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This year’s wildfire season in the Centennial State hasn’t been as hellacious as we feared (at least, not yet). Even so, the very real concern that it could flare up at any time—especially after the Marshall fire—is ever-present, and that angst, along with fire restrictions and bans, makes hanging around the campfire exceedingly rare, if not impossible. When fire restrictions limit what you can do on public lands, or you think the conditions are just a little too risky for s’mores over a small backyard campfire, what are the best ways to enjoy your evenings outside? We rounded up some gear that might help.
The traditional campfire isn’t the only way to enjoy a flame at night. The Ignik FireCan ($199.99) is a cross between a military surplus ammo can and a propane grill that’s a great substitute for the standard fire ring during wildfire season. The can is raised off the ground, and since it doesn’t burn wood, there are no embers to spark an unintended conflagration. Exactly what is and isn’t allowed under any particular stage of fire restrictions is up to local counties and municipalities—so be sure to check your local government websites—but in most cases, liquid-fueled fires are OK.
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In certain places—like if you’re rafting the Ruby-Horsethief section of the Colorado River near Grand Junction—you’re required to have a dedicated fire pit, regardless of the fire restrictions. But even where it’s not required, it’s far safer (not to mention better Leave No Trace ethics) to use a fire pan like this one from Fireside Outdoor ($119.95). It sets up fast and packs down small; prevents damage to the ground you’re on; and improves airflow through your fire, leaving you with less to clean up afterward.
Without campfire smoke to shoo away the bugs, using a unit like the Thermacell E55 ($39.99) makes it easy to keep from being bit, without resorting to smelly or toxic sprays. The unit recharges via USB, and comes with repellent pods that don’t have a scent, last 12 hours, and create a 20-foot zone of mosquito protection around your camp chairs during wildfire season.
There’s not much that can replicate the smell and flavor of cooking over a campfire, but using the sun to warm your victuals comes pretty close. The GoSun Sport ($279) is a solar oven that maxes out at roughly 550 degrees, enough to bake, sear, or steam whatever you’re hoping to cook for dinner. In Colorado, where the sun never seems to stop shining, it’s a great substitute for roasting those dogs over an open flame.
Replicating the flicker and glow of a campsite is a critical piece of the perfect campfire ambience, and you just can’t do it with headlamps. Bring along Revel Gear’s Trail Hound lights and string them around your tents or in the trees, then plug the 30-foot string into a USB power bank and you’re good to go. You can select how bright or dim you want the bulbs, and even pick from modes like solid light, fade in and out, strobe, flash, and, most important, a fire-crackle setting. Trail Hound lights are one of the best ways you can get that campfire ambience during wildfire season.
The time between dinner and bed gets long without a campfire, especially as the days get shorter—and chillier—in the fall. A card game like Monopoly Deal ($7) fills it up pretty quickly. The game turns the classic (but extremely long) board game into one that’s played in 15 minutes with a deck of cards. It’s small enough that it’s great for even backpacking trips where you need to carry everything.