The Great Backcountry Coffee-Off

AeroPress Coffee

We rounded up a number of backcountry coffee making options, headed outside, and put them through their paces to figure out which made for the best backcountry brew. As coffee is pretty much essential to your daily happiness and welfare (at least mine), it is not worth skimping on. A good cup of coffee can make all the difference to your enjoyment of a backpacking trip. 

We tested the following 6 products out on the trail:


1. Aerobie AeroPress ($29.99): This device uses a combination of immersion brewing and air pressure to deliver your preferred strength of coffee. A micro filter at the bottom ensures you won't be chewing on any grits. 

Bialetti Moka Express

2. Bialetti Moka Express ($24.99): Millions of Italians brew their morning coffee with this stovetop espresso maker.

Jetboil Coffee Press

3. Jetboil Coffee Press ($14.95): Traditional French press style immersion brew coffee made right in your Jetboil. Basically cowboy coffee with a much smaller risk of grit. 

Handpresso Wild

4. Handpresso Wild ($129.99): A hand pump espresso maker that forces hot water through the coffee grounds at the desired 16 Bar of pressure. Works with either standard E.S.E pods or your own coffee. 

Incred' a Brew

5. Incred 'a Brew ($24.99): With a valve to start and stop the flow of coffee, this device can be used for either a traditional pour over method or immersion brew. 

Starbucks VIA

6. Starbucks VIA ($8.00 for box of 12): Instant coffee packets from Starbucks. 

Using the same type of ground coffee across all products (apart from the VIA, obviously) we evaluated each of the backcountry coffee devices along 5 criteria: weight, usability, coffee taste, how easy it was to clean, and packability. You will find the results below. 

Backcountry Coffee

Summary of our findings:

  • The Bialetti Moka Express, or any Italian stovetop espresso maker for that matter, made our favorite tasting coffee. The AeroPress came a close second. In terms of weight, we would probably choose to bring the AeroPress on backpacking trips and reserve the Moka Express for car camping or more casual backpacking endeavours. Although the 3 cup size makes a nice big cup of coffee for one or can be shared between two people, you could drop down to the 1 cup or 2 cup size to save weight.
  • Hands down, the Starbucks VIA instant coffee is the best option for ultralight or longer backpacking trips. No grounds to carry, no clean up, and minimal weight. Just boil water and you have an instant cup of coffee in the morning. The coffee doesn't taste too horrible either. 
  • Dealing with messy grounds was a deal breaker for us. So even though the Jetboil Coffee Press offers an ultralight option and makes for pretty good coffee, the clean up effort is just too much.
  • The Handpresso was super easy to clean and made a pretty good espresso but the weight meant it will probably be relegated to car camping or even travel situations in the future.

So there you have it. Thoughts? Do you have a different preferred method of making coffee in the backcountry?

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