A clean source of water is an absolute necessity when camping.
Some weekend campers simply bring several gallons of clean water with them in the car, but more hardcore campers need to be resourceful and utilize a source of water, like a running stream, for hydration and cooking.
But in order to ensure there are no bad bacteria in that water and it’s safe for drinking, you need to boil it.
Luckily, there are many different options for boiling water, from the traditional kettle over a campfire to using your car’s power supply.
Here are 11 ways to boil water while camping.
1. Kettle over a campfire
Estimated Time : 4 to 5 minutes for a 1-liter kettle
The most typical way campers boil water while in the great outdoors is using a kettle over a campfire. Most camping kettles are about 1 liter in size, which means it’s going to take about 5 minutes when filled to the top and placed over high heat. Larger kettles will obviously take a little more time to boil.
Be careful not to go too large, because when filled with water, it could be too heavy to easily pour out the water.
The kettle is preferred because it’s easy to pour boiled water for coffee and cooking things like oatmeal and rice. Make sure you’re wearing a protective glove to avoid burning your hand on the handle when pouring.
Make sure you have a grill plate to put over the campfire ring so your kettle has a stable table to heat up on. Go with a cast iron grill plate for durability.
2. Electric kettle
Estimated Time : 2 to 3 minutes
If you have access to an electrical hookup at your campsite, which tends to be more common at public, state-owned campsites, an electrical kettle is a quick solution for boiling water. Most electric camping kettles are quite affordable and only take about 2 to 3 minutes to boil water.
Even better, more modern electric kettles include special settings that allow you to not only boil water, but also keep water and other liquids, like coffee, warm, which is helpful on colder camping days.
3. Jetboil stove system
Estimated Time : 1.5 minutes
If you need a solution that boils water extremely quickly, I highly recommend checking out a cooking system by Jetboil. The company’s range of camping stoves promise to boil your water in about 100 seconds. And the more expensive stoves include additional features that can be very helpful for cooking, like precision temperature control.
Jetboil systems certainly aren’t the cheapest, but they’re a great investment if you’re a regular camper. They hook up to a fuel source and use a very concentrated heat area to boil your water extremely quickly.
If your top priority is boiling water, just buy the Jetboil system.
4. Internal flame kettle
Estimated Time : 2 minutes
There are a number of kettles you can buy that feature a spot inside the kettle where you can light a flame. One such example is the Ghillie Kettle.
Because the flame is inside the kettle, water heats up and ultimately boils faster than a traditional kettle.
The big advantage to this type of kettle is size and weight. Because it doesn’t require a fuel canister, like a Jetboil system, it’s a good option for backpacking camping.
5. A trusty pot
Estimated Time : 5 to 10 minutes
Your absolute most basic method for boiling water is simply by filling up a pot and letting it heat up and ultimately boil over a campfire.
It’s slower than some of the tech-savvier options out there, like a Jet boil or even a kettle with an internal flame, and pots are relatively bulky, making it potentially annoying for anything outside of car camping.
But a pot for camping is cheap and relatively easy to boil water in.
Try and find a pot with a pointed opening if possible to make it easier to pour out water into a specific container, like a French press coffee maker.
6. Electric pot
Estimated Time : 3 to 5 minutes
Much like the electric kettle option, there are also a number of electric pots on the market that are popular among car and RV campers who have easy access to electricity while camping.
Most of these electric pots, which can cost anywhere from $50 to $100, can carry about 1 to 1.5 liters of water. That means you can expect to boil water in under 5 minutes.
If you’re a hardcore backpacking camper, an electric camping pot likely won’t be an option for you, but it could be really handy if you’re a more relaxed camper who has access to electricity.
7. Power from your car
Estimated Time : Depends
Did you know any of the electric options on this list can be powered via your car’s auxiliary power outlet?
Because car camping is still popular, boiling some water using an electric kettle that plugs into that outlet (sometimes referred to as the cigarette lighter receptacle) is a very feasible option.
Of course, the one possible downside to this option is the potential of draining your car’s battery. You should be ok for a handful of boils, but be careful. After a few, you may want to drive your car around a bit to regenerate the battery’s power, which can be a potential pain point while camping.
8. Charcoal grill
Estimated Time : 30+ minutes to get charcoal hot
Many National Parks such as Yellowstone and Bryce Canyon and public campgrounds feature built-in grills on their campsites, which is perfect for charcoal. Depending on the size of these grills, you can boil water in a kettle or a pot.
Charcoal is great for cooking because it produces a nice, even heat, but it takes a long time to heat up. This doesn’t bother campers too much because they have all the time in the world when they’re relaxing in the great outdoors.
9. Flameless ration heater
Estimated Time : 5 to 7 minutes
This isn’t the most effective method of boiling water, but can get the job done in a pinch.
These heater packs can actually get quite hot, with some of the cooking-specific ones able to hit 203ºF, which is just slightly under the boiling point. Because of this, it may not be hot enough to purify the water, but it can certainly heat it up.
Proceed with caution if you’re using water from a natural source.
10. Tin can
Estimated Time : 5 to 7 minutes
Assuming you have a tin can, this is an option solely for emergency situations.
It’s not a good option because there’s no protective handle to pickup the can after the water is done boiling. Additionally, there is probably bacteria and other germs in the can that won’t make it the most appealing.
Make sure to put the tin can in the fire first before putting water in it to burn off any bacteria.
Andrew Dodson is an avid camper who enjoys the great outdoors with his wife and two-year-old son. He resides in Colorado, where you can often find him enjoying hikes with a toddler strapped to his back and mini goldendoodle Percy nearby.