Saturday, March 14, 2015

Firebox Campfire Stove - Part 2

The most important question as always, is how did it perform?
No better way to find out, then through field tests.

When you've had the opportunity to use various twig stoves, you know fairly quickly if the design will work. I could tell even before I used the Firebox, it was going to work well. It had all the key elements that would facilitate a good burn. Plenty of ventilation from the bottom plate, through to the side plates, and most importantly, a gap at the top for the exhaust gases to exit out of. Of course, no one evaluates gear by just looking at it. Field use is the only way to really find out. But before we get into that, let's find out what other physical elements make this a good stove.

You can either use those long pieces of wood for cooking over
a firepit, or use them more efficiently in the Firebox.

The heavier weight of the stove, which in many respects is often viewed as a negative, was actually a positive. Most times, the combination of the pot and water/food is often heavier than the twig stove below, so there is a weight imbalance. It becomes a top heavy situation, which isn't ideal. However, this is where the Firebox shines, as the heavy stove becomes a solid stable base. Often times, whatever combination of pot/content I had on top, it was equal, or less than the weight of the stove below, which gives an extra measure of confidence to the user that it can't easily be knocked over.

Versatility is another great quality of the Firebox. It can be used
with other combustibles, like alcohol in this picture. 

The vertical design and height of the stove can also be seen as a detriment, as it would be more prone to tipping. But as I've already mentioned, the stove weight helps to off set that risk. But there are benefits to this design. A taller vertical element allows you to put longer twigs in and angle them against the side wall, so that they rest above the flame. This is ideal when you have slightly damp wood, so that it has an opportunity to dry it out before catching fire. Otherwise, putting smaller pieces of twigs in, whether dry or not, often times land on top of the coals and flames, temporarily stifling it. This unfortunately creates a cycle of high heat vs low heat, as the new wood has to catch on again to build pp the flame and heat.

Rain? No problem. The Firebox will follow
 you under the tarp.

Now that we've covered the physical attributes of the stove, the big question ultimately comes down to whether the Firebox performed as well as expected in the field. The simple answer is yes. The Firebox did not disappoint, nor had issues while in use. It had plenty of ventilation from the bottom and sides to feed the stove oxygen. The spacing at the top was adequate for all the hot gases to escape and not temper the flame. The windscreen helped when directed into the wind, to keep the flame upright, opposed to horizontal. It was stable and I never once feared that it would tip over. (Assuming you're on a good flat base.) It simply just worked well, and did it time and time again. In fact, there was little that I had to quibble about in how the stove worked. As you'll see, the only two things I will mention below, are just minor inconveniences.

Here's the Firebox with the windscreen up,....

....and here with the windscreen down.

The first thing is getting a fire lit in the Firebox. Because of it's tall vertical design, it isn't always easy to light from the bottom, as there are no slots on the sidewall to put your match or lighter through. One way to deal with this, is to make sure your tinder is right at the bottom, so that when you put a flame in through the bottom where there are big holes, it will easily catch. (You will need to remove the ash tray first.) The other alternative is doing a top down burn, which basically entails stuffing the stove with dry twigs/wood topped with tinder, and then lighting it from the top. This is ideal, only if you have good dry material underneath for the flame to easily catch. Otherwise, a bottom burn is preferable for less than perfectly dry material. In any case, both ways works, you just have to decide based on circumstances.

With a twig stove like the Firebox, you don't even need a
saw or axe. Twigs is really all you need.

The other thing is the Fire Sticks. I used them on and off, but most times I didn't. The biggest problem I foresee with these Fire Sticks, is losing them. Once they are heated and discoloured, you can easily lose them in the dirt or grass, as they blend in so well. So the best thing probably is to put them on the stove and just use them. The only reason I often didn't, was because my pot was big enough that I didn't need them, and because they got in the way of me feeding the stove. (Bigger twigs) But at the same token, I love them for moving coals, adjusting the wood inside the stove, and transporting the stove itself. They really are handy, but you just have to be mindful of where you put them, if you don't need them.

There is one thing that I would like to mention and remind everyone who uses twig stoves. (This is not exclusive to the Firebox.) The ash tray on the Firebox is elevated from the ground, and I wondered if it was enough to keep the ground from charring. Nope. Therefore, whether the Firebox or any other twig stove, please be mindful and place a non-combustible material underneath the stove. A flat rock is ideal, or a gravel/sand/rock base would work as well. Other options can include digging into a clay base, or maybe even placing it on a block of wood. In any case, to prevent the campsites from being scarred with blackened and charred spots, please use common sense and good foresight to prevent this from happening. Thanks.

Another place to use the Firebox, is in the firepit. No worries about
the ground underneath, and the mess is all contained. 

Lastly, I'm going to touch on the subject of the Firebox's weight again, as I'm sure, this issue may put people off from purchasing this stove. It is undeniably heavy. It certainly is not the ideal stove for someone going ultralight, or trying to save some weight off their backs. There are plenty of other alternatives. But let me point out one thing. This stove will outlast you. It is built like a tank. That thick stainless steel metal will not wear out anytime soon, nor will it warp. (Which is a common trait of thin-walled twig stoves.) A little warping is often not a big deal, but for a hinged set-up such as the Firebox, it is crucial. If anything warps, there would be no way it would come back together so nicely. So there is a very valid reason for it's thickness, besides the fact, that this stove will most certainly last a lifetime. How many outdoor things or gear that you own, have that kind of durability? Yeah, I thought so. 

The beauty of a twig stove, is that it can do more than just help
you cook. It can provide warmth and ambiance,
even when solo.

So is this the perfect twig stove? No, but close. It is solidly built, is very versatile, and performs well. If weight is not a concern, then this could be the last twig stove you will ever own.With everything in life, often times, there are trade offs. The goal of perfection is a seemingly endless pursuit. One in which it could be accomplished down the road sometime. We can wait a lifetime to find out, or we can use the best of what we have right now. In that timeline, some will be waiting, and others will be using the Firebox stove. It's your choice.

The Firebox's build will be it's legacy, as it will probably be
around long after you're gone.

If this stove fits your bill, and is to your liking and needs, you can order/purchase it here in Canada from the Canadian Outdoor Equipment Store in Mississauga. If you are from the US, or an international locale, alternatively, you can order straight from the company's website at

Enjoy, and happy camping!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Firebox Campfire Stove - Part 1

Some may envision this as a firebox, but the Firebox
Campfire Stove is a bit different.

Cooking with fire has always been a main stay of human evolution. Sure, there is a lot of food out there that can be eaten raw, but for the most part, fire has established a permanent foothold in our enjoyment of food, in its variety and its taste. So is it no surprise, that to this day, we are still designing and creating unique vessels to conjure up that basic element of fire and heat? Just do a search on Google on twig stoves. You will find an endless array of commercial, homemade, and DIY contraptions. It's the new rage. Or is it?

You can have this raw or cooked. Personally,
I like it prepared with fire.

Years ago, when I was introduced to my first commercial twig stove to review, it was new in the sense that they were one of the first to design, produce, and market them to sell. The concept and idea of a twig stove certainly wasn't new, as people were doing this for many years prior, simply from metal items and canisters found around home. It was this step up in purposeful design, efficiency in both utilization and packability, including durable materials, that a revolution began. Now here we are, with a vast array of choices, designs, and prices. So is it no surprise, that another twig stove has landed on my lap?

Last year, at the Toronto Sportsmen Show, I chanced upon meeting a sales rep from an outdoor gear distribution company. Our chat naturally led to gear talk. One of the things that transpired, was a discussion on twig stoves and how they compared to each other. Since I had experiences with many of them, including writing reviews, he claimed he distributed the best twig stove on the market - the Firebox. Of course, my curiosity was piqued. In exchange for sending me the Firebox, he requested a review on my blog. How could I say no? We shook hands and parted ways. Several weeks later, a packaged arrived with the Firebox and several accessories. It was time to get on with the review.

Here she is, the Firebox campfire stove, in its
compact form, for transporting

The Firebox has actually been around for a few years, so my review of it will certainly not be new. Although, for those of you who haven't heard of it, or either had the opportunity to use it, this review will definitely be more relevant and informative. The other pertinent side to this review, is comparing it's function and performance in comparison to others that I've tested previously. This will then give you a better idea as to where it stands in relation to others. As always, with this twig stove or any other such gear, I use it over the course of a season, so that it gets a fair amount of use under varying conditions. This really is the only way to evaluate gear fairly, and the Firebox was no exception.

As you can CLEARLY see, I was busy
reviewing the stove. Honest!

The first thing you will notice about this stove, is its weight. It is not light. At 939 grams (Or roughly just over 2lbs), the Firebox is a solid piece of metal. It is constructed in the US of high quality 18 gauge stainless steel. I wondered why it was so heavy, which I then noticed it's thick gauge construction. I took a measurement of it's walls with a caliper and measured 1.12mm. Sure, that doesn't seem like much, but compared to other twig stoves, it was by far the thickest stove wall I have ever seen. The others ranged from half that thickness to even less, from 0.56mm down to 0.23mm. We often times associate weight with quality, and this is no exception. More on this later.

The Firebox is a solid piece of quality stainless
steel. There's no denying that.

A nice feature of this stove you'll quickly notice is it's compactness. It literally folds completely flat and is only 11mm thick, which is amazing. The dimensions are not to shabby either, at 130mm x 190mm. All of the main pieces of the stove (5) are attached together by hinges, so there is no way to lose them, or fiddle about when putting it together. The other 3 pieces hold the stove together when collapsed. The ash tray clasps on to the side of one of the stove wall, and the two 'Fire Sticks' slot into openings that securely hold everything together. It is a brilliant design that is simple, compact, and versatile.

Here's the Firebox broken down

The Firebox is very compact. Folds totally flat
and is no thicker than a AA battery!

One curious thing you may, or may not see in the picture, is that the Firebox, once assembled, (looking down), isn't square. It's a quadrilateral (four sides) that doesn't fit in the definition of it's various categories. The closest fit would be a trapezoid, but even by that definition, it doesn't fit, as two sides has to be parallel. Anyhow, ignoring the convoluted geometry aspect, I was wondering why the odd shape. If you look at the stove folded down, it looks to be four equal sides. I finally realized that the unusual shape has nothing to do with an anomaly or some tweak on performance, but rather, a purposeful design element. It is so that that whole set up folds up flat into itself with the hinges. I'm not going to get into the details of why, other than it works. Just trust me.

It's not squared!!!

Versatility is another huge feature of the Firebox. If you look at the Firebox box when set up, you will notice an array of slots, cut outs, and openings. Sure, it looks nice, as if the person that designed the stove purposely added his artistic flair to it. But in fact, other than a cool design motif, those openings actually serve a purpose. Remember the two Fire Sticks that come with the stove? They are not crocheting needles or chopsticks. They actually are supports. Depending on the pot you have, those Fire Sticks can be placed in whatever desired arrangement or configuration that works with what you have, including holding a Trangia alcohol stove. I will not go into every possible arrangement, but the endless configurations is just as adaptable to the endless array of pots and combustibles that are out there to be used. Go nuts.

Want to use an alcohol stove? Sure, go ahead. Just one
of many arrangements you can put together
with the Firebox.

One other small thing I'd like to point out in regards to the Fire Sticks, is that they can also be used to move the stove while lit. Of course extreme care is needed, but if the conditions call for a move, (wind, rain, etc), you can do it fairly easy without burning yourself. Just use the Fire Sticks to hook into a couple of the openings and voila, you can move it wherever you want. Plus, the stick can also be used an a 'poker' to adjust your coals and wood in the stove. Pretty neat.

Lastly, there is the ash tray. All Fireboxes come with an ash tray, which is a big bonus, as many twig stoves either don't come with one, or they must be purchased separately. I've always believed ash trays should be included with twig stoves. Sure, there are some circumstances that may not warrant having one, but most times they do. I believe it forces us to be responsible in containing the remains of a fire and keeping the site clean. Just please remember to fully extinguish the coals and ashes before dumping them in a fire pit or in a hole in the ground.

A closer look at both the Fire Sticks and 
the ash tray below.

The only downside to getting the stove, is that you get it naked. No cover, no bag, no nothing. (I however did, when I got the package.) But my point is this. Why doesn't it come with one? I've never understood the reasoning for this. Think about this. A fire creates soot and ash, and it gets messy. Sure, you can wipe it down, but unless you spend an inordinate amount of time cleaning every nook and cranny, there will still be some soot to contend with. Want to shove that stove in a pack with everything else? Luckily, the edges of the stove are all machined down and smooth, so there is nothing sharp to snag on, but really, wouldn't you want a bag? Sure, there are those ultralight folks that want to save every gram, but if that was the case, they certainly wouldn't be purchasing this stove. It's a personal opinion, but something that seems to make sense to me.

You'll want one of these for your Firebox, you know,
to keep it from being 'naked'.

The good thing is, there are lots of accessories that you can purchase with your Firebox. Yes, including a case. If you lose a Fire Stick, you can buy more. If you want to grill on your Fire Box, they sell that too. This is the other aspect of versatility with this stove. You can have your cake, and eat it too. It will just cost you. So there you go. You now know what the Firebox campfire stove is. So now, how does she work?

Stay tuned for Part 2!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Gone? Not Totally.

I may seem more like a silhouette of my former self on 
this blog, but I'm still around!

It's been quite some time since I've last been seen around on my blog. As most of you already know, I've shifted my focus of sharing onto Facebook, due to the vastly superior method of exposure and audience engagement. I've found myself writing/posting more pictures than ever on Facebook, but sometimes, that forum is not always ideal for everything, like a gear review. Hence why, the blog still exists. I know I've had some inquiry as to when I'll be writing again on my blog, as obviously, some of you have enjoyed it - thank you. Well, I do encourage you to join me on Facebook, but of course, not everyone has an account on Facebook, nor want to join. I do apologize for shifting my focus away from my blog, but yes, there still will be the odd blog post. Coming up soon, a review of the Firebox camp stove. See you soon.