Camping 101: Boiling Water With Rocks

There aren’t too many scenarios where a camper would not have a pot that could be used for heating water over a campfire or stove. However, Not having a pot to boil or at least heat up water is like being up a creek without a paddle — unless you are a resourceful outdoors person who knows how to sidestep such minor inconveniences. If you at least had a container of water (or some form of containment basin) there’s a way to bring boiling heat to it.

Rocks heated over a fire or gas flame (what, you have a stove but no pot?) can be placed into water where that heat is transfered to the water, eventually heating it to boiling. The challenge is to find rocks that won’t fracture and explode when dropped into the much colder water – sending chunks of sharp-edged rocks flying everywhere. Rocks that are porous or layered (shale) aren’t recommended. Better to use basalt or other tight, small-grain/crystal-structured rocks. Rock-solid granite may make fine monuments, but for heating water – forget it. It deteriorates too fast.

Once a container of water is set up, heat the rocks over a fire until a test rock steams when placed in the water vessel. Transfer the rock using tongs made from two tree branches (one of which should be forked to better craddle the hot rock between the tips).

Keep placing the rocks into the vessel until it starts to roil and boil on its own. The rocks will displace water so make sure your container can hold the additional volume. If you are going to consume the hot water, have another container handy to quickly rinse the hot rock of ashes and campfire debris before dropping into the main container. You can also tap rocks together to knock off specks and ash.

t may be a rare situation whereby you need to heat water and don’t have a pot or pan handy. Never say “never,” however; this is another good campsite skill to practice during a weekend outing.

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