Every coffee fan loves the idea of waking up with a cup of their favorite brew when out on a camping trip. It’s one of the best ways to get that boost of energy you need to start the day early and fresh, and it can help alleviate that feeling of homesickness that might occasionally creep up on you. However, when you’re out in nature, you have a much more limited range of options for how you can brew that cup, and you may not always have access to your preferred method. The ideal backpacking coffee press varies from one person to another, but a French press is never a bad option to consider. And as you’ll quickly find out, finding a good backpacking French press is not that hard, as the market offers a good variety of models.
What Makes a French Press So Special?
If you’re an avid coffee enthusiast, it’s unlikely that you’ve never tried a French press before. It’s known for producing a unique flavor profile, much thicker and richer in taste than most other brewing methods. A French press brew tends to contain a higher percentage of oils than other types of brews too, further adding to the intricate nature of its taste. Some consider the French press to be the best coffee press – and whether you agree or not, you have to agree that it has its objective advantages.
What Features Should a Camping French Press Have?
Most French presses for home use tend to be made of glass, which is not ideal for backpacking for obvious reasons. However, that’s the only notable flaw of the design in this context – other than that, a French press is ideal for camping and similar applications. It’s small, portable, easy to use and disassemble, and doesn’t require any external energy or heat source. As long as you have some way of boiling water and rinsing out the French press afterwards, you’re good to go.
Thus, your search for the best camping French press should be focused primarily on features that improve its portability and durability. Metal and plastic designs would work best, and neither of them will compromise anything in terms of taste or convenience. It’s also worth noting that glass French presses should not be discarded outright, as there are some designs out there which compensate for their fragility with an external body made out of a stronger material.
An insulated French press is also something to look for. It will help you get more out of a single brew, and it will also prove useful when you’re packing everything tightly. It might make the design a bit bulkier, but it can spare you a lot of trouble that’s typical during a camping trip.
Balancing Utility and Bulkiness
On the note of bulkiness, you’ll find that finding the best camping French press comes down to balancing between its utility (including durability) and bulkiness. If you want to easily use your French press without constantly worrying about dropping and breaking it, you will have to sacrifice a little in terms of how easy it is to carry around. It can be worth buying more than one press for different occasions if you camp frequently, e.g., a sturdy French press that takes up more space for those trips when you spend more time in one spot, and a small French press with better portability which you can carry around all day long on a hiking trip.
Steel is probably the best choice for a reasonable middle ground. A steel French press is typically not heavier than a glass one, and can even be lighter, and it removes all concerns about damage from the equation. Some consider steel designs to be less attractive visually, but you’re not looking to make a statement with this press – you’re trying to get the most out of your camping trips.
Do You Need a High Capacity?
Size is another important consideration when picking a French press for camping. The best small coffee press may sometimes be all you need, instead of investing in larger, clunkier designs that will only take up space in your backpack. Think about the size of your typical camping party, and how you normally boil your water. If you don’t travel with many people and have an easy method for brewing a couple of cups of water on the go, you can get away with a small French press without compromising anything.
On the other hand, if you have to make special preparations for boiling water and you don’t get to do it that often, you might want to invest in a larger French press, ideally an insulated one. That way, you can prepare a large batch of coffee in one go and then have it available through the day. When traveling with a larger group, you should arrange for at least a couple of presses to be shared with the entire group. You shouldn’t carry all of those on your own of course, so discuss this with the others and plan ahead.
How to Get the Most Out of Your Camping French Press
A camping coffee press tends to see much more wear than one used at home, and even though a high-end model will be made with durability in mind, you still need to be careful if you want to get the most out of it and prevent it from deteriorating too quickly. Don’t leave coffee stored in the press for too long. If it looks like you won’t be able to finish what’s left in the press by the end of the day, dump it before resting for the evening. One of the disadvantages of French presses is that they can promote mold growth faster than other coffee presses due to the fine mesh used in most designs. You don’t want to deal with that when out in nature, so do your best to prevent it from happening.
Try not to fill your camping French press to the brim. It might have a good seal but carrying a large liquid container around all day long, swaying it back and forth, will make it much more likely that something will eventually leak out. Leave some room whenever possible and pay attention to how you’re packing your French press when you’re about to depart for a hike.
Honorable Mention: AeroPress
The AeroPress is not exactly a French press, but it’s closely related. And in many ways, it’s the ideal coffee press for camping trips. It’s light, made out of plastic, and very small, making it the perfect portable coffee press. It brews coffee in a similar way to a French press but alters the process in a way that many of its fans claim significantly improves the final result. The AeroPress is also enjoyed by many travelers.
Once you get used to it, it’s possible that you’ll never want to switch to another coffee brewing method – although it’s equally possible that you’ll never want to touch it again, too. This kind of love-hate relationship has made the AeroPress quite popular in discussions among coffee enthusiasts, and you owe it to yourself to try a cup of coffee brewed with it at least once. If it turns out that you do like it, congratulations – you’ve found the perfect backpacking coffee press and can stop searching!
Be Careful with Your Choice of Beans
You should also choose the right beans when preparing for a camping trip, and you may not want to stick to what you’re used to brewing by default. Some beans lose their flavor much faster after they’ve been ground, which can make them a poor choice for traveling. You probably don’t want to spend a lot of time grinding up your beans before each brew when you’re out on a trip, so you will do that in larger batches.
And even if you use an airtight container, it still won’t compensate for the flavor loss that’s so characteristic of some beans. You might have to experiment with some new beans if your preferred ones aren’t suitable for this, because you don’t want to make this kind of decision on short notice. If this is your first time going camping, it can be worth packing away a few different sorts to give them a “field test”. This might sound excessive to some, but a true coffee lover will definitely understand you.
Finding the best camping French press can take some time, and there are more considerations to make for this purchase than most people would assume. But once you’ve found the one, it will instantly improve the quality of every trip you take. Whether you like camping alone or with friends, on long or short trips, there’s always something out there that can fulfill all your requirements and allow you to enjoy a fresh cup of your favorite coffee every morning when you wake up surrounded by nature. And once you’ve experienced that, you’ll never want to go on a camping trip without a coffee maker again.