When I was an outfitter, my guides tested several different kinds of fire pans. The standard pans that the company had when I bought it were fabricated from sheet metal bent into a shallow box and welded at the corners. These turkeys twisted badly the first time they were used so that they would never sit flat again.
Later I bought some similar pans that were shaped so that they would fit under a Gott-80 cooler. They packed nicely at first, but soon warped just like the box-shaped ones.
In the clearance room of a restaurant supply store I found some hot dog bun baking pans, which had a rolled lip. These things did not suffer the warping and twisting of the other fire pans, so we used them for several years. The drawback was that the sides of the pans were less than two inches tall, so we had to be very careful not to spill the ashes over the sides.
Meanwhile, I asked an engineer friend why the hot dog pans didn't warp the way the other pans did. He said that it was the rolled edge at the top of the sides. I started looking for a shop that could form that detail on a custom fire pan.
But one day I found exactly what I was going to have made, sitting right on my own driveway. Here it is:
Yes, I had to take the wheels off and weld-up the holes, but this photo shows a fire pan that I've been using for 15 years. No warping.
We got tired of propping it up on rocks and kneeling in the sand, so we bent some 1/2-inch EMT conduit and made a folding stand for it.
And because we often use the fire pan as a barbecue, we got a universal barbecue grill and laid it into the pan. We welded rails near the top edge inside the fire pan to support the grill.
Ham and pineapple kabobs on Day 15 in Grand Canyon. And because my brother (The Barbecue Nazi) wanted a lid, we went out and got another wagon body--not a Radio Flyer--that was just enough smaller than this one to nest inside it for packing. It has a removable handle and a chimney vent, and The Barbecue Nazi is happy, and we are all happy because he does the best steak barbecue on earth.
You can see the lid on the ground behind Barbecue Nazi's right leg.
Now all of this might seem like a lot to pack on a raft, but the way the two pans nest together and fit right over a pair of Scat Packer buckets, all we have to do is add a foam pad and the fire pan becomes the rower's seat on this raft.
We carry charcoal in the Scat Packers at the start of the river trip and by the end of the trip, we have used the charcoal and filled the Scat Packers with . . . well, you know what we filled them with. (In the Grand Canyon, Scat Packers are not allowed for toilet use. We still carried charcoal in them, but had Eco-Safe toilets.)
And finally, here's a look at the fire pan stand, being used as a cocktail table (or in this case a birthday cake table) with the addition of a cutting board or two. We try to make use of every resource!