When camping trip, hot water makes everything better. Hot coffee, hot showers, and clean dishes. But boiling water is also important for killing unwanted bacteria and viruses. Heating water makes it an unsustainable living condition for possible viruses and parasites.
Here’s how to boil water while camping. You can boil water over a campfire. You can boil water with a Jetboil, alcohol stove, charcoal grill, propane stove, or wood stove. If you have sunny weather, you can even use a solar heater or solar kettle. If you have power, you can also heat with an electric kettle.
Some campers bring their own gallons of clean drinking water, but if you are trying to live off the land, learning how to boil your water is a necessary tool.
This article will guide you through 13 safe and practical methods for boiling your water while camping.
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13 Methods to Properly Boil Water While Camping
Depending on the tools you bring to the camping site, there are many ways to boil your water.
Some techniques use portable electricity, while others use your surroundings and natural resources.
Here are some of the best methods to boil your camp water.
1. Traditional Kettle on the Campfire
Time to Boil: 5 minutes
A standard kettle has been a traditional camping tool for decades. Its portable design and handle make it a reliable container for water and other fluids.
Most kettles can carry 1 liter of water, but you can also get large sizes. However, a large pot takes longer to boil, whereas a regular-sized kettle will only take about 5 minutes. This is after the fire is burning hot.
This is my favorite method to boil water when I’m camping. There is something I love about building a fire and boiling water on it. It kinda forces me to slow down and pause for a few minutes.
Here are six ways to build a campfire.
Always go with a stainless steel or cast iron kettle. Avoid kettles with plastic handles and bits – they’ll melt right off from the heat.
If you need a lot of water – like for a shower or for washing dishes, this is an efficient method.
Time to Boil: 100 seconds (1.5 minutes)
If you need a device that can boil water in seconds, the Jetboil brand is for you.
Jetboil Stove System is a portable cooking stove that promises to boil water in 100 seconds. It is also small and compact to fit inside any backpack.
There are copycat versions that are cheaper than the original. But owning an authentic Jetboil stove can give you some peace of mind and a known product.
3. Propane Stove
Time to Boil: 3 minutes
These classic propane cook stoves are a great option for boiling water on the campsite. Unlike a campfire, the propane camp stove doesn’t require a warm up time.
Just fire it up and drop your kettle or pot on the burner.
A great feature of propane is that while cold temperatures can affect the hoses, propane doesn’t freeze.
4. Alcohol Stove
Time to Boil: 5-8 minutes
This stove is an ecological choice for most campers because the fuel is less polluting. Ethanol, denatured alcohol, and methanol work well and can be picked up at nearby gas stations.
An alcohol stove can hold a small amount of water from 8 to 32 ounces (250 ml to 1 liter) of water and takes 5 to 8 minutes to boil with minimal fuel.
Be wary of using it, though, because most alcohol stoves don’t have an on/off valve and can become a potential fire hazard. To extinguish, just drop the lid over the flame.
Alcohol stoves are great for backpacking because they are small and super light.
5. Internal Flame Kettle (Ghillie) Biofuel Stove
Time to Boil: 5 minutes
This type of kettle has a little hole near the bottle layer that allows you to hold a small fire under the contained water.
Biofuel stoves are useful for camping trips with expected rain or high winds. Under harsh conditions, the fire will stay lit and boil your water without any problems.
You can also save money on oil fuel because the kettle can light up with simple twigs and dry leaves.
Time to boil is based on the fire already being lit and burning hot. Ghillie stoves get up to temperature much faster than a traditional campfire.
6. Charcoal Grill
Time to Boil: 10 minutes (larger pot of water)
If you are on a camping site that offers an open grill, that can also be used for boiling water.
If charcoal can heat your burgers, then it will easily heat a pot of water. The only downside to this method is that it takes half an hour for the grill to heat up.
With a little advance planning, you can have a pot of water ready to go on your grill once your supper comes off. Charcoal often has more than an hour of high heat left once the cooking is done.
However, if you have charcoal to spare, it can be useful to heat your water.
Here are 5 ways to purify river water.
7. Electric Kettle or Pot
Time to Boil: 5 minutes
If your camping site has access to electrical outlets, an electric kettle can boil your water quickly and efficiently.
Compared to traditional kettles, electric kettles can boil water in half the time with their electronic heaters.
These kettles also have different features that can do more than boil water. These modern settings include maintaining the water’s temperature and offering different heat levels to speed up the boiling process.
Electric Pot: An electric pot is the same as an electric kettle, except it has a bigger capacity to hold water.
Without electricity, they are regular pots that can act as extra storage for rainwater or other fluids. These pots are more expensive than kettles and take about 5 minutes to boil water.
If you are traveling with a large group, a pot will suffice in providing enough boiled water.
If you don’t have access to an electric outlet, you can use a portable generator to power your electric pot. This isn’t the most efficient method but it should work. Just make sure that your electric kettle doesn’t draw more wattage than your generator can produce.
Here’s how to keep your generator quiet while heating your water.
8. Portable Propane Heater
Time to Boil: 5 minutes
Heating your water with a portable propane heater is a great option. Especially if you’re traveling on foot or by canoe/kayak.
The burner will hold up to an 8 inch diameter pot. And the cylinder will burn for 2.5 hours on high. That’s plenty of time to boil water and fry some eggs every day for a week.
9. Large Propane Heater
Time to Boil: On demand
An alternative to the previous backpack sized propane heater is this portable propane water heater by Hike Crew.
This is an on-demand system. This means that it heats the water as required. It has a flow rate of 2.2L per minute.
It has a tap and shower head option. So you can make a cup of coffee and have a shower with this device.
While considered portable, it weighs 13 lbs (6 kg).
10. Flameless Ration Heater
Time to Boil: Doesn’t boil water
I’ve read about using a ration heater to boil water, but I haven’t tried it yet. And I haven’t spoken with anyone who has done this successfully.
I’m including this in the list, because it’s pretty unique. And I plan to try this in the future.
Have you tried this? I would love to hear your experience. Please let me know in the comment section below.
How do ration heaters work? Adding water releases a chemical reaction inside the packet to create hot temperatures. The process is slow and can finish heating water in 7 minutes.
The heaters don’t have the power to reach boiling point and kill the bacteria.
11. Immersion Heater with Car’s 12V
Time to Boil: 5 minutes
Instead of boiling water from underneath, an immersion heater can apply heat directly to the water.
This device has a long, metal coil that enters the water and heats it within the container. It requires an electrical source to turn on but has enough to heat water in a couple of seconds.
If you are camping with your car nearby, you can use this car immersion heater. It uses 12V/24V and is a little slow – especially for large volumes of water. Best for small amounts of water – like for a personal soup cup or a cup of coffee.
Most campers use them for single cups of water. A similar device called a bucket heater handles large volumes of water.
12. Solar Heater
Time to Heat: 3 hours to 110 degrees
The solar heater is an eco-friendly choice for heating your water. The process is long but requires no fuel to use.
The way to use a solar heater is to fill the bag with water and hang it someplace with the sun.
This solar shower comes with 5 gallon capacity and an temperature gauge.
It’s important to note that this method doesn’t actually boil the water. But it can heat it to the right temperature for many tasks.
After a couple of hours, the water is heated from solar power and can be used for showering, washing dishes, and other chores.
The water is not drinkable and is only suitable for cleaning.
13. The Sun (Sun Kettle)
Time to Boil: 45 minutes
If you have no other options, the sun itself can heat your water.
As you can imagine, on its own, the process will take very long and depends on the intensity of the UV rays.
There are solar-powered kettles that speed up the boiling process dramatically. This sun kettle will heat 16.9 oz (500 ml) of water to boiling in just 45 minutes of ideal weather. It will take longer if conditions aren’t ideal.
It may not be the most efficient method, but true hardcore campers will do it just to be one with nature.
Looking to make coffee on your trip? Here are 9 ways to make coffee while camping.
Read next: How Long to Boil Water for Safety
You might also enjoy: How much water should you drink while hiking?
Boiling water is not a complicated task, and these various methods prove how easy it can be.
Being prepared for the worst is the responsibility of every camper, and knowing what should be brought is crucial to surviving.
It’s better to rely on nature than technology when out in the woods. A simple fire and a sturdy pot should be enough to enjoy some boiled water.
How do you prefer to boil water on your camping trip? I would love to hear your suggestions below!
- About the Author
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Bryan Haines is a co-founder and blogger on GudGear – and is working to make it the best resource for outdoor gear and guides.
He loves the outdoors and has hiked the Andes, kayaked the Galapagos, and biked and camped around Nova Scotia, Canada.
He is a travel blogger at Storyteller Travel and blogs about photography at Storyteller Tech. He is also co-founder of Storyteller Media, a company he started with his wife, Dena.