Sunday, March 5, 2017

MSR Titan Kettle - Review

MSR Titan Kettle (plus a Ti spork)
My collection of cook kit gear always seems to be expanding.  While I have a few go-to mess kits that I am extremely happy with, I am never shy to try out a new combination.

I wasn't in the market for a new cooking pot, but I was gifted a MSR Titan Kettle for my birthday, and it is a really nice piece of gear.  The key for me was to figure out how best to use it.  I have typically stayed away from titanium cook sets for a couple of reasons: i) while they heat up quickly, they also dissipate head and cool off too quickly for my preference; ii)because of their heat conduction, they tend to get hot-spots and not heat evenly; and, iii) I find that they have a tendency to scorch food and then are harder to clean.

All nested together
So, when testing the Titan, I had a plan.  I would use it for boiling water to make hot drinks and soups that didn't need to simmer; I would use it for boiling water for retained heat cooking in a separate vacuum jar; and, I would use it for one-pot instant meals (i.e., Idahoan potato-based meals) that didn't need to cook over a flame and get scorched.  Given those conditions, the Titan was excellent.

The kettle holds 850 ml, and the short and wide stance makes it stable.  The shape makes it convenient to use as a pot, mug, bowl, or kettle; but like other titanium containers it cools very quickly (i.e., hot drinks and food get cold quickly).  It has a securely fitting lid with vent hole and silicone covered lifting ring, and the body has a spout for pouring.  The kettle has folding handles that are okay, but I will likely invert them (to make them wider at the top than bottom) and will cover them with silicon tubing for heat protection of fingers (both are quick and cheap mods).  At approx. 4.75" in diameter, it sits well on most stoves and pot stands; and I found it deep enough (4.1") to allow for steam baking using my Wilton silicon muffin cup.  The kettle weighs in at a meager 4.2 oz, which is extremely light for a container of this size.  The metal is thin and could be prone to bending out of shape; but you could bend it back by hand.

My whole kit, minus the vacuum food jar
I brought the Titan with me as my only cooking pot on a recent 5-day, solo, backpacking trip to the Sawtooth Wilderness in Idaho.  To round out the cookset, I brought along a Sea-to-Summit collapsable X-Cup, a mini Trangia alcohol stove with the accompanying windscreen/potstand, my Wilton muffin cup, a GSI mini scraper, and my firesteel.  Everything nested neatly inside the Titan kettle, and I stuck a titanium folding spork through the ring of the pot lid.  The only other thing I brought was a separate 12oz vacuum food jar for coffee and retained-heat cooking.

I found that the Titan boiled water very quickly and conserved alcohol use.  Adding the boiling water to the vacuum jar also conserved fuel, and allowed for retained heat hydration of my Knoor Sides meals, soups, and oatmeal/hot cereals.  The vacuum jar also kept my coffee and cocoa hot for hours; and let me make a hot lunch at breakfast time for mid-day enjoyment.  The silicon X-Cup is also a good supplement for drinking hot beverages while also retained heat cooking; plus the cup has measurement markings for fluids.  That is one drawback of the Titan - it doesn't have any measurement markings on it for liquids.

I also successfully made some instant potato meals directly in the kettle after boiling water, including my Hawaiian Potatoes and Shepard's Pie recipes.  There was no problem with steam baking cupcakes and muffins either - the pot was tall enough, boiled quickly, and the spout and vent hole maintained a nice steamy environment.  The pot isn't big enough to steam bake two muffins at the same time though.  The wide opening and shallow depth of the pot did made it a breeze to clean though, using the GSI scraper.

Not thrilled with the Optimus Ti spork
This kettle really changed my view of titanium cookwear.  I really liked the utility of the whole system that I compiled.  The only thing that I will replace in the future is the Optimus Ti folding spork - it was a bit prone to bending and the folding mechanism likes to come apart (I don't recommend that spork).  While the lid of the Titan doesn't serve as a pan or double boiler like some of my other mess kits, I didn't miss those features (and rarely use them anyway).  Sure, I needed to carry a separate vacuum jar to get the most benefit of this kettle; but I carry a thermos with other pots as well because of the versatility that it provides.

So, will I use this setup again?  Certainly!  I think I like it better than the standard mini Trangia pot; it is more versatile than my Stanley camp cookset pot; and is way lighter than my Swedish Army mess kit (which I only use for backpacking with 2-3 people).

Would I buy one for myself?  At approx. $60, it is a bit more expensive than aluminum or SS pots/kettles; but I think it is worth it.

It is great for solo backpacking - add a second collapsable cup and a larger vacuum jar, and you might press this pot into service for two (but you might regret not having more volume).  Overall, I am impressed with the Titan, and it will work its way into my routine cookwear setup.

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