I’ve been known to eat nothing but ramen noodles and trout to cut weight and save money while camping, but I never go without my coffee. From the welcome warmth on a cold morning to the calming brewing ritual, few things are better than a cup of fresh joe in the woods. But don’t settle for the powdered store-bought variety. These five items will help you brew coffee that would make Italy’s finest baristas proud.
MSR Mugmate Coffee Filter ($17)
Best for: The Weight Conscious
Weight: .98 ounce
Process: Fill the Mugmate with ground coffee (medium to coarse) and nestle in the lid. Submerge the grounds in hot water, then put the lid on your cup and wait until the coffee is strong enough to drink.
The Verdict: The MSR Mugmate has been my go-to coffee system while backpacking for two years. I can confidently say that the ultralight contraption makes damn good coffee. But because the coffee taste deteriorates with every cup you steep, it’s onerous to make more than one serving. My wife and I solve this problem by sharing a coffee mug while we backpack, but if that’s not an option or you’re hiking with a large group, we don’t recommend this system.
Snow Peak Titanium French Press ($56)
Best for: The Backcountry Connoisseur
Weight: 6.3 ounces
Process: Put about three tablespoons of coarsely ground coffee into the French press, pour water over the grounds, and wait a minute. Stir, and then let it sit another four minutes before dropping the plunger and pouring.
The Verdict: Like everything Snow Peak makes, this Japanese-built titanium French press is simple and beautiful—and at 6.3 ounces, it’s not too heavy to go in your backpack. It makes two 12-ounce cups of coffee.
Jetboil Javastein Titanium French Press ($90)
Best for: The Giver
Weight: 7.8 ounces
Process: Place 7.5 tablespoons of coarsely ground coffee into the Javastein, then pour water over the grounds and wait a minute. After stirring, let it sit another four minutes before dropping the plunger and pouring.
The Verdict: Want to give your friends a caffeine boost on a hut trip? Bring Jetboil’s limited-edition Javastein, a titanium French press that weighs less than half a pound but can make five 12-ounce cups of coffee. While the best feature of the press is its weight-to-coffee-output ratio, we also liked small details such as the lightweight pot support to keep the press from burning tables and the rubberized grips on the metal handles.
GSI 30-Ounce Java Press ($30)
Best for: The Car Camper
Weight: 10.3 ounces
Process: Place about four tablespoons of coarsely ground coffee into the Java Press, pour water over the grounds, and wait a minute. After stirring, let it sit another four minutes before dropping the plunger and pouring.
The Verdict: The BPA-free plastic body of GSI’s Java Press is incredibly durable. A friend used this press every day for almost a year while living out of his van; despite plenty of abuse, the body still looks new. The double-walled top and insulating neoprene sleeve keep heat inside the press, solving one of the main problems of most French presses. The heaviest system on this list, the Java Press is best for car camping and road trips.
GSI Java Mill ($30)
Best for: The Barista
Weight: 9.3 ounces
Process: The Java Mill can grind about 3.5 tablespoons of coffee at a time. Pop the top off (this will be tough the first three times you use the Java Mill, but it will get easier), fill with beans, and rotate the top lever clockwise. You can adjust the texture of the grounds by rotating a lever at the base of the grinder.
The Verdict: Coffee snobs will tell you that grinding your beans immediately before brewing is essential for a perfect cup of joe. While weight-conscious backpackers will scoff at the idea of lugging an extra 9.3 ounces in their pack, I’m willing to take on the extra burden to make sure I have the best coffee possible in the backcountry. It’s all about the simple pleasures, right?
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