Archive for March 2nd, 2011

March 2, 2011

The mKettle

by backpackingbongos

Ever since Warren Saunders mentioned purchasing one of these little beauties on his blog I have had many furtive glances at the mKettle website!  I was therefore chuffed to bits when I was asked to test one.

There is something undeniably romantic about using wood to cook a meal or boil water.  I am not sure if it is the smell of wood smoke, spending time searching for suitable fuel or the fact that it is possibly the most environmentally friendly way to cook in the outdoors.  It is time to slow down for a few minutes and immerse yourself in the environment, not something you can do with the roar of a high-powered gas stove!  I don’t know if it is just me but there is almost a child like pleasure to be had by lighting a fire, something I have not grown out of as an adult.

I have had in my possession for a few years one of the pint-sized Kelly kettles, a superb bit of kit.  However after a few trips out with it I stopped using it.  Why?  It is simply too bulky to put in your rucksack.  When doing conservation courses a few years ago with groups the ranger would boil water on the large 3 pint version.  Perfect for a situation such as that but definitely something that you don’t want to be lugging around with you!

So what is the mKettle?  The design is pretty similar to that of the Kelly kettle but with some pretty important differences.  The main one of these is its size.  The Kelly is a beast of a thing whilst the mKettle is much more compact.  I had assumed that there would be a huge difference in the weights but in the end there was only 72 grammes in it.  The mKettle on my scales weighs 422 grammes including its stuff sack whilst the Kelly is 494 grammes in its stuff sack.  I feel that including the stuff sack in the weight is important as both kettles would make your gear filthy if put straight in a pack.  I am not going to go to all the bother of measuring each kettle so instead here are a couple of badly taken photos showing them side by side.

The mKettle is to the left, as you can see much more compact when packed than the Kelly kettle.

Both kettles work in exactly the same way.  Basically water is put into a water chamber with a chimney running through the middle of it.  There is a separate base where you light a small fire, feeding fuel though the hole.  Air then draws the flame up through the chimney heating the water.  It is a surprisingly efficient way of boiling water with wind hardly being an issue as the fire is contained inside the kettle.  If it is windy you simply turn the hole in the firebase away from the wind.  Instead of a handle the mKettle has a neoprene sleeve making handling easy, a handle would add bulk.  The top of the water chamber is sealed by a removable stopper.

So importantly what is it like in the outdoors?  I took it along on my January trip to Win Hill in the Peaks.  It was late afternoon whilst walking through the woods above the reservoir when I fancied a brew.  The ground was damp but I managed to pick up a fistful of fairly dry twigs.  Before leaving home I had already put some newspaper in the base of the kettle.  The photo below shows the set up prior to lighting, the kettle sitting on top of the firebase.  As you can see the main body is not much larger than my insulated mug.  The base is inverted when not in use and slips nicely into the main body.

Newspaper and twigs were easily lit through the hole in the firebase, the chimney providing a good draw.  Being slightly damp the twigs did give off a fair bit of smoke.  To get a good amount of heat I had to blow a few times through the firebase which unfortunately means that bits of ash float out of the chimney with some settling in the water.  All added flavour I suppose!

I have absolutely no idea how long it took to boil as I was not really that bothered!  However I soon had a hot cup of coffee in my hands whilst I left the kettle to cool.  What struck me was how little fuel was needed to bring a large mug of water to the boil.  Out of that pile above I only used half.  The cold ashes were scattered widely and everything packed into the snug carry case and I was off.  No trace of cooking with wood left behind.

I personally feel that it is a nifty bit of kit although something that I would probably not take backpacking.  I would not fancy using it on a wet evening in the porch of my tent.  However for day walks it is perfect as it is nice to take time out and relax whilst making a brew.  Although it probably won’t get the ultralight brigade too excited weighing in at 422 grammes, remember that weight is for the whole unit.  You do not have to carry stove, pan and fuel.  I think that sometimes it is worth carrying a few extra grammes if it means having more fun!

This would have been a perfect bit of kit for when I was travelling around Asia.  In the jungle or on the beach a hot brew would always have been within reach, no relying on grubby cafes.  I am sure that it would have attracted a fair bit of attention from the locals!

It’s probably is a direct competitor to the original Kelly kettle, in the end they both do the same job as effectively as each other.  However owning both I think that I would reach for the mKettle every time now.  Its neat design and compact size means that it is a pleasure to throw into your pack.

A quality bit of kit made here in the UK, more details can be found here