How to Make Starbucks Quality Coffee in the Great Outdoors

Coffee is a wonderful thing, I think we can all agree–especially on crisp mornings in the back country!

Unfortunately, when you’re out in the wild, there is no Nespresso or a Starbucks for miles around. (Isn’t that why you came, to get away from civilization?) But fear not, fellow coffee lovers, it is possible to make a good cup of coffee out there. Here’s my quick guide to making Starbucks quality coffee in the wilderness.

Pinterest Graphic Coffee

What You’ll Need

1. A Camp Stove

  • You will need a camp stove to heat the water. Camp stoves are lit by propane gas, and you can buy new canisters at REI and Academy whenever you run out.

Camp Stove Recommendations

Jetboil Flash Java Kit,, $75

This can be used to cook not only coffee but a number of different meals and is light enough to be taken backpacking.

Coleman Triton Camp Stove,, $60

We have this and like it. It is perfect for car camping and you can cook with a skillet on this. However, you wouldn’t want to take it backpacking because it’s big and bulky.

2. Mug/Thermos with a French Press

Unless you’re using Starbucks Via, then you only need a mug.

The small stove listed first already comes with a mug and French press system. How handy!

However, the second stove mentioned above does not and so you’ll definitely need this thermos system from Stanley.


Stanley Mountain Coffee System,, $50

3. Coffee

  • Starbucks Via or good coffee grounds

4. Milk or Creamer (Optional)

  • When car camping for only a few days, bring milk or half in half in a cooler that can keep it very cold. (For my review of YETI Coolers, click here.)
  • For longer trips into the backcountry, take powdered creamer or the small Mini Moo’s that come in little plastic containers.

5. Milk frother (Optional)

A TOTAL luxury so not for backcountry camping, but perfect for car camping! This only weighs 8 ounces so perfect for outdoor travel.


  • Fill the canister up with water.


  • Heat it over the stove.
  • Once it reaches the boiling point (or just before), pour in the coffee grinds.


  • If using real coffee grounds, pop the French press filter on and let steep for 5-7 minutes.
  • If using Via, pour in your packet and you are done!


  • Push the French Press filter down into the canister (small stove mentioned above functions the same way) and pour the coffee out into a mug.


  • Stir in milk or creamer.

And that is how I do it…

May you have many happy mornings in the out of doors. And may you be awake enough to fully appreciate them.


PS. I like to take an extra thermos so I can make one batch of coffee, store it in the thermos, and then make another batch to drink right away. It’s my coffee hoarding technique. (I teach valuable lessons on this blog, don’t I?!)

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How to Reuse Old Corks as Fire Starter

I can now finally answer the question, What should I do with all of these leftover wine corks? While browsing Pinterest the other day, I came across a brilliant idea to use wine corks as fire starter. I saved it to my Pin board Glamping – Need to Try, wondering if it would be another Pinterest Fail, but alas, it was not.

  • First, take an empty, sealed container. A mason jar works well.


  • Fill it with your selected corks.


Don’t overfill. They expand and you’ll have trouble getting them out. 

  • Grab some rubbing alcohol at the drug store. 90% is recommended, but this is what the store had and so I went with it.


  • Fill her up!



  • Slip the jar lid back on and store it in the pantry for a few days, giving the corks time to absorb all the booze.  (I let mine soak a week, but you can do 3-4 days.)


How handy is this jar to throw in your campout bag?

When it’s time to start the fire, open the jar and grab a few corks.


Mine were all bloated and crammed together, as you can see, so getting them out required some maneuvering.


Place them in your desired fire location. Here, I’m using a metal cylinder in my grill. If you’re building a campfire, you can place them at the base of the fire underneath your kindling.

Next, add the “kindling.”


My kindling here is an old shopping bag.

Seriously, what does it say about me that I have shopping bags and wine corks laying around the house?

  • Next, I turned the cylinder over so I could fill it with coals.



  • Then I filled the cylinder with coals.
  • If you’re using these corks on a campfire or don’t have a cylinder, simply stack the corks, kindling, and logs in that order.


  • Then, light the kindling.


  • Light it good!


  • Almost at once, your corks and kindling should ignite and the corks will sustain a flame.


Go little corks!


  • Watch it burn.


  • At this point, turn the cylinder over and dump the coals into the grill. Wear a mitt so you don’t burn yourself. Make children and pets stand back.
  • If you’re using these over a campfire, just watch ’em burn and add logs as needed!



Now you’re ready to grill burgers and roast marshmallows. The only question left is, What do I do when I run out of wine corks? 

I think I have some girlfriends who can help me with that…

One Easy Way to Light Up a Campsite

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Christmas lights are a great way to provide soft, ambient light at your campsite. We went camping this weekend at Pedernales Falls, and I felt slightly silly hanging these up in the bright light of day, but once night fell, I was glad I did, and so was the rest of our group.

Most parks note online whether electricity is provided at each campsite, and if so, be sure to pack an extension cord to connect the power station to the tree you choose to hang your lights on.

While lanterns and flashlights provide bright, focused streams of light, they don’t easily illuminate an entire picnic table, making it difficult to cook or build a s’more.  Not to mention, they can be misplaced in the dark easily. Not to mention, they’re not half as glamorous!

Mmmm! Campfire Peach Cobbler

This is my go-to camping treat, my secret way to impress people with my campfire cooking.  It is both delicious and easy.


What You’ll Need

Dutch Oven (mine is 12″)

1 bag charcoal briquets/dry firewood (two to three bundles for one night’s campfire)



Metal tongs (not your nice kitchen tongs — use ones you don’t mind getting dirty)

1 box yellow cake mix

2 cans peach cobbler filling




Preparing the cobbler

Grease the bottom of the dutch oven with butter. Starting with the peaches, layer peaches and cake mix. Put pats of butter evenly over the top layer of cake mix. Don’t be shy with the butter, especially if your peaches aren’t very juicy.


I have a 12″ dutch oven so I use an entire stick of butter. If your dutch oven is smaller you may not have to use as much.

Lastly, sprinkle cinnamon and sugar on top.

Starting a Fire

Next, you’ll need to get a fire started. You have two options here:

1) Build a campfire – Gather kindling (small twigs and sticks), wad up newspaper, and form a teepee with your newspaper at the bottom, kindling on top, and firewood above that. Be liberal with your newspaper and kindling, these are what really get the fire started.


2) Use the BBQ grill provided at most campsites (check online to be sure yours will have one) – Wad up your newspaper (or use firestarter) and pile charcoal briquets on top.


Once your coals have been smouldering for a couple of minutes, use the tongs to take 6-8 of them out of the fire and place them on a dry, grass-free patch of ground next to the fire. Place your dutch oven on top of the coals.

Next, using your tongs, add the same amount of coals to the top of the oven.


The coals will continue to burn and heat your dutch oven, cooking its contents.


After 20-30 minutes, the cobbler should be done.

Using the tongs, remove the coals from the lid, placing them back into the fire.

Using your lid lifter, remove the lid from the dutch oven.


Be careful not to touch the oven during the cooking process and definitely keep your kids away from the oven (which is why I suggest keeping your oven near the fire, where they aren’t allowed.)

Pro Tip

If you are cooking hot dogs, steaks, or other meat for the rest of the meal, I recommend starting the cobbler at the  same time. By the time the meat cooks, you serve it, and everyone finishes eating, your cobbler will be ready.

And be prepared for the aromas!

WK iphone lake whitney (3)

And for second and third helpings.





My 3 Secrets to Skeet Shooting Success

On afternoons in high school, I would head straight to the gun club in my school uniform for skeet shooting lessons.  My instructor, Terry, was a trap and skeet Olympian who wore the same uniform every day too–a cowboy hat and shorts.  Predisposed to dirty jokes and occasional foul language, Terry got along well with the high schoolers he coached.

At competitions, Terry would stand on the sidelines like a football coach grunting and barking at us till he was blue in the face.

He always barked the same mantra, with a Gosh dammit thrown in each time — and this is what I’m going to share with you. This mantra is my secret to success on the skeet field. But before I tell you what it is, promise me you will take it to heart! My mother paid good money for this advice.

See it. Head down. Follow through.

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Memorize these and I guarantee you will see results. Repetition creates muscle memory, and that applies to your mental muscle as well as your physical muscles. Iif there is one thing I learned in my years of shooting, it’s that shooting well is a mind game.  You can’t be distracted by who’s watching or what they’re wearing or the cute guy you’re competing against or what happened at school.

See it.

The instant the bird comes out of the house, you are focused on it and looking at nothing else, especially not the end of your gun. Your job is to follow the bird with your eyes even past the point when you shoot.

Head down.

Really get your cheek down on the stock of the gun. Get cozy with it, as if you’re trying to rest all of your cheek fat on the top of the gun stock. You know when you want to make a funny face, and so you push your cheeks together and your lips get all smushed? This is the look you want to go for. It feels awkward at first but no one can see it because they would have to be standing in front of you while you’re shooting.

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Doing this is important because,

A) The tighter you hold your gun to your body, the less kick back you will feel when the gun fires. Your body will move with it instead of against it.

B) I know this sounds obvious, but you want to shoot what you’re looking at.  If you were to hold the gun away from your face and body, and point it at the moving target, the end of the barrel would likely not be pointing at the right spot. Whereas, if you keep your head down and the gun tucked into your body, your entire body and the gun will move with the bird and your aim will be much more accurate.

Follow through.

Like in golf or tennis, once you’ve hit the ball, you must continue your swing until it is complete. Tiger Woods does this. Serena Williams does this. The same applies to skeet shooting. Once you pull the trigger, continue the motion until the bird is no longer in sight (or the pieces have hit the ground.) It is so tempting to fire, see you missed or hit it, and stop immediately. NO! Thou shalt not. It results in you moving your gun away from the target too quickly, even as the gun is firing. Seriously, I have proven the success of follow through many times in skeet competitions–so trust me on this one. You will hit more targets if you stay with the bird and really complete your “swing.”

That’s all folks.  There you have it. My secret to shooting success. I have the mantra “See it, head down, follow through” memorized, and it is the last thing I think before pulling the trigger. (Gosh dammit!)

So now that you know how to shoot, you can move on to the important question at hand: What do I wear?