How to Boil Water Camping: The 9 Best Methods for Cooking, Cleaning, and More

When camping, boiling water is essential. From cooking outdoor meals to cleaning up afterward, every camper should know how to boil water camping. But who knew there were so many different ways to boil water camping?

The water boiling method you choose depends on the type of camping you’re doing. You’ll also want to consider the equipment you’ll already have at your campsite. From camp stoves to campfires, we’re covering the top 9 methods for boiling water while camping. From camp stoves to campfires, we’re covering the top 9 methods for boiling water while camping for your next getaway.

a pot with pasta cooking illustrates how to boil water camping
Whether it’s for cooking, cleaning, or purifying water, all campers should know how to boil water camping.

Why You Need to Boil Water While Camping

Unless it’s part of cooking your outdoor meals (or you’re in the backcountry), having a way to boil water while camping is often overlooked. 

  • make your morning cup of coffee or hot chocolate on chilly fall nights
  • boiling water for backup meals like pasta and dehydrated meals
  • purify contaminated water for drinking in the backcountry or during a boil water advisory (yes, they happen at campgrounds too)
  • provides an emergency heat source when camping in cold weather
  • warming bottles for little ones

How to Boil Water Camping: 9 Easy and Effective Methods

Whether you need to bring water to a rolling boil or are heating water for hot beverages, try any of these methods for boiling water while camping.

1. Propane Camp Stove

Best for car campers who use a camp stove for cooking meals

Camping stoves are the most common way for car campers to boil water outdoors. This common item in your camping gear is often the easiest way to boil water camping. They’re easy to set up, compact, and efficient. And many campers already have their camping stove packed for the trip, so no extra gear is needed.

This method also works if you use a Blackstone griddle for cooking camping meals.

Equipment needed: Camp stove, propane canister, pot or traditional kettle, and matches or a lighter.

Tip: While a kettle uses more space in your camping gear, pouring water without spilling it is easier than with a pot of water.

Our pick: We use the Coleman Classic Gas Camping Stove

Thousands of campers adore Coleman’s Classic camp stove. This inexpensive and reliable camp stove has handled for countless outdoor meals.

The Jetboil Zip Cooking System and the Sea to Summit X-Pot Kettle are also available from Amazon.

Tip: If a backpacking stove for boiling water while camping is a backup plan, consider a solid fuel stove. Stoves like the take a bit longer to boil water but is more budget-friendly.

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a backpacking stove, shown with a kettle, is a good way to boil water while camping
Backpacking stoves, one of the best ways to boil water camping, are compact and lightweight.

3. Campfire or Propane Fire Pit

Best for car campers who prefer their outdoor meals cooked over the campfire

The campfire is one of the most versatile cooking tools available. It has many uses, including heating food, boiling water, roasting marshmallows, grilling meat, and baking bread. A propane fire pit allows you to cook without firewood.

Equipment: firewood, cooking grate, a kettle or camp cooking pot, and matches or a lighter

After a string of fire bans at campgrounds in Colorado, we opted for a portable propane firepit. This was permitted during the bans because it has an automatic shutoff. We’ve been thrilled with the Portable Propane Gas Fire Pit with Cover from Camplux.

Tip: Bring a portable campfire grill grate to ensure an even surface for your pot or kettle when heating water over the campfire.

Related Reading: The Complete Guide to Camping for the First Time: Everything You Need to Know for Your First Trip

4. Electric Kettle

Best for car campers and RVers who have a power source at their campsite

Electric kettles are an easy and efficient way to boil water for camping trips. Plug the kettle in, turn it on, and you’ll have boiling water in just a few minutes.

Equipment required: electric kettle and a power source

Keep in mind: You’ll need access to an electrical outlet to use this method of boiling water while camping.

Our pick: Amazon Basics Stainless Steel Portable Fast, Electric Hot Water Kettle

We prefer stainless steel kettles over glass for camping, which can break en route. This highly-rated electric kettle holds a liter of water, bringing it to a boil in just 6 minutes.

5. Charcoal or Gas Grill

Best for car campers and RVers who don’t leave home without their grill

If you’re already camping with your grill, this method for boiling water camping is for you. The time it takes to get hot water is faster with a propane grill, of course, but charcoal grills also work. 

Equipment: grill, charcoal or propane, pot or kettle, and matches or a lighter 

Our pick: We use the ultra-portable Coleman RoadTrip 285 Portable Stand-Up Propane Grill

This Coleman grill collapses for transport and uses the same 1 lb propane canister as many camp stoves.

6. Bucket Heater

Best for large group camping where there is access to electricity

A bucket heater will do the job when you need to heat large volumes of water for washing dishes or bathing. Like an immersion heater, place it into a bucket of water, turn it on, and you’ll have hot water in no time. 

Equipment: bucket, bucket heater, and access to an electrical outlet

Our pick: Anti-Scalding Bucket Heater

Keep in mind: Access to electricity is required for this method of boiling water while camping.

7. Internal Flame Kettle

Best for backpackers who don’t want to worry about running out of fuel

The Kelly Kettle, a widely available internal flame kettle, uses twigs and other combustible material to heat water that surrounds a chimney. This impressive gadget is quick and efficient. Unlike other compact stoves, a Kelly Kettle’s fuel source is found in nature.

Other internal flame kettle options include the Ghillie Kettle, Thermette, or Storm Kettle.

Our pick: Kelly Kettle Scout Camp Kettle, which holds 41 oz (1.2 L) of water. Also available are 20 oz Kelly Kettle Trekker and 54 oz Base Camp models.

Keep in mind: internal flame kettles are only used for boiling water camping, which may limit some cooking methods.

8. Solar-Powered Kettle

Best for campers who need to boil water without electricity or fire

When you know you’ll have no other power or fuel source, look to the solar-powered kettle to boil water camping. The boiling process is long but is the best way to boil water camping that doesn’t need fire or electricity.

You May Also Like: How to Go Camping Without Electricity: 9 Easy Tips and Solutions

Our pick: 4Patriots Sun Kettle Personal Water Heater

This compact water heater has a 17 oz capacity and takes nearly an hour to boil.

Keep in mind: Solar heaters rely on ideal weather conditions to work. If there is no sun, this method for boiling water camping is unreliable.

9. Car Kettle

The car kettle is a device that allows you to boil water without having to light a fire. Plug this kettle into your car’s auxiliary power outlet (the cigarette lighter) to power the kettle. 

Our pick: Spardar 12V Car Kettle

Spardar’s car kettle is great for single servings, heating about a cup of water at a time.

Bonus: Solar Water Heating Bag

Heating water while camping for a warm shower? A solar water heating bag provides more warm water than other methods. Besides the solar shower, you don’t need any other gear to heat water. Designed with materials that absorb heat from the sun, these highly portable bags provide heated water at the end of a long day.

Our pick: NEMO Helio Pressure Shower 

It takes just 1 lb of gear to heat about 11 liters of water with the NEMO Helio Pressure Shower. Fill the bag with water and let it sit in the sun all day to have warm water.

NEMO Helio Pressure Shower

Keep in mind: This method is only effective for heating water, not boiling water while camping. It does not heat water to temperatures enough to purify water.

a pot of water over a campfire
When you already have a campfire going, it’s the easiest way to boil water camping.

How to Heat Water While Camping for Safe Drinking

Most car campers boil water for their morning cup of coffee, cook dry pasta, and wash dishes when camping. But they also do it to have clean drinking water.

Water from a natural source often looks like clean water. But it is often contaminated with bacteria that can make you sick. Boiling water ensures you have water safe for consumption to avoid getting sick in the backcountry.

Backpackers often rely on this method when there is no access to a safe water source. They can’t add the weight of bottled water to their pack to ensure clean drinking water.

Water is safe to drink after boiling it. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are several ways to purify water in the backcountry. But boiling water while camping is the most reliable method. Bring water to a rolling boil for a few minutes to remove many of the potential contaminants. See the CDC’s (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines on treating water here.

Tips for Boiling Water When Camping

  1. Smaller amounts of water boil faster, so use only the amount you need.
  2. Make sure you have all the equipment and resources (like sunlight or access to electricity) required for the method you choose for heating water while camping.
  3. Only bring extra gear if you need to. If you already have ways of heating water while camping, there is no need for additional equipment. 

How to Boil Water Camping: Frequently Asked Questions

Whether camping in the backcountry or at a developed campground, always have a way to boil water when camping. You’ll have clean drinking water and a way to cook dried and dehydrated meals, even if they are a backup option on your camping menu. Choose from these safe and reliable ways to heat water for your type of camping and arsenal of gear.

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