The Kelly Kettle is a wonderous looking piece of outdoor cooking equipment. It’s sure to get some bemused glances from those unfamiliar with it as flames shoot up through the center of your kettle. The ‘Kelly Kettle Ultimate Base Camp Kit’ gives you some additional cooking equipment to make it a bit more versatile. A more complete cooking system if you will.
The question though, is it any good? Well, I purchased this kit a year ago and have been using it ever since. Read on to find out everything about it and my thoughts on it.
Kelly Kettle Ultimate Base Camp Kit Video Review
My association with Kelly Kettle
I don’t have any affiliate or monetary association directly with Kelly Kettle themselves. However, as an Amazon associate, I do receive a small commission if you purchase anything (including Kelly Kettles) through any of the Amazon links on this site.
I bought the Kelly Kettle Ultimate Base Camp kit a year ago with my own funds. This review is in no way sponsored by Kelly Kettle and is 100% my honest opinion of the product. I will always give my truthful opinion good or bad of any product I review and that is my promise to you always.
What is a Kelly Kettle anyway?
OK, so the Kelly Kettle is as the name suggests a kettle, for boiling water. But it’s not just any kettle, it’s an elongated, double-walled kettle with a hollow up the center of it. Don’t worry though it’s all sealed up and so on. It comes with a little fire-base you place the kettle on and light a little fire inside of.
How does it work?
When placed on the supplied fire-base a rocket stove type scenario is created. Rocket-style stoves burn fast and they burn hot. A single hole on the fire-base provides the air intake, and the kettle’s hollow becomes like a chimney.
The internal hollow of the kettle is wide at the bottom and gradually narrows towards the top. This very effectively traps the heat for transfer into the kettle. That heat is transferred into the kettle via the large surface area of the internal hollow. The heat transfer area on a Kelly Kettle is much larger and more contained when compared to the base of a standard kettle.
Does the Kelly Kettle perform?
All in all the Kelly Kettle is designed to do two things.
- Fire up quickly and generate a lot of heat.
- Transfer that heat into the water as efficiently as possible.
It does those things incredibly well. Once a flame catches and the air intake on the base is directed into the wind it fires up and generates heat like nobody’s business. The unconventional design of the kettle means most of the generated heat goes straight into heating the water.
Time to boil on the two occasions I recorded it was about 7 minutes for the 1.6 liters (54 fl oz)of my large kettle. That’s really impressive in my opinion.
Overall, as an outdoor tool to boil water, it’s fantastic.
What type of fuel does it use?
The Kelly Kettle is intended to be used with small twigs and sticks. Dry sticks are best but they will work with dampish sticks too once you get the fire established.
Aluminium or Stainless Steel Kelly Kettle?
These kettles come in aluminium or stainless steel. Stainless steel is going to be heavier but a bit more durable. Aluminium will be a fair bit lighter but not as strong as stainless steel. The difference between the two is 360 grams (0.79 lbs) for the large 1.6-liter version. It’s 0.8 kg (1.76 lbs)for the aluminium kettle with stainless fire-base Vs 1.16 kg (2.55 lbs) for stainless steel kettle with stainless fire-base.
For any of the kits, it’s only the kettle itself that’s aluminium. Everything else is stainless steel. That means the weight-saving between aluminium and stainless Kelly Kettle Ultimate Base Camp kits will still be that 360 grams (0.79 lbs).
The version I’m reviewing here is the stainless steel version of the Kelly Kettle Ultimate Base Camp kit.
What’s in the Kelly Kettle Ultimate Base Camp Kit box?
The Ultimate Base Camp Kit comes with a load of different stuff. Here’s the list of everything in the box and a little explanation of what everything is/does.
- Large stainless steel Kelly Kettle
- Stainless steel fire-base for a large kettle
- Hobo stove for the top of fire-base
- 2-piece grill for the top of fire-base
- Single 850ml (28.74 fl oz) stainless steel cook pot
- 1 stainless steel frying pan/cookpot lid
- 500ml (16.9 fl oz)stainless steel cup
- 350ml (11.83 fl oz)stainless steel cup
- 2 stainless steel plates
- Pot/fire-base support
- 1 gripper handle
- Storage bag
How much does the Ultimate Base Camp kit weigh?
The Kelly Kettle Ultimate Base Camp Kit weighs in at 2.26kg (4.98 lbs). It’s not exactly a lightweight cooking kit, but then it’s not intended as a backpacking cook set. I’m saying that though I take it in my backpack all the time and it’s fine for shorter hikes.
Kelly Kettle does a smaller kettle (0.6 liters/20.28 fl oz) cooking kit set. It’s called the ‘Trekker Kit’ and weighs in at 1.17 kg (2.57 lbs). That’s not far off half the weight of the base camp kit, and would be a great option for long-distance backpacking.
The Kelly Kettle Ultimate Base Camp Kit items review.
First off I’ve used the kit a lot over the past year and in all kinds of weather conditions. At no point has it let me down. However, as with everything it does have good points and bad points.
The kettle has been great in use. I’ve never been particularly delicate when packing or using it and everything has kept working as it should and nothing has broken or leaked. The only thing that could make the kettle better is if it was self-cleaning. The whistle stopper is a recent addition and a great idea. No need to keep checking if it’s boiled or not, the whistle will let you know loud and clear.
Using the kettle in cold conditions, I experienced heavy condensation building and running down the kettle wall in the fire chamber. At first, I thought the kettle was leaking due to the hissing noises. However, this was happening because the condensation was running down the wall of the kettle fire chamber and hitting the hot fire-base. This happens until the water heats a little and there isn’t such an extreme temperature difference between the water in the kettle and the air in the fire chamber.
I’ve also used the Kelly Kettle over a carefully constructed circle of stones instead of its fire-base for those wondering. The kettle performs brilliantly in that scenario too.
My top when using the kettle is to go ahead and load it up with sticks once the fire is established. Load it up to the top of the chimney almost. That will be enough to boil the kettle and then some. It leaves you free to do other things as you wait for the whistle, as opposed to sitting there constantly popping little sticks in.
This is what’s used to contain your fire. Basically, it’s a stainless steel bowl with a 1.5 inch round air intake hole on its side. For me, it hasn’t shown any sign of deterioration, warping, or anything like that. I might note that I’ve had it hot enough to glow red.
Sometimes I like a little flame to sit by while having my tea, who doesn’t right? Well, the fire-base is also just about big enough to be used on its own for a small fire too.
This is placed on top of the fire-base to create a nice little wood stove for cooking with. It weighs next to nothing and takes up no extra room when packed into the kit. For that reason alone it would be senseless not to have it.
You’ll need dry sticks to use the hobo stove properly. Don’t expect a roaring flame if you throw damp sticks into it. It will kill whatever flame’s there and suck any remaining heat into it. A sneaky tip I’ve learned is to dry damp sticks on the sides of the hobo stove before you put them in. The lip created between the fire-base and stove allows you to stack and dry damp sticks as you cook.
Obviously using the stove is more of a challenge in wet conditions, particularly in winter. My experience of using it in the winter months backs this statement up. Take extra time to source dry fuel before you start cooking. It will save you time and frustration in the long run.
The stove works best with a steady supply of small sticks. It makes the heat supply easier to control.
Overall it can be a bit temperamental if used with damp wood but there’s still no way I wouldn’t take it with me.
Nothing fancy here, a basic stainless steel cook pot with an 850 ml (28.74 fl oz)capacity and 5-inch diameter. A decent size for about 2 – 3 people, depending on what you cook in it. The pot does not come with a dedicated lid, the frying pan doubles as a lid for this pot.
Overall, the pot has held up perfectly well and I can’t really fault it.
Frying Pan/Pot Lid
Basically a shallow version of the cooking pot, about 1 inch in height. It’s a little wider than the cooking pot to sit over the top of it and form a lid. The bottom of the pan/lid is not perfectly flat and it points down in the middle very slightly. I’m not sure if it was this way out of the box or not but I’m guessing it was.
As a frying pan or shallow pot, it works well enough. My only criticism is that it’s a little bit smaller than I would like. You’ll get about 5 sausages or two slices of bacon in there at a time.
As a lid, it has problems when placed over the pot with sides down and bottom-up. The steam from your cooking pot will condense on the lid and then run down the sides and into the fire-base. This will eventually put your fire out if you’re not careful. I think the problem is worsened a bit due to the center of the lid pointing up when placed this way.
I normally place the lid in an upside-down configuration with sides up and bottom down. This gives me a pot-on-pot type set-up. It stops the steam from escaping and you can also slow cook or keep things warm in the top pot. Of course, it’s not ideal if there’s soot on the bottom of the pot lid.
Overall it’s fine as a frying pan but not so good as a lid. Dedicated lids for both pots would have been better to include in the kit in my opinion.
You get two stainless steel cups in this kit, a 500 ml (17 fl oz)one and a 350 ml (12 fl oz)one. Both have rubber/silicone coated folding butterfly handles and measurement markings etched inside them. They also come with removable CooLip pieces to stop you from burning your lips.
They’re quality items, have held up well, and are as good as the day I first got them.
Two 8 inch stainless steel plates are included in this kit. They are like a kind of shallow bowl design. Can also be used as a larger frying pan to cook with if needed. I personally haven’t used them to cook with but I see no reason why you couldn’t. I just don’t want to get the bottom of them blackened.
Again, like the cups, they’re quality items.
This is an interesting little bit of equipment. First off, it’s small, packs flat, and weighs next to nothing. For that reason, it’s not going to make any difference to your pack weight if you don’t take it. It’s something of a multifunctional piece of kit in that it can perform one of two functions as explained below.
Function #1 Pot support
You can place the support in the chimney of your Kelly Kettle to support a pot. It has loads of different notches to securely hold pots of various sizes. This allows you to make use of the otherwise wasted heat that escapes up your chimney when you boil your kettle. If you need more than a kettle full of water this will be useful. Your pot won’t be up there long though due to how fast the kettle boils. Be ready to remove the kettle, pop the hobo stove on, and quickly transfer your partially heated pot to that.
Also, make sure your fire-base is well supported and secure if you do use the pot support. The reason is that putting a filled pot on top of your kettle makes it a bit top-heavy and easier to topple.
Function #2 Fire-base support
You can also place the support under your fire-base. It lifts the fire-base enough to prevent any scorching to whatever you intend to place it on. I use the support this way quite often and it works well enough.
The 2-piece grill
Perhaps the least useful part of the Kelly Kettle ultimate base camp kit. This sits into the fire-base where the kettle base normally would. It lets you grill something with the coals in your fire-base. Sounds great in theory but in actual practice, it’s not so great. The problem is the amount of coals under your grill is always going to be small and they burn out fairly quickly. One or two slices of bacon, or a small fish are ok but anything else is going to be a struggle.
Perhaps the design of the grill could be improved by making it slightly larger. Large enough to sit over the entire fire-base as opposed to sitting down into it slightly. This would raise it a half-inch or so higher than it currently sits and allow a larger coal bed under the grill.
Anyway despite all this criticism of it I still always pack it because it’s small and light, and I do use it on occasion.
A universal handle that will grip your plates, pot, pan, fire-base, hobo stove, cups, and pot support. Easy to use and plenty strong, no worries about it breaking or bending. Could maybe do with being an inch longer to keep fingers out of flames. Also, it’s easy enough to misplace if you don’t keep tabs on it. Some fluorescent detail somewhere on the handle would make it easier to locate.
Overall a good strong handle for all the different pieces of your kit. Just remember where you put it down.
Just your basic drawstring laundry bag affair. Great for keeping the soot off the rest of your gear when you stuff the kettle in your pack. Useful for transporting the kit around your camp too. Cheap and cheerful but does the job. After a year of using mine, it hasn’t bust or torn yet.
Packing it up
Most of the kit packs pretty neatly and mostly into the space inside the kettle. The only criticism I would have here is that the grill, pot/fire-base holder, and pot gripper don’t have their own little bag to contain them. These three items are just placed loose into the storage bag along with the other neatly packaged items. I started using a little sunglasses drawstring bag for these three bits of the kit. It keeps everything much neater and easier to pack and unpack.
Overall the kit is well thought out in terms of things being able to pack into each other to save space. It’s also easy to remember how to do so, and not like some magical one-off combination to get everything inside each other.
Is the Kelly Kettle Ultimate Base Camp Kit good value?
*Note – all prices in euro on Kelly Kettles own website as of 11th June 2021.
All pieces of the kit can be purchased separately on the Kelly Kettle website. The question though is buying the kit better value than buying separately? Well, let’s check it out.
Firstly what’s the price of the kit anyway?
- Kelly Kettle Ultimate Base Camp kit = €123.75
Now let’s total up how much it costs to buy everything separately.
- Kettle and fire-base = €69.94
- Accessory Pack = €70.06 (*special price, normally €79.63)
- Individual accessories
- Hobo Stove = €13.14
- Cook set (Pot, pan, gripper, and grill) = €18.01
- Cup set = €21.13
- Plates = €19.94
- Fire-base/Pot support = €8.68
- Individual accessories total = €80.90
- Kettle and fire-base + Individual accessories = €150.84
- Kettle and fire-base + Accessory Pack = €140.00
As you can see you’ll be saving from €16.25 to €27.09 depending on which combination of stuff you buy. If you want all the bits and pieces in the kit the Base Camp kit represents good value and will definitely save you money.
What if you have some bits like pots, plates, or cups already and just want the kettle and fire-base? I still think you get value for money in this case too as it’s such good quality.
What I like about this kit is that it’s all my cooking equipment and needs in one package. Things aren’t squeezed down to a minimum to save weight and space at the expense of comfort and dependability. You get decent-sized pots, cups, plates, and loads of hot water. There’ll always be more compact, lightweight, minimalist options out there but that’s not what this kit is about. If those things are important to you then the ‘Trekker’ kit may serve you better. I’d love to try the trekker kit out some time to see how it compares.
I’ve used this kit a lot and I do feel it’s some of the best money I’ve ever spent. It serves its purpose well and I know it’s going to last. I’ve taken it on fishing trips, to the beach with the kids, regular camping in the forests, hikes along the coast, and sit-on-top kayak camping too. I even use it in my back garden sometimes when I feel like some campfire tea at home, it just tastes better somehow, or is that just me?
If you want the easiest way to boil water with natural solid fuels then the Kelly Kettle is it in my honest opinion.
My overall thoughts on the Kelly Kettle Ultimate Base Camp kit are that it’s quality equipment and will last you many years.
Lastly, you might be asking – how is an outdoor cooking set going to improve my health exactly? Well, I think the answer is in the ‘outdoor’ part of the question. Getting outdoors is, in my opinion, one of the healthiest things you can do. If this kettle can help contribute to your experience of the great outdoors and increase time spent in it then that’s something good, and worth talking about.
Share your thoughts
As always, feel free to leave a comment if you have any thoughts, advice, questions, or opinions related to this article.
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