We live in a time of unprecedented innovation. If you’re a coffee lover that’s pretty rad. Just take a look at these excellent travel coffee makers.
Licensed Q Arabica Grader, M.A. Journalism
In the last couple of years, we have seen more cool coffee gadgets than ever before. Especially when it comes to portable coffee makers suitable for camping or backpacking, the selection has skyrocketed.
Have you heard about Moore’s law?
Sometimes I think it’s also applicable to coffee makers: Every year the selection is more advanced, while the prices go down.
Personally, I love to travel, and I will always bring a coffee gadget or two with me on the road. With that in mind, here’s my favorite camping coffee maker.
Read on, if you want to find out if one of the other options might be better for your personal needs.
Top pick: Best value
The Clever Coffee Dripper is easy to use even though you're out in the wilderness.
At the same time it's portable, sturdy and makes a great cup of coffee. If you want a cheap camping coffee maker that lives up to the discerning taste-buds of most coffee lovers, look no further.
I like the Clever Coffee Dripper. Both for travel but also for home use. The coffee is always rather tasty, and it’s so, so easy to use.
Essentially, it’s like a mix of a French press and filter coffee maker. First, add grounds and water and let them steep for 3-4 minutes. Then you place the Clever on a mug or a pitcher, and the valve opens up. The coffee flows out through the paper filter.
The Clever comes in two sizes, but I’d probably get the big one for travel. The volume still isn’t huge, but it should be sufficient for 2-3 people.
I have brought the Clever Dripper with me on several backpacking trips, and it survived the hard life on the road without a scratch.
The classic Italian coffee maker travels well. If you already have a propane stove for cooking, it makes sense to use a Moka pot like the Bialetti.
One of the good things about this kind of coffee maker is the kind of coffee it produces. It’s concentrated and intense, so you can get away with serving smaller cups and keep your brew buddy or significant other caffeinated.
The Bialetti is also built like a tank, so you don’t have to worry about anything breaking.
The percolator is perhaps the quintessential camping coffee maker. It just looks right next to the bonfire or on the camp stove. While the coffee isn’t something I endorse quality-wise, I can understand the practical aspects.
A percolator can make a bunch of strong coffee without much fuss. It has the volume and the sturdiness to be suitable for camping. And if you happen to like nostalgic aesthetics, it’s hard to find anything better.
The Tetra Drip from Japanese outdoor brand Munieq most definitely takes the honor as the world’s lightest coffee maker. Depending on the model, it weighs between 12-40 grams! That’s even lighter than the popular GSI Outdoors collapsible dripper.
The Tetra Drip is a classic pour over dripper, meaning that it’s a simple contraption intended to be used with a paper filter. Then you slowly add hot water to the grounds, and after five minutes, your coffee is ready.
I have traveled to many countries with the Tetra Drip, and I have to say that the coffee it produces is definitely on par with its more famous pour over cousins, such as Hario V60 and Kalita Wave.
However, it’s worth remembering that the volume is somewhat limited, so I wouldn’t recommend this model for groups bigger than two people.
It comes in both colorful plastic and stainless steel.
Instead of just putting the grounds in the bottom of the vessel, the plunger and grounds container is combined into one. This means that you can control the brewing a lot more precisely. It also means that cleaning is a lot easier.
The American press is made from a quality plastic material, making it ideal for camping. It’s very sturdy.
At 12 oz, however, it’s a bit on the smaller side, so you might want to look elsewhere if you have an unquenchable caffeine thirst.
It’s impossible to talk about the best camping French press without mentioning the Espro Ultralight. This thing is engineered for camping (as well as silt-free, smooth coffee).
I like the original Espro press. It’s beautiful, and it makes excellent coffee. However, it might be a bit too much to drag along when you’re out in the wild.
The travel version is much more stripped down and lightweight, but it still offers the excellent mesh filter system of the original Espro French press. Like the original, it will ensure hot coffee for several hours while stopping the brewing after the filter has been pressed down.
Also, it’s sturdy, lightweight, and has quite a good capacity at 16 oz.
The Cafflano Kompresso is the most compact espresso maker. It’s even smaller than the Aeropress! And yes, it can make genuine espresso!
If you’re the kind of person who likes attention from fellow campers, pull out the Cafflano from your backpack and prepare a crema-covered shot.
With this kind of device, it doesn’t make much sense only to go half the way. You should also get a hand coffee grinder of relatively high quality. The Cafflano Kompresso requires a rather fine grind size to shine.
The gadget might seem a bit over the top, but if you have the patience, you can make epic single-serve espresso on the road with the Cafflano.
Almost no matter what your coffee preference is, today there’s something to satisfy your cravings. Do you want espresso on the road? Check, that’s no problem. Oh, you prefer pour over? Well, we got you covered. However, four types of coffee makers are especially useful for traveling. Here’s an overview:
The Propane Coffee Maker
This type of drip coffee maker is similar to the one you have on your kitchen sink. However, instead of relying on electricity, it uses propane fuel. This kind of device tends to be big and clunky, and I wouldn’t recommend it unless you have an RV and you want that more traditional cup of Joe. In terms of coffee flavor and convenience, there are better options.
The Camp Coffee Pot Percolator
The percolator is an all-time favorite with the camping crowd. It’s not as rough as cowboy coffee, but it’s still pretty old school. However, if you got a campfire and a big group of people, it’s a cozy way of brewing.
However, the percolator’s Italian cousin, the Moka pot, might be a better alternative, as you don’t risk boiling the coffee continuously.
Camping Drip Coffee Maker/Pour Over Cone
While an electric drip coffee maker would probably not be the best solution, some coffee snobs swear to different pour over contraptions. It’s not the easiest method to execute well, but if you love this kind of coffee, you probably don’t care.
French Press for Camping
A French press is great for camping. Especially if you’re traveling with a bigger group of people, it’s pretty easy to make, and it doesn’t require prolonged heat or any fancy gooseneck kettle. Just remember that glass is a no-go!
Portable Espresso Maker
This kind of device didn’t exist five years ago, but the recent models from brands like Flair and Cafflano are both excellent and portable. That being said, espresso is a demanding hobby at home. Things are not exactly more straightforward in the wilderness, so it takes a certain level of a coffee snob to go to this extreme. Still, if you crave espresso and nothing else will do, you can certainly pull some decent shots.
What else to consider?
When traveling, you will have different caffeine needs than at home. The best camping coffee maker isn’t necessarily the same one you would use at home. Why is that? Well, the first point to consider is sturdiness. When you’re putting things in your backpack or the compartment of your van, things tend to get messy. You need equipment that can handle the hard knocks of the road.
At the same time, you also want something relatively compact and light. If you’re already carrying a tent, some camping chairs, and a big backpack, the chances are that you don’t want to drag your Moccamaster along.
Related to the question of portability is that of size. You don’t want a heavy or bulky coffee maker, but at the same time, you want one that is suitable for your group. If you’re a couple you can probably get away with something small like an Aeropress but for a bigger group that won’t cut it.
Making coffee is difficult without hot water. For that reason, you need to think about a heat source. Today, it’s a lot easier to get access to electricity (or just hot water) when camping than it was back in the days. However, if you’re a real adventurer, you’ll probably end up in a situation where you need a propane coffee maker or burner.
How to make coffee while camping or backpacking
Okay, so you want to be the rugged barista who wakes up in the wild, boils water, and brews a damn good cuppa Joe? I 100 percent understand that decision. There’s probably nothing better than having a perfect cup of coffee out in the wild.
However, to succeed, I have some advice that’s worth following.
Get fresh beans: If you have followed me for a while, you already know this, but I believe that coffee quality is way more important than the equipment you’re using.
If you don’t have freshly roasted premium beans, your coffee is not going to taste amazing.
I’d recommend that you try a few artisan roasters, and find one you like. Ideally, the beans should be roasted within one month.
Grind your own: Many camping java lovers use preground coffee, but that’s just sad. Then you might as well make instant coffee and save yourself all the trouble.
To get the best flavors, you should grind the beans right before brewing. Luckily, today, there are many great hand grinders out there. I have written a big post about them that you can read here.
Otherwise, you can go directly to my favorite travel grinder. It’s small, lightweight, and efficient.
Practice with a scale: Usually, I’m pretty strict and advocate that people brew coffee using a digital scale. However, on the road, things are different. If you don’t want to bring a scale, I understand.
You can get quite far by getting familiar with your coffee gear at home before you go on a camping trip.
For example, with the Aeropress or Clever Coffee Dripper, you can fill water to the same point every time. Then you have to be consistent with how much coffee you use. If you know how much coffee is in a spoon (or a handful of beans), you can get consistent results.
Hello, and welcome! I'm the editor & founder of this site. I have been a coffee geek since I started home roasting more than a decade ago. Since then, coffee has taken me on countless adventures: From ancient coffee ceremonies in Ethiopia to the volcanos of Sumatra. My background is in journalism, and today I'm also a licensed Q Grader under the Coffee Quality Institute.
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