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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: -


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.

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.

Sep 26, 2008

I find the Bot coffee press that fits into the wide mouth Nalgene bottles great. I can brew and throw back into the pack for a 2nd cup for down the trail. Otherwise, i'LL settle for either instatnt of the single serve bags.

Sep 26, 2008

BeardedCanadian is right... you can make either regular coffee, or, with some sugar, actually bring the coffee to a boil a few times, then back it off, for Turkish cowboy coffee.

And, Folgers? Yucckk.

Sep 26, 2008

Yeah I've had a Mugmate for several years, it hasn't broken or gotten holes in it yet.
Great toy for java fiends.
Before that I used to do the Folgers' singles, they pack down nicely but you can't make as much with them and (obviously) you have garbage to pack out.

Ellen D Mushock
Sep 25, 2008

We like our coffee too! When backpacking we take Folgers coffee bags-just brew as directed-weigh next to nothing and grounds are contained for packing out.Not the best but better than no coffee! When base tent camping we take the trusty 28 year old aluminum percolator-yum.

Ted Adams
Sep 25, 2008

Why don't you just keep it light and get the coffee singles. It's light, tastes good, and packs out with little trash. ( about 1 square inch) utilize the space for more important items.

Sep 25, 2008

I'm with you on the MSR Mugmate. I tried the French Press mentioned but I don't like grounds in my coffee and I find it messy. The Mugmate keeps the grounds out and is easy to clean. Don't need a big pot for one person. Don't have to carry out filters.

Hikin' Edd
Sep 25, 2008

I'm disappointed you don't have the Press Bot listed. It's a French press that fits into a Nalgene bottle. I put the grounds in the bottle, slip the Press Bot in and screw it down, then screw the Nalgene cap onto the Bot and stick it in my pack so all I have to do in camp is add boiling water. When I'm done I screw the cap back on, pack it and dump the grounds at home. One big tip: since the Nalgene's not insulated, take a cozy or an insulated bottle holder along. It's at

Bill Eckman
Sep 25, 2008

You should try the Filtron Cold Filter method. You steep the coffee for 12-24 hours in cold water, then carry the concentrate with you. About a 5 to 1 concentrate to water mixture tastes great. It's like carrying an extra water bottle and there is no clean up to deal with. I've used the system for years and all I have to do at home each morning is mix, micro, and go. On the trail, just boil water. You get a couple of liters of concentrate from each pound of coffee and just store it in the frige.

Hikin' Edd
Sep 25, 2008

I'm disappointed you don't have the Press Bot listed. It's a French press that fits into a Nalgene bottle. I put the grounds in the bottle, slip the Press Bot in and screw it down, then screw the Nalgene cap onto the Bot and stick it in my pack so all I have to do in camp is add boiling water. When I'm done I screw the cap back on, pack it and dump the grounds at home. One big tip: since the Nalgene's not insulated, take a cozy or an insulated bottle holder along. It's at

Gamaman Greg
Sep 25, 2008

Try Java Juice. It is a concentrated coffe extract in a small puncture prood bag. One bag makes a really good cup of coffee without any hassle. You do have to pack out the paper folders but they weight nothing. Each serving costs about $1,30 at REI. Just about the same as Starbucks.

Sep 25, 2008

I have this espresso maker and it works great, makes a killer cuppa joe, weighs very little and takes up very little space

Sep 25, 2008

If you want really good coffee, just make cowboy coffee.
1) Boil water, in a pot, you don't need a fancy peculator or french press.(remember everything that you take with you on a trip should serve two purposes, coffee makers don't)
2) Sprinkle grounds on top and let them sink to the bottom. (about 8-10 minutes)
3) Float a spoon over the surface of the water/coffee ground mixture to force any residual grounds to the bottom.
4) Ladle the coffee into your cup and enjoy!

FYI - LNT Practices for coffee is to Broadcast the grounds, you don't need to pack it out. Just make sure you are 70 paces away from water, camp and cooking areas.

thatcher koch
Sep 25, 2008

hands down, i think the aerobie aero press coffee maker makes one of the best cups of coffee. i use it every day and definitely will find a place for it in my pack.

Sep 25, 2008

All this equipment is great for car camping. For those of us on foot, what is the recommended LNT method for dealing with the spent grounds? Pack them out? Might just drive me to *instant*! Ewww...

Sep 25, 2008

damn the alzheimers! give me the old aluminum perculator. the smell and taste in the morning is worth the extra weight. two people enjoy the coffee, one pot to clean.

Sep 17, 2008

Another good way to make coffee if space is a problem and you are on a budget; a new pair of womens knee high stocking does wonders. You can use regular coffee ground and you can use them more than once.

Back in the boy scout days that was the best way to do so. You can either place the grounds directly in the pot to boil with the water or place it in your cup like a tea bag.

Nate Root
Sep 07, 2008

I have been in the Specialty Coffee Industry for 8 years and have become extremely picky about not only my coffee but the method in which its brewed. I recently discovered a brewing gadget called "Aeropress", it uses a brewing method that is a combination of espresso, drip and french press. It makes a ridiculously smooth coffee, with low acidity and no oily residue. The brewing is simple, it only requires hot water, the negative however is the size, it would certainly make the perfect brewer for car camping.


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