Monday, January 30, 2012

Poppin Storm Kettle Kit Review

Poppin Storm Kettle Kit Review

In my time on this earth I have seen and used loads of stoves powered by everything from wood, to pump up kerosene and unleaded gas, to alcohol, to propane, but I have to admit, the Storm Kettle is one of the most impressive kettle and stoves I have used. In a survival or outdoor situation, “simple” is good because I guarantee “complex” will fail you more times than it works. As far as gas stoves, my simple white gas/gasoline pump up single burner Coleman stove has never failed me, as a small grill my Weber Little Smoky works every time, but I was looking for a good option for a packable wood or scavenged fuel powered stove which would deliver simple boil and cook capability for camping, hiking, and preparedness.  Go figure that some Irishman back long ago wanting a hot, easy and fast cup of tea would come up with the simple answer that will even work during stormy Irish days.

The original historic water boiler design was made of copper and used on a number of trips by John Grindlay and eventually he decided to tune up and tweak the design back in his home of England the early 1970s.  Eventually he began manufacturing the original Storm Kettle brand under 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 popular 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 which allow use as a stove and grill. That I know of, I will 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 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 picture on how the Storm Kettle works, it provides a number of advantages.  The base fire cup allows the Storm Kettle to deliver zero impact heating, so damage to any fire proof base ground 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 which 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.  Top off the kettle with the cooking pan support and frying pan and even 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 liters (approx. 2.5 pints), The Popular one liter (approx. 2 pints) and The Poppin. .85 liter (approx. 1.5 pints). The Original and The Popular models are available in the upgraded durable and protective black finish (inside and out), however the black finish is standard on the Poppin kettle.

When I received the Storm Kettle, my first reaction was, wow this thing is huge, however keep in mind that when cool it is also hollow and in reality you can stuff the cavity full and you really do not loose much space at all.  The entire kit stores very compactly and only needs about a third of the space in the grocery bag sized jute carry bag.

The very high quality environmentally friendly carry bag is a little yuppie tree hugger environmentalist for me and makes a serious piece of expedition level equipment scream Food Network picnic.  I would have preferred a small canvas draw string bag to nest everything from the kit in so I don’t get soot all over the inside of my pack... perhaps the bag will get “recycled” into just that because I took home economics and know how a sewing machine works (I am man hear me roar).

In the past, I have on occasion been disappointed by the quality of some stoves and cookware, however the aluminum Storm Kettle is a very nice heirloom quality piece of kit which should last many lifetimes. The cooking pan support are chrome coated steel and add up to the majority of the weight of the full kit. Most likely I will not carry both grate halves and I will 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, to provide a subdued, durable, and non-reactive aluminum container for the water.  I suspect the black coated kettles will also look a bit better over time.  Excellent fit, feel and finish.

The instructions outline one set of lighting procedures, however 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, but you MUST remove this before there is any sign of simmering) and load a handful of whatever relatively dry fuel you have into the top of the chimney such as twigs, light the paper through one of the holes in the fire cup base, and then 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 once a fire is started is that 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, from my understanding the wet dung is problematic for a variety of reasons. In my experience the kettle burns everything from pin cones, sticks and twigs, to bark and grass quickly and completely to an ash state with very little odor.  

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 because of 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 make char-cloth by using the cup and fry pan on top of the storm kettle.  Always assure you have water in the Storm Kettle or you risk burning out the aluminum.

Another interesting modification which I may attempt would be to tap the water chamber top with copper tubing and run it was 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 which has not required more than my Zippo, a strip of paper, and fist full of twigs yet to deliver boiling water in about 4 minutes.  The grill works well, albeit little messy, but the baked powder coating makes kettle clean up easy. I was expecting hot spots with the grill and aluminum cookware, however the heat coming out the chimney delivers pretty consistent temps to each edge of the pan.  One thing that is a learning curve while cooking is not using too much fuel too quickly as the high draft design can generate quite a food scorching inferno quickly.  Rice for instance only takes just a small amount of consistently fed small bits of fuel poked into the chimney under the cooking stand for a slow simmer.  As with any aluminum cookware, I would recommend seasoning the aluminum pan cooking surfaces by coating them with vegetable oil and then heating until the oil forms a black carbon coating.  This coating limits food reactivity with the aluminum and adds a significant non-stick coating similar to a well seasoned cast iron skillet.

Instead of being like the dog that has to figure out what to do with the car once he catches it, the Storm Kettle design makes it easy and convenient to accurately pour boiling hot water into the cups of friends patiently waiting for some hot brew.  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 which 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 you understand the simple brilliance of the design.  The Poppin Storm Kettle kit is the perfect size for 1-2 people and 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... you know the bag, the one we have ready for total subsistence after the EMP hits.  Generally no matter where you travel, you can always find something to burn as fuel and this kit provides everything from the basic need for boiled drinking water for comfort or survival and can do it in a downpour.  The only down side is I have yet to find a dealer here in the US.

It 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 with fire or just as a hot water radiator and most importantly can do so with minimal fuel 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 does it for 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
Storm Kettle - Eydon Kettle Company

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