The Solo Stove Bonfire Fire Pit is not a substitute for a real backcountry campfire, but it is a vast improvement over making a fire in the rusty fire grates and barbecues you find at national parks and state-run campgrounds. You can also use it at home to have a campfire without building a fire ring in your garden or creating a mess of partially burnt wood and coals.
The Bonfire is an open-ended, stainless steel can with hollow walls and a double bottom. Weighing 20 pounds empty, it’s 19.5 inches wide and 14 inches tall, with ample interior room to hold a half dozen pieces of standard-sized cut firewood. It burns very hot and is best used for evening entertainment like a campfire or toasting marshmallows, but not for boiling water or cooking food like the 1-person Solo Stove Lite or the 2-person Solo Stove Titan.
The Bonfire burns wood and the smoke produced by a wood fire in a two stage process, so you get a fire that’s virtually smoke free. To start a fire, you stack kindling inside the Bonfire on top of the elevated metal grate at the bottom of the can. There’s a solid ash pan underneath that which forms the base of the unit and prevents hot coals from burning the ground under the Bonfire. The metal grate ensures that the base of the fire receives plenty of oxygen, making fires very easy to light, while the Bonfire’s sidewalls act as a wrap-around windscreen that channels the fire up the middle and helps prevent sparks from jumping the sidewalls.
Once lit, heated oxygen flows up the hollow walls of the Bonfire and out round vents under the top rim of the stove. This added oxygen creates a second stage of combustion, resulting in a hotter fire, that burns almost all of the smoke that the fire generates. It’s wonderful because you can sit people around the Bonfire without having to move constantly to get away from the smoke every time the wind shifts. Since the fire burns hotter, the Bonfire reduces the wood inside to ash, so there are no burnt and blackened logs to clean up afterwards.
The Bonfire is large enough that you can sit a half-dozen friends around it to enjoy a fire. But it’s so hot, that you’ll probably want to sit a bit farther back than you would a normal campfire. In addition, the exterior sides of the can get very hot to the touch, so you’ll want to supervise children so they don’t get burned. If you want to toast marshmallows, I’d recommend letting the fire burn down to rim level first. After that, hold your marshmallow forks well above the top of the fire if you like them golden brown and not black and burnt.
If you don’t feel like waiting for the fire to burn down to ash, you can extinguish it with water like you normally would with a campfire. However, if you let the fire burn itself out, you’ll be amazed by how little wood is left at the end of the burn.
If you want to bring the bring the Bonfire camping or transport it to a different location, it comes with a durable bag (with handles) to enclose the unit and make it easy to carry. Contrary to what you might expect, the Bonfire has no noticeable smell when packed in the car, probably because it burns all of the smoke that’s normally wasted with a regular fire.
The Solo Stove Bonfire Fire Pit is more “Leave No Trace” than a campfire because it doesn’t scorch the ground, you don’t need to build a new fire ring to have a fire, and it burns firewood to ash hiding any trace of a fire when you leave. Those are all great things, but my guess is that most people will buy the Bonfire for home use and entertainment, rather than backcountry or car camping use. That’s not a bad thing, but I’d caution you to be careful about using the Bonfire near wooden structures because some sparks do escape, even though they are greatly reduced by the units high sidewalls and construction.
Disclosure: The author received a sample Bonfire for this review.
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