How to Make Distilled Water with a campfire, stove or kettle

Distilling water is a must-have skill that can be helpful in many scenarios. Sometimes, you’ll need to purify stream water while you’re out camping, or it can be as simple as wanting better water quality from your tap.

Better yet, the entire water distilling process can be done in several ways, so it’s easy to find a method that suits your surroundings and the supplies that you have.


Now, are you ready to know how to make distilled water?

Method 1: Use a Stove, kettle or Campfire to Distill Water

The basic rule behind distilling water is to allow it to heat up and create water vapor. Then, you should allow the vapor to condense, leaving behind all the contaminants that won’t even make it to the gas form.

Now, here’s how to distill water using a stove, grill, campfire, or any heat source that can give you the desired results.

Step 1: Gather Your Supplies

The first thing you should do is grab a few items before you get into action, including:

  • A 5-gallon pot (it could be aluminum or stainless steel)
  • A metal bowl that can float inside the pot
  • A lid that fits snugly over the pot
  • Ice cubes

Step 2: Create Your DIY Water Distillation System

Now, it’s time to put everything where it should be. 

Start by filling the stainless steel pot with water until it’s half full. Then, place the slightly smaller metal bowl in the big pot so that it floats on top of the water.

Remember that you shouldn’t go for a too big or too small bowl here. A tiny bowl won’t collect the condensed water that will drip from the sides of the lid, letting the drops fall back into the bigger pot. A big bowl that barely fits the pot won’t be much help either.

After that, put the lid on the pot, but make sure it’s upside down. This lets the condensed vapor move naturally toward the metal bowl without your intervention.

You can also get a machine to do this:

Step 3: Turn on the Heat Underneath the Water Pot

The water must be very hot for it to evaporate, so you can achieve that by starting a campfire underneath the pot or turning on your stove. It’s not necessary that the water comes to a boil, but it won’t hurt either.

When you notice the water heating up, place the ice on top of the lid so that the vapor will condense on its surface from below. Wait until all the water has completely evaporated, then carefully remove the lid and the metal bowl with the distilled water in it.

Now that you’re done, remember that it’s important to store the purified water in a sterile container. You don’t want any chances with contaminants that might be present in non-sterile containers.

Method 2: Use Rain or Snow as Your Sources of Distilled Water

There’s always room for creativity when it comes to finding or making distilled water, and one example of that is this method. Because rain and snow are naturally purer than water from a well, stream, or pond, you can use that to your advantage.

The reason behind this is that snow or rainwater has undergone a water distillation process, but it’s on a far larger scale. When exposed to heat, water from lakes, rivers, and the ocean evaporates, condenses in the form of clouds, then falls back in the form of rain or snow.

So, unless the area where you live is alarmingly polluted, you can gather these two forms of water to use with confidence.

The process is quite simple:

  • Place a clean container outdoors where water from the rain or snow can collect in it
  • Give the water a day or two so that any solid particles in it sink to the bottom of the container. Use a filter.
  • Drink or use the water as you see fit
  • To be extra sure of its purity, boil the water or run it through a coffee filter. Rainwater might not be drinkable so check if this is the case in your area.

Method 3: Use Rocks and Plants to Distill Water Off of

Even though this method isn’t as straightforward as the previous two, it’s still worth knowing because it can save your life in tough situations.

Here, you’ll only need to have green plants, a bunch of small rocks, a can, and plastic wrap.
Then, you should follow these steps to extract water from basically any source of water:

  • Choose a sunny location in your camp, then dig a hole in the ground
  • Put the can, or any object that could collect the condensed water, in the center of the hole
  • Drape layers upon layers of moist plants around the container
  • Spread the plastic wrap over the hole and secure it in place with the rocks
  • Ensure the building moisture has no way to escape from the hole
  • Place a small rock or pebble right on the plastic wrap right on top of your container so that the water drops will slide into it after condensation

After doing all this, you’ll just have to wait until nature does its thing. As the water on the damp leaves heats up, it’ll evaporate and rise to the top, meeting the slightly cooler plastic wrap.

This will cause the vapor to turn into liquid form, and the water drops will then move down the plastic wrap and gather inside the can or container.

To Wrap It Up

Learning how to make distilled water is a basic skill that everyone should have an idea about. You can do it indoors or outdoors, with a pot and a bowl or nothing but a few leaves and rocks, or get it straight from snow or rain.

Your options are too many to count, and your imagination can also come up with other ways to distill water once you understand the main principle behind this process.

Water is not always drinkable. Distilling the water in the right way can purify it further. You might have to test it.

To be really certain that you can drink the water in your bathroom, a lab test is needed every few months. The quality can evolve over time so it is essential that you test it multiple times. 

This requires that you send a water sample and then they check for different elements. If they detect elements that are not suitable, they will warn you and provide advice on how to remove them from the water. 

These tests can cost a few hundred dollars. It can take a few days or weeks before you get the results. Make sure that you pick a lab that is certified and has experience with these tests. You can reach out to a plumber to get an idea of what labs they have worked with before. Real estate agents can help you out with this as well. 

There are digital meters but these are often not accurate enough. They are also not able to measure everything that should be checked. For these reasons, I am not a big fan of them.

 You can get a testing kit and perform the tests yourself. It won’t be as accurate as a lab test but can give a general idea of the quality of the water. These tests are quite easy to perform, from dipping a piece of paper in water to filling a bottle with water. 

You get the results quite fast. It is still a great idea to get an initial test from a lab as these can measure more elements and are more precise. 

Using a small water filter might remove some elements from the water but it can’t catch everything. Some particles are very small or strong and these filters are unable to catch them. We have discussed the difference between filtered and distilled water here.

Lifestraw is pretty good though. They claim that the filters in their drinking bottle can remove a lot of contaminants. You can consider bringing one of these on your trip. 

If you end up in a situation where there is no bottled water, you can use this as a backup.