Bonfire Tent Light

CMG Bonfire Tent Light, retail $25.00 (
Manufactured by CMG Equipment (
Last updated: 11-04-01 (fixed bad link)


LED Light

The Bonfire is a small area light (as opposed to a flashlight) that uses a cluster of bright amber LEDs to light up your camping experience.
It is a grey plastic light with a transluscent diffuser end. It is 4.5" high, 2.5" wide and 1.5" deep, and looks like a big deodorant stick with a crescent-shaped cutout on its side.

Designed to illuminate a tent interior, this light does more than just light up your tent. It can be used as a walking light, and if you need a little extra "oomph" you can take the diffuser off and project its light even farther if need be. More on this farther down the page.


The Bonfire is almost ready to use right out of the package - if it did not come with batteries, install them (see below). Now it's ready.
A three-position rocker switch on the bottom selects between high, low, and off. Press either edge of the switch firmly to turn it on (one side is high, the other side is low), and press it towards the center until it clicks to turn it off.
The switch is set up in such a way that it would be nearly impossible for it to "go off" inside your camping equipment.

A nice feature the Bonfire has is that you can adjust the position of the LEDs themselves to widen or narrow the light's illumination field.
Instructions for doing that are printed in the instructions, but pretty much entails popping the diffuser off and gently pivoting the LEDs themselves to the desired position.

The Bonfire comes with a short lanyard that has loops on both ends. Press the loops into the lanyard hooks provided on the Bonfire's body, and it's ready to hang.
Hang it from any convenient place: the apex of your tent ceiling, a tree branch or stub, a nail, or a hook. The loop is large enough to hang the Bonfire from a doorknob, wall sconce, or any other larger or unusual projection. You can even hang it off the rear view mirror or your car's dry cleaner bag hangers if you're camping in your car or RV.
The Bonfire also sits nicely on its rear end, allowing you to use it on a table or other furniture as you would a candle, but without the fire, soot, and dripping wax that candles give you.

The Bonfire operates from two "AA" cells, which despite having a long life, will occasionally need changing.
Pull off the Bonfire's grey rubber base. This will expose the switch and the metal battery contact. The battery contact has two "ears" that fit into slots on the sides, and a larger "ear" on the narrow part of the light. Press down slightly on this larger ear while sliding the metal piece away from the switch. When it comes free, dump out the dead batteries, and insert two new ones. The polarity is marked just inside the battery chamber right near the switch. If you have the light so the metal contact is closer to you than the switch is, put the left battery in button-side up, and put the right battery in button-side down. Press & slide the metal contact back into place, and push the grey rubber end piece back on.

The only thing that might be difficult to do in total darkness is fiddling with the metal battery contact. Keeping a second flashlight (always a good idea anyway) or even a cigarette lighter handy will be plenty enough to help you through this part of the battery change. Everything else can be done totally by feel.

The Bonfire is said to run for about 18 hours continuously on the "high" setting - much longer (30 hours or more) continuously on "low" or in intermittent usage on "high". Because its light comes from long-life LEDs, you never have to worry about fragile glass bulbs becoming broken or burning out.

The Bonfire is useful for much more than just lighting up your tent.
It makes a great power outage light, and is bright enough to walk around even the most cramped & cluttered space without stubbing your toes. You can also use it to read in bed at night (either home or camping), yet not wake up somebody else sleeping in the same area. Since it doesn't use fire, it can be used around paper & fabrics, unlike candles or Coleman lanterns.

If you need additional light or light with more directivity, the transluscent end cap pops off and exposes three brilliant yellow LEDs. The light will lose weather resistance without its end cap though, so you shouldn't use it like this in a rainstorm unless you're making that emergency run to the camp latrine or outhouse. :)
Additionally, the Bonfire can be set on a picnic table or other relatively flat surface to provide soft light for your campground dining experience..
Hanging a Bonfire in your tent entrance will make it easy for family members to locate the tent after dark.

The kids will also love the Bonfire for camping, games, and as a post-bedtime light. The lack of flames and the relative complexity of getting the batteries out should make this an ideal companion for children 4 and above, as long as they aren't butterfingers and are always dropping things.
A small part, difficult as it might be to break off, might make the Bonfire unsuitable for children 3 and under.

Initial testing showed that the Bonfire is excellent for use as a power outage light. I had no trouble at all seeing in a darkened room with it, even without being adapted to darkness beforehand. So when you aren't camping, don't just put the Bonfire away and forget about it. Keep it somewhere out in the open and use it for any indoor or outdoor situation requring a small area light.
Blown fuse in the basement? No problem at all with a Bonfire in your hand.
Vacuum hose fall off your engine at night? Let the Bonfire come to the rescue.
Kids camping on the lawn? Be sure they have a Bonfire hanging in their tent.

The Bonfire is not waterproof, but it is weather resistant. The diffuser cap has a gasket it fits on, and the rubber bottom should keep out all but the hardest rainfall and protect it from the leakiest tent.
You need not be afraid to use it in foul weather, and it will in fact confinue to work even if it does go over the side of a boat and become flooded (which it will after that type of accident) or if extremely heavy rainfall finds its way inside through either seal. The Bonfire initially floats, so you have time to fish it out of the water before it eventually fills up & sinks.

If your Bonfire does get flooded, just take out the batteries & pop off the diffuser cap, empty the water out, and let it air dry before reassembling it. Done with that.
NOTE: If salt water (seawater) gets inside your Bonfire, you should open it up as explained in the last sentence and douche it out with fresh water before setting it aside to dry.

The Bonfire might not get used like an ordinary flashlight for many purposes, but it does things that most ordinary flashlights just don't do. The oval shape fits the hand and fits in your suitcase or backpack, taking up no more space than an electric shaver or a deodorant stick.

The poop on Bonfire...
  • Battery life is as stated. Light burned brightly for around 20 hours and dimmed slowly over the next day or so. It continued to glow bright enough to read large print or illuminate a night table for more than a week after that.
  • The body of the light is larger than it needs to be. Somebody else broke theirs open and photographed its corpse, and there is a lot of empty space inside. (this can also be noticed without destroying it).
  • For a light meant for the great outdoors, they sure loused up the weatherproofing job. Moisture has no problem whatsoever finding its way inside.
  • Dropping the Bonfire onto carpet from 3.5 feet caused it to go out and start making a sickening rattling noise when handled.
    The test sample was destroyed by this fall. Although it looks fine inside, the batteries no longer have any tension on them and the light refuses to work.
    The battery contact springs (which I suspect were deformed in the fall) cannot easily be retensioned without prying open and physically damaging or destroying the unit, unless you happen to have a long, long pair of needlenose pliers or a set of surgical instruments in your toolbox, or if anybody in the house knits their own afgans.

Touted as being "weatherproof", but filled up much faster than expected when "accidentally" dropped in a test pond. Extremely heavy rain may find its way inside the Bonfire if used like a hand light or when placed upright on a stump, rock, or picnic table in the rain.
Hanging the Bonfire in the normal upside-down position will prevent it from flooding, such as from a leaking tent or during campsite setup. When hung from its lanyard, the Bonfire is indeed totally weatherproof.

UPDATE 11-01-00: After hanging on a hook in my bathroom for several days, the Bonfire's batteries have pretty much crapped out.
The Bonfire was intially used for about an hour, intermittently switching it between high and low. Then it was set on low, hung above the can, and timed. After about 40 hours on "Low", it was pretty much too dim to use for general illumination, but was still bright enough to use as a handheld reading lamp. And after about the 60th hour, it was too dim to do much but serve as a marker light. So the published figures for battery life are indeed true, and then some.

I also found the LEDs to heat up somewhat quickly when the Bonfire was used on "High" with brand new alkaline cells; but this doesn't seem to damage them like some other LEDs I tried this with. It isn't something I would worry about.

UPDATE 11-10-00: My evaluation sample of the Bonfire was destroyed in testing, after falling approximately 3.5 feet (belly-button height) onto low-pile carpet. As I have no tool that can pull these contacts back up without destroying them, the sample is essentially useless. See "The Poop On Bonfire" above for more details.

UPDATE 11-13-00: I have heard back from the Manufacturer regarding the drop damage to the battery contacts, and they are taking this very seriously into account for another improvement of the product. As a result, the current rating will be removed while improvements are being concocted.

The Bonfire really is a good light as long as you don't drop it face-first. In the event this does occur, you may use long needlnose pliers, surgical instruments, or a crochet hook to gently pull the battery contacts back out slightly - you only need move them enough to keep some tension on the batteries - don't try to pull them completely out of the light!

The potential water problem is also being addressed - so don't give up on the Bonfire just yet.

Any updates related to this review will be posted as they happen.

Excellent multipurpose area light
adjustable LEDs
long battery life, bright
floats long enough for one to rescue it from water
comes with hanging lanyard
weatherproof when hanging normally
has two brightness settings.

Unit is large for what it does
fills up very fast when dropped in water
batteries could be tricky to change in total darkness
test sample broken after a single short-distance fall (see 11-13 update for remedy and news on product improvements)

          MANUFACTURER: CMG Equipment
          PRODUCT TYPE: Tent/confined area light
          LAMP TYPE: LED, Yellow, 5mm
          No. OF LAMPS: 3
          BEAM TYPE: 360 with additional soft flood beam
          SWITCH TYPE: Three position rocker type switch
          BEZEL: Transluscent 'dome', removeable.
          BATTERY: 2 AA cells
          CURRENT CONSUMPTION: To be determined
          WATER RESISTANT: Light weather resistance only
          SUBMERSIBLE: No
          ACCESSORIES: Short hanging lanyard with loop on each end
          WARRANTY: 1 year, barring abuse/neglect/accident


          Star RatingStar Rating


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