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After a year and a half of living in the suburbs, I became king of the neighborhood last summer when I unboxed the latest and greatest backyard trophy: a Solo Stove. You know the one: the stainless steel fire pit so shiny you can see your reflection in the drum.
I’m not the only one in my neighborhood who owns one of Solo Stove’s so-called “smokeless” fire pits. One of my neighbors has the medium-sized Bonfire Pit, which I can see glowing on his patio on autumn nights, and another kitty-corner from me has one of the absurdly large Yukon Fire Pits, which fits with his bigger-is-better mentality (he’s also the two-time winner of my town’s annual pumpkin-growing contest).
The 6 Best Fire Pits for Outdoor HangsYour backyard is about to get a whole lot cozier
You’ve likely seen these ingenious silver buckets everywhere in the last couple years, too. Even beyond backyards, I’ve stood around them on patios at breweries, outside at restaurants and on high-rise rooftops. If you haven’t experienced one yourself, maybe you’ve come into contact with the ever-growing Solo Stove product universe, which now includes pizza ovens, camp stoves, mini tabletop fire pits and, most recently, the backyard Mesa Torch (think elevated tiki torches) which will start shipping in September. Their ubiquitousness is why my Solo Stove-less neighbor immediately commented on mine when I first set it up.
“You know Ben has one of those,” he said, hands on hips in my backyard. “And I think Steve has one over there too.”
Except the thing is, they didn’t. At least, they didn’t have the Solo Stove Fire Pit 2.0, the first update to their signature product since it was first released on Kickstarter way back in 2016. The upgraded model was released in August 2022, but I had it in my possession a few days before the official release to test it out. Ergo: King of the neighborhood.
The Fire Pit 2.0, which I’ve been using now for over a year in the Bonfire size, isn’t a complete overhaul of the company’s first design, but it does feature one specific upgrade that Solo Stove says customers have been requesting for a long time. In the original models, when you wanted to remove the ash from the metal drum after the fire was extinguished, you had to either shovel it out or tip the entire drum over (a sufficiently awkward task for my neighbor with the large Yukon). Now, the fire pit includes a removable ash pan that makes clean-up a five-second endeavor. It’s an incredibly simple upgrade, sure, but there’s a reason Solo Stove owners have been asking for it for years.
Pros and Cons of the Solo Stove Fire Pit
Before getting my own Bonfire 2.0 in the mail, I had never personally been in charge of building and maintaining a fire in one of these before. I was merely a beneficiary of the ambience in summer, or focused on warming my hands when huddled around one in the freezing Minnesota winter. And I must say, experiencing first-hand the difference of making a bonfire in one of these barrels, compared to the $50 open fire pit I got at a local hardware store, was pretty eye-opening.
Setup was a non-issue. All it takes to go from box to bonfire is to remove the pieces from the packaging and stack them on top of each other (one accessory you may want to add in is a metal stand if you don’t want the bottom of the fire pit sitting directly on — and thus scorching — your grass or patio).
If you’re worried about your abilities in the fire-building department (maybe you missed the lessons on teepee vs. log cabin), that’s also a non-issue with the Solo Stove. The company says its fire pit features something called “360° Signature Airflow Technology” that helps cut down on smoke and also allows the wood to burn faster and hotter, and I supremely underestimated this claim. I added a bunch of crumpled up paper and a dozen small pieces of wood to make sure the flames caught, and they went up like the Santa Fe Zozobra. The photos on the Solo Stove website of flames shooting out of the top? That’s no joke. This thing is a quick-start flame-spitter, and stoking it throughout the night is just as easy. The same is true in summer as well as winter, as I’ve used mine in my backyard on warm August nights and on a frozen lake in Minnesota in the middle of February. No complaints on ease of use in any season.
While the Solo Stove isn’t 100% smokeless — as many reviews from supposedly reputable websites claim — it does certainly cut down on smoke compared to your run-of-the-mill hole in the ground or bonfire bowl. It helps that the fire is contained in the steel drum, which unfortunately means you don’t have direct side access to the coals for roasting s’mores and the like, and the flames are hotter and taller than a standard bonfire, but it’s a tradeoff that’s proved popular with my neighbors, and probably yours too.
Now that Solo Stove has perfected the design even further, I don’t see any reason for the popularity of these ingenious fire pits to cool anytime soon. You can shop the full lineup here, or check out the Goldilocksian Bonfire model below.
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