Gear Review: Nightfall Helios Firepan - Mountain Buzz
 



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Old 03-28-2020   #1
 
Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
Join Date: Aug 2017
Posts: 153
Gear Review: Nightfall Helios Firepan

After seeing the post here about it, I ordered it on Wednesday, and it showed up today. Since I am stuck at home and going absolutely bat shit, bouncing off the walls stir crazy with cabin fever, I thought I would test it out in the backyard for something to do.

First thing I did was follow the recommendation to season the steel like cast iron. I used peanut oil, and probably got too heavy of a coat in a couple of spots. Best to use an extremely light coat, and work it a few times. I seasoned half the parts on my gas grill, and the others in the oven. The oven parts came out better, but but everything still needs work. I should have been more patient with this step, now I have some clean up work to do.

Next I did a heat test. I grabbed a milk crate full of dry cordwood and got a roaring fire going in it. I kept the fire stacked up with wood for a couple of hours until it had burned down to a 2.5" bed of red hot cherry coals, spread evenly across the pan.

Since anything worth doing is worth overdoing, I then got out a small electric shop blower and blasted the coals with air, like a blacksmith's forge, for several minutes, until the steel started to glow a low red. I'm pretty sure I got it hotter than its possible to get it with normal use

There were no visible signs of warping, and I don't think I got it hot enough to anneal the steel. The parts have a little play and I think this greatly mitigates warping as the metal has somewhere to expand to, unlike the folded and welded fire pans that always warp.

Pros: disassembled in the case the thing is probably only a 1/2" thick, if that. The case itself is SUPER well-made, bomber tough. The pan is pretty easy to set up and break down. Its is also WAY lighter than the standard, clunker steel firepan design. Best of all, it fits neatly inside my dry box behind the stove, taking up almost zero space, and adding insignificant weight. It is absolutely perfect for the type of trips I like to do, which are minimalist with just one 14" raft.

Cons: the only con I can see so far is a bit stiffer grade of steel might work slightly better, but that's a pretty minor con. Stainless steel would have been nice, but I'm sure that would be cost prohibitive. This pan is probably not quite as sturdy as the old heavy, clunker style firepans, but then again, it's meant to be lighter and more nimble, and is still plenty sturdy, In my opinion, it is tougher than the pop-up pit. I'm kind of wishing I would have ordered the optional grill now.

I have been looking for something like this forever, and its definitely a keeper. With further use I will post a follow up on how well the seasoning approach resists rust and corrosion.

It's also worth mentioning this is a super innovative design, and really well though out. Kudos to whoever came up with the concept!!! There is no other fire pan on the market that even comes close to being this compact when disassembled, just not even close.

I'm not receiving any kind of deal for this write up, just thought some of the gear heads in the group might be interested. Let me know if you have any questions or ideas for tests.

https://www.nightfalloverland.com/gear/firepan
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Old 03-28-2020   #2
 
St. George, Utah
Paddling Since: 1974
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Thanks for the review.

Looks like it will work for most rivers. Just a note that the internal dimensions are not big enough for Grand Canyon. GC minimum is 300 sq inches. Looks like this one is only 240. I also think the logo cut outs wouldn't pass muster for Grand Canyon. The holes in the side don't appear high enough to be 3 inches above the bottom of the pan. Kind of moot as the pan isn't big enough anyway.


I am for anything that encourages fire pans in the back country, hope this takes off. Saw an add for Moab the other day with a fire built directly on top of the slickrock.
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Old 03-28-2020   #3
 
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Lakewood, Colorado
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Looks like a cool and practical setup and I love that we are getting a bunch of innovative designs from various people. Not sure what brought on this sudden surge all of a sudden...but its very welcome. A couple years ago it was all about adding fans and electronics or some clever gimmick...so I'm glad that is gone. It is also very cool that they are not only innovative but reasonably priced too.

The Pop Up Pit definitely gives it a run for its money in the the lightweight and compact category...but this one seems pretty slick too. I love my Pop Up Pit but it is indeed a bit fragile and this Helios one is a great mix in between the big clunker fire pits and the Pop up pit in durability. Pretty cool that it stashes easily in a dry box too. I put my pop up pit in my drybox last time and it did fine without taking up too much space...but being able to nestle it into the side like that seems pretty nice. I do like that the Pop Up Pit has a pretty large surface area and you can really cook as much stuff on it as the larger "clunkers" out there if you get the quad grill.

To really capture the rafting market...they are gonna have to consider making one that falls within the regulated dimensions for Grand Canyon and other areas. I've never seen or heard of a ranger getting out a tape measure... but they pick up on that stuff quickly. Not sure if 60 square inches is enough to quibble over...but I've seen people get in trouble for sillier things.

One question...how does it do when you pick it up as a unit....especially during ash emptying stage? Most rivers require you to pack the ashes out...so if this thing is coming apart as you try to do that it might take it down a notch in my book. It looks like it should be fine...but thought I'd ask.
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Old 03-29-2020   #4
 
Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
Join Date: Aug 2017
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Are fire pans actually required on the Grand Canyon?

When we ran it in 2010 there was a ban on collecting driftwood, which pretty much meant no fires unless you packed a lot of firewood with you?

Most of the runs I've done say 144 square inches with 3 inch sides, and I've never actually had anyone inspect my fire pan.





Quote:
Originally Posted by dsrtrat View Post
Thanks for the review.

Looks like it will work for most rivers. Just a note that the internal dimensions are not big enough for Grand Canyon. GC minimum is 300 sq inches. Looks like this one is only 240. I also think the logo cut outs wouldn't pass muster for Grand Canyon. The holes in the side don't appear high enough to be 3 inches above the bottom of the pan. Kind of moot as the pan isn't big enough anyway.


I am for anything that encourages fire pans in the back country, hope this takes off. Saw an add for Moab the other day with a fire built directly on top of the slickrock.
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Old 03-29-2020   #5
 
Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
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It stays together pretty tightly when you pick it up, especially by the handles. I was able to lay it on its side to empty the ashes out with no trouble.

I did notice after disassembly that I did manage to warp the bottom slightly. Not very noticeably though. I probably did over heat it some with my experiment.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Electric-Mayhem View Post
Looks like a cool and practical setup and I love that we are getting a bunch of innovative designs from various people. Not sure what brought on this sudden surge all of a sudden...but its very welcome. A couple years ago it was all about adding fans and electronics or some clever gimmick...so I'm glad that is gone. It is also very cool that they are not only innovative but reasonably priced too.

The Pop Up Pit definitely gives it a run for its money in the the lightweight and compact category...but this one seems pretty slick too. I love my Pop Up Pit but it is indeed a bit fragile and this Helios one is a great mix in between the big clunker fire pits and the Pop up pit in durability. Pretty cool that it stashes easily in a dry box too. I put my pop up pit in my drybox last time and it did fine without taking up too much space...but being able to nestle it into the side like that seems pretty nice. I do like that the Pop Up Pit has a pretty large surface area and you can really cook as much stuff on it as the larger "clunkers" out there if you get the quad grill.

To really capture the rafting market...they are gonna have to consider making one that falls within the regulated dimensions for Grand Canyon and other areas. I've never seen or heard of a ranger getting out a tape measure... but they pick up on that stuff quickly. Not sure if 60 square inches is enough to quibble over...but I've seen people get in trouble for sillier things.

One question...how does it do when you pick it up as a unit....especially during ash emptying stage? Most rivers require you to pack the ashes out...so if this thing is coming apart as you try to do that it might take it down a notch in my book. It looks like it should be fine...but thought I'd ask.
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Old 03-29-2020   #6
 
Jenks, Oklahoma
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I have several conventional design firepans purchased over the years, just got the pop up.

If this unit met the Grand Canyon requirements, I would buy one. Otherwise I will continue to put a pizza pan in my pop up fire pan as a liner for my dutch ovens.

I like this design a bunch, nice to stash in the dry box. But, as mentioned no sale from me till it meets GC requirements.
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Old 03-29-2020   #7
 
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Lakewood, Colorado
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pine View Post
Are fire pans actually required on the Grand Canyon?

When we ran it in 2010 there was a ban on collecting driftwood, which pretty much meant no fires unless you packed a lot of firewood with you?

Most of the runs I've done say 144 square inches with 3 inch sides, and I've never actually had anyone inspect my fire pan.
I believe you are required to bring one unless there is outright ban. Its absolutely required November-February when you are allowed to collect firewood. Outside of that...if you only need it to cook food over charcoal, then I think anything as big or bigger then 12"x12"x3" is all that is required.

Here is the wording in the regulations...

Gas stoves (propane, white gas, etc…) with sufficient fuel for cooking are required on all trips. Charcoal briquettes may be used for cooking. Wood fires may be used only for warmth or aesthetics. From March 1 through October 31, all wood MUST be carried into the canyon from an outside source. From November 1 through the end of February, driftwood from along beaches may be used for warming and aesthetic fires. Wood must not be pre-collected for use after February. Gathering of wood from any standing or on-site fallen trees, dead or alive, is prohibited. All wood fires must be contained in a metal fire pan measuring 300 square inches; the lip of the pan must be 3 inches high on all sides. Fire pans must be elevated using manufactured legs (not rocks, empty cans, etc.). Charcoal briquettes may be contained in fire pans 12 inches x 12 inches x 3 inches. All ash and fire residue must be carried out of the canyon. Wood or charcoal fires are not allowed outside of the river corridor beaches. Fire blankets are required for use under the fire pan for all charcoal and wood fires. Fire blankets must be in good condition and approximately 60 x 72 inches or at least 20% larger than the fire pan, dutch oven, or similar. Fire pans and fire blankets are required on all trips utilizing charcoal or wood fires and on all trips launching from November 1 through the end of February. (Unsupported kayak and packraft river trips which will NOT be utilizing fires can be granted a waiver of the fire pan and fire blanket requirement after completing a waiver form with the Lees Ferry Ranger prior to launch.)

So...it sounds like you at least need a 12"x12"x3" firepit...but may be able to get away with not taking one. If you plan to bring any firewood for "warmth or aesthetics" then you have to have a full size firepan.

I'd say it would be worth their while to make one another 10% or whatever bigger to handle the Grand Canyon.

its good to hear that it stays together when you move it around or have to turn it over. I think that is my least favorite bit about the pop up pit. Its almost easier to just upend the pit onto the fire blanket and use that to empty into an ash container. I usually just pull the mesh out carefully...but its kind of a pain in the butt and easier with two people.

I'm a big fan otherwise... love how it burns ash down to nothing because of the airflow through the mesh.

Oh...and a 12" (or 10" or 14" depending on which DO size you have) works perfect for charcoal and Dutch Oven cooking. Kinda hard to find unless you go to a fancy cooking equipment store or do it online...but works great.
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Old 03-29-2020   #8
 
Ridgway, Colorado
Join Date: Mar 2009
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Hey EM, I think that you're doing it wrong. Just lift the frame and screen off of the leg assembly intact. Set it on the blanket. Now the screen is easy to grab and empty. Super easy.
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Old 03-29-2020   #9
 
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Lakewood, Colorado
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rtsideup View Post
Hey EM, I think that you're doing it wrong. Just lift the frame and screen off of the leg assembly intact. Set it on the blanket. Now the screen is easy to grab and empty. Super easy.
I definitely use the side frames to lift the screen to get my fingers under enough to slide it off the main frame I've always left the side frames on the leg frame though.

Taking all of them off the legs at once seems like a few of the side frames would slip out and could have potential for the mesh to flex the wrong way and dump ash everywhere. I'll definitely give it a try next time though...I imagine you just have to be careful.
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Old 03-29-2020   #10
My name isn't Will
 
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Willamette Valley, Oregon
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pine View Post
Are fire pans actually required on the Grand Canyon?

When we ran it in 2010 there was a ban on collecting driftwood, which pretty much meant no fires unless you packed a lot of firewood with you?

Most of the runs I've done say 144 square inches with 3 inch sides, and I've never actually had anyone inspect my fire pan.

They are required November through February, and they have to be 300 square inches. Outside of that, you are only required to have one if you are going to cook on charcoal (144 square inch minimum) or have warming/aesthetic fires (300 square inch minimum). See Page 34 of the current regs.



We schlepped wood for a March 2015 trip; glad we had it, but we brought WAY too much wood and ended up hauling half of it back home. For 2017, we had a smaller pan for charcoal. It was based on a restaurant steam table pan. I had someone weld on some pipe fittings, and we used threaded pipe nipples for the (removable) legs; floor flanges kept it from sinking in the sand, and to set the pan up you can thread in as much or little as you need to get the pan pretty level. It wasn't the easiest welding job - black pipe to stainless. Peggy gave it the hairy eyeball at first, but once she understood, she kind of smiled and thought it was a keen idea. It was not my idea, and it worked great.


I'm looking forward to putting the Pop Up Pit through its paces. Just not sure which decade.
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