When you go camping, you don’t have access to the modern comforts that make drinking water accessible.
Instead, you’ll need to purify natural sources of water. This kills bacteria that would otherwise make you super sick.
Oh, and keep in mind, car campers, this still applies to you. You’ll need clean water for cooking hot meals or washing the dishes.
Thankfully, there’s an easy fix. Boiling water is an easy way to make water safe to drink. To make it even easier, we created this guide on how to boil water when camping.
First, choose one of these containers to hold your water:
Containers for the water:
- Traditional Kettle – For Car Campers and Backpackers
- Internal Flame Kettle – For Backpackers
- Mess Kit Pot – For Car Campers and Backpackers
- Tin Can – For Backpackers
Next, boil the water using one of these methods:
- Traditional Campfire – For Car Campers and Backpackers
- Propane Stove – For Car Campers
- Propane Fire Pit – For Car Campers
- Jetboil Stove – For Backpackers
- Alcohol Stove – For Backpackers
- Solid Fuel Stove – For Backpackers
- Portable Electric Stove – For Car Campers
- Charcoal Grill – For Car Campers
Opting for a traditional teakettle is a practical and functional choice.
The kettle may be lightweight and specifically designed for backpacking. Or it can just as easily be a heavier kettle from your home kitchen if you’re car camping.
Some tea kettles are equipped with handles, especially those that are built for backpackers. This makes it simple to hang the kettle over the fire.
Alternatively, you can place any kettle on an electric stove, propane stove, or charcoal grill. They’re quite versatile, as you can see!
Internal Flame Kettle
Unlike their traditional cousins, some kettles are built with the ability to house a fire right in the canister.
That’s correct – there’s a special gap inside an internal flame kettle for twigs and other bits of tinder. Once ignited, the water heats up quicker than a regular kettle.
Another attractive characteristic are their light weights. Because they don’t require an external fuel canister (read: more weight), they’re easier to tote around.
Mess Kit Pot
This one’s rather self-explanatory. You simply pour water into any of your mess kit’s pots and hang the pot over the fire. Or place it on your heat source of choice.
With this solution, you’re limited to the size of your mess kit. So if you have an ultra portable, small-capacity kit, you won’t be boiling large quantities of water all at once!
Plus, you have to be careful not to overfill the pot. Otherwise, you could splash boiling water on yourself when you lift the pot from the heat.
If you’re looking for recommendations to get your food on, we’ve put together a list of the 10 best camping mess kits.
Tin cans are good as a last ditch-effort option. They’re useful in situations where you need boiling water but you have no suitable containers on hand.
They aren’t advised for most scenarios because there’s no way to handle the can without burning yourself. In other words, you’d better have a heavy towel available to maneuver that can.
Not to mention, you won’t get an abundance of water out of the deal, since tin cans are usually pretty small.
We figured we’d jump into heating methods with a simple option: building a campfire!
Campfires are awesome because they throw off a lot of heat. As a result, your water will boil relatively quickly, in about 5-7 minutes. (How much heat, you ask? We ask – and answer – how hot is a campfire?)
However, utilizing a fire could be instantly problematic if you’re camping in a place with an active fire ban.
You’ll also be in a pickle if you’re having trouble starting the fire. (But hey, you won’t have trouble after you read our tips on building a campfire in 11 steps…!)
There’s a lot of different factors, as you can see. But suffice to say, if you’re camping where fires are permitted and you’re confident in your fire building skills, you should be all set.
Propane stoves are vaguely shaped like suitcases and often rest on a tabletop. They’re usually on the larger and heavier side, weighing around 12-20lbs depending on the specific model.
Smaller options exist, though, so don’t despair.
Either way, propane stoves are large enough to comfortably cook on while simultaneously boiling water. This makes them excellent options for car campers, especially for larger groups.
Ah yes, for those of us too lazy to build a fire (or can’t due to fire bans), propane fire pits are a solution from heaven.
They offer all the beauty and coziness of a regular campfire, but at a fraction of the work.
Most of them whoosh to life with the touch of a button. No more gathering wood, struggling with the fire, or getting smoke in your eyes!
Just remember that all this convenience means heavier loads. Some of the lightest models weigh in around 10+lbs. Thus, they’re best suited to car camping.
If you’re sold, we’re way ahead of you with a list of the best portable propane fire pits.
If you’re in a rush, Jetboil stoves are probably the way to go. They’re known for boiling water incredibly quickly: around 1-2 minutes.
Some even come with integrated boiling pots, which shields the water during windy conditions.
They’re also incredibly small and light, which is great news for you backpackers. Yet this can also be a caveat, since their small size means you won’t be able to boil large batches of water in one go.
Alcohol stoves are a darling of long-distance hikers thanks to their ultralight weights (seriously… around 5 ounces) and fuel versatility.
Basically, they can burn any type of alcohol fuel. This includes methanol, which is easily found at many gas stations and resupply towns.
Alcohol stoves have the added bonus of being highly efficient at their job. It takes one of these guys around 5-10 minutes to boil water, while being highly adept at conserving fuel.
Solid Fuel Stove
If you’re extra nervous about liquid fuel from propane or alcohol stoves leaking all over your gear, solid fuel stoves are a good alternative.
Similar to alcohol stoves, solid fuel stoves are freakishly light. This makes them instantly appealing to any ounce-counters out there.
They run off solid fuel tabs instead of liquid fuel. The only downside is that the tabs are decently expensive.
Portable Electric Stove
Portable electric stoves are these flat discs, about the diameter of a vintage vinyl record. They’re not quite that flat though, standing a few inches tall depending on their model.
Overall, they’re fantastic for car camping. In fact, this is my parents’ sole method for cooking meals and boiling water whenever they camp in their trailer.
The only issue is that they’re pretty much only for car campers.
This is because they require AC power. So you’ll need to have a large battery with you. Alternatively, you’d have to be at a campground that offers electricity hookups.
Speaking of campgrounds, a lot of them will feature their own ready-to-use charcoal grills.
All you have to do is bring the charcoal.
These grills are nice because they’re often decently large. That means you can boil a pot of water on one side while cooking dinner on the other.
Although sourcing clean drinking water seems daunting, hopefully you know now that it’s simpler than it looks.
This is true whether you’re car camping or roughing it in the wilderness. We hope you’ll try out one of our methods for boiling water on your next camping trip!