120 years ago, Patrick Kelly, a small-time farmer and fisherman in County Mayo, Ireland, got an idea about heating up water quickly to warm his bones with a cup of tea while fishing on Lough Conn for trout and salmon.

His idea was to create a two-walled chimney with an opening for adding water and a pan on the bottom to hold a small fire. The idea was that a draft would be created, drawing heat up the center of the kettle, heating the water. After several iterations and tinkering with pieces of tin and cans, Patrick created the Kelly Kettle. It burned through because of heavy use, so he made one out of copper. This one lasted.

Patrick's son kept a kettle with him and soon they became popular with the locals in western Ireland. This might have been one of the first bio-fuel stoves. Fueled by twigs, grasses, and driftwood, the Kelly Kettle made something out of nothing.

Four generations later, the Kelly Kettle is still in the family. Brothers Patrick and Seamus took over the company in 2005. New sizes and accessories were added to the line-up too, like an attachment to allow cooking over the top of the chimney.

Testing the Kelly Kettle is tricky, as different fuels, wind conditions and other variables will change the amount of heat put out and therefore, the time to boil will vary.

I used some birch bark and shavings from a carving project, and four pieces of ¾" square cedar, approximately 5 inches long. I started the fire with the bark and shavings, and when I had a decent flame I put the kettle on the base and fed the pieces of cedar through the top of the chimney and gave a few puffs in the holes on the base pan.

The fire was pretty hot, but a little smokey too; smaller twigs would have burned hotter and worked better. I often use pine cones to great success.

The water was splashing out of the spout just over five minutes after I lit the first piece of birch bark. Not bad, but the last time I tested the kettle I was using small pine cones, and the time from match to boil was 3:15. I recommend smaller sticks and twigs. And lots of juicy, resiny pine cones.

Decibels: 38 decibels
Fuel: Biofuels
Time to Boil: 3:15 to 5:05
Oatmeal Index: Not relevant

—Return to home page: 6 Classic Campstoves Reviewed

Emberlit Original Stove

It slides together easily, and the workmanship is excellent.


One of the best stoves out there for frosty temps.

Coleman 502

They last forever with proper care.

MSR WindPro

The Windpro is a go-to for backcountry chefs because because of its exceptional flame control and pot stability.

Optimus Crux with Elektra Cookset

Simplicity and extremely effective, this is a very nice stove and an exceptional value.

Svea 123

Indestructible: if I dropped it off a 50-foot cliff, the Svea would light right up.

MSR Reactor

It has the fastest boil time in the bunch, saving fuel on an extended trip.