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!