How to Boil Water Without a Pot: The Perfect Guide for Emergencies

Disaster preparedness is key to survival of the fittest. And to survive, one needs to hydrate. Whether there’s an emergency alert to evacuate the house or you’re left stranded in the woods during a hike, you’ll need to know how to boil water without a pot to purify it, because it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Here are all the ways you can do it.

How to Boil Water Without a Pot

Water can be boiled using just about anything – all it needs is some heat. So here are some items you can use to boil water when there isn’t a pot available.

Try a Paper Plate

Usually done to heat up two to three teaspoons of water, a paper plate held on top of a candle flame can boil water without burning.

If you’re out in the wilderness, find two equal-sized rocks and place them over a small fire. Take the paper plate, fill it with water, and rest it on top of the rocks to heat up.

Use a Bamboo Stick

A bamboo stick is considered to be the simplest way to boil water (when a pot isn’t available). Make a cut just beneath one of the notches on the bamboo and break it off.

Fill it up with water and place it over a fire pit, making sure that the thick sides are warmed faster than the thin bottom.

Make a Wooden Container

Yes, wood is highly flammable, and it is insulated as well, but it can actually be used to boil water. And since there’s an abundance of tree logs in the wilderness, it makes sense to use wood.

Take a few sand-free, smooth rocks and place them over a fire. Put the wooden container on top of the rocks, making sure it doesn’t touch the fire, and the water will boil in a matter of minutes.

Search for Banana Leaves

Boiling Water wrapped in Banana Leaves on tradional fire

Generally, any large-sized leaf can be used, but banana leaves are recommended most, as they are non-toxic and easy to fold.

Take a banana leaf, shape it into a bowl, and pour water in it. Place it over a fire and wait for it to come to a boil. Make sure the leaf stays away from the flame and that only the “bowl” of water is heated.

Stay Grounded

Sounds weird, but you can actually boil water just by digging a hole in the ground to use as a container and dropping hot rocks into it. It removes the need for any extra materials and skills. All you need to be sure of is the clay content of the soil.

Clay-rich soil will hold water easily, while softer soil will need to be lined with plastic or a tarp. Make sure to reheat the rocks every 10 to 15 minutes so the water doesn’t catch any rocky sediments.

Tips to Keep in Mind When Boiling Water Without a Pot

In survival situations, it’s important to know all the tips and tricks to detoxify the materials used and know the right way to use them too. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when boiling water without a pot:

  • When using a paper plate, a large-sized leaf, or even a wooden container, keep it away from the direct flames, as it can catch fire.
  • When using a wooden container, make sure to cover it properly when storing it for longer use.
  • If you’re carving your own wooden bowl, search for green wood and use that, as it hardens when heated and lasts longer than traditional wood.
  • When placing rocks in the fire, use dense or heavy rocks like marble or granite. Do not use soft rocks like pumice, limestone, or even sandstone.
  • Make sure the rocks you use are not grainy, sandy, or wet. They can explode from irregular heating and hurt you.
  • When using the ground as the container for water, make sure the distance between the fire pit is at most five feet away from the hole made in the clay soil.
  • Pack a pair of survival gloves so your hands don’t touch any hot containers or come into direct contact with fire, as this can damage them.

How to Boil Water Without a Fire-Proof Container

Water boiling on container on Wooden Fire

What do you do when there is a fire pit built, the fire has started, but the container available isn’t fire-proof? Well, you can use any of the following items to your advantage and purify the water for drinking:

  • A watertight container, i.e a metal bowl, that does not overheat or burn over direct flames
  • Plastic bottles roped over the direct flames just enough so that the water inside is heated but the flames won’t touch the plastic
  • Charred wood hung over the flames so water comes to a boil but the wood isn’t damaged
  • Birch bark bowl carved out to make a natural, sturdy, and waterproof container
  • Create a bowl using clay from the soil and hover it over direct flames until the water comes to a boil

The best and most efficient way to boil water without a fire-proof pot is to search for smooth-faced, non-grainy, and dry rocks. Then, clean them and heat them over direct flames.

Meanwhile, make a container out of wood, paper, or leaves. Pick up the heated, anti-bacterial rocks using a pair of tongs or while wearing gloves and place them in the container of choice to bring the water to a boil.

How to Boil Water Without a Microwave-Safe Container

Suppose you’ve brought containers with you, but none of them fit in the microwave or aren’t microwave-safe, and you’re stranded so you’ve nowhere to go. What would be your course of action? Here are all the options:

  • If at home, look for stainless steel containers and boil water in them using a microwave.
  • If in the wilderness, search for large-sized leaves like banana leaves that are pliable, non-toxic, and slightly heat-conducting.
  • If you’re stranded, dig up clay-rich soil, and with that, you could either make a clay bowl to boil water in or use the hole as a container itself.
  • If you’re out of town and the stovetop broke, get yourself a kettle or a coffee machine that can be used to boil water.
  • If worse comes to worst, light up a few tealight candles and boil water by placing the candles at the base of the container.

We’ve covered all the do’s you can consider, but there are a couple don’ts too. One, don’t use a non-stick pan to boil water. The coating can disintegrate and mix into the water, which can cause health problems in the long run. Two, don’t put a styrofoam cup or a paper bowl in the microwave.

How to Boil Water in a Plastic Container

Plastic, believe it or not, can actually be used to boil water and other liquids. When done the right way, it doesn’t melt or fall apart at the lick of a flame. Here’s how to boil water in a plastic container:

  • Take a plastic vessel (preferably a water bottle) and pour in the required amount of water.
  • Open the cap of the bottle so that steam can pass through when water is heated.
  • Then, tie a string to the bottle’s neck, leaving a longer length behind untied.
  • Using the untied rope, suspend the plastic water bottle over the direct flames in such a way that the fire doesn’t lick the bottle and burn the string, but heats up the water inside efficiently.
  • As water has a great heat-conducting capacity, the plastic bottle won’t melt over the flames, but it will deform and decolour considerably.
  • When the water hits boiling point, remove the plastic bottle from the fire immediately using survival gloves.
  • Make sure to throw away the bottle after two to three uses.

How to Boil Water Without Electricity

Pot boiling on twig stove outdoors

Maybe there was a sudden power outage in town and now there’s no electricity to boil water for morning coffee or evening tea. Here’s what you can do:

  • Take out a couple of candles (preferably tealight) and use some of them to heat up the base of a stainless steel bowl, which will bring the water in it up to the boiling point.
  • Fire up the BBQ grill pit and enjoy having purified, boiled water over a plate of grilled dinners.
  • Open up the fireplace and take turns boiling water in front of it.
  • Gas is cheaper than electricity, so don’t shy away from powering up your gas hob and placing a pot of water to boil on it.
  • If you’re out in the woods, use the camp stove to boil and purify the water from the lake.
  • In the wilderness, create a firepit and use a pot to boil water. If a pot isn’t available, try banana leaves, birch bark carve, or even a plastic bottle.
  • If you live in a tropical climate, it’s time to charge up the solar cooker and place a pot of water to boil on it. This will purify the water.

How to Boil Water In Other Emergencies

During hurricanes, massive floods, tsunamis, and water pipeline malfunctioning, the city may issue an alert to either drink only boiled water or bottled water for the time being. In such emergencies, here is how you can disinfect and purify the water:

  • Pour the required amount of water into a pot and make sure it is clear and sediment-free.
  • If it’s cloudy, filter it using a clean cloth or multiple coffee filters.
  • Boil the water for at least one minute, and if you’re up in the mountains, boil for at least three.
  • Take a sip. It should taste flat.

FAQs About Water in Emergencies

How can you boil water without a kettle?

If a kettle isn’t available, you can fill up your coffee machine and use it as the heat source, or fill up a deep pot and place it on the stove top. For a cup or two of water, you could also place a heat-safe bowl filled with water in the microwave and bring it to a boil.

Can I boil water with a candle?

Yes, a candle can boil water, but it does take a longer time since the flame is small. To bring the water up to a boil in less time, you could place more than one candle at the base of the pot.

It is recommended to use tealight candles, as they are small in size, have a longer burn time, and do not pose as great a risk as larger candles.

What happens if you drink unboiled water?

It depends on the kind of water that is available in your area. If it is generally deemed free of contaminants by the authorities, then drinking it unboiled in small quantities may not be as harmful.

However, if there is a boil water advisory issued, then drinking it unpurified is to be strictly avoided, as it can cause diarrhea, salmonella, E. Coli, or cholera.

Can you drink pool water in an emergency?

Sure, in an emergency, it is alright to drink a mouthful of pool water – just make sure it’s in small quantities.

Ask the authorities about the chlorine level. If it’s 4ppm or less, the water can be consumed little by little, but if it’s salt treated, the pool water should be strictly avoided.

Final Thoughts

In a survival situation, the utmost priority is to stay alive, and the best way to do it is to hydrate yourself with clean, boiled water. Now that you have all the tips and tricks on how to boil water without a pot and more, you can survive just about anything in the wilderness.


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