8 Best Instant Coffee For Camping And Backpacking In 2023

Best Instant Coffee For Camping And Backpacking

How to choose the best instant coffee for camping and backpacking? Of all the “luxury items” on my backpacking or camping gear list, coffee is probably the most non-debatable. A decent cup of coffee in the morning helps me get up in the chilly morning air, forget the aches and pains, and shake off the tiredness from the previous days’ adventures.

Yet, frequently I’m just not in that frame of mind for brewing coffee, and I would rather not go through the process of a french press or pour-over (or carry the extra weight, frankly). However I realize freshly brewed coffee tastes better, sometimes I just need the sweet simplicity of mixing some coffee crystals in steaming hot water and getting my coffee fix the easy way.

The fact that it never lives up to brewed coffee, however, means that to try and get a decent cup, you must be really choosy about your instant coffee. I’ve tried just about every one of the instant coffees I can find, and through on-trail experience and a taste test, I’ve settled on some favorites. Some are straight-up black coffee and some include creamer mixes; I truly couldn’t separate them because I have favorites from the two ends of the spectrum.

From expensive specialty instant coffees to the (sometimes surprisingly great) budget brands, here are my top 8 best instant coffees for your next backpacking trip: taste-tested and backpacker approved.

Best Instant Coffee For Camping And Backpacking 1
Best Instant Coffee For Camping And Backpacking

Top 8 Best Instant Coffee For Camping And Backpacking In 2023 Reviews

1. FIRST ASCENT HERO DAY ROAST

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First Ascent instant coffee is hands down, my number one pick for taste, and what I consider to be the best instant coffee. This is premium instant coffee for the connoisseur and it makes for a truly delicious cup of coffee. However I’m generally not a big spender or a coffee connoisseur, I appreciate that the coffee roasters at First Ascent are and I love their product. For those who prefer their coffee black, this is the best around, and it has absolutely zero of that weird instant coffee flavor.

They roast the coffee beans, brew, freeze-dry, and package their instant coffee all under one roof in the outdoors hub of Crested Butte, Colorado, so it’s a good idea that they would cook for backpackers and outdoor enthusiasts. They do it very well, and although it’s pricey (at $2.50 USD per cup), it’s my luxury pick when I feel like splurging.

First Ascent also makes an “Ethiopia” light roast and a “Dawn Patrol” dark roast for those who prefer them, and they are equally great. You can also pick up the variety pack on Amazon to try them all.

This coffee is best for People who don’t mind paying a little extra for top-tier coffee.

2. ALPINE START THE ORIGINAL BLEND

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There are tons of premium instant coffee options these days, yet Alpine Start was the first and remains one of the best. Founded by legit professional climber Matt Segal, the goal was to make “instant coffee that actually tastes great.” Most would agree he succeeded.

The wide range of various instant coffees on this list use either spray drying or freeze drying to make their coffee, however, Alpine Start uses a “proprietary drying process” that they describe as “delicate”. I have no clue about what that could mean, yet I need to think it has something to do with what makes this coffee so great. Their original blend (a medium roast) has a mild flavor and full body and doesn’t have the watery problem that so numerous others do. It’s damn close to freshly brewed coffee, and it’s an overall even cup.

The best instant coffees are pretty evenly matched with regards to quality, however, Alpine Start finds its direction into my rotation more frequently than the rest for one reason: quality-to-price proportion. While other specialty coffee frequently costs upwards of two dollars per cup, Alpine Start is around a dollar apiece when you just purchase the 8-pack. Assuming that you purchase the “guide pack” (50 servings, just the instant coffee packets with no excess packaging), then, at that point, it’s 84 cents per cup.

That is more expensive than just two other instant coffees on this list (however it’s significantly better compared to the two of them), so it’s delicious as well as affordable as well. And assuming that you like the taste yet need it with creamer? They make a coconut creamer latte mix made with the same exact coffee.

This coffee is best for People who need extraordinary instant coffee at a reasonable price.

3. FOUR SIGMATIC MUSHROOM COFFEE WITH CHAGA AND CORDYCEPS

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Before you freak out about your coffee tasting like mushrooms, I can assure you that this instant coffee tastes like coffee. It definitely tastes unique, yet I actually track down the earthy aroma and creamier texture to be truly pleasant. Alyssa eloquently described this coffee as tasting “like dirt, however positively,” and I tend to concur.

What’s truly cool about this particular blend is that it includes Chaga and cordyceps mushrooms. Chaga is an immune booster and inflammation fighter, which we could all use a little extra help with while putting in long days on less-than-ideal diets. The genuine star here however is the cordyceps mushroom, which has been known for quite a long time to reduce fatigue and improve exercise performance (and it’s backed by current science, as well). Regardless of whether it’s marginal, I’ll always take a little boost like that where I can get it.

Four Sigmatic makes other instant coffee blends with various benefits in mind. One is designed for brain health (with Lion’s Mane; also backed by science) and one is for de-stressing (with Ashwagandha; ALSO backed by science). I gravitate towards the performance blend while I’m backpacking, yet I truly like the Lion’s Mane instant coffee too when now is the right time to sit down and write a post like this one.

This coffee is best for people who need coffee with performance benefits.

4. SWIFT CUP COFFEE MAINSTAY BLEND

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Swift Cup is specialty coffee that isn’t even marketed to backpackers (like several others on this list). Coffee people needs the highest quality coffee experience when they lack the capacity to deal with or access fresh ground coffee beans. They deliver, and although I personally prefer First Ascent, Swift Cup comes in a close tie for second. I think on the off chance that you surveyed 100 people, it’d be a toss-up between First Ascent, Swift Cup, and Canyon (next up on my list).

Their mainstay blend is an incredibly even cup of coffee while staying sufficiently unique to pick out of a lineup. They take extraordinary care in selecting both their coffee bean sources and their coffee roasters, so they’re starting with the absolute highest quality ingredients. It shows in the final product, and their quality sourcing combined with freeze-drying results in a cup that is legitimately better compared to a cup of genuine coffee you’ll track down in a lot of cafes.

The main downside to Swift Cup is that it’s relatively expensive, especially assuming you get into some of their specialty sources (their Ethiopia – Agaro option is $2.50 per cup). In any case, they really do offer bulk powder in resealable pouches that can cut the cost significantly, so assuming you like it you can save money and cut out those wasteful instant coffee packets.

This coffee is best for People who need an artisanal coffee blend in an instant structure.

5. CANYON COFFEE INSTANT, ETHIOPIA

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Canyon Coffee is on my list because, like a considerable lot of the other instant coffees here, it’s incredible for instant coffee. It’s super smooth, has plenty of body, and doesn’t have any weird off-taste. It’s also organic and single-origin, batch roasted, and they partnered with Swift Cup to ensure their drying process is top-notch, so the final product is legitimately great coffee that is a far cry from old-school instant.

Where it, at last, loses points is the cost. It’s far and away the most expensive instant coffee on my list, coming in at $3.33 per cup (and even the 48-pack just brings it down to $2.79). It’s perfect, and taste-wise it’s about as great as instant coffee gets. However, it just doesn’t stand out from the rest to the point of being worth paying almost an entire dollar more per cup than my number one pick, First Ascent.

Given the cheaper options on this list that are just as great, Canyon Coffee doesn’t end up in my rotation. All things considered, in the event that you’re fine with the price and need top-tier coffee, Canyon deserves a spot on your list.

This coffee is best for: Those who don’t mind paying a premium for delicious coffee.

6. LAIRD INSTAFUEL

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Instafuel is a latte mix made by legendary pro surfer Laird Hamilton’s um, human optimization company. I spend a fair amount of time surviving on ramen and mountain house, so I’m not exactly a perfect picture of health, but rather I appreciate instant coffee that tastes great and has some nutritional benefits in any event.

Laird Instafuel is freeze-dried coffee sourced from 100% arabica coffee beans, mixed with Laird “superfood” creamer. The creamer is basically a vitamin C supplement with MCT oils from coconut milk, so it’s not widely inclusive using any and all means, however, I’ll take the bonus since it tastes so great. I need to assume the instant coffee powder alone would be decent, and as a fan of coconut creamer, I think this latte mix is absolutely delicious.

It doesn’t come in instant coffee packets like a significant number of the others, so you’ll need to measure yourself. This is actually the main drawback, and it’s not even actually a drawback when you consider the environmental impact of that large number of little packets.

This coffee is perfect in the morning, however, I especially like to use it as an afternoon pick-me-up, with cold or hot water (depending on the weather for the afternoon). The instant sugar calories and caffeine are perfect for finishing up a hard climb or making sure you triumph when it’s all said and done those last couple of miles in without hauling.

This coffee is best for: People who prefer creamer in their coffee, and as a cold-brewed afternoon pick-me-up.

7. STARBUCKS VIA PIKE PLACE

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Starbucks Via is a mainstay in the backpacking world, and it’s sort of surprising that it’s as great as it is given that they still use the generally inferior spray drying process (where coffee is misted into very hot air, removing much of the original flavor profile). It’s not the best tasting using any and all means, yet right up to the present day, it beats some of the specialty, freeze-dried instant coffee that I’ve tried.

Starbucks Via stays in my rotation because it tastes more like a cup of good trickle Starbucks coffee that you’d get at your local cafe than almost some other instant coffee out there. It still doesn’t touch the taste of brewed coffee, yet its natural flavor and general richness (for an instant) keep me coming back. Assuming you currently like Starbucks Pike Place ground coffee, you’ll find that this tastes almost identical to the genuine article.

One more extraordinary thing about Starbucks Via is that it’s relatively affordable at around 50-60 cents a cup, and they have a tremendous variety of roast profiles including light, medium, and dark roasts.

This coffee is best for people who need quality, recognizable-tasting coffee at a decent price.

8. MOUNT HAGEN INSTANT COFFEE SINGLES

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Mount Hagen isn’t specialty coffee and it doesn’t claim to be. It’s sort of a hidden treasure however, considering you can usually get it for 40 cents a cup and it’s on the shelves all things considered grocery stores. However, it’s quality freeze-dried instant coffee and it holds up to the taste test. It’s organic and fair-trade as well, and it’s sold in singles or bulk powder, so it’s a socially and ecologically responsible coffee.

As far as flavor profile goes, it’s not a big deal; however, it’s plenty strong with an insignificant weird instant coffee flavor. It’s solid, burger joint style coffee and however I think Starbucks Via is a little piece better overall, they’re very close. And compared to some of the more expensive instant coffees, Mount Hagen is a solid compromise between price and quality.

This coffee is best for People who need the cheapest instant coffee that is actually drinkable.

INSTANT COFFEE THAT DIDN’T MAKE THE CUT

I thought I’d list a couple of the instant coffees I’ve tried that just didn’t measure up, just so you realize you probably don’t have to try them.

Folgers Coffee Singles: Blegh
Barista Coffee Instant Coffee or 2-in-1 latte mix: Taiwanese brand originally found at Costco for cheap, I figured I’d check it out. Not worth the effort as I would like to think, however, it could just be the preferred style over there.
Waka Instant Coffee: I needed to like Waka because of its promotion as premium instant coffee, however I just couldn’t. It’s frail and sort of tastes like dirt, however in a not-so-great kind of way.
Proverb Mocha Gold Instant Coffee: This one seems to be well known because you can purchase a lot of it for cheap on Amazon, yet entirely it’s just excessively watery. Assuming that I in all actuality do bring it (because I still have plenty from the bulk pack I purchased), I twofold dose it. The issue then is that it’s more like sugary bean water than coffee, however, basically, you get some calories and a little more caffeine.
C.S. Coffee: I could get some disdain for this one, and I’ll acknowledge that this coffee is far in front of some different instants in terms of complexity and richness, yet I just could have done without the harsh aftertaste. I’m available to allow it another opportunity, however until further notice, it didn’t get done.

Hopefully, this post gets you heading down the correct path for your next backpacking trip. A couple of additional steps and a little extra weight will get you a genuine cup of coffee, however, for times when you just need to toss some coffee crystals in bubbling water and go, these instant coffees won’t let you down.

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