As pleasant as it looks, the cool, clear water in stream or river or even in a lake is full of dangerous pathogens that cause unthinkable diseases. Drinking water from these areas is not a good idea, no matter how thirsty you are. Boiling water over your campfire will ensure that the pathogens and bacteria in your river drinking water have been boiled away. You can also use filters, pills, and other ways to purify your water, but boiling water is one of the best ways to ensure that your water is good to drink.
A couple of the most common questions campers often ask is how long does it take, and why does water need to be boiled? It doesn’t matter if you are looking for drinking water, bathing water, or dishwashing water; your water needs to be boiled to ensure that it is safe. There are several methods you could use to boil your water to purify it, but the most important thing to remember is the water temperature needs to come to at least 185⁰F. Use a coffee pot designated for water, a dutch oven, or even a metal cooking pot as you boiling vessels. You might also try a jet boil or a pocket rocket to boil on your camping trip.
Here’s how long it takes to boil water when camping
- Coffee pot- 5 minutes to 10 minutes
- Dutch Oven- 10 minutes
- Pot over fire- 5 minutes to 10 minutes
- MSR or Jetboil- 1-1/2 minutes to 2 minutes
- Windburner- 4 minutes
The boiling point of water is 212⁰F. However, if you can get your water up to 185⁰F just about all disease organisms are destroyed. Once your water reaches the boiling point, it’s quite safe to drink. To make sure you are safe, boil any river, lake, or stream water for a least a minute. A minute’s worth of boiling will ensure that your water has hit the 185⁰ point. It’s even better when you see rolling bubbles; then you know your water is boiling. Continue boiling water for a minute, and you can be sure that disease-causing organisms are dead.
I must add that if you are boiling water for drinking purposes only, there are many more ways to purify water for drinking. We have an areticle that you may want to read dedicated solely to purifying drinking water- Purifying Water While Camping ( 11 must know ways to do it )
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Methods to Boil Water While You are Camping
To have the best outdoor experience ever, you need to make sure you are careful about where you gather water. You can purify water in one of several ways: filters, chemicals, and boiling. Survivalists and expert campers say that boiling is the best method to use. It is a sure proof method that works in any weather, there is no possibility of breaking a filter, and no harmful chemicals are used.
Using a campfire to boil water is one of the methods taught in any survival school. A campfire provides a platform because there’s usually an abundance of wood available in the woodland environment. You can also use a camp stove which is a quick and efficient way to boil water, but if you don’t have a good supply of fuel, a camp stove is useless.
To boil water over a campfire, all you need is a metal water bottle or pot. You can place either implement into a fire, and all you need to do is just it and wait for the water to reach the boiling point. Once the water is boiling, grab your gloves, pliers, or tongs to remove a red hot pot from the fire. Cool off the water so you can drink it. A good way to cool off your hot pot is to can place it into a stream or next to a riverbank, but be careful not to let any river water get into your sterile cup!
Cast iron is thick, and the temperature in your Dutch oven needs to get very high. The insides of Dutch ovens generally don’t get above 97 degrees and water needs at least 100 degrees to boil. However, if you want to boil water in a Dutch oven, make sure your campfire flames are going strong to get the temperature high enough.
The coals of a campfire fire can get up to at least 1000⁰F which sounds like high temperature, but you will need to let the heat build-up inside your Dutch oven. It could take up to 10 minutes for the water to boil in a dutch oven, but once you are successful, you will have quite a bit of nice hot water that has been sterilized and is ready to use.
If you are out in the backcountry and there is a fire restriction, you can use a Jetboil/Flash cooking system or backpacking stove. Jetboil is designed to give you convenient and quick-cooking and boiling water while in the backwoods. REI rates the Flash as the fastest stove in the Jetboil range. You can melt snow or disinfect water to drink in 100 seconds.
Jetboil Flash uses isobutane-propane and has auto-ignition. It is compact at 7.1×4.1 inches. You will not even notice the extra weight in your backpack. Great for boiling water or cooking foods.
MSR Pocket Rocket 2
Another awesome way to boil water on your hike is with the Pocket Rocket 2. This compact and lightweight stove weighs only 2.6 ounces and includes a built-in pot stand. The arms of the pot stand fold down and fit into a small case when not in use. The Pocket Rocket 2 has adjustable flame control, and you can boil your water or just simmer it. Of course, you can use the Pocket Rocket for cooking hydrated camping foods or soups. It takes about 2 minutes to boil water with the pocket rocket.
If you are not sure you want to use a backpacking stove that has a flame try the SR WindBurner. Boil water over this flame-less stove that is also wind resistance and fuel-efficient. The Wind Burner uses a radiant burner that is completely enclosed and an internal pressure regulator. The stove is impervious to outside conditions. It is a bit heavier at 15.5 ounces, but the Windburner can boil a liter of water in 4 minutes.
12V Car Kettle
If you are camping and your vehicle is near, you can use a 12 V Car Kettle to boil your water. All you do is plug this type of kettle into your car’s 12V cigarette lighter. Wait for it to heat up, and you can boil enough water for about 2 or 3 cups. Great and convenient ways to boil water for washing, drinking or making coffee, and you don’t have to worry about using propane or starting a fire.
The beauty of this cooker is it’s hollow inside. It includes a chimney for the flame and has a conical design that keeps water in the kettle heating from top to bottom at the same time. Water will get hot in a Kelly Kettle quickly and better than most other kettles, and water will boil in about half the time of other kettles.
The Kelly Kettle uses a regular fuel canister you can get at any store. You can also forgo the fuel canister and use natural materials like sticks a leaves to create a flame. The base of the Kelly Kettle is a mini campfire design. The tank is large, and the rubber stopper keeps bugs and leaves out as you pour. There are smaller versions of the regular-sized Kelly Kettle that are perfect for carrying in a backpack.
Boiling water for making coffee, hot chocolate, or just hot water gets a bit creative. If you are really creative, use a Coleman Stovetop Coffee Poat. This device is a real full size of ten cups automatic drip coffee maker. Best of all, it does not require electricity. You just set it on top of a camp stove, like a Coleman stove or any two or three burner unit.
If you are good at making a campfire, you could even set this Stovetop Coffee Pot over a campfire. The heat from the burner or the fire heats water from the tank, travels up through coiled tubes and then to the spray head where it comes in contact with the coffee. Could be a fun addition and if you don’t drink coffee, just use it to boil water.
However you sterilize your water from natural streams and rivers, is totally up to you. The best piece of advice, however, is not to drink straight out of the stream, river or lake, but to boil your water to get rid of the pests that live in the in water. It is not a good scenario to get a bacterial infection from drinking unsterilized backcountry water.
You can suffer stomach issues for years and never really get over the parasites that you got on your camping trip. You can use a pot over a campfire, awesome backpack stoves, a stove that uses your car’s battery for power, and a convenient a Kelly Kettle. Whatever boiling implemented use, make sure you water get to at least 185⁰F, or you see rolling bubbles and boil for one minute. Cool down the water, strain through cheesecloth or a fine mesh screen if it makes you feel better, and drink.