There are several different ways you can boil water while camping, but which method is best for you depends on a number of factors.
In order for you to decide on that, I am going to give you a breakdown of all the best ways to boil water camping.
Whether you need to heat water for tea or coffee, cooking, or maybe even just to have a shower – by the end of this article you will know a bunch of different ways. So, how to boil water while camping, let’s get into the options you have.
How to Boil Water While Camping
Our first boil water camping trick is the oldest, more traditional way and a personal favorite of mine because it’s usually the most practical. For those who are hiking or backpacking, it is not a sensible method. On the other hand, it’s the simplest for campers since we need a campfire anyway to cook and stay warm.
All you need to do is pour the water into a metal or stainless-steel bowl, pot, or bucket and put it over the campfire.
Although it’s nice to use the campfire to boil water, it takes longer than using a gas or electric powered option. The reason for this is because it’s difficult to control the heat of a fire.
What’s great about campfires is that they don’t cost anything – all the materials needed can be gathered along the trail and you don’t have to lug around something heavy like a canister.
Campfires are a lovely thing, but at the end of the day fire can still be dangerous. So, it is important to keep some safety precautions in mind.
Make sure you have plenty of fuel ready to keep your fire going; kindling and tinder at first to get the fire going and larger pieces to maintain the fire while also making it as strong and hot as needed.
The pot has to be secure above the fire and over the coals. I find that the best way to do this is by using two large rocks or logs on either side of the fire positioned in a way to hold and balance the pot.
It should only take around 10 to 20 minutes for the water to start boiling. Use a very thick rag or an oven glove to remove the pot. With pots that are smaller and lightweight, you can just use pliers or tongs instead. If you happen to be using a bucket, you could use something like a thick stick to lift the bucket from the handle (and this is how you could keep it held above the fire, too).
Portable Camping Stove
Another way of how to boil water camping is by using a portable stove. I like to think that any camper who does not have a stove just hasn’t discovered how much one can improve a camping trip as a whole.
All you need is a small pot and a lighter or matches. This is a quick, easy, and reliable method.
The beauty of it is that, if you want the water to boil faster, you can adjust the stove’s temperature.
Within minutes, you’ll have boiling water ready to make coffee or to start cooking. Most stoves have two hobs so you can actually do both simultaneously, and they’re also built especially for camping so weight or size aren’t an issue.
Of course, a camping stove won’t keep you warm like a fire, but the coffee can help you with feeling cold.
An example is the Jetboil Cook system seems to be the best camping stove out there. It’s versatile, adaptable, lightweight, and compact. Water boils in 100 seconds and it only weighs 370 grams. It consists of a pot, stove, ignitor and stand all built into one.
This method is easy and perfect for boiling large amounts of water, but it requires power from a portable generator or a power outlet at your campsite.
Once you have the bucket heater connected, keep an eye on it and monitor the thermometer. Once the water starts boiling you can disconnect the heater.
It’s reliable and efficient. Ideally, you should get a stainless-steel guard for your bucket heater, to protect the bucket from melting while simultaneously letting you boil water quickly and safely.
It should only take around 10 to 15 minutes for the water to boil using this method.
Solar Water Heating Bags
Solar water heating bags, also known as solar shower bags, are another versatile and reliable way to boil water while camping. Not only are they easy to use, compact, and cheap, but also consistent.
Since they use solar energy from the sun, and don’t require fuel or even a lighter; it’s completely eco-friendly.
One of the best things about solar water heating bags is that they’re reusable.
All you need to do is fill the bag with water, but it may take a few hours (up to three hours even in warm weather), so this isn’t ideal if you need boiling water quickly.
How it works is that the dark color absorbs the sun’s rays to heat the water within it.
The only downside to them is that you are completely reliant on the weather conditions, and they are essentially useless in winter. You have to be sure that the sun will be out during your camping trip for them to be useful.
The other thing that is not so great about them is that they won’t actually boil your water, they just heat water while camping.
This method is a great option for car camping. As the name suggests, it’s a small kettle that plugs into your car’s cigarette lighter. They usually have the capacity to boil enough water for two or three cups of coffee (around 350ml), and can boil water in 15 minutes.
Ideal for making coffee, tea, or dehydrated meals like instant noodles.
Compared to the other methods listed here, this one has a very small capacity and isn’t very useful for family camping trips. It doesn’t work unless you are car camping, either.
Kelly Kettles were invented in the 1890s, and they still provide a quick way of boiling water. Amazingly, they only require a small amount of combustible material (twigs, dried grass, pine cones, etc.), and it works like a chimney.
They are hallow on the inside, and you have a fire lit at the base so that the flames travel up the ‘chimney’.
Even if you have a stove to cook with, this is ideal when it comes to boiling water because it can boil in half the time other kettles do. They are so much quicker because of their design. By not wasting energy, and having the flames run up the inside of the kettle, this increases the heating surface area as it’s getting heated from the top to the bottom at the same time.
What’s more, is that you can use regular fuel canisters, which you can get anywhere, or skip that and use natural materials as already mentioned.
There’s a rubber stopped to keep the heat trapped inside when you’re not using it.
They are so compact; you won’t even notice it packed away with all of your other camping gear.
When boiling water from a natural source that is untreated, you should keep some safety precautions in mind. Boiling water doesn’t filter out or remove toxic chemicals, so you will need a filter and perhaps a purifier too. For more information about filters and purifiers, you can read this article.
Always be careful about where you get your water from. Flowing water is always the best option, refrain from taking still water. Always go upstream from any farm land, buildings, roads, and any other human activity.
Water from a stream or creek, no matter how clear-looking, will have tiny bits of dirt and sediment in it.
If you don’t have a filter with you, it’s possible to use a clean piece of clothing as a filter. It’s not ideal, but it removes a large number of bits.
Make sure you let the water boil for a solid minute to kill off any potentially harmful bacteria and pathogens. If the water isn’t quite at a rolling boil, then just leave it for a couple of minutes to be sure.
Remember that if you are at an elevation of over 6,500 feet, water should be boiled for at least three minutes instead because water boils at lower temperatures the higher up you are.
Minimize evaporation, if water is in short supply, with a lid of self-contained unit. This also speeds up the time it takes to reach its boiling point.
When you have naked flames, from a campfire for instance, be very careful not to let the fire spread out of control. Wind direction is important too; if your fire is close to your tent one gust of wind could cause your tent to catch fire.
It also goes without saying to be careful not to burn yourself, both from the flames or the hot pot, etc. Keep a thick rag beside you so that you remember to use it when the water is done boiling.
Clumsy people, such as myself, need to remember to bring our first aid kits with us when camping to keep burn cream and dressings handy, just in case.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you boil water over a campfire?
Once you’ve built your campfire and got the flame going, you’re going to need something to hold the pot or bucket with the water in it.
You can use large rocks on either side of the campfire to place the pot on top of.
If your pot/bucket/kettle has a handle, then it’s better to use a thick stick to hold it over the fire by the handle instead.
Can you boil water in a grill?
Yes, you can boil water over a propane or charcoal grill. It’s not ideal or very efficient, but if necessary, it is possible.
It will obviously take the water much longer to boil than placing it directly on top of the burner.
How do you boil water when backpacking?
The best thing to use to boil water when camping is something like a Kelly Kettle, or, if you just want boiling water for tea or coffee, a percolator.
If you’re able to stop for a while and take a break from hiking, you could stop to build a campfire to boil water.
How do you boil water at room temperature?
There is nothing special that you need to do to boil room temperature water, because boiling is about pressure and not temperature.
What can you cook over a fire pit?
There are many things you can cook over a fire pit. Some delicious examples are: hot dogs, bread, bacon, fruit, kebabs, grilled cheese sandwiches, corn on the cob, potatoes, and a classic – marshmallows.
If you want to get a bit more creative, there are tons of recipes online, such as blueberry muffins. You can make muffins over a fire pit by making them inside hallow orange peels. It seems strange, but the results are incredible.
How long should you boil creek water?
Clear creek water should be brought to a rolling boil for a minute. At elevations above 6,500 feet though, boil for three minutes instead.
If you’re boiling creek water to drink it later, let the boiled water cool for a while and then store it in clear, sanitized containers with tight sealed covers.
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