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.
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 (www.theboilerwerks.com) 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. (Montgomery said a second batch will be available "soon"; preoders begin next week.)
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.
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. Birch bark and pine twigs did the trick instead. Once stocked with the correct fuel type, flames licked and roared inside the boiler stove, and within a few minutes (about 7 minutes total) I had hot, steaming water to make coffee in the woods.
For ultra-light backpackers, the Backcountry Boiler could be a great tool. Its simple and no-fuss design -- add the sticks, light a match, and wait -- truly works well. It is small and light. Overall, the Boiler is a worthy product and one of the neatest new things I've seen for backcountry camping this year.