The Early Days

How To Build a (Propane) Fire #3: The Fire Pit That Pissed Us Off

How To Build a (Propane) Fire #3: The Fire Pit That Pissed Us Off
This is the third email we sent out. We'd invented a new propane fire technology, and now we wanted to tell anyone who was willing to listen. This is the story, step by step, of how we took the HOWL from idea to market...


Howdy Folks! 

OK, wow. We didn’t expect to get so many responses to those first two emails. Seriously, you guys are amazing!

So we want to tell you how we got the idea for the HOWL Campfire. 

The crappy propane fire pit and the burn ban

A couple years ago, we went camping for a few days with our friends from Go Fast Campers. The forecast looked wintry. It was November in Utah's high desert, after all.

But even that late in the season, the area was still under a Stage II Burn Ban, so we couldn’t have a wood fire. Instead, we bought a brand new propane fire pit – one of the big ones that looks like a Weber Grill without legs that's filled up with lava rocks.

Our photographer friend Drew Martin also brought the same kind of fire pit, and that first night, our crew of eight sat huddled around those two propane fires. We wore all the clothes we had and cranked the fuel valves wide open.

“I just thought it would put out more heat,” Randall said for the first of many times that night. “I mean, look, that’s a lot of flames right?”

The temperature kept dropping, and the firepits weren’t getting any warmer. All eight of us were shivering, but we lingered trying to make the most of the time together. 

“Didn’t you guys think these things would be warmer?” Randall asked again. Right about then the flames on his fire started sputtering. The tank was somehow already empty, the flames died, and we huddled in closer to the one remaining fire.

But the battle was over. With stories left unembellished and jokes left un-groaned at – we retreated to our sleeping bags to escape the chill of the air and Randall’s disappointed remarks.

[The fire that made us mad enough to start HOWL.]

The insanity of transporting a propane fire pit

The next morning, Randall tossed his fire pit in the cab of the truck and drove 40 miles to refill the tanks. The truck jittered over the miles of washboard, and the rocks in the fire pit rattled and shook.

Randall was annoyed by all that noise, but he didn’t say anything until the air began to fill with rock dust. He wiped at his eyes and sneezed.

“You have got to be kidding me,” became the refrain until we stopped to exchange tanks. With fresh fuel he repacked and put the fire pit out in the bed, under the topper.

As we chewed up miles of dirt, we started to dream about a functional propane campfire, one that was actually warm, one you could take anywhere, one that wasn’t a compromise compared to a wood fire.

We riffed on all kinds of ideas as we drove, and that put us in pretty high spirits. But when we stopped for the night, we opened up the bed of the truck. A few things had been smashed by the tank, and it looked like an entire moon’s worth of dust had exploded back there.

Randall gritted his teeth. “We've gotta f-ing fix this.”

The invention we’re working on started with anger and frustration. If you've got a fire in your belly, use it.

Keep carrying the fire,

– Randall, Kelly, Nicholas and Alex

Reading next

How To Build a (Propane) Fire #2: Why Flames Can't Keep You Warm
How To Build a (Propane) Fire #4: Trying and failing to Make Radiant Heat

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