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How to boil water while camping: top tips when you want a brew

Boiling pasta on a camping stove
Boiling pasta on a camping stove (Image credit: Getty)

When you go camping, you’re probably going to need to boil some water. Whether that’s for rehydrating your camping meal or simply having a nice cup of tea. Luckily, it is really easy to boil water wherever you’re camping, if you come prepared. So if you’re wondering how to boil water while camping, here are some solutions.

How to boil water while camping: top tips

The best and easiest way to boil water while camping is to get a camping stove. How big that stove is will depend on the kind of camping you’re doing, but they come in all shapes and sizes. You can also choose from types of fuel – gas, methylated spirits, petrol, multi-fuel… Just make sure you have a pan big enough to heat the amount of water you need. Small, compact camping stoves are really good for a single person, but you’ll need to ramp up the size of the burner and the pan the more people you’re catering for. 

It’s really straightforward to boil water while camping: 

  • Light your camping stove using a lighter, matches or built-in spark.
  • Put your pan of cold water on the stove and cover it with a lid if you have one.
  • Turn the heat up and wait until you can see steam escaping out of the lid. You might hear bubbles too as it boils.

If it’s very windy, you’ll want to put your stove somewhere sheltered and out of the wind. It’ll heat the water more quickly and there will be less chance of the flame being blown out. In really cold weather, you might need to wait longer for your water to boil or use a special fuel – for example, a winter mix if you’re using a gas camping stove. If you want to boil water in the morning, after a cold night in the tent, make sure to keep your fuel from freezing. Wrap it up in something warm – or even put it inside your sleeping bag if the forecast goes below zero.

Alternatives to a camping stove

If using a camping stove is simply too mainstream for you, there are some other ways to heat water while camping. For example, if you’re staying in a campsite with electricity, then you could always use a kettle. Or you could put an old-school metal kettle on top of a hob, oven or wood burner. Anything that’ll get it hot enough. It really depends on what you’ve got available. On a campsite, you could even go full Bear Grylls and hand a pot of water over an open fire. Just remember that you can’t have an open fire in most National Parks – it leaves a scar on the ground and could spread into a wild fire by accident.

So there you have it. To boil water while camping, choose a stove or other heat source appropriate for where you’re camping. Paired with the right fuel for it that’ll work well in the conditions you’re cooking in. Light the stove, put the pan of water on top and wait. Before you know it, you’ll have enough boiling water for whatever you need. Assuming you’re not trying to have a bath…

An adventure writer based on Dartmoor, England, Emily is an active member of Mountain Rescue and a summer Mountain Leader, but loves all things adventure – before her third birthday she had lived on three continents. Founder of Intrepid magazine, she works to help break stereotypes about women in the outdoors. Her expeditions have included walking all Dartmoor’s 119 tors in a single two-week outing, cycling to Switzerland and back, and riding the Rhine from source to sea.