Comparing Coffee: What to Take on Your Next Trip


One of the first questions I ask myself when I'm planning a camping or backpacking trip is, "What am I going to do about coffee?" I either have my priorities straight or I have a problem. Either way, coffee is a necessity on any trip.

Since I'm too lazy to pack a coffee pot, I've always gone with Nescafé instant coffee packets and those individual Coffeemate creamer cups. The coffee's never great and the creamer cups burst and leak all the place, but I've made it work to get that fix (like I said—might have a problem).

I then came across Kuju Pocket PourOvers and they looked like my answer to backpacking with "real coffee." When Jenny asked me if I had any ideas for product reviews, this was one of the first things that came to mind. This and waterproof socks, because when wouldn't those come in handy? Anyway. In addition to the Kuju packets, she gave me two instant coffee packets to try—Café Bustelo and Starbucks Via. Here's what I thought of them all.

Kuju Pocket PourOver
My first thought when opening the packet was, "Oh yeah. This smells like real coffee." The packet, made of a coffee filter material, had two cardboard anchors on each side that fit over the mouth of your mug. After tearing off the top of the coffee packet, you fit it into the mug. Fill the packet to the brim with hot water and let the water filter over the coffee, repeating the step three to five times.

After you've filtered the coffee to your desired amount, simply remove the packet and voilà—brew-quality coffee without a coffee pot. The only downside is that, after you're done, you have a filter of wet coffee grounds to pack out as oppose to instant coffee's strip of plastic.

Jenny sent me the medium roast, which had a really nice flavor that wasn't overly strong. It definitely beat the socks off anything instant I've tried—including the two below.

Buy Kuju Pocket PourOvers

Café Bustelo Espresso Instant Coffee
The nice thing about instant packets is the portability. They barely take up any space and are ready to drink in a matter of seconds—just mix with water and you're good to go. The downside is the flavor. There's definitely an "instant coffee" taste.

As far as instant coffee goes, this one by Café Bustelo is pretty nice. It has a much more subtle flavor than most instant packets I've tried, which makes it drinkable if you don't have any creamer.

Buy Café Bustelo Instant Coffee

Starbucks Via Instant Colombia Coffee
You can't go wrong with Starbucks—especially if you like strong, bitter coffee (tip: a dash cinnamon makes coffee less bitter). The Colombia brew is a medium roast, but was still a bit strong to drink without creamer in my opinion.

Buy Starbucks Via Colombia

By the way, if creamer is a necessity for you, I went on a trip with Kathy from Arizona Outdoor Women and she—in all of her brilliance and expertise—used Coffeemate 2Go creamer. You get all of the flavor (and who knows what else) of Coffeemate creamers concentrated in a little to-go bottle.

Needless to say, I preferred the Kuju Pocket PourOvers. I can't wait to try them out on my next camping trip. You definitely pay more per packet (about $2.25 a packet versus Starbucks' $.85), but having the luxury of brewed coffee in the convenience of a packet is worth every penny.