Any good survivalist knows that boiling water is critical to water safety. Even if you purify your water first, you still need to boil the water to eliminate any harmful bacteria left behind.
Boiling water is also essential for cooking vegetables and meat that you obtain in the wilderness. You can collect raw water from lakes, streams, ponds, and even rainwater.
If you don’t have the proper cookware to boil water, don’t fret. There are two main ways to boil water without a pot or stove.
To boil water without a pot or stove you can heat up a smooth rock in a fire and place that hot rock into a container filled with water. If the water reaches a rolling boil for at least one minute then it should be safe to drink. You can also boil water by hanging a water-filled plastic bag filled over the fire.
I would recommend you stick to the first option if you can. I know I wouldn’t want to drink water that’s been infected with BPA and other chemicals from plastic. However, if you have no other option, then it’s better than drinking water riddled with bacteria and toxic chemicals.
Boiling Water to Kill Bacteria
Before we get into the methods of boiling water; let’s talk water safety. When you are out in the wilderness, you should be careful with the water you ingest. Water may contain hazardous organisms. Boiling water can kill said organisms, including parasites, viruses, and bacteria.
But how long should you boil water to sufficiently kill off these dangerous organisms? The CDC recommends bringing the water to a rolling boil for one minute at elevations of more than 6,500 feet and then letting it boil for three minutes.
Method #1: Use Hot Rocks to Heat up water
This method aims to heat up stones and place them into a suitable bowl filled with water. The tricky part is figuring out what type of bowl to create. You can use a wooden bowl, a large leaf, or you can dig a hole and line it with something durable.
One great option for a bowl is wood. You can always find wood from a tree out in the wilderness, and it creates excellent insulation for the heat. Unlike holding wood over a fire, hot stones in water will not deteriorate wood. Some people refer to this as a burn bowl.
The first step in creating a wooden bowl is critical: choosing the correct piece of wood. Make sure to choose dry wood without sap. Wet wood will shrink and not burn properly. Cut a square piece out that will be a suitable size for a bowl. No less than approximately 1 foot by 1 foot.
The second step is to create a hole that makes a piece of wood turn into a bowl. First, you’re going to want to heat up some charcoals or stones. Place a layer of hot charcoal onto the wood where a hole for a bowl would be. Blow on the charcoals to ignite the flame. Wait for the charcoal to burn through the wood to create a hole.
For the third step, you will be digging out the hole in the wood. After a sufficient amount of wood has burned down, remove the coals with tongs and throw the coals back into the fire. You can create tongs from sticks or other materials. Make sure to scrape out the charcoal burned area to make a hole in the piece of wood.
Finally, repeat the second and third steps until you have created a deep enough hole to boil water in the piece of wood.
Large Leaf Bowl
It may sound crazy to think you can boil water in a leaf, but it’s possible! You can’t use just any leaf. You must use a large, durable leaf, such as banana or palm leaf. The leaf should be at least 1 foot long and 1 foot wide.
Step one to creating a leaf bowl is similar to the wooden bowl. The secret to this is selecting the right leaf. Search for a large, thick, durable leaf, such as a banana leaf or palm leaf. This leaf should also be solid enough to hold water, so no holes.
The second step is the trickier part: creating a bowl shape with the leaf. Gather the leaf’s left side, bring it over to the right-hand side, and pinch it together with your right hand. Repeat: grab more of the left side, bringing more into your right hand. Continue doing this until you’ve created a bowl shape.
Hole In the Ground
If you want to boil water without a pot, you can use a wooden bowl, a large leaf, or a hole in the ground. There are two options for a hole in the ground: dig a hole in a bed made of clay or if you don’t have access to a clay ground, dig a hole in any type of ground and line the hole with something heat resistant. You can line the hole with plastic, leather, snakeskin, or a thick leaf. Really any material that will resist boiling water.
If you are in an environment with clay nearby, you can boil water directly into the clay hole. In the United States, clay can be found in Texas, Alabama, North Carolina, Georgia, Ohio, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Virginia, Missouri, Arizona, California, and more. To distinguish dirt from clay, note that clay has hard and angular chunks when dry and turns into a soft and plastic texture when wet.
Heating the Rocks
Congratulations, you’ve made a bowl to boil water in! Whether your bowl is made of wood, a large leaf, or merely a hole in the ground, you can now boil water without a pot or stove.
First step: find rocks. It is critical to choose the right type of rocks for this to work. Make sure the stones are not porous or filled with sand or water. Next, once you’ve found your rocks, you will want to create a fire. Before placing the stones into the fire, make sure they are clean, so be sure to rinse your rocks thoroughly. Let them heat up for a while in the fire.
Don’t forget to make some tongs to grab the stones from the fire! Once removed, wash off any debris with extra water and drop them into the bowl created.
Method #2: Hold an alternative container over the fire
If you had a pot, you could hold it up over a fire to boil water. This method involves using an alternative container to hold in or above a man-made fire. You can use any heat-resistant item, like a plastic bottle, plastic container, or bamboo cup.
Plastic Water Bottle or Container
If you don’t have a pot, not to worry. A plastic water bottle will do the trick! This method can only be done if you have something like a plastic water bottle, a plastic container, a metal container, or something of the like.
Remember, you are able to boil water in most plastic because water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit and plastic melts at 248-266 degrees Fahrenheit. However, be careful though, because some plastics melt at a temperature lower than 212 degrees Fahrenheit.
So, how do you do it? Well, you don’t want to place the water bottle directly into the fire. Instead, you will dangle the water bottle slightly above the flame to let the flame flicker under the water bottle gently. If the water bottle is too inundated with the flames, it may become too hot and actually melt.
The first step you should take is to create a tripod over the fire. This tripod is what will suspend the water bottle over the fire. You can create a tripod with sticks. If you have some other type of metal rods, then, of course, use those first.
The second step is to attach a rope or string to the bottle’s neck and tie the other end of the rope to the top of the tripod. Keep the water bottle cap on loosely or not at all. If the cap is on too tight, the boiling water will cause it to explode. Again, make sure the water bottle isn’t submerged in the fire too much; otherwise, it has a chance of melting.
The last step is to wait for the water to boil and remove the water bottle from the tripod with tongs. If you don’t have tongs, you can create some with more sticks. Be very careful when removing the water bottle as you don’t want to spill it.
Bamboo is typically found in warm, moist, and tropical climates. Bamboo is typically found in Asian countries, but there is still some native bamboo in the United States. You can find native bamboo in Eastern and Southeastern states. If your surroundings have bamboo, this may be easier because you don’t have to make a tripod (like you would do with a plastic container). The basic anatomy of bamboo is nature’s cup. The bamboo inside is hollow with “walls” every few inches, creating a long cylinder-like container.
The first order of business is chopping the bamboo in the correct location. You should chop the bamboo right before one of its “walls” to create your own cylinder cup. Next, rinse out the inside of the bamboo and fill it with water. Bamboo is naturally very thick and can withstand very high temperatures. The last heat resistant part of the bamboo is the “walls” so try to place the bamboo cup so deep into the fire pit that only the sides of the bamboo are touching the water, and the “wall” is touching the ground.
Boiling water without a pot or a stove can be tricky. Maybe you are lucky enough to have located clay or bamboo in your environment. Or perhaps you have a leftover plastic water bottle. One way or another, you can boil water without a pot or a stove.
You can either use hot stones in your man-made nature bowl or you can use an alternative bowl to hold over a fire. Whichever method you choose, good luck!