The real world test went like this:
I'd planned to bivi in a suitably exposed spot with a great view but not much in the way of fuel - so I thought. I'd intended to pick up some sticks on my way up to the summit but forgot in all the excitement (the sun was out and I'd not been on the bike for a week). Once I'd pitched the tarp, I looked around and picked up numerous small bits of wood, dead bracken stems and a bit of wool - all within a 10m radius of the bivi spot:
I also had some tinder card with me to help get things going. It took a little while and half a dozen matches to get things to catch, but once lit the kettle did it's job quite well. It didn't seem long, though I didn't time it, before a pint of water was boiling.
The following morning I was able to quickly scout for more bits of wood and get the kettle fired up again. This time I was better at getting it lit - the previous night was the first time I'd used it at all.
So here's a list of the pro's and con's. I'll do the con's first:
- It's smoky in use (depending on what you burn) some of which inevitably blows in your direction while you're using it. (The tinder card didn't help in this regard actually, as I did a subsequent test at home with dry wood and it seemed that all the smoke came from the card)
- On looking inside the burner part of the kettle, it was coated in black sticky resin type stuff presumably as a result of burning the dead bracken.
- The kettle itself get very dirty/sooty/sticky which means you need the stuff sack to carry it around to keep your other gear/ inside of frame bag clean.
- You could find yourself in a situation not being able to find anything suitable to burn, perhaps in very wet or sparsely vegetated conditions.
- It gets very hot (surprise surprise) and it's quite a while before its cool enough to pack away again.
- You still need to take an extra pan/ mug unless you intend to eat entirely dehydrated food you can cook in the bag or not have a hot drink.
- It ultimately takes longer to boil up water by the time you've gathered your wood etc, but that's not really the point I guess (see last on the list of pro's)
- It weighs a shade under 400g, which given you don't need to take any fuel, fuel bottle or wind shield makes it comparable to a good lightweight meths stove.
- It's pretty quick to boil up water once you got the fire going, and if you needed to boil more than one pint of water, then once the fire is going you're sorted.
- My tibetan ti 550 pan was a perfect fit over the top of the stove, so when packed up the pan added virtually nothing to packed volume.
- It fits in a Wildcat Leopard frame bag.
- You didn't need very much fuel to get it lit and for it to burn long enough to boil a pint of water.
- You can use it to store a pint of water with you as you go, so extra capacity on top of your other bottles/ bladder if you pick a spot without water.
- You can use it to burn any rubbish you generate on camp
- You could use it to warm hands/ feet on a cold trip
- Gives you a generally satisfied feeling of having boiled your water using the ancient and manly art of using a real fire, rather than the more "sterile" meths/ gas systems.
My initial feelings were a bit mixed. I wasn't sure it was as good a system as I imagined it would be, but I would undoubtedly get better at lighting it with more practice and probably more savvy in sourcing fuel that will lit quickly and burn efficiently.
Would I use it again? Yes, though I think it's suited more to trips longer than one night as the weight benefits pay off with not having to carry more than one night's worth of liquid fuel.