Pros & Cons of the Solo Stove Bonfire (And Is It REALLY Smokeless?)
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Let’s talk about the pros and cons of the Solo Stove bonfire.
If you’ve been following my blog, you might have seen a few posts recently mentioning this unique fire pit.
You might even be considering buying one, but want to make sure it’s not going to be a waste of money. You work hard for your money, and while this bonfire pit sounds great…is it really worth the investment?
It really depends on whether you’re going to use it or not.
If you love bonfires and want to spend all of your summer evenings sitting under the starts, chatting over a crackling fire, it could be a sound investment.
But if you’re just looking for something to fill up your yard, and probably won’t use it much, I would suggest buying a nice birdbath or planting some petunias instead.
In all seriousness…
While there are much more expensive fire pits out there, this baby isn’t exactly cheap, either. So I wanted to lay it all out for you in this post. What are the pros and cons of the Solo Stove bonfire? And is it really smokeless?
Let’s start there.
Is the Solo Stove Bonfire Really Smokeless?
Solo Stove is known for their unique bonfire design that maximizes airflow and the burning process for a more complete burn with little to no smoke.
Per their instructions, the key is to keep the stack of logs below the secondary air vents. So as long as you can refrain from overfilling it, then yes, it truly smokeless — or nearly smokeless.
Here is a video that explains how it works, and then we’ll go over the pros and cons of this bonfire pit as well answers to some of the questions I’ve received from readers.
Let’s Talk About the Solo Stove Pros…
Here is a list of all the good things about the Solo Stove bonfire.
1. It’s smokeless.
Or, at least, as smoke-free as a bonfire can get. You might have a little smoke when lighting it. And again, avoid overfilling the fire pit, or you could end up with yet more smoke.
We made that mistake once, shortly after getting our bonfire. We had some longer sticks and boards that needed to be burned, and obviously didn’t pay much attention to the instructions on the box.
Oops! Lesson learned.
2. It’s portable.
While we probably won’t bring our fire pit camping (mainly because we rarely go camping), at 19.5 inches wide and 20 pounds, it would be small enough to take along.
Plus, it comes with a carrying case, so all you need to do is clean out the ashes and it’s good to go.
3. It’s log friendly.
Log fires just have that certain ambiance… Love the idea of sitting around a wood burning fire? The Solo Stove bonfire is log friendly, so you will still get that log fire experience.
4. It’s durable.
This unique bonfire pit is made of stainless steel, which is supposed to be more durable than other materials.
You will notice that after the first burn, it will no longer look brand new. That is to be expected when you burn wood inside it at such high temperatures; however, it does not affect the quality at all.
5. They offer a lifetime guarantee.
If anything happens to your fire pit that’s caused by manufacturing defects, they will replace it free of charge.
And if it gets damaged due to normal wear or misuse, they will either make repair suggestions or provide a one-time replacement at 50% off.
To quote Solo Stove:
We warranty each and every Solo Stove product to be free of manufacturing defects, and we will replace with a new product, at our option, any Solo Stove product that is deemed defective. Solo Stove does not warrant its products against normal wear or misuse. If your Solo Stove product was damaged due to misuse, our customer service team can analyze the damage and may be able to suggest options for the customer to remedy. If your Solo Stove product is unable to be repaired after misuse, we will extend a one-time courtesy offer, allowing you the option to purchase a new Solo Stove product for 50% off of our MSRP price listed on the website, excluding web specials.
…and Now for the Cons
There are a few things that might be considered disadvantages to the Solo Stove bonfire fire pit.
1. You can roast, but can’t “cook” over it.
Unfortunately, you can’t cook a pot of beans or boil potatoes over it. While Solo Stove does make products you can cook food on, the bonfire wasn’t designed that way.
You could potentially buy a grate like this one, or simply stick with food that you can roast on sticks.
2. There may be some discoloration.
Again, it will no longer look nice and shiny and brand new after the first burn, which is to be expected when you burn wood inside it at such high temperatures. But it does not affect the quality at all.
If you notice any burn marks on your bonfire, Bar Keepers Friend has been recommended for cleaning it up (although I haven’t used it personally).
3. You can’t leave it uncovered outside.
With an appropriate weather cover, you can store your bonfire pit outside. However, if left exposed to the elements for too long, it’s susceptible to rust and discoloration.
1. Does the Solo Stove bonfire burn through more wood than a standard fire ring?
In my experience, it doesn’t seem to burn through wood faster. In fact, the fire burns slightly longer in the Solo Stove, perhaps due to the secondary air vents.
2. Can you use the bonfire under a loggia or in a garage with the door open?
According to Solo Stove’s instruction manual: “Do not use Solo Stove Bonfire under any overhead or near any unprotected combustible constructions.”
3. Have you noticed a lot of embers coming from the fire pit?
While there are some embers with the Solo Stove, I haven’t noticed an excessive amount.
However, I just did a quick search, and it looks like they make a bonfire shield (included in this bundle) to help keep them contained and protect your patio furniture.
4. Does the Solo Stove give off substantial heat?
We have found that it gives off quite a bit of heat, plenty for a family to keep warm, and I’ve even found myself having to back away from it a little.
We have had as many as five people around it at one time, and there was plenty of heat to keep everyone warm.
5. Does the outside of the fire pit get hot?
The outside of the bonfire gets very hot, and I would not put anything decorative (decals or magnets) on the outside of it. And as with any type of bonfire, make sure to keep children at a safe distance away.
6. If placed on top of pavers, will the Solo Stove bonfire damage them?
We have used our fire pit on top of pavers and had no issues with damage. However, if you would rather play it safe, they do sell this stand that helps with airflow, so the Solo Stove bonfire can be placed on more sensitive surfaces.
My husband is the one who introduced me to this unique fire pit, and we decided to make the purchase because it has great reviews on Amazon. My #1 favorite thing is that you don’t have that strong, lingering bonfire smell on your clothes after using it.
The Solo Stove bonfire pit is nearly smokeless, as long as you use it correctly, and there are a number of pros — which outnumber the cons — when it comes to purchasing it, as long as you will actually use it.
This unique fire pit might not be for everyone, but from our experience, the investment really was worth it.
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This is the first time I’ve heard of smokeless bonfire. This is cool and the fact that it’s portable you can bring it with you when camping.
Great feedback and info.
I had never heard of it either, until my husband mentioned it. That’s why I thought it would be the perfect Father’s Day gift (or gift for him for any occasion!).
I would like to use the Solo Stove on a paver patio, if we used the stand with it, do you think it would damage the pavers? In photos, I’ve only seen them placed on the ground or gravel.
Also, in the video, the people are bundling up with coats and blankets and rubbing their hands above the flames. This seems to indicate that the stove does not put out any heat?
Hi Cindy! Thanks for your comment. The stand helps with airflow, so the Solo Stove bonfire can be placed on more sensitive surfaces. I can’t speak as to the intent of Solo Stove when they created the video, but in our experience, it puts out a decent amount of heat. 🙂 Of course, on a colder fall night here in MN, we still tend to bundle up a bit in coats or blankets as needed.
We recently purchased a Solo stove & I absolutely love it! I love bonfires & roasting marshmallows with my kids, but always hated the smell that was in our clothes, skin & hair. I love the idea of being able to move it around from place to place. It works great! I have to completely agree with your pros and cons. It is definitely worth the money.
Thanks for sharing your experience, Tracy! I’m glad to hear you’ve been enjoying your Solo Stove.
My solo stove is not smokeless and does not produce much heat. Sure, it’s a contained fire, but that’s it. It is not a novel invention and doesn’t provide its value for the cost. Our experience is a small, contained fire that still produces smoke that invades our clothes without providing widespread warmth
I’m sorry to hear that you’re disappointed in your fire pit, Philip, but thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts and experience.
Could you use this in a garage with the garage door open? I’d like to use this in the winter but not have to sit in the snow
Hi Mike! I checked with Solo Stove’s instruction manual, and it reads: “Do not use Solo Stove Bonfire under any overhead or near any unprotected combustible constructions.” Hope that helps!
Sorry for the late reply, I just came across your post and thought my experience with the Solo Stove might help.
The more fuel added increases the inner convection currents that make it “smokeless” by recycling the smoke through the many vents inside the stove. Once it is going, any fuel added will burn. While the stove does not seem to radiate much heat more than a few inches from the sides, most of the heat comes out the top. I have been able to get flames to shoot up a few feet and it was just small logs, not stuffed, from the smallest Solo Stove. I think of the stove as an engine that will just keep burning fuel as long as you keep feeding it and reduce everything to ash.
From what I have seen using mine, I would not recommend using a Solo Stove under any sort of roof or covering.
HI Tonya, a nice and well presented review. I just purchased the Bon Fire Solo and am very pleased with its nearly smokeless fire and also with seasoned firewood, easy start and maintaining a fire. I am wondering if you, yourself, have handled your Bon Fire Solo? The width dimensions are definitely better suited to a man’s build and shoulder width. While it only weighs 20 pounds, it is very cumbersome for one woman to empty the ashes and also for putting it into the storage bag. These two important steps can only happen the next day after all company, friends (and potential helpers) have gone home. I’m wondering if anyone else has encountered this issue? I’m certain there are many independent women of all ages out there who would want to know this and would want their own fire pit! BTW, although I live in the City, I am a frequent hiker/backpacker and all around outdoors woman. I’m used to doing things solo, if need be, but this one has me baffled! Thanks so much for anything you can share! Katherine Brooks
Hi Katherine! Thanks for reading and commenting. I agree with you that, while it is fairly light, it can be cumbersome to empty so I have always left that part to my husband. However, you make a great point — not everyone has that option! I checked with Solo Stove’s website, and this is what I found: “After your fire pit is cool, turn it upside down to empty any remaining ashes left in your stove. You can also use an Ash Vacuum (sold separately). If needed, use a dry cloth to wipe it afterwards.” Hopefully this helps! As far as putting it back into the bag (since I’ve never actually done it myself) I would have to check with my husband to be certain, but I’m assuming you have to lower the fire pit into the bag from the top. I’m imagining that I would instead tilt the fire pit and slide the bag underneath, then tilt the other side and pull the bag up over the bonfire. However, I am not sure exactly how well that would work in practice, so I will do some thinking (and possibly some experimenting) and will try to update this post once I figure it out! Of course, there is always the option to buy a separate weather cover, so that you can leave it outside and cut down on the number of times you have to pack it up. 🙂
Is it safe to use under a roof? I have a spacious loggia that is open on three sides, but there is a tiled roof.
Hi Catherine! That’s a great question. I checked with Solo Stove’s instruction manual, and it reads: “Do not use Solo Stove Bonfire under any overhead or near any unprotected combustible constructions.” Hope that helps! If you have any further questions, you can always contact them at help [at] solostove [dot] com
Great review, thank you.
Would you be willing to do an updated review now that it’s been a year since you posted?
I’d be interested to see how it’s aged past the first burn. Are you still happy with the quality? And would you adjust your pros and cons list now that you’ve used it more?
Hi Ferg, thanks for commenting! I believe the last time we used it was last fall (haven’t pulled it out yet this spring), and we were still very happy with our bonfire at that point. It does discolor a little bit once you’ve used it, but we’ve had it for a few years now and I don’t think it looks too bad. I try to update each post on a rotation, and plan on answering some of the questions left here in the comments with the next update, and I will try to remember to snap a new photo as well. Otherwise, I would say the pros and cons list is still pretty accurate, in my opinion! -Tonya
Thank you for the review! Does the outside get hot? I was thinking about making a vinyl decal for the outside of it for a friend that is getting one. Do you think that would work? Or should it be magnetic?
Hi Jen! Yes, the outside of the bonfire gets very hot, and I would be careful about putting anything on it. If you have any further questions, you can always contact them at help [at] solostove [dot] com
Thanks for the helpful review. Does the Solo Stove give off substantial heat? I’m thinking of purchasing one for use during the winter months on those clear, crisp nights. Is this something that a family could circle around and feel the warmth? Or is it mainly a ‘decorative’ fire?
Hi Ben! We have found that it gives off quite a bit of heat, plenty for a family to keep warm, and I’ve even found myself having to back away from it a little.
so good to hear… arriving Thursday and this will be important for my Wifey to be pleased with the surprise
Hello, we are thinking of purchasing a solo stove but we’re worried of embers hitting our outdoor furniture. Do you notice much embers coming out?
Hi Mari! While there are some embers with the Solo Stove, I haven’t noticed an excessive amount. However, I just did a quick search, and it looks like they make a bonfire shield to help keep them contained and protect your patio furniture. Hope that helps answer your question!
Hi! Thanks for the review! I was wondering if you are perfectly happy with the size that you guys chose. The cost difference between bonfire and the Yukon is so significant, but the bonfire seems like it’s a little bit small. Do you feel like it’s substantial in person and good for a family of six to sit around? Any regrets about not going bigger? Thanks for your thoughts!
Hi Sarah! The bonfire seems small, but it gives off a pretty good amount of heat, so you don’t have to sit super close to it. We’ve had up to five adults sitting around it, and there was more than enough room. 🙂
Has anyone else experienced lack of customer service from them? They take your money and then nothing! no return calls or emails for days now
I’m really sorry to hear about your bad experience, and hope they get back to you soon.
It is not smoke free. I don’t like seeing the fire from the embers up. I prefer a fire-bowl where you can see the fire from afar and not have to stand and look down. It’s all personal preference.
ordered Saturday and in my email, in addition to ads and solicitations, I had a receipt confirmation, an offer to add accessories and a pre-shipping confirmation with tracking number and link to their website with delivery date Thursday
I found the opposite to be true after our third fire I accidentally bumped the fire pit when wrapping it up for the night and the fire ring was not in place So when it cooled it warped and didn’t fit properly. I called Solo Stove and they said no problem and I had my replacement within just a few days.
I though the theri CS was fantastic.
My concern is if children are around and they accidentally touch it. I feel there should be a strong warning not to use it around young children.
Hi Cathy – I totally understand, because I feel the same way. I keep a very close eye on my young children when we’re using our bonfire because it does get hot on the outside.
Can you use Fire Logs? ( The ones that are wrapped that you buy in grocery stores)
Hi Lynn! According to Solo Stove: “Any firewood logs will work, but we recommend using dry hardwoods in our fire pits to enjoy the best flame. Hardwoods, such as birch, maple, hickory, and oak, will burn longer and cleaner than softwoods.”
Was wondering how much wood do you usually load into your solo stove bonfire? I’m having issues getting that secondary burn
Hi Cat! Good question, I don’t know an exact number of logs since my husband usually takes care of that, but I’d say around 5ish logs to start out? Then add another log or two after it’s burned down a bit. Hope that helps!
I have not received mine yet but I am anticipating the bigger and hotter the fire (within the Bonfire) the better the smoke reduction
I’ve had the same stove for over 3 years and I agree with you on a few things. Certainly there’s less radiant heat off the sides there’s no doubt about that. May be remedied by throwing some Stones around it. Ones that are large enough that they don’t impede the air holes. I would have to disagree though about weather it burns wood faster. In my experience my fires last much longer with this stove or fire pit. The secondary burn of the smoke really goes a long way in extending the range of the fire. I have how to fire going of modest size and to my surprise came out 3 hours later and it was still going. Where most fires smolder this one continues to feed it oxygen which requires very little stirring or mid fire maintenance. With regards to cooling the stove off simply emptying out the coals well lead to a rather fast cooling of the stove because it is such a thin Steel. This is done safely by simply taking a couple sticks putting them in the holes and flipping it over. Obviously this will leave a bit of a Trace but in my opinion there’s nothing wrong with a few ashes on the ground. Having left my stove outside in rain or shine for 3 years I can say that it’s held up well with some minor surface rust but still performs like it did on the first date. The design is perfect, the only thing it needs is some accessories so that you can use it as a grill.
Maybe I’m reading this wrong but sure looks like you AGREE with her on the longer lasting logs.
I’m reading that she says: “In my experience, it doesn’t seem to burn through wood faster. In fact, the fire burns slightly longer in the Solo Stove, perhaps due to the secondary air vents.”
I’m about to pull the trigger on the Yukon and appreciate all of the pros and cons and the comments from people like yourself.
Hi Tonya we bought a solo stove as a home Christmas present to ourselves. We just started using it a short time ago and we love it. There are a couple of tips to turn some of the cons to almost negligible.
Like you mentioned after our first fire, It was sad to see the beautiful stainless steel shine go . the gold patina like coloring I didn’t mind but it’s burn marks that were more noticeable. Many have suggested using the cleaner Bar Keepers Friend. And oh my goodness it’s like restoring to straight out of the box. wonderful cleaning product .
The second is the cooking option, I bought off of Amazon for less than $30 a Tri pod grill and even have an adjustable chain link height. Works great.
Anyway it’s fire pit season so enjoy.
Thanks for sharing these ideas, Bill!
I was curious if you burn through more wood then you normally would in a regular fire ring. It seam as if it is in constant oxygen flow you may be burning through a lot more wood?
Hi Chad – it’s been a while since I’ve had a bonfire in a regular fire ring, but I’d say the fire burns slightly longer in the Solo Stove, perhaps due to the secondary air vents? Anyway, I don’t believe that it burns through wood faster. 🙂 Hope that helps!
Dumb question but- how is the fire best extinguished? I wouldn’t feel comfortable leaving it to burn out if I wasn’t watching it. Thanks.
Hi Jane, unfortunately they don’t recommend putting water on it since that would rapidly change the temperature and damage the fire pit, not to mention the mess it would make. We have always let it burn out, planning that extra time into our evening, and making sure to check on it frequently if we have to walk away. They do make a shield that you can put over it to keep the embers in, and then a lid that you can put on it once it has cooled enough, which makes it safe to walk away until completely cool. Hope that helps! -Tonya