Is Kelly Kettle the Best Hobo Stove? | Kelly Kettle Review

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Have you ever heard of a "hobo stove?" Well, we are loving the Kelly Kettle, a "hobo stove" of sorts that's brought to us by Sagan Life. We'll get into the review of this very cool stove in a minute. First, I think it's worth a moment or two to talk a bit about the company.

Overview of Sagan Life

Sagan Life is dedicated to their mission of providing their customers with safe drinking water. This company believes that preserving and enhancing life is everyone’s responsibility, so Sagan Life strives to minimize our negative impact on the environment by cutting down our use of plastic bottles.

Sagan Life LLC is known for their water purification products, but this company is also responsible for the creation and provision of the Kelly Kettle product line.

Sagan Life provides safe, practical, and efficient merchandise that is designed to be helpful and easily transportable for people who enjoy hiking, camping, or making the most of the great outdoors in other ways.

This company’s products are also ideally designed for use and easy transport during emergencies. For this reason, preppers can get a lot out the Sagan Life product line and should definitely consider adding a few of their products to their emergency supplies stockpile.

The company stands by their products because they do not release anything for sale that hasn’t first been researched and tested to ensure that it meets or exceeds their high standards.

Our personal experience with the company has shown us that they are very responsive. So, let's talk a bit more about the stove kits.

hobo stove

Overview of the Kelly Kettle Product line

Sagan Life’s Kelly Kettle line is one of the best options for boiling water and cooking food when conventional items aren’t available.

This product line is an extension of the “hobo stove,” which we'll talk about in a few minutes. It features products that can be used on a campground, in a bunker, or in a home during a power outage. 

The Kelly Kettle comes in both stainless steel and aluminum UPDATE: Sagan Life now only offers the Kelly Kettle in STAINLESS STEEL. We updated this post to remove the information about the aluminum kettles.

Aside from that change (only offering stainless steel), you can choose between 9 different types of Kelly Kettles and Kits.

For those of you who don’t want a full kit but would like a few accessories to go along with your Kelly Kettle, you have the option of buying Kelly Kettle accessories individually.

This can come in handy if you need to replace just one item in a kit, and you do not want to have to buy an entirely new kit just to replace the single accessory.

Before we dive into a closer look at all the Kelly Kettle options available, have a look at this guy's review a few years ago - it will show you one of the stoves and how it's been used (and is being used) "in real life" which I always think is a good thing.

The 6 Types of Kelly Kettles

Before we break down the various models, note that they pretty much come in a choice of aluminum or stainless steel. We'll note the main differences.

The Base Camp Kettles

Stainless steel

The Stainless Steel Large Base Camp Kettle can boil up to 54 fluid ounces of water in a matter of minutes. This is enough water to fill up nine 6-ounce containers of water.

The stainless steel version of the Base Camp Kelly Kettle is lightweight, and it does not require any fuel. All you need to get this kettle to work is something that can start and feed a fire: wood chips, paper, twine, twigs, etc.

The base of this kettle inverts into its bottom. This feature makes the Base Camp Kettle more compact so that it can be stored and transported more easily. 

A Green Whistle on this kettle will alert you when the water is boiled. 

This kettle can work in even the harshest weather. 

Kelly Kettle Review - Base Camp Stainless

The Scout Kettles

Stainless Steel

The Stainless Steel Scout Kettle is a medium-sized Kelly Kettle. It boils 41 fluid ounces of water and doesn’t require any fuel. The amount of water that this kettle can boil can fill up six 6-ounce mugs. 

This Scout Kettle can boil water in a few minutes, and it works during harsh weather conditions like storms or strong winds. 

A green Whistle lets you know when your water is boiling. 

Kelly Kettle Review - Scout - Stainless
Stainless Steel

This kettle boils 20 ounces of water. It does not require any fuel. You can just use sticks, pine cones, twigs, or wood chips.

This small kettle is perfectly sized for one or two people to use while hiking, biking, or kayaking. This kettle fits nicely in a backpack, and its smaller size means you should be able to transport it during long hikes without the task being too physically demanding.

The fire-base of this kettle is steel.

Kelly Kettle Review - Trekker - Stainless

The 12 Types of Kelly Kettle Kits

The Basic Kits

Stainless Steel

The stainless steel Base Camp, Scout, and Trekker basic kits all come with one of the three Kelly Kettles as well as all of the accessories included in the aluminum basic kits.

The cookset that is included with each of these kits consist of a cooking pot, a grill, and a pot gripper/handle.

Kelly Kettle Review - Base Camp Kits

Clicking this image will take you to the main Kelly Kettle Kits page.

The Ultimate Kits

Stainless Steel

The steel Ultimate Base Camp and Scout Kelly Kettle sets come with the same accessories as the aluminum versions used to come with: the appropriate kettle, a storage bag, a large cookset, a hobo stove, a pot support, and two cups and two plates.

The Trekker version of the Ultimate Kelly Kettle kit includes the same accessories as the aluminum Trekker kit did. The only difference between the two Ultimate Trekker kits is their metal material.

Overview of the Kelly Kettle Accessories

The Camp Cups and Plates

The camp cups and plates are stainless steel.

The camp cups have a Coolip Lip Guard. This lip guard protects your lips from hot beverages. The large cup holds 17 ounces of fluid, and the small cup hold 12 ounces. Each cup has capacity markings inside.

The Camp Cup accessory set comes with two cups: one large and one small.

The Camp Plates are stackable and very durable. The edges of the plates are fairly high and rounded so that they can also be used as bowls. Each plate is one inch deep.

The camp plates/bowls are dishwasher safe, and a rim around the edges of these plates protect your fingers from getting burned if the food on your plate is hot.

The Camp Plates can also be used as pans when cooking.

Kelly Kettle Review - Accessories

Clicking this image will take you to the Kelly Kettle Accessories Page.

The Pot Support

The Kelly Kettle Pot Support has multiple functions. You can use it to cook fast meals like soup, rice, noodles, or oatmeal. The Pot Support can also be used as a base for your kettle as it can level uneven ground under the fire-base of your kettle.

The Pot Support is stainless steel, so it is very durable. This accessory fits all of the Kelly Kettles regardless of their size.

Kelly Kettle Review - Pot or Base Support

The Hobo Stove

This accessory is designed to turn the fire-base of Kelly Kettles into a practical wood fired stove. The Hobo Stove is stainless steel and should only be used on a stainless steel fire-base.

All of the fire-bases on Kelly kettles are currently stainless steel (even the ones on aluminum kettles). However, if you have an older model, your aluminum kettle may also have an aluminum fire-base that should not be used with the Hobo Stove because the aluminum fire-base can overheat and become ruined.

This accessory works in all weather conditions, and it is easy to store and transport since you can pack it into the fire-base of your Kelly Kettle.

The Hobo Stove can also be used on its own as a surface for cooking, and this accessory comes in two sizes: large and small. The large one can be used with the Base Camp and Scout kettles, and the small one is designed to be used with the Trekker kettle.

Replacement large and small fire bases can be bought separately. The large fire base fits the Base Camp and Scout kettles, and the small fire base fits the Trekker kettle.

Kelly Kettle Review - Hobo Stove

Questions and Answers

What is a hobo stove?

The invention of the hobo stove dates back to the Great Depression. They were traditionally made out of No. 10 tin cans. Many people who were victims of the Great Depression loved the ingenious, practical, and efficient design of the hobo stove.

This lightweight stove is easy to use, and it retains heat well because its design includes a double-thickness top. Hobo stoves distribute heat evenly across their upper surface, and their clever top design prevents the can from burning out quickly. 

A lot of people (including one of my die-hard DIY off-grid friends) enjoy making their own hobo stoves, and it can be a fun project for the family! To get an idea of how you can make your own, have a look at Uncle Milo's video here:

What makes the Kelly Kettle different from other camp stoves?

There are a few things that set the Kelly Kettle apart from other camp stoves. Whether you will prefer the Kelly Kettle or a different stove depends on your needs and your preferences. 

Let's look at a few factors:

  • Cooking and Ease of Use

Since we’re talking about stoves, an important factor that needs to be considered is how well each stove cooks. What can be cooked in the stove as well as how much of it can fit is also important to consider.

While the Kelly Kettle is a great stove, cooking with it can require a learning curve. Some users struggle to get a good flame going, so their pan doesn’t get hot enough to cook their food well.

This can be frustrating and disappointing, especially if you’re tired and just want to eat without a fuss.

Camp stoves that run on fuel can be much easier to use. Canister stoves, for example, are usually lightweight, low-maintenance, and quick to light. Most models even allow you to adjust your flame and simmer your food on low heat.

If you are familiar with starting and feeding a flame, then the pitfalls that some users have cooking with a Kelly Kettle should not be an issue. When given a chance, Kelly Kettles can perform very well in the cooking department and heat your food to their ideal temperatures.

Where the Kelly Kettle may fall short for some people is in its cooking capacity and variety. The Pot Support accessory for Kelly Kettles can only cook fast-cooking foods like soups, noodles, rice, and oatmeal.

Though the Kelly Kettle Hobo Stove can cook more food options, its food capacity is still quite limited. If you need to feed a large number of people, the Kelly Kettle cooking options may not be your ideal choice.

However, other camp stoves also have limited food capacity, and compared to some camp stoves, the Kelly Kettle Hobo Stove actually comes out on top!

The grill accessory that comes in the stainless steel and aluminum Ultimate kits may help to set the Kelly Kettle Hobo Stove apart from its competition for those of you who enjoy grilling and would like a compact option that can travel with you. 

  • Storage and Travel

One thing that sets the Kelly Kettle line apart from much of its competition is its variety. The Kelly Kettle line comes in a range of sizes, and many of its accessories can be used alone or in conjunction with their kettles.

Depending on your needs, this could mean having to travel with multiple items; and depending on your travelling methods and journey length, traveling with your Kelly Kettle products can be a walk in the park or a complete nightmare.

The Kelly Kettle Aluminum Basic Trekker Kit is the most lightweight option available by the company. This kit, kettle included, weighs approximately two pounds. While this may not seem like much, for a hiker traveling by foot, those two pounds could feel like twenty after awhile.

Other camp stove options weigh considerably less the basic Trekker kit, and you may prefer them if you’re a hiker or biker.

However, since the Trekker kit includes a kettle, the extra weight may be worth it for those of you like having the option to purify your water by boiling it while also cooking your food, thus killing two birds with one stone.

A plus for the Kelly Kettle line is the fact that most of its accessories can be stored inside its kettles. This makes storing and transporting your products easier.

If you just need a camp stove option for your home during power outages or emergencies, or if you just need a stove option for camping trips that don’t include much foot travel, then the weight of Kelly Kettle products may be less of a concern and you can focus on their other great qualities.

  • Safety, Fuel, and Environmental Impact

The category where Kelly Kettle absolutely shines when compared to other camp stove options is in Safety and Environmental Impact.

You do not have to use fuel in any of the Kelly Kettles. Instead, wood, twigs, fire starter, twine, etc., can all be used to make your Kelly Kettle products work. This is very environmentally friendly because there is no fuel or canisters to discard.

Canister stoves and other camp stoves that require fuel are not only more dangerous for the environment due to the additional waste that result from using them, these stove alternatives can also be less safe than the Kelly Kettle options due to the potential for their fuel to explode.

The Kelly Kettle cookware is safe to use, and the potential for injury is much smaller when using the kettles and accessories to cook. The greatest danger for physical harm is the potential to burn yourself while pouring or transporting the water from your kettle.

To prevent injury, all you have to do is hold the handle of your kettle at 90 degrees when lifting it off of its fire-base. And to pour your water safely, you just need to hold the handle in one of your hands while gently lifting on your kettle’s chain to pour.

  • Financial Cost

It is undeniable that using the Kelly Kettle line as your camp stove option can be way more affordable over time than using most other alternative camp stoves. Once you factor in the cost of the fuel you’ll need for many other options, Kelly Kettle comes out on top.

Once you buy your Kelly Kettle, Pot Support, or Hobo Stove, you can use them immediately with no additional cost to you. Though you can buy and use man-made fire starting materials in your kettle, it is completely unnecessary to do so.

If you’re camping, hiking, biking, or prepping on a budget, then you can use any natural fire starters that you find on the ground to get your kettle up and running. Some animal dung can even be used if needed.

Depending on how much you’ll use your camp stove, you could end up saving hundreds if not thousands of dollars over time by using the Kelly Kettle line rather than its fuel-requiring competition. 

What are the benefits of using a Kelly Kettle?

Many of the benefits of using a Kelly Kettle are laid out in our comparison of this product compared to other camp stoves. However, in short, these are the many benefits of using a Kelly Kettle.

1. They boil water very quickly. Your water can go from cold to boiling in a matter of 3 to 6 minutes.

2. You can use these kettles to boil and purify your water, or you can use them to cook or reheat food.

3. They are affordable. You don’t have to worry about buying fuel or expensive fuel canisters. You can use free natural fuel sources that are near or on your campground or home, or any natural fire starters that are along or near your hiking or biking trail.

4. Kelly Kettles are environmentally friendly. You do not have to use liquid fuel or fuel canister, and you do not have to worry about properly storing or disposing of any liquid fuel or fuel canister.

5. Both the aluminum and stainless steel kettles are lightweight without sacrificing durability.

6. You can pack and store any additional accessories that you buy inside your kettle, so packing and transport is easy and convenient.

7. You can choose between stainless steel or anodized aluminum depending on your needs and personal preferences.

8. They are tested independently and are “End of Life” certified.

9. They can work in harsh weather conditions including rainstorms, strong winds, and cool weather.

10. They all have a Green Whistle that will alert you when your water is boiling, so you don’t have to guess and constantly check.

How quickly does the stove boil water?

How long it takes for your water to boil will ultimately depend on your location/altitude, the weather conditions where you are, and how well your fire is burning; however, you can typically expect the stove to boil your water in 3 to 6 minutes, though it could possibly take a little bit longer.

How does the stove boil water so fast?

The stove boils water so fast because of its fuel efficient design. The heat from the fire in the base is directed towards your pot or fry pan of choice on the top. 

Kelly Kettle Review - How the Stove Works

The stove has a wide opening that is not only helpful for adding wood or other items to feed your fire, the opening also aids in providing excellent air flow. This airflow helps your fire breathe and take in oxygen.

This video shows the "Anatomy of the Kelly Kettle" so you can get a better idea of how it all works.

What model is best?

The model that is best depends on your specific needs. Factors to consider when choosing which model is best for you include your travel method and the weight of the product, the food and water capacity of the model compared to your travel size, your budget, and how close you are to available fuel and water sources.

  • Hikers, Bikers, Backpackers, Solo Travelers, and Couples

You are are going to be doing any physical activities such as hiking, biking, backpacking while toting your kettle or accessories, then you may prefer the “Trekker” model kettles or kits to the other alternatives.

The Trekker kettles and accessories are smaller and are the lightest weight when compared to the other available choices: Base Camp and Scout.

One thing to consider before ultimately deciding to get this model, however, is the fact that its smaller size also means a smaller capacity. This may not be a problem if your kettle only needs to provide for one or two people.

However, if there is a long stretch between when you can refill the kettle with water, or if it is particularly hot or humid while you’re traveling or enjoying the outdoors, then the smaller size of the Trekker model kettles could work against you.

You could possibly run out of water before you reach a location where it can be refilled.

And on particularly warm days, even if you have a lot of water sources where you can refill, you could dehydrate so quickly that you need to stop often to refill, and that can potentially ruin your trek.

Larger kettles, while heavier and harder to transport longer distances, provide fresh purified water for longer, and you can also use the larger cooking accessories with them which allows you to make more food at once. This is a must if trying to feed multiple people with one Kelly Kettle. 

By the way, check out this short (20-seconds!) video that demonstrates the "whistle" on the Kelly Kettle.

  • Kayaking, Fishing Trips, Camping, Small Groups and Families

The “Scout” and “Base Camp” models of the kettles and kits are ideally sized for taking on mini day trips to the lake for fishing or for taking on fun kayaking trips down a river.

These medium and large sized models respectively boil a respectable amount of water.

If you’re traveling in a small group or family, then the Scout model may be enough, but it isn’t a bad idea to upgrade to the Base Camp model if you think you may need a larger kettle capacity.

It is better to have too much water and not need it than to have too little.

In terms of food capacity, the Scout and Base Camp models use the same sized cooking accessories so there is no loss there regardless of which decision you make.

Your choice between the two will ultimately come down to your budget and how much water you or your group will need.

Though the Scout model could be carried in your backpack if you are a hiker, biker, or backpacker, the Base Camp model isn’t ideal for long travels on foot or bike unless you are physically prepared for it.

Preppers and campers who won’t be doing much traveling with your kettle or kit should not have to worry about the weight of these models.

However, it may not be a bad idea to also get a Trekker kettle or kit in case you may have to travel a great distance by foot or bike during an emergency and can’t bring your Scout or Base Camp items with you for whatever reason.

It’s better to be safe and over-prepare than cut corners and wish you hadn’t later. 

  • Camps, Picnics, Hunting Trips, Emergency Kits, Large Groups and Families

If your needs fall into this category, then I definitely think the best model for you is the “Base Camp” kettles and kits.

The Base Camp line of products are the largest, but they also are the heaviest.

If you have a sizable journey to travel on foot or bike, and your primary concern is feeding your larger group with your Kelly Kettle rather than providing purified water for everyone, then you could possibly get away with purchasing the cheaper Scout model since all of its cooking accessories are the same size as the Base Camp’s.

However, if providing water for everyone efficiently is a concern, then I highly recommend going ahead and getting the large Base Camp model kettle.

The Base Camp kettle can provide nine people with 6 ounces of water in one use, and it can provide five people over 10 ounces of water in one use.

  • Stainless Steel vs Aluminum

Something else to consider when choosing which model is best for you is stainless steel or aluminum.

Stainless steel is typically heavier, but it holds heat very well so it is the better option for cooking meals with longer cook times.

Stainless steel is also more durable than aluminum typically. For this reason, it often is slightly more expensive—another factor to consider if you’re on a budget.

Aluminum heats and cools more quickly than stainless steel usually, and it also weighs less.

However, aluminum usually has a shorter lifespan than steel, so you may have to replace your aluminum Kelly Kettle faster than you would have to a stainless steel version of the same product. 

Disadvantages to using a Kelly Kettle

As great as using a Kelly Kettle is, there are some disadvantages:

1. For most cooking uses of these kettles, they have to be full of water. You cannot use them at half or even 3/4th capacity without potentially damaging your kettle or your cooking accessories.

2. If you use a Trekker kettle, it can only fit the small accessories. This may not be a problem if you’re a solo traveler or camper, but if you need to share, wait times for food could be long as you may have to cook each of your meals separately.
However, this disadvantage can be side-stepped by buying a large Hobo Stove or Pot Support accessory and Fire Base separately to use together for cooking larger meals.

The Kelly Kettle Hobo Stove and Pot Support can be used with just a Fire Base without a kettle.

Best uses for a Kelly Kettle: Who are they for?

As we wrap up our Kelly Kettle review (if you stayed with us this far, thank you!), we just want to sum it up. The Kelly Kettle is great for:

1. Hikers needing something to purify their water or reheat or rehydrate their food quickly while they are on the trail.

2. Preppers wanting an affordable, durable, and reliable kettle to add to their emergency kits.

3. Families in areas prone to natural disasters or power outages who need an alternative source for food and water during storms or blackouts.

4. Campers or picnic goers seeking a multi-functional kettle for food and water.

Thanks so much for reading, and we hope that the info we've shared about this cool stove is helpful! 

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