How to Make the Best Coffee in the Backcountry

how to make the best coffee while backpacking or camping

I only have three requirements when I’m making coffee in the backcountry: 1) the coffee must taste great (duh); 2) the coffee can’t have a gritty feeling; and 3) cleanup must be fast and simple. Now, as a self-proclaimed coffee addict, I’ll admit that criteria #1 completely depends on the quality and freshness of the coffee beans and what your taste for coffee is. I like a black mug of joe from medium to light roasted beans.

I’m not a morning person, and I struggle equally at home and on the trails when it comes to getting up early. That’s why coffee is a must for me! Nothing gets me out of bed faster than the smell of freshly brewed coffee. Over the last few years, I have experimented to find the absolute best way to enjoy coffee while backpacking or in the great outdoors. Fortunately, making the best dang cowboy coffee is pretty darn simple and fuss free!

While this method will work for car camping as well, I usually bring my French press and coffee grinder with me on those trips (praise my little Toyota Matrix that has an outlet built in!) because the French press is still the fastest way to make great tasting coffee for a larger group and most car campsites have trash bins which make dumping grinds simple enough.


What You Will Need:

  • Single-use tea bags
  • Your favorite coffee
  • 2 of our cook-in-bags (ziplock works fine as well but I’ve had them get punctured in my pack and leak!!)

But First, How not to make coffee on the trail

Instant Coffee

I’ve experimented with instant coffees (Starbucks Via instant coffee and Sudden Coffee.) I’ve always felt instant coffee is too acidic and sometimes burnt tasting; now, I still pack these and use them in a pinch, but it’s not my preferred method. If you are going to pack an instant coffee, I suggest supporting Sudden Coffee as they’re a fellow freeze-drying company based not far from our kitchen here in San Francisco.

Teapot Method

Adding coffee grinds into your teapot, jetboil (etc) is my least favorite way to make coffee for a few reasons. First, it’s messy. When I’m backpacking, my teapot is generally my only kitchen equipment unless I know I can hit a town for bacon and eggs, in which case I bring a small pan too. But for the most part, I only have a teapot. Cleaning the grinds out of a teapot is messy and hard to do without getting grinds on the ground, which not only violates LNT but is also dangerous if you’re in bear country. Second, inevitably the water I boil afterwards tastes like really weak coffee. This might be more a testament to how well I scrub my dishes while on the trail, but nonetheless it holds true for me! And finally, I’m not great at pouring the water out into a mug; somehow, I always get gritty coffee grinds mixed in which isn’t pleasant. Or, I wind up using two mugs and going back and forth with a filter over one which is just messy and I usually spill half the cup. Again, not great in bear country!

Coffee Filter Method

Unless I’m using a narrow brim mug, I’ve had the coffee filter collapse in my mug which causes the grit problem as described above. I also like making coffee in advance in a thermos on cold days or if I know I have a river crossing during the day’s trek, and this method isn’t great for that.

 coffee is life

So now that I’ve explained how I DON’T make my backpacking coffee, let’s get down to how I do make it! It’s simple, fast, and fuss free. Winning!


Step 1: Grind the coffee at home

If you want the best coffee while backpacking, hunting, or in general enjoying the great outdoors, please please please start with whole beans. Honestly, this makes such a flavor and aromatic difference. I don’t believe you have to rough it while on the trail, so I bring my favorite beans with me. Personally, I suggest Flying Goat’s single origin coffee, though their blends are tasty too. These guys are my absolute favorite. I discovered them while eating out in San Francisco; the coffee was so yummy that I asked my waiter if he could share what beans they brewed, and this led to my discover of Flying Goat, which is a Santa Rose based company. Check them out!

To make a successful cup of coffee:

  • Coarsely grind the coffee beans.
  • Grind more than you will need (spillage; bartering; extra caffeine days).
  • Grind the night before you leave or store in the freezer if you grind in advance.
  • Store ground coffee in one of our sealable bags.

 best coffee

Step 2: Pack the supplies

You will need single use tea bags for this method; I buy compostable ones since that makes it easiest to dump once I’m off trail as everything can go into the compost bin.

You will also need a second bag of ours or a ziplock bag. I’ve had ziplock bags break open and leak in my pack, so I’m not a big fan of them for this use.


Step 3: Brew at camp or on the trail

You’re on trail and ready to drink that delicious coffee! You’re so close, just a few more steps.

  • Boil water.
  • While water is boiling, open your bag of coffee and use your trail spork to spoon one to two scoops of grinds into the tea bags. If I ground the coffee too fine, I double up on the tea bags so there’s a double layer to protect against gritty coffee. Cinch tight and add to your mug.
  • Pour boiling water into your mug and wait approximately 4 minutes.
  • Remove the coffee bag and (if not making a second mug) place into your second, coffee trash bag and seal closed.


Step 4: Enjoy!!

That’s it! Literally that’s it. No coffee grind cleanup, no washing out your teapot, nada! Just simple, delicious coffee; the way it should be! (Pro tip – sometimes I use weak coffee to rehydrate the Citrus Chia Morning Bowl so I get an espresso caffeine boost!)

Share with us on Facebook and Instagram how you’re making cowboy coffee #fuelyourwild! I’m always looking for creative ways to enjoy a cup o’ joe in the woods.

Happy Trails!



Bushka's Kitchen provides ready-to-eat, lightweight freeze dried food for every type of busy lifestyle, whether that's backpacking, traveling, parenting, or an active life. Browse our nutritious, gourmet freeze dried meals and stock up for your next adventure!

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