The Kelly Kettle is a family invention dating back to the 1890’s on the west coast of Ireland. It burns any naturally flammable material – twigs, grass, leaves, pine cones, etc.– and is able to boil water extremely fast, even in poor weather, which makes it a great off-grid cooking tool.
One of the best things about the Kelly Kettle is that you don’t have to store fuel. The energy is provided by burning twigs or dry grass; even in an urban setting these things can be found in a yard or local park. With another cooking device wood or propane might need to be rationed in a emergency situation, but with this handy little kettle stove all you have to worry about rationing is the food.
The Kelly Kettle is relatively small and is great not only for emergency off-grid cooking but for camping too. You can easily add this little kettle to your hiking bag and you don’t need to carry fuel. Talk about a Boy Scout’s dream come true. I have three scouts that can’t wait to get their hands on this little gizmo, but first I wanted to show it to you and how easy it is to boil water in.
There are just two pieces to the main kettle. There are other accessories you can purchase and we’ll be showcasing them here on the blog as the Fall camping season begins. But for now I wanted to show you the basics.
The “secret” of the Kelly Kettle is the double-walled water chamber that sits on top of the fire base. You light a small fire in the base (maybe with our DIY Altoids Fire Starter Kit), fill the kettle with water (be sure to leave the rubber stopper out, it should only be in when storing cold water), and place it on the base. The hollow center of the Kettle acts as an efficient chimney, similar to a rocket stove. You can then begin to add larger pieces of wood through the top of the chimney. As the fire grows, you are heating the water both from below and from the sides of the chimney, which makes boiling a much quicker process.
We tested the Kelly Kettle Stainless Steel Scout, the medium size. It measures just under 12″ tall when set up, holds 37.2 fluid ounces, and weighs 2.2 pounds. There is also an aluminum Scout model that holds 44 ounces and weighs 1.6 pounds. We weren’t planning on backpacking with the Kelly Kettle, so we opted for the slightly heavier stainless steel model.
The first step was to build a small fire inside the base.
You can see how small the tinder was that we used. You can use small twigs, dry leaves or grass. Basically, anything you might find on the ground at a campsite or in the woods.
Once this was going we placed the kettle on top and added a few more pieces of wood through the chimney.
In no time we had flames reaching the top of the inside of the chimney.
I can see how the Kettle Kettle would be great in bad weather – with the fire almost totally enclosed inside the Kettle, it would be very difficult to put out once you’ve got it going, even in light rain or windy conditions.
We had a rolling boil within about 6 minutes. That may not sound amazing if you’re used to boiling water on your stove inside, but if you’ve ever boiled water over a campfire you’ll know that is very fast. When the water is ready, you lift the Kettle off the fire base using the attached wooden handle, and carefully pull up on the chain (which is used to attach the rubber stopper) to tilt the bottom up and pour the liquid. If you need to boil more than just one pot of water, just refill the pot, place it back on the fire base, and add more fuel if necessary.
We found the Kelly Kettle extremely fast and easy to use. We like the fact that you can use just small scraps of kindling; you don’t need to create a larger fire the way you would if you were boiling a regular pot of water over an open campfire. You could also use it with a small alcohol stove, or even our DIY Altoids Candle Stove. Additionally, since the fire is contained inside the base, this allows us to practice the Boy Scout “Leave No Trace” philosophy, and not leave a scarred patch of ground from a campfire. We’re looking forward to seeing how well this replaces our backpacking stove and fuel canisters.
Now, you can only use the Kelly Kettle with water inside, meaning it’s only good for hot drinks and dehydrated meals. However, Kelly makes a few accessories to allow you to do some real cooking, so in the coming weeks we’ll be testing their Hobo Stove attachment, pot support and cooking kit. Stay tuned!