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April 2011 Issue
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Coffee a’la sock

Many trampers go to great lengths to get their coffee fix on trips.

Going tramping means going without; not necessarily in a bad way though. Sure you leave behind a warm bed, your favourite TV programme and your beloved Facebook account – but you also ditch work, household chores and peak hour traffic. Chances are if you’re reading this magazine, you agree it’s a more than a fair trade.

One thing, however, most trampers go to great lengths to take with them – no matter how remote the destination – is coffee. This strange brown liquid has virtually no nutritional value but its caffeine hit and comforting ritual forms the centre of many trampers’ morning routine. Leave the tent at home and forget the map if you like, but woe betide the tramper who leaves behind the team coffee supply.

If you’re going to go to the trouble of indulging this socially acceptable substance abuse in the backcountry you may as well do it well. There’s dozens of ways to produce a good brew in the backcountry, this is my favourite:


Serves: 2 people

Weight: 50g

Volume: 100ml

Calories: approximately 1 kcal.

Cost: $2.50

Cooking time: 10min

Fuel: 50ml of white spirit or 25g of gas.*

*Based on an MSR Whisperlite or Primus Classic operating at sea level.


  • 100g coffee, coarse ground
  • Milk powder and sugar.

Special utensils

  • Small pot
  • Small colander (15cm diameter)
  • 500ml water bottle
  • One thin cotton sock*

* I prefer a used sock that’s dedicated to the coffee making task – I figure any ‘biological contaminants’ are probably better than the residual bleaches and dyes in a new sock. If your tramping companions have difficulty with this, try explaining to them that the most expensive coffee on earth has been eaten – and excreted – by Asian palm civets. They’re not commonly found here, so your old socks are the next best thing.


The first trick for quality wilderness baristas is to mix the powdered milk the night before in a water bottle (don’t use a hydration bladder!). This allows plenty of time for any lumps to dissolve and avoids the dreaded chunks of undissolved milk at the bottom of the mug.

Bring approximately two cups of water to the boil. Add in the coffee grounds and allow them to brew for a couple of minutes then stand aside for a couple of minutes to allow the bulk of the grounds to settle to the bottom.

Stretch the sock over the colander to form a double filter. Pour the coffee through, add milk and sugar to taste and serve!