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Clean drinking water is necessary wherever you go, especially on a camping trip. Dehydration can sometimes prove fatal, and getting medical attention can be difficult if camping in secluded locations.

You can carry water in gallons while going camping. But this isn’t ideal for week-long camping, hiking, or adventure (or stealth) camping.

If clean drinking water is available at your campsite, it’s all good. But it’s a different scenario when you must rely on natural water sources.

Rivers, ponds, or waterfalls can have a range of different germs & bacteria. To drink this water, you must first sanitize it by boiling it.

And how to boil water while camping?

Let me explain:

You can use the basic camping equipment to light a fire for boiling water. You can use a camping stove, electric kettles, charcoal grill, solar power, or, most obviously, a campfire to boil water.

How much time you’ll need to boil depends on your method, water amount, and weather conditions. In this article, I’ll go into detail about how you can boil water safely.

But before that, let me tell you about a particular point that can help you boil water without fire.

Using Car Power for Boiling Water: A Special Note

There are several ways to use electricity to boil water on a camping trip. You can use an electric kettle, electric pot, or induction stove.

The best part about this approach is that you don’t need to rely on external power sources. You can use your car power to run these appliances when camping.

Now here’s a catch.

You can’t run all your devices through the car’s 12V outlet since it’s DC power.

To solve this problem, install a power inverter and a separate deep-cycle battery in your car. The inverter converts DC power to AC, through which you can run any electrical device.

But remember to not plug in devices that require heavy power, as they can harm the inverter and the car battery.

Since the power drains directly from the car battery, it may get dead. As a result, your car won’t start. This is where the extra battery will help.

It’ll store all the extra power from your main battery while you’re driving for later use. However, it’s not necessary if you’re using small appliances and for short periods.

If you want to be safe, keep your car running while using its power to save the battery from dying.

Now, let’s look at all the different ways to boil water when you’re on a camping trip.

Ways to Boil Water When Camping

1. Use a Campfire

A campfire not only helps you relax but can also be used to boil water.

Bring a kettle if you’re thinking about boiling water in a campfire. Most kettles have a capacity of 1 liter, are small, and can easily fit inside your luggage.

Buy a good quality kettle, preferably cast iron, as they can absorb heat faster. Ensure no plastic attachments are on the kettle, or it’ll melt in the campfire’s heat.

If it’s a group camping, you can bring a large kettle or even a pot to boil water for everyone. Choose the size according to your needs and carrying capacity.

First, set up a trellis or a tripod using wooden sticks to boil the water. You can also use a grill plate to keep the kettle or pot on the campfire.

After setting up a stand, fill the kettle with water from nearby sources. Ensure that the kettle or pot is clean.

Keep it on fire and wait for the water to boil. A campfire will take 4-5 minutes to boil 1-2 liters of water.

If you’re using a large pot filled to the brim, don’t hang it on a wooden tripod, or it may fall off. Placing such pots directly in the campfire over a grill plate is better.

You can also use a metal water bottle. Just fill it with water and place it inside the campfire. Leave a little space inside the bottle; don’t fill it to the brim. Use kitchen tongs or oven mitts to handle the bottle to avoid burns.

If you don’t have any container to heat water, search your camping area. You may find tin cans, or small steel/tin drums, which you can use.

However, first, check them for any permanent damage, wash them, and place them in the campfire for 5-10 minutes to kill pathogens. You now have a sanitized container to boil water.

Be extra careful while boiling water on a campfire. Always use a thick cloth piece or a pair of kitchen tongs to handle the kettle/pot while it’s hot. Otherwise, you may burn yourself.

Look out for any restrictions on starting a fire at your campsite. Some places, like an area with high airflow or any camp nearby a forest, have such rules. Please don’t start a campfire in areas where you won’t be able to control it.

2. Using Electric Kettles

As discussed, you can use your car’s power to run small electric appliances. An electric kettle is one of them. It can boil a liter of water in 2-3 minutes with the help of electricity.

Apart from water, you can also cook or boil liquid diets (think noodles) inside an electric kettle.

If you’re camping at a location where a power supply is available (state-owned parks & campsites), you won’t need your car power. But car battery power is your best friend if camping in a deserted location.

If you don’t have a power inverter, several car-powered kettles are also available in the market. They can run on the DC power of your car’s battery.

3. Instant Pot: Alternative to Electric Kettles

An instant electric pot is a bigger version of an electric kettle. The better part is that it can be used to boil water and also cook various types of meals.

Electric pots are not cheap, but the higher pricing also has several advantages. They are bigger in size (4-8 L), more efficient in cooking, and you can cook in them as you would in a regular pot.

However, it also consumes more electricity than a kettle. If your campsite has a power supply, you can take it along.

Running electric pots on car or RV power is also possible if a power inverter is installed. Even then, only use the pot to boil water. Because if you start cooking in it, it’ll take a lot of time, draining the car battery completely.

If you always carry an electric pot while camping, installing a spare deep-cycle battery in your car is better. You can even carry a small portable generator for using such pots & kettles.

4. Utilize Your Camping Stove

It rarely happens that you start your camping journey without a portable camping stove. These stoves help a lot on camping trips, from boiling water to cooking your favorite recipes.

Several types of camping stoves that run on different fuel types are available in the market. Some of the common ones are:

Alcohol and propane stoves are popular among camping enthusiasts. They are compact in size, easy to ignite, and their fuel is readily available.

Fill a small pan, pot, or kettle with water and place it on the camping stove to boil it. It would take around 5-15 minutes (depending on stove power) to boil a liter of water on these stoves.

If camping in windy areas, place tin foil, stones, or wood blocks around the stove to stop the airflow from disrupting the fire.

Also, carry ample fuel if you’re planning an extended camping trip or want to cook several meals in a day, along with boiling water.

5. Jetboil Cooking Systems

Jetboil is a company that makes compact camping stoves, paired with small containers, that you can use to boil water.

Since these stoves already have a small container (~1 L), you won’t have to carry a separate kettle or boiling pot. You can use it to boil water, and that too in a jiff.

The Jetboil claims to boil 1 L of water in 100 seconds. Even if it takes 200 seconds, it’s better than conventional camping stoves.

It has several exciting features:

Jetboil is the best option if you’re camping in windy places or at high altitudes, where conventional camping stoves fail. It remains unaffected by high airflow or low temperatures and can work in any environment.

But keep in mind that Jetboil’s products are not cheap. The average price range for their products is between $100-$200.

If you’re buying one, use their website for the purchase, as many fakes are circulating in the market.

6. Ghillie Camping Kettles: A Great Innovation

What if I say you can use twigs and wooden sticks to boil water directly inside your kettle? Most of you won’t believe it, but it’s possible. Thanks to Ghillie Camping Kettles.

Here are some short videos on their website which showcases Ghillie kettles in action.

And here’s a video showing the experience of a camper using these kettles:

These kettles come in 1-1.5 L capacity and are small in size. This helps in carrying it along on any camping trip.

Fill the kettle with water. To start a fire, gather wooden twigs, sticks, dry leaves & grass, and fill the fuel tank. Light the fire, and wait till there is adequate fire. If the fuel seems inadequate, keep adding until the water boils.

Since the fire is contained inside the kettle, the water reaches its boiling point pretty soon. A Ghillie kettle will take 2-3 minutes to boil 1.5L of water in one batch.

7. Barbecue/Charcoal Grills

Another viable option to boil water while camping is to use charcoal grills. Coal provides high heat for an extended period once it starts burning. You can use this to your advantage and boil water after your barbecue session.

Most state-owned national parks and campsites already have pre-installed charcoal grills that people can use. You can use them to boil water if you’re camping at such places. A burning charcoal grill will take only 2-3 minutes to boil a liter of water.

Even if you aren’t grilling anything, someone else must be. Ask them politely for a bit of space on the grill to boil water in your kettle or pot.

However, not all campsites have such facilities. If you have plans for a barbecue session at such a campsite, you’ll need to carry your own portable charcoal grill.

Preparing a grill only for boiling water is a tedious task and isn’t feasible. Charcoal burns very slowly, so you’ll have to dedicate sufficient time to ignite the grill.

Only choose this option if you’re already doing a barbecue. Keep the water ready in a pot, and place the pot on the grill as soon as your cooking is over. Use oven mitts or pair of tongs to handle the pot.

8. Flameless Ration Heaters/MRE

You might have heard about Meals Ready-to-Eat (MRE). These are meal packets meant primarily for the US military. The MRE contains a Flameless Ration Heater (FRH) that can heat pre-cooked meals without starting a fire.

Ration heaters use chemical reactions to heat pre-cooked meals. It’s a small, closed, permeable packet containing different chemicals.

When the contents in this container come in contact with water, they start reacting to produce heat. This heat can then be used to warm the pre-cooked meals.

The ration heater is not feasible and doesn’t produce enough heat to boil the water. But a few brands have more powerful heating packets meant for making noodles or soup. You can use those packets to boil water when camping.

Even if you have other heating equipment, you should keep some of these packets for any uninvited emergency.

9. Solar Kettles

Solar kettles, also known as Sun Kettles, can be used to boil water while camping. These kettles are a great option if you’re camping in a sunny location.

The solar kettle is lightweight and comes in the shape of a thermal flask. You can carry it in your backpack without adding any considerable weight.

So, this is an excellent product if you’re camping alone in a sunny area and can patiently wait for boiling water. You won’t need to start a fire or use electricity, saving you a lot of trouble.

Regarding its capacity, most brands have either 500 mL or 1 L models. This would be sufficient if you are camping alone and not in a group of 3 or more.

Another downside is the time it takes to boil the water. The sun kettle takes around 40-50 minutes to boil 1 L of water. You would need to fill the water and place it in sunlight for the whole time.

10. Immersion Heating Rods

Heating rods are small electrical equipment you can use to boil water while camping. You would need a power supply for this, which you can get from your car or any nearby power source, if available.

Fill a pot with 0.5-1 L of water, immerse the rod in the water, connect it to the power source, and turn it on. The immersion rod will take 15-20 minutes to completely boil the water.

Tips for Boiling Water on a Camping Trip

As you saw, there are numerous ways to boil water while you’re camping. I’m even sure that I missed some of the methods. However, the techniques I mentioned are enough for you to get an idea.

Before you decide to start boiling water using any of your preferred methods, let’s look at some general tips. These will help you avoid any silly mistakes and boil water in a breeze.

  1. When boiling water, bring it to a rolling boil and leave it for 1-2 minutes. This process ensures that the water is entirely pathogen-free.
  2. Always use strong steel tongs, oven mitts, or a thick cloth to hold the container where you boil the water. This holds true for any method where fire is involved.
  3. If using any electric equipment for heating, always wear shoes or dry slippers to avoid any ground current.
  4. If you don’t have a container to boil water, you can look for tin cans, drums, or pots around your campsite. If it looks usable, wash it and keep it on an open fire for 5-10 minutes. This process kills any pathogen on the container.
  5. Look for flowing water if using natural water reservoirs for your water supply. Stagnant water sources, like ponds or lakes, will have dirtier water with too many pathogens.
  6. Consider bringing a few water gallons for use when going for a short camping trip in your car or RV. You won’t have to rely on another water source, saving a lot of trouble.
  7. If you frequently use electrical water heating equipment, install a solar panel on your car or RV. This will give you enough power, and you won’t have to depend on car power.

Conclusion

Boiling water while camping is necessary if you’re using water from natural sources. It helps you kill any pathogens that may harm you.

There are several ways you can use to boil water while camping. However, all the methods rely on these primary sources of heat:

  1. Using Fire: This method involves using fire for boiling water. It includes campfire, charcoal grills, camping stoves, Jetboil, Ghillie Kettles, or any other fire source.
  2. Using Electricity: This method uses the power from electricity to heat water. It includes using electric kettles & pots, immersion heating rods, induction stoves, and other electrical cooking equipment.
  3. Using Solar Power: Here, you heat your water using the sun’s power. Sun kettle, solar water bags, installing solar panels on the car roof, and any other solar devices come under this category.

As you can see, several methods exist for you to boil water on a camping trip. Pick the one that suits your need, considering your camping location and trip duration.

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