After years of hiking and camping, I have discovered numerous ways to heat water. Whether it is for cooking, washing dishes, showering or just having a cup of coffee, heated water is a must at any campsite!
So how do you heat water while camping?
To heat water while camping you will need a heat source such as a campfire, jet boil system, stove, bucket drawing heat from the sun or solar heating bag. You apply heat to the water until it comes to a boil or whatever desired temperature you are looking to obtain. Some water heating methods have limitations on how much they can heat water, such as a solar water heating bag or bucket. They are limited by the amount of sun they can absorb.
Here are the 7 methods that really work for heating water while camping.
- The jet boil system water heating system
- The MSR pocket rocket water heating system
- Ghillie kettle
- Coleman stove for boiling water
- Solar water heating bags
- Using a bucket
- Heating over a fire
If you are heating water for cleaning up, be sure to check out this article that we wrote- How do you shower while camping? (Tips and Tricks)
The Jetboil Cook System
The Jetboil cook system is one of the best options on the market right now. It has a very compact design that has the pot, stove, ignitor, and stand built into one unit. This alone makes the Jetboil a great option. The system is perfect for hiking as it weighs about the same as a can of soda.
The Jetboil is designed with the most efficient materials possible, allowing an average boil time to be just over two minutes. It uses only half the fuel consumption of traditional systems.
To use the Jetboil you simply attach the stove portion (the bottom piece) to the fuel canister. Once this is done, fill the pot with water and attach to the stove. Turn the fuel knob counter-clockwise, then press the ignitor button. There you have it, just wait for the water to boil and turn the knob clockwise to turn off the burner.
The MSR Pocket Rocket.
The MSR Pocket Rocket is a similar stove to the Jetboil, but it requires a little more gear than the stove itself. This stove is much smaller and compact, but you will need to have a separate pot or pan of some sort. The Pocket Rocket also does not have an ignitor, so you will need a lighter or matches.
To use the Pocket Rocket you simply attach the stove to the fuel canister, turn the knob counter-clockwise, and strike your match about an inch away from the burner. Once your water boils, simply turn the knob clockwise to turn off the burner.
Ghillie Camping Kettle
The Ghillie Camping Kettle is a unique design as it has a hollow core where the fire is built. No fuel is required. Fires are built with grass and twigs. Water heats extremely fast in a separate chamber that is seated down into the fire core. The fire heats the inside of the kettle. This design comes in 3 sizes. The largest is a 1.5-liter kettle and holds approximately 50 ounces. That is enough hot water for several people. It’s one of the fastest systems on the market as it reaches a full boil in about 3 to 5.5 minutes, depending on the kettle size.
Coleman Dual Burner Camp Stove
This is by far the easiest way to heat or boil water when you’re camping. However, it is limited to camping that does not require a long hike to your campsite. The size and weight of a camp stove can be quite cumbersome and truly limits its use.
This model camp stove has many advantages. The burners are adjustable, so you can choose to boil water quickly, or just simply warm it up and keep it warm. This is a major advantage over many of the compact backpacking stoves. You may also use pots that have a coating on the outside, as you cannot use this type cookware on an open fire.
The size of the Coleman stove allows room for two burners and a larger fuel tank. You may purchase an additional hose, which allows you to hook up a 20lb fuel tank if you plan to camp for an extended period of time.
Using the Coleman camp stove is very simple. Hook up the propane tank to the provided regulator pipe (this only fits one way, so it’s easy to figure out) and hook the other end to the stove on the front right corner. Once this has been done your stove is ready to use.
Similar to a natural gas stove in your home, turn the knob to the left, strike your match to ignite, and put your pot of water on the burner. Heat your water to your desired temperature and you’re ready to go!
Solar Water Heating Bags (Also Known as Solar Showers)
These bags are a great option as they take little-to-no effort to use. They are also very affordable. They are available in many different brands and in many different sizes. There are several advantages to these systems, but there are also several disadvantages.
The main advantage of Solar Showers is that they are 100% environmentally friendly. They require no fire or fuel and rely solely on the heat and UV rays of the sun. Another advantage to the bags is that they pack down very small and can be used for both RV/car camping and back-country hiking and camping.
One of the main disadvantages of Solar Showers is the time required to get warm water. It can take up to three hours even in warm conditions. If you forget to prepare your bag early, you may find you’re in for a cold shower!
Another disadvantage is simply the fact that they may not be effective in winter temperatures. This could actually be risky, as temperatures below 70 degrees Fahrenheit, in winter conditions, could quickly lower body temperature and lead to hypothermia.
Heating water in a five-gallon bucket
This may sound a little far-fetched to a lot of people, but it’s a very effective way of heating a large amount of water at one time. The only disadvantage of this method is that it does require electricity.
If you’re camping in a location with power hookups or you have a generator/power inverter, this is a great way to go!
There are several options available as bucket heaters. A Submersible/Immersion Bucket Heater can heat water to over 180 degrees Fahrenheit. It comes equipped with a stainless steel guard and will not damage plastic containers. You simply plug it in, drop it in the bucket, and let it do all of the work. These are fully waterproof and safe, as long as the plug does not come into contact with the water. It can heat one gallon of water to 130 degrees Fahrenheit in approximately 10 minutes.
The second most common option is an insulated full wrap design. Various models are available, and units can heat water to 100 – 125 degrees Fahrenheit. They provide an even regulated heat. The units have straps that secure the wrap around the outside of the container. They may be used on plastic as well as galvanized buckets.
Boiling water on an open fire.
This option is truly for the minimalist camper or the camper on a tight budget. The most common gear that is required is a pot (with no coating or paint on the outside), plenty of firewood, and a way to start the fire (matches or a lighter). A clean can or even a paper cup can be used to heat water with an open fire. A can may be used by placing it over a flame or in the hot coals. As unbelievable as it sounds, a paper cup can actually be used to boil water over a flame.
Due to the laws of physics, a fire held under a true paper cup (non-wax coating and not styrofoam) filled with water, will not burn the cup, but instead will cause the water to boil. Actually, the same is said to be true for water in a plastic bag. The water will boil without scorching the bag.
The following steps should help you with boiling water over an open fire for the first time:
- Step One: Make sure that you have plenty of firewood. You’ll need small twigs and sticks to get the fire started, but make sure, as the fire starts to burn that you add plenty of larger pieces. This will produce longer burning, hotter coals.
- Step Two: Once you’ve established your hot coals, you’re going to want to find a way to support the pot over the fire. The best way to do this is to put two large pieces of wood or flat rocks on each side of the fire. Make sure they are spaced close enough to balance your pot.
- Step Three: Last but not least, balance your pot on the rocks or wood and let your water boil. Depending on how close the pot is to the coals, it can take anywhere from 10-20 minutes to have boiling water.
Make sure you have a way to remove the pot from the fire as to avoid burning your hands. A thick rag will work in most cases. If the pot has a handle on the top (not on the lid) you can bend a coat-hanger into a U-shape to hook on the handle or use a pair of pliers or tongs in order to pick up the pot. You can also use tongs or pliers to remove a can from the coals or to hold a paper cup over a flame.
Having the ability to heat water when you’re camping is an easy accomplishment. Of course, a lot depends on the type of adventure you’re planning. Just be assured there’s a method out there that will fulfill your needs and will certainly help in making your next camping adventure one to remember!
Here are some related questions and answers.
How long does it take to boil water over a campfire?
This actually varies by the amount of water you are trying to boil. It will take an average of between 1 and two minutes to boil a cup of water over campfire.
How do you cook on a campfire without a grill?
There are a few methods to do this. Of course, you will need a pot or skillet. There are three basic ways to accomplish this.
- Line the outside of the fire with a ring of rocks. Next, find a flat rock that can span the fire and rest on the outer rocks. Once the flat rock heats up, you have a flat top cooking area.
- This one is kind of like the first but probably a little less stable and the fire will need to be even smaller. Line the edge of the fir with rocks that the pan or pots will span across and sit on. Make sure the rock sits a little above the fire and simply rest the pot or skillet on the rocks.
- A similar concept is to line the fire with rocks that are taller than the fire. Use metal rods or even wood sticks that have been soaked in water to span the fire and rest on the rocks. You can now set the pot or skillet on top of the rods or sticks. Just beware, if you use sticks, even if they have been soaked in water, your cooking time will be limited before they catch fire.