Best Camp Coffee | Backcountry Barista Pour Over Coffee

For only $7 & 2 ounces get the stunning taste of barista quality coffee in the backcountry

Alan with his camp coffee supplies to make the best backpacking coffee method

Say Goodbye to Starbucks VIA | Forget Cowboy Coffee

This Coffee Tastes Amazingly Better!

Friends, after 11 years it’s time to pushback on Starbucks VIA Ready Brew Coffee. Sure it’s taken the “camp coffee” by storm, sadly killing many creative backcountry brewing methods. But is that a good thing? We think not! Better yet, we have a solution for a stunning cup of camp coffee — a low cost and lightweight technique for brewing World Class Coffee in the backcountry. And we really mean World Class Coffee!

$7 “Camp Coffee” Using World Brewers Cup Champion Technique

In this post we’ll detail a $7, two ounce method for brewing camp coffee that’s a backcountry adaptation of the recipe and technique used by the 2016 World Brewers Cup Champion, Tetsu Kaysuya. With it you’ll get the stunning taste of barista coffee in camp. It really isn’t that hard to do. In this article, we’ll give you the gear, recipe and technique to easily brew fantastic camp coffee.

Why It’s Great Coffee

Well, beside the fact that you’re using freshly roasted, freshly ground, high quality REAL COFFEE… You’ll use a “pour over” brewing technique that’s taken barista coffee brewing by storm. The controlled series of pours used in Tetsu Kaysuya’s technique bring out the best in the coffee. The first initial two pours control the levels of sweetness and acidity your coffee will have. By pouring less water (only 40%) into the coffee for the first ½ of the brew, you’ll bring out the sweetness in a light roast coffee. And using 60% of water for the second ½ of the brew strengthens the coffee and balances out the flavors and acidity.

Quicklinks to other resources on this site

Full Video Guide to Brewing World Class Camp Coffee

If a picture is worth a 1,000 words what is a comprehensive video of Guide to Brewing the Best Camp Coffee worth? There’s stuff in here that we can’t begin to cover in this written guide.

If you want to jump directly to the actual brewing it’s at around 6:20 using this link

perfect cup to use as a pour over coffee maker

The $7 of Gear that You Definitely Need

  • $7 Hario V60 01 Plastic Dripper – Red 2.2 oz (63g)
    (also Hario V60 Paper Coffee Filters, Size 01)
    This 2.2 oz marvel is the coffee dripper that Tetsu Kaysuya used to win the 2016 World Brewers Cup Championship!
  • $0 Some way to measure 12 ounces of water (we mark up a 16 oz, widemouth ice tea bottle). Look in the lower right of the lead picture to see ours.
  • Pennies per cup: Locally roasted (light roast) coffee from your favorite independent coffee shop (We used La Coop Coffee based in DC). Trust us that with this technique you’ll appreciate the taste of a light roast! Whole beans are best but if you do get them pre-ground, get a medium grind for drip coffee.
  • $0 A timer. We use our iPhone in the backcountry. Or you could get one of these very light and inexpensive timers as shown in this post and the video.

TOAKS titanium 450ml coffee cup for backpacking coffee

Optional Gear that you may not have


TOAKS Titanium 450ml Mug — $20

A great deal for $20! A caffeinated backpacker is a happy backpacker! Enjoy your morning coffee with minimal weight penalty in this durable, lightweight, attractive titanium mug. A backpacker can never have too much titanium… or coffee.

Trail Designs Sidewinder Ti-Tri + Toaks 900ml Pot Cooking System for pour over coffee maker system

Trail Designs Sidewinder + Toaks 900ml Pot Cooking System

Only 5.5 oz and does a good job of a controlled pour for coffee brewing

Staff picks best backpacking stove! In our opinion the Trail Designs Sidewinder Ti-Tri Cooking System is the most practical cooking system on the market. It’s exceptionally light — about 1/3 the weight of a JetBoil. It’s very stable, wind-resistant, and fuel-efficient. The Toaks 900 ml titanium pot works well for both solo and 2-person use — and its thin lip makes for well behaved pouring — nice for doing pour-over coffee.

Cheap alcohol fuel is available almost everywhere in the world. Take only the fuel you need, no canister disposal as waste. The wide pot is easy to cook in and easy to clean. The cone has an option to burn wood. TD Kojin Alcohol Stove stores unburned fuel so no need to minutely measure the fuel.

Baratza Encore Conical Burr Coffee Grinder

Value Grinder that Gives You a Barista Quality Grind

The Baratza Encore Conical Burr Coffee Grinder is the best deal on an actual/sharp burr coffee grinder that gives you a barista quality grind. And it’s used by many professionals.

Baratza Encore Conical Burr Coffee Grinder for camp coffee

Zero Cost Grind Option

Or you can grind your own at a supermarket or have a local coffee shop grind your coffee.

grind coffee fresh for cowboy coffee

How to Make Barista Quality Camp Coffee

It’s Delicious & It’s Easy!

Alan making cowboy coffee using the pour over coffee maker method

Don’t get too worried about amounts of water and timing. If you pour about 5 equal parts of your water during 3 minutes you should be fine! [Note: here we show our locally sourced, light roast coffee from La Coop Coffee in DC)]

pre weigh coffee for backcountry coffee

Steps Pre-Trip

First get some locally roasted (light roast) coffee from your favorite independent coffee shop (We used La Coop Coffee based in DC). You’ll get high quality coffee that’s fresh and they’ll happily grind it for you if need be. So support local roasters, most of which, in addition to getting you great coffee, purchase it using fair trade and other ethical business and growing practices.

  • Grind your whole bean coffee just before your trip. We suggest using the #15 setting on Baratza Encore Conical Burr Coffee Grinder.
  • Or get your whole-bean coffee pre-ground locally either at supermarket grinder or from your local roaster. Try for a medium drip grind. It should be around the consistency of granulated sugar.
  • Measure 20g of coffee into individual snack baggies (our preference). And we do re-use them.
  • Or bulk grind your coffee and use about 1¼ scoops of the measure that comes with the Hario V60 dripper for each cup of coffee.
  • Don’t forget to bring as many Hario V60 Paper Coffee Filters as you’ll need.
Coffee ready to make backcountry coffee

Ready to brew! Cone and filter wetted and warmed. Dry coffee grounds added and leveled. Timer set to zero.

Steps in the Field

Important: It will really help, if you watch our video on this starting around 6:20.

Getting Ready to Brew

  • Put the Hario V60 01 Plastic Dripper on top of your mug and put the folded and shaped filter in the dripper.
  • Bring 360 ml (~12 oz) of water to a boil
  • Pour ~60 ml of boiling water into the dripper. Using a circular pour, wet the filter paper and warm the dripper. Let stand for 30 secs and then discard the water in the mug.
  • Add coffee into the bottom center of the filter and tap to level the grounds.

Brewing your Camp Coffee

making pour over coffee for cowboy coffee

Finishing the second pour just to the top of the bloom.

Making your Pour Over Coffee in the Backcountry

Now you’ll pour the remaining 300 ml (~10 oz) of water into the coffee using 5 separate pours over 3 minutes. Don’t get too worried about amounts and timing. If you do five pours in about 5 equal parts over 3 minutes you should be fine!

Set your timer to zero. (We use our iPhone to time)

  1. 0:00-0:15 Pour just enough water to cover/wet the coffee grounds (approx 50 ml) and watch the coffee expand (the bloom).
  2. 0:45-1:00 Pour a bit more water again just covering the bloom or a bit more (approx 70 ml)
  3. 1:30-1:45 Pour water that is just a bit over the bloom (approx 60 ml)
  4. 2:00-2:15 Pour water that is just a bit over the bloom (approx 60 ml)
  5. 2:30-2:45 Pour the remaining water in (approx 60 ml) and let fully drain
    3:30 remove the dripper from your cup

Enjoy your coffee!

Enjoy Your Camp Coffee!

Alan enjoying cowboy coffee with his pour over coffee maker in front of him

This is an amazing cup of coffee. Wonderful sweetness/chocolate flavors balanced with juicy floral/citrus notes and just the right acidity. So yeah, it blows Starbucks VIA out of the water.

Finally a Few Words on Leave No Trace!

We would be remiss if we didn’t cover cleanup

So to be clear, you can’t just throw the filter and coffee grounds out in the field. Leave No Trace (LNT) says that you need to carry those used coffee grounds and filter out with you. Fortunately, that’s not so hard. Just lift the filter and grounds out of the dripper cone and put them into a ZipLock baggie and carry them out. This is way easier than cleaning out a oily pot of cowboy coffee or trying to clean coffee grounds out of a gold filter. And no, you can’t just rinse coffee grounds out of your coffee pot or gold-filter into a lake or a stream. Not even OK to spread them out on the ground. LNT says you need to carry these out as well, which turns out to be pretty messy and not a lot of fun.

Guess this is one serious advantage to Starbucks VIA  — zero clean up and only once small plastic packet to pack out. Although you’d be amazed how many of these packets we DO find around camps.

Compared to the Competition


Starbucks VIA

Pros: Lighter, easier to use, much easier cleanup. Cons: VIA tastes just a bit better than ‘standard’ instant coffee (that’s because it’s a mix of instant coffee and microground coffee — and it certainly isn’t fresh). As such, any means of brewing actual freshly ground coffee beans in the backcountry will be better. So see Cowboy Coffee and MSR Gold Filter Coffee below.

Cowboy Coffee

Pros: Lighter, arguably a simpler method with less gear — not dripper cone and no filter. Cons: A harsher brew with less nuance and less balanced flavor than our method — many find it to strong/harsh. And of course you do have those gritty grounds in your cup and a final sludge at the end. Pot cleanup is NOT easy with grounds oily coffee residue adhering to the inside of your (see our LNT now about how you need to carry all those ground out with you). And if you are using your pot for something else, it will likely taste of coffee. Still we are fans of cowboy coffee, which if done well approaches the flavor of a good french press.

MSR MugMate Coffee/Tea Filter

Pros: Well, it’s lighter. Cons: It’s about 3x more expensive. There is no way to suspend the filter above your cup so you end up with a full immersion brew. And with most smaller backpacking mugs the filter and grounds can take up most of the mug. This has a few problems. 1) It means less brew circulation and less effective brewing. Everything is just sitting stagnant in the mug. 2) And more important, the MugMate and coffee endup taking up a ton of volume in your mug — sometimes more than 1/2 the volume. So when you pull it out you are left with a tiny amount of very strong coffee in the bottom of your mug. 3) finally like the cowboy coffee, cleaning out the MugMate filter of coffee grounds is not easy (see our LNT now about how you need to carry all those ground out with you).

Conclusion on World Class Camp Coffee

Life is too short to be drinking instant coffee out of packets

There’s really no reason to settle for less than fantastic backcountry coffee. With the $7 Hario V60 Coffee Dripper [2.2 oz (63g)] used to win the 2016 World Brewers Cup Championship, you too can easily make an incredible cup o’ joe in the backcountry. And with the technique in this guide, it’s really not all that hard to do. Finally, life is too short to be drinking instant coffee out of packets, even if it is Starbucks VIA.

Disclaimer

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking on the these links, a portion of the sale helps support this site at no additional cost to you. I do not receive compensation from the companies whose products are listed. For product reviews: unless otherwise noted, products are purchased with my own funds. I am never under an obligation to write a review about any product. Finally, this post expresses my own independent opinion.

21 replies
  1. Joe S
    Joe S says:

    May I also suggest the Aeropress? It may be easier to use as it is more forgiving than having a dialed in pour over process.

    Reply
  2. Sally Barnhart
    Sally Barnhart says:

    Tried this at home. Easy and fantastic. Love the idea of fresh coffee on the trail but had steered away from it because I found the grounds absorbed all the surrounding flavors in my food bag. Do you have a trick/ favorite method for storing your coffee? Nothing worse than the phantom taste of all my meals combined in my morning brew, lol

    Reply
    • Alan Dixon
      Alan Dixon says:

      Yes, Sally there is a a solution. Try getting some smell proof bags on Amazon like these smell proof bags 5×7 inch to store your coffee. No coffee flavor in your food and not food flavor in your coffee. Best -alan

      Reply
  3. Monty
    Monty says:

    After trying French press, cold brew and perc, I’ve finally settled on pour-over as my method of choice at home using a Melita cone…it just tastes better! In the backcountry I sometimes use Via, for the convenience, or I’ll fill some Tiesta Tea brand tea filter bags with fresh ground coffee for the better taste. The only downside to the latter is having to pack out the weight of the wet coffee bags. Also, these paper tea bags, or similar, can usually be found at most natural food stores and are much cheaper than cones.

    Thanks for the pour-over tips!

    Reply
    • Michael
      Michael says:

      I’ve thought about using those tea bags for this purpose. If you are not leaving the grounds on the grounds (I personally do not believe that it is an issue, but I do tend to pack them out because it is not a difficult task), then whether a teabag or a #2 cone filter, it matters not.

      Reply
      • Alan Dixon
        Alan Dixon says:

        Altho, I do think you get better circulation and brew control with the filter dripper. Altho with the bag and an insulated mug you might have waaay better temperature control. -a

        Reply
  4. Michael
    Michael says:

    A V60 requires more precision to get a proper cup out of it. While I would be the first to say that coffee taste is an ultimately subjective thing, there are better, easier setups than a v60 to recommend. A different dripper would be better for many who do not have their own grinder before each trip. The v60 is sensitive to grind coarseness, while something like this Melitta cone (https://www.seattlecoffeegear.com/melitta-signature-tritan-pour-over) or something similar with smaller holes (I use a bonmac and kalita at home but they are ceramic) will help control the flow rate and hence extraction of the coffee, regardless of the exact coarseness of your grind. V60, if grind is too coarse, the coffee just blows right through. Most people will say 2:30-3:30 is optimal for a V60 (depending on your taste profile preference), and so you have to be willing to invest the time to get your preferences dialed in before a trip, and sometimes depending on the situation, you may not be able to recreate those settings. A different dripper is going to offer more flexibility. This is not to detract from the quality brew obtainable from a v60 (I also use one in addition to my many other coffee tools), just to say there are better options for easy coffee in the back country. If I am making the effort to make fresh coffee in the back country, I am bringing my v60 and hand grinder – fresh ground coffee, to me, is fresh ground, not ground 1-3 days ago. I have gotten lazy with the Via as of late, mostly because I don’t think I really appreciate higher quality of fresh coffee, i just want something hot and full of caffeine.

    Reply
    • Alan Dixon
      Alan Dixon says:

      Michael, thanks for your thoughtful comments. I agree on almost all points. Altho, I do feel that many things that make coffee brewing “easier” sometimes do not if what you want is the best final cup. In particular, whether it’s a coffee dripper or and espresso maker, I find that brewing “aids” that restrict/regulate flow cause more problems than they solve. They can actually make it harder to push the needle in the direction you want to go to get a better cup, but that’s the perfectionist in me. That being said, I vary between the Hario V60 and Kalita Wave at home — right now I am drinking a cup brewed in a Wave #155 using an adaptation of the George Howell recipe and it is close to perfect! The reason I picked the V60 is that I don’t feel that it’s that hard to use once you have your grind dialed in and because the ’01’ is lighter than any other high-end dripper. Altho I am curious to do some testing with the Montbell dripper lined with a #2 Melita filter. Best, -alan

      Reply
      • Michael
        Michael says:

        Alan, I totally agree with you, the V60 is not a hard piece of equipment to dial in, I would only suggest other options so that you don’t have to rely on dialing in the grind, as that may not be an option for some as they are traveling. Obviously if you are packing your coffee up at home, NBD, but if you are abroad, or starting/continuing a journey in a place where getting dialed grinds is possible, other options are beneficial and do exist. I also looked at that Montbell dripper, looks like a decent option using Ti stakes instead of chopsticks. I’ve also been looking at that SOTO Helix dripper, looks interesting.

        Reply
  5. Jerry Davis
    Jerry Davis says:

    Its standard drip coffee. I carry a smallish French Press and somewhat coarse-ground organic non-gmo Nicaraguan dark roast. I pour boiling water into the press with my grounds, let it sit about three minutes, and pour myself the silkiest, most yummy brew a man can drink. Its even delicious cold. The secret to great coffee is the grind and the bean. Nicaragua has great soil and grows the best cigar tobacco, too. You can make great coffee in a frying pan or a tin cup if that’s all you have, and great coffee tastes best consumed black.

    Reply
    • Alan Dixon
      Alan Dixon says:

      Jerry agree on the importance of good coffee. Without it, all the best gear and technique is for naught. Also agree on drinking it black. That being said, I think there are amazing coffees from all parts of the globe. So while Nicaragua definitely produces some excellent coffees I would not be limited only to them. Finally what press do you use and how much does it weigh? Warmest, -alan

      Reply
      • Jerry Davis
        Jerry Davis says:

        I pack https://www.worldmarket.com/product/travel-french-press-black.do
        It weighs 16 ounces. Its low-cost, about the smallest one I can find, and I never find myself wanting to ditch it. One must grind for the filter, although grind does also impact flavor. Some beans seem, to me, to produce the best flavor with a grind that just crosses the “coarse” threshold, and that is the case with my Nicaraguan fave. The barely coarse grind produces a very refined but rich flavor with a silky tongue that spoiled me.

        Reply
  6. Rachel
    Rachel says:

    Have you seen Montbell’s very light collapsible coffee dripper that folds up into a little tiny pouch? All you need to add are two small sticks to suspend it. There is a 4-cup version too. https://www.montbell.us/products/disp.php?cat_id=14044&p_id=1124510

    Reply
    • Alan Dixon
      Alan Dixon says:

      yes, rachel that does look like an attractive option. one could easily fashion a few short pieces of aluminum rod to suspend the filter. and for easy of cleanup it looks as if a #2 melita filter might fit it which would make cleanup and LNT ground removal easier. won’t give you exactly the same control over brewing that the hario does — but again the montbell is both lighter and more compact. thanks again for bringing it to my attention. warmest, -alan

      Reply
  7. Mark Messonnier
    Mark Messonnier says:

    If the Hario plastic dripper were collapsible, I’d consider it. But bulk is as important as weight to me. I am not happy with Starbucks Via, but still searching for an alternative that meets my expectations.

    Reply
    • Alan Dixon
      Alan Dixon says:

      Hi Mark. Since you can stash coffee grounds or other foods in it, we don’t find bulk to be an issue. And there are issues with most folding containers, cups, pots and coffee brewers. Weight is usually one — they are a lot heavier than their rigid counterparts. And second their performance usually suffers. In the case of the V60 you would not get the whorled ridges which are part of what makes it brew coffee so well. Best, -alan

      Reply

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