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Backpacker Magazine – August 2008

Camp Coffee Gear: Make the Perfect Cup

4 backcountry brew gadgets even the snobbiest baristas will love.

by: Mike Harrelson

PAGE 1 2 3 4
MSR MugMate (Courtesy photo)
MSR MugMate (Courtesy photo)
Big Sky Bistro (Courtesy photo)
Big Sky Bistro (Courtesy photo)
GSI Mini Expresso (Courtesy photo)
GSI Mini Expresso (Courtesy photo)
GSI Milk Frother Kit (Courtesy photo)
GSI Milk Frother Kit (Courtesy photo)

After you've got the gear, read our picks for the best camp cuppa joe.



Ultralight: MSR MugMate
A coffee cone for campers! Just drop the MSR MugMate into your cup, load it with beans (medium ground), and pour in hot water. What you get: rich flavor. What you don't get: fussy prep or extra stuff. For those reasons, this little unit has long been the preferred brewer of several staff coffee fiends. $17; 1 oz.; (800) 531-9531; service #114

PAGE 1 2 3 4

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Reader Rating: -


Star Star Star Star Star
Sep 26, 2013

I with Chris_synol. I have been using the Press-Bot coffee press on all my trips for years. It is reliable and makes great coffee. I just found out that they are coming back on the market!!! Check 'em out. very cool.

Star Star Star Star Star
Aug 12, 2013

The MSR MugMate is great in my opinion. Down side, can't really use it at altitude due to the boiling temp of water decreasing as you ascend even higher, that's when instant coffee may be preferred. But if you're staying below 8-9k feet, the MugMate is great. Quick way to get get the coffee you want with very little clean up.

Joe B
Feb 05, 2012

A think the StarBucks packets are an inside joke on us. I think the internal testing revealed a rating of VILE so the said *&%&^$% the customer call it Via instead.

Dec 19, 2010

just a little bit of information, coffee grounds, once sufficiently dry, release a lot of BTU's, making an efficient fuel for pellet stoves. An added benefit is that it is a carbon nuetral practice.

Oct 14, 2010

I use those maxwell house coffe and filter combination for drip coffee makers. Drop one in pot, cover for 5-6 minutes --- works for me.

Jun 29, 2010

i've tried the via stuff from starbucks, and I have to say that it really sucks. you guys that like it obviously have never had a good cup of coffee.

Jeff Dillavou
Dec 31, 2009

I hate to say it.... but the new instant coffee packets from Starbucks are GOOD. I had a cup of the instant and brewed at a Starbuck doing a blind test... I actual like the instant better... they are small, easy to pack, and good... trust me I thought I would never say this about instant coffee!

Kindle McGuinness
Dec 31, 2009

You want Expresso??
Italian Roast Starbucks Via.
4 to 8 oz of good tasting water.
3g packet.

Kindle McGuinness
Dec 31, 2009

Starbucks Via.
A 3g packet will make 8 oz to 20 oz of coffee.
Perfect every time - that is if you have good tasting water.

Kindle McGuinness
Dec 31, 2009

Starbucks Via

if you like it strong, use 8 oz or less water.
if you like it weaker, use 20 oz or more of water.

Even the decaf is fantastic!

Sharon Croto
Nov 15, 2008

I use the single serving, fresh brewed coffee packets from One Fresh Cup. They are almost as good as home, are easy and light to pack.

Oct 12, 2008

I either use tea filters, a fill it yourself teabag, or make a bag with a folded & sometimes stapled top from a 4 cup coffee filter for my coffee & tea. If I'll be in one place for several days, I make coffee in a big pot, using whole beans like our ranch cook did. You keep the pot going for a week or more, adding water & beans, removing beans when there's too many in the pot. It just gets better. All bags & beans are packed out in the zip lock baggies they came in.

Sep 29, 2008

Does anyone know what type of plastic this is lined with? I've seen other plastic french press style coffee mugs that have the #7 logo on the bottom and others that do not but still produce that funky plastic odor when you put boiling water into it - same as a water bottle except these are designed to hold hot water! Where's the accountablility?

Sep 26, 2008

Those packets of coffee bound up in filter paper, like you find in hotel rooms, are sold in package stores [Sam's Club, etc.] and restaurant suppliers. If you camp in a group, or like several cups each morning, and have the space, these packages have a long storage life. The packaging residue is very minor in size and weight. The grounds can go into the bottom of the day's cat hole [like an offering...], so LNT discipline can be observed. Since most of my trips include at least one small ambiance fire [in an existing ring, of course], the filter paper [less grounds, which are in the last cat hole] goes in, and I find that I do not end up packing out much packaging. This way, no special pots or other stuff has to come along and weigh down my aging legs.

Joohn Scott
Sep 26, 2008

I recently bought a Flej Solo Backpackers cup after reading a review on

The cup is small enough to take in my pack plus I don't have to scratch around trying to find a spoon because it has a built in stirrer.

Sep 26, 2008

Dan, you disagree with my method of dealing with coffee grounds. That is your choice, but it is ethical, as long as it is done properly. What I take exception to, is everyone promoting single serving products. Are they convenient? I guess so? Do they taste good? Maybe, maybe not. Are they ethical? Definitely not! For each serving of single serving coffee that you use, well let’s see, you have the energy to produce the package it comes in, plus the larger package. You have no, absolutely no control over where the coffee is produced, or how it is produced. Fair Trade? Organic? Hmmm not sure, doubt it though. Oh, and the extra packaging where does it go? If you are lucky, maybe it gets recycled, which uses more energy, or worst case scenario, the landfill. So you keep using your “ethical” practices and I will use mine. With excess packaging, broadcasting coffee grounds will be a moot point as we use more and more energy; our land will be drilled, mined and clear cut, which is walking very softly.

SocraticGadfly...I haven't tried the sugar and boil technique, but will this weekend!!!

Sep 26, 2008

The original Jetboil stove with the coffee press and home-ground beans in a Ziploc is all I need. Everything still fits inside the pot for packing, (coffee in the food sack though) and adds next to no weight.

Sep 26, 2008

Good coffee is a must!! lol
If you happen to have a Jet Boil, not the best stove but convenient. They have a press made just for the system. Works great.

Sep 26, 2008

I've been backpacking since the mid 60's, and have a tub full of coffee devices (every one listed here and several others, now stored for posterity with my canvas pup tent). Coffee time is the best time of day when on the trail, and I am very picky. Percolators over-cook, instant is a poor substitute (including concentrates), French press coffee tastes weird even to the French, and espresso doesn't allow me to savor the time - might as well just chew caffeine tablets. I also hate carrying any extra weight, either in or out of the back country. I still find the best coffee is from the cowboy method. It takes a bit of finesse, but I can use my favorite brand. Medium grind is the best; fine stays in suspension and course floats. Done right, it is better than anything you could make at home or buy at 'Bucks.

Dan H
Sep 26, 2008

I have to take exception to the beardedcanadian reader on the LNT practices for coffee grounds. We brought them there therefore we should be obligated to pack them out. Scattering only leaves a mess for the next group of visitors to see, witness & wonder about the ethical standards of those visitors that preceeded them. For my vote it is either the coffee singles (place the used coffee bag back inside the foil packaging & roll shut for seal-proof & compact trash) or the Java Juice (need to thoroughly squeeze & roll all of the coffee extract from the container otherwise it tneds to make a mess so place empty packages in a ziplock bag).... Walk softly & think of others.

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