Review: Pronto Cafe Coffee…

Every once in a while a brand (or rep) will contact me about testing gear.  A lot of times it just doesn’t fit with what I do, sometimes it fits but I’m kinda settled with the gear I have.  Point being, I tend to turn away a fair amount of stuff throughout the year because I don’t feel like I can do it justice.  But when someone offers me coffee, I’m in!

I started working a little with Sport-Hansa after talking to them at the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market in January.  They’ve been a cool company to work with and represent and distribute several European brands here in the US.  I’ve been experimenting with coffee lately in the field (instant, French Press, Aeropress, Grower’s Cup, etc.) so when Sport-Hansa asked if I wanted to try a new lightweight, portable coffee brewing product I, of course, said “absolutely!”

I first saw Pronto Cafe mentioned at HikinginFinland.com earlier in the year.  Pronto Cafe is a French product with coffee roasted in Italy and packaged in Switzerland.  I didn’t expect to find it in the US, so didn’t give it much thought.  With Sport-Hansa now bringing the product to the US, I was happy to be able to try it.  Each package weighs in at only 8 grams and delivers about 8oz of fresh brewed Arabica coffee.  In the sealed package they are supposed to have at least a 12 month shelf life.  Pronto Cafe seems to be available in a 3 pack sampler (for $3.87) or a 10 pack box (for $12.29) which calcs out to a cup of fresh brewed coffee for about $1.25 each.

Pronto Cafe Field Test…

Pronto Cafe Coffee

Recently I had a chance to do a quick day hike with some awesome Twitter friends in the Superstition Mountains outside of Phoenix.  It was a cold, rainy weekend perfect for desert hiking and fun (dangerous) creek crossings.  As is my usual custom, I brought a Jetboil with me on this day hike so we could warm ourselves up with a hot beverage when we stopped for lunch.  Among the assorted beverages was the new Pronto Cafe packets.

Pronto Cafe CoffeeWhen we stopped I was able to offer up coffee, tea, hot chocolate and hot apple cider.  We tried several of the options including the coffee from Pronto Cafe.  The packets are pretty simple, a bit of ground coffee in a small brewing pouch with built in support arms on either side to allow it to rest at the rim of your cup while you pour water over the grounds.  The water seeps through, delivering hot fresh brewed coffee.  We set everything up and began to pour the heated water through but it poured through very fast not allowing much of a steep with the grounds.  As expected, this gave us pretty weak coffee and left me wondering if there was something that could be done.

Pronto Cafe CoffeeLater I decided to try it again, but this time I tried to compact the grounds a little in the pouch before pouring the water in.  I also deliberately slowed the rate of pour (previously I simply filled the pouch then let it drain out, filled again etc.).  I also made sure I delivered a measured amount of water so as not to dilute the brew.

This method seemed to deliver a better, richer cup of coffee.  The trick seems to be to create a little more of a condensed layer of grounds, then trickle the water through.  It still filters through quickly, but you do seem to be able to control the strength of the brew in this way.

All in all, not a bad cup of coffee for a single-serve lightweight option.  It certainly is lighter and creates less waste than many other brews I’ve tried for the backcountry.  Outside of bringing your own instant coffee, Pronto Cafe seems to be the most compact, lightweight and low waste product on the market.  Given the luxury of space and weight, I still prefer my french press…but this is a good alternative for those lightweight scenarios.

Weekend camping with new gear…

I was fortunate enough to head up into the high country this weekend to get away from the oppressive heat of The Valley.  I camped just south of the Kendrick Mountain Wilderness area and made plans to summit Kendrick Peak (post to follow!).  The great part of this weekend’s trip was the opportunity to test out some new gear.  I will post full reviews of some of this stuff over the next few weeks and some of it needs additional testing before I can truly review it.  For now, however, I want to give a quick outline of what I got to play with and my first impressions.

Eno DoubleNest Hammock

I love hammocks!  I’ve camped in other hammocks multiple times and there’s nothing like it.  I won an ENO DoubleNest almost a year ago and I’ve only recently had the opportunity to take it camping.  So far, I really like the ENO Hammock.  It’s light, easy to set up with the ENO Slap Straps.  It takes some time to get used to sleeping in a hammock again but it’s really the way to go.  I look forward to using this one a lot and can’t wait to see how well it holds up over time.

Exped Synmat UL

One of the keys to comfortable hammock camping is a good insulated sleeping pad.  I got the Exped a few months ago and have used it a few times now.  It’s super lightweight at just over 1lb and packs down to about half the size of a Nalgene bottle.  I’ve used it now on the ground, in my truck and in the hammock.  It’s been pretty comfortable and I love the one-way inflation valve.

enLIGHTened Equipment Revelation X

I was shopping around for a new sleeping bag a couple months ago after getting frustrated with the size and weight of my old bag.  I started talking with some of you guys on Twitter about a backpacking quilt instead of a full sleeping bag.  I ended up getting myself a nice full down quilt from enLIGHTened Equipment.  The Revelation X is very nice!  It’s warm, soft, light and comfortable.  The first couple of nights I used it I was colder than I expected to be but once I got used to using the quilt it was better.  This recent trip the temps got down to about 40F overnight and I was actually warm enough to have to open the quilt a little to cool off.

GEIGERRIG 1600 Hydration Pack

I just started field testing this pack a couple weeks ago.  I’ve had it out a half-dozen times or so and it’s a pretty nice pack.  I ran in to some minor issues with one of the pieces of webbing but the issue was immediately addressed by GeigerRig as soon as I brought it to their attention.  Otherwise, the pack is very sturdy and well made.  The 1600 is their largest pack and, in my opinion, too big for cycling or trail running.  It is, however, the perfect size for longer day hikes and peakbagging trips.  The pressurized hydration system is taking some getting used to but I have enjoyed being able to easily share my water with my dog when we hike together.  An in-depth review of this pack will follow later this month.

Grower’s Cup Coffeebrewers

A few days before I headed out for Kendrick Mountain a package from Grower’s Cup arrived.  I don’t know who was more happy about this…me, or my buddy who found out we’d have quality coffee at camp.  We brewed up some coffee Saturday morning and it was super easy and faster than brewing coffee at home!  We drank it black and it was actually really good coffee.  I think I want to let it brew just a little longer next time since I like my coffee strong.

Buff USA headwear

I grabbed a couple of these after it seemed EVERYONE got to win one but me!  I used to carry a bandana on hiking and backpacking trips for all sorts of uses.  It came in handy often.  I haven’t carried on in a while and I usually find some reason why I wish I’d had one.  The Buff serves the same purpose except better.  It’s even more versatile than the bandana I used to carry.

Ahnu Elkridge Mid Hiking Boots

I just picked these up Thursday and was excited to try them out.  They were amazingly comfortable in the store when I tried them on.  I wore them all weekend and did a 9-mile peak hike in them.  My feet were sore and tired, but the boots held up well.  I look forward to putting more miles on them.

The North Face Apex Elixir Summit Series Jacket

I picked up this nice little light-weight soft-shell jacket at REI a few weeks ago.  It’s a nice jacket and has good stretch to it so it doesn’t confine any activities.  It’s wind and water resistant and fits me nicely.  I wore this jacket all day Saturday and it was light enough to be comfortable in full sun, but warm enough to keep me cozy in the shade.  It worked well in the high winds on the peak and was water resistant enough to keep me from getting soaked while attempting to get used to spraying water from the GEIGERRIG.

It was a fun weekend that allowed me to spend part of my afternoon at over 10,000 ft (something I haven’t done in close to 15 years).  Watch for my post about Kendrick Peak coming soon.