One of the hottest products to hit campground stores these days is, quite literally, campfire products.
These products, which range from easy-to-use fire starters to eco-friendly fire logs to self-contained mini bonfires, are designed to make it easy for campers to produce their own campfire, even if they’ve never done it before. Park operators are increasingly seeing and hearing about these campfire products at tradeshows across the country.
“If you’re not using this product in your store, you need to be,” California Outdoor Hospitality Association (CalOHA) President and CEO Dyana Kelley stated recently in remarks to attendees at the association’s Summit conference and tradeshow, March 27-29, in Roseville, Calif.
Kelley was referencing a product called Goodwood, an increasingly popular eco-friendly fire log that can burn for two hours in everything from outdoor firepits to fireplaces and wood-burning stoves. The clean-burning logs, which are safe to use for cooking, are produced by Summit Views LLC of Watsonville, Calif.
“The concept for Goodwood was actualized through a grant from the USDA Forest Service in 2005 to find a revenue stream for forest clean-up operations, utilizing low-value chipped wood and shavings to produce a high-value product,” said Jennifer Young, a managing member of Summit Views.
She explained Goodwood’s success stems from combining the ambiance of regular firewood with the ease of use of supermarket-style logs. While the company initially targeted the hotel industry, it has gained traction with sales to campground operators during the pandemic.
City Bonfires makes a product that produces a mini bonfire inside a round container that’s roughly a third of the size of a coffee can. This product produces mini bonfires that can be used for the atmosphere or for roasting s’mores, boiling water or heating food and the fire can be quickly put out simply by putting the lid back on the container, which can be customized with the campground’s name and logo or a regional icon that reflects their geographic area.
These eco-friendly mini bonfires are made with 100% recyclable steel tins, 100% nontoxic FDA food-grade soy wax and 100% biodegradable, compostable, plant-based material, said Tiffany Anzalone McCasland, whose husband, Chris, co-founded City Bonfires with a neighbor, Michael Opalski, during the pandemic.
“It’s a ‘Leave No Trace’ product,” Anzalone McCasland said, noting that City Bonfires can be used in areas where there are burn bans.
“Kids can use it to make s’mores even when it rains,” she added, noting that it can easily be set on the ground and used under the awning of an RV or other structure.
McCasland said City Bonfires has sold over one million of its mini bonfire products since the company was formed nearly two years ago. She added that the bonfires are sold with or without ingredients to make s’mores. The company also sells a collapsible stove that fits over the mini bonfire for cooking purposes.
While some companies are finding success selling clean-burning fire products, others are finding a niche selling products that help start fires, including Pull Start Fire, which makes a fire-starting product contained in a small box that simply requires the user to quickly pull a string to start the fire.
David Arias, a co-owner of Pull Start Fire, said sales have been growing since the company started selling the product in 2019.
“Consumers love the product for its reliability and simplicity,” he noted.
Another manufacturer of fire starter products, Peosta, Iowa-based JT Firestarters, showcased its products in mid-March during the annual conference and tradeshow hosted by the Wisconsin Association of Campground Owners (WACO) in Stevens Point, Wis.
JT Firestarters was founded in 2015 by Daniel Toops, who was then a 19-year-old entrepreneur with autism. Toops makes his firestarters by hand using recycled materials, including egg cartons, shredded paper, drying lint and candle wax. Toops’ local community in Bellevue, Iowa, helps out by donating supplies. JT Firestarters are sold in 70 stores across the Midwest. The company hopes to hire more people with disabilities as they grow.
Of course, fire starters are just one of many products campground and RV park operators purchase for their stores each year.
Shawn Corrigan, vice president of purchasing for Wilcor International in Frankfort, N.Y., a key supplier for campground stores, said his company is seeing continuing strong demand for a variety of products, which reflects campgrounds improving their store layouts, displays and overall offerings.
He said campground stores are carrying an increasing variety of products to enhance the camping experience, from campfire items to deluxe camping chairs, cool lighting systems and personal care products.
Wilcor tracks sales trends involving the sales rates of each item in more than 100 product categories, which can help park operators decide which items to stock in their stores.
“We share this data every day with the campground store industry,” Corrigan said, adding that Wilcor adds between 300 and 500 new items each year to support continued campground store growth and excitement.