Last time I went camping I took a product that is new to me–a fire cover called Campfire Defender. I’m always looking for ways to make a camping experience more fun, more memorable, more delicious (!) and, especially, safer. When I saw an ad for this item, I thought I would splurge and try it out. But first, a little basic information about this fire cover might be a good idea.
The Campfire Defender can be thrown over a fire to contain embers to a fire pit. It’s advertised as keeping coals burning for up to 8 hours, making campfire re-start much easier in the morning. There is a vent in the cover in the middle that you can adjust. The more open it is, the more oxygen is allowed under the cover to keep the coals and embers alive. If it is closed all the way it will not allow any oxygen in at all and the fire will put itself out.
It’s a good size, measuring 68″ x 60″ inches (1.72 meters x 1.52 meters), and it’s heavy–15.5 pounds (7 kilograms). It’s sold as a kit, with 8 glow-in-the-dark tent pegs (to peg it down in heavy winds and bad weather), a two-piece center peg (to keep the cover tented over the fire), gloves, a handy little flashlight, and it all fits into a very sturdy canvas carrying bag. The Campfire Defender has a money-back satisfaction guarantee and they say it will last for 100+ campfires. You Tube has a pretty good video about it if you want to see it in action.
There’s a lot of good ideas at work here. Put your fire out before bed, then use the Campfire Defender as an added measure of protections against the fire starting up again while you sleep. The same may be said when you leave your campsite to go hiking or whatever. No fire startup equals no loose embers possibly starting a forest fire while you’re not in a position to put it out. The Campfire Defender cover can withstand temperatures of up to 2500°F. The typical campfire is around 1500°F. Throw it on your campfire if it begins to rain or snow (if the fire has burned down to below 6″), it keeps the fire pit dry and the embers hot when you want to restart your fire.
The underside of the Campfire Defender is coated with a glass silicate material–for people who may be sensitive to such things, a pair of gloves is provided. It is recommended you wear them if you don’t know (although I didn’t wear the gloves and it didn’t bother me).
If you have little ones running around, the staked-down cover will prevent any injury to fire-curious kids. The weight isn’t a horrible problem–take it out of the vehicle and lay it up against a log near the fire and that’s it until you pack it up and take it back home, kind of like you do with cast iron cookware.
It is not, however, a hiker’s option. Fifteen pounds, baby. Place it over the fire area with the help of a friend. It doesn’t necessarily require two people but it makes it much easier because of the weight. And the cover is not waterproof, it is only water resistant. This means that water will bead and roll off, and also help channel water away from the fire pit area it covers. The price is prohibitive if you’re not treating yourself; right now it’s being sold at around $160.00.
Just a little note about the two-piece center stake as well: Campfire Defender FAQ says the center stake isn’t always necessary, but in most camping situations I think it probably is. Remember to take along something to pound the stake in with; even with the fire low or just coals it will be tricky leaning over and making sure it’s secure in the center of the fire pit. (Most of you already know this, but never try pounding the stake into the center of the fire pit when a fire is still burning. Don’t do it.) Incidentally, the cover discolors when it comes in contact withthe camp fire. Although it doesn’t retain its original prettiness, this is normal and won’t affect its usefulness.
Do not place the cover over a blazing bonfire. It will damage the underside and shorten it’s lifespan.
I was glad I bought the Campfire Defender. The trip I took it on was mostly dry but rained the last couple of days. Everything ended up being wet and cold, a fall day in the mountains. I took the cover off that last wet, cold morning and had a fire up and going inside of 5 minutes. Coals were really hot. I hardly needed kindling! And I liked the added feeling of security that the cover gave me when we turned in for the night. We’re pretty safety-conscious, but it’s nice to have that added layer of protection against accidental flare-ups. It’s one piece of equipment that I will be making sure I have every time.
I didn’t test the vent for fire extinguishing. We make sure a fire pit cold and wet before we permanently leave a camp site. We don’t take chances. But putting out a fire isn’t what I bought it for. Keeping us safe from embers kicked up by wind and restarting a fire in spite of wet weather is why we bought it. And on those two counts it performed beautifully.