The Best Coffee for Camping and Backpacking in 2021

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Coffee is a craft, an art form. And when you’re considering carrying extra weight, even if it’s just a little, you want to make sure you get the good stuff. Here’s the best coffee for camping and backpacking.

Gone are the days of going without caffeine on a camp trip, mustering through cowboy coffee, or sipping a weak cup of Nescafé. Our last camping and backpacking coffee coverage was back in 2015, so it was high time to update. After all, there are dozens of new coffees (and a few fancy new brewing methods) on the market.

We’ve taste-tested (over and over) a slew of coffees to find our favorites. Whether it’s a cup of joe for an early morning drive up to the mountains, a hot drink on a thru-hike, or an afternoon pick-me-up after your daily ride, you can’t go wrong with these coffees.

We’ve broken our favorite coffees for camping and backpacking down into three categories (instant, beans, and single servings). Our top picks are below:

Our staff collectively rated these coffees on a variety of factors: flavor, varieties offered, brewing method, packaging, and price.

The Best Coffee for Camping and Backpacking of 2021

Best Overall — Instant: Alpine Start Original Blend

For just $9, you can grab a whole box of Alpine Start’s original blend. For an instant coffee, you won’t be disappointed. It’s flavorful and fairly (but not too) bold and delivers a perfect serving of pick-me-up. It’s a very smooth blend. (Alpine Start uses 100% Colombian Arabica coffee for its original offering.)

This coffee, cup after cup, month after month, was a favorite among our staff. It’s simple but tasty, and yes, instant, so it does the job — even when you’re in a hurry to get to your destination or put down some big miles.

Our overall rating: 4.5/5
Our flavor rating: 4/5
Price: $1/serving

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Looking for some beans to bring into the backcountry? Here’s our top pick for whole bean coffees for the outdoors. Pair with your favorite grinder and French press, AeroPress, or pour-over, and you’re set.

Best Overall — Beans: Grounds & Hounds Coffee Co.

Beyond serving up specialty-grade Arabica bean coffee that is 100% Fair Trade and organic, Grounds & Hounds Coffee Co. sweetens the deal with an incentive no one can pass up: Every sale of its coffee helps support dog rescue initiatives and shelters.

Best of all, there are a variety of ways to get your coffee fix. Buy single-origin beans or blends by the pound, buy coffee pods for your home brewer, or set up a monthly coffee subscription so you never run out of that sweet morning swill.

We’ve tried Grounds & Hounds coffee ($15) and can attest it offers up the delectable coffee flavor you’d expect from craft-roasted, whole bean offerings from your favorite roastery. Short of roasting yourself, this is about as good — and as feel-good — as coffee gets.

Our overall rating: 4/5
Our flavor rating: 4/5
Price: $15/12-oz. bag

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Best Compostable Packaging: Hiker’s Brew Coffee

Nothing says coffee made for the outdoors like the names “Van Life,” “Red Rocks,” or the bold and dark roast “Yurt Dirt.” Hiker’s Brew Coffee ($14) is blended for those who enjoy the outdoors in mind — it’s rich, flavorful, with options for those who like their coffee black and simple or flavored with a twist.

In fact, if we had to factor in flavor, sustainability, convenience, and variety altogether, Hiker’s Brew may just top our list.

In addition to its compostable packaging — both bags of beans and travel pouches — Hiker’s Brew also plants a tree for each coffee product purchased. Hiker’s Brew works with One Tree Planted to fulfill this mission and has planted trees across the U.S. and Australia. And, it’s part of Climate Neutral and 1% for the Planet.

Our overall rating: 4.5/5
Our flavor rating: 4.5/5
Price: $14/bag

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Best for Ounce-Counters: Black Coffee Roasting Co. Instant Coffee

Similar to Alpine Start, Montana-based Black Coffee Roasting Co. packages its instant medium roast coffee in a slim, 3.4g packet. You’ll get eight packets (makes eight cups) for $13.

We found Black Coffee’s coffee to be utterly delicious, one of the most packable options out there, and packed with flavor too. It’s also great hot or iced. For us, it wasn’t just instant but an instant fave. And to top it off, Black Coffee’s offerings are all organic.

Our overall rating: 4.5/5
Our flavor rating: 4.5/5
Price: $1.50/pack

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Best Pour-Over Style: Kuju Coffee’s Pocket PourOvers

 

Kuju’s single-serving Pocket PourOvers may look cute, but this coffee packs a good punch. Enough to wake you up at 5 a.m. for a hut trip or keep you up for several hours while you stargaze at camp, Kuju’s Pocket PourOvers ($2.50-3.50) come filled to the brim with specialty-grade blends or single origin grounds.

The ones we loved most — and maybe a contender for the best flavor coffee on this list — were Kuju’s Base Camp blend and single-origin Ethiopian coffee. Flavor is hugely determined by how companies roast beans, how they’re ground and stored, and, of course, everyone’s different brewing preferences. So take this with a grain of salt — er, grain of coffee, if you will.

Our only con with Kuju? The single-serve, disposable filter method can be wasteful.

Our overall rating: 4/5
Our flavor rating: 5/5
Price: $2.50/serving

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Best of the Rest

Starbucks VIA Blends

We hate to say it, but it might not get any better than Starbucks before, during, or on the trail. The Seattle roaster’s VIA blends — made with 100% Arabica beans — won a resounding “yes” on flavor, along with recommendations from seven individuals across our staff base.

The VIA blends come in medium and dark roasts, like Starbuck’s Pike Place, Colombia, French roast, and Italian roast, as well as flavored packets like mocha and vanilla.

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Cusa Instant Coffee

A close favorite with our staff was Boulder-based Cusa Coffee (it offers light, medium, dark, and vanilla roasts). Rivaling its own instant tea in flavor and convenience, Cusa’s instant coffee is made from 100% Arabica beans.

Cusa also takes care to source its beans from Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee plantations that practice fully regenerative agriculture and organic farming. Our favorites in testing were the medium and dark roasts.

This coffee also comes at a pretty good price — $6.99 for a seven-pack.

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Treeline Coffee Roasters GEOs

Similar to Kuju’s contraptions, this women-run Bozeman brand makes single-serve pour-overs. We really loved the aroma first, taste second and found ourselves reaching for it more than a few times on busy days or office commutes — days where you want a quick cup of joe to go.

Treeline also uses compostable and recyclable packaging for its coffees. The GEOs are $2 each or $18 for a reduced-packaging 12-pack — perfect for trips into the backcountry.

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Mushroom Cups Coffee

Looking for a “superfood” pick-me-up? Mushroom Cups ($17) blends its ground coffee cups with wild chanterelle, organic cordyceps, Lion’s Mane, and Chaga mushrooms. According to the folks at Mushroom Cups, this superfood concoction offers anti-inflammatory and antidepressant benefits. And it’s all mixed with single-origin Peruvian instant coffee — so it doesn’t slack on the caffeine giddy-up.

Each “pod” of Mushroom Cups coffee comes with 10 single-serving packs that dissolve in hot water like instant coffee. Flavor-wise, it’s on par with other instant coffee options, albeit with its own unique flavor, thanks to the added goodies. But with a little cream, milk, honey, or sugar, you’d be hardpressed to notice.

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Alpine Start Chai Latte

This instant coffee packet ($9) — just like the original Alpine Start version — is made with 100% Colombian coffee but with added spices and soy milk.  (Don’t let the “chai” moniker deter you — it’s coffee, not tea.)

Though the packets are a bit larger than the traditional Alpine Start blend, this has got to be our second favorite from the brand. It’s caffeinated, strong, and tasty. And a great staple for fall and wintertime outside.

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Buyer’s Guide

How to Choose Coffee for Camping

Your first consideration should be: What type of coffee do I like best? That way, you’ll have an idea if you want to go for a light, medium, or dark roast, or maybe a more flavored blend.

Are you going to want creamer in your coffee? Do you want to make sure you have the strongest caffeine available? We’ve taste-tested a whole variety of beans, grounds, instants, and prepackaged coffees, and called out our favorites above.

Another pro tip is to consider if you prefer to pack and carry whole beans, or pre-ground coffee for trips outside. (This largely depends on the length of your trip, and how many people on your trip will be drinking coffee.)

Do you use a pour-over or another type of coffee maker? If you’ll be camping and brewing coffee for five or six people, you’ll be better off grabbing one of our favorite coffee bags in bulk, instead of single-serving packets.

Lastly, consider how you’ll want to make the coffee. Do you have a pour-over, French press, or AeroPress, or are you going to bring a full-size kettle or percolator? On our most recent staff camping trip, we found that a mix of fresh-ground, batch coffee from a French press and a few single-serve options did the job.

How to Choose Coffee for Backpacking

Single-serve packets really are the best option for backpacking trips in terms of convenience. You don’t have to worry about glass or tin jars, or packaging that can spill or tear. All of the single-serve packets we tested here, like Alpine Start and Black Coffee Co., are super lightweight, durable, and take up nearly zero space in your pack.

However, you could also go with a standard bag of coffee if you are hoping to go the reusable route, and use one of the many backcountry and lightweight pour-overs on the market. This way, you can bring whatever coffee you want, and still only have to bring a few ounces of extra cookware.

After you choose your preferred coffee-making method, there are still a lot of varieties to choose from! We recommend the one that is best for your trip style: For example, will you have to pack out your grounds? Maybe you want to go with an instant coffee instead.

Or, are you traveling with people who want variety in their hot drinks? Maybe, you want to mix and match coffee on some days and tea on others — an instant coffee like Cusa (that also makes instant teas) may be a good choice.

FAQ

Is Instant Coffee Good for Camping?

Yes! While you can absolutely bring coffee from home, grind it, and brew it at camp, instant coffee is a convenient option you can consider. If you’ve never had instant coffee, or never had to make coffee while camping, we recommend trying out a few different ones on this list, and seeing which you like best.

What’s the Best Coffee for Backpacking?

This has a lot to do with how light you are traveling, how much room you have in your packs, how much coffee you’ll need, and personal preference. But generally, our staff (and friends along the way) enjoyed the Alpine Start Instant brand. It’s lightweight, all you need to do for a cup is to boil water, and we like the varieties available and flavor.

How Do You Brew Coffee While Backpacking and Camping?

First, you’ll need coffee. If it’s not instant, you’ll also need a pour-over, French press, AeroPress, or percolator, depending on whether you are car camping or backpacking, as well as your preference. Many of these backcountry brewing methods are made of a combination of silicone, plastic, or stainless steel, and a metal or nylon cloth filter.

If you are going with a single-serve brand like Kuju, you won’t need any extra equipment! Some require standard coffee filters too.

You’ll boil some water, follow the instructions for your coffee (brewing time may be different for a regular versus strong cup), and then enjoy!

What’s the Most Sustainable Coffee for Backpacking?

This is a tricky question, but if being sustainable and reducing waste is your goal (while still having coffee on the trail), it can be done. The first option is to buy beans in bulk, and then bring only what you need in a reusable container, along with your backcountry press or pour-over.

Or, you can go with a brand that uses 100% compostable or 100% recyclable packaging, like Hiker’s Brew or Mushroom Cups Coffee.

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