The Kelly Kettle Overview
The Kelly Kettle is a unique water boiler that is essentially a water jacketed double walled aluminum chimney with a removable aluminum fire pan. To use, a small fire is built in the pan, the water filled chimney is placed on top and the fire heats the jacketed water. The images show the Kelly Kettle’s operating principle and normal use, respectively….
Today we are reviewing the Kelly Kettle “Trekker” and the add on cook set. This is the smallest version you can get. For just boiling water the kettle is great, and it boils water within a few minutes using various natural fuels such as sticks, leaves, and pine straw.
When it comes to the kettle itself, the volcano effect created by the separate water chamber works as expected. Boiling water for purification is rather quick with the Kelly Kettle Trekker. Being made of aluminum the entire apparatus cools in an acceptable time frame. It’s great for starting fires in wet conditions and working your way up to a larger, warmer fire.
Using Various Fuels in the Kelly Kettle
In most of the Kelly Kettle reviews, the wood is pre-cut and ready to fit perfectly into the small holes and in the fire chamber. I set out to do the complete opposite. I decided to try several different fuels that I may have in my pack and some things I might find lying about.
In real life you may not be able to take the time or have the energy to get everything just so. After a long day of hoofing it up a mountain no one is going to want to take the time to cut some wood to the perfect length and width.
Natural Fuels: Leaves, Sticks, and Pine Straw
The first fuel I tried in my Kelly Kettle was pine straw, small sticks, leaves and some paper trash. Since pine straw and small sticks aren’t very big or dense they burn really quickly. The nice thing about this is once the fire in the chamber is started, you can put the kettle on and keep shoving fuel in the top.
With this method you can get a super-hot fire going and the water boils in about 2 minutes. However, once the kettle is taken off of the base, the fire almost immediately goes out.
Using Water Proof Fire Sticks in the Kelly Kettle
Next I tried water proof fire sticks in the the Kelly Kettle. I used two sticks broken in half and stacked in a similar way you would stack Jenga blocks. The water boiled in 3-4 minutes. One thing I really liked when using these sticks, if its wet out you can throw some moist wood in the chimney and it will dry those out so you are not using all of your nonrenewable fire starters/fuels. Out of all the fuels I used these seemed to be the most efficient.
Using Sterno in the Kelly Kettle
After the fire sticks, I tried a Sterno. For those of you who don’t know what a sterno is, it’s what you commonly see heating food in the chaffing dishes at a catered event. These did not work at all. The sterno lost its flame after just 2 minutes. If you like using these don’t waste your time trying to get it to work with the kettle.
Using Hookah Charcoal in the Kelly Kettle
I tried self-lighting Hookah charcoal in the Kelly Kettle. These worked well for grilling over the fire chamber, provided the juice from the meat doesn’t extinguish the coals. But again, it’s hard to get a good temp to grill with.
As far as boiling water, it took 40 minutes using the charcoal. If you have some time on your hands it’s not bad, especially if you want to sit and relax.
Boiling Water in the Kelly Kettle
I did find that boiling water was fairly fast and easy compared to an open pot or other methods. Pouring the water was great with the chain and wooden handle. I did not burn myself once.
The spout, contrary to what I thought, did not spill the water everywhere. I also found you can effectively seal the kettle and use it to transport extra water or cuddle with it on a cold night.
Once the water was boiling, I pulled it off of the flames to let it cool for about a minute, then put the rubber stopper in. This created a vacuum, which in turn sucked the stopper down sealing the water in.
When it comes time to get the stopper out you have to heat the water back up, but you must be really vigilant and take your time or the kettle could explode.
The Kelly Kettle Trekker Cook Set
The cook set that is sold separately is, in my opinion, disappointing. I spent many hours trying to get it to cook something, but it just doesn’t get hot enough to cook or grill food properly. Here’s why: unless you have a good flame going all the way from the bottom to the top of the kettle, the pan only reached a temperature of 112 degrees F.
With the cook set sitting on top you have no choice but to keep shoving fuel in the bottom holes. If you keep trying to add fuel, you eventually end up filling the base up and block any air from getting in, which means your fire goes out and you have to start over.
The base just does not hold the heat well enough without continuously adding fuel, which isn’t easy to do without pushing up the grill and knocking everything over.
Cooking Meat on the Kelly Kettle Grill
On to the grilling. I have the “Trekker,” which is the smallest version of the kettle you can buy. The grill that sits in the base is only 4 3/4 inches in diameter (the length of an average hot dog is 6 inches) so this makes for a very small grilling area.
The bottom of the fire chamber to the top of the grate is 1 7/8 inches. Grilling requires coals, not a full on flame. Trying to achieve this with small sticks and leaves with a very low density is not really possible.
If you put a piece of meat on the grill, be careful that the juices don’t extinguish the coals. Trying to put more fuel in the chamber without knocking your food off is near impossible. I personally would rather have a larger fire and roast the meat on a skewer.
For a piece of chicken the minimum internal temp that is required to eat it safely is 175 degrees F. Good luck getting to that temp in a reasonable amount of time.
The Kelly Kettle for Hiking
The “Trekker” is advertised to weigh 1.7 Lb. I put it on a couple scales and it actually weighs 2 Lbs. If you’re hiking or walking to a base camp, weight is a huge factor when traveling on foot.
Looking at it from a hiker’s point of view, it works well for boiling water without having to tote around fuel cells and propane that similar pieces of equipment require. It would work for camping and having in your home or car for emergencies.
Using the Kelly Kettle for Boiling and Purifying Water
In conclusion, the Kelly Kettle Trekker serves its purpose for boiling water in a reasonable amount of time using natural and man-made materials.