The Best Camping Coffee Maker May be Hiding in Your Pantry

Via, Schmia–Bialetti Moka Express is the lightest and most practical way to have espresso on the trail.

I’m a coffee snob. I don’t mind admitting it. Perhaps it was growing up in an Italian family where the afternoon espresso was served again simply because someone stopped over to say hello. The aroma of the concentrated café filling the air–a scent I still love today–was instilled as a marker of strong and high quality coffee. It’s in that scenario where the Moka Express took hold. So why would I drink some weird instant coffee when I’m camping? Or buy a contraption specially built for the trail when the smallest and lightest espresso maker, the Bialetti, is already in my pantry?


The Bialetti, as it is referred to, is properly called the Moka Express. Designed by Alfonso Bialetti in the 1930s, the first Moka Express was sold at local markets in Piedmont, Italy. Over the last 80 years, it has been a staple in most Italian and Italian-American homes. It is offered in a variety of sizes, from one cup to 12. The percolation produces a slight crema–the brownish colored cream resulting from espresso production. It is notably smaller than a proper and more expensive machine, but when I left for college and moved into my own apartment I remember having one in tow–from my mom of course, as she sent her only son off to northern New England and far from home.

What makes the Moka Express perfect for camping is its size. The one-cup version fits snugly in a trekking bag and securely onto small backpacking stoves. You may have to make two rounds for you and your partner, but the pot is a quick producer. Constructed out of lightweight aluminum, it’s light and only takes a small amount of ground espresso–so there’s really no weight concerns, especially since espresso is often consumed straight up. Some hard cores will say they would rather not take up the space in their bag with a coffee maker–even if it’s small–or they only drink tea while camping to save weight. To each there own, but no espresso in the morning at my camp would bring out the grumpy and groggy bear–not to be trusted or bothered.

Within the outdoor industry, each year someone is trying sell the latest and greatest. The Moka Express is a nod to the simpler early days. At just under $25 it’s cheaper than some of those fancy (and perhaps gimmicky) camping coffee solutions, and it most likely will taste better, too. Of note, the more espresso you make in your Bialetti the better it tastes, so never, ever, wash it out with soap–another plus for camping. And while I may be biased, I trust a long-standing Italian-designed-and-made espresso pot over something new. They enjoy their espresso in Italy, and so do I when I’m waking up from sleeping under the stars.

$25 | BUY

Photos by Erme Catino

Camp Notes is a big high five to the fun of sleeping outdoors and all that comes along with it. You know, camping and stuff.



Showing 12 comments
  • Peter

    I’m in. Very nice.

  • Rube

    Negative Ghostrider.

    Water hits the grounds boiling and burns them with these stovetop jobbies, it’s a design flaw.

    Aeropress is lighter (plastic) and allows you to use the correct temp water. I use mine at home too! Awesome coffee. But don’t take my word for it, check out the reviews on Amazon!

  • Matt

    coffee from this little guy is always on point. Just use a medium grind otherwise you’ll be drinking coffee sludge/paste which by-in-large misses the point.

  • Brett Logan

    You’re allowed to make coffee at home with these too. And in response to Matt, it’s not the type of roast that will give you sludge, but the fineness of the grind. More fine = more sludge

  • Blaine

    Another good option would be Cold Grinds cold brew filter packs, you can throw them in pot of hot water for easy camp coffee. One of my favorite new products…

  • David

    I’ve been using a Moka the last two years. I’ve been camping for 47 years some as a kid but this totally changed my camping mornings.

  • Andrew

    We’ve relied on these gems for quite a while… Tried the aero press for a bit, but in the end we prefer the one and two cup versions.

  • M

    I love coffee too, and drink the good stuff at home, but always bring packets of Starbucks via into the wilderness. Weight/space to enjoyment ratio just isn’t there for me with the moka pot or aeropress.

  • Sadie Schroeder

    You forgot to mention that unlike the French press, it is also unbreakable.

  • Ed

    If you’re going to go with the Moka pot, I’d look for one made of stainless steel as opposed to aluminum…it definitely makes better espresso as the steel is less reactive than the aluminum. I personally think the Bialetti Venus is a better design than the Bialetti Moka. Also, I’ve heard that flavor in any of these pots can be improved by laying a moistened Aeropress filter on top of the grounds prior to brewing. (They fit perfectly.) There are a bunch of YT videos that talk about this, here’s one:

  • Stephen Coven

    Thank you for the article. I had an Aeropress but it recently broke and I’ve been needing a new coffee maker for an upcoming camping trip.

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