We picked up the Little Red Camp Fire specifically for our trip to Reno in early December. We knew temps were going to be in the mid-teens and wanted a way to keep warm in an area we couldn’t have a wood fire.
I had been looking to test one of these for several months. This last year, fire ravaged our beautiful Idaho back country and burn bans were rightly in place to protect us from all the morons who don’t know how to properly control a camp fire in dry conditions. I love hanging with the family around a camp fire, good conversations often result around open flame.
My immediate expectations were not met with this unit. Pre-trip testing showed that you had to stand practically on top of the unit to stay warm in 38 degree temps with 50% humidity. I decided to supplement the unit with lava rock to help retain and radiate heat.
In operational temps ranging from 9 to 22 degrees and 20% humidity, the unit was useless. Even with the lava rock, there was little or no useful heat from the unit.
I also found the unit to be indecisive on ignition and adjustment. The regulator and controls are poorly constructed. I had to fiddle with the control knob to get a steady flame and trying to just get the thing lit was a complex operation due to the cheap regulator.
I had read several reviews from other campers enjoying their unit in spite of the loud hissing noise. To me it is a non-concern. Yes it is loud, but really no worse than lanterns hanging around a camp site.
It comes with what I think are ceramic logs and ceramic ash. Used for the dual purpose of radiating heat and esthetics, they attempt to make the fire a bit more realistic. I found they are also cheaply made. When we unpacked it on our trip, the logs had cracked in half. At this point, I have not found a replacement.
Housing for the unit keeps it compact and protected, well except for the fake logs, I found the clamps that keep it secure to be difficult to manipulate when closing. Getting two on was no issue, but that third one was a pain. It was even more painful when closing the unit in 20 degree temps when your fingers are numb.
I would recommend the unit for summer campers who are in a burn ban and just need to knock the chill out of the air or who want a nice camp fire to chat around. Packing a single gas cylinder from my BBQ pit was nice and I didn’t have to factor in the variance that packing wood causes. For more serious back country camping in the late fall or winter, I cannot recommend this unit. At this point if you are just looking for warmth, there are other propane option I would look into. For what I spent on this unit, I will stick with my Volcano, and just add lava rock to the propane unit of it.
This was really disappointing and I hope to get better use of it this summer when the burn bans hit. Until then, I will keep it packed away,