10 Ways to Boil Water Without a Pot

I’ve said this a few times, but hiking trails were a huge part of my childhood; I was on the trails literally every other weekend.

close up of bottle top view
I’ve tried boiling water in a water bottle for myself, as a test.

Now, a key part of your hiking kit is water and a pot/container in which to boil it (i.e. for cooking). So, what happens if your drinking water runs out?

Well, you find a lake or river, this sounds simple in principle but that water – if you find it – isn’t going to be the cleanest and drinking it could make you very sick.

How do you make it drinkable? Easy, stick it in a pot and put it over a heat source to boil. Uh oh, what if you don’t have a pot? Don’t panic, there are still ways to boil water without a pot.

1. Plastic Soda Bottle

Yes, really, you can use a plastic soda bottle as an alternative pot if needed. Simply fill the bottle with water and stick it in your fire for a bit with the lid loosely fastened (to allow steam to escape).

What if it melts? Plastic melts at 491 degrees Fahrenheit (255 Celsius) and water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit (100 Celsius).

If you take it out of the fire as soon as your water boils, you’re good. If you don’t, this will happen:

deformation caused by heat

A quick note: You should only use food-grade plastics for this as anything else may contain dangerous chemicals which the heat of the fire may release.

2. Makeshift Wooden Container(s)

You can, if you’ve got the patience and the skill for it, make wooden containers in which to boil water. Take a piece of soft wood and a knife/cutting tool and carve the wood block into a bowl.

If you’re not too good with carpentry, then you can use the burn bowl method. This method has you using hot coals to burn a bowl-sized divot in a chunk of soft wood (pine wood).

Burn Bowl and Boiling Water

Now, obviously you can’t stick a wooden bowl in a fire; it’ll burn. Instead, you fill the container with water and drop rocks – heated by your fire into it – changing the rocks regularly until the water is boiled.

3. Leaf Bowl / Cup over a Fire

This is a very cool one, take a large leaf – either a banana leaf (if available) or a broad, nontoxic leaf and fold it into a cup/bowl and fill the bowl with water.

How to boil water in a leaf

You then hold the container (carefully) over an open fire making sure that the flames are only licking at the areas around where the water is. The water will reach its boiling point but the leaf (apart from the edges away from the water) won’t burn.

4. Hole in the Ground

Another, more traditional method of boiling water without a pot, this method involves digging a hole in the ground and lining it with something waterproof (unless you’ve got clay soil which will hold the water well). You light a fire and place dry rocks (volcanic or porous) in the fire to heat up.

How to Boil Water in the Ground

Fill the hole with water and drop the hot rocks into it, replacing the old rocks regularly until you get the water boiling.

5. Plastic Bag

Much like the plastic bottle, you can also use a plastic bag to boil water. Although, you can’t throw it directly into the flames because it’ll melt.

Survival Tip - Boiling water in a plastic bag

Instead, you can fashion a tripod of branches from which you suspend the bag of water. This allows you to boil the water without melting the bag.

6. Rock Pot

This is a fairly easy one to do. Find a rock with a hole in it, fill the hole with water, and stick it in the fire for a few minutes.

Be careful of what rocks you use, some rocks may explode (yes, really) and send shrapnel everywhere which isn’t going to be pleasant.

7: Birch Basket

If you’re of the creative persuasion, and you’ve got a lot of skill and patience, you can weave a basket out of birch bark. This holds water fairly well and you can add extra twigs to it to add some extra strength.

Boiling water in a birch bark basket

Simply cut a piece of birch bark from a young-ish tree, pinch the sides together and secure it with cordage. Voila! You have a basket!

8: Bamboo Cup

This is the easiest method ever. Cut a piece of bamboo below the knot, fill the hollow interior with your water and put it over a fire to boil.

Bamboo Containers (Boiling/Cooking/Steaming)

Try to set it up so that the water boils from the sides instead of from the bottom. The sides are thicker and less likely to burn.

9. Animal Skin(s)

Okay, so this is definitely not for the squeamish, but you can use animal skins to make containers in which to boil water.

If you can stitch together or secure the sides so that you have one opening at the top. Secure it with string/cordage to suspend it above a fire to bring your water to boil.

10. Paper Cup

This is an interesting method to use because you’d think a paper cup would burn immediately. Water is very conductive of heat and that conductivity allows the water to boil without burning the cup. Water is boiled by placing the cup of water in a fire for a bit until it boils.

Can You Boil Water in a Paper Cup?

In Closing

As you can see there are many ways to boil water even without a pot. You may have to get a bit creative at times but now you know that you don’t need a pot to boil water.

You will have to be very careful so that you don’t end up getting sick – or worse. I hope you guys enjoyed the article and found it informative.

As always, I’d like to say thanks for reading and I’ll see you for the next one very soon. Take care!

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