Instant coffee has come a loooong way.
Whether it's a simple pleasure, or a chemical dependence, there are few things better in the morning than a fresh cup of coffee. Sure, in a pinch, that stale gas station pot will do—or that free in-office cup—but nothing beats an actual-factual good cup of coffee. When you don't spend every single morning in your home kitchen, bad coffee has a way of sneaking in. It's a problem I had when I lived out of my truck for five months while driving across the country. But distance from my home did not make me any less fond of good coffee; if anything, it became a bit of welcomed normalcy in an otherwise irregular world. Absent the conveniences of running water and 110v electricity, I had to find another way.
My first thought was a technique I used a few times in my backpack guiding days, a technique we called "cowboy coffee," a term that has, admittedly, been applied to many grizzly techniques. For us, it meant throwing coffee grounds in boiling water, waiting a minute then splashing cold water on top with the belief that it would make the coffee grounds magically sink to the bottom. It worked better than one would assume, but the last sip always meant straining a mouthful of grounds out from between my teeth, then finding somewhere to spit the slurry.
For my truck, though, I wanted something a little more humane. I had a small backpacking stove, a flat tailgate, a bit of room, and, more often than not, a gallon of water. So, when I visited my parent's house before leaving, I stole my mother's Bodum single cup French press. I'd boil water in my backpacking stove, then use the French press and transfer the contents to my travel mug. Of course, I did then have to find a way to clean out the wet grounds before I left my campsite.
The one day...I broke the glass vessel of my French press. I was back to making cowboy coffee. So, I set out to find something a bit more durable—and convenient, if I could find it.
And what a wide world of coffee I found. While I always thought of myself as, if not a connoisseur, an appreciator of coffee, I was quite surprised at the number of options at my disposal. French presses are an easy, foolproof way to get coffee, but even pour over, vacuum powered, and real espresso are possible.
You'll need a mug with any of the below methods: I'm partial to the Miir camp mug for in camp drinking, the Otterbox Elevation 20 with a sip lid for driving, and the Klean Kanteen TKWide 16 oz for drinking hot coffee much later. If you're going to do it, might as well do it right. No matter what travel you're doing, or how hard you want to work for it—whether you're in the backcountry or a cheap motel—there is a good cup of coffee to be had. Here are some of my favorite ways to get it.