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How to Boil Water Camping: The Ultimate Guide

When you go camping, one of the most important things you need to know how to do is boil water. This is because drinking contaminated water can make you very sick and in some cases, even kill you. In this article, we will teach you how to boil water while camping so that you can stay safe and healthy on your trip!

Yes, you can bring water with you, but at 8 pounds per gallon, it gets heavy FAST. We usually bring 2 gallons and then get the rest from the camping spigot or filter or boil the rest. Read on to learn the different ways to boil water, then choose your favorite water boiling method and get camping!

Reasons for Boiling Water While Camping

  • To make sure the water has been disinfected and is safe to drink.

If you’re unsure of a water source’s drinkability and you don’t have a filter, always boil your water. The only time I’ve felt safe drinking unfiltered water from a natural source was in Iceland where the water was literally melting off of a glacier. 

faucet with brown water drop

So if you’re in an amazing National Park like Glacier or Wrangell-St. Elias, this may be an option for you. Otherwise it’s best to take proper safety precautions and boil your water.

  • To prepare instant food, like soup or instant noodles.

There are a lot of awesome “just add water” food to bring camping, I’m a big fan of the Biscuits and Gravy from Mountain House. Oatmeal is also an amazing option.

  • For hot drinks like cocoa, chicken broth, tea or instant coffee! 

When it’s night time in the great outdoors, not much beats sitting near a campfire ring while sipping a hot beverage. I also know that there are many people who live for their first sip of morning coffee made over the first campfire of the day. If you love cool nights by the campfire, hot drinks are essential.

  • For washing dishes, and washing yourself when it might be chilly out.

We always boil water while camping to wash dishes and when it’s cold out, you don’t want to give yourself a quick wash up in cold water. Boiling water and adding it to some cold water quickly creates water that is the perfect temp.

  • Pour onto soiled surfaces for cleaning.

If your kids have smeared marshmallows onto the picnic table and you’d rather not attract critters, you gotta get the sticky stuff off somehow. Using hot water is often the best option. Boil water, and dump it onto the table, after a little light scrubbing, it should be clean in no time.

Boiling water is a great way to cook food while camping and to make safe water to drink. It’s easy, efficient, and safe when you know what you’re doing. In this guide, we’ll teach you everything there is to know about boiling water while camping so that your next trip will be a breeze!

Amazon disclaimer

7 Best methods for boiling water:

There are a lot of ways to boil water while camping, and how you want to do it depends on your ideal camping experience. If you’re camping in an RV, you probably have a stove you’re familiar with for heating water in your camper. If you’re tent camping, here are some methods.

Jet boil

A jet boil system or portable stove is amazing for boiling water for making food. Our Jet Boil Flash can boil 2 cups of water in less than 3 minutes. When you’re hungry from hiking, time is of the essence. A Jet boil stove system is a purpose built camping stove created to boil water quickly.

Solo Stove Lite

A Solo Stove Lite and the Pot 900 is a very quick way to boil water. The Solo Stove Lite only needs sticks to keep going and the Pot 900 is the perfect size to boil a small amount of water (it holds 900mL) quickly. Often times when we’re boiling water, we only need 1-2 cups at a time, so the Solo stove is a perfect option. It can boil water within 10 minutes, which doesn’t make it the fastest option for heating water, but it is still rather quick.

Camp Stove

Camping stoves are amazing at boiling a larger amount of water. You can put a big pot onto your camp stove and get a lot of water boiling for large family camping trips. This is also the method we use when we’re getting ready to wash dishes. We’ll make food, then start water boiling slowly on the camping stove while we’re eating. By the time we’re done eating the water has reached it’s boiling point.

Campfire and Grate

Most camp sites have a designated fire pit, and a lot of them have a built in grate. If yours doesn’t have a grate you can use a tripod to hold your small pot over the flames. If you’ve built a good fire, you should have a nice rolling boil in no time. You can even use a traditional kettle over an open fire to make your morning coffee.

Electric methods

Electric Kettle

If you have access to electricity, you can bring all manner of ways to boil water camping. From an electric kettle, a coffee pot, to a hotplate, all you need is a power outlet and you’re in business. If you’re car camping, a lot of cars have an auxiliary power outlet (an actual outlet, or the cigarette lighter) or you can bring a portable generator or battery bank. Jackery makes options that are strong enough to power a coffee pot.

Ghillie Camping Kettle

There is an amazing kettle that actually has the fire inside it, called a ghillie kettle, or and internal flame kettle. It boils water very fast since the flame is so close to the water. Check out the website here to see it in action!

Charcoal grill

A charcoal grill is always an option, especially if you were cooking food over the grill and the coals are still hot. Starting charcoal just to boil water will take a while and may be the longest way to boil water we’ve listed.

How Boil Water Over a Campfire

What You’ll Need to Boil Water Over a Campfire:

  • A pot or pan with a lid
  • A fire pit or open area to start a fire
  • Something to set the pot on, such as a metal grate or tripod with a chain
  • Firewood
  • Matches or a lighter

Using a Campfire to Boil Water:

When you’re starting a fire at your campsite for boiling water, there are a few things you need to keep in mind:

  1. The location needs to be in an open area with plenty of space for your fire and cooking equipment. This will also make it safer when building a fire because the wind won’t be blowing around any sparks that may get caught up in trees or brush.
  2. The size of your fire should be based on how much water needs to be boiled, as well as what kind of equipment you’re using. You don’t need anything big when boiling over an open flame since you’ll want a concentrated fire to heat the water as efficiently as possible.
  3. You’ll need some type of stand or platform that holds your pot above the fire while allowing airflow underneath. A camping tripod is a great option. DO not have your pot or kettle too far away from the flames. You’ll need consistent heat for the water to reach a nice rolling boil.
Tripod for boiling water over a campfire

How to Build a Fire for Boiling Water

Building a fire may seem like an intimidating task, but it’s actually pretty easy when you know what to do. Here are some tips on how to build a fire for boiling water:

  • Use dry twigs as kindling and place them in the center of your fire area with larger logs around them. Add more wood as needed until enough heat is generated so that your pot or pan will start to boil. You can also use a bit of lighter fluid or other fuel if needed.
  • Make sure the fire is in an open area so that there’s plenty of space for the heat and smoke to escape. Blocking either one could cause the fire to become dangerous very quickly!
  • When adding new wood, try to keep it at a similar size as what’s already burning. This will reduce smoke production by ensuring the fire stays hot enough without having large gaps between pieces.

Check out our post on how to start an amazing campfire so you can boil water in the most efficient way possible.

How to Safely Dispose of Your Used Fuel Canisters

After boiling water for your camping trip, you might be wondering what to do with any unused fuel cannisters.

If you have an empty jetboil fuel canister, first you need to make sure it’s completely empty. The best way to do that is to light your stove and run it completely dry. As the cannister gets empty the flame may flicker, but make sure you burn it until the flame is out.

Once it’s empty, use the Jetboil Crunchit tool to condense it and recycle the metal. Please be sure the cannister is completely empty.

Jetboil crunchit tool for recycling empty cannister stove fuel cans

Check with your recycling center to see if they take empty fuel tanks from cannister stoves.

If you’re using a camping stove that uses a bigger fuel tank, like the green propane tanks, sadly those aren’t usually recyclable.

Food and Drinks to Make With Boiled Water While Camping

Once you’ve boiled water for your camping trip, there are many possibilities for instant meals and hot drinks. Somehow everything tastes better while you’re camping.

Here are a few ideas:

  1. Instant oatmeal or breakfast cereal
  2. Ramen noodles
  3. Macaroni and cheese
  4. Soup or chili
  5. Hot dogs
  6. Boiled eggs
  7. Coffee or tea

The best part about these recipes is that they’re easy to prepare and really don’t require any extra equipment or utensils. Just bring a pot or pan with you camping, and you’ll be able to cook up a delicious meal in no time!

Having some instant food options is essential if a rainstorm chases you into your tent right before mealtime. Just boil some water and enjoy some easy-to-make entrees while you’re cozy in your tent!

How to Boil Water That’s for Safe Drinking

The CDC recommends bringing water to a rolling boil for at least one minute to make it safe to drink. This should kill any harmful bacteria or viruses that may be present in the water. If you are at a higher elevation, it’s best to add 1-2 minutes to the time to ensure the water is safe for drinking.

You can also use a camp stove, portable burner, or even an open flame to boil water for drinking. Just make sure the pot is large enough so that the entire volume of water can be boiled at once.

FAQs about boiling water while camping

Q: How long does it take to boil water?

A: In perfect conditions we average 2 and a half minutes using an electric kettle, 7:45 on the camp stove and the JetBoil Flash boasts 1 minute 40 seconds.  However, this may vary depending on the type of fuel you’re using and the weather conditions.

Q: What is the fastest way to boil water while camping?

A: In our experience, the fastest way is the JetBoil, hands down. It’s one of my favorite pieces of camping equipment and we bring it on every trip, even when we have a fire pit AND a campstove, we ALWAYS have the Jetboil. Check prices on Amazon and Backcountry to get your hands on one!

Q: Can I use a pot or pan from my kitchen to boil water while camping?

A: Yes, you can use a pot or pan from your kitchen to boil water while camping. Keep in mind that if you’re using a wood or charcoal fire, your pan may become stained with soot. You may want to pack a separate camping pan that isn’t one of your nice pieces of cookware. Thrift stores are great places to get cheap options, you can also read our post on bargain camping gear for more ideas.

Q: Does Boiling water purify it?

A: According to the CDC, boiling water for at least 1 minute (3 if you’re above 6500 feet) is the best way to purify water. The goal is to heat water hot enough to kill off any viruses, bacteria or other pathogens. This is especially important if your water source is stagnant water.

Campground water before boiling

Keep in mind that just because water has been purified, it may still not taste the best. So if you’re going to be bringing a baby or young child, you may want to bring some water from home to keep them hydrated.

Q: Can you boil water without fire?

A: If you have an electric site, battery pack or some kind of power source, using an electric kettle or a hot plate is your best bet to actually boil water without fire. If you’re car camping you can also use your car’s 12V accessory plug in if you have a device that plugs into that port.

There are options like solar water heating bags or flameless ration heaters, but neither of those options will actually BOIL water. You can for sure heat up water with a solar shower if you have clean water and you need warm water for cocoa, coffee or a quick shower.

Q: What kind of fuel should I use to boil water?

A: If you’re using a camping stove, use the correct type of fuel for that stove. If you’re building a campfire, you’re going to want a small fire that has concentrated heat to boil water the fastest.

Precautions

Any of these methods for boiling water are obviously going to get very hot, so watch all children around fires, camping stoves, electric kettles and hot plates. If you’re heating water for food or drinks, make sure it’s cooled off enough for small children before allowing them to go crazy with the hot chocolate.
You should have burn cream in your first aid kit anyway, but no one actually wants to have to use it.

Boiling Water For Camping is Easy

Boiling water while camping is not difficult, but it does take some practice to be efficient. The best way to learn how to do this activity properly is by going out into nature and trying it out for yourself. Then, with a little bit of preparation and some common sense, you’ll be able to boil water like a pro and enjoy all the benefits that come with it!

Now that you know everything there is to know about boiling water while camping, it’s time to get out there and start cooking! These simple tips will make your next camping trip a lot easier than ever before.

Happy Camping!

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