According to the National Park Service, 85 percent of wild-land fires are started by humans, and with each passing year they battle more illegal fire rings and burn scars in the natural places we love. Yet, I’ll be the first to admit that camping just doesn’t feel like camping without a fire, so how do we solve the problem? Well, one way is through portable fire pans. We’ve tested several through the years, but always struggled with their bulk and weight. Now a company called Fireside Outdoor is changing all of that, with an ultralight and portable pit called the Trailblazer.
Now, for those who aren’t familiar with Fireside Outdoor, they already make a lightweight and portable product called the Pop-up pit. We’ve used one both in the Western US and Baja, and fell in love with its easy to use and clean design. If you’re looking to host group fires and burn full-size logs, this larger pit will be the way to go. But for those looking for the lightest, easiest-to-pack option, the Trailblazer will be right up your alley. Here’s what you need to know.
About the Trailblazer
The Trailblazer is a collapsible aluminum fire pan that helps reduce your impact on the environment by lifting your fire off the ground and burning its contents to a fine ash that can be easily dispersed. It requires no hardware or tools to set up, and packs down to 14 x 4 x 4 inches or about the size of a standard camera tripod or Stanley Thermos. When open, it stands 11 inches tall and provides a 12- x 12-inch burn area made from a tight wire net they call fire mesh. This mesh not only makes the fire easier to light, but also helps it burn hotter, brighter, and with less smoke due to the airflow from underneath the pit. Below this mesh is a reflective heat shield to prevent any embers or radiating heat from scarring the ground.
The top of the fire pan can be paired with an elevated cooking grate made from food-grade 304 stainless steel. It measure’s in at 11 x 11 inches and, like the rest of the pit, requires no tools or hardware to install. When the fire is extinguished, the Trailblazer will cool down to room temperature in 90 seconds. (In full disclosure, it takes the larger Pop-up pit 90 seconds to cool, so it could actually be less on the Trailblazer though no official number has been published.) Once cool, everything zips neatly inside a storage bag to keep your vehicle clean.
We had the chance to put one of these new Trailblazers to the test last week, and overall, we really liked it. The fit and finish was solid, the stability in the dirt was good, and the weight and size were phenomenal for the limited space we have in our van. Setting up the Trailblazer took less than a minute once unwrapped and only required us to open the aluminum base like a camp chair, drop on the four sidewalls, slide on the fire mesh, and Velcro the shield. Voila, the fire pit was ready to go. Lighting the wood with the additional airflow under the fire was almost like cheating it was so easy, and being able to clean and collapse the fire pit so soon after the fire burned out was fantastic. Almost as fantastic as not having to worry about a large dirty fire pit rattling around in our vehicle and damaging other gear. There was only one major drawback after our test, and that was the size of the wood you need to use.
While the full-size pop-up pit will burn normal logs, the 12-inch pan on the trailblazer will require something more petite. If you’re gathering branches and twigs already down around camp this won’t be an issue, but for anyone bringing a standard bundle of wood, you may find yourself doing a fair bit of chopping to get your pile ready for the night. Fortunately, the pit does burn less wood over time thanks to its size, so the wood you do chop will go a long way.
After our brief evaluation period of this product, I have to say I’m impressed. It provides all of the campfire vibes we’re looking for, in a package that won’t get your vehicle dirty, takes up almost no room, and is extremely lightweight. Most importantly, it meets the USFS and BLM regulations for a fire pan, so you can rest easy knowing that your enjoyment of the outdoors isn’t ruining it for others down the line.