Solo Stove Bonfire 2.0 review: a portable pit for brilliant burns

Expensive it may be, but can you put a price on an evening around the fire?

Solo Stove Bonfire 2.0 review
(Image credit: Alex Cox / T3)
T3 Verdict

The Solo Stove Bonfire 2.0 is unique. It looks different to everything else in its field, it works differently, and it packs away perfectly. It's not going to work miracles, and accessorising it out means emptying your bank account, but it's an incredibly satisfying way to get a fire going.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Fully portable and easy to pack away

  • +

    Unique looks suit modern gardens

  • +

    Burns off smoke when the fire's roaring...

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    ...but can be smoky when things are cooler

  • -

    Rather expensive, even it its base configuration

  • -

    Appearance won't suit every garden

Why you can trust T3 Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

The best fire pit makes a great addition to any garden. A good fire extends the usability of your outdoor space by adding warmth on colder nights, it's a fantastic addition if you're entertaining friends or family – heck, you might even be able to cook on it.

But not all fire pits are created equal. The vast majority demand that you create a permanent space for them to sit, or at least threaten to dislodge a few vertebrae if you deign to move them. Most also enjoy rusting, and while they'll claim it's a natural patina I'm really not so sure about that.

Solo Stove's idea is something quite different. The company has been built on the concept of portable stainless steel fire pits. They'll develop a patina, sure, but it shouldn't be a fuzzy orange one that threatens to turn them to flakes in a couple of years. So, let's check out the second edition of the Bonfire and see what's up.

Solo Stove Bonfire 2.0 review: Unboxing and setup

It's not especially hard to free the Solo Stove Bonfire 2.0 from its box. It doesn't weigh an awful lot, though it's tightly packed in the bottom layer of polystyrene, so it's either a job for two people or a task for one determined individual employing a little creative footwork and a few well-placed swears. Ahem.

Inside the main shell of the Bonfire 2.0, you'll find several other components. First, an edge ring, designed to sit on the top of the pit and direct airflow. It comes inverted to shave a centimetre or two from the Bonfire's height, but the instructions are clear enough to install it the other way up when you're actually running a fire.

Also included with my review unit was a stand. In this case, it's a perforated ring of metal designed to be sat on by the main unit; just toss it on the ground where you want the Bonfire 2.0 to go and place the bulk of it on top. 

Next in the package is the fire grate, a slightly convex disc upon which you put your wood for burning, and (new for the 2.0 version of the Bonfire) a removable ash pan to sit beneath it. There's absolutely no complex assembly to do, or really anything I'd term 'assembly' at all. Just place the items where they're supposed to go and you're ready.

Solo Stove Bonfire 2.0 review

(Image credit: Alex Cox / T3)

Solo Stove Bonfire 2.0 review: design and features

The Solo Stove Bonfire 2.0 has two key gimmicks. I've already revealed the first of these: it's lightweight and portable, and it's fair to say that Solo Stove has succeeded on that front. Made of a double skin of stainless steel, rather than the big hunks of rusty iron that certain others employ, this isn't a chore to lift or to disassemble, though I did admit defeat and ask for help when it came to inserting it into the included waterproof bag.

The second gimmick is perhaps slightly more important for people who live, as I do, in a fairly urban area surrounded by houses full of usually-angry neighbours: the Bonfire, like all of Solo Stove's output, is designed to emit as little smoke as possible. 

The key here are those holes around the outside base and inside top edge. As the fire heats up, the holes allow the Bonfire to pull clean, cool air in from the outside, drag it through the double-skinned outer walls, and eject it above the flames. This effectively creates the opportunity for secondary combustion, in theory burning off the smoke. Note the careful language I'm using there, because it'll be important later on.

It's worth talking about the way the Solo Stove Bonfire 2.0 looks, because it's going to be divisive. Rustic charm this ain't: it's a very industrial design. I quite like it, particularly once the steel starts to discolour into rainbow hues after a few good fires. At the same time, I have to admit that there's something of a hobos-huddled-around-an-oil-can vibe to the whole thing, which may not set the kind of mood you want it to if you have a more traditional-looking garden.

Solo Stove Bonfire 2.0 review: performance

Here's where I come back to that low-smoke burning gimmick with a mixture of good and bad news.

First the good: when the Bonfire is blazing, it really works. You can basically see the afterburner kicking in, with an extra lick of flame just at the point where it leaves the main body of the Bonfire, and little to no smoke output at all. But when the fire isn't quite hot enough, this either can't pull quite enough convection or doesn't have enough heat to kick off the process. That means that while this is far more polite than many fire pits, it has periods which are smoky enough that I wouldn't really recommend it for super-urban environments unless you're feeling particularly antisocial.

And this is a very social fire pit. It's a delight to be around, because it keeps your face free of smoke and throws off a bucket load of heat. My family and I found it great for toasting marshmallows entirely too quickly, and with a little jerry-rigging of a suitably-sized grill grate (or an investment in one of Solo Stove's first-party offerings) you could probably cook a sausage or two on your embers.

Clean up is easier than it would have been on the previous generation of the Bonfire thanks to the included ash pan. Don't think, though, that this entirely solves the 'hold the whole thing upside down and shake it to clean it' problem. There's a lip around the ash pan that will catch little charcoal nuggets and plenty of ash, and a void below it that may host a little water or debris if you're unlucky. While it's easy enough to remove the bulk from the edges – you can generally sweep it in to the pan when cleaning up – you'll still need to invert the main part of the Bonfire now and then, particularly if you're putting it away in the bag.

Solo Stove Bonfire 2.0 review: Price and availability 

You can still get the 1.0 version of the Bonfire, without an ash pan or a stand, for around £200. While you can burn up a storm in it, it'll be a pain to clean and you'll scorch your lawn.

I'm reviewing the base model of the Solo Stove Bonfire 2.0, which comes in at just over £300 and can be found on Amazon, third party sellers, or directly from Solo Stove. If I had a big complaint about anything, it would be the price: this feels precision-made, and more special than other fire pits, but that's a significant price – and it only goes up once you factor in accessories.

Invest (a significant amount) more and Solo Stove has a laundry list of extras to choose from, including a lid for rain proofing, a heat deflector to further improve its gather-round credentials, a shield to prevent the escape of any embers and your choice of a griddle-top or grill-top. I'm happy with the basic set, honestly, but if you're thinking of making this a more permanent addition to your garden then there's plenty of scope to expand.

Solo Stove Bonfire 2.0 review

(Image credit: Alex Cox / T3)

Solo Stove Bonfire 2.0 review: Verdict

I thoroughly enjoyed having the Solo Stove Bonfire 2.0 on my lawn, and the included stand meant that the lawn didn't seem to mind at all. It doesn't do magic, but it does effectively remove the bulk of the smoke from your burn – that, and its fairly unique looks, mean this is a fire pit that's very unlike the majority of its competition. If you want something which can live in your shed through the winter and which doesn't demand a significant weight training regiment to set up, this is absolutely the best fire pit going. Even if you don't think you need a fire pit, the Solo Stove Bonfire 2.0 is one serious convincer.

Alex Cox

T3 magazine's own Gadget Guru is a 25-year veteran of the tech writing wars, and has the scars to prove it. He's written for the UK's biggest technology publications, and knows everything from smart doorbell voltage needs to how to bend Windows to his every whim.