One of the easiest things to do when making food is boiling water. However, if you’re out in the wilderness camping, this simple task can be pretty challenging.
Fortunately, with some preparation and the right equipment, boiling water while camping is just as easy as it is at home. This article will show you 12 different ways to get a rolling boil so that you’re ready for your next adventure.
How to Boil Water Camping in 4 Easy Steps
Although there are many ways to heat water until it boils, the steps to do so are pretty universal. What changes are the amount of water you can boil and the time it takes to reach your desired temperature. Here are the four generic steps it takes to boil water.
1. Pick Your Container
As a rule, you’ll need to boil water in a metal container, be it a pot, can, or kettle. The type of container you’ll need depends on how much water you want to boil. For example, if you’re just trying to make coffee or hot cocoa, you could use a can or a small kettle. This way, you get just enough water for your cup. However, if you’re trying to make pasta or clean your clothes, you can use a much larger pot.
Related: Jetboil stoves are top of the class for boiling water quickly. Check out our guide to the best jetboil camping stoves.
2. Fill It With Water
One of the challenges of boiling water camping is that you need clean, filtered water. However, one of the advantages of boiling is that you can clean your water, so it’s drinkable or usable for food. According to the CDC, you should boil water for one minute for it to be pure enough to use.
3. Heat Your Container
Fire is the easiest heat source to use when camping since you can build a campfire pretty quickly. However, since fire can be somewhat hazardous in dry conditions, you might prefer using an electric source if possible. Keep in mind that electricity will take longer because it requires more energy to bring the water to a rolling boil.
4.: Wait Until the Water Boils
Under high heat, you can get a liter of water to boil in about 10 or 15 minutes. The hotter your source, the faster the water will boil. However, you must also consider other elements, such as burning yourself or damaging your container. For example, if you’re using an aluminum can or kettle, it can melt under relatively low heat.
12 Ways to Boil Water Camping
Now that we know the basics of boiling water, what methods can you use while camping? Here are our top 12 picks, including the time it takes for each process to work. However, remember that the time will depend on the amount of water you’re boiling. For example, a gallon will take much longer than a 16-ounce container.
1. Jetboil Stove System
If you’re trying to boil water for beverages or cooking, a Jetboil system is probably the fastest option available. According to the company, you can get a cup boiling in as little as 100 seconds. It concentrates the heat into a small space so that you can get boiling water as quickly as possible. Several models are available depending on how much water you want to boil. Keep in mind that Jetboil products are pricey, but they work better than anything else on this list.
Time to Boil – 100 seconds
Related: Wondering how many boils you’ll get out of your Jetboil? Check out our article on how long does Jetboil fuel last and how many boils.
2. Internal Flame Kettle
If a Jetboil is too expensive, you can try an internal flame kettle. As the name suggests, this product has a flame inside the kettle, making it burn hotter and boil faster. This option is still more expensive than a traditional kettle, but you can get piping hot water in a couple of minutes. Plus, this product is smaller than other options, making it ideal for lightweight camping.
Time to Boil – 2 minutes
3. Camping Stove
Heating water to a boil is much easier when you can control the temperature. So, while a campfire might be easy to make, it doesn’t offer consistent heat, so boiling can take longer. A simpler method is to use a camping stove that uses propane or something similar for fuel. This way, you can heat the water quickly and reliably every time, regardless of the container you use.
Time to Boil – 7 to 10 minutes
4. Kettle Over a Campfire
If you don’t have a camping stove, a campfire is also an excellent choice because the fire can get hot quickly. A metal kettle works perfectly for boiling water because it traps both the heat from the fire and the steam. Also, once the water starts boiling, the kettle will notify you by whistling. This way, you don’t have to keep checking on the water. Instead, you can focus on other tasks (i.e., food preparation) until it’s ready. We recommend using a cast-iron kettle because it can take a lot of heat.
Time to Boil – 10 to 12 minutes
5. Cast Iron Pot
While a kettle works well for beverages, a large iron pot works best for cleaning water for various needs. The bigger the pot, the more you can use for washing, cleaning, and cooking. Again, cast iron works best, but you can also use stainless steel, which has one of the highest melting points for metal objects.
When using a pot, we recommend setting up a trellis or something similar from which to hang it. This way, you can boil the water without scorching your pot. You’ll also need a pot with a handle. Otherwise, you’ll have to rig up some kind of stand for it, so it’s not touching the flames directly.
Time to Boil – 7 to 10 minutes
6. Charcoal Grill
Many campsites have built-in charcoal grills – all you have to do is supply the fuel. This option works well for traditional kettles and pots since you can elevate the item from the flame. Also, charcoal heats more evenly, and some types of charcoal can stay hot for longer than a traditional campfire. The downside, though, is that it can take a while for the coals to heat up enough to boil water, so it’s not a very fast method from start to finish.
Time to Boil – 7 to 10 minutes (once the coals are hot)
7. Electric Kettle
Many campsites offer shore power, meaning you can use electric appliances like kettles. The benefit of going this route is that you don’t have to worry about fire hazards like loose embers and sparks. The downside, however, is that it can take longer for the water to boil. We recommend a metal or glass electric kettle, as plastic ones can potentially melt or release chemicals into your water.
Time to Boil – 15 to 20 minutes
8. Electric Hot Plate
This method of heating water is only suitable if you can plug into shore power. Otherwise, hot plates take a lot of electricity to run, so they’re not ideal for other power sources like a generator or a car. However, the advantage is that you can control the temperature better, and you have to worry less about burning yourself or your pot.
Time to Boil – 5 to 8 minutes
9. Portable Generator
Bringing a portable generator to your campsite is a smart idea if you’re planning on using various electronic devices. These generators can use gasoline, diesel, or battery power to operate. Be sure to use a generator with enough juice to run any device you plan on using. Generators work for electric kettles and some hot plates, but we recommend gas-powered models if you use appliances that use more than 1000 watts.
Time to Boil – 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the method
10. Automobile 12-Volt Adapter
Some people prefer camping from the back of their car instead of in a tent on the ground. In fact, there are quite a few SUV tents that connect to your vehicle’s trunk for an immersive experience. However, if you’re going to use your car’s 12-volt adapter, you’ll need to keep it running while you do. So, you can’t use an SUV tent since the exhaust would go directly into the tent, creating a health hazard.
Realistically, you only want to use your vehicle’s adapter if you have the right kind of electric kettle. Even then, a campfire would be faster and more efficient. So, this should just be an option of last resort to boil water.
Time to Boil – 12 to 17 minutes
11. Tin Can
This option is usually reserved for situations where you don’t have anything else in which to put your boiling water. Before using a tin can, you want to make sure it’s clean and that you have a makeshift handle. You can use a metal wire or metal clamps to pull the can off the fire once it starts boiling. If you’re using an old tin can, be sure to clean the inside by holding it over the fire for a minute. Doing this will kill any lingering bacteria.
Time to Boil – 5 to 7 minutes
12. Ration Heater
Technically speaking, this option won’t get your water to boiling, but it will get pretty hot. If you’re looking to make coffee or some other hot beverage, a ration heater can be a decent alternative to starting a campfire. Having a few of these heaters on hand is helpful if you’re backpacking and can’t build a fire. Otherwise, they won’t work for getting boiling water for cooking or purification.
Time to Boil – N/A
FAQs About Boiling Water While Camping
We’ve covered a lot of methods of heating and boiling water. But, if you still have questions, here are some answers to frequently asked ones.
Can You Boil Water on a Campfire?
Yes, you can. However, what matters is the type of container you use. Cast iron and stainless steel are the best options because they have a really high melting point. You should never try to boil water in an aluminum pot or cup.
What is the Fastest Way to Boil Water While Camping?
Jetboil systems or internal flame kettles will boil the water the fastest. However, they can only boil one or two cups at a time. If you need to boil more water, you should use a different method like a traditional kettle over charcoals or a campfire.