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"New" Campfire Water Billy | DIY Cheap Billycan

This post is about recycling a coffee pot to create a billy for campfire cooking.

Not long ago I picked up an inexpensive camping coffee pot at the local Big Box store. The price was right. But it made lousy coffee - at least when I tried to make the normal 8-cups that my wife and I usually brew each morning.

campfire cooking
My bargain coffee pot - soon to become a billycan

So, I wasted $14.99. But I was also gearing up for my Summer canoe trips, and reasoned that I could convert this coffee pot into a proper billycan for boiling water on the campfire. (Most of my backcountry meals only require rehydrating the dried ingredients.) Have you priced billies lately? It's possible to spend $25.00 to $50.00 for a pot to boil water!

Nope. Not me. After all, the modern billy is only a more civilized version of a recycled tin can. The name, billy is thought to have been derived from the bouilli tin, which was the original canned soup. "Bouilli" means boiled meat, and "bouilli tin" was a generic term for any empty preserved food can. If hobos could boil water in an old tin can, I was sure that I could convert my coffee pot into a serviceable billycan. Besides, few utensils get more abuse than a campfire water pot - so $15.00 seemed a fair price.

billycan campfire
The original billycan - simply a recycled tin can

The first step was replacing the glass cap on the lid with a solid knob. The glass cap fit in an indented rim, but two whacks with a hammer cured that.

Next, a trip to my local hardware garnered a threaded knob and two fender washers. The knob was tightened to a lock nut on the underside of the lid. Just for extra security, I dabbed some epoxy on both sides of the lid under the washers. This is optional since a little leaking steam is of no consequence.

And in less than an hour of tinkering I had created my new billycan. It is ready for many seasons of fire and soot and abuse on my canoe trips.

There is no need for a pot cozy on a billycan. But I had some scraps of foil-backed foam left over so I made a cover - only to contain the campfire soot and help keep my nesting pot clean.

campfire cooking
My "new" billycan, complete with a cover to keep the nesting pot clean

FYI. A proper billycan has a strong bail to hang over the fire and a spout for clean pouring. My recycled billy also has a rear handle to make pouring even easier - something not found on most of the more expensive water pots for sale at twice the price!


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