How to Boil Water While Camping
Hot water is a luxury we often take for granted. When you’re at home, heating water for your morning coffee is as simple as turning on the kettle. Boiling water while camping can often present a little more of a challenge, as most of the time you won’t have a kettle or even electricity for that matter. Americans overall consume around 400 million cups of coffee per day, so most campers need a reliable way to boil water and get their morning caffeine fix.
There are numerous methods you can use to heat water while you’re on a camping trip, from specialized systems to simply heating over an open fire. Whether it’s for cooking, washing dishes, showering, or a simple hot drink, heating water is a requirement for any campsite. Read on to find out how to boil water while camping, using multiple different methods. There are tons of different options so matter what you’re requirements, we can help you find the perfect water heating method for you.
There are some things to consider before making a decision of your chosen method for heating and boiling water. Firstly, the type of camping you’re doing will affect how much space you have to carry stoves and kettles, as well as potentially heavy fuels. Propane canisters are quick to heat up water to a rolling boil but could be too expensive if you’re backpacking on a budget.
Relying on gathering fuel to burn on the trail is a more fiscally-friendly option, but only do this if you’re confident there will be enough materials available. If you’re going on a larger family camping trip, the method you apply must have the capacity to provide for everyone- it may not be sustainable to boil one cup of water at a time. Keep these stipulations in mind, and enjoy our list of 8 different ways of how to boil water while camping.
The Jetboil Cook System
One of the very best options on the market right now is the Jetboil Cook system. It’s a specialized camping stove which is incredibly versatile, completely adaptable, and on top of all that, lightweight and compact, perfect for backpacking and trekking. The Jetboil Flash promises to bring your water to a rapid and rolling boil in only 100 seconds, which is fast by anyone’s standards. Weighing 13.3 oz, or 370 grams, this portable stove won’t weigh too heavily on your back and will boil 100 liters of water for every 100g JetPower can.
It features a very compact design with the pot, stove, ignitor and stand, all built into one unit. For boiling only, their stoves use a gas feed. Propane is available with their stoves designed for cooking as well. The quick boil system is perfect for dehydrated backpacking meals and hot drinks, ideal for hiking. Designed using only the most efficient materials available, it boasts half the fuel consumption of traditional camping stoves. We recommend this system for lightweight backpackers and trekkers, you can use it to prepare hot drinks and dehydrated meals anywhere on the trail.
To use the Jetboil, all you have to do is attach the stove to the fuel canister, and attach the pot (filled with water) to the stove. Then simply turn the fuel knob counter-clockwise, press the ignitor, and that’s it- your water will boil in less than two minutes.
The Ghillie Camping Kettle
A classic UK design that is now being popularized in the US, the Ghillie Kettle features a design that is both unique and useful. The Ghillie Kettle Company has been producing since the 1800s, and decades of use have proven their designs very successful. The Ghillie Kettle features a fire actually inside the device and will boil water in three to five minutes. It uses only natural fuel, so is a more eco-friendly option for environmentally conscious campers.
There’s no need to buy special fuel or use refillable canisters; the Ghillie Kettle can be fuel by whatever you can gather on the trail. Grass, twigs, anything can be used to build the flames. It features three parts, a kettle, cap, and base unit where the kindling is added before placing the kettle on top.
This is not an ultra-high-tech design like the Jetboil System, rather an age-old technique that has withstood the passage of time and continues to be a top choice in the midst of countless modern alternatives. Because of the open interior and narrow opening, the fire inside will quickly build until it’s roaring out of the top. This kettle whistles once your water boils, and then can be poured out using the handle and chain.
This traditional camping kettle is a fail-safe option as there are very few technical problems that could arise. However, weighing in at 1.9 pounds, this is more suited to campground camping than hiking and backpacking. If you are a backpacker but you like the Ghillie Kettle’s no-hassle design, check out the Kelly Kettle; a smaller version that can be used for lighter-weight trips.
Camping stoves are still the most commonly known option for heating water and cooking as well. They’re generally more powerful and more versatile, basically the closest you’ll get to your stove at home. However, this comes with some downsides, as they’re often large and heavy, not appropriate for hiking or backpacking. If you’re setting up a base camp though, they’re an ideal option.
The Coleman Dual Burner Camp Stove is a great choice, with adjustable burners being a major advantage over stoves like the Jetboil. This means you can choose to heat without boiling, rather than boiling being the only option. This stove can be used for cooking as well rather than just boiling water, so it’s more multi-purpose than some other options on our list.
This Coleman model is very simple to use. You need only hook up the propane tank to the provided regulator pipe, and then to the camping stove in the front right corner. If you’re coming for an extended period of time, you can purchase an additional hose which would allow you to hook up to a 20lb fuel tank. A camping stove is ideal for large family camping trips, as the most heavy-duty and versatile piece of equipment on this list, it’s a good all-rounder as long as you don’t have to carry it far.
The MSR Pocket Rocket
This stove is similar to the Jetboil, but is even more compact. On the other hand, this one requires a little more gear, as you need a separate pot or pan as your water receptacle. This model also doesn’t feature an ignitor, so you’ll need to carry dry matches or a lighter. Boiling one liter of water in 3.5 minutes, and weighing only 73g, the MSR Pocketrocket is a high-efficiency option.
For long-distance hikers, equipment needs to be efficient in both the use of space and weight and this tiny but powerful camping stove fulfills both those requirements. It’s more than worth it to bring one of these along on the trail, to brew your cup of coffee and heat up your meals.
It’s easy to boil water using this device, just attach the stove to the fuel canister, turn the knob counter-clockwise, and light the burner with a match. After this, simply heat of your water and enjoy your hot beverage or meal.
12v Car Kettle
If you take your car camping, this is a great no-hassle option. These kettles plug into your car’s cigarette lighter and usually boil enough water for two or three cups of coffee. For example, the Uniox Car Kettle has a capacity of 350ml and will boil your water in around 15 minutes. This product is ideal for early mornings on-the-go as well as camping trips and can be used for instant noodles and other dehydrated meals as well as coffee and tea.
With such a small capacity in comparison to other options on this list, we wouldn’t recommend relying on a car kettle to heat water for your whole family, but if all you need is a morning coffee, this is a simple and easy way to do it.
Using a 5-gallon bucket to heat water may seem a little over the top, but it’s a very effective way to heat up a large amount of water, ideal for showers or doing the dishes. The main disadvantage of this method is that it requires electricity, but if you’re in a campsite with power hookups then there’s no problem.
There are several different types of bucket heaters. Immersion bucket heaters can heat water to over 180 degrees Fahrenheit. These look like a sort of heating wand with a stainless steel guard, you simply plug them in and drop in the bucket. They’re completely waterproof and safe and can heat one gallon of water to 130 degrees in around 10 minutes. Another option is an insulated full-wrap design bucket heater. These wrap around the outside of your bucket, are safe to be used with plastic as well and heat water to 100-125 degrees Fahrenheit.
Solar water heating bags (solar showers)
These water heating bags are cheap, easy to use, and need only sunlight to be effective. This is the main advantage of solar showers, as they are 100% environmentally friendly, requiring no fire, fuel, or electricity. They work by absorbing the sun’s rays through their dark color and heating up the water within. Another advantage of these bags is that they back down into a very small size, so they’re appropriate for any type of camping, from backcountry to RV’s.
One disadvantage of solar showers is that they do require time to heat up, up to three hours even in warm conditions. They are also not as effective for winter camping, so they are only really viable for three seasons.
It’s worth noting that although these are a great choice for heating water, they can’t really be used to boil it. Try using warmed water from a solar heating bag to boil afterward, making the process speedier than starting with cold water. This is a perfect way to stay green and clean, but if a solar shower isn’t the right option for you, consider building your own DIY camping shower.
Boiling water over a campfire
Using an open fire to boil your water is the most obvious choice when it comes to camping. This is the oldest method of boiling water in the book, used for generations for cooking in the wilderness. It’s likely that you’ll already have a campfire lit, so why not use the free energy to boil water for your tea.
This is a great option for the minimalist camper on a tight budget, as all the materials you need can be gathered along the trail, just make sure you bring along a sturdy pot as a receptacle. If you don’t have a pot, with a little extra work a clean can or even a paper cup can be used to heat water over the fire, although this is a slightly more difficult approach.
One disadvantage of using a campfire is the inability to control the heat, with no knobs to turn it up or down. This method also takes longer than most propane or butane gas options, but on the other hand, fuel can be gathered on-site. This means you can avoid carrying potentially very heavy canisters of fuel for unknown distances to your campground.
Any time you use a campfire, we recommend reminding yourself of the campfire safety guidelines. As much fun as open fires are, they can also be quite dangerous, so always make sure you and everyone on your camping trip is safe and happy.
Follow these steps to boil water over an open fire:
- Ensure you have plenty of fuel to keep your fire going. You’ll need kindling and tinder to get it started, and larger pieces to keep it going, and hotter to boil your water faster.
- You’ll need a secure way to support your pot over the fire, once the coals are established. The best way to do this is to place two large logs or rocks on each side of the fire, close enough to balance your pot.
- Then, simply balance your pot or another receptacle, filled with water, above the flames. Depending on how close it sits to the coals, the water will boil in between 10 and 20 minutes.
Be careful not to burn your hands when removing your pot from the fire, remember that open flames are dangerous. You can use a thick rag as an oven glove, otherwise, you can use tongs or pliers if it’s not too heavy. If your pot has a handle on top rather than the side, you can use a wire hanger to hook it up and lift away. Campfires aren’t only good for boiling water- they’re the perfect thing to sit around in the evening while you toast marshmallows, and are an excellent source of warmth when it gets a little cooler at night.
All this talk about coffee leads us to think about the most famous coffee drinking state in America- Seattle! To combine two of our loves, coffee, and camping, check out some of the best campgrounds in Seattle for a little inspiration for your next camping trip.
If you’re looking to heat water for showers, a bucket heater or solar shower is the best option- they’re efficient for heating up large amounts, but don’t quite hit boiling which may be necessary for cooking or drinking. For lightweight backpackers, check out the JetBoil or MSR stoves, as they’re both highly space and time-efficient. If you’re doing some serious hiking and need a light and speedy way to heat up dehydrated meals or get your caffeine fix, you can’t go wrong with these ultra high tech solutions.
For those who like a time tested and simple solution to boiling water, a Ghillie Kettle will never do you wrong. They’re guaranteed for 10 years and have been used by campers all over the world for decades. Using fuel like twigs and pinecones, you’ll never have to purchase new canisters of propane, all you need to buy is the kettle itself and your water will be easily boiled for years to come.
Of course, there’s always the most traditional way of boiling water on a camping trip-over an open fire. You can heat water for a cup of coffee using only a clean can placed in the coals- just be careful when you remove it.
Boiling water while camping, although easy, is also an important accomplishment. The type of adventure you’re planning will mean the method varies, but rest assured there’s the perfect solution for you. There are many different reasons you might need hot water on your trip, but chances are that you can employ at least one of these methods.
Bonus tip: If you would like to know more about how to boil water over a campfire, check out this video below!