Snow Peak titanium coffee mug and beans

Good camp coffee: how do you do it?

Okay, picture it.  Backcountry adventure for three days: dirt roads far from the luxuries of civilization.  Like strip malls, speed bumps, and Starbucks.  Can you handle it?

At the 2007 Expedition Trophy, my friends Graham and Connie couldn’t.  On the second morning, I spied them rolling into camp with a pair of those unmistakable white cups with the green lettering (I believe they were Venti sized, too).  Those sneaky kids got up early, broke camp, and drove out to the highway, which took them to the nearest (gasp!) Starbucks.

And they’ve spent 9 months driving the length of Africa in a Land Rover.  Even the most rugged of us all have been swindled and brainwashed by $4.00 metropolitan foo-foo coffee drinks.

Good news.  I’ve got your fix for good coffee while you’re adventuring far from your coffee shop of choice.  And like they say, the first one is always free – I’m not charging.  I’m talking about quality java here, not a little packet of dog food to which they’ve added black dye and called “instant coffee!”  Seriously, instant coffee: you don’t know where it’s been.

From a simple mug of black joy to an elaborate latte with whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles, it all can be handled at a quiet campsite with rudimentary cookware.

The basics of camp coffee

The basics of camp coffee

Let’s start with regular black coffee: ground roasted beans and hot water.  Yes, I know what you’re thinking: “Use a French press!” or “Use a percolator!”  Both have their merits, but I’m not suggesting either one in this instance.

How does drip style sound, yet with no pot to clean up?  Ortlieb ( has the answer with their coffee filter holder.  It’s a simple synthetic PVC (or something) thing, so it’ll fold flat.  See that crazy yellow thing in the picture to the right?  There she is.

“What’s up with the tent pegs,” you ask?

This is the beauty of it.  You take your Ortlieb filter holder with those tent pegs (or sticks, or forks, or whatever will fit) and place it on top of your mug or kettle.  The pegs stabilize the filter holder.

Ortlieb coffee filter working its magic

Ortlieb coffee filter working its magic

Then use a #2 conical coffee filter inside the Ortlieb holder (naturally . . .) and scoop in your ground coffee beans.  We’ll get to the beans in a moment.  Heat up your water and simply pour it into your grounds and and let the Ortlieb coffee filter do it’s job.

In a few minutes you’ll have a fresh mug of tasty coffee with all the luscious oils and dissolved solids that come with a quality cup. And best of all, you don’t have a pot to clean; the grounds are contained in the filter, which you toss into your garbage, and then you just rinse the Ortlieb holder.

The rules of coffee making still apply, and you may or may not know about this one: don’t over heat your water.  The proper temperature for coffee actually depends on your altitude.  As a general guide, 200º at sea level and 180º at 10,000 feet.  Any hotter and you could over extract the beans, which can make the coffee taste . . . burned.  You may have experienced this with a percolator or press before.  With this drip method, the likelihood of over extraction is quite remote since the water is no longer on heat as it passes through the beans.

Enjoying camp coffee

Enjoying camp coffee

To sum up, all you need to add to your kit for making camp coffee is:

  • Ortlieb coffee filter holder
  • #2 conical filters (which you can get at your nearest grocery store)
  • Coffee mug (the Snow Peak titanium mug is what I used here)

If you’re camping, you’ve already packed in your

  • cook pot
  • stove
  • spoons

There you go.  Keep your clicker nearby because in my next posting we’re going to go to the next level with cappuccino and café mocha.