Wednesday, October 4, 2017
Portable fire! Advantages of a gas fire bowl
Almost every great picture of families gathered around a campfire show a wood fire pit with everyone roasting marshmallows. But when you actually start traveling around the country, it's quite surprising how many campgrounds don't allow wood fires. Of those that do allow them, there are some that won't allow you to pick up dead or fallen wood on the ground; you must buy the firewood.
As we have traveled, it seems that most campgrounds prohibit wood fires or simply don't support them because they haven't installed fire rings. We wanted a solution that would allow us to have a campfire almost everywhere we go, and that solution was to buy a propane gas fire bowl.
While wood campfires crackle, pop, and can smell good, they are actually a bit of a pain to use. You have to buy the wood, get it to your campsite, open it, stack it, get stuff to light it, stoke it, add more wood, and finally douse it with water to put it out. Fire pit cleanup can be a real pain for campground owners, and (technically) it actually may be illegal to carry firewood into some states from other states.
A propane gas fire bowl eliminates a lot of the hassle. The flames look great, they are quiet, provide really good heat, have adjustable flames, and are clean, clean, clean. Setting one up is a breeze: get it out of your rig, remove the cover, connect it to an LP source, and turn it on. When you're finished, turn it off, let it cool down, disconnect and put it away.
Although we've found that many campgrounds we have visited in the past year don't allow wood fires, every campground we've been in has had no problem whatsoever with a gas fire bowl - except Fort Wilderness at Disney World. One of the big arguments against wood fires are the embers it creates and potentially spreads to nearby leaves and trees. For the past few years, fires have raged across the country, and government and private campgrounds have greatly curtailed wood fires in campgrounds. Gas fire bowls don't create embers and are much safer. Fort Wilderness has an extra requirement: you may use a fire pit or bowl as long as it is completely enclosed and has a top on it (the idea being that embers can't escape). However, they have made no exception for open-topped gas fire bowls. Here are the detailed rules at Fort Wilderness:
I asked around on Facebook and then searched the Internet for a fire bowl that could easily be used at the campsite, would be easy to carry, and could be used repeatedly without any issues. A lot of campers told me to look at one of the fire bowls made by Outland. The one we chose, pictured at the top of this article, is Outland's Firebowl Premium Portable Propane Fire Pit. It sells on Amazon for around $150. When you consider that you can have a camp fire quickly and just about anywhere, with little mess and no expense other than the initial cost and the gas, it really is a good deal.
The "size" of the flame can be adjusted with a knob on the side. We have found that the lowest setting is all we need for a great camp fire. The bowl comes with an attached 10-foot rubber (plastic?) gas tube with a regulator on the end for a quick connection to a propane source. I went to Walmart and bought a 20-pound propane tank that can be refilled at many RV parks. Although I haven't really made an accurate measurement, I'll guess that we can get 12 hours or so of fire from a full tank.
You can get a nice carrying case to keep the fire bowl covered while traveling. The basic unit comes with a metal cover over the fake (but real-looking and reusable) rocks. The unit comes with extra rocks.
When you unpack the Outland Firebowl, you simply open the rock bags and put them in the container (they tell you which ones go on bottom, middle and top). Then you screw the regulator onto your propane source, turn on the gas at the source, then slowly turn the knob on the bowl clockwise. As you do this, the gas enters the bowl and as you keep turning the igniter clicks and lights the flame. Once the fire is going, you can turn the flame up by continuing to move the knob clockwise. When you're finished, turn off the gas at the source, wait a little bit for the gas to leave the hose through the fire bowl (the flame will go out) and then turn the knob all the way counter-clockwise to be ready for the next use. It usually takes mine about an hour to cool down enough for me to feel comfortable enough to put it back into my coach.
If you're interested here are the direct links to Amazon where you can check out the Firebowl and it's optional cover. If you get one, leave some feedback here or recommend it on Facebook (and maybe post a link to this article!). And remember, I don't get anything from Outland or Amazon or anyone else - so I have no reason to push anyone into a sale.
Amazon link 1: Outland Firebowl Premium Portable Propane Fire Pit
Amazon link 2: Outland Firebowl Carry Bag
Take care...and safe travels!