This Raft Guide From Denver Invented a Waterproof, Portable Campfire

by Amy Myers

Two years ago, a fateful kayaking and rafting trip through the Rockies sparked an innovative idea that may very well change the camping industry – a waterproof, portable campfire.

Joshua Thurmond is a 46-year-old raft, kayak and climbing guide with over 25 years of experience. Back in 2020, Thurmond a few fellow guides were setting up camp near the Colorado River during their waterfront trip. The trip was during fire season, so the responsible Outsiders brought along a portable fire pit to prevent any stray embers from jeopardizing the area. While lighting the campfire, the friends joked that they should put the firepit on one of the rafts.

In that moment, something clicked for Thurmond. The industry was missing a portable, waterproof campfire. So, the outdoor guide challenged himself to create this revolutionary tool.

Thurmond is no stranger to the drawing board. In fact, he used to create adaptable equipment for the National Sports Center for the Disabled, according to the Denver Post.

“I went home and built seven different models in a week or less,” Thurmond told the publication. “I just went crazy and didn’t sleep in four days. Once I’m going, I’m going. I outfitted an entire van once in three-and-a-half months.”

At the same time, Thurmond also founded his own adventure gear start-up company, LavaBox.

Portable and Waterproof Campfire Fights Risk of Forest Fires

The inspiration for Thurmond’s portable and waterproof campfire comes from military-style ammo boxes. By nature, these boxes have a waterproof exterior. After a few prototypes, the Colorado resident came up with two products: the Tabletop Vol-CAN-no which sits in a 50-cal ammo box and can warm six people and a Krakatoa FireBreather which uses a 20-mm rocket box and can heat a group of 10 or more. The latter can produce flames that reach up to six feet.

Besides its convenience, the LavaBox products are helping reduce the risk of forest fires from campsites.

“We were really the tip of the spear on this because no one in wide-scale had adopted propane firepits,” Thurmond added. “I saw all the fire bans, but people still want fires. I have two kids, and my kids want fires every time. I was pushed by my friends, but I knew it needed to happen right now. I made 40 of them and sold them all in one day.”

Just as importantly, Thurmond is ensuring that campfires will always have a place at a campsite. Mark Leffingwell, one of LavaBox’s first customers and a freelance outdoor photographer, expressed his appreciation for the groundbreaking (or rather, ground-protecting) products.

“Camping without a campfire sucks,” Leffington said. “A big part of camping is sitting around the campfire at night and drinking whiskey, talking politics with your friends, or roasting marshmallows with your kids. You’re not just going to sit around and look at each other with flashlights.”