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Camping is a fun way to enjoy the great outdoors and get some of that healthy fresh air and exercise into the bargain. Once you’ve put up the tent and slung your hammock between a couple of sturdy trees you’ll want to kick back and relax a bit though. And what better way to do that than with a nice steaming cup of coffee.
Coffee can be a bit of a challenge to brew while in the wilderness, however. If you are used to a shiny high-tech coffee machine doing all the work for you then brewing coffee on a campfire or gas stove can be a bit tricky. Fortunately, you have a few options for your coffee-making that can make things easier, and a few ways you can simplify the job by doing some basic preparation. Here are some things to consider.
Use instant coffee
Instant coffee is probably the simplest and most space-efficient option for coffee used on the trail, but it has a bad reputation. And not always for the wrong reasons. There are a lot of bad instant coffee brands available. Making good instant coffee is an advanced science that many companies fail to master.
So if you are taking instant coffee with you on your camping trip then make sure that you pick a good brand of quality coffee. The last thing you want on your trip is the taste of rubbish coffee putting you in the wrong mood for the trek. While many people think that bad coffee is the only type of instant coffee that exists, there are some nice-tasting options available. You just need to be prepared to spend a little extra and try out some different brands to see what works for you. You may also need to embrace the fact that instant coffee and brewed coffee are two different things, and not go into your instant coffee experience expecting the taste of brewed coffee.
Use coffee bags
If instant coffee isn’t your thing but you still want that level of ease and convenience then coffee bags may get you nearer to something usable in the wild. These are very similar to the tea bags that you might use in a pot of tea. To cook your coffee you just put them in the pot of boiling water and then let them steep for a short while. Make sure you only pack fresh bags though as the coffee in old bags can taste stale.
Make cowboy coffee
Naturally brewed coffee usually has the best taste but it can also be messy. An old cowboy trick that you can use to keep the coffee grounds from messing up the taste is to throw an egg in with the coffee while you are brewing it. The egg will cause the coffee grounds to coagulate and settle to the bottom of the pot. To use this method, crack the egg-shell enough to let the insides seep out and wrap it in some cheesecloth along with the coffee grounds. Put the cheese-cloth sack into the boiling water and then take it off the boil and let it steep for five to ten minutes. Once it’s ready to drink just remove the cheese-cloth sack from the pot and pour the coffee. This method of making coffee is great if you like your coffee with a thick texture and a strong taste, but it may not be for everyone.
If you like your coffee white then think carefully about the milk you take with you.
Natural milk tends to go off quickly and you don’t have many options for refrigeration while on the trail. You might get away with natural milk if you are camping in the snow, but it won’t last long under hotter conditions unless you have a portable fridge with you. There are a few good alternatives to conventional milk that are more suitable for camping, fortunately.
One thing to consider if you are hiking is that the weight of the water in the milk becomes a factor. If you have to carry water with you on your hiking trek anyway then carrying liquid milk is not an extra burden, but if you have natural water sources available to you at your camping spots then you don’t want to be lugging anymore weight around than you need to. Powdered milk may be the solution here. You can just mix it straight into your cup of coffee the same way you do with your sugar. If you like your coffee hot then you don’t have the problem that adding cold milk will reduce the temperature. It’s hard to beat for convenience and reduces the weight factor by a huge amount. Just remember that if you mix powdered milk in with water from your campsite then you need to have a way to purify and sterilize that water.
Condensed milk is another option if you prefer to pour your milk in rather than spoon it on. This type of milk has had a significant amount of moisture removed from it while still retaining its flavor. This makes it last a lot longer. You can also get sweetened condensed milk that can save you from carrying sugar with you. Once you open a can of condensed milk you’ll need to use it up quickly though or you end up needing to carry the milk in a sealed container to stop it from spilling.
If carrying weight is not a consideration and you like your milk relatively unadulterated then ultra-high temperature pasteurized milk (UHT milk) might be your best shot. This is milk that has been run through a pasteurization process that kills off all the bacteria that makes the milk go off. It will last a lot longer than normal milk, but you can still use it like conventional milk. Once it is opened it will likely become contaminated with bacteria and start to go off though, so you will need to use it up reasonably quickly.
Make sure the water you use to make your coffee is safe to drink.
If you are traveling in a vehicle then you have a lot of carrying capacity that you can use to transport clean water for your coffee and other living needs. When hiking or camping far from a vehicle route you may be a lot more limited in how much water you can carry, though. This means that you will probably need to get the water you need from your camping environment.
Water in the natural environment has a lot of nasty bacteria and other tiny parasites living in it, and the last thing you want is to get sick while out in the wilderness. It may also have some toxic contaminants that will still be a problem after boiling the water for your coffee. Fortunately, that is a well-known problem with a lot of solutions available. You can buy water purification tablets that will neutralize some contaminants in the water. Hand-operated pumps are available that push untreated water through a filter to remove most of the contaminants. In some environments, solar evaporators may be used to distill the water and catch the condensed water vapor that results, though this is a slow process.
Depending on the time of year, your camping environment, and the prevailing conditions you may also have natural options for obtaining clean water for your coffee. Snow and rainfall are both good options as long as you are careful in how you collect the water. Fast-flowing rocky streams that are near to the snow-melt or rainfall that feeds them may also provide water that is fit to drink. You may still want to run the water through a purifier filter to be on the safe side though.
Make sure your campfire is safe
If you use a campfire to brew your coffee then you need to make sure you take proper fire safety precautions. Fire can get out of control quickly and forest fires can be hugely devastating. Make sure you check that campfires are allowed in your camping area at the current time of year and find out what the required fire safety precautions are. If you are not allowed to start a campfire then look at packing a gas stove instead, if they are allowed.
Coffee tastes better when you share it with friends
Whatever method you end up using for making your coffee you’ll find that a few friends to share your camping and coffee with can help make the whole experience more enjoyable. It’s a scientific fact that good friends and good conversation dramatically improve the taste of coffee. You can perform this scientific experiment yourself by drinking a nice cup of the brown brew while swinging from your hammock and shooting the breeze with your camping buddies. There’s nothing better than getting up at the crack of dawn ready to start a new day of camping and sharing a fresh-brewed coffee with your friends around the morning campfire. Or sharing a cuppa while camped for lunch after trekking through the wilderness. Coffee and conversation go well together and help make your camping adventure a fun social bonding experience.
Once you’re done swinging in your hammock while sipping your coffee and the time has come to pack up the campsite, remember the basic rule of camping. Leave it better than you found it. Make sure you clean up any rubbish in the area and don’t leave any litter behind yourself. Other people will want to enjoy that natural environment too. By keeping your campsite clean you help ensure that it will also be clean the next time you come to visit.