An insanely efficient fire pit with a low smoke output for car camping, evenings in the backyard and beach bonfires
There are few things better than whiling away an evening sitting around a campfire. But when it takes an age to get going and you end up coming away smelling like an ashtray, this ideal can lose its appeal rather quickly. Queue the simple genius of the Solo Stove Ranger! It boasts dual air circulation to facilitate a secondary burn which makes this portable fire pit incredibly efficient and almost smoke-free. It’s also a breeze to get started, needs very little tending to and creates the most mesmerising flames you’ll ever see!
Solo Stove Ranger: The stats
|Best for:||Car camping, backyards, beach fires (if you don’t have to carry it too far)|
|Weight:||15lbs / 6.80kg|
|Dimensions:||15 x 12.5 in / 38 x 32cm|
|Material:||304 Stainless Steel|
Features of the Solo Stove Ranger
Air ventsThere are two sets of air vents that cleverly work in combination to produce an exceptionally efficient burn, creating as much heat as possible. One set of vents is on the outside of the stove to draw air in at the base. This air goes in one of two directions: into the main body of the stove to fuel the fire from below or up through the inside of the stove wall where it is heated. This heated air then comes out of the second set of vents on the inside of the stove near the top to provide a secondary burn of preheated air.
Ash pan and base plate
At the very bottom of the main burn chamber is an ash pan which catches ash and prevents the airflow from getting clogged. The fire burns on the base plate which sits above the ash pan, ensuring that there is enough space below it for air to be directed straight into the embers of the fire for efficient combustion.
The removable fire ring sits securely on the top of the Ranger and is designed to centre the flames and keep the heat even. When not in use, the ring flips over for more streamlined storage and carrying.
The Ranger comes with a tough, heavy duty nylon carry case. The case has two handles for transporting and is opened and closed via a drawstring.
Solo Stove Ranger review
Last year I had the joy of welcoming the Solo Stove Lite – a portable wood burning camp stove – into my life. I absolutely love it! It’s incredibly efficient, lightweight and simple. (You can read my full review of it here!)
So, as you can imagine, I was rather excited to get hold of the Lite’s larger, burlier and more powerful cousin, the Solo Stove Ranger. It’s the smallest of Solo Stove’s fire pit range which makes it just about portable enough to haul to the beach from your car. It uses the same clever yet painfully simple air circulation system as the other stoves and fire pits, resulting in unrivalled efficiency when it comes to burning fuel.
So far, I’ve mostly used the Ranger in my back garden to keep us warm on some chilly outdoor movie nights we’ve had over the summer. But it’s also come car camping with me a couple of times, as well as adding a delightful ambiance on autumn afternoons at the beach.
Solo Stove claims that the Ranger has a low smoke output. I’m always dubious about such bold statements – it’s a fire! At least it doesn’t claim to be smokeless. Though, to be honest, if you burn the right kind of wood (that’s not damp), it may as well stake that claim too. Because there are a second set of air vents – internally at the top of the burn chamber – any smoke that hasn’t burned from the heart of the fire gets re-ignited as it goes past the air vents. The air that comes out of the top vents is preheated and fuels the flames for a more complete combustion. The result? An almost smoke-free fire! You also get a mesmerising lightshow of finger-like flames that spew out of the air vents and join the main mass of dancing flames.
Pile on a load of damp logs and you’ll get smoke. Damp logs still ignite eventually, especially if you put them on an already mature fire. But don’t expect any smoke-free miracles.
Easy to light?
As with the Solo Stove Lite, the Ranger is incredibly easy to get going. I usually just use a bit of screwed up newspaper, light a small piece of cotton wool dipped in vaseline, and then place some kindling on top. This gets going instantly and lights bigger sticks almost as quickly. Logs go on after only a minute or two of the small stuff burning. Once there’s a flame, no matter how small, it seems almost impossible to be unsuccessful at getting a great fire going. And once it’s going, it’s a breeze to keep alight. No need for constant prodding and tinkering of the logs. You just chuck them in and leave this simple piece of genius to work its magic!
Another minor miracle of the Ranger is its ability to burn wood so efficiently that it barely leaves any ash behind. And what ash is left over has burned away to a very fine dust. So, clean up couldn’t be easier: just tip the fire pit upside down to empty out the ash, and you’re done!
Although it’s ideal for toasting marshmallows, pie iron treats and cooking on a skewer, the Ranger isn’t designed to cook on, as such. But that doesn’t mean it’s not possible!
The grill from my BBQ placed over the Ranger is ideal for cooking on. You need to let the flames really die down if you want to grill directly over the fire. Otherwise, use a pan on top of the grill and it actually puts you in a very comfortable sitting position to cook; no bending or crouching precariously to lift off your scalding pan from the flames!
I’ve also used a grilling basket over the Ranger, as well as cooked food in a pot hung from a tripod over the flames.
What I love the most about the Solo Stove Ranger
I often border on being a little bit of a lazy being. If something’s too hard to do I can easily find a reason not to do it. So the Ranger’s ability to get going with minimal effort scores huge points with me. As does it’s low maintenance once lit. Oh, and also how easy it is to clean out.
I also rather enjoy watching the flames burn. It may sound a little fantastical, but I really feel like flames in the Ranger visibly burn differently compared with your regular campfire. Their movement jumps between slow and mellow and speedy and swift. The effect is like they’re burning in slow motion. Perhaps you need to see for yourself to understand what I’m mumbling on about?!
What I don’t love so much about the Solo Stove Ranger
Though the Ranger is, most certainly, portable, it’s not the easiest to carry far. It doesn’t pack down any smaller that it is and, as such, is a little bit awkward to carry any distance. 100 metres or so is fine. If you want to carry it much further than that then a shoulder strap on the carry case (as well as the carry handles) would be a big improvement.
They may be already working on it, but if not, then I’d like Solo Stove to create a grill that is compatible with the Ranger. This would knock its versatility rating through the roof. That said, it would also knock its already hefty price tag up a few notches too. And it’s not as though I can’t cook over it as it is.
It’s certainly not on the inexpensive fire pits list. However, if you’re looking for an extremely well made, portable fire pit, that will last you for many years of campfires, then it’s certainly worth forking out for. And that doesn’t even take into consideration how darn awesome this thing is! The Solo Stove Ranger is truly an exceptional creation that makes me want to have backyard campfires every night of the week. It’s so easy to get started, needs little attention once it’s going, puts out a load of heat, is almost smoke-free and can even be cooked over, with a few specific bits of campfire cooking equipment.
Honestly, there is almost nothing to dislike about this superbly well-designed fire pit. It’s the perfect addition to any car camping trip, backyard movie night or beach bonfire.
Two big thumbs up from me!
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Disclaimer: Cool of the Wild received this product free in return for an honest review. We only recommend gear that we love from companies we trust and we are under no obligation to give a positive review. All thoughts and opinions are that of the reviewer and we are in no way influenced by the brand or company.