The Art of Making Good Coffee on the Trail

Part of the reason we do stints in the wild is to embrace the opportunity to let go of our worldly possessions and everyday luxuries for a while. But for many of us who love to go camping, sacrificing our morning cup of joe is just a non-negotiable.

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And for others of us yet, coffee is so much more than just a mediocre tasting, hot shot of wake-the-heck-up—it's a fine beverage.

Instant? No thank you.

If the thought of drinking a bad cup of coffee is to you what a mouthful of Carlo Rossi is to a wine connoisseur, here are some of the best methods and easy-to-carry equipment for making good coffee, which always seems to taste so much better when you're camping.

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Not Too Hot

Whatever method of making good coffee you decide to use, it's important to remember not to bring your water to a full boil.

The aromatic, rich oils in coffee are released at the temperature of water that's just below boiling (205 degrees Fahrenheit, so you'll want to bring your water to a rolling boil only. The hotter the water—the longer you let it come to a full boil—the more bitter your coffee will taste.

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Grind Your Own!

A portable, manual coffee grinder is also key. If you care enough about coffee to have read this far, you probably already know that pre-ground coffee has already lost tons of its natural flavor, so throw a bag of whole bean in your pack. Some grinders come with a battery option, but some, like the GSI Outdoors JavaGRIND Coffee Grinder ($19.95 at REI) have a hand crank to grind manually. The only downside is that it can be a bit of a pain to grind. But you can also use it for peppercorns or other spices.

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Cowboy Coffee

In this most basic camping-coffee process, grind your coffee coarsely and heat with water in a pot. You want to let the grounds settle to the bottom before pouring. You can use coffee bags to filter, but many coffee purists insist that the paper reacts with the coffee as well as blocking out oils and taste.

Another option is to use heated milk instead of water. The result: creamy goodness.

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Filter Basket

This method may be the least flavorful, but we'll throw it in here anyway.

If you purchase a travel coffee filter basket—which is essentially a stainless steel coil—that places right onto your pot or mug, you'll put your coffee in a filter and place that in the coil. Then, pour your hot water through.

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