I love camping. I also love tea first thing in the morning. So much so, there’s a four minute window between me first opening my eyes, and me needing to know that a cup of tea is going to materialise pronto, before I start to get antsy.
Herein lies the problem. Camping involves a hell of a lot of faff. It’s lovely faff when you’re pottering round a campsite of an afternoon, or absent-mindedly wafting a marshmallow over a flame. But there can be a real sense of emergency when you wake up in a tent, ripe morning breath and dry mouth, with no electric kettle to brew up some PG Tips.
About a month ago, I was sent a present from a friend, though. It was accompanied with a page long disclaimer: “I wanted to explain the method behind this somewhat unconventional wedding present” – so it begins. Then follows eight bullet points: “…helpful if you ever have a power cut” …. “or if you ever buy a houseboat”. And so the ingenious Kelly Kettle came into my life.
For you to fully-appreciate the brilliance of the Kelly Kettle’s design, you need to understand exactly how it works. Trickier than it sounds, if your brain is wired anything like mine is. I’ve posted a video below which, as well as being very American and therefore very funny, attempts to explain everything. But despite watching the video with the actual kettle in our hands, Thomas and I both took a good ten minutes to suss it out, so I shall attempt to explain myself.
A normal morning cup of camping tea involves warming a big pan of water – either on a log fire, or a gas cooker. The water usually takes quite a long time to boil, because the (often inadequate) source of heat only hits the pan from one direction. It warms the base, and eventually dissipates so that the sides and finally the pan’s contents are heated.
This is where the Kelly Kettle is different. It has a hole in the middle, so the flames lick up the centre as well as heating from the base. Essentially, the jug is shaped like a tall polo. By maximising the surface area that’s heated, we were able to boil enough water for five cups of tea in a couple of minutes. Genius.
The kettle comes with a pot which it sits on. To begin, you have to make a birds nest-type fire in this. Once it’s lit, put the kettle on top. Add fuel to the fire by posting twigs through the hole in the top, so they stoke the furnace. On the occasions when we already had a camp fire going, we put the kettle straight onto the grill, and that worked too. To pour out the hot water, hold the wooden handle in one hand, and then pull the cork stopper to make the kettle tip forward and then tip back again. Genius.
I’m a big fan of this type of culinary innovation. There was a lot of excitement recently when a rocket scientist redesigned the humble saucepan. The Flare Pans – I know, great name – have aerodynamic fins up the outside, to help channel the heat up the sides. So it’s a similar concept. If you direct heat from more angles than just below, the pan’s contents will heat quicker.
It appears that that traditional saying: ‘there’s more than one way to skin a cat’ is true – it turns out there’s also more than one way to boil a pan of water too.
Buy Kelly Kettles online, starting from £35.95