GSI Backpacking Kettle Field Report

January 24, 2010

A little while back I wrote a short piece on a new GSI backpacking tea kettle I had received (Original Post) and while I had done a couple tests in the comforts of my home, today I got to use it for real. I love rainy days so a rare ~50F degree winter day promising steady rains might not spark much excitement in the normal person, but to me this meant a great day for hiking! I never claimed to be normal. Rain normally spoils most hikes, but for me I would rather hike in the rain than the sunniest of days. Good rain gear is essential, but it’s not that hard to do. A Marmot Precip lightweight rain jacket over a fleece and synthetic long-sleeved t-shirt and some polypropylene long-underwear under a pair of nylon zip-off pants, and my North Face Surge daypack and I’m off. I brought along the GSI kettle and my Coleman F1 Ultralight stove with a small canister of Jetboil fuel… and most importantly some Song Zhong Dan Cong. The darker flavor with hints of peach would be perfect after a few hours of cold and wet hiking.

After about 5 miles I found a small wooden bench along the trail which would be the perfect spot to test out the kettle and down some tuna salad and crackers. I set up the stove and poured 16oz. of cool water into the kettle which rested perfectly stable on the diminutive backpacking stove. From the initial flame to boil was about 2 minutes, maybe 2.5 at most! That’s pretty fast! I brewed up some tea in my stainless steel mug as the rain poured down and the warmth of the mug was sublime on cold hands. The tea was exactly what I needed, and with about 8oz. of water left in the kettle I made a quick packet of Lipton chicken noodle soup. Belly warm and full I began to repack the gear for the journey homeward. The kettle was completely cool in just the short time it took me to drink the soup! A big bonus. The stove took a bit longer to cool down for packing. The only drawback was that when pouring the last of the water for the soup I had to tilt the kettle almost vertical and my initial concerns about the loose-fitting lid were correct, it would flop out if not held in place during pouring. They do have a nice rubberized handle on the lid to make this easy even with bare hands, but it just seems so unnecessary. I’ll probably make a small modification to have the lid fit snugly, but it really isn’t a major deal. When I repacked the small fuel canister, it felt barely used! Since the rain was picking up and the stove was still hot I decided to just heat another 10oz. of water for a second cup for the last 2 miles. Less than 2 minutes to the start of a boil, even with cold rain and wind! packed it all away and enjoyed the last leg while sipping some hot Song Zhong which made the miles seem like feet.

Completely happy with the performance and utility of this kettle in about as poor conditions as possible. Even after the second boil I would mistake the small canister for a fresh one! Almost no major fuel use which is a massive plus for this kettle. A great addition to the pack.

GSI Backpacking Tea Kettle

January 4, 2010

I’m an avid outdoorsman and I love to hike, camp, and backpack. I’m pretty strict when it comes to my gear and weights/space as I like to keep as close to ultralight as possible and to bare essentials. I won’t sacrifice safety or thousands of dollars for the newest space-age material that will shave 1-2oz. off of an item I already own, but I do think long and hard before adding an item and try to have it serve two or more uses.

Tea is something that is a part of me. To enjoy a beautiful cup of tea surrounded by nature’s beauty at sunrise, or during a miserably wet and cold day, or on a break from the trail is sublime. Thus far I’ve always settled for simply boiling water in my stainless steel Olicamp Space Saver cup over one of my ultralight stoves (a Snowpeak Ti or Coleman F1) and adding in the leaves. But when I have a companion or a couple of people along, I’ve always struggled… having to waste fuel and time boiling a cup at a time not to mention having to use my cup as the vessel the entire time if they don’t have a suitable cup for the stove. To combat this my lovely wife got me a GSI Tea Kettle for the holidays.

GSI Tea Kettle

The kettle is made from a super-hard alloy called Halulite, and weighs in at only about 6oz. while holding 1 quart/32 ounces. The material is said to transfer heat very rapidly, which saves fuel and time, and it is shaped in a flatter profile to allow more surface area as well as to make for easier packing. While it is essentially a single-purpose item, boiling water is generally the heart of every meal when hiking for dehydrated items or pasta dishes and soups so the utility is worth the 6 ounces and when packed with things the space addition is negligible in all but the lightest packs.

In practice there are, as always, some pros and cons. The lid doesn’t fit tightly so it just sits in place rather than being held firmly by friction or a mechanism which seems like it could have been an easy addition. However, that is really about the only con. In basic indoor testing so far it does indeed boil faster when compared to the stainless steel Olicamp cup with the same volume of water, about 20-30 seconds faster which isn’t hugely significant, but every bit helps… and I could never do more than 12 ounces or so in my cup at once. It’ll also be great over a small campfire for a quick cup during day hikes, with the wider base being easier to deal with and position.

Any old metal tea kettle would do perfectly fine, and I’m never one to perpetuate this notion that enjoying the outdoors requires expensive labels and fancy gadgets, so this is more of a convenience and splurge type item. At only about $16 the utility and tailor made design is well worth it.

For those interested, here are the other items in my pack that I mentioned:

Olicamp Space Saver Cup/Pot

Coleman F1 Ultralight Stove

Snow Peak Titanium Gigapower Stove