Getting your caffeine high while deep in the woods has always been a challenge; sure, you can MAKE coffee, but it hasn’t historically been very good. “Cowboy coffee,” in particular, is enough to send people flying out the trail to find the nearest Starbucks in the hopes that the memory of it will subside (there’s a rumor that Joseph Conrad was tasting cowboy coffee when he came up with “The horror! The horror!”, but we haven’t been able to confirm that).
The latest toy to cross our path is the GSI Outdoors Commuter Java Mug. A quirky design, it works as a French press by having a double wall mug made of BPA-free plastic, with the inner mug having a silicone wiper and screened bottom (much like the GSI Java Press that we reviewed earlier). It adds weight; at 9.7 ounces, this is about twice the heft of our usual thermal mug, but it functions both as the mug and the coffeemaker itself, so there’s less penalty than it seems. Plus, there’s no chance of breaking the plunger as there is with a typical French press, and it’s easier to disassemble/clean reassemble. With a neoprene sleeve and a sipping top that locks closed to prevent spillage, it’s about as foolproof as any system we’ve seen.
And, it works. The silicone wiper helps produce as mud-free a cup as can be expected from any press system, and the double wall keeps your beverage warm for a good period. Because it’s an individual system, each person can make the type and strength of coffee that they want, rather than a one-size-fits-all option…in fact, we also used it to steep loose leaf tea with great results. Our intrepid videographer Leif and his lovely wife Autumn (we’re not making those names up) used two Java Mugs on a cross-country road trip, sleeping in their car and tents the entire way, and found that marital bliss came from him having his dark roast while she enjoyed a mellower cup. In his own words:
“I have really enjoyed using this mug, so much so that I may make it part of my daily routine when I get off the road. You can brew a cup of coffee or tea anywhere quickly and with out much clean up. I did use expresso ground coffee with the GSI and even though it recommends medium ground for best use, I have to admit that if you are just a bit more patient, you can easily get away with a finer grind; just make sure to push slowly when brewing. As far a keeping the coffee warm for extended periods, this is its weakest point. On a warm day, it will stay hot for a long time, but when its 35 degrees outside and you are enjoying breakfast, I would say you have about 20 minutes tops until your coffee is an unsatisfying lukewarm, so drink up! Overall, I would give this a 9/10. It looks cool and functions well. It’s light and durable. And we could each have as much or as little of whatever coffee we wanted without irritating the other!”
Absent the minor issues of not having the thermal efficiency of a true vacuum mug, and somewhat greater weight, we haven’t had any quibbles with the Commuter Java Mug. It works, it’s simple and reliable, and it makes camp coffee (and tea) easy. Highly recommended!