Kelly Kettle Company graciously provided a Trekker Kettle, pot stand, and cooking pot set for my review. The review process included critique by my immediate family, and by my “camping family,” some of those women that I hang out with in the woods. If you really want to put a pot to the test, give it to a group of outdoor women. Hyenas on an antelope, man.
The Trekker is the smallest of the Kelly Kettle family. It is an aluminum kettle that holds ½ liter of water in its walls. I was intrigued by the Irish history of both the kettle and Kelly Company when I read through their website at kelly_kettle_history.
The components all get very hot. Don't let young children use this pot, or even older children without supervision. It took a long time for the parts to cool down enough to pack into the bag, especially the pot rack. Use the pot handle!!!
On the flip side-I took the kettle full of hot water (no fire), corked, into my tent and it radiated heat nicely for quite some time. Bonus points for acting as a space heater.
Water inside the kettle heats quickly. I tested the Kettle against the Esbit pocket stove for speed of boiling water. It takes a little more time to prep the kettle for lighting (gather combustible materials) than the Esbit (put a fuel cube on the stove platform), but when lit at the same time, the Kettle beat the Esbit’s time for producing two cups of boiling water. (Water boiled in the Kettle walls. The pot of water on top followed shortly thereafter).
Environmentally low-impact. I really, really like the fact that this does not use chemical fuels. (Although I know there's some purist out there yelping in pain because I released carbon emission into the atmosphere by burning pine cones. Everything is a trade-off). This was the one feature that was universally appealing to those who viewed the Kettle with me (the natural fuel, not the purist in pain.)
Con: the con is only a con if you’re a Leave No Trace zealot. There will be ashes left after making a fire in the base of the Kettle. Bury them. It does get hot enough to scorch the grass underneath, so set it on a rock if you don’t want to leave signs of humanity.
"It has to do more than just heat water." I laughed when someone gave me this line. Doesn't everything we use out here for cooking "just heat" something? The folks with a dozen dutch ovens full of goodies were less impressed, but my backpacking buddies thought this was a cool piece of equipment. The homeless guy who helped with the first test was very appreciative of the kettle's features. I'll tell you more about that adventure later in the week.
Pro: I can double the capacity of water I’m heating by using a pot on top while the water inside the Kettle heats, or I can cook on top while water heats inside. The pot rack also held my heavier, larger set of backpacking cook pots. So yeah, it could do more than "just heat water."
With very little fuel I could make a fire that sent flames out the top of the chimney for marshmallow roasting. The kids loved this.
After we heated water, we removed the Kettle and placed the tiny grill pieces over the base and made toast. You could cook an egg, or keep something warm in this way. (Grill shown before the fire was lit for ease of viewing).
C'mon, Kettle, light my fire. Fill the base with pine needles, pine cones, leaves, dead grass, and twigs, set the filled kettle on top of the base, and light your fire through the air holes in the base. I found that it worked much better when I did it this way than trying to light the fire in the base and then put the Kettle on it. The draw through the base and up the chimney helps the fire get started. You can continue to feed the fire through the holes in the base.
Use caution when pouring. Con: Both the website and the instructions with the Kettle tell you to lift the Kettle holding the handle at a 90° angle. This was easy when the pot was empty, not so much when it was full of water. I found that if I squeezed the sides of the handle together slightly it would hold a full pot at 90°. You definitely don’t want the handle to be over the top of the pot’s chimney, it is extremely hot even if there’s no flame.
Components pack together. Pro: The pot rack comes in two pieces that slide together for use, and when taken apart, fit flat together.
The cook pot and lid, pot handle, and grill pieces all fit nicely into the bottom of the kettle. Slide it all into the carry sack, and throw it in the boat!
I admit I was a little skeptical when I first received the Kettle from Kelly. I looked at it for several minutes, tossing out ideas, based on the fact that it ‘only heats water’. After the first trial run I decided I might use this for a day hike, but not an overnight backpack trip. It is light for its size, but it’s no match for my Esbit stove in either weight or size when I’m carrying everything in a pack.
I took it on a kayak camping trip, and loved, loved, loved it!! I could throw the tough aluminum pot in the bow of the boat and not worry about damaging it. It’s my new “gotta-have-it” for kayak camping. At campsites I grabbed one bag (the Kettle with cook pots) and one water bottle to start dinner. The small size worked fine for two of us, for four or more people I would go up to the medium or large size Kettles. I would (and will) take this on car camping trips. The medium and large size kettles would be excellent for car camping as well.
I think Scout troops would absolutely love this in the larger sizes. Again, caution about the hot metal parts.
This would also be an excellent addition to emergency kits, to keep in your trunk or at home, in case you are stranded or without power. I could see purchasing it just for that, if nothing else.
Pricing is reasonable, especially when you consider this is an aluminum product, which will last forever if used correctly. The cork stopper might have to be replaced eventually if the Kettle receives a lot of use, but corks are easy to find. The medium kettle holds 1 liter, and the large hold 1.5 liters. I think ‘handy’ describes it perfectly. For more information or to order your own Kettle, see kellykettleusa.com/