Drinking coffee outdoors may be one of my favorite parts of camping. Following a night of roughing it in a sleeping bag (or not-so-roughing-it in the Vanagon), a hot coffee is a luxurious start to the day.
When camping in the Vanagon I’ve got my morning coffee system dialed in with our Coleman stove, coffee grinder, french press and a cooler to keep my heavy cream cold.
However, as I geared up for a bike camping trip along the C&O Canal with my older son I would have to rethink my coffee strategy a bit. My morning coffee on the bike trip would be critical but since we were carrying everything we needed for the trip on our bikes, space would be at a premium.
After a bit of research, I settled on a $40 solution that resulted in some fine brew while not taking up much space in my panniers.
Here’s what I came up with
The first and priciest option I looked at was the Jetboil stove. This is a great little water-boiling device because it is compact, lightweight and made specifically for boiling water. The downside is that it is quite expensive and is a unitasker.
After checking out the MSR Pocket Rocket ($40) I ended up settling on an Etekcity Ultralight Portable Outdoor Backpacking Camping Stoves with Piezo Ignition (Orange) which costs $11. The Eteckcity looks to be a cheap knockoff of the MSR Pocket Rocket. The stove uses standard, widely available fuel canisters and is a very handy unit.
I have no idea how long the cheap knockoff will last but it performed well enough on our bike camping trip and a subsequent car-camping trip.
Unlike the Jetboil which comes with a special canister to hold the water as it heats, the Eteckcity stove doesn’t come with a pot. As such, you are free to use whatever pot or pan you’d like.
Though the diameter of the supports over the burner are only about 4” or so, so I wouldn’t expect to put a huge cast iron frying pan on this thing. Still, the flexibility of not having an integrated pot was a big factor for me as it means I can use it along side my Coleman camping stove as a third burner when I’m out camping in the Vanagon.
I also picked up this folding fuel canister stand that proved to be very useful, as one morning found me using an uneven tree stump as a table for boiling water for coffee.
A few summers back, we were out on a road trip Virginia and forgot to bring a pot to boil water. When we ran out to do some errands on that trip, my wife picked up a Stanley stainless steel camp cook set
It has proven to be one of our more useful spur-of-them moment purchases. It has lines on the inside for measuring, two insulated cups (they’re small, but still useful), cleans up easily and stores compactly.
I grabbed from its permanent home in the back cabinet of the Vanagon and stowed it in my handlebar bag for the bike camping trip. It performed great boiling water for coffee and for my son’s oatmeal and sat securely on top of the burner.
As for actually making the coffee, I prefer the French Press method. It’s how I prepare my coffee at home each morning. I love the idea of a French Press while out bike camping and seriously considered the GSI Stainless Commuter Press which is a stainless steel commuter mug with a french press built into it (~$30).
This would be a great solution if I didn’t already have a Hydro Flask which has acquired a very nice patina from being used daily and dropped more times than I can remember. Despite some flaws in the lid design that cause it to drip just a tiny bit, I love drinking coffee from my Hydro Flask. I can make a coffee at 8AM and still be sipping hot coffee from it hours later. It’s changed the way I drink coffee.
Also, I am a total cheapskate and it seemed a bit like overkill to buy another commuter mug.
I decided on the GSI Collapsable Java Drip ($12 at Amazon). This device gives me a bit more flexibility as I can use it on top of my Hyrdroflask while I’m out bike camping or I can use it over a larger container if I want to make drip coffee for a crowd when we are out car camping.
The Java Drip takes widely-available #4 paper cone filters and easily held the 6 tablespoons of ground coffee that I use with my 18 ounce Hydroflask.
The only downside I see on the Collapsable Java Drip is having to remember filters. When prepping for this most recent bike camping trip I used several “snack-size” ziplock bags and put 6 tablespoons of ground beans in each one and then folded up 5 cone filters and put the ground beans and filters into a larger ziplock keeping everything together. As long as I use that packing strategy I should be good to go.
I’d appreciate being able to grind my beans on the trail and may pickup something like this someday but having the pre-portioned bags made making trail-side coffee really easy.
The one thing I lacked was heavy cream and I do love me some fat in my coffee. I sometimes use coconut oil along with or as a substitute for heavy cream in my coffee. For our bike trip I brought a plastic container with coconut oil in it for my coffee.
Unfortunately I chose unwisely as far as containers go and one of my stuff sacks now has a nice oil stain on it where a tiny bit of coconut oil leaked out. Aside from that the system was really top-notch and made for some delicious brew.
This combination was great solution that not only addresses my bike camping coffee needs but is flexible enough to use on other trips and situations as well.