MSR Titan Kettle SPOTLITE REVIEW

A reasonably light two-man titanium kettle - very light, works well, but not very low cost.

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by Roger Caffin | 2006-12-19 03:00:00-07

MSR Titan Kettle SPOTLITE REVIEW

Overview

Something which never ceases to intrigue me are the different uses of the word 'kettle'. For most of the world it means something with a traditional tea-pot shape with a handle over the top, but in America it so often means something like a large cup with a lid and a handle on the side - and a faint spout. Never mind: as long as it boils water and pours nicely into my coffee cup.

MSR Titan Kettle REVIEW - 1 MSR Titan kettle and morning coffee (brewed!) in the snow

The MSR Titan Kettle easily holds enough water for two people for tea and coffee - which is good because that's what we have every morning about 10 am when my wife and I are walking. Actually, we only need about 0.6 litre for this, so the 0.85 litre capacity of this kettle means we don't have 'boiling over' problems. This is good.

The fold-out wire handles are fairly good for pouring: once you hold the two wires together the arrangement is very stable. The lid is a suitably tight fit - I am not sure how they manage that. The little red handle on the lid can be stood upright to keep the plastic coating away from the lid, which is cute although as you can see from the pictures I usually forget to do this. There is a hole in the lid for the steam to come out. It is not really needed for the steam as the steam can always come out the spout, but it is needed for pouring.

There is always a bit of a competition over light-weight pots and kettles. The MSR Titan Kettle does very well in this race at 88 grams (3.10 oz), but the weight of the lid at 35 g (1.23 oz) drags it down. On the other hand, something like the very light AntiGravityGear 3-cup pot offers greater diameter for better heat transfer, far lower cost, and comes in at about 107 grams (3.8 oz) including the lid. The new Backpacking Light FireLite pots promise to be even lighter (only the 0.5 litre (1 pt) version was available at the time of writing).

Field Testing

I used to use a more conventional Trangia aluminium kettle but it weighs 190 grams (6.70 oz). In the drive for light weight this MSR Titan Kettle has managed to displace it. Actually, while I like the conventional shape of my old aluminium kettle, it lacks some of the versatility this MSR Titan Kettle offers. I can cook and prepare food in this kettle: something I couldn't do with the more conventional shape. For instance, if I want to make mashed potato to go with a stew, I can boil the right amount of water in this kettle and mix the mashed potato into the water in the kettle. This makes this MSR Titan Kettle more versatile, which is good.

I found that the fold-out wire handles have to be treated with some caution: they can get a bit hot after the kettle has been on the stove for a while. This isn't as bad as you might think. I can always use a handkerchief to hold the wires, but very often I find the wires are not that hot right at the top of the handle anyhow. Also, once I have grabbed the wire handles and absorbed a bit of the heat from them, they remain cool. There is not the high thermal conductivity along the titanium wires as with aluminium for instance. Of course, in the snow country I just poke the wire handles with a lump of snow for a moment and then they are easily cool enough to be held.

A big difference between the conventional tea-pot design and the MSR Titan Kettle design is the spout. With the 'conventional' tea-pot design you get a real spout which (usually) pours very well. The spout on this kettle pours moderately well, but you do get some dribbles. This means you have to be a little careful about where you pour: not over your sleeping bag for a start! The dribbling seems to be worst when the kettle is most full.

MSR Titan Kettle REVIEW - 1 MSR Titan Kettle boiling up water for soup for dinner for two

Water coming to the boil in this kettle is both audible and visible. The hard titanium metal seems to make the bubbling noises very audible - some time before the actual boiling happens. I had to learn to ignore this. Once the water reaches boiling there is some steam out the spout, and a very obvious and cute plume of steam out the small hole in the lid. I am not sure this latter plume has any real value, but it does let you know when the Kettle boils. While on the subject of this little hole, I should add that the lid should be placed so the hole is furthest from the spout: this allows air to enter while you are pouring. If you don't do this the pouring can be a bit 'random'.

I did try replacing the MSR titanium lid (35 g, 1.23 oz) with cooking foil, but since the Kettle is used for bringing water to the boil this didn't work all that well. It got a little messy at times so I decided to stick with the ‘official’ lid.

MSR claims the titanium used has a low surface porosity which minimises food sticking. While I have done only a small amount of cooking in this Kettle, I have not found any problems with food sticking. Granted, I cook over a moderately low flame - more of a simmer than a blow-torch. But then, I didn't have any problems cooking in the MSR Titan pots either. When cooking this way you need to hold the handles at the top, to avoid heat from the stove. This works OK.

The MSR Titan Kettle is a little tall compared to the pots in the MSR Titan Mini Cookset but not as tall as some others like the Snow Peak kettle for instance. You may need a spoon with a decent handle for comfortable cooking and eating out of this pot rather than one of the very short Sporks. I find a conventional-sized Lexan spoon works fine with this kettle.

Solo Use

So far I have talked about this kettle in a two person context, because I normally go walking with my wife. But it is quite large enough to serve as a complete one-man cooking pot for dinner, kettle and cup for drinks, and it is large enough for melting snow for one person even. One caution about using it as a cup is in order: with hot drinks you need to watch out for the conductivity of the metal. Yes, the conductivity of titanium is low, but tilting the cup to drink means that the hot water reheats the metal at the edge each time. I found that I could avoid burning my lip by very gently placing the curled edge against my lip: the curled edge but not the main wall. I guess using it instead of my 23 gram (0.81 oz) plastic cup would save some weight, but the hassles of drinking out of it are such that I haven't gone that far.

Specifications

ManufacturerMSR
Year/Model2006 – Titan Kettle
MaterialTitanium
Handles Titanium wire, folding
Capacity0.85 L
Weight* Kettle body: 88 g (3.10 oz)
* Lid 35 g (1.23 oz)
* Total: 123 g (4.34 oz)
MSRPUS$39.95

What’s Good

  • The low weight and simple design of the MSR Titan Kettle for its volume
  • The snug-fitting lid which doesn't fall off
  • The handles are strong but fold away flat to the surface of the kettle
  • The handles don't seem to get too hot
  • The lid fits snugly

What’s Not So Good

  • It isn't cheap!
  • The lid could certainly be a bit lighter
  • The spout dribbles a little when the kettle is full

Recommendations for Improvement

  • A much lighter lid
  • Reduce the cost if possible

  • Citation

    "MSR Titan Kettle SPOTLITE REVIEW," by Roger Caffin. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
    http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/msr_titan_kettle_spotlite_review.html, 2006-12-19 03:00:00-07.

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