It is basically a three sided box with three connectors across the top to form a platform for your pots. It gives you a good working stable surface almost anywhere and easily held my 10 inch frying pan as well as smaller kettles and pots. You can build the fire out of anything that will burn. Lots of times on this trip I just collected twigs, bark, and pine cones on the ground in the area where we were camped and made a fire. I did find that these little things burn out quickly, so that it is better to split a larger piece of wood into smaller bits – that way you don't have to be stoking the fire all the time. You can build your fire on the optional tray and then place the stove part over it; the tray also allows you to move your fire around if you need to. Be careful, though, the stove gets hot and will singe the ground underneath the tray.
The 180 works better than a regular campfire because it concentrates the flame on the bottom of your pot where you need the heat. The stove saved us carrying a lot of fuel and we didn't have to always be looking for firewood. There was never a time when we didn't have enough fuel to cook up some warm soup or a good dinner.
My only criticism of the stove is that it gets very sooty after a couple of uses, so that when you assemble and disassemble it to pack it up, your hands get real messy. But other than that, this is a very handy and efficient little stove and will probably become a staple of my camping trips.