- Value: 16/20
- Functionality: 18/20
- Quality: 20/20
- Aesthetics: 20/20
- Smokelessness: 19/20
- TOTAL: 93/100
Like most of you, the only way I see friends these days is outdoors. Lunch at a restaurant? That now occurs under a makeshift yurt and in the middle of a bike lane. A playdate for my kids? See you on the playground…or in the park…or at that abandoned parking lot where they can ride their bikes.
And one of the cornerstones of my pandemic world has been my backyard, in which my husband and I have been hosting occasional socially distanced four-person gatherings since about May. But as the days shortened, the weather cooled and even a promise of my warmest mulled wine couldn’t convince my pals to put on their parkas and head over, we knew we had to upgrade our situation.
Enter: The Solo Stove Bonfire, which we added to our setup back in December. Here’s my honest review—the good, the slightly less good and the mashmallowy.
How does the Solo Stove Work?
This compact, steel fire pit is designed to store out of the way (it comes with a simple cover) and then move to your desired location for quick setup. To get it going, you simply add some firewood and light it—we use Duraflame fast-lighting logs, which ignite super quickly, with fewer sparks than, say, crumpled newspaper. The fire then burns consistently and evenly; you add wood as needed to keep it going, and let it burn out when you’re done.
Tell me more about this smokeless situation
We’ve wanted a fire pit for a long time, but were concerned about smoke in our small, urban backyard. The Solo sell is their signature 360-degree Airflow design which draws in air from small holes in the bottom and releases it as heated oxygen up through the top. Somehow (please don’t make me try to explain this!) the result is a nearly smokeless burn, such that campfire sitters experience the warmth of a traditional fire, without any of the smoke-in-your-eyes effects. My husband did notice that when he came inside after our inaugural use, his clothes didn’t have the “I’ve just been sitting around a campfire” smell, which he missed—but that’s probably a matter of opinion. Bottom line: As a city dweller and parent, the no-smoke thing is a huge advantage.
How durable is the Solo Stove?
Very! After the first time you use it, you will notice that the color changes, from a shiny silver to a more tarnished patina. But other than that, there’s really no maintenance to be done. Ours has been sitting outside, under its cover, for four months now, and is holding up great.
What are some things to love about the Solo Stove?
Aside from the smoke-free selling point, I love how stylish it looks—very Aspen ski chalet chic—and how easy it is to use with the kids. We’ve had it out for s’mores-making several times and, thanks to the Airflow technology, my 4- and 5-year-olds can stand right next to it to roast their marshmallows. I also like that you can purchase a number of useful and fun accessories. We got the Bonfire stand (which helps protect the ground—great if you’ll be using on a deck), Bonfire shield (to further prevent sparks) and the fire pit tools (for poking and prodding your logs). Next up: the four-pack of roasting sticks.
Though it’s definitely warm when you’re sitting close, or have your hands outstretched in front of it, it doesn’t warm a large area. Plus, the small size means that more than five people won’t really fit around it. But honestly, who’s even hanging out with more than five people these days?