For many, coffee is a necessary part of their morning routine. With a camping coffee maker, you don’t have to forego your caffeine habit just because you’re out in nature.
There are tons of portable, fully-manual options that will let you brew up a tasty cup no matter where you are. Let’s take a look at some of our favorites, along with some tips on picking the right method for you!
The AeroPress brewer merges the pressure brewing used in espresso with the immersion method used in French press. The result is a full-flavored cup with a smooth finish and less bitterness. Along with the great flavor, we like the AeroPress for camping because it’s super-portable and won’t break easily. The plastic components come with a travel bag, and are compact enough to throw in your backpack.
If you’re making coffee for the whole crew, a French press is a great way to go. This 50-ounce model from Secura is perfect for groups of 3-4 (or single travelers who really like their coffee). The stainless steel carafe is both more durable and holds heat better than glass models, so your coffee will stay hot even on cold mornings.
Here’s another French press that’s built for the trail. this aluminum pot from Widesea is lighter than stainless steel but more durable than glass. You also get the option of taking out the filter and using it as a mug or pot, so it’s a versatile piece of gear. Its compact design and 30-ounce capacity make it our top camping French press for couples.
A percolator heats the coffee as it brews, sparing you the need to bring a separate kettle. This Coleman Coffee Percolator is surprisingly light given its size and capacity. It brews up to 9 cups at a time, the perfect amount for families and small groups. Dual handles give you more options for both pouring and hanging the pot from your gear or over the fire.
This Farberware Yosemite percolator can brew anywhere from 4 to 12 cups per batch—roughly enough for 2-6 servings. While it’s a bit bulky for taking out on the trail, it’s a perfect choice for campsites and RV travelers. We appreciate that it doesn’t look quite as utilitarian as other camping coffee makers, with a sleek, mirrored finish that will fit in just as well to your home kitchen décor as it does at the campsite.
The dual-wall construction of this Mueller French Press has excellent heat retention, no matter how cold it is outside. It also comes with a stainless steel canister to keep your beans fresh during the hike. We also appreciate the material quality. They use professional-grade stainless steel that’s designed to withstand everything from drops to direct flame without damage or warping.
This might just be the only travel brewer you can carry in your pocket. The innovative Coffee Brew Buddy from Primula consists of a mesh filter and plastic cover that go right over your mug for single-serve immersion brewing. You can adjust the steeping time or coffee volume to alter the strength of the brew. As an added bonus you can also use it as an infuser for loose-leaf teas.
Here’s another one we like for RVs and campsites because it brings a bit of added class to your brewing. This Melitta Pour Overs system includes a plastic filter cone that snaps onto a glass carafe to brew up to 36 ounces at a time. While it’s not as compact or durable as other options, it’s a great way to get gourmet flavor when you’re away from home.
The enamelware coating on this GSI Outdoors Percolator isn’t just for aesthetics. It also protects the stainless steel from scratches, corrosion, and impact damage and provides an extra layer of insulation to keep coffee hotter. It also has better heat distribution than aluminum percolators, brewing up a fast and consistently delicious pot of joe.
The borosilicate glass used in this Veken French press has better heat resistance and is more durable than most. That said, it’s still glass—not necessarily the brewer you want to take out on the trail, though it’s an attractive and easy-to-use option for RVs and campsites.
The Eureka! Camp Café system includes everything you need to brew great pour-over at the campsite. The included dripper and mug fit inside the kettle for easier transportation. With an 80-ounce capacity and a faster boiling time than most camp pots, you’ll probably find yourself using this kettle for a lot more than just coffee.
Here’s another great way to bring pour-over to your next hike. The silicone dripper on the JavaDrip system is built to withstand impacts and drops that would destroy most brewers. It also comes with an insulated large-capacity carafe with a built-in nylon cozy to keep it hot longer.
You can use any manual brewing method at the campsite, though admittedly some equipment travels better than others. Choosing which one to use really depends on which gear you want to bring and what taste you prefer.
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each method to help you see which one will be your best choice.
Of the manual brewing methods, French press is the most similar to the old school “Cowboy coffee” made in a saucepan on the fire. The difference is, in French press you heat the water first then pour it over the grounds, rather than heating it all together in one pot.
French press is the easiest of the manual brewing methods because it doesn’t require any special technique. Simply coarse-grind some beans, pour hot water in over them, and let it brew for 3-4 minutes. Larger brewers let you make coffee for a whole group without any extra work. This simplicity makes it one of the best campsite brewing methods.
If you have a stable surface to brew on, pour-over is the best way to get gourmet coffee flavor when you’re on the road. That said, it is the most time-consuming method. Doing it correctly requires a special kettle, called a gooseneck, that you’re not likely to have out on the trail.
Pour-over can be a great choice for 1-2 people at a full campsite or traveling in an RV. For more “roughing it” sites, though, its longer preparation time and specialized technique can be an issue.
The advantage of percolator coffee when you’re camping is you only need one piece of equipment to do it. Since you heat the water while you brew, it’s easier to set it up and doesn’t require as much gear.
With percolator coffee, the main downside is that it’s hard to get the best flavor. If the water gets too hot, you can end up with a bitter or burnt taste. For those who like their coffee strong anyway, though, it’s an easy and convenient option.
This category also includes the AeroPress brewer, which is a form of portable espresso maker. The advantage of these devices is they quickly brew a strong cup of coffee. They’re especially great for single travelers since they brew up a single cup at a time.
With an AeroPress, the most important thing is to find a stable surface to brew on. It’s very easy to knock over your mug on the final press if you’re not careful. This is its main disadvantage for trail campsites.
The short answer is yes, it’s completely safe. While you may get some metallic taste to your coffee using an aluminum brewer, this is purely a taste concern.
You may have seen reports linking aluminum toxicity to cognitive disorders, like Alzheimer’s and dementia. The truth is, these reports are mostly speculation. There’s no evidence that using aluminum products increases your risk for these disorders.
Aluminum doesn’t have as high of a heat resistance as steel and is less durable overall. This, along with the taste concern, is the main reason we recommend stainless steel brewers if you don’t mind the extra weight.