How to Boil Water When Camping

Hot water is a commodity we take for granted every day when living at home. Being able to get a hot shower or make some tea or coffee is something we barely have to think about until we decide to spend some time camping. Whilst camping is great for a lot of things, it’s also great for reminding us how easy we have it. And whilst this applies to a lot of things, it especially applies to boiling water.

Being able to boil water whilst camping is an important skill to have. Whether you’re purifying your water or boiling it for a water bottle to help you sleep, help clean your tent or equipment, or to keep you warm in other ways, it’s a skill worth having for your camping trips. 

Luckily, there are several different ways to boil or warm your water whilst camping, so it’s just a matter of deciding which one appeals to you the most. 

Equipment for Boiling Water

Boiling water whilst camping doesn’t require a great deal of equipment. All you really need is a vessel for the water and a way of propping that vessel up. Ideal vessels for boiling water include pots, pans, mess trays, kettles or other stainless steel containers.

Tip: Never use a plastic container to boil water in, ensure any container you’re using is suitable for the temperatures which you will be using.

Boiling Water over a Campfire

If you can get a campfire going they’re ideal for boiling water, depending on the size and intensity of it. Whilst campfires aren’t always a possibility due to potential weather conditions or lack of dry wood, they’re definitely reliable when it is possible to start one up. 

  • For the best campfire you need an accelerant to keep it going, whether that be kindling or fuel. This will keep your fire at a consistent size and will ensure that your water heats up at a steadier pace. 
  • You’ll also need to build some sort of support to keep your container lifted above the ground and fire. Traditionally, a stick being propped up across two logs has been the most reliable way of keeping the container elevated, but any sort of purpose-built support is useful. 
  • Depending on how close your canister is to the flame, your water should be heated within 10-20 minutes.
  • A grill can be used to keep the vessel elevated above a campfire, but you can also find success in simply putting the vessel by the rocks next to the campfire. This method could take longer to evenly heat the water, but it’s much more hassle-free. 

Using a Solar Heater to Warm Water

Solar heaters can be used to warm water when out and about, and are useful for camping if you’re willing to invest. Whilst solar heaters won’t boil water, they’re incredibly useful for heating waters up for showers, baths or hot drinks. If you’re planning on consuming the water heated up in a solar heater, make sure it is safe to drink before heating up. Either bring water home, or pre-boil it using another method before reheating. Solar heaters are ideal for showers, but won’t purify water if it isn’t at boiling point. 

Car Kettles

If you’ve driven up to the campsite in your car, or are car camping, there’s an option to boil your water using your own car’s cigarette lighter. Car kettles can boil just enough water for a couple of cups of coffee, so don’t produce as much quantity as some other methods on this list, but are perfect for if you can’t get through the morning without a cup of coffee. The only downside is that persistent use can eventually fry your car’s battery, so make sure this method is used sparingly. 

Internal Flame Kettles

Internal flame kettles are a more compact and less wasteful method of boiling water. They’re designed to be a compact and fast way of boiling up to seven cups of water. One benefit of an internal flame kettle is that you can use dried leaves and other natural kindling to keep them burning. 

Safety when Boiling Water for Camping

Being away from home’s luxuries can make you forget how used to safety and regulations we are. There are a few things to take into consideration when planning to boil water whilst camping. 

  1. Whilst boiling water can purify it just enough for it to be used safely, things such as toxic chemicals or other nasties might not filter out. Using a specialized filter for your water is the safest option available, but a filter may not always be readily available. 
  2. There are other ways to filter water without using a specialized filter. A clean cloth or piece of fabric can be used as a strainer to remove any chunks of dirt, bugs or other residue. 
  3. Try and ensure that any water that is being collected is from fast running water rather than stagnant ponds or lakes. Stagnant water is more likely to contain dirt, insects or other pathogens that won’t fully filter out with boiling. 
  4. Water should boil for at least one minute before being allowed to cool. The longer water is boiled increases the likelihood of bacteria being fully purified, so it’s entirely up to your discretion when you decide to take your boiling water off the campfire. In higher altitudes, water needs to boil for longer than it does so in lower temperatures. 
  5. Make sure that your campfire is away from the tent or other equipment. One sharp gust of wind has the potential to blow fire out and could potentially lead to injury or a larger, uncontrollable fire. 
  6. Ensure you’re wearing protection when removing the vessel from over the campfire. It’s likely to be quite heavy and can potentially burn someone if handled incorrectly. 

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