The Kelly Kettle has been in use for over 100 years, beginning in Ireland and eventually circling the globe. There’s a good reason for that endurance and popularity — the damn thing works!
See, here’s the thing. Being able to boil water is a critical element to a survival plan. Boiling water kills pathogens in it that could make you sick. Plus, you’ll want hot water for cooking as well as coffee or tea. Yes, you can boil water in just about any old metal container placed over a campfire. The problem is, the longer it takes to boil that water, the more fuel you’ll consume. On top of that, it can be difficult to keep a roaring campfire going in pouring rain or blowing snow.
The Kelly Kettle is of a rather ingenious design, actually. It comes in two parts–the kettle itself and the fire base. The model I tested was the medium sized, stainless steel Scout. It holds 37oz of water, which is plenty for a small family. The Scout measures a little over 10″ high and about 7″ across at the bottom. All told, it weighs in at a little more than 2lbs. As you can see, it is sort of an open cylinder with a double walled construction. Water, when poured into the kettle, goes into the double walls. The fire base is a stainless steel bowl of sorts, and it is here that the process begins.
First, you build your fire in the fire base, using any natural materials around you, such as twigs, pine cones, and such. Once the fire is going good, pour the water into the kettle via the spout on the side, then place the kettle over the fire base. Owing to the hollow interior of the kettle, it acts like a chimney, drafting the fire up into it. As you add more fuel via the small hole on the side of the base, you’ll soon see flames actually rising out of the top of the kettle.
Because the fire’s heat is pulled up through the kettle, the additional surface area is able to heat the water inside fairly quickly. I was able to bring roughly 30oz of water to a rolling boil in under six minutes. And, that’s with me not paying as close of attention as I should have with adding more fuel as the fire burned down.
That’s almost a full quart of water brought to a rolling boil with nothing more than a few handfuls of twigs. Pretty impressive! The fire base allows you to build your fire just about anywhere, including on wet or snowy ground.
Once the water is hot, you can take it off the fire and insert the attached rubber plug into the spout, keeping the water hot longer. That plug with the attached chain serves a dual purpose, too. When you go to remove the kettle from the fire, it should go without saying it will be HOT to the touch. However, the attached handle as well as that chained plug will be ok to grab. What you want to do is grasp the handle with two hands, keeping it at a 90′ angle to the kettle as you remove it from the fire. This keeps you from putting your hands directly over the top of the kettle where all the heat is coming out. Then, hold the handle with one hand and grab the plug with the other, angling the kettle to pour the water into your coffee mug.
When they sent me the Kelly Kettle Scout, they included their Hobo Stove accessory. This, used in conjunction with the fire base, allows you to use any pot or pan to cook a meal. What’s cool is that when you’re done cooking and things cool down, you can turn the Hobo Stove upside down and it fits right inside the fire base, allowing for more compact packing. Everything fits into a handy sack to keep soot off your other gear, too.
In the Kelly Kettle Complete Kits, they also include a pot support that fits into the top of the kettle, allowing you to boil water AND cook food at the same time.
A couple of cautionary notes with regards to the Kelly Kettle.
1) NEVER let it boil dry or set it up on the fire without water inside. Doing so can damage the kettle.
2) NEVER boil water with the attached rubber plug inserted into the spout. This can cause pressure to build inside kettle, leading to potentially dangerous consequences.
The Kelly Kettle Scout, as well as the other sizes in their product line, is available here on Amazon for about $90.