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

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46 Comments to “The mKettle”

  1. Oh dear… The design for this kettle was stolen in a quite outrageous fashion from Boilerwerks. I think as bloggers we should not promote this sort of activity.

    See http://www.theboilerwerks.com/

    And especially this: http://www.theboilerwerks.com/2010/10/the-boilerwerks-back-from-the-wilderness/

    It has also been discussed widely on Backpacking Light

  2. I’m afraid that I don’t read backpacking light so don’t know anything about any suspected design thefts! Therefore I do not believe that I am promoting any sort of ‘activity’. Is there anything to substantiate the claims? I am simply reviewing a British made product that Bob from http://www.backpackinglight.co.uk/ is happy to sell!

  3. Very nice – though I think you’re probably right about it being a bit iffy for backpacking.Personally, I’m still to be convinced that anything works quite as well as a Trangia for backpacking. I couldn’t agree more that it’s worth carrying a bit of extra weight sometimes if it enhances your enjoyment of a trip. One thing I’ve never understood is people carrying starvation rations – if you’re eating more you’ll feel like carrying a bit more weight anyway is my way of looking at it. But hey! we all do our stuff differently and isn’t that just the best thing?

    • “we all do our stuff differently and isn’t that just the best thing?” I will remember that Pete when I turn up for the Rum backpack in pink leggings and you laugh! I admit that a Trangia works really well, but the weight of the damn thing! I have got a Caldera cone that runs on meths and is much more efficient and weighs in at a hefty 60 grammes. Mind you you can’t fry an egg on it if you like to do that sort of thing. Have a little looksie here: http://www.ultralightoutdoorgear.co.uk/trail_designs_caldera_cone_stove_for_tibetan_titanium_1100_mug.html

      Anyway walk our own walk and all that!

      • Again, very nice, but no use for me as I like to be able to boil rice in one pan, cook veg in the other and fry venison steaks in the frying pan – all while a good bottle of Chateau Poop du Naff is chambre-ing away! i like all the extra weight, it’s good for my astonishingly well-developed pectorals! (ahem)

  4. As I understand it, Devin from Boilerwerks went through his designs for his Backcountry Boiler on the Backpacking Light forums. One person paid particular interest in the design process, to the point of calling Devin and asking questions. The next thing he knew was the mKettle being sold on places like TitaniumGoat. From what I’ve read, I believe most dealers regret stocking it are planning to sell out their remaining stock.

    Of course you can write whatever you want on your blog – I didn’t mean to criticise that (and it is, in all other aspects a good review, with which I agree). However, personally, I think that kind of behaviour from mKettle is deplorable. In such a small community, I’m happy to support small manufacturers bring out new, innovative products, but it’s a very difficult market. I know I would be devastated if I had designed something like that and then found some guy was ripping off the design.

    I’m commenting on this simply because I feel it’s an important thing to be aware of. I, for example, would not want to buy the mKettle on principle, as I want to support the good guys. Underdogs need all the help they can get.

    I’ve asked Devin to comment himself, so you will hopefully hear the story from the horses mouth.

    • Hi Mark thats a fair enough point that you have made. I obviously would not promote something that I felt was ‘unethical’ as I do have principles. I would more than welcome Devin to comment here himself. I will contact mKettle to ask them if they would like to say anything via the comments here in defence to what has been said.

  5. I almost bought an MKettle myself having found their website a while back, I didn’t know about Devin Montgomery at that stage. It was only when I posted about the mKettle on Outdoors Magic that I was made aware of the story behind it all.

    Hopefully Devin will reply here but in any case he guest posted on Hendrik Morkels site, Hiking in Finland.

    http://www.hikinginfinland.com/2011/02/backcountry-boiler-power-of-myog-and.html

  6. Thanks Richard for pointing out the article.

    Indeed it is a blatant rip-off, I too was approached by mKettle and have one at home for “review”. It will come when my bought Backcountry Boiler is there for comparison. Support original design!

  7. I wouldn’t worry James – how were you to know.

    I looked at the Boilerworks baby only a few days ago and have to admit being slightly tempted by it! The Backcountry Boiler (as I now think it is being called) is lighter and looks to be a viable alternative for a longer trip. I think it weighs in at around 240g ish???? I’m well tempted but it’ll be pricey when shipping and import duty is added on.

    Long live the Caldera cone!

  8. Hi Richard, no reply here from Devin so far. I have to say that this is not something that I am going to get my knickers in a twist over! It’s not like I was going to go out and buy a backcountry boiler anyway, is it ethical buying stuff from the States only to get it shipped thousands of miles anyway? At least the mKettle only came from a few miles down the road.

    Hendrik, the original ‘storm’ kettle has been around for donkeys years now. Both the mKettle and backcountry boiler are only tweeking the original design. There is nothing really that new in the design. Maybe we should be purchasing the Kelly if we want to support original design?

    Thanks Marcus, as you say, long live the Caldera!

  9. Devin commented on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/#!/boilerwerks/status/43013901499117568

    I take it you didn’t hear anything from mKettle either? Would be interesting to hear their take on the matter.

  10. Hi James, it’s a pity Devin hasn’t commented although I guess he’s already said it before, I’d be interested in what mKettle have to say though, their claim of UK Design is certainly open to question.

    Regarding ethics I’m not sure that buying from the States is unethical on the basis that something is being shipped half way around the world, it isn’t as if a plane will be chartered specially.

    In the end it’s up to the individual where they spend their money, if someone decides to buy an mKettle (I for one wouldn’t criticise them for doing so, it’s none of my business) then they’ve no need to justify it to anyone else. It is only fair that they’re aware that the design may have been copied though, then they can decide whether they have a problem with it or not.

  11. Thanks Mark. The only comment that I could find was “@bckpckingNorth Thanks. Mark posted the links where the author can refer if he’s interested. If he doesn’t care, he doesn’t care.” on twitter. I am not a big twitter fan myself as it is like reading someone elses text messages! Any way if mKettle comment that would be cool otherwise I hope that this post slithers away and dies. I never thought that a gear post could be so contensious!

    Richard, maybe the word ‘ethical’ was a bit strong. Anyway I am a hypocrite in that respect as I have purchased both a rucksack and a tent from the States. What I meant to say is that it is probably better to not order stuff from half way round the world. I know that a plane is not being chartered especially but the same arguement against could be given for flying as a passenger. It’s not good for the environment to fly fullstop! You could get the product shipped however, but you would have to wait for a few months. Anyway as I said above to Mark I hope this post fizzles out. I did not start blogging to start pissing people off!

  12. I just remembered one thing last night – the Bushbuddy Ultra, made in the backwoods of Canada, is also made by a company in, I think, Denmark. The design is the same except the Euro version has the name cut in the sides. When I found out about that the first time I was surprised, but then I discovered that the Danish version was licensed from the original maker. That’s fair and ethical, and it’s what the makers of mKettle should have done.

    I don’t think you have pissed people off, it’s just the whole Boilerwerks/mKettle issue which upsets people.

    But now I promise to let it fizzle out!

    • I had wondered about that in the past Mark as I own the Bushcooker, which bares a striking simularity to the Bushbuddy. Nice bit of kit, something that I should perhaps use a bit more often.

  13. James some people will be annoyed that’s life, I personally feel that we can all make our own decisions and don’t need to justify them to anyone else. When you commented on my post about the Back Country Boiler I said I looked forward to seeing your review of the mKettle and I stand by that.

    I almost ordered an mKettel myself but on reading about Devin I did feel sympathetic towards him and as such ordered a Backcountry Boiler instead of the mKettle. That said I’m not going to judge or fall out with someone who chooses to buy the mKettle.

    As far as I’m concerned nothing that has been said or done in any way alters my view of you or your Blog, I’ll still be here reading your gear reviews and trip reports. In the end that’s what it’s all about, sharing views and opinions and respecting the same of others.

  14. Cool cheers Mac, I was beginining to worry that I would suddenly be ostracised from the blogging community! I suppose if we agreed on the same things and liked and did the same things, outdoors blogs would be dull places to visit. Anyway my next gear post should be fairly safe as it is for a pair of Adidas running shoes!

  15. I don’t like Adidas 😦

    Only joking 🙂 Look forward to seeing them, I’m also looking forward to Robin (Blogpacking Light) reviewing the Adidas mids.

  16. Forgot to ask, is the Bush Cooker still being made? I can’t find it on their website and BPLUK don’t seem to stock it.

  17. One more day out in them on the hills and I will do a review, looking pretty good though. Not sure about the Bush Cooker, I got mine from the backpackinglight.co.uk website when it first appeared.

  18. Interesting thread. Anyone interested in the BackCountry Boiler can read about it’s history here–starting back in 2007 on BPL:

    http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/forums/thread_display.html?forum_thread_id=7456

    Note it was called “Montgomery Kettle” early in the design phase and I suspect ‘mKettle’ picked this name (mKettle) to confuse buyers–thinking they where buying Devin’s kettle (?). Not content with stealing Devin’s exact design they apparently wanted some of the name also! Anyway more stuff here when mKettle first came out. Note that mKettle didn’t responded to Ryan Jordan (on how/why they copied Devin’s design).

    http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/forums/thread_display.html?forum_thread_id=38591

    Devin is currently shipping out (on his own) +100 boilers so I doubt he will respond anytime soon–unless you post on his web site (boilerwerks).

  19. Well, talking about ethical stuff raises some interesting issues.
    The mkettle version costs 47 quid. The backcountry boiler versions costs 110 bucks, which I think is what, 68/70 pounds? The weight difference is not as great as first advertised by Devin. If you read the BPL latest thread, the shipped version weighs 255g, while the mkettle weighs 370g. Personally, I’d be worried about the stability of a kettle with such a narrow base in windy conditions on uneven soil, so a heavier object would be preferable (the new design by the TiGoat guys looks much more stable, although it also looks as ugly as hell). As far as I can tell, the materials are roughly the same in both kettles, so the BCB is charging an extra £23 for a 115g weight gain which might impact on durability and stability?
    Sure, the mkettle guy behaved in a very dubious manner, but the markup on the BCB seems hardly ethical in itself.
    And to throw another bombshell, what right have we to speak of ethical conduct when we splash out loads money when we already have more stoves than we can ever need? If you have a bush-buddy like stove, the weight and space is just about the same once you add a Ti pot. Ethical backpacking would mean you first run your existing stoves to the ground before you even consider buying new kit. Whereas we UL guys think nothing of spending hundreds of pounds a year on kit that we don’t need given that we’ve got a wardrobe choked full with stuff anyway.
    Of course, this does not mean we should justify or endorse mkettle’s actions, but perhaps talk of ethical is misplaced in this context…!

  20. Uh, a further complication. I was looking things up on youtube and I found this clip, uploaded in 2008:

    I can’t read Japanese so I’m not sure what’s the story behind this design. But the design is remarkably similar to the BCB stove. So I’m really not sure who ripped whom off here…

  21. No complication there, that’s a Thermette volcano kettle, http://www.thermette.com. Looking at all 3 kettles the BCB, mKettle and Thermette it isn’t difficult to see which ones are identical nor is it difficult to see who copied who. I have no issue with anyone buying an mKettle but call it as it is, an almost identical copy of Devin’s kettle, the person marketing the mKettle even adopting the name by which Devins kettle was often referred to on the BPL.com forum. In addition while Devin has detailed his experiments prior to finalising the BCB design mKettle have been silent. Sure the BCB is more expensive and only 115g lighter but if you read the BCB blog the part of the reason for the cost was the difficulty of making it light, £20 (the Backcountry Boiler is $110/ £67, the mKettle is £47 on their website) for 150g isn’t unreasonable when you start looking at lightweight gear in general. As for an unethical ‘mark-up’ the BCB is anodised and Laser etched, which adds to the manufacturing cost, I fail to see how you can suggest that the BCB is artificially overpriced and as such is just as unethical as mKettle’s apparent copying of someone elses design. As for stability I suspect 150g isn’t going to make a difference and certainly not once you add 500ml of water at 500g.

    In the end people can make their own mind up, the mKettle is a good price mainly due to having to add import duty, VAT and shipping if you buy a Backcountry Boiler from Boilerwerks. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a copy though……

    Finally can we speak of ethics when we continue to purchase gear that we don’t need? probably not, does that mean that we should ignore every other injustice or ethically dubious act we see on the basis that we aren’t ourselves perfect?

  22. Well, if the Thermette predates the BCB, I really don’t see how Devin is in a position to criticise the mKettle guy. Sure, the mKettle is a very close copy of the BCB. But the BCB is but a slight variation on the Thermette.

    And that’s the essence of my point. The BPL crowd have got a very strange conception of copying. If you look at the Henry Shires tarptents, the Moment and the Scarp bear more than a passing resemblance to some well-established designs. However, because Henry has been interacting with the BPL folk, Tarptent is beyond reproach (and along the same lines, just look at how posters who question the BCB’s effectiveness are treated on recent threads there).

    The point is: it’s a free market, and competition is a good thing. No question, the Scarp is an improvement in many respects over the Akto. And you could say the BCB is an improvement over the Thermette.

    As for the MKettle: well, you now have a choice: 115g or an extra £20 plus taxes and shipping if you’re based in the UK.

    Shouldn’t we welcome competition?

    Yes, mKettle have been unethical (getting info via emails that pretended to be friendly was indeed despicable). but hey, at the time the mKettle came out, Devin was unavailable and the point has been made that had not mKettle launched its product, the BCB would still be at the pre-production stage.

    Incidentally, I was one of those who signed up for the pre-run from Devin. Then all of a sudden we got an email saying the product would be available via BPL, at a much greater price. So, as I say, glasshouses and all that. It’s always a bad idea to jump on a high horse.

    Having said that, that’s just what I did too…

  23. I don’t disagree with much of what you say but rather than muddy the water about whether the BCB is a copy of the Thermette etc let’s look at what we know. Devin’s experiments are on BPL.com, mKettle have thus far said nowt about how they came up with the design.

    The BPL.com forum? agreed there’s some hypocrisy certainly but Devin has probably been less critical of mKettle than those who post on BPL, he mentioned mKettle calling to ask about the BCB but has thus far avoided going on a rant.

    Competition is good, no doubt about that and as I’ve said I have no issue with who buys what (who would care anyway what my opinion is, it’s none of my business?) if I wanted an mKettle I’d buy one, my money/my choice but I wouldn’t try to justify it on the basis that maybe it isn’t a copy of the BCB or that the BCB is a copy of something else anyway. I’m not advising people not to buy an mKettle or to boycott this or that, I simply make the points and provide the information to allow those interested in buying a lightweight volcano kettle to make their own minds up based on the information such as it is.

    As it turns out I did buy a BCB, simply because having read about the effort that Devin put in to get it on the market I wanted to support him, if I hadn’t found out about the BCB when I did I’d have bought an mKettle and knowing what I know (or think I know) now I wouldn’t have been chucking it out or have become a sackcloth and ashes wearing penitent but I would have accepted that it was/is a copy, replica would be more accurate, of someone elses intelectual property. It isn’t as if mKettle couldn’t have modified it in some way, even the addition of a short pouring spout a’la Thermette (suggested by some on SotP who used the mKettle) but mKettle couldn’t even manage that yet we’re expected to believe that they managed to design a complete kettle on their own?

  24. I am going to sit nice and quietly on my fence with regards to the mKettle / BCB, a big high one where I can’t be pulled off! Remember to have a good backpackers hug………………………….

  25. Hi R MacE,

    As our host is reminding us, we should end with a big hug…

    And as you say, we’re not a million miles away in terms of our position.

    But if I were the guy who designed the Thermette, I’d be annoyed at Devin almost as much as I would be annoyed at the mKettle guy (who’s not British, btw) if I were Devin. So I’m not sure I was muddling the waters, the BCB is not a completely new design (and in fact I think the Thermette base looks a lot more stable, so the tapered design in the BCB is a retrograde move from where I’m sitting).

    I suppose my target was more the sort of guy who posts on BPL rather than your good self and also those who were having a go at Mr Bongos for doing a very informative review of the mKettle. By the way, and again, from what one can judge from the pictures and some youtube videos, the neoprene sleeve seems better implemented on the mKettle than on the BCB. So it’d be good to judge products for what they do rather than for how they came into being.

    Unfortunately, design issues are really thorny (Apple was grumbling about Microsoft stealing ideas from them. Then it turns out there were also stealing ideas from other guys) and while I think that, as I made clear, I wouldn’t dream of endorsing mKettle’s behaviour, I think that’s the nature of the business and BCB is not itself entirely free from blame there.

    Nuff from me.

    I’ve got a bushbuddy and I’ll stick with that one until it breaks, then I’ll get the best kettle which will be around at that time!

  26. As Lance Armstrong said: ‘it’s not about the bike’. Go for a walk, it’s great for perspective.

  27. You’re right Peter, I see Devin is working on another stove, he’s keeping the details underwraps for obvious reasons. I really hope Devin reaps the rewards he deserves for his effort, I wish the same for the guy behind mKettle.

  28. Quote Andy, I suppose my target was more the sort of guy who posts on BPL rather than your good self and also those who were having a go at Mr Bongos for doing a very informative review of the mKettle.

    To be honest I haven’t seen anyone criticising James (Mr Bongo’s) and I’d gladly speak up on his behalf if the subject ever came up. All James has done is post a review of a commercially available product and hasn’t commented on the ethics or lack of, in fact he’s extended an offer to both Boilerwerks and mKettle to comment.

    Quote Andy, I wouldn’t dream of endorsing mKettle’s behaviour, I think that’s the nature of the business and BCB is not itself entirely free from blame there.

    I disagree that BCB aren’t free from blame, it’s one thing to look at volcano kettles and use them as inspiration, it’s quite another to be so inspired by a product that you need to phone the designer (under the guise of a prospective customer) to get the information required to build an almost identical copy.

    To reiterate, I have absolutely no issue whatsoever with anyone who chooses for whatever reason to buy an mKettle. Looking at it this way, would I be happy if someone lifted a page of text/photographs off my blog and after converting the images from colour to greyscale and dropping a few lines of text published it on their own blog as their own work?

    No I wouldn’t.

  29. Thanks for the info about the design origins of the mKettle. Was just researching wood stoves and came upon this blog post. Personally I would rather pay more than support those sort of business practices, so it’s good to have the knowledge to make an informed choice.

    I quite like Devin’s attitude to it all though as he summed up here http://www.theboilerwerks.com/2010/10/the-boilerwerks-back-from-the-wilderness/

    BTW does anyone know if a Bushbuddy/Bushcooker titanium version is still on the cards and when? At the moment I’m leaning towards the Caldera Ti-Tri ULC Inferno as they make one for the Mytimug I already got. But unsure as I prefer the relative simplicity of a Bushbuddy, compared to all the parts of the Ti-Tri.

    Cheers,
    Menno

    • Hi Menno, the mKettle post caused a little bit of debate! No idea about the titanium Bushcooker, maybe someone will chip in and let you know.

  30. Great review, thanks. Just received my mKettle. What fun it is, you are right. Well made. Can’t wait to get it out on the Loch…

  31. The Thermette people would seem to be years ahead of the other guys with their innovative “spout” concept to stop boiling water dribbling everywhere.

    I hope they patented it.

  32. Hi Mick, not heard of Thermette before, will have to do a bit of Googling!

  33. 3 Hours to Go….

  34. All of this talk about somebody “stealing” someone else’s design is retarded. These designs have been in the public domain for many years. If not patented, they don’t belong to anyone. Across every industry, designs are copied daily. There is nothing unethical about it. If you invent something truly new, you can get a patent. Otherwise, when you disclose your design, you have dedicated it to the public.

  35. I would have liked to buy a backwater boiler, but that doesn’t seem possilbe. I finally gave up and ordered an mkettle.

    • Hi Don. What was the reason for not being able to order the Backwater boiler? Hope that the mkettle works for you.

  36. This MKettle has proven great. We use it all the time now. thanks!
    CR

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