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How to Boil Water When the Power is Out

It goes without saying that the ability to boil water ranks right up there among both at-home and backcountry necessities, whether you’re looking to cook a meal, prep the (all-important) morning coffee or tea, or purify water for drinking.

An electric stove or coffeemaker sure makes the process easy, but what do you do when the power’s out, or when you’re deep in the wilderness? To many folks, the answer may seem obvious. But we actually get asked this fairly often, “What about if the power is out at home?” Well, whether it’s a weekend backpacking trip or a genuine survival situation, you’ve got plenty of options.

With help from some of our Mountain House Ambassadors and the #mhjusaddh2o hashtag, we’ll use this blogpost to run down some ways to heat water without electricity: using primal, millennia-old technology as well as fancy-schmancy gadgetry. But first, an important note about our much-loved just-add-water Mountain House dinners!

Do You Need Boiling Water to Cook Mountain House Meals?

No! Boiling water’s the recommended method, but if for whatever reason you can’t obtain it you can certainly still prepare our Mountain House morsels. Both room-temperature and cold water will work to rehydrate the food, but keep in mind it’ll take upwards of twice as long as the cooking time that’s printed on the package.

Campstoves

From vintage two-burner propane cookstoves at the state-park campground to slim white-gas stoves boiling tea water at a high camp above timberline, these are an outdoorsperson’s best friends. A backpacking stove is also mighty handy to have stashed in that bug-out bag of yours, and, importantly, serves as reliable backup when a power outage renders your kitchen stove and microwave useless.

If you’re new to camping and/or prepping, the galaxy of portable stove options can appear overwhelming. Canister or liquid-fuel? Twig- or tablet-burning? The sorts of outdoor recreation you plan to pursue, your budget, and a healthy dose of trial-and-error will help you whittle down the options to the perfect model for your purposes.

You can see a range of stove styles in use among our Mountain House Ambassadors, including DIY setups such as Tim Watson’s homemade alcohol stove and solid-fuel options such as Kenny D’s super-sturdy Esbit Stove and Bushcraft and Prepping’s Kelly Kettle. When it comes to quickly boiling a pot of water, a stove with an integrated canister is a particularly efficient option. Mountain House Ambassador Morgan uses JetBoil (when she’s not using her Power Pot).

Going Old-School: Boiling Water Over a Fire

You can, of course, tap into your inner cowpoke and boil water right over a campfire: Suspend the pot by a tripod or center pole, place it on a grate above the flames, or set it directly on hot coals. This tried-and-true approach is the one Mountain House Ambassador Homestead Wishing favors when out camping, and we’d wager most people would agree it’s the most intrinsically satisfying and romantic.

 

Go Grill

It’s obviously not the most efficient use of resources, but in a pinch you can boil water over a propane or charcoal grill—a good choice in the event of an extended power outage. (Don’t forget: This should only be done out-of-doors.)

Woodstove/Fireplace

A woodstove or fireplace can be a lifesaver during a power outage, and not only as a general source of heat. You can also boil water as you would over a campfire, with the pot placed atop a woodstove, or via the built-in water reservoirs some models include.

Gas Stove

When a storm, blackout, or some other event robs your home of power, you can still boil water without electricity over a gas stove that uses standing pilots by lighting the stovetop burners with a match.

Other Methods to Boil Water Without Electricity

From specially engineered solar-cooker thermoses to (patiently and safely) using tealight candles for the purpose, there are many other ways to heat water without electricity. Just be super-careful about minimizing the risk of flareups, asphyxiation, and other everyday perils of fuel and flameage.

Some Relevant Related Camping/Prepping Tips

While we’re on the subject of ways to heat water without electricity, we might as well plug some of the other related resources we’ve assembled here at the Mountain House blog, right?

What are your go-to methods for boiling water without electricity to whip up a quick and delicious Mountain House meal at home or out in the boonies? Let us know in the Comments section, and let’s keep the #mhjustaddh2o conversation going!