Chimney Stove: Boil Water with Sticks and Grass


Fire. Air. Wood. Water. Those are the essential ingredients for the Backcountry Boiler, an esoteric stove-type product called “the world’s first ultralight chimney kettle.” It is made in Pittsburgh, and the stove is marketed to ultra-light backpackers and other wilderness types in need of hot water in the backcountry with little fuss.

Backcountry Boiler Camp Stove copy.jpg

Backcountry Boiler Camp Stove

Add some kindling under the Backcountry Boiler, strike a match, and wait for the water inside to bubble and steam. Within a few minutes — as little as five minutes for a couple cups — water goes from cold to bubbling hot, a batch of boiling liquid ready to make tea or rehydrate a backpacking meal.

The Backcountry Boiler costs $100, but for the time being the product is sold out. The company, a one-man shop owned and operated by Devin Montgomery, made its first run of the current anodized aluminum boiler this spring, and the supply in full (about 250 units) quickly went out the door.

Backcountry Boiler Stove - flame.jpg

Fire inside: The Backcountry Boiler burns hot with its chimney effect

What makes the product popular is its simplicity. The unit combines the function of a stove and a cooking pot into one — and it also eliminates the dependency on gas or other liquid fuel. Dry grass, pine needles, sticks, and birch bark are among the ad hoc items found in the forest that can power this stove.

Its unique design makes water boil fast. Place your kindling under the Backcountry Boiler’s main body and light. Fire devourers dry wood or other natural “fuel” inside the unit’s chamber, which is a cone-shape open area that forces flames and heat to roar out through the top.

Backcountry Boiler Camp Stove - graphic.jpg

All around the fire inside is metal surface area with water on the other side of a thin wall. Heat transfer through the aluminum easily converts the water from lukewarm to extra hot.

I tested a Backcountry Boiler out this month to mostly happy results. The product is fairly small and light — a little bigger than a 1-liter Nalgene bottle, and about 8 ounces in weight. The body is a hard anodized aluminum, and the stove comes with a silicone cork to seal the water hole shut when needed. A neoprene sleeve serves as a heat guard, letting you handle the boiler even as the water bubbles inside.

My test started with a failure. The first kindling I found — some seemingly-dry maple twigs and dead leaves — did not burn hot enough. They puffed and smoked, but did not generate the required heat.

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Posted by Jeff - 05/12/2011 07:37 AM

Just ordered mine yesterday.

Posted by Chris Anderson - 05/12/2011 09:24 AM

These are great products, but the only thing unique about this one is that it’s small enough for backpacking. The Kelly Kettle has been around and has been used by Irish fishermen for 100 years…

Posted by Duff - 05/12/2011 09:35 AM

Interesting. I’ve always thought the JetBoil was the greatest camping boiler out there and have never been disappointed after infinite uses. But will have to check one of these out. Thanks for the review!

Posted by jpea - 05/12/2011 09:51 AM

Sure a Jetboil packs down perhaps a bit further, but the idea that you don’t have to purchase speciality fuel for it makes it a great deal different. Nice!

Posted by John Griffin - 05/12/2011 11:25 AM

Its a total rip off of the Irish Kelly kettle which has been around since 1890. The kelly kettle is much better, i own 2 of them. Check them out.

Posted by Jason - 05/12/2011 12:13 PM

This is a really cool stove concept, and I like it a lot for backpacking. Another similar model is made by BioLite and actually converts some of the energy generated by a wood fire into electricity so you can charge a cell phone or other electronics on the go as you cook. While I think it looks less practical for backpacking, it still has some cool camping applications.

Check it out here:

Posted by Damien Tougas - 05/12/2011 12:35 PM

@Jason, the BioLite does not have the integrated pot, which is what makes it a lot different (and less efficient) than the Backcountry Boiler.

Posted by jpea - 05/12/2011 01:40 PM

It’s not entirely a rip off of the Kelly Kettle, since this one is 8oz while even the Aluminum KK is 2.1lbs (33oz), almost 4x the weight.

Posted by t.c. worley - 05/12/2011 05:20 PM

The tree-hugger in me loves this.

Posted by TiGuy - 05/13/2011 09:59 AM

This stove is just a FAT step sister of the MKettle. MKETTLE is available right now at So svelte…

Posted by Snarfub - 05/13/2011 10:53 AM

Just Curious, after use is it messy? Does soot get all over your backpack for the next days hike?

Posted by Stephen Regenold - 05/13/2011 11:07 AM

Messy? Kind of. The inside cone area of mine has a sappy black patina formed from burned pine twigs. Put it in the stuff sack and you’re fine, howev.

Posted by ChipK - 05/13/2011 01:57 PM

Is the capacity just 8 ozs?

Posted by Randy Martin - 05/15/2011 08:21 AM

TiGuy, the MKettle was a direct copy and ripoff of Devin’s design. You know it. Support an American product not something stolen and produced in the UK.

Posted by Randy Martin - 05/15/2011 08:24 AM

ChipK, the capacity is 20 ozs but it is recommended to only boil 16 ozs at a time to avoid boiling over.

Posted by Jesus Ned - 05/15/2011 11:34 AM

Really like the simplicity of the product. Uses the same principle (idea/form – see prototypes) as the Kelly kettle, main difference is size and weight. There are lighter, titanium wood burning stoves out there, albeit with more parts. Wish they came out with a titanium version. I would not suggest using this kettle if you treat your water with chlorine dioxide (strong oxidizer) and boil it as well (some people). Aluminum will go into solution in presence of a strong oxidizer. If you just boil the water and don’t treat it you are probably OK. I would make sure water boils for a minimum time as there does not appear to be a way to clean out interior, especially having that acute angle at bottom of kettle.

Posted by Chris - 05/16/2011 08:01 PM

Does the stove burn all of the fuel or is there burned wood left over? If so, what do you do with it?

Posted by Ian StJohn - 02/09/2012 06:58 PM

It looks like a good piece of gear but it only performs one function. The improved USGI canteen system, can heat food as well as boil water. It runs on natural or synthetic fuel and is compact enough to be carried on a duty belt.

Posted by don - 05/04/2012 10:06 AM

You can’t actually buy one of these though. I grew tired of trying to support this product, and bought the availible m-kettle.

Posted by Joe - 09/23/2012 12:24 PM

why not just buy a firefly stove? it seems stupid to bring a separate device just to boil water especially if you’re backpacking.

Posted by Chimney Services - 08/08/2013 02:19 AM

There’s nothing like the crackle, warmth and glow from a real wood-burning fireplace. But for apartment dwellers without an existing fireplace, alternatives to the traditional chimney and flue are necessary

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