David Lynch once said, “even a bad cup of coffee is better than no coffee at all" — and the outdoor community has taken that as gospel. With few hikers chemically dependent enough to lug around manual coffee grinders and a french press, instant coffees have become the staple.
Starbucks Via packets are practically currency on long trails like the AT and PCT. If you were to survey thru-hikers, most would tell you that’s the best coffee option to be found.
Thanks to my severe, incurable caffeine addiction (and, yes, a bit of coffee snobbery), I must disagree. I have tried all the major instant brands. In my experience, their crystalline concoctions of dried or “micro-ground” coffees do not magically activate when dissolved in water. My mornings require something stronger and more palatable. Being on trail only magnifies this need.
The two brothers who founded Kuju Coffee felt this same way. That’s why they developed the Pocket PourOver®. Requiring zero extra equipment, the result is a pre-packaged single-serving filter containing specialty-grade, ethically sourced coffees.
Once opened, the filter unfolds in origami-like fashion to hook securely on the lip of nearly any sized mug. Pour hot water over it, and the result is a surprisingly rich and bold cup of coffee (which can be made even stronger by allowing the beans to steep).
Kuju Coffee offers light, medium, and dark varieties, as well as a decaf option to pair with an evening dessert.
What I Loved About The Basecamp Blend by Kuju Coffee
Freshly brewed coffee - this ain’t your grampa’s instant and it shows! Now you can freshly brew an actual cup of coffee anywhere. No more powders that turn hot water into a sad see-through cup of light brown liquid vaguely resembling java. Kuju comes out dark and rich with subtle hints of honey, chocolate, and oak. It is actual coffee!
Strength - This powerful Pocket PourOver packs a punch. If several servings of instant have left you with only the illusion of being slightly more awake, this will be a game changer for you. Much like frontcountry coffee, the aroma alone signals to the brain that caffeine is on the way, which provides the first hint of stimulation. This coffee has the potential to start the rejuvenation process as it steeps!
Flavor - It is nutty. It is complex. It is deep, dark, smooth and rich. It is bliss.
Quantity - Each packet makes 8-12 ounces of coffee. It’s the perfect size portion to really drag out the activity, sipping slowly, watching the sunrise.
Makes a great mocha - On really big mile days, in an effort to consume as many calories as possible, I mix a packet of chocolate instant breakfast into my morning go-juice. Weaker coffees are immediately overpowered and lose all resemblance to anything coffee like. Kuju’s Base Camp blend does not. Even with chocolatey protein mixed in, its flavor shines through. The result is a delicious mocha that still provides that much needed morning coffee experience.
What I Didn’t Love
Requires two hot water receptacles - As a minimalist, my camp kitchen is simply a titanium mug and spork. To really get the full potential of a pour over, two hot water containers are necessary. Steeping the filter like a tea bag, without pouring hot water through it, does not result in the same magnificence. Solo hikers and minimalists will need to pack a secondary solution.
Spilling the beans - I want as much coffee as I can get from my coffee, so I let the beans steep after pouring water through them. It makes my mud even darker and more intense. But when surrounded by liquid at the bottom of a mug, the filter tips over at the slightest jostle. Grounds get into the coffee and kind of kill the joy of it all. When going the steeping route, great care needs to be taken to avoid such an atrocity.
Pocket PourOvers are a brilliant alternative to instant. They make a far superior cup of joe and do a much better job waking up groggy hikers. For those who hike with friends or already carry Nalgene bottles, no extra equipment is needed. There is the issue of packing out the spent coffee, but if left out to dry while packing up camp, the weight is negligible. It is a tiny price to pay for superior java. Unlike instant options, I look forward to my morning mug of piping hot Kuju coffee. It is truly a better way to start the day!
Mandy Esch is an international pro skater turned avid outdoorswoman who enjoys backpacking, camping, fly fishing, cliff diving and passing on what she learns along the way. In her backpacking blog, Mandy shares video trail reviews and trip planning guides. Follow her adventures at www.backcountrydirtbag.com.