Coffee And The Great Outdoors

Just because you have ventured off the beaten path into the great outdoors, it doesn’t mean that you need to give up all of your creature comforts.  For many, a warm cup of coffee is an essential way to start the day.  While camp coffee may not be as convenient as heading to your local Tim Horton’s, you can still make a decent cup of coffee in the backcountry. 

Let’s look at some of the options for backcountry coffee and weigh the pros and cons.

Instant Coffee:

Instant coffee has earned a pretty bad reputation over the years.  On the coffee hierarchy, it sits somewhere down near the bottom.  The good news is that over the last few years, instant coffee options have become more plentiful and of higher quality. 

Regular Instant Coffee:  This is my go to when I’m out tripping.  Essentially this category would include your classics like Maxwell House, Nabob and Folgers. The basic recipe is 1 teaspoon of instant coffee, add boiling water and you’re set. 

Specialty Coffee Packets:  These have hit the market recently and are quite popular.  Consider them a high quality style of instant coffee.  They are lightweight, easy to carry and come pre-portioned.  Starbucks has a great line of ready brew coffee packets.

3 in 1s:  I mention this one specifically because of the convenience.  Nescafe (Nestle) came up with these a few years ago and they are very handy for the backcountry camper.  These small instant coffee packets come with pre-portioned amounts of coffee whitener and sugar; perfect for people who take their coffee with both.       

French Press Coffee:

Now we are starting to get a little fancier.  A French press can easily be packed into the backcountry as it is lightweight and takes up little room.  Most French presses are made of glass so you will want to take care to pack it properly.  As an alternative try to seek out a more sturdy press that is specifically designed for camping. 

GSI also has a really neat French press mug on the market (  This product allows single cups of coffee to be brewed without the hassle of bringing along a full press.   

Percolated Coffee:

Percolating coffee over an open fire is a classic way to get your java fix.  For decades this has been the tried, tested and true method of making coffee.  Over time this method of brewing has fallen out of favour, but it is still in use today, usually by veteran (err…older) campers.  A percolator can also be used with your camp stove which saving you having to build a fire before you get your morning coffee into you. 

Turkish Coffee:

If you are looking for a coffee to put hair on your chest, this is it.  Turkish coffee is made with insanely fine grounds and no filtering.  Add the ground to a pot and mix it thoroughly.  Bring the water / coffee mixture slowly to a boil.  Once it has boiled transfer the coffee into a mug and allow the grinds to settle. 

A word to the wise, Turkish coffee is very strong and is not for everyone.  The benefit to Turkish Coffee is that you don’t need anything beyond a pot and a mug.  It is a lightweight and cheap option.

Take special care not to drink the grinds at the bottom of the mug.  Seriously…don’t do it!   

Alcohol and Coffee:

One the great pleasures in life is adding a little something extra to enhance your coffee.  Naturally we recommend that you do this responsibly and at your own risk.  The 2 most common types of alcohol to add are Irish Cream and Whiskey.  Some other common alcohols to add are Amaretto, Kahlua, Rum and Grand Marnier. 

As one small side note, most backcountry camping in Ontario’s Provincial Parks have a bottle and can ban.  Keep this in mind if you are bringing along any alcohol.  It is recommend to transfer it into a reusable container. 

A Quick Escapes Algonquin Coffee:

Speaking of adding alcohol to coffee, we have a favourite drink around the Quick Escape’s campfire.  We call it an Algonquin.  Making an Algonquin is simple and an enjoyable way to start or end your day.  Take filtered lake water and bring it to a boil.  Add your preferred instant coffee (we generally use Maxwell House Dark).  Save some room in your cup because once the coffee is made, add 1 shot of whiskey and 1 shot of rum.  Mix it together and enjoy an Algonquin Coffee.