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Reviews > Cook Gear > Stoves > Kelly Kettle Trekker - Aluminum > Test Report by jerry adams

KELLY KETTLE TREKKER - ALUMINUM
TEST SERIES BY JERRY ADAMS
LONG-TERM REPORT

INITIAL REPORT - September 10, 2011
FIELD REPORT - November 11, 2011
LONG TERM REPORT - January 10, 2012

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Jerry Adams
EMAIL: jerryaadamsatyahoodotcom
AGE: 57
LOCATION: Portland, Oregon, USA
GENDER: m
HEIGHT: 6' 1" (1.85 m)
WEIGHT: 190 lb (86.20 kg)

I started hiking about 45 years ago. My first backpack was 40 years ago. I currently try to do one backpack trip of 1 to 5 nights every month (which can be tricky in the winter). Mostly I stay around Mount Hood, Columbia Gorge, Mount Adams, Goat Rocks, and the Olympic Peninsula. In recent years I have shifted to lightweight - my pack weight without food and water is about 15 lb (7 kg). I make a lot of my own gear - silnylon tarp-tent, bivy, synthetic bag, simple bag style pack.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Kelly Kettle Co.
Year of Manufacture: 2011
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.kellykettle.com
MSRP: 54.25 British Pounds = US$87 (approximate - depends on exchange rate)
US$59.99 at http://www.kellykettleusa.com

The Kelly Kettle is an interesting product that allows me to use available wood to heat water which could save some weight since I wouldn't have to carry fuel. There is an enclosed volume of water inside the kettle with a chimney in the middle. The kettle is placed on the base and a fire is made of small twigs inside the chimney which heats the water. There's an opening on the side of the kettle to get the water in and out of with a cork stopper.

It's interesting that the chimney is wider at the bottom and narrower at the top. The water compartment is narrow at the bottom and wider at the top. The outside dimensions of the kettle are the same from bottom to top. I assume this makes the fire burn and transfer heat to water a little better.

The Kelly Kettle was originally created in the 1890s and is essentially unchanged since then. It was originally used by Irish fishermen.

The Kelly Kettle Trekker Aluminum kit consists of:

The kettle is aluminum, holds 0.57 liters (0.6 quarts), and weighs 13.2 oz (375 g). To get the spec'd capacity I had to fill it to almost overflowing. When I use it I'll put a little less in.

A cork stopper with chain that weighs 0.65 ounces (18 g).

The base holds the kettle off the ground, allows air to flow through, and weighs 3.6 oz (100 g).

A stainless steel cup holds 15 ounces (0.44 liters) and can also be used to heat water on top of the kettle - weighs 3.9 oz (110 g). I could get 16.5 ounces (0.49 liters) to the brim, so the spec'd quantity is pretty realistic.

A stainless steel lid/frying pan weighs 1.75 oz (50 g).

A stainless steel support that holds the cup on top of the kettle - weighs 2.3 oz (65 g).

A pot holder is stainless steel, is used to pick up the cup, and weighs 1.8 oz (50 g).

A small grill is made of stainless steel and weighs 1.4 oz (40 g).

A bag holds the kit and weighs 0.6 oz (17 g).

Kit - Bag, cup, lid, and pot holder on bottom. Support, grill, base, and kettle on top:

IMAGE 1
Kelly Kettle kit


The most basic configuration is with just the kettle, cork/chain, base, and bag, which together weigh 18.2 ounces (516 g). This, obviously, would allow me to backpack indefinitely:

IMAGE 2
Standard configuration


To compare, my canister stove with canister weighs 16 ounces (450 g) and allows me to heat 5 pints (2.4 liter) of water per day for 7 days. I never go more than 7 days so for me, the Kelly Kettle weighs a little more, so based just on weight, the extra fiddling and time required to find and burn fuel isn't justified.

If I wanted to go more than 7 days, or if there were 2 people for 4 or more days then the Kelly Kettle would save some weight.

Actually, a lighter configuration is also possible, just the kettle and bag The weight is 13.8 oz (390 g). The Kelly people say you can just balance it on three rocks. If this worked, there is a nice weight savings compared with my standard canister stove. If collecting twigs and making fire isn't too much hassle, this could be a winner.

A heavier configuration is to add the pot, support, and pot holder. Then, I could heat water in the cup at the same time as heating in the kettle so it would save some time. Since this weighs more, and it already doesn't make sense from a weight perspective, this doesn't make a lot of sense to me:

IMAGE 3
With cup on top


Another configuration is the base and grill which weighs 5 ounces (140 g). This saves 11 ounces (312 g) compared to my canister stove which is some serious savings for a gram counting weenie like myself, well, actually maybe I'm more an ounce counting wienie, it takes a lot of grams to amount to anything noticeable.

IMAGE 4
Minimal configuration


For packing, the base is turned upside down and fits into kettle, the cup fits inside base, and the rest of the stuff fits inside the kettle:

IMAGE 5
Nested for packing


The whole mess fits inside a bag to keep soot out of my pack:

IMAGE 6
In bag


The packed size is 5.5 inches (140 mm) in diameter x 10.5 inches (267 mm) high.

There are two warnings on the side of the kettle "Do not boil water with cork in place". Okay, I got to try this. This could be some fun.

There's one warning that says don't have handle directly on top (because the wooden piece will catch fire and it'll burn my hand holding on to it).

There's also a warning to keep away from children (does that mean me?) and to use surplus water to extinguish fire when done.

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

Initially, I'm skeptical about the Kelly Kettle - it weighs a little more than my canister stove but I have to work harder to use it. Of course, using available wood does save a little money and I think it's "greener for the planet" than a canister stove. The tiny amount of wood used should have minimal impact on the wilderness, but is not allowed in some areas. Maybe it's just a toy to play with more than serious lightweight backpacking equipment.

I'll be interested in seeing how easy and quick it is to boil water. I boil about 5 pints (2.4 liters) per day for dried soup, oatmeal, coffee, and tea. I think I'll be surprised how easy it is to use - not much worse than the canister stove.

It packages up into a really nice kit that will fit into my small backpack. The soot from burning wood will be well contained in the bag.

I'll use it car camping and try it on at least one backpack trip. Depending on how easy it is to use, I might use it on several backpacking trips, but I suspect as I enter winter and available wood will be damp it will be less practical.

I'll try the pot support with cup on top, just to do a complete test, but I won't carry this in my backpack.

I'll evaluate whether just the pot support and grill makes a usable stove, because that would save some significant weight. I'm concerned about ashes or soot getting into the cup.

SUMMARY

The Kelly Kettle is a really clever design for heating water. It's been around forever so is a proven design. It only takes a few twigs to heat up some water.

I am skeptical that it will make a practical method of heating water for my backpacking style, but I'll give it a good try. Since I never go for more than about 5 nights, it's easy for me to have a fuel canister with me which is all I need.

This might be very good for someone on an extended hike - no need to arrange for new canisters or other fuel.

I can see how this would be very good in its historical application, carried around by some Irish fisherman and whenever he wants to heat up some water, all he has to do is find a few twigs and in a short time he has hot water. This would be equally applicable in a modern situation. I could just stick it in the trunk of my car and I wouldn't have to worry about having a fuel canister. Same thing, if I had a boat. It would be great for car camping.

This will require some fiddling to check out all the possible configurations. Maybe I can find one that will be really useful for my backpacking style.

Look forward to my field report in two months.

Thanks to Kelly and BackpackGearTesters.org for letting me test this.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

Sept 27, 2011 - I tried out the different configuration while car camping near Three Sisters in central Oregon at 4000 feet (1200 m) elevation, 40 F (4 C). Total of 2 days.

Oct 12, 2011 - North side of Mount Hood in North central Oregon, 40 F (4 C). One morning of car camping. Very soggy conditions so I used newspaper.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

First, I tried every configuration I could think of. For each, I put a pint (1/2 liter) of water and saw how long it took to boil.

I tried building a fire and pulled off some coals to the side and put the kettle on it. That took about 3 minutes to boil:

IMAGE 1
On coals


I put one section of an egg carton with 0.25 ounces (7 g) of paraffin wax in the base - took about 3 minutes to boil:

IMAGE 2
Wax/egg carton


IMAGE 3
Wax/egg carton


I used a small piece of newspaper on the base, lit it, put on the kettle, and added pine needles - 3 minutes to boil:

IMAGE 4
Needles


IMAGE 5
Needles


I put the cup on the holder on top of the kettle with pine needles and it took about 5 minutes:

IMAGE 6
Top holder


I tried the cup on grill on base and it took about 5 minutes to boil:

IMAGE 7
Just base


Finally, I tried the kettle on three rocks - boiled in about 3 minutes:

IMAGE 8
Just kettle


After I was all done, the inside of the kettle was dirty but the outside was pretty clean:

IMAGE 9
Dirty inside


On my last trip it was quite wet, and there wasn't a lot of dry wood around so I used newspaper. 4 sheets of paper are enough to heat up a kettle of water.

Conclusions

I didn't find the configuration with the cup on top of the kettle was very useful - too heavy, no big benefit heating up the cup at the same time as the kettle, the outside of the cup got sooty - but it did work as advertised.

I didn't find the configuration with cup, grill, and base was very useful - the outside of the cup got so sooty - but it did work okay.

Using the kettle plus base worked great, but the base adds some weight making the entire setup too heavy - I'd rather use my canister stove. If I just wanted to take the kettle with me in my car (or boat) and heat water whenever I needed it without worrying about having a fuel canister, then the kettle would work really well. This is its historical application.

The configuration that works best for me for lightweight backpacking is to use just the kettle. I removed the cork stopper and chain to save a little weight. Kettle plus bag weighs 13.3 ounces (377 g). I also used the cup which weighs 4 ounces (113 g) but there are cups that are slightly lighter. This compares favorably to 21 ounces (595 g) for a canister stove, fuel canister, and pot.

SUMMARY

The historical application for the Kelly Kettle is very useful - having the kettle in your vehicle. When hot water is needed, it takes just a few minutes and a few sticks of wood. Compared to a normal stove, I don't need to worry about carrying fuel. Compared to a normal fire, it takes less time and fuel.

For lightweight backpacking, carrying just the kettle and a cup saves a little weight compared to my standard canister stove, doesn't require resupplying fuel, and is only a little more inconvenient. One problem is that some areas don't allow fires. It requires so little fuel that I don't feel too bad using it anywhere but the most alpine areas, but I usually camp down the mountain a little anyway where the weather is a bit less severe.

For the long term test, I'll continue to use the kettle for car camping and for at least one backpack. Look forward to the report in two months.

Thanks to Kelly and BacpackGearTest.org for letting me test this.


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

Nov 23 to 29, 2011 - 26 mile (42 km) 2 night backpack and 4 night car camp on the Deschutes River in North Central Oregon. 1000 feet (300 m) elevation gain. 30 to 50 F (-1 to 10 C).

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

On my Deschutes River trip, I used the Kelly Kettle by itself without the base or anything else. I used the bag to store it in my pack to prevent soot getting on my other gear.

I used it for two days of backpacking using the three rock method - position the rocks to allow airflow into the kettle. I put a sheet of newspaper at the bottom to get it started lit the paper and waited for it to start burning, then put the pot on it, then put twigs in from the top. After heating the first pot, I just kept a small fire going, then put the pot on for my second cup of coffee, and put twigs in from the top which caught fire after a while. It's a little tricky getting the hang of exactly how to do it, but I found a way to make it work pretty good.

I also used it for three days of car camping using the drag coals off the fire method. I had a small fire going and just dragged some coals off and put the kettle over with no air gap at the bottom. It took a little longer to heat up, maybe 6 minutes rather than the 4 it would take with a larger fire.

SUMMARY

The Kelly Kettle is an interesting solution to heating water. It does just what they say it does, heat up water quickly with a small amount of wood or other flammable material.

All of the stuff in the kit works as advertised - the holder on top of the kettle allowed me to heat up water in the cup. Also, I could heat water in the cup just on the base without the kettle. I didn't like these though, because my cup gets sooty on the outside.

Using the kettle on the base works as advertised - nice because it doesn't leave a burned place on the ground, but it's unnecessarily heavy for backpacking in my opinion.

Using just the kettle makes a nice backpacking setup. Kettle plus bag weighs 13.3 ounces (377 g). This is less than just about any backpacking stove when I include the weight of the fuel, which I don't have to carry with the Kelly Kettle. The extra fiddle factor of finding fuel and lighting it is pretty minimal.

Two methods worked equally well for me - either place the stove on three rocks to allow airflow and use a piece of newspaper to start the fire and throw in twigs from the top, or build a small fire and rake off some coals and put the kettle on top of them.

The only problem I had was one trip when it had been raining a lot and I couldn't find any dry enough wood, but I had some extra pieces of newspaper which worked fine, but would be sort of heavy compared to butane, white gas, or alcohol.

Another problem with the kettle is I can only heat water. If I want to simmer something, like oatmeal or soup, it doesn't work so good.

In the future, I might occasionally use the kettle for backpacking. I will leave it in the trunk of my car for when I camp at my car. If my canister stove fails or if I run out of fuel it will make a good backup. Or, if I feel like making a fire in the morning anyway I would probably use it.

If I did a trip greater than 7 days (the limit for my canister stove) in fairly good weather, then the Kelly Kettle would work well and be much lighter - I might schedule just such a trip some day.

If the temperature is less than about 25 F (-4 C) then my canister stove quits working - the Kelly Kettle would be good for that case also.

Thanks to Kelly Kettle Company and BackpackingGearTest.org for letting me test this.




This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

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