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A Ridiculous Number of Ways to Make Good Coffee While Traveling [Updated]

On a cruise up the Alaskan coast to Denali National Park earlier this year, I made the critical, rookie mistake of not packing the means to make good coffee. Don’t let it happen to you.

You can check out Lifehacker’s guide if you want a complete explainer on coffee, but let’s recap the essential components before digging in to the brewing methods.

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What you need:

Good, fresh beans

A good grinder (burr, not blade)

Coffee beans are not spices, and they need to be ground, not sliced. Up until very recently, ceramic handcrank coffee mills like the Hario Skerton, which is an excellent grinder to be clear, were your only good, non-electric options.

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Thankfully Lume, a recent Kickstarter success, is aiming to change that, with estimated delivery late this year.

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Good water

Ideally, you’ll filter your water before using it for coffee. If you’re looking for some good ways to carry water, we’ll be writing about some great new products from HydraPak shortly and update here accordingly. If you’re looking to filter water in the wild, we haven’t done enough testing to recommend one water filter over another yet, but anything you feel confident enough to drink river water from will be sufficient for this purpose.

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Heat

Some of the brewing methods below include their own methods of heating water, and on the extreme ends of the spectrum, you can (hopefully) build a fire while camping, and (hopefully) find a hot water dispenser at your hotel.

BioLite’s CampStove 2 is particularly well-suited to this, with its optional Kettlepot having its own optional French press accessory.

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We also saw a promising product called Cauldryn at Outdoor Retailer this year, which boils your water inside what is essentially a travel mug. They’re currently taking preorders and we’re hoping to get a final unit in hand soon.

Now for the brewing methods... and no, we’re not going to talk about cowboy coffee or instant coffee. We also haven’t tested any specific percolators or moka pots, so expect those in a future update.

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The Aeropress is a fantastic choice for making coffee on the go. It’s lightweight, packable, idiot-proof, and unbreakable. Pick up a permanent filter while you’re at it so you don’t have to bring and dispose of a bunch of... disposables.

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French Press | Illustration by Sam Woolley via Lifehacker

French press is another excellent option for coffee on the go for many of the same reasons as the Aeropress. On the other hand, while French pressing might be your favorite brewing method, it’s basically impossible to make great coffee with a French press, so you’ll have to weigh the convenience with the results.

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If you decide to go this route, you’re going to want a French press that’s basically unbreakable and serves multiple purposes- we already mentioned the BioLite option above.

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An awesome choice here is Otterbox’s Elevation Tumbler, which has optional accessories for French pressing, cocktail shaking, tea brewing, and more.

Another strong contender that we used at the most recent Outpost is Stanley’s Cook & Brew Set, which is very affordable and durable.

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The outdoor cooking equipment you already own may very well offer some kind of French press addition, so double check before investing in something new.


Remember a simpler/worse time when pour over coffee was just a twinkle in some hipster/expert’s eye? If you know a coffee “snob”, they probably do pour over, as it offers more control over the process than pretty much any other brewing method.

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There are an overwhelming number of pour over units available, a significant percentage of which are either metal or plastic, i.e. good for travel, and most of them are fairly compact as well.

This OXO option takes the pouring part of pour over out of your hands, which may sound counterintuitive, but it’s great for those who don’t want to master the art of the pour, and even if you are an expert, you probably aren’t bringing a gooseneck kettle on the go. Also it’s super cheap.

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For minimalists and ultralight hikers, nothing folds flatter than this Snow Peak model, which weighs just 4 oz.


If you must bring prepackaged coffee, Kuju is the way to go. A bit of a hybrid of instant and pour over, Kuju is a disposable pour over vessel that brews in to pretty much anything- only hot water required. We tested Kuju out at Camp Rockaway (coverage incoming) last week, much to the jealousy of other campers.

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Update 3/29/18: Dripkit is another amazingly simple, self-contained, surprisingly good instant coffee option. If you can enjoy instant coffee black, you know they’re doing something right.


The Cafflano Klassic is a sweet little all-in-one coffeemaker with a burr grinder built right in. Perfect for camping and throwing in a suitcase, the Cafflano does everything but heat the water.

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Save a bunch by buying one of the knock-offs:

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Bripe was a highlight at Outdoor Retailer this year- an ultralight self-contained brewing kit that includes a thermometer and even a mini blowtorch. Just bring some (freshly ground) beans and you’re golden.

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That was a whole lot of ways to make coffee on the go or in the wild, but what about “espresso”?

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The Handpresso can work with either ground coffee or E.S.E. pods (use ground coffee), and is going to require some pumping on your part.

We’ve also tried the very similar Minipresso, which has a variant compatible with Nespresso pods, but not their newer Nanopresso, so stay tuned for that.

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The Staresso is a reddot Design Award-winning, self-contained (including the glass) apparatus which also relies on hand pumping to build up pressure.

Note: The Aeropress, Staresso, Handpresso, Minipresso, and stovetop “espresso” makers all utilize pressure in their brewing process, but none of them qualify as true espresso. They are however all very capable of making great cups of coffee. 

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So you’re going to have to put that coffee in something once you’ve brewed it. Years later, your pick for best travel mug, the Contigo Autoseal West Loop is still an awesome option, while the Zojirushi is still the best in my estimation.

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Looking for an insulated tumbler rather than a travel mug? The Otterbox Elevation is an awesome outdoor option for the reasons we discussed above, but check out our full comparison to find what best suits your needs.

And for a good old-fashioned, updated take on the camp cup, we still love MiiR’s offering.

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Speaking of MiiR and Otterbox, they’ve got the best growlers around if you want to brew a bunch of coffee at home beforehand.

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Top video via Sploid

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About the author

Shane Roberts

Editor Emeritus, The Inventory