The Best Instant Coffee for Backpacking

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For backpackers, it is hard to beat waking up to a hot and energizing cup of coffee in the morning with the crisp breeze and sound of nature. But brewing a cup of joe while out on the trail can make for a challenge. Hence here is where instant coffee comes in. While it may not rival the flavor profiles of freshly brewed coffees, the best instant coffee has come a long way in terms of taste and convenience. And is a staple in the backpacking community, providing a quick and satisfying caffeine fix when needed most.

In this rundown, we will cover the best instant coffee options available for backpackers. We’ll explore what you should look for when selecting instant coffee and our best picks we have found based on experience and blind tasting. Whether you’re an avid hiker, a passionate camper, or simply someone who enjoys a hot cup of joe while exploring the great outdoors, we have you covered. Grab your coffee mug and get ready to sip your way through this list of the best instant coffee for backpacking.

Best Instant Coffee for Backpacking 

Quick Summary

For more hiking recommendations, read our other popular hiking gear reviews:

Best Overall Coffee – Waka Colombian Blend

Rating (1-5): 3.5 

Price per Serving: $1.50

Roast: Medium

Caffeine Content: 60mg per packet 

Packaging: Recyclable paper and content

Other Specs: Actively involved in the Add Water, Give Water program

Tasting Notes: 

At first glance you can tell Waka uses freeze dried crystals and bears similarity in appearance to Mount Hagen’s instant coffee. After I opened the coffee and dropped the freeze dried crystals into the cup, the coffee mixed up well and did not appear to leave much residue behind. 

Upon my blind taste, I found Waka’s coffee to be very balanced and smooth. It had a slight bitter finish similar to traditional coffee and a nice balanced roast that was not too dark nor too light. In hindsight it is easy to see why the Medium Colombian roast is a favorite in the Waka line. It is like sipping a nice cup of coffee from your favorite breakfast diner but with more character. With further tasting I was able to taste some floral and light citrusy notes in the blend. 

Waka won our award for best overall coffee for many reasons. First off it is not a bad price at about $1.50 a serving for 8 packets and you can even buy in bulk for 80 packets for $0.50 a serving. On top of that, you can save even more by building a Waka bundle. 

The other thing I love is that Waka is on a mission to give back. So much so that they created the Waka’s Add Water, Give Water program where 4% of their profits go towards providing clean drinking to over 26 different countries. That’s huge, you can drink good coffee and feel even better knowing that some of the proceeds are going to a useful cause.

Compare Prices for Waka’s Colombian Roast

Waka Colombian Instant Coffee

Best Craft Coffee -Dawson Taylor’s Backcountry Blend

Rating (1-5): 4.25

Price per Serving: $2.67

Roast: Medium

Caffeine Content: n/a 

Packaging: Recyclable content 

Tasting Notes: 

Craft coffee shops are focused on harnessing their abilities to source and create a uniquely but excellent tasting coffee. Craft blends typically use higher quality coffee beans and have higher standards for what beans they will use, often rejecting those with defects. 

During my blind taste test with Dawson Taylor’s Backcountry blend I could taste that attention to detail. I could taste the effort, the quality, and careful precision during the roasting. This instant coffee blend is easily the best tasting blend on this list. Upon my initial tasting, I got a very balanced roasted coffee, followed by hints of citrus, burnt brown sugar, and vanilla. 

The Dawson Taylor’s Backcountry blend is hands down the best tasting coffee on this list, the only reason it was not considered the best overall was the price for about $2.67 a packet you will be spending a little more money. 

Compare that to Waka our overall pick, which if bought in bulk can be obtained for less than $0.45 cents a packet. So, this instant coffee is not the most cost-effective instant coffee but, if you are wanting the best tasting instant coffee, you can get this is the one, I would pick hands down. 

Prices for Dawson Taylor’s Backcountry Blend 


Best Budget – Mount Hagen 

 

Rating (1-5): 3

Price per Serving: $0.40

Roast: Medium

Caffeine Content: n/a  

Packaging: Waterproof Packet 

Other Specs: Organic, Fair Trade certified 

Tasting Notes: 

Light, mellow, and smooth are the first words that come to mind when describing the instant coffee by Mount Hagen. In my blind taste test Mount Hagen reminded me of that cup of coffee I would get at my favorite breakfast diner. At that diner I often left with a nice caffeine buzz after drinking about a handful of coffee pours because it was so smooth.

Surprisingly, Mount Hagen out performed other popular coffee brands like Starbucks and Folgers in our taste test. The main reason was how balanced and delicate this coffee is. Compared to others Mount Hagen does not leave that significant artificial-like bitter taste that some instant coffees leave behind. In fact it does the opposite and is very light.

All these reasons make Mount Hagen instant coffee the best budget coffee for backpacking. You can buy a pack of 25 for $0.43 cents per packet and they have bulk options at even a fraction of that price. Also, what is pretty wild is at the price you are getting an organic and fair-trade brand which are normally even more costly. 

Compare Prices for Mount Hagen

Mount Hagen is the best budget coffee

Best of the Rest – Alpine Start Original Blend

Rating (1-5): 3.25

Price per Serving: $1.25 

Roast: Medium

Caffeine Content: n/a  

Packaging: Waterproof Packet 

Tasting Notes: 

Alpine Start Original Blend is another popularly rated coffee that is one of our top picks. During my blind tasting Alpine Start Original blend was over balance and smooth. It had a hint of chocolate and roasted taste like it had been around a campfire for a bit. Overall, I found it to be a pretty good cup of joe. It was fairly light and none of the flavors were overpowering. 

Alpine Start overall is a good balanced cup of coffee that is easily attainable and at a pretty good price. Also, Alpine Start does offer a coffee and creamer version which is nice, so you do not have to bring a sugar and creamer packet separately.

Compared to Mount Hagen and Waka this one is fairly comparable in price at about $1.25 per packet it is not too expensive. They do offer a bulk purchasing option where you can buy a 30 pack for about $0.67 cents per packet which makes it significantly cheaper. If you are looking for a good option, this one definitely makes it in the top four.

Compare Prices for Alpine Start Original

Alpine Start is a top choice instant coffee

Others That Were Reviewed

Starbuck Via Colombian 

Rating (1-5): 2

Price per Serving: Varies 

Roast: Medium

Caffeine Content: n/a  

Packaging: Waterproof Packet 

Tasting Notes: 

Wow, my first impression during my blind taste shocked me as I did not expect it to be the Starbucks Via. I found this instant coffee to be very bitter and slightly rough to the taste. During Lissy’s (my significant other) blind taste she described this as tasting like a burnt piece of meat due to how bitter the aftertaste was.

All jokes aside, this was not one of our favorites during our testing. However, through trial and error on the field we have both found this coffee to be a bit better when diluted with about two more ounces of water than prescribed. Also, if you are going to be using cream and sugar it tones down the bitterness and becomes quite a decent cup of coffee.

But unfortunately, Starbuck Via does not break into our top five choices when picking the best instant coffee for backpacking. There are much better options as mentioned above and at better pricing options and taste. Starbucks would be a decent grab at a grocery store if you forgot to purchase some coffee in your prep, I would recommend diluting it down with a couple more ounces of water to tone it down some.

Compare Prices for Starbucks Via Colombian

Starbucks VIA a very bold blend

Folgers Classic Roast 

Rating (1-5): 1

Price per Serving: $0.21

Roast: Medium 

Caffeine Content: n/a  

Packaging: Waterproof Packet 

Tasting Notes: 

Probably one of the most well-known coffee brands out there. Folgers Classic Roast instant coffee is super cheap at about $0.20 cents a packet and the price match up to its taste. During my blind taste this coffee was very light, watery or thin, and somewhat off tasting. Folgers Classic Roast really lacks character but if you are in a pinch, it should do the trick. I personally cannot recommend it unless you are on a super budget or desperately in need of a caffeine fix. 

Compare Prices for Folgers Classic Roast

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Folgers was not our top choice

Nescafe House Blend

Rating (1-5): 1

Price per Serving: $0.18 

Roast: Light to Medium

Caffeine Content: n/a  

Packaging: Waterproof Packet 

Tasting Notes: 

Another well-known coffee brand, Nescafe House blend was the bottom of the barrel in our blind tasting. Nescafe, similar to Folgers, really lacks any depth to it. My impression during the tasting was thin, watery, and more bitter than Folgers. Nescafe has a strong off taste that lingers around after you sip it and I found that it just did not do it for me. Similar to Folgers if you are looking for a super cheap choice and say you forgot to pack coffee then that’s where this might come in handy. Nescafe like Folgers can both be found almost every and make for a doable in a pinch choice. 

Compare Prices for Nescafe House Blend


How We Tested

All of these instant coffees were tasted at the same time and were given blind. All of the cups of coffee were prepared standard to the prescribed water to coffee ratios provided on the instructions on the box and even heated to the same temperature. At first I prepared cups of coffee and recorded what cup was associated with which coffee. Then I provided the coffee sample to Lissy. The test was completely blind as in she had no idea which cup of coffee she was drinking from. She secretly reported her findings and tasting to each cup of coffee and did not reveal them to me. 

Next, she did the same, prepared each cup of coffee and provided them to me. I was also blind and did not know which cup had which coffee and then I recorded my tastings in secret. Afterwards we made another round of coffee in which we tested together and rated. By this point we were super caffeinated. This third tasting, we knew which ones we were drinking. We brought out our individual tasting reports from the blind test and compared them and discussed the tasting notes while sipping the various coffees. In between all of our testing’s we used water to rinse and cleanse our palates. 

We graded each coffee by the most important factors of all, smell and taste! Ultimately, this is the basis for how we came up with our list of best instant coffee for backpacking.

Putting instant coffee to the test

How to Choose the Best Instant Coffee for Backpacking 

Choosing a coffee for backpacking can be a little challenging due to how many ways coffee can be prepared and what your personal preferences are. When choosing coffee there are a lot of factors to consider, like type, price, and taste. Below we are going to review some important factors you should consider. 

Types of Coffee

When it comes to choosing the best coffee for backpacking, single serve instant packets really do work the best. Single serve instant packets are really convenient, there is no hassle with storage, and you do not have to worry about packing out spent beans. Another bonus are single serve instant coffee packets are very light, easy to pack, and are durable. 

However, there are other ways to make backcountry coffee besides using instant coffee. There are tons of lightweight pour overs, french presses, and aeropresses out on the market and brewing coffee this way provides a few different benefits. First, your coffee will be about as fresh as it can be. Secondly, you can brew whatever bag of coffee you like and even get some various craft creations. Last, using coffee beans can be more recyclable if you do not mind packing out spent beans and filters. 

Price

The price of instant coffee varies but of most of the coffees I tried they ranged from $0.18 to $2.99 per packet. I personally believe that around $1 per packet the value to taste ratio becomes better. It seemed pretty consistent that the taste became better even up to about $3. Though after $3 I personally would not spend over that on instant coffee. At that point you might as well buy craft coffee at a coffee shop!

Coffee Profile

This is probably one of the most important factors to consider besides price when purchasing a coffee. A coffee’s profile includes the taste and aroma a coffee gives off. A coffee that does not smell good or taste good will not make a difference in the morning when you need that cup of joe the most. 

When it comes to taste you definitely do not want a coffee to be too bitter or watery. You want a balanced cup of coffee that resembles the cup of coffee you make at home. Also, you want the aroma to be pleasant. Coffee should not smell like chemicals, it should smell like coffee. 

Cream and Sweetener

Cream and sweetener are things to be considered especially if you are not a black coffee drinker. Luckily there are many brands that have started making coffee blends with cream and sugar like Alpine Start Coffee + Creamer. There are also brands that make coffee creamer like Kuju or you can bring dry creamer.

In the past we have brought these little cups you might have seen at a nearby convenience store. As for sweeteners, packaged sugar is a pretty easy way to go. Nowadays you can get all kinds of sugars in various forms such as raw, Splenda, stevia, and many more. 

Packaging

While packaging was not the only ranking factor in our list, it definitely is an added plus. Packaging is something to consider as we continue to move towards protecting our environment. Many companies are starting to incorporate more environmentally friendly packaging to contain their coffee. 

While there are pros to waterproofed type containers mostly being their durability and resistance to water out on trail. In our experience with using coffees with recyclable paper content it really has not been that big of a factor and most times our coffee is already stored in a bear canister or some other waterproof type container. 

Also, we have noticed that most recycled paper content packages are much harder to rip apart than waterproof packages. But, regardless, choose what works for you based on taste and personal preferences. 

Testing Alpine Start Original Blend

FAQ

What’s the difference between coffee and instant coffee? Coffee and instant coffee are both derived from the same source, which is the coffee bean. However, they are processed differently which results in some differences in taste.  

Regular coffee is made by grinding roasted coffee beans and brewing them in water. The brew process extracts the flavors, oils, and aroma from the ground beans. In the case of instant coffee. It is typically made by brewing regular coffee and then freeze drying or spray drying to remove the water content. This results in coffee crystals or powder that can be reheated and hydrated with water. 

The process of regular coffee makes the flavors a bit more complex, bold, and aromatic in comparison to instant coffee which loses a bit of all of these during the process. The best instant coffees today are leaps and bounds better than instant coffees used to be back in the day.

Is instant coffee good or bad for you? Just like anything, it really depends on the individual and their underlying conditions. Instant coffee should be used in moderation and not highly consumed all day and every day. 

Which is the best instant coffee? Really the best instant coffee is up to your personal preferences. The recommendations on this list are what we found to be the best instant coffee for backpacking based on our personal preferences and experiences. But we urge you to try various coffees and brewing methods to find what works best for you.


Why Trust Us

We are a small independent team that makes it our mission to produce honest reviews. We do not receive any money for reviews and do not accept sponsored reviews which allows us to remain truly unbiased and transparent. All our comments are based on years of research and experience on the field. 

In making our list for the best instant coffee for backpacking we spent countless hours searching and reading reviews for the best instant coffee brands. We also used our experience from instant coffees we had previously used out on trails prior to our search and revisited those. To make it more fun we blind tasted the coffees in this list, made tasting notes, and then rated them to create this list.

We are always constantly evaluating and in the process of testing products and gear. As we continually research, evaluate, and try emerging brands, we will update our recommendations. As a product user or consumer if you have any suggestions feel free to let us know and we will do our best to test them! We hope you found this list helpful for your next trip. Cheers!

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