Boiling Water With Rocks


In the last couple of articles, we’ve talked about how to get water from vines if you can’t drink ground water, and how to manufacture a bowl to store or transport water without a modern container.  But, what if you do have ground water, and no container to boil water in?  You don’t have to just take your chances and drink water that is likely to have harmful bacteria in it.  All you need is a fire, a few stones, and a little patience.

Here’s how to get it done:


  • First of all, you will need something to hold the water in. In the last article, I described how to manufacture a bowl from birch bark.  This sort of container will work, but it would be inefficient when trying to bowl water for more than person, because of its limited capacity and you might not have birch or other suitable trees in the area.  Another option is to dig a hole and line it with a tarp or trash bag.  Then layer moss or bark that you know to be non-toxic on the bottom of the hole to protect the tarp or trash bag from heat.
  • Next, you will want to find two sticks that have a “Y” shape to them so that you can use them to pick up rocks that will be far too hot to touch. Test them out first, you don’t want to get started and then find out that you can’t move your hot rocks.
  • You will also need to gather half a dozen or so rocks that are at least the size of your fist. Rocks that are too small will not hold enough heat.  Be careful not to get your stones from a river, or dry river bed.  These stones might contain trapped water, while they are heating the water inside will boil but be unable to escape or to vent and the rock will explode and could cause serious injury.
  • Place your stones in your fire near the coals and let them sit for about half an hour.
  • Using your sticks, transfer a few rocks into your water. Don’t put too many in at one time.  You don’t want your water to overflow, and you want at least half of your rocks in the fire so that you can rotate them and provide continual heat.  Leave the stones in the water for about 5 minutes before rotating them with the stones in the fire.


Depending on the amount of water you are boiling and the size of your stones you should only have to rotate them once or twice before achieving a boil.  Water doesn’t have to be at a rolling boil, or held at a boil to be safe.  If the water has reached even a low boil for a minute it is safe to drink.

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