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Solo Stove Bonfire Review: The Best Fire Pit We’ve Ever Used

Rating: 9/10 ?
  • 1 - Does not work
  • 2 - Barely functional
  • 3 - Severely lacking in most areas
  • 4 - Functions, but has numerous issues
  • 5 - Fine yet leaves a lot to be desired
  • 6 - Good enough to buy on sale
  • 7 - Great and worth purchasing
  • 8 - Fantastic, approaching best-in-class
  • 9 - Best-in-class
  • 10 - Borderline perfection
Price: $349.99
A man using a fire poker to move wood around in the Solo Stove Bonfire.
Solo Stove

If you’re in the market for a backyard fire pit, let us save you some time and get right to the point. We’ve found the one you should buy for an absolutely amazing and smoke-free experience.

Update: We first reviewed the Solo Stove Bonfire in the fall of 2020. This review has been updated to reflect our additional experience using the Bonfire since then. Look for these Update boxes for additional information in the review.

By this point, you’ve probably seen the Solo Stove somewhere—whether that’s at a friend’s house or on Instagram or Facebook where ads for the futuristic-looking firepit are plentiful. The burning question, if you’ll pardon the pun, is whether or not the pricey little firepits are worth it. Even the smaller models are significantly more expensive than the cheapo firepits you can pick up at your local big-box hardware store or home center. So let’s dig in.

Here's What We Like

  • All stainless steel construction
  • Ultra-efficient airflow
  • Smokeless operation
  • Won't kill your grass
  • Comes with a storage bag

And What We Don't

  • Spark arrestor not included

LifeSavvy's expert reviewers go hands-on with each product we review. We put every piece of hardware through hours of testing in the real world and run them through benchmarks in our lab. We never accept payment to endorse or review a product and never aggregate other people’s reviews. Read more >>

What’s a Smokeless Fire Pit?

Before we even dive into why we love the Bonfire so much, let’s take a moment to talk about smokeless fire pits. They’re a new breed of fire pit on the market that you may or may not already be familiar with and, of which, the Solo Stove product line is the best known.

First, why are fire pits smoky? Excessive smoke from your fire pit is almost always the result of incomplete combustion. While firewood selection is important—seasoned hardwood will always burn better than damp pine—the fire pit itself can make a huge difference. Anything that increases the efficiency of the combustion will decrease the amount of smoke in the air and the level of ash in the pan.

Traditional fire pits are, more or less, just metal tubs. Some have holes and some have mesh, but they’re little more than trash cans you make a fire in. They’re almost all identical in their fundamental design, and the price differences can all be chalked up to construction quality. Paying $50 or $150 typically just buys you thicker sheet metal and some extra time until the whole thing rusts out. They’re ultimately no more efficient than just piling up some wood on the ground and burning it.

Smokeless fire pits still retain the general shape you’d expect and require of a fire pit, but with a significant twist. They incorporate airflow channels into the double-wall of the fire pit in order to significantly increase the efficiency of the fire.

The best part about the design is that it is completely passive and you don’t have to do a thing to reap the benefits. There’s no fussing with an adjustable damper or anything of the sort.

Here’s an animation that shows how the air flows through the Solo Stove Bonfire:

Solo Stove

Instead of the traditional fire pit design—where the cooler surrounding air either drifts down over the top of the bowl and towards the fire, or is pulled in through mesh in the side—this design combines two kinds of airflow to great effect.

Cool air is pulled in from the holes in the base of the Solo Stove. Some of it flows right into the bottom of the fire pit, feeding the fire as if someone’s sitting there gently blowing on the coals. Some of the air is superheated by the hot walls of the fire pit and rises rapidly through the chamber and out the ring of holes on the inner rim of the pit. Here, it assists with the combustion of the smoke. The end result is a fire where you can smell the pleasant scent of the burning wood without plumes of smoke stinging your eyes.

The Solo Stove Bonfire Is Amazing

With the explanation of how the airflow and secondary combustion works out of the way, you’re probably wondering, how well does it work in practice? After all, many things look great on paper but don’t live up to the hype when put to the test.

My history with bonfires goes way back: I’ve probably built hundreds of bonfires of all shapes and sizes; I’ve dug simple holes in the ground in the woods; I’ve built bonfires on beaches; I’ve built fires in traditional brick-ringed pits in the ground; I’ve used, abused, and replaced countless cheap sheet-metal fire pits over the years.

I approached using the Solo Stove Bonfire for the first time with the attitude of “Well this seems well built, I’m sure it will be nice?” because it is objectively a very nice fire pit, magic combustion-design aside. It weighs about 20 pounds, is constructed with thick-walled stainless steel, and has an overall high-quality vibe.

But within minutes, I wasn’t just thinking about how it seemed pretty high quality. Instead, I was thinking, “This is the best fire pit I have ever used.” That was my initial reaction, and I’ve only come to love the Bonfire more and more the more I’ve used it. Let’s take a look at why.

A roaring fire in the Solo Stove Bonfire fire pit.
Jason Fitzpatrick / LifeSavvy

First and foremost, it makes starting a fire almost effortless. Thanks to the airflow design, every single fire I have started in the Bonfire has gone from the match strike to a roaring blaze in seconds. The photo above was taken within a minute of lighting the tinder, and I did absolutely nothing but drop the match in and wait. The moment the walls heat up and the air starts to flow through the double-wall chamber, the fire just takes off.

Better yet, once the fire is roaring along, the experience only improves. With the wood stacked in the pit to the appropriate height—just below the vent holes—the initial burst gives way to a steady intensity. You can actually see little jets of fire lick out of the vent holes as the smoke burns up right before your eyes.

A photograph showing the jets of flame in a Solo Stove.
Solo Stove

While the photo above is dramatic, perfectly capturing what the stove looks like with an absolutely optimal load of wood, rest assured that you’ll see the neat little jets shooting out even in suboptimal conditions.

Not only does the airflow help with the second combustion that creates the whole “smokeless” effect, but it also assists with the primary combustion. Every time we had a fire, I would peek inside once it had died down to assess how much ash was left behind. But every time I looked, there was scarcely a leftover piece of charred wood, or even any ash, to speak of.

Eventually, after burning nightly hours-long fires in the Bonfire over the course of a week, I finally upended the pit to investigate. If you’ve ever cleaned out a fire pit, you know that even after just one fire, there’s usually a substantial amount of ash to deal with. Yet after a week of fires, there was scarcely over half a cup worth of ash in the pit!

Update: After using the Bonfire fairly frequently over the last year I’m blown away by how little ash there is. Other than dumping out the ash to measure it that first time I’ve only dumped it out once. The flow of air through the bottom chamber with each subsequent fire just seems to magically whisk the ash away.

Moving the fire pit to dump the ash led to a completely new discovery (and an additional reason why you might love the Bonfire). The grass was absolutely fine. There were no scorch marks or any other sign of fire damage. Not only does the multi-layer design of the base of the Bonfire help catch the ash while directing the airflow, but it also creates a heat barrier that keeps most of the heat radiating up towards you instead of cooking the grass.

In fact, with the addition of the Bonfire stand, a small, stainless steel ring that further elevates the Bonfire, you can even safely use it on a deck without damaging the wood.

It Doesn’t Come With Accessories

The only real complaint I have about the Solo Stove Bonfire is that it is light on accessories. When you buy a cheapo fire pit kit at your local store you usually get, mostly, the whole shebang in a box. It might be garbage quality rolled steel with the crappiest tack welds you’ve ever seen, but there’s a good chance it’ll have a spark arrestor lid, a fire poker, and maybe even a cruddy cover. But hey, you get it all! The lack of cover isn’t enough for us to mark that as a negative point, however, because many cheaper models don’t come with one either.

With the Bonfire, you get the firepit and a very nice high-quality carrying bag and that’s it. This leads us to the only real complaint I can lodge against it. I wish it included a spark arrestor (the “screen” lid you see on most fire pits)—but not necessarily because I even needed it. The fire burned incredibly clean, and I only ran into ember-popping when I put a gnarly old wet log in to see how the hot-burning Bonfire handled it. No surprise there, it popped a bunch.

Note: If you want all the official accessories in one bundle, it’s worth grabbing the Bonfire Ultimate Bundle when it’s on sale to get the Bonfire, the spark arrestor, poker and tongs, roasting sticks, and cover.

But even if I didn’t find a need for it, many cities and townships in the U.S. require a spark arrestor for outdoor firepits. That said, if you live somewhere that’s really strict about such matters, you can buy a spark arrestor screen made by Solo Stove, called the Bonfire Shield, that is just as overengineered as the Bonfire itself—although, like Bonfire, it’s expensive.

Update: Since the initial review I’ve purchased both the spark arrestor and the Solo Stove Firepit Tools fire tongs and poker set. Both are impeccably designed and worth every dollar I spent on them. The folks at Solo even sent me a brand new “fire ring” portion of the firepit to fit the updated spark arrestor, free of charge.

The other thing I wish they included was a cover. You can purchase a Solo brand cover, the Bonfire Shelter, for $70 (frequently on sale for $50, by the way, so hold out if you want it a little cheaper). Like every other Solo brand product, it’s super nice but it’s expensive.

Update: I skipped ordering the official Bonfire Shelter and opted to buy this generic cylindrical cover for under $20 instead. It’s held up for a year without any issues. At that price, I can replace it multiple times and still save money compared to buying the Shelter.

Conclusion: It’s Still Downright Magical

It feels as if every single detail about the design of an ideal fire pit has been attended to in the creation of the Bonfire: It’s constructed of heavy-gauge 304 Stainless Steel; it’s engineered to provide optimum airflow; it doesn’t burn your grass; it keeps the smoke out of your eyes; it’s even exactly the right width to make optimal use of standard-cut firewood. (The standard for split firewood is 16 inches in length and the inner diameter of the Bonfire is 17.5 inches, which is just right for building a compact and efficient fire.)

In fact, other than the issue I mentioned above—that you have to buy additional accessories to round out your firepit purchase—there’s nothing bad to say about the Bonfire. The only really bad thing I can say about the Bonfire and accessories: I wish the pit and the accessories were cheaper. But, frankly, that’s something every one of us can say about, well, everything.

Update: After a year of frequent use I have nothing but good things to say about the Solo Stove Bonfire and recommend it to friends, family, and neighbors all the time. After all this use it looks brand new and I have no doubt it’ll last me decades and decades.

However, if you’re in the market for a fire pit and the Bonfire is within your budget, there’s absolutely no reason not to snatch it up. It’s built like a tank, it works so well it’s almost shocking, and you’ll get years of service out of it.

Rating: 9/10
Price: $349.99

Here’s What We Like

  • All stainless steel construction
  • Ultra-efficient airflow
  • Smokeless operation
  • Won't kill your grass
  • Comes with a storage bag

And What We Don't

  • Spark arrestor not included

Jason Fitzpatrick Jason Fitzpatrick
Jason Fitzpatrick is the Editor in Chief of LifeSavvy. He has over a decade of experience in publishing and has authored thousands of articles at LifeSavvy, Review Geek, How-To Geek, and Lifehacker. Read Full Bio »
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