If you’ve ever spent time in the damp UK weather waiting for a small amount of water to boil in order to make a much-needed cup of tea, then you know it can be an exercise in patience. Not only do you need to build a fire which is reluctant to light, but you also need to build a stand to hold your pot over the hottest part of the flame. Even then, it can take what seems like ages for the water to boil. But there is a solution. The Kelly Kettle is here to help satiate the UK population's need for tea.
At its heart, the Kelly Kettle is an extremely elegant solution to the problem of boiling water quickly while out and about. With this simple kit it’s easy to boil over 1 litre of water in as little as 4 minutes, with only fuel that is naturally available. The Kelly Kettle accomplishes this feat by focusing a fire's heat as well as maximising the surface area exposed to the heat in order to increase its absorption and transfer of the heat to the water. The design of the kettle consists of a fire base and a kettle chimney. As the kettle is chimney shaped, not only does the heat applied to the kettle base warm it up, but also any smoke heat and flames that go through the kettle chimney will heat up the water. This means water will boil very quickly.
Our Kelly Kettle Review
As someone that loves the outdoors, I am always on the lookout for innovative and interesting products that can help save me time and help save my back from carrying too much stuff. I am continually tweaking what I take away with me for a long weekend and revising what was useful and what wasn’t useful. As a consequence, I always have an eye out for a for pieces of equipment that are useful in a wide range of scenarios.
When bad weather settles in on your camping spot or you’ve just had enough walking for one day, you want to set up camp, eat, enjoy a cup of tea and relax with as little fuss as possible. Being able to boil water and cook relies on being able to build and light a fire, as well as having quality outdoor cookware. In an emergency situation fresh water might not be readily available, in these circumstances being able to adapt your setup to purify and distill water could be critical to your survival.
I recently had the good fortune to see the Kelly Kettle in action at a local camping and outdoors fair. It immediately blew me away. The design is ingenious, simple, and very effective. The Kettle was created over 100 years by the Irish Kelly family. It’s a unique solution to the natural fuel cooking system. No artificial fuels, gases, liquids, or tablets required with this cooker.
I chose to buy and review the medium-sized Kelly Kettle Stainless Steel Scout, which is capable of bringing 1.1 litres of water to boil in a bit under 5 minutes. This is perfect for couples, small groups, or even solo travellers.
The whole package packs away very neatly into a durable nylon pouch. The kettle is just over 25cm tall and a little under 19cm wide and weighs in at a fairly substantial 1.08 kilograms, which increases to 1.6 kilograms once all the accessories are included. This is obviously somewhat larger and quite a bit heavier than a lot of the portable cooking solutions that are available, however, there is an aluminium version available which reduces the weight by 25%. So as long as you don’t mind cooking or boiling your water in an aluminium container, you can save quite a bit of weight.
If you’re still of the opinion that it’s a little on the large side, you could opt for the slightly smaller model called the Trekker which weighs in at a much more manageable 760 grams. This model is capable of holding and heating 0.5 litres of water. It’s much better suited to the solo backpacker. As with its bigger sibling, the Trekker is also available in aluminium, which is also around 25% lighter than the steel version. At the other end of the scale is the Base Camp version which holds 1.5 litres, so it’s better suited to larger groups or anyone that likes huge portions.
Kelly Kettle Magic
Every Kelly Kettle is made up off two primary components: the firebase and the kettle, and if you decide to buy one of the numerous Kelly Kettle kits, then you’ll also get various accessories and other bits and pieces.
The firebase of each Kelly Kettle is made from a single piece of machine-pressed heavy duty stainless steel. This means that they are very sturdy kits and have very few weak points. The aesthetics of the base is fairly non-descript, it looks like a bowl with a tapered lip and a hole in the side. The firebase is approximately 8cm tall and 19cm wide. As the name suggests, the firebase is where you’ll burn the fuel which will in turn heat the kettle. One of the biggest selling points of the Kelly Kettle is that you can burn almost any type of fuel which you have available, including pine cones, tinder, dried grass, or anything else which you have at hand. If you have one, you can even use a alcohol burner. Quick tip: make sure to restrict the airflow out of the top of the kettle exhaust when using an alcohol burner, doing to helps trap the heat in the chimney resulting in a much faster boil rate, this will also help to reduce the amount of fuel required to heat the water.
The kettle measures in at around 25cm tall and 16cm wide. In order to ensure the kettle remains robust and durable, it’s been made from two pieces of tough stainless steel that have been welded together. The inner and outer walls of the kettle form a pocket which holds the water, additionally, the inner wall also acts as the kettle’s chimney, where any flames, heat and smoke produced from the fire also serve to heat the inner wall of the kettle. In order to carry the kettle when hot, the wire bail handle has been spot welded and features a wooden handle to insulate your fingers from any heat. Originally, the kettle was designed with pop rivets to hold the handle, however, after feedback the rivets were replaced with welds to prevent the occasional leak. The kettle also includes a silicone stopper which is tethered to the kettle by way of a sturdy stainless steel chain, perfect for sealing the kettle when not in use.
Kelly Kettle Accessories
The pot support is inserted into the Kettle’s chimney and can support almost any type of cooking pot you’d like it to. As all of the heat from the fire rises through the chimney, you can cook and boil water at the same time. However, the design is not without its faults. Firstly, as the cooking pot rests on top of the kettle chimney the whole setup is quite tall, and, as with anything that’s tall, stability can potentially be an issue. The second issue is that the pot is at a fixed height above the chimney and can’t be adjusted, this means the temperature is difficult to control.
The pot is both sturdy and easy to clean due to being made from heavy-guage stainless steel. At roughly 8cm tall and 12cm across, the pot is not insubstantial in size and is capable of holding around 1 litre of liquid. The lid of the pot can double up as a small frying pan. Additionally, included in the cooking set is a pot handle and wire grill which fit onto the firebase.
Available separately from the Kelly Kettle Scout is the Hobo Stove. This is simply a steel ring adaptor which has raised pot supports, the set up allows the firebase to be easily converted into a simple to use hobo-style stove, which is perfect for cooking with almost any pan or pot. In addition, the Hobo ring raises the height of the pot above the firebase, which in turn increases the air flow. It can be used with or without the firebase and can be easily store inside the firebase when not in use.
Using the Kelly Kettle
The Kelly Kettle is very easy to get started, but there are a few things to be aware of before getting going. As the kettle is quite tall, it’s very important that the firebase is placed on a level, flat, and sturdy surface. When in use, the firebase can become incredibly hot, so setting it up on a flammable surface such as a wooden table or on something that could melt, such as snow, is best avoided. The height of the chimney should also be taken into consideration, remember that very hot exhaust will be exiting the chimney, so be careful when placing the kettle and watch out for overhanging branches, tarp or anything else flammable.
When you have the firebase positioned on a sturdy surface, it’s time to get the fire started. As with most fires, start with small pieces of fuel and any fire-lighting aids you intend to use. Once the fire is established you can add slightly larger pieces of fuel and lower the kettle onto the base.
It’s best to use clean water or water that’s been filtered before being added to the kettle. Filtering the water can be as easy as using a cloth or coffee filter. This makes keeping the inside of the kettle clean much easier. The design of the kettle means that cleaning the interior is a very difficult job.
If you need to add more fuel to the fire you can simply pop a few pieces through the chimney as needed, just bear in mind that the kettle does not require a lot of fuel to boil. If you find that you’ve added too much fuel it’s probably wise to allow some of the fuel to burn away before attempting to remove the kettle from the base.
Once it’s cheerfully boiling away, remove the kettle by holding the wire handle perpendicular to the body of the kettle, then simply lift it off the base. Pouring from the Kettle is equally as simple, lift it by the handle, then tilt it using the silicone stopper chain.
The clever design which combines a firebase and a chimney works in a similar manner to a rocket stove. As the hot exhaust exits the chimney it sucks in extra air and oxygen into the firebase, which in turn allows the firebase to consume more oxygen and burn at super high temperatures, which also produces more and faster moving exhaust which of course sucks in more air and oxygen. This action creates very high temperatures and will allow the water to boil very quickly and efficiently. Typically the kettle will come to the boil in under 5 minutes.
If you happen to need more than one kettle’s worth of boiling water, simply refill the kettle and place it back on the firebase. Subsequent boils happen much faster due the established fire and already warmed kettle.
Cleaning the outside of the Kelly Kettle is easy as using a green pad and a bit of water, it’ll not end up looking brand now, but you should be able to remove the majority of the soot. I would also suggest allowing the interior of the kettle to dry out before replacing the stopper, this will help prevent any unpleasant smells or tastes.
Additional Notes on Safety
- Always remove the silicone stopper from the kettle before placing it on the firebase. Not doing so can result in a dangerous increase in pressure resulting in leaks or worse. The stopper should only be used for transporting cold water.
- Never use the kettle without water in it. Water helps to disperse heat evenly over the whole kettle, without water the inner walls and base will very rapidly heat and expand which could result in weakening of the kettle's seams.
- Avoid leaving the handle above the chimney when it’s placed on the firebase; you don’t want to accidentally heat the handle up and burn your hand.
- Do not overfill the kettle. Once the water has begun to boil, it could spill out and put the firebase's fire out or worse. Leave a few cm between the lip of the spout and the water line.
- Finally, this is not a toy, keep it away from children, and don’t let children near it when in use.
Fortunately the Kelly Kettle is pretty easy to pack up. The first step is to fill the pot with all the smaller bits and pieces, for example pot handles, utensils, seasoning and even fire kindling. Next you’ll place the lid on the pot and place it into the firebase. The grill and the pot stand both fit into the bottom of the kettle. The firebase base fits nicely into the bottom of the kettle upside down. Lastly the whole system is placed in the nylon carry bag, and the drawstring is tightened to keep everything together.
The Kelly Kettle is brilliant, good for the environment, and a very capable cook system that specialises in bringing water to a boil in as little time as possible, while minimising the fuel required to do so. If you’re ever a survival situation or even if you’re just camping, being able to rapidly and easily heat water can be an absolute life saver. The Kelly Kettle is built to a great standard. It’s durable, rugged, and does its job impressively well. The fact that it can be used with nearly any fuel source and during almost any weather condition is nothing short of amazing. As with almost any product, there are some drawbacks to consider. In my opinion, the two biggest are the system's size and weight. I can’t imagine the system being any smaller and still being effective, and I don’t think compromising on the material's thickness is worth it just to save a small amount of weight. There are also a few other minor niggles which could easily be ironed out with a small changes, for example printing the capacity on the side of the kettle would be helpful, as would adding folding handles to the pot. None of these are major issues.
Overall in this Kelly Kettle review, I would give the system my seal of approval. It’s a dependable system that will last a lifetime of use and is well worth the small investment. Definitely a double thumbs up.
Kelly Kettle Alternatives – Ghillie Storm Kettle Review
The Ghillie Storm Kettle is largely similar to the Kelly Kettle, both in terms of looks and functionality. Constructed from lightweight aluminium and weighing in at around 950g, the Ghillie Storm Kettle is relatively light weight and capable of holding an impressive amount of water in its 34cm by 18.5cm frame.
As with the Kelly Kettle the Ghillie Storm Kettle allows for the rapid heating of water using only the fuels that are at hand. This means you can use pine cones, sticks, grass or even dried animal dung. As long as it burns you can use it to fuel the Ghillie Storm Kettle.
The Ghillie uses the same principles as the Kelly. It utilises the chimney to increase the oxygen available for the firebase, thereby increasing the burn temperature. As discussed above, it’s a great system that very effectively boils water in a very short amount of time.
Ghillie Kettle or Kelly Kettle
In short, there isn’t a lot of difference between the two products. With the Ghillie kettle you might be sacrificing durability for a bit of weight saving, while with the Kelly kettle you’re getting a solid kit which is a little bit on the heavy side.
Given a choice I would personally pick the Kelly Kettle over the Ghillie. The accessories and build quality are ever so slightly superior, but it’s definitely a close run thing. At the end of the day, it’s your choice.