My introduction to the Kelly Kettle (www.kellykettle.com) was during a family canoe trip in northern Scotland. I knew nothing about it and was somewhat skeptical about using it. By the end of the trip, however, I was captivated by the kettle and have used it on countless other trips ever since.
The kettle is an old bit of camp gear invented by Patrick Kelly, a farmer in the County Mayo, Ireland, who wanted a quicker way to boil up water for tea while out fishing for trout and salmon along the shore of Lough Conn. That was back in the 1890's. In the 1950s Patrick's son, Jim, continued making kettles for anglers visiting Lough Conn. By the 1970s there were so many visiting anglers from the U.K. and Germany wanting to use a Kelly Kettle that Jim's son, Padraic, began manufacturing it. At present, Patrick and Seamus Kelly continue the tradition and have taken the Kelly Kettle out of a small cottage industry to across the globe.
It's basically a stick stove, requiring no petroleum or alcohol based fuel. But what sets it apart from all other stick stoves is the ingenious double wall chimney design. You simply light sticks, small bits of wood, pine cones, and other combustible material in the base plate. The flames are then drawn upward through a fire chamber, reacting like a chimney draft. The water is stored in a water jacket around the chimney which rapidly boils the water, even in the worse wet and windy weather conditions.
The main disadvantage of the Kelly Kettle is that it's bulky. An aluminum design can replace the regular stainless steel to lighten it up. I pack their smaller Trekker model for most canoe tripping and use the Base Camp model for trips where there's limited carrying.
The kettle comes with a cork so you won't spill the contents - but be warned, if you boil the water with the cork still on, you're in for a big surprise. When under pressure it can go flying. Pouring the hot water into your mug takes some practicing as well. It's simple enough - just pull the cork chain away from the base with one hand and hold the handle with the other, making sure the hand holding the handle isn't above the spout. Flames will be shooting out the spout and you can get a nasty burn. For that reason, I always wear work gloves just in case. You'll know what I'm talking about when you give it a try. A cooking accessory can also be placed on top of the chimney spout to hold a small pot or frying pan. Just make sure to keep water in the chamber or you'll melt the kettle.
What did I cook on it? Bangers and Mash of course, washed down with a dram of Irish whiskey...
Kevin Callan is the author of 11 books including "Wilderness Pleasures" and "The Happy Camper." A regular keynote speaker at major North American canoeing and camping expos for over 20 years, he has received three National Magazine Awards and four film awards, including top award at the prestigious Waterwalker Film Festival. Callan lives in Peterborough, Ontario, birthplace of the modern-day canoe.