The Kelly Kettle
In my opinion, survival gear should be as robust as possible for durability, because you don’t want an item breaking in a survival situation. You want it as simple to operate as possible. The more versatility the thing has, the more value it has. And in the category of survival stoves and cooking gear, I find the Kelly Kettle places well in all these criteria.
The Kelly Kettle has a long history in Ireland, way back to the 1890’s, the design basically unchanged although the material of construction has changed to lightweight aluminum. Seems the concept came from the Kelly family’s venture as fishing guides, brewing up hot tea for their customers around Lough Conn, which is famous for its free rising brown trout and fresh run Salmon from the River Moy system. They would gather up sticks, twigs, dry grass and have a quart of water boiling very quickly, even during a storm! And that feature is key, operating with found fuel, anything that burns will boil the water, thereby allowing you to be free of the extra burden and limited run time of ‘fancy’ high tech, but very nice and pricey camp stoves. Even the super high tech multi-fuel stoves that can run on almost any liquid that will burn, one must still track down the liquid fuel sources which may require long (and potentially hazardous) treks. And by the nature of being so high tech, they have some delicate parts which, if broken in the wilds, will render the thing as useful as a rock. They do work well, no knocking there, for backpacking. I’m just talking long term, harsh conditions survival where one isn’t depending on hiking back to the nearest store for some more fuel. So, in my opinion, Kettles work well on whatever you find to burn, solving the fuel supply problem. Similarly, wood fueled folding camp stoves are also along that same idea, but must have a dry, covered spot to start the fire when it’s raining, in most cases, because the design would let rain be a serious problem to deal with getting the fire going and keeping it alive without a pot on top to keep the rain out.
The base model Kelly Kettle doesn’t have any cooking kit with it at the starting price, but they do offer the cooking accessory kit with all their units. This makes it a complete system, so that you may boil water and get dinner started at the same time. Having your own cooking kit already can save you some money, just needing the chimney pot holder possibly. Since survival means getting the most back from every calorie of energy expended, you’re not going to find this system easy to beat.
My model is the ‘trekker’, the smallest of the units they make, as you see here with the cooking accessories which include the small skillet / pot lid, the pot, the upper chimney pot support, the grill and the pot gripper. For an individual or two people, this is a great choice. Using the hollow interior, you can pre-pack some kindling and a few sticks if you’re expecting downpours from the day’s weather. Due to the soot buildup inside the appliance, extra wood is about all I would consider packing in there. One could fill the unit with water and put in the cork for travel, but personally, I’m a bit leery of trusting that cork not to leak during the trip and soak the contents of my bug out bag. But it would work great, as it’s intended to, to transport water from that nice clean-looking creek near camp, back for use, if that’s what the situation was. I think better and safer results would be had if at least found water was run through a filter to get all the gunk out of the water first. Just remember, do NOT attempt to use the Kettle with the cork in the tank. You will have guaranteed surprise, and likely not a pleasant one when the steam pressure blows out the cork and spews boiling water around. And also, do not have the tank on the fire without water in it, you will damage it, if not ruin it. Going to the other extreme, don’t ever leave the Kelly out in freezing winter weather with water in the tank. If it freezes, the resulting expansion of the ice will very likely ruin the Kelly as bad as the empty over the fire extreme, finding the weakest point of construction and breaking that seam, causing leaks that will make it useless for it’s intended purpose.
I’ve used this thing in some ‘test’ environments, on cold day, light rain during set up, with Vaseline soaked cotton balls and a Fire-Steel Armageddon fire starter, a little bit of scrounged dry grass, kindling and a few twigs to have it boiling water in no time. And, for disinfecting found water, nothing beats boiling for a couple of minutes. As pointed out in the videos, take advantage of the prevailing wind, no matter how light, and point the vent holes towards that movement. It will help get things going and work to its maximum efficiently.
There you have it, the Kelly Kettle. If it fits for you, you’ll be handing it down to your grandchildren. Or for presents at birthdays and Christmas! By the way, if you do shop for one, make sure it’s a Kelly Kettle you’re looking at, there are numerous ‘names’ for similar products, like ‘volcano’ or ‘Swiss army’ and others, but only one genuine article.
The above link is a ‘truthful’ review of the Kelly Kettle by Nutnfancy ….but do NOT boil water with the cork in the hole! This was his first use of the Kettle, and he was deliberately doing that as part of his ‘test’.