Instant Gas hot Water for Camping

Before we purchase any new equipment to accompany us on the road (which by and large means off the road) we perform a ritual of inspection, analysis and research.

By the time the pitfalls, failings and weakness of a new addition have come to light we are usually hundreds of kilometres from the shop it was purchased. Any ideas of a warranty claim, complaint or return attempt are futile and as often as not the brand new folding chair that collapsed on first audition ends up stuffed unceremoniously in a roadside bin.

Usually one particular manufacture makes its way onto our new product shortlist and that is Coleman. It doesn’t really thrill us to give such a ringing endorsement to a massive American corporation but they tend to make quality products that often prove to be class leaders. The history of the company is particularly interesting and worth searching for

We have been using what Coleman calls the “Hot Water on Demand” water heater for two years and in that time it has proven once again that Coleman generally make highly effective products

Coleman Hot Water System
Funky Styling

At 10.2kg and with a look reminiscent of a Star Trek accessory the unit is hardly unobtrusive. With a 300mm x 480mm footprint and at nearly 500mm tall it takes up a reasonable chunk of real estate.

However, after a nine hour drive on red dirt to finally set up camp by a dry creek bed any complaint about bulk is immediately washed away with a turn of the knob.


There is no better shower than the one you really need and the Coleman delivers every time. If you read the article on Camping in Comfort then you know that these days we value comfort over being tough. We also value being clean over stinking like polecats.

Most of our time is spent in a pretty hot part of the world and wherever we can we camp by fresh water and enjoy swimming and bathing in it. However because we spend a lot of time in a pretty hot part of the world, fresh water is not always easy to come by.

Gone are the days of boiling huge pots of water and rationing it out only to end up feeling semi-clean or having a 2 second bath in a river because the water was minus three


Our Water Heater locates in a custom made compartment supplied by a 45 litre tank mounted inside our four wheel drive. A turn of the controller gives 71 degrees C instantly. I mean instantly. The only real complaint here is the low level of temperature control afforded by the unit. On ignition the water delivered is scalding hot and it can take a minute to regulate the heat so it doesn’t boil the skin from your back – it gets that hot. When water is really limited, wasting it by trying to get the temperature under control can be frustrating. We usually divert surplus water into the sink for dishwashing.

Water flow is strong enough for a satisfying shower without causing us concern for our storage capacity.

A hose and showerhead, made to connect to the swivelling tap are supplied as standard and the unit comes with a filtered suction line and collapsible plastic bag of around 19 litres - everything you need to generate hot water.

Of course Coleman can supply a variety of accessories such as a carry bag, an adaptor to fit a regular garden hose and a longer than standard hose and spray head.

According to the literature supplied the water heater has an inbuilt safety device – a “smart internal micro-processor controls the over temperature shut-off device, low voltage indicator and integrated circuitry.” Terrific. It just means it works.

camping sink

The Coleman “Hot Water On Demand” water heater is fuelled by either 465gram disposable gas cartridges or regular refillable gas bottles and either can be used right from the box. We have only ever used the disposable cartridges. In an effort to maintain compatibility between appliances our camping stove also takes these cartridges, meaning we only have to carry one type of fuel. Coleman claims 150 litres of hot water or 40 minutes runtime per cartridge and our experience would suggest that this is conservative. The water supply to our unit is 45 litres and we would expect to use six or seven tanks of water per gas cartridge. Of course we rarely have the water temperature set to maximum and consequently use less gas.

Power to ignite the flame and run the pump is supplied by a 6 volt sealed lead acid battery that is recharged via 240 volt household power or with a car cigarette socket. The battery in our heater seems to require charging when the gas runs out meaning the unit is fairly low maintenance.

Build Quality

Our first impressions of the Coleman weren’t great. There are a couple of competing products on the market and they are nice rectangular boxes constructed of shiny powder-coated steel and not green plastic.

The design of the heater is a bit quirky, the aesthetics coming down to personal taste, hence we built a compartment to hide our unit. On this point, if you are looking at the image of the unit mounted in our vehicle – this application is completely contrary to Coleman’s operating recommendations and probably voids all warranties and insurances. Tough.

Aside from the plastic and looks the Coleman has never had a screw fall out, leaked a drop of water or misbehaved in any fashion. It has done its job quietly and without fuss all the while getting beaten to death in the back of a 4 x 4 and inhaling massive amounts of red dust.

Top marks for a top performing if not ugly product.

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