Backcountry brewing: The best gear for making coffee in the wild
A venture into the backcountry for a hike or camping trip usually means leaving some of our creature comforts at home, but innovations in outdoor gear have come to mean that a quality caffeine fix need not be one of them. From left-field coffee pipes, to collapsible drip systems to durable grinders that pulverize beans in 60 seconds, here's a look at the very best ways to brew up a cup of java in the wild.
If its efficiency and accessibility you're after, then it's hard to go past one of the more compact and simple coffee-brewing solutions we've come across, the so-called Bripe. This coffee brew pipe is an all-in-one solution, and begins with loading your favorite ground coffee beans into the "bowl" with some water. Apply the included butane jet torch to the base to bring things toward boiling point, with the included drop-in thermometer allowing you to track your progress.
Once the coffee has brewed and cooled, it can then be sipped via the stem with an embedded stainless steel mesh filter keeping the grounds at bay. Made from copper and silver, The Bripe also comes with a tube for storing coffee grounds, with the entire kit weighing just 11.8 oz (337 g). It retails for US$90.
For many coffee lovers, freshly ground beans are a non-negotiable, and survival gearmaker VSSL's solution to this problem might be about as robust as they come. Looking to stand out from the crowd of portable hand grinders already on the market, in 2020 the company launched what it called "the most durable hand grinder ever designed."
Like VSSL's other outdoor gear, the Java is packed into a military-grade aluminum tube for portability and protection, and weighs less than a pound (450 g) in total. It features a clever carabiner clip that can secure it to your pack when you're on the move, but unclips and becomes a grinder handle with an attachable knob. The conical stainless steel burr grinder inside can be tuned to 50 different size settings with a turn of the dial and takes around 60 seconds to chew through one load, while depositing the grounds into a removable catch at the base. The VSSL Java is priced at $160.
The JoGo straw
Kind of like the Lifestraw that can filter contaminants from water as you drink it, the clever JoGo straw is designed to stop unwanted bits and bobs from spoiling your coffee. It can simply be placed into mug with grounds and hot water, and once the coffee has brewed to your satisfaction, you can get on with the sipping.
The stainless steel straw's integrated micron metal mesh filter keeps the grounds out of your mouth while allowing the rich, freshly brewed coffee to flow freely. The silicone tip should stop your lips from burning, with JoGo saying the experience will offer French press-quality flavors. The JoGo Straw is priced at $25.
We've seen a few clever mugs designed to keep your coffee warm throughout the day, but a few years ago we got our hands on a particularly impressive one. Pour your coffee into the 12-oz (340-g) Ember thermos and watch the hidden display come to life with the liquid's current temperature.
The bottom of the mug can then be twisted to set the desired temperature, with the Ember then working to maintain it for up to three hours thanks to the built-in lithium battery. Other features include Bluetooth connectivity for smartphone control and a wireless charging coaster. Granted, the $200 Ember travel mug might seem like a luxury item for your average camping trip, but for some java enthusiasts, temperature control is no joke.
BruTrek Collapsible Pour Over
Pour over is the method of choice for many coffee-lovers, and the recently launched BruTrek Collapsible Pour Over is a clever and compact way to take this experience into the wild. The 6.5-oz (184-g) stainless steel frame holds a reusable organic filter, which houses the grounds and drips the brewed coffee into the mug below.
After use, the coffee maker folds completely flat and slips into a waxed canvas carry pouch, making it an ultra slim and ultra portable solution that can be slid into a backpack with no trouble at all. The BruTrek Collapsible Pour Over is priced at $45.
Planetary Design BruTrek Ovrlndr coffee press
From BruTrek's parent company, Planetary Designs, the Ovrlndr Travel Press is a double-walled receptacle with French press-like sensibilities. Coffee grounds can be added to the mug with hot water, and left to steep for three to five minutes before taking the plunge.
The top of the pull plunger doubles as a no-spill lid to allow stress-free pouring into your mug of choice, or direct consumption from the Ovrlndr's mouth. The base of the press then unscrews to allow easy dumping of the water and spend grounds, and readies it to be used again. The Ovrlndr Travel Press is priced at $50.
It was way back in 2006 that we first looked at the AeroPress, so you mightn't call it cutting-edge coffee gear, but its compact size and simplicity means it is still a worthwhile inclusion for any camping trip. On top of that, it's tough, cheap and most importantly, makes a fantastic cup of coffee.
The AeroPress system centers around two tubes, one to hold the coffee grounds and boiling water and to act as your brewing chamber, and one to act as your plunger. Recipes and methods vary between casual users and full-fledged enthusiasts, but once the mixture has steeped sufficiently, the smaller tube can be inserted into the larger one to seal it and generate pressure as the user pushes down, forcing the liquid through the filter and into the mug below. From there, a simple rinse and dry will have the dependable AeroPress ready to roll again. The AeroPress retails for $40.