Camp Hot Water Heater With an Easy to Use Dispensing Feature




Make a large-volume, propane, camp water heater that dispenses hot water like a kitchen faucet.

When camping with a large group, like our Boy Scout troop, a propane turkey fryer is an easy way to quickly heat a large quantity of water.  Between washing cooking gear / mess kits and making hot beverages we empty this hot water tank a few times during every campout.

It 's no great surprise that a turkey fryer can heat water (after all, heating liquids is what they are made for.)   Getting the hot water out is another issue.  

Unless some army is laying siege to your castle, lifting and pouring this caldron of scalding water is out of the question.   That leaves "ladel-ing" as about the only way to scoop out the water.

This Instructable describes an easier method for safely dispensing this essential hot chocolate ingredient.

Step 1: Turkey Fryer

Not all turkey fryers are created equal.  Sure, all consist of a pot, lid, burner and stand, but  what's needed here is one with a spigot at the bottom of the pot.  The fryer shown is a Safe-T-Fryer bought at Bass Pro.  (unfortunately, I think it is discontinued)  They have another model with a spigot  (North American Outdoors 35-Quart Aluminum Saf-T-Fryer)  available at Lowes.

This spigot at the bottom of this pot may be fine for emptying cooled frying oil however, right out of the box, it is not a practical hot water dispenser. 

The multiple turns required to stop the flow on the factory spigot leads to spillage.  It turns out young scouts don't anticipate the time it takes to rotate the handle several times.  Hot water overflowing a mug is never a good thing. 

The factory spigot is also too close to the heat source.  It gets much too hot to operate with a bare hand.  (Its known for a fact that we are talking about handle temperatures well above the melting point of the vinyl covering on snow golves.)

Provided you use suitable protection to open the gate; filling a cup from the factory spigot proves to be as difficult as a crooked carnival game: "Step right up... and try to fill your plastic mug... without contacting the hot pot stand and melting it"....nearly impossible while shivering in the morning cold.

Step 2: The Dispenser

 The answer to all of the shortcomings of the factory spigot is solved with brass plumbing hardware.

Fortunatly, the turkey fryer spigot comes with a cap that screws onto the end of the spout to prevent dripping.  As luck would have it, the threads just happen to be sized for standard 3/8" plumbing fittings.

Two 90 degree 3/8" brass fittings, a 1/4 turn ball valve, and some teflon pipe thread tape are all it takes to make a safe convenient hot water dispenser.

With these fittings, the handle, and pour point are far enough away from the burner to reduce the chance for melted cups and hands. The quarter turn valve shuts off quickly;  is easy to operate as a self-serve dispenser; and best of all, it is not hot to the touch. 

Note: obviously the factory spigot is left  "open" with this set-up.

It is not that a reach to think a turkey fryer would make a good camp water heater... but, sometimes its the little Instructables that turn a good idea into a practical camp essential.

Step 3: Camp Wash Stand

 Besides making hot chocolate, the large volume of hot water is used for washing cooking gear.

The photo shows our troop's lashed together camp wash stand.  Scouts will recognize the standard three step system: wash, rinse, sanitize.  

The modified water heater valve is great for filling wash tubs... or giving a quick rinse to an especially "gunked" cook utensil so it doesn't overly pollute the wash water...all with the familiarity and efficiency of a kitchen sink faucet.    



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    21 Discussions

    Larry Green

    4 years ago on Step 3

    For sure. Many adapted designs. Here's a sturdy one made up of 5' staves that's happily becoming popular in the BSA:


    8 years ago on Introduction


    but should I understand that one of the hiker in your team is only devoted to carry this stuff during the trip ?
    Sure as nature lovers, you seem to be, you don't drive to your campsite ?…

    5 replies

    If you are implying that we drive to camp hauling our gear in the boot of a car... I can assure you, GOOD SIR, that is not the case at all....we use manly trucks to haul our a massive trailer... : )

    Actually we do a lot of different type of camping.  when we go as a large group, we take the trailer.  Other times we backpack in and carry all our gear on our backs.  That means no hot water heater.


    That is a great idea.. Out here at our camp site we are lucky enough to have electricity.

    I built a small flushing bathroom with only Cold water available at the sink.

    For hot water we installed a big electric coffee pot sitting on a shelf right over the lavatory.... When someone uses it they are instructed to add water back to it.

    It's kept filled at all times day and night.

    When I take my home made camper out to the state park. I carry all electrical equipment due to the fact we must pay for electricity at the camp site and it's cheaper than Propane. We even have a small fridge.. In the south, yes I need Air Conditioning since I have gotten older.. My camper has an electric heater installed too.. I am into soft camping now days, no more sleeping on the ground.

    As one outdoors person to another.. Bless you..

    However,, That is NOT to degrade your excellent idea..

    I share my info in the event someone can use it to go along with your idea..


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    " home made camper..."

    I should like very much to see a photo and possibly, an Instructable...

    Thank you so much for calling me GOOD SiR !…
    It warms my heart as it makes me feel much more important than what I really am.

    I see you have a good sense of humor as you seem to have understand that my comment was by no mean being critical of your heater project, which I admire.

    Best wishes to all and your camping and outdoors projects for the season to come.


    8 years ago on Introduction


    Why does one need to heat HOT WATER?

    Looks like an EXCELLENT COLD WATER HEATER. :-)

    Great idea!

    1 reply

    7 years ago on Step 3

    makes me want to take up scouting. LOL and I'm 57.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    For those who don't have a turkey fryer with spigot or can't find one you can convert what you have with a weldless bulkhead fitting and a drill bit. They're used often in homebrewing for converting large SS pots so that you don't have to lift 50lb or more of boiling liquid. They can be found at most homebrew shops or online. is just an example of what your looking for. Don't forget that stainless steel is hard to drill through. Get a bit made for SS or expect to dull the one you have.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    My scout troop does something similar, but different.
    In this setup, you have to wait for all of the water to heat up before you can use it, and there is the possibility of it running dry. Not good.
    What we do is get a large pot, some copper tube and a funnel. There is a spout coming out of the side of the pot, as close to the top of the pot as possible, and a hole is drilled in the lid. We then put a copper tube that reaches the bottom of the pot through the hole and attach a funnel to it. That is then sat on a ring burner with a windshield. To get water out, you pour water into the top funnel, the cold water sinks to the bottom of the pot through the tube, and that raises the level of water in the pot which makes hot water come out of the top spout. This takes advantage of the fact that hot water rises. Using this, we've been able to get 40 litres of hot water out of a 20 litre pot.

    My 2 cents


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Excellent idea!

    Have you thought about wrapping the pot in some sort of insulating layer, such as a wool blanket or something?  Possibly even making a dedicated wrap out of fiberglass mat or something less likely to ignite that close to a flame?  It would provide an extra layer of protection to young hands, plus it would decrease boil time by holding more heat in (think JetBoil, but bigger!)

    Again, excellent idea!


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Wow, you guys make it fancy when you clean up. =)  In my troop half the time we bring our own mess kits, or we just throw everything on a table and "clean" it.  We make sure everything runs through a dunk of bleach-water however.