Collapsible Bonfire pit puts wood fire cooking power in your pocket
Open-fire cooking you can carry anywhere, the new Alpha Bonfire from Japanese startup The Brand Labo collapses flat into a smartphone-sized package small enough to drop in a pocket. It carries easily by foot, luggage or light vehicle, building into a mini fire pit and grill you can use wherever the journey takes you. The compact kit even brings its own tiny utensils for preparing and eating the food.
From tripod-supported mesh baskets, to fold-up BBQ boxes, the market has welcomed plenty of fire pit/grills portable enough to carry in a car or on a motorcycle, but few ideal for carrying by foot and fewer still small enough to fit in a pocket. The Wolf and Grizzly Fire Safe is one that comes to mind, but it relies on a separate grill for cooking, adding to the overall packed size and weight.
In contrast, the Alpha Bonfire packs everything needed to hold a campfire and cook atop it in a tiny package that measures just 5.8 x 2.7 x 0.2 in (147 x 69 x 5 mm) when packed - truly as a compact and pocketable as a smartphone. The kit comprises five card-like, 1-mm-thick stainless steel panels that stack atop each other during travel and build up into a V-shaped fire bowl with height-adjustable grill top. The design and assembly are very similar to collapsible car-camping fire pits like the Stahl Camper or Blue Ridge Flatpacker, albeit miniaturized for activities like backpacking, kayak camping and bikepacking.
Perhaps the cleverest part of the Alpha Bonfire design, the grill top houses a series of utensils that pop out of the slots, leaving behind a grate. Being a Japanese design, there's a pair of chopsticks, along with a knife and fork. The utensils are tiny and probably not at all user-friendly for dining, but the fact that they're built in means users will never have to do without. And whether they perform comfortably for dining or not, they should prove useful for simple actions like stirring the chili or flipping over the steak. Those who want something more substantial to use once dinner is served could always bring along a set of ultraportable cutlery, like GoSun Flatware or S+ Cutlery.
After setting the grill up, it's as simple as starting a fire with sticks collected around camp. Despite the "Bonfire" name, we're guessing the small fire will ultimately be more for ambiance and cooking than warming a group of people, but it's definitely better than having no fire at all in places where building an open ground fire is impermissible. The grill can be used to cook food directly or to hold a pan or pot of food, more like a stove burner.
Along with overnight camping, The Brand Labo imagines the Alpha Bonfire finding day use during activities like fishing and hiking. Its pocketable size means it doesn't have to be the only piece of cooking equipment one brings and could easily complement a backpacking stove to create a fuller, more versatile backcountry kitchen.
The Brand Labo describes itself as a startup that works with workshops and manufacturers to launch creative products and help revitalize local economies. It plans to have the Alpha Bonfire units made in Japan through Osaka-based manufacturer Plan Co. It's currently running an Indiegogo campaign to raise money to get the mini fire pit to market, with pledge levels starting at ¥8,840 (approx. US$82), a 15 percent discount off the planned retail of ¥10,400 ($96).
The video below shows how the Alpha Bonfire makes dinner hand in hand with other lightweight, ultraportable gear.