I can’t stand campsites. If you enjoy groups of screaming kids, creepy old men in sandals that showcase their fungal toenails, and the fresh scent of human waste wafting over from the public toilets—perhaps campsites are for you. Call me weird, but my idea of a holiday doesn’t involve brushing my teeth in a cubicle, two feet away from a stranger as he strains on the toilet (you can hear everything).
Camping is for getting away from other people. Not getting closer to them while they use the toilet. If you want to go camping, throw your tent in a pack and hike out to somewhere beautiful and remote—this is called wild camping.
Like regular camping, wild camping has its downsides: Basic hygiene is tricky given a lack of running water, and the toilet situation is…non-existent. This is a sticking point for a lot of people. But what’s a toilet really? A glorified hole in the ground. Bring a shovel with you and you can consider that problem solved. Just make sure you find a discreet area, because—believe me—no one wants to see that.
If you can get over these small concerns, your reward will be gorgeous views, star-filled skies, and the only other people around will be the ones you’ve carefully selected. Perfect.
But whether you’re in a 5-star hotel, a tent, or a hole in the ground; there’s one luxury that you should never have to go without. I’m talking, of course, about your basic human right to a great cup of coffee.
I’ve spent years searching for the perfect way to make coffee in the wild. From my struggles with the crappy sachets of tasteless instant in the marines, to the plethora of options available to civilians with more time on their hands. Here are my top 5 picks for making coffee in the wilderness:
Sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures—instant coffee. I discovered Starbucks Via in basic training with the Royal Marines. Basic training isn’t fun, so subjecting myself to the tar-like coffee in ration packs when my body needed it most seemed needlessly masochistic.
If you must drink instant, make sure it’s micro-ground. Starbucks Via is the closest thing I’ve found to a real cup of coffee that takes less than a minute to make. The sachets are the size of your pinkie-finger and require no additional equipment—just add to hot water.
4. Cowboy Coffee
This just feels authentic—you can almost hear the muffled sounds of the guys from Brokeback Mountain in the distance as it brews.
You need a bag of coffee and a metal pot. If you’re worried about weight, GSI Outdoors make a 1-litre kettle that weighs just 160 grams. You ditch more weight than that during your morning visit to your toilet-hole.
Bring your water to a boil over an open fire, then take it off the heat and add your coffee grounds. Give it a stir and add it to the heat for another couple of minutes. To avoid a smile full of nasty coffee sediment, mix the grounds with crushed egg shells. The egg shells contain a bonding agent that helps the coffee clump together and sink to the bottom of the pot. Clean teeth and a caffeine boost.
I dismissed it as another hipster-fad at first. Then I received one for my birthday and I was forced to admit it makes a damn-good cup of coffee. It’s light, robust and easy to use. However, you can only make one cup at a time; which makes it a ball-ache if you have a whole group to worry about. It also takes up a lot of space in your kit, and unless you pay extra for the metal filter, the stack of used paper filters will drive you crazy.
This is a portable filter that attaches to your mug. It weighs next to nothing and produces a decent cup of filter coffee. You do have to put up with rogue coffee sediment sneaking passed the filter—unless you also use paper filters. But then you’re stuck with the issue of having to carry dirty coffee filters in your kit.
The filter gets filthy unless you clean in meticulously, but the quality of the coffee is limited only by your choice of grounds.
1. JetBoil Coffee Press
This is genius. A simple attachment that turns your Jetboil camping stove into a French press—what could be better?
The attachment folds away and packs inside your Jetboil, so it adds no additional bulk to your kit. The only negative here is that you need to own a Jetboil. But if you should anyway—they boil water as fast as an electric kettle without burning through all your fuel. A standard Jetboil holds up to a litre of water, which means up to 1 litre of sweet, sweet coffee. This means it works well for groups or people like me who like to chug coffee like pints of stout.
Go Forth and Brew!
If you take just one thing away from reading this—other than the fact that I have an unhealthy obsession with coffee—it should be that a great cup of coffee is possible in the great outdoors. No matter what life throws at you—never settle for an inferior cup of Joe.