

Some people take individual shelf stable creamer cups (such as Coffeemate) but they can easily be squashed and contain a bunch of sugar.  Those shelf stable creamers are also processed at ultra high temperatures (UHT) which give them an unopened shelf life of 6 to 9 months.  Gross!  An alternative option are the Ghee/butter creamers that people on the Ketogenic and Paleo diets use.  Most of these contain ghee and coconut oil so they will add some healthy fat and calories to your breakfast.  I really enjoy the brand fatCoffee if you want to give butter coffee a try.  They come in individual packets, are shelf stable, and only need to be stirred into your coffee.  fatCoffee also uses only organic, high quality ingredients with no artificial flavors or preservatives.  If you don’t enjoy the taste of ghee (which is clarified butter), you can always just take dehydrated milk or coconut milk as an easy creamer solution.

$20.00 on Amazon, 8 packets



So for those of you who have wondered how to make coffee while backpacking, those are my favorite four options.  What method do you like to use out on the trail?


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4 thoughts on “How to Make Coffee While Backpacking”

  • OMG that coffee looks so good. I do a lot of camping and there is nothing better than that first cup of coffee on a late fall dewey morning. You can smell it in the valley.

    Your website is making me smell that coffee. I bet this coffee would be great for my camping trips as well.

  • Hi Joy,
    I often come to your website because I love backpacking and eat:) These are my favorite hobbies!
    No matter where I am, I always need two cups of coffees in the morning. Without coffee, I am getting in trouble the whole day:) When I go backpacking, I use a small saucepan that I warm up on the grill.But it is not practical, and it takes time.The coffee extras seem to be tasty and easy to do. I love hot coffee and milk usually cooled my coffee. So I need coffee that contains milk inside, so I don’t have to add it, and my coffee will remain hot:) What would you suggest?
    Thank you in advance!

    • Hmm, I’m not sure I understand your question.  Do you mean a coffee mix that already has dehydrated milk mixed in?  The only type of instant coffee with milk/cream already added would be something like this Nescafe, which I don’t recommend because they use corn syrup and sugar.  I think your healthiest bet is to get a good quality instant coffee and then some organic powdered milk or coconut milk to add to it. 

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