Yukio Yamai had a singular goal when he founded Snow Peak in the late 1950s: to create the best equipment for extreme mountaineering. Three decades later, he realized that specialty mountaineering equipment was a bit narrow, so the company pushed into the camping space with the same eye for clean, functional products that stand up to the elements.
Today, Snow Peak’s catalog is expansive. So much so, that with the release of its new Field Barista Set — which includes a kettle, coffee drip and hand grinder — you could effectively furnish an entire campsite in Snow Peak. But does the set warrant a $340 price tag? Here’s the skinny.
The Good: If you’re familar with Snow Peak, you probably have a pretty good idea of what the Field Barista Set looks like — heavy stainless steel body, wood handles and a tidy cloth bag to put everything in. You can plainly tell each piece is well-made by holding them for a few seconds. I especially like the tripod coffee drip, which is built from three conical plates and held together by its three legs. It builds up or breaks down in about 15 seconds and takes up virtually no space in the pack (tiny, durable black bands to hold it together included). The grinder is exceedingly simple to use as well and wasn’t ever overly difficult to turn (even at the smallest grind possible).
Who It’s For: Car campers or people who frequently venture on short hikes to camping areas they’ll remain at for a few days will get good use out of the set, so long as they also have fresh-ground coffee. Even when all bagged up, the set is entirely too bulky to justify the space it would eat up for an expedition with any serious distance to cover (this could be remedied by skipping out on the kettle, which is the only piece that isn’t compact or doesn’t fold into significantly smaller pieces), so proper hikers needn’t apply. The grinder also does not include any grind size measurements or reference points, so folks who are exceedingly picky about grind size should look elsewhere.
What to Watch Out For: The prices are difficult to swallow. The drip is $70, the grinder is $100 and the kettle is a whopping $170, and as far as I can tell, there isn’t a bundle price to be found. Altogether $340, the set is not worth it unless you are getting your money’s worth in the woods many times a year. Apart from the price, the kettle is needlessly large and uses the traditional wide base-narrow head shape which not only makes it nigh unusable for hikes where pack weight is of the essence, it’s also just nonsensical in the context of the full set. It holds up to a full liter of water, but to brew that much coffee you’d need about 9 full tablespoons of ground beans, which would take a very, very long time to crunch up in your compact hand grinder. The point: very little would be lost and much would be gained if the kettle were either smaller, a shape more suitable to packing (straight up and down!) or both.
Alternatives: If you’re stuck on a cup of pour over in the woods you could very well build yourself a set out of existing pieces for a price that’s easier to justify. Start with Snow Peak’s previous outdoor coffee drip that folds instead of breaks down, which is more than half the price as is, then grab any sort of water heating device you prefer (Porlex’s well-reviewed stainless steel hand grinders. Or, for the packing space-deficient, consider one of a bevy of legitimately worthwhile new instant coffee and instant coffee variants (including some pour overs).
Verdict: It’s as heavy duty and functional as you’d expect from a brand like Snow Peak. It’s catered to the campsite, not the path, so it’s not recommendable for those on the move. The set is not an inextricable system by any means, so if any individual piece fits your outdoor expeditionary goals you can pick it up without cause for concern. On the whole, the pieces don’t necessarily offer anything new or innovative to the outdoor coffee making collective, but they do provide a top-tier alternative for those who want the best materials possible from one of the most respected brands in outdoor anything.