Cooking over an open fire is an adventurous way to make a meal. The most widely used products for that, second only to cast iron skillets, are campfire tripods.
Humans have been cooking over a fire for nearly two million years! That doesn’t mean cooking over a fire involves caveman-like strategies, however. Not today anyway. Tools have been developed to make the job easier, and it’s those tools that early settlers and explorers relied on to cook their food long before the days of electricity and propane gas.
A campfire tripod is one of these campfire-cooking tools, an essential component to any campfire cooking kit. Campers, barbecue enthusiasts, and preppers can all benefit from practicing some of the lost skills of cooking over a fire. It’s a fun conversation starter that creates a new level of self-reliance, and when done right, can add flavor to your food that you won’t find in a modern kitchen.
These tripods are designed to go over an open fire to hold cooking grates, Dutch ovens, and billy pots. They are an alternative to a cooking grate set on a fire ring, rocks, etc. I prefer using a tripod to a simple fixed-height grate because campfire tripods offer greater versatility and better heat control. You can adjust the height of your cookware simply by move it up or down with the chain/rope that it’s hanging from. Alternatively, you can just adjust the tripod’s legs to bring your food closer to, or further away from, the fire.
A tripod is not a replacement to the grate, however. You will still need a cooking grate for many over-the-fire cooking needs, but that can be hung from a tripod as well. It’s what I do.
5 Campfire Tripods by Category
I’ve used a variety of campfire tripods over the years. At their most basic level they are pretty much the same: three legs formed into a triangle with a hook at their meeting point from which you can hang cookware. Still, some campfire tripods are better suited to different applications (and budgets) than others.
1) Strongest – Lodge Tall Boy
My go-to tripod for cooking over a fire is the Lodge Tall Boy. Most anyone using cast iron cookware is familiar with the Lodge name. Their products are everywhere. Their Tall Boy campfire tripod is strong and easy to set up.
I bought my Lodge Tall Boy online at Cabela’s, but it’s also available on Amazon. The 60″ legs are easy to set up over a fire and it comes with a 36″ chain and hook. Portability is relatively convenient as well. The legs fall together when you lift it up. Simple, basic, and rugged.
- Tall Boy tripod features 60" legs with 36" chain
- All-steel construction with high-temp black finish
The only downside is the legs do not collapse. This isn’t a problem for me as I transport it in a truck when I’m not using it at home, but if you’re looking for a tripod that can pack more easily in a small car, keep scrolling.
2) Most Portable – CAMPINGMOON Portable Tripod with Carrying Bag
Most people use a campfire tripod while camping. Camping (often) involves packing many things, and space quickly becomes limited. Made of aluminum, the CAMPINGMOON portable tripod weighs just 1.37 pounds. Disassembled and stored in its carrying bag, it measures just under 16″. This is perfect for car camping or even backpacking.
- DIMENSIONS(UNFOLDED)：26.57"x26.57"x41.34" / 67.5x67.5x105cm；DIMENSIONS(FOLDED)：15.75"x2.36"x1.57" / 40x6x4cm
- WEIGHT：1.37lb / 0.62kg
Downsides? The legs are shorter, giving the tripod a maximum height of just over 41″. The aluminum construction and screw-together legs are not as durable as the all-steel, fixed-legs Lodge tripod. This is a tripod best suited to lightweight cookware, not heavy cast iron or thick steel grates.
3) Best Tripod Grilling Set – Sunnydaze
Sunnydaze makes a variety of outdoor cooking products. This tripod grilling set combines the portability of the CAMPINGMOON model with a 22″ grill grate. The legs are 58″ long (2″ shorter than the Lodge Tall Boy) and can be assembled/disassembled on site with the spring snap buttons. This design makes it lighter and more packable than the Lodge Tall Boy.
You can buy this model from Sunnydaze itself or from Amazon.
- Overall size: 55 inches tall, weighs 17 pounds; Legs are 58 inches long and have a 34 inch leg clearance from leg to leg; Top connection piece is 2 inch diameter with built in 2 inch hook for the chain; 22-inch diameter grate is height-adjustable from 14-23 inches above ground; 20 pound weight capacity
- Heavy-duty design: Tripod stand and grate rack is made from durable steel metal construction with high-temperature heat-resistant paint finish that is easy to clean
Every advantage has a disadvantage, of course. The snap buttons and lighter construction could compromise the durability of the product. The manufacturer states this product has a max weight capacity of 20 pounds. This is a problem for me, because I sometimes use a deep 8 quart Dutch oven for cooking stew. That Dutch oven alone weighs over 19 pounds!
While the Sunnydaze has very strong reviews on Amazon, spring buttons represent a possible point of failure and I needed something that can hold more than 20 pounds. This is what has kept me from the Sunnydaze model. However, the included grate makes this tripod reasonably priced for the person cooking for just a few people.
4) Simplest DIY Hardware – Various Tripod Accessories
This campfire tripod setup could be the best choice for the person looking for a compact, lightweight tripod. This DIY kit is made of 3 components: a tripod board, titanium grill plate, and stainless steel hanging chain. I’ve used this exact setup with success in the field. This is the perfect tripod for backpacking, a bug out bag, or vehicle survival kit.
The tripod “board” is sold as a small, triangular tripod plate with three holes. The large holes around the outside are designed to hold the top end of three different sticks you cut to size to serve as the legs of the tripod. Assuming these are strong sticks (green sticks are good), your tripod will be strong.
- ☘【Portable Gadgets】 - Latest trefoil shape camping cooking gadgets, weight just 5 Ounce, you can put it on your bag or pocket, also the customrized pouch can attach on your belt. You no need to bring a heavy iron tripod rack, tree branches are available everywhere, there are free supplies for an real camping.
- ☘【Outdoor Essentials】- This compact campfire kit is suitable for all the hanging camping kitchen equipment utensils, Dutch oven pot, water pot, teapots, coffee pot, kettles, etc. It is a great choice for outdoor hiking, hunting, adventure, traveling camping. Also, it is a useful tool for breaking something, or opening shellfish foods.
This board also comes with a chain and hook system. There is a hook on one end used to hold your cookware over the fire and a pin at the other end. Insert the pin up through the center hole of the board and then you can run the pin through the chain link you choose to set the desired height.
You don’t need the rest of this DIY kit (titanium grill plate and hanging chain) to have a functioning campfire tripod, but if you want a complete, lightweight kit, they’re worth adding. Just know that their lightweight design is not conducive to holding heavy cast iron cookware. Still, for solo or two-person camping, it could work fine.
- 【COMPACT DESIGN】Made of premium titanium. It is scratch-resistant, heat-resistant and it is not easy to be deformed and rusty.
- 【LIGHTWEIGHT & PORTABLE】Camping BBQ Grill is mini size, the grill is 25.5cm*16.5, only 119g. This grill is specifically designed by experts for bushcraft and expedition camping. Engineered to fit into most backpacks. Small package is convenient to carry. It is a must have for any adventurer.
I would strongly advise crimping the S hooks of the chain to the grate itself if you buy these pieces. This can reduce its versatility a bit (if you wanted to use them for a billy pot, as an example), but they make using the grate much more stable. Because it’s so lightweight, flipping burgers on it could mean accidentally lifting the grate out of the chains and sending your food crashing into the fire below. It almost happened to me – until I crimped the hooks.
- Package Included: 2* Stainless steel chains,4* Small Hooks,1 Big Hooks.
- Size: 420mm*Φ1mm (chain),100mm*65mm*Φ4mm (Hook),the maximal load-bearing is 20KG.
The downsides to this DIY setup is that while the titanium grate and stainless steel chain are lightweight, they’re small and can’t handle heavy weight. The tripod plate assembled with strong sticks should hold the weight most people would subject it to, however. The weak point would be the chain, which could be replaced with a stronger one.
5) Free Option – DIY Campfire Tripod
You can also construct your own campfire tripod if money is a concern or you want to embrace the ultimate in self-reliance and learn some bushcraft/knot-tying skills. It’s not complex, you just need to know how to tie the correct knot and have some Paracord or similar strong cordage. The knot is fittingly called the Tripod Lashing.
You might have concern that the cordage could melt from the fire’s heat, but this has not been my experience. If it’s a concern of yours, soak the cordage in water before using it.
Alternative to the Tripod – REDCAMP Campfire Cooking Stand
If you’re making more than one dish over the campfire or you’re planning to cook over it most of the day, it may be beneficial to skip the tripod altogether and opt instead for a campfire cooking stand. This is essentially what I did on a more elaborate scale with my at-home concrete block cooking fire pit.
This REDCAMP unit offers a solid value if this option makes sense for you. It requires more storage space, but you get various hooks to hold different items and it comes with a grate.
- Material: The Swing Grill Campfire Cooking Stand is made of high quality carbon steel material make it solid and durable to use, high temperature resistant, can be directly used in campfire.
- Size: The Swing Grill is 34x34"/88*88cm(HxW) the Grill Grate is 16*11"/41*28cm. Weight: 22.3lbs/10.13kg. The support angle of the grill has been fixed, it is very easy to install, and stable, to protect your safety. It can also be easily disassembled after use.
Just note the size as pictures can be deceiving. This will stand about waist high on a person of average height. While it offers many attachment points for more serious outdoor cooking, it could quickly become undersized if you expect it to do too much.
Cooking over an open fire is fun. You can expand your cooking skills and impress your friends. You need the right tools to do it well, however. That includes finding the best campfire tripod to fit your needs. If you’re like me, you might end up finding you need a few. I use both the Lodge Tall Boy and the DIY accessories. Each has their place.
What do you use or recommend? Let me know in the comments section.