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Outdoor gear brands put countless hours, serious money, and a helluva lot of effort into the research and development of even their most simple products. Color palettes shift, weights shed grams, and every so often something new changes the game entirely. And sometimes the original is near perfect as is, and stands the test of time unchanged.
Case in point: the Kelly Kettle, a cleverly designed combination kettle-and-stove hailing from Ireland's western shores that needs only light kindling to get a liter of water boiling within minutes.
The kettle may or may not be new to you, but it’s remained virtually the same since its inception in the late 1890s. It's makers, it would seem, take that old saying about things ain’t being broke very seriously. And good on them for it.
The simple genius of the Kelly Kettle lies in its efficiency to maximize the heat potential of small amounts of natural fuel by channeling airflow from the stove base up and through a chimney that travels through the interior of the kettle.
Not only does the chimney design create a “rocket stove” effect, but it also creates a substantial contact area for fire to transfer its energy to the water in the kettle. A single small opening at the stove’s base—two on the larger 20oz Trekker size—lets in fuel and air and keeps out whipping winds (for example, if you're making camp coffee atop a mountain summit).
As the story goes, it was farmer and fisherman Patrick Kelly who started tinkering with the kettle's unique design in the late 1890s using tin stock, before moving on to copper, a superior material for its heat conductivity and improved durability. Generation after generation, the Kellys have grown the business and reputation of their product by bringing it to outdoorsy people worldwide.
The Kelly Kettle of today doesn’t come in copper, though. Instead, there are stainless steel and aluminum models in sizes ranging from 20 to 51 ounces. While we wouldn’t suggest it for the ultralight folks out there with tight cargo restrictions, it’s worth pointing out that the 20-ounce aluminum Trekker ($68) model only weighs 500 grams (or 1.1 pounds).
Are there lighter, more compact ways of boiling water on the trail? Sure. Like the Kelly Kettle, some even rely on found, natural fuel, eliminating the waste and bulk of gas canisters (Patagonia's Untethered Kit is a good example). But, there’s an undeniable level of efficiency and old-school cool at work here, and it's no wonder that this cooker has stood the very quantifiable test of time.