Backcountry Classics: The Kelly Kettle

Earlier this year the outdoor industry was buzzing with a host of new products in the camp stove category. Some of these new stoves, made of exotic materials and powered by complex fuels, not only provide cooking heat, they even charge small electronics. In stark contrast to these gee-whiz products is a lone and uncomplicated figure––the Kelly Kettle. More than a century old, it still kicks those high tech stoves right in the proverbial pants.

The Kelly Kettle hails from the western shores of Ireland where the anglers of Lake Conn would often interrupt their fishing sessions with a cup of tea. To facilitate this, there was a need for a system that could quickly and efficiently heat water in all weather conditions and with minimal fuel. The Volcano-Kettle, invented by Jim Kelly was the perfect solution. Lake Conn offered ample amounts of fuel in the form of small twigs and sticks along the shoreline. These bits of wood, once burning in the small confines of the kettle’s fire-pan, could bring water to a boil in a matter of minutes, and do so in a full gale or rainstorm. More than 120 years later, little has changed with the Kelly Kettle proving once again, good designs are timeless.

For the overlander, the Kelly Kettle is an indispensable piece of gear. Uncomplicated and easy to use, it can be fired with a few twigs, pinecones, or even scraps of trash. Capable of bringing 54 ounces of water to a boil in under five minutes, it’s arguably more efficient than many of the contemporary systems on the market. Available in aluminum and stainless steel in a variety of sizes, there’s a Kelly Kettle for every application.

There is a timeless quality to a Kelly Kettle. The construction and materials are superb ensuring years of loyal service.

The hollow interior of the kettle is what creates the intense heat required to bring water to a quick boil.

The optional cookset is a handy addition, but it really is only best for warming meals. The cookset nests nicely in the firepan for easy transport.


Christophe Noel is a journalist from Prescott, Arizona. Born into a family of backcountry enthusiasts, Christophe grew up backpacking the mountains and deserts of the American West. An avid cyclist and bikepacker, he also has a passion for motorcycles, travel, food and overlanding.