6 Ways to Make Coffee While Bikepacking or on Dawn Patrol

I love mountain biking, though not enough to skip my daily cup of coffee. Here are 6 ways to prepare your next coffee on the trail.

Like a lot of people, I love a good cup of coffee in the morning. I also love mountain biking, though generally not enough to skip my daily cup of Joe. While planning a multi-day bikepacking trip earlier this year I had a panicked thought: How would I make my morning coffee on the trail!? As I eventually learned from friends, there are ways…

I’ll share some brewing techniques here, along with a few specific products to try. For a bit of context, I’m not super particular about my coffee, and I like trying different roasts and blends. Stronger is better, and I almost always drink mine black.

Note that making coffee on the trail isn’t just for bikepacking; it’s a fun thing to do anytime, especially as the sun rises on a dawn patrol ride. I’m told the folks at Niner used to have a weekly coffee ride where everyone packed their own setup, rode out to a scenic spot, and drank coffee together outdoors before riding back to the office. Sounds like a glorious start to me!

Obviously you’ll need a packable stove or another way to heat the water if you want hot coffee. You’ll also need a vessel for heating the water and/or a mug (I forgot mine so I picked up a silicon cup at a gas station) and some water. Some of these methods require additional equipment, while most do not.

Instant / microground

Instant and extremely fine ground coffee are not one in the same, but on the trail, they’re prepared the same way. Just add water!

Instant coffee is highly processed — first brewed, then dehydrated — which changes the flavor profile significantly. For that reason, it’s not what most of us choose to drink at home, however it’s tough to beat the convenience of instant coffee on the trail. My friend Chase tells me he made coffee almost every day while riding the Tour Divide this summer, and recommends adding a dash of hot chocolate mix to instant coffee for something that resembles a latte. I’m on board with anything to improve the taste of instant coffee I guess.

Microground coffee tends to turn out a little better IMO, and it’s just as easy to prepare. Starbucks Via is marketed as containing both instant and microground coffee, and it’s pretty easy to find in most grocery stores. This one is generally my choice for bikepacking.

Check your local coffee shop at home or at your destination to see if they offer either microground coffee or instant options. Perc here in Atlanta sells single serving packets of “Instant Craft Coffee,” for example.


Yes, packing pre-brewed coffee is totally cheating, and not very practical anyway. Canned cold brew is heavy and takes up space in a pack, but it can be pretty delicious mid-ride.

On the way to a recent morning ride my friend Borja brought Cometeer Coffee which is made by mixing very concentrated, pre-brewed coffee with hot water (or ice water for iced coffee). The stuff ships frozen in little pods, and the company says the coffee is good for up to 24 hours thawed, just enough for a really, really good cup of coffee your first morning on the trail. I say really, really good because Cometeer sells brews from roasters and fancy coffee shops all over the USA, including Onyx in Bentonville and Equator in San Francisco. I honestly couldn’t tell the difference between Cometeer and a coffee-shop coffee.

The Aeropress Go comes with a lot of pieces. Fortunately it’s not necessary to carry all of them.

Coffee press

Pressed coffee tastes great, but preparing it requires packing additional equipment. One of the best, portable options seems to be the Aeropress Go. The $40 apparatus makes quick work of brewing coffee, but it does come at a pretty significant weight and space penalty. I do like to keep a full-size Aeropress at basecamp, and it’s my go-to for car camping.

Hazy Hiker ground coffee from Hikers Brew.

Pour over / drip

I make coffee at home using a basic pour-over method, and if you’re creative, you can make your coffee the same way on the trail using minimal supplies. This guy appears to be using a coffee filter, a binder clip, and a flattened aluminum can to form a funnel for his pour-over coffee. You could also just pack this $6 collapsable funnel along with a few paper filters and avoid cutting yourself on a dirty aluminum can.

Coffee bags

Coffee bags aren’t nearly as common as tea bags, but they’re just as convenient on the trail. The coffee grounds come bagged inside their own filter which straddles the cup for a pour over. Keep in mind this method does result in a bit of waste — the outer freshness packaging and the bag itself — that you’ll need to pack out.

Cowboy coffee

If you’re more of a tough and rugged bikepacker, cowboy coffee is the only way to go. Just toss some grounds in a cup, add hot water, and use your teeth (or mustache) to filter out the grounds. Pros: Good coffee taste. Cons: Bad coffee texture.

What’s your choice for making coffee on the trail?

Related articles

  1. 8 Creative Ways to Carve Out More Time for Mountain Biking
  2. Yeti-Fox Factory Teammate Shawn Neer Co-founded Traction Coffee in Colorado
  3. It's Time for Morning Rides
  4. Cook Outdoors Like you Mean it With the Sea to Summit X-Pot