The Original Storm Kettle
Major Pandemic 03.04.14
In my time on this earth, I have seen and used loads of stoves powered by all sorts of things: wood, kerosene, unleaded gas, alcohol, propane, and so on. But I have to admit, the Storm Kettle is one of the most impressive stoves I’ve used. In a survival or outdoor situation, “simple” is good because I guarantee “complex” will fail you at the worst possible moment. As far as gas stoves go, my simple, white, gas/gasoline pump up, single burner Coleman stove has never failed me, and my Weber Little Smoky works every time, but I was looking for a good option for a packable wood or scavenged fuel powered stove that would deliver simple boil and cook capability for camping, hiking, and preparedness. Go figure that some Irishman long ago wanting a hot, easy, and fast cup of tea would come up with a simple answer that will even work during stormy Irish days.
The original Storm Kettle design was made of copper and used on a number of trips by John Grindlay, and eventually he decided tweak the design back in his home of England in the early 1970s. Eventually he began manufacturing the original Storm Kettle brand under the his Eydon Kettle Company company. Like all great ideas, the operation started small with his children and family handling production, but as the business grew, he established a full manufacturing facility. Today Storm Kettles are a staple in the English countryside and can also be found all over the world. After all, who doesn’t need a storm proof, fuel frugal water boiler. The design itself has lead to other innovative accessories that allow the kettle to be used as a stove and grill.
As far as I know, I’m probably be the first US writer to review the virtues of this elegantly simple and bulletproof water heater and camp stove.
The Storm Kettle is a simple simple solution to a complex problem: how do you boil water quickly, even in a storm, with a minimal amount of fuel? As you can see from the diagram of how the Storm Kettle works, it’s essentially a double-walled container. You pour water into the space between the outer and inner walls, and then you light a fire inside the central chamber to boil the water. The base fire cup allows the Storm Kettle to provide zero impact heating, so damage to any fire proof base gorund surface is prevented. The fire cup also provides a readily available, dry base to build the fire from regardless of conditions.
Once the Storm Kettle is placed on the fire cup, the tall, chimney-like interior and the two holes on the side of the fire cup form what we here in the US call a charcoal chimney starter. Once the fire is started, the entire setup becomes a high draft, very high heat chimney starter that delivers intense heat quickly to the walls and water inside the Storm Kettle.
The Poppin Storm Kettle Complete Kit I picked up also includes a Storm Tripod to stabilize the fire cup base on uneven or rocky terrain, a cooking pan support, a cup, frying pan (which can be used as a cooking lid for the cup and as extra water coverage during really heavy downpours), two-piece grill, pan and grate handle, and Jute Storm Carry bag. This is a quite full featured cooking stove and kettle kit for $130, considering the very high quality.
The rounded Storm Kettle design itself shields the fire from winds and rain. You can top off the kettle with the cooking pan support and frying pan, and the chimney stack has a rain cover for making hot water even in a deluge.
Storm Kettles come in three sizes: the Original 1.5 litres (approx. 2.5 pints), the Popular one litre (approx. 2 pints) and the Poppin .85 litre (approx. 1.5 pints). The Original and The Popular models are available in the upgraded durable and protective black finish (inside and out), but the finish is standard on the Poppin kettle.
When I received the Storm Kettle, my first reaction was, “Wow this thing is huge.” But keep in mind that it’s hollow. You can stuff the cavity full and you really do not lose much space at all. The entire kit stows very compactly and only needs about a third of the space in the grocery bag sized jute carry bag.
Fit, Feel, Finish
The aluminum Storm Kettle is a very nice, heirloom quality kit that should last many lifetimes. The cooking pan support is chrome coated steel and accounts for the majority of the weight of the full kit. When camping, I probably won’t carry both grate halves, and I’ll work on fabricating a lighter aluminum reproduction of the pan support. The unique, high heat, oven baked powder coating is applied inside and out to the Poppin Storm Kettle, and it provides a subdued, durable, and non-reactive aluminum container for the water.
The instructions outline a set of lighting procedures, but I have a simpler method. Drop some wadded up newspaper in the fire cup, place a filled Storm Kettle on the fire cup with the cork installed (so you don’t drop fuel in the water), and load a handful of whatever relatively dry fuel you have into the top of the chimney. Then light the paper through one of the holes in the fire cup base, and pull the cork. In around four minutes from match strike, you will have boiling water, in 5 minutes you will have volcanically explosive boiling water if you keep feeding it fuel. In that same time you can also use the chimney heat to cook up or reheat your dinner.
The benefit to this design is that, once a fire is started, the intense heat burns nearly any potential tinder even if it is a little damp. Storm Kettle users have even been reported to use hard dried camel dung, but from my understanding the wet dung is problematic for a variety of reasons. In my experience, the kettle burns everything from pine cones, to sticks and twigs, to bark and grass, and it burns it all quickly and completely to an ash state with very little odor.
Honestly, this makes one heck of a tactical stove as the flame signature is completely contained, with the exception of the two vent holes in the fire cup. And due to the high burning heat, unless you feed it damp fuel, there is very little smoke signature. If you so desired, you should be able use the Storm Kettle to make char-cloth by dropping in some natural fabric into the dry water chamber and heating the cloth until it chars with the cork loosely in place. This is maybe something I should try at some point.
Another interesting modification that I might attempt would be to tap the water chamber top with copper tubing and run it with the cork loosely attached for use as a water still to desalinate water. Look for this modification in a future article. The black powder coat finish option would definitely help negate any salt reactivity in the water chamber.
This is an incredibly efficient stove design that requires no more than my Zippo, a strip of paper, and a fist full of twigs to deliver boiling water in about 4 minutes. The grill works well, thought it’s little messy, but the baked powder coating makes kettle clean-up easy. I was expecting hot spots with the grill and aluminum cookware, but the heat coming out the chimney is pretty consistent to each edge of the pan. Once the kettle has boiled, use the handle and the chain from the cork to help you pour the water safely.
This was a fun article to write because, quiet honestly, the Storm Kettle was a surprisingly awesome product that I think few know about. Many will look at the Storm Kettles and think, “What in the hell?” I thought the same thing until I boiled my first kettle full of water, then I understand the simple brilliance of the design. The Popping Storm Kettle kit is the perfect size for 1-2 people, and it satisfies everything you need for a lightweight cook stove in a package durable enough for a lifetime of daily use.
Generally, I feel the highest honor a piece of kit can receive is to be tagged for inclusion in my Bug Out Bag, and this is definitely included. No matter where you travel, you can always find something to burn as fuel, and this kit provides everything you need for boiled drinking water for comfort or survival.
It also provides a number of cooking options for everything from meats, to stews, to cooked grains and vegetables, and possibly even baking, which I have yet to attempt. It can provide a simple heat source for shelter, or it can work just as a hot water radiator. Most importantly, it can do all this with minimal fuel and without broadcasting your position on a hunt or in a survival or tactical situation. In the land of $500 titanium camp stove kits, the Poppin is about $130 US, shipped. From every perspective, the Poppin Storm Kettle is an excellent and versatile stove kit which is worth every ounce of its weight. Look for future articles and tweaks to the great stove and kettle.
- Capacity: 0.85 l (1.5 Pints or 3 cups)
- Diameter: 14 cm
- Height – closed with base in: 28 cm
- Height – ready for use: 30.5 cm
- Weight – empty: 570 g (1.25lbs)
- Total Kit Weight 2.9lbs (including bag)
- $69.99 + $17.00 shipping in British Pounds
- About $136 US Dollars including shipping