Photo: Debbie Wolfe for Bob Vila
Whether camping, tailgating, or hosting backyard bonfires, a fire pit is the critical centerpiece. Originally just a place to safely contain a campfire, the fire pit has become an extension of exterior decor that also expresses personal style. Depending on the choice of fuel, and where and how it will be used, there may be dozens, if not scores, of great options.
It’s easy enough to settle for a cheap fire pit, but the experience might leave a lot to be desired. Taking the time and spending just a little more to buy a high-quality fire pit will pay back dividends in terms of durability and the overall fire pit experience, whether you’re looking for a traditional firewood-fueled model or the convenience of a gas fire pit. Over the past couple of years, we researched the top 125 smokeless, gas, and tabletop fire pits and tested more than 30. This guide features the best of the best fire pits that I’ve tested so far.
- BEST OVERALL WOOD: Solo Stove Bonfire 2.0
- BEST OVERALL GAS: Outland Living Cypress Fire Pit
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Blue Sky Outdoor Living Ridge Portable Fire Pit
- UPGRADE PICK: Tiki Brand Patio Smokeless Fire Pit
- BEST PORTABLE WOOD: Fireside Outdoor Pop-Up Pit
- BEST PORTABLE PROPANE: Ignik FireCan Portable Fire Pit
- BEST PELLET: Flame Genie FG-16 Wood Pellet Fire Pit
- BEST SMOKELESS: Breeo X24 Smokeless Fire Pit
- BEST FOR DECKS: Cuisinart Chimenea Propane Fire Pit
- BEST TABLETOP: Solo Stove Mesa XL Tabletop Fire Pit
- BEST FIRE PIT TABLE: Outland Living Granville Fire Table
Photo: Debbie Wolfe for Bob Vila
How We Tested the Best Fire Pits
After our product review team spent weeks researching and compiling a list of the most popular and innovative fire pits available, I selected these smokeless, tablet, and gas fire pits for testing. With so much variety in types, sizes, and styles, head-to-head comparisons were not possible or practical. I tested and scored each according to its intended purpose and unique characteristics. Then I awarded ratings and titles based on durability, portability, ease of operation, style, warming ability, attractiveness of the fire, and whether they were smokeless.
Our Top Picks
I tested the best fire pits available for a wide range of purposes. Read on to learn more about their construction, how they performed, and the top picks by category.
Many fire enthusiasts believe there is no substitute for a wood fire, but they could do without the smoke. The Solo Stove Bonfire 2.0 is a great solution. It’s a smokeless wood-burning fire pit measuring 19.5 inches in diameter, 14 inches high, and weighing 23.3 pounds. The perfect size for gatherings of three to five people, the stove is made of durable 304 stainless steel to last a lifetime. This upgraded model features a removable fire grate and ash pan that didn’t exist in the previous version, and it makes cleaning a breeze. It also came with a stand and a soft-side carry case.
The key to this fire pit’s smokelessness is its dual-wall construction. The wall of the fire chamber is separated from the outer wall of the fire pit by an inch of air space. Ventilation holes around the base of the outer wall allow a constant influx of fresh air that rapidly heats as it moves upward through the wall space. As the super-heated oxygen-rich air escapes through vent holes around the top of the inner wall (just below the rim), it ignites smoke particles exiting the fire.
Solo Stove is one of the more aggressively marketed fire pit brands, and in my tests, the Bonfire 2.0 lived up to the hype. I used natural tinder and kindling to start fires in all of the wood-burning fire pits. This one started instantly with just one match. The 360-degree airflow design allowed ample fresh air to flow upward through the burn chamber, creating a chimneylike effect that allowed me to quickly build up the fire. It took about 10 minutes before it was smokeless.
The only times that I experienced a smoky fire were when I used poor-quality firewood—wet, green, or partially rotted—or when I added wood above the rim. For best results, I used 12-inch logs and avoided overloading the burn chamber. Like other dual-wall fire pits I have tested, the Bonfire 2.0 burns wood at a faster rate than traditional fire rings or fire pits. Plan on going through about 1.5 to 2 times as much firewood. At the end of the fire, almost nothing was left to clean up. Everything burned down to a fine powdery ash.
Read our full review: Solo Stove Bonfire 2.0
- Type: Wood-burning smokeless fire pit
- Dimensions: 19.5 inches in diameter, 14 inches high
- Weight: 23.3 pounds
- 304 stainless steel construction is extremely wear- and weather-resistant for a lifetime of use
- Dual-wall design improves airflow through the burn chamber and eliminates smoke
- Removable fire grate and ash pan makes it one of the easiest fire pits to clean
- With a lightweight construction, it’s easy to take along for picnics, tailgating, and base camping
- The thin stainless steel walls are susceptible to denting from a strong impact
- Although it is lightweight, the bulky size makes it a little cumbersome to transport
Get the Solo Stove Bonfire 2.0 fire pit at Lowe’s, The Home Depot, or Solo Stove.
Gas fire pits offer a similar look and feel to wood burners, but without the smoke and hassle of firewood. The Outland Living Cypress gas fire pit is the right size for four or five guests at 21 inches in diameter and 9.25 inches high. The compact size makes it easy to store indoors when not in use. The burner and included lava rock heat diffuser produce a whopping 58,000 British thermal units (BTUs) of heat, powered by a 20-pound propane tank. The 10-foot long connector hose offers the freedom and safety of placing the tank out of sight, and it comes equipped with a cover and carry straps for easy transport.
I really liked the low fire bowl design of the Cypress fire pit. It didn’t obstruct conversation with those on the other side of the fire while everyone was seated in cozy Adirondack fire pit chairs, yet it produced nice bright flames and ample warmth. It was not equipped with an ignition system, so we still had to use a lighter, but the flame adjusted smoothly from a low smoldering flicker to a bright 10-inch flame. The only unavoidable inconvenience was what to do with the gas hose, which by necessity laid across the ground where it could pose a tripping hazard. Still, this is a really nice compact fire pit for home or travel.
- Type: Gas fire pit
- Dimensions: 21 inches in diameter, 9.25 inches high
- Weight: 25.5 pounds
- Durable powder-coated and enamel-steel construction protects against scratches and rust
- Chrome knob adjusts the flame height; produces up to 58,000 BTUs of heat
- Conveniently works with any standard grill-size propane tank (not included)
- Compact size makes it easy to transport yet offers ample space for several guests
- Gas hose lying on the ground could pose a tripping hazard; thoughtful placement is required
- Not equipped with a built-in ignition system, so don’t forget a lighter
Get the Outland Living Cypress fire pit at Amazon or Outland Living.
An affordable fire pit doesn’t have to be “cheap.” The Blue Sky Outdoor Living Ridge fire pit is made of heavy-duty alloy steel, weighs less than 15 pounds, and burns either firewood or wood pellets. The smokeless dual-wall design means it starts quickly and burns efficiently. The base nests inside the burn chamber for easy transport, and it includes a convenient shoulder-carry case.
I tested the Blue Sky Outdoor Living Ridge fire pit with both firewood and pellets. Both fuels worked very well and burned smoke-free. The visual flame quality and warmth were excellent. However, the small interior dimensions (less than 12 inches in diameter) of the burn chamber made it necessary to use very short firewood pieces. Plan on cutting store-bought firewood in half, or consider this smaller fire pit as an excellent choice for burning wood pellets.
As with other dual-wall fire pits, the ash was minimal and finely textured. The fire pit is designed so that the ashes fall into the base, where it is easy to simply dump them after the fire has burned out. This was one of the easiest to clean of all the wood burners I tested.
The cost savings gained from alloy-steel construction create a potential vulnerability in this model. After several fires, storing the fire pit under a covered porch when not in use, the high-temperature paint began to wear off. The finish didn’t rust, but it did begin to develop a patina. Emptying the ashes promptly after use and storing it in a dry location will be key to its longevity.
- Type: Portable firewood or wood pellet fire pit
- Dimensions: 15.76 inches in diameter, 12.5 inches high
- Weight: 14.8 pounds
- Value price point but includes design features found on more expensive fire pits
- Burns either firewood or wood pellets and produces a nice warming fire
- Nesting design and included carry case contribute to easy storage and transport
- At a little under 15 pounds, this was one of the lightest fire pits tested
- Burns through wood pellets faster than some of the other wood pellet fire pits
- Not suitable for use on sensitive surfaces like grass or wood decking without added protection
Get the Blue Sky Outdoor Living fire pit at Amazon, Lowe’s, The Home Depot, or Blue Sky Outdoor Living.
Those who crave a fire pit that adds a stylish touch and a sense of permanence to the patio need look no further than the Tiki Brand Patio smokeless fire pit. It features a 16-gauge stainless steel burn chamber, a sleek powder-coated steel-band exterior finish, a wooden ash drawer handle, and wrought-iron feet for a refined appearance. The model measures 24.75 inches in diameter and 18.75 inches high, weighs 43 pounds, and burns either wood pellets or firewood.
One standout feature of this large model was the steel burn-assist cone for use with wood pellets. Place it in the center of the fire pit, lay a bag of pellets over it, light the four corners of the bag, and the fire gets going in minutes. The dual-wall design ensures a hot, efficient burn and leaves little ash to clean up. And when it is time to empty the ashes, a handy ash drawer makes the task about as clean and easy as possible. The fire pit also comes with a fitted fabric cover.
The Tiki Brand Patio fire pit looked and worked great. I liked the combination of heat-resistant stainless steel inside the burn chamber with the decorative powder-coated steel exterior. Interestingly, although the burn chamber was actually smaller than expected, it produced a big hot flame and near-zero smoke. With its large size, heavy weight, and bulky styling features, this is more like a piece of furniture and is not really designed for portability. It comfortably seated eight guests within the heat ring, and could fit up to 10.
- Type: Wood- or pellet-burning smokeless fire pit
- Dimensions: 24.75 inches in diameter, 18.75 inches high
- Weight: 43 pounds
- Sturdy construction of high-quality 16-gauge stainless steel, wrought iron, and powder-coated steel
- Dual-wall design eliminates smoke and helps the fire pit to burn more efficiently
- Easy-access pull-out ashtray keeps hands clean and eliminates the most tedious part of using a fire pit
- Attractive styling gives it the appearance of a piece of furniture rather than an appliance
- Although the fire pit is larger than the competition, the burn chamber interior is only 16 inches in diameter
- Not rated for use on wood decks or within 15 feet of any flammable surface
Get the Tiki Brand fire pit at Amazon or Tiki Brand.
Where lightweight packability is critical, the Fireside Outdoor Pop-Up fire pit excels. For storage and travel, the frame folds to fit inside a 27-inch-long by 5-inch-wide by 5-inch-deep soft-side carry case, and it weighs just 7.6 pounds. In operation, the elevated fire platform, measuring 12 inches high by 24 inches long by 24 inches wide, provides ample space for a campfire that will satisfy a crowd of eight to 10. It supports up to 125 pounds of weight, so there’s no need to worry about it collapsing under the weight of heavy firewood.
The kit includes the pop-up aluminum base, four aluminum edges, a stainless steel fire mesh, and the heavy-duty carry case. It only takes about a minute to set up. In its “Base Camp” configuration, this model should only be used on fireproof surfaces like gravel, concrete, or bare earth. Upgrade to the “Heat Shield Combo” to get the protective heat shield that makes it safe to set up on sensitive surfaces like wooden decks or grass.
Although the Campfire Defender Pop-Up fire pit has an unconventional design and is not effectively smokeless, it created a surprisingly traditional campfire aesthetic in our test. Unlike with solid-sided smokeless fire pits that obscure the firewood and can leave the impression of a burn barrel, I liked the “naked” fire with clearly visible firewood and embers, as it would appear in an old-fashioned rock ring.
As for durability, neither the mesh nor the frame showed signs of stress or fatigue after a dozen cycles of setup-campfire-cleanup-store, even with marginal care. I didn’t always clean up immediately after the fire was out. While camping, it remained set up throughout the weekend, and I only cleaned out the built-up ashes at the very end of trips. This left the stainless steel mesh dirty and clogged so that I had to use a brush to clean it, but it did not rust.
I tested the pop-up fire pit with and without the heat shield and consider the added expense worthwhile. It was easy to install by means of four hook-and-loop straps at the corners. The heat shield only added about 4 ounces of weight to the entire package and allowed me to set up pretty much anywhere I wanted. It’s a great choice for bonfires on the go, wherever there’s no established fire ring.
- Type: Firewood-burning portable fire pit
- Dimensions: 24 inches square, 12 inches high
- Weight: 7.6 pounds without the heat shield, or 8 pounds with it
- The sturdy aluminum frame and steel fire mesh hold up to 125 pounds
- Conveniently lightweight at 7.6 pounds; packs down to just 27 inches long by 5 inches wide by 5 inches deep
- Elevated fire platform offers excellent visibility to the base of the fire and embers
- The available heat shield allows safe setup on fire-sensitive surfaces like wood or grass
- Although the design allows for excellent airflow, this is not a smokeless fire pit
- The protective heat shield is not included in the base configuration
Get the Fireside Outdoor fire pit at Amazon, Ace Hardware, REI, or Fireside Outdoor.
A propane fire pit eliminates dealing with firewood and cleaning up ash, plus it makes efficient use of the fuel you already have on hand to power your grill, RV heater, or camp stove. The Ignik FireCan portable fire pit takes the convenience factor a step further by offering the cheery warmth of a fire pit in an easily mobile package.
The clever ammo can design allows this gas fire pit to double as its own carry case, with inside storage for the gas hose and regulator. The entire kit weighs just 11.5 pounds and measures 7.5 inches high by 12 inches long by 6 inches wide. To operate it, just deploy the foldable legs, remove the heavy-duty lid, and install the 5-foot quick-connect gas hose with adjustable regulator. The regulator fits standard grill-size propane tanks. Manual ignition eliminates batteries or moving parts that can fail.
I really liked the simplicity and heavy-duty build of the Ignik FireCan. The compact design and rugged construction made it easy to pack with camp gear without worrying that something might break or get lost. Setup only took a minute or two. It made nice little campfires that produced an attractive flame and a surprising amount of heat. The unit cooled within an hour after turning off the fire and simply packed away with no need to clean anything.
I did not like that the kit did not come with a heat/flame diffuser like fire rock or ceramic logs to install around the burner. The diffuser is an essential part of gas burners; it causes the flame to move and, more importantly, absorbs and radiates heat for a significantly improved warming effect. Luckily, I had some lava rock on hand, but I considered the product not ready to use the way it arrived, and for that reason I took off a few points.
- Type: Portable gas fire pit
- Dimensions: 7.5 inches high by 12 inches long by 6 inches wide
- Weight: 11 pounds 3.2 ounces
- Durable steel construction with a heavy-duty latch and heat-resistant silicone handles
- Conveniently packable with onboard storage for the gas hose and regulator
- Lightweight and packable, yet it still makes a bright flame and produces 38,000 BTUs of heat
- A great choice for RVing, cookouts, tailgating, or wherever you already take a propane tank
- The kit does not include a heat diffuser for the burner, such as lava rock or ceramic logs
- No built-in ignition system means that users cannot forget to bring a lighter
Get the Ignik fire pit at Amazon, Cabela’s, REI, L.L.Bean, or Ignik.
Wood pellet fuel is lightweight; easy to store; and burns longer, hotter, and more efficiently than firewood. Because of their small size and extreme heat production, every fire pit cannot burn pellets. Getting the full advantage of efficient wood pellet fuel requires a specially designed model like the Flame Genie FG-16 wood pellet fire pit.
The Flame Genie is a lightweight fire pit that is easy to take on the go. It measures 13.5 inches in diameter and 12.5 inches high, and it weighs 13.5 pounds. The smoke-free dual-wall firebox burns any type of wood pellet fuel to a fine powder ash for easy cleanup. Choose from stainless steel or alloy steel (with black high-temp paint). The base nests inside the burn chamber to save space, and it comes with a heavy-duty carry bag.
I tried the stainless steel model. In my tests, the Flame Genie FG-16 burned more slowly and steadily than the other wood pellet burners. That was likely because the base of the firebox had fewer vent holes than other pellet burners, restricting airflow just enough to boost the fire’s longevity without seriously impacting flame quality. The flame was slightly smaller, though still bright and lively, but the end result was that it burned longer and used less fuel over time than the competition. For toasting marshmallows, the Flame Genie produced a nice even bed of coals in about 45 minutes that lasted more than an hour without adding fuel.
- Type: Wood pellet fire pit
- Dimensions: 13.5 inches in diameter, 12.5 inches high
- Weight: 13.5 pounds
- Lightweight, compact design with nesting parts and carry bag for easy transport
- Smokeless dual-wall firebox burns wood pellets efficiently down to powdery ash
- Fine-mesh bottom in the firebox controls airflow, extending burn time and conserving fuel
- Extended burn time means it takes longer to cool down after a fire, extending cleanup time
Get the Flame Genie fire pit at Amazon, Ace Hardware, The Home Depot, or Target.
Breeo makes some of the most durable, versatile fire pits available, starting with the X24 smokeless fire pit. The one I tested came with a corten steel fire bowl with stainless steel trim that gave it a rustic appearance. It is also available in all-stainless steel for a sleek, modern look. The fire pit measures 27.5 inches in diameter and 14.75 inches high, and it weighs 62 pounds. This big, heavy fire pit establishes a sense of permanence, but it doesn’t transport easily.
The X24 uses a dual-wall design and a well-ventilated fire bowl to eliminate smoke. The large fire bowl holds firewood pieces 16 to 18 inches long, building big bright flames to entertain groups of six to 10 (or more). Because the proportions are relatively wider and shallower, it takes longer than other options to generate the high inner-wall heat required for a smokeless burn. But once achieved, the effect lasts a long time. I built it up to the smokeless phase within about 20 minutes, and it retained that stage for more than an hour without additional fuel.
One important element regarding the Breeo X24’s construction is the use of corten steel. Corten, or weathering steel, is a structural type used in buildings and bridges that was developed to eliminate painting. The raw corten steel develops an oxidized surface patina over time that prevents rust through. Mine arrived with a matte blue/gray appearance that began to evolve with exposure to the elements. Over time, the corten will attain a “rusty” appearance highlighted by the stainless steel trim. The idea is that this fire pit never needs to be stored indoors; the all-stainless steel model can stay outdoors as well, but it will change little in appearance.
- Type: Wood-burning smokeless fire pit
- Dimensions: 27.5 inches in diameter, 14.75 inches high
- Weight: 62 pounds
- Heavy-duty stainless and corten steel construction offers carefree durability for a lifetime of use
- Through-the-floor ventilation delivers steady airflow for improved fire efficiency
- Dual-wall design eliminates smoke for a more comfortable fire pit experience
- Numerous accessories are available to boost functionality for outdoor living
- At such a heavy, bulky size, this fire pit is not practically portable
- The price was significantly higher than most of the other fire pits I tested
Get the Breeo fire pit at Ace Hardware (stainless steel), The Home Depot, or Breeo.
When it comes to wood decks, fire pit options are limited by spatial and safety considerations. My favorite safe and attractive fire pit option for decks is the Cuisinart Chimenea propane fire pit. Fueled by a grill-style propane tank (not included) housed inside the fire-pit body, this model starts at the click of an automatic igniter switch and eliminates the clutter and hassle of firewood.
This upright fire pit measures 31 inches in diameter and 48 inches high, and it weighs 43 pounds (without a propane tank). The adjustable burner, surrounded by 8 pounds of lava rock, produces up to 40,000 BTUs of heat, which radiates outward thanks to a built-in heat deflector.
Admittedly, I didn’t like assembling this fire pit. The parts lined up the way they were supposed to, but the instructions were unclear in a few places. Total build time was about 1.5 hours, and the only tool I needed was a stubby #2 Phillips-head screwdriver to access a few awkwardly placed screws on interior curves inside the housing.
The fire pit worked perfectly. The igniter worked without incident, as did the flame adjustment knob. It reflected heat outward at least 7 feet with the burner set on low. The high setting was simply too hot for our late spring weather. I especially liked the space savings and the anchoring effect due to the fuel tank being hidden inside the body of the fire pit. It was a great setup for a wood deck with no unwanted heat buildup inside the metal housing, no heat directed toward the deck, and plenty of warmth for those seated nearby.
- Type: Gas fire pit
- Dimensions: 31 inches in diameter, 48 inches high
- Weight: 43 pounds (not including the propane tank)
- Eliminates the clutter and hassle of firewood on wood decks where space is limited
- The propane tank resides inside the body of the fire pit; no gas hose lying on the ground
- Lightweight painted-steel construction is durable but easy to move when needed
- Assembly instructions were not completely clear in a few steps
- Did not include a cover to protect the finish and keep debris out of the burner area
Get the Cuisinart fire pit at Amazon, The Home Depot, Target, Best Buy, Crate & Barrel, or Cuisinart.
A tabletop fire pit adds a cozy ambience for outdoor entertaining, and there is no shortage of types from which to choose. For aesthetics alone, propane, gel, or alcohol burners are quick and easy, but for interactive fun, nothing beats the cool factor of a real wood fire. The Solo Stove Mesa XL tabletop fire pit is a great choice for making s’mores or adding some warmth and cozy flames to an outdoor table. This compact model measures 7 inches in diameter and 8.6 inches high, and it weighs 2.3 pounds.
Like larger Solo Stoves, this scaled-down version uses dual-wall construction and 360-degree airflow inside the burn chamber to produce an attractive flame with minimal smoke. Unlike its larger siblings, this one comes ready to burn wood pellets or firewood. It is made of 304 stainless steel for long-term durability, and it comes equipped with a folding stand and drawstring carry case. For a more personalized aesthetic, choose from among the basic stainless steel finish or five different color finishes.
In my tests, fires in the Solo Stove Mesa XL burned with an appearance very similar to the Bonfire 2.0. The compact size was perfect for use on an outdoor coffee table, where it was easy to add a few scoops of pellets or chunks of firewood every 15 minutes or so. For the longest burn time without constant feeding, I found that chunky pieces of firewood about 2 inches thick and 6 to 7 inches long worked best.
Mesa XL scored very high for its smokeless operation, and the smaller size seemed to shorten the required warm-up time. The fires were generally smoke-free within 10 minutes or less. The only cautionary concern was the fire pit’s surface temperature. Any fire pit will get dangerously hot, but this one kind of felt a bit more hazardous due to the “cute” size and the close proximity. Use extra caution with children.
- Type: Firewood or wood pellet burning smokeless fire pit
- Dimensions: 7 inches in diameter, 8.6 inches high
- Weight: 2.3 pounds
- Offers an authentic campfire aesthetic in a fun and compact tabletop size
- Compatible with both wood pellet fuel and firewood pieces up to 7 inches long
- Smaller size reduces the fire burn-down time for faster cleanup when the fire is over
- Like other Solo Stoves, it produces a clean, smokeless fire and bright secondary burn
- The included stand elevates the fire pit safely above any fire-sensitive surface
- The smaller fire bowl size must be fed more frequently to keep the fire going
- The sides and rim of the fire pit become dangerously hot when the fire is active
Get the Solo Stove Mesa XL fire pit at Amazon, Solo Stove, Scheels, Nomadic Supply Company, or BBQGrills.com.
For those who enjoy quality outside time even when the temperature dips, the Outland Living Granville fire table adds a little extra warmth with modern style. The full-size coffee table measures 24 inches high by 44 inches long by 32 inches wide and weighs 96 pounds. It includes a built-in 50,000-BTU propane burner.
This fire table exhibits quality construction from the inside out. The powder-coated aluminum frame is wrapped in espresso-brown ultraviolet-resistant resin wicker and topped with 8-millimeter black tempered glass. The burner, pan, and fasteners are made of stainless steel. The kit includes 10 pounds of “arctic ice” clear fire glass stones to surround and diffuse the flame. Inside the base there is room for a 20-pound propane tank, as well as a spare.
After a quick assembly that took approximately 40 minutes, I didn’t have to wait to test the Outland Living Granville fire table. It started immediately with the electronic ignition, and the flame adjusted smoothly from barely a flicker to a 6-inch-high wall of fire. The heat was impressive, and the glass stones shimmered and almost glowed in the dark. It was a really nice look and feel.
This table was sturdy and well built and made an attractive impression. A couple of things were missing from the basic kit that would have made it more functional. A tempered-glass insert is available (sold separately) to maximize surface area when the fire is not in use. Also, the fabric cover (also sold separately) will be essential to keeping the table dust- and pollen-free.
- Type: Gas fire pit table
- Dimensions: 24 inches high by 44 inches long by 32 inches wide
- Weight: 96 pounds
- Designed to serve as a full-size coffee table
- Extra storage space beneath the table holds up to 2 propane tanks
- Built to last with a durable powder-coated aluminum frame and resin wicker covering
- Powerful 50,000-BTU burner with 10 pounds of arctic ice fire glass as a flame diffuser
- The tempered-glass insert and fabric protective cover are sold separately
- The 96-pound package is heavy and difficult to move around for assembly
Get the Outland Living Granville fire pit at Amazon, The Home Depot, or Outland Living.
Or, DIY Your Own Fire Pit
Of course, some backyard fire enthusiasts prefer heavier, more permanent elements. If a permanent stone or masonry fire pit is more your style, consider building one. If you’re not sure how to build a basic backyard fire pit, just follow the link for easy instructions on making one with inexpensive retaining-wall blocks.
What to Consider When Choosing a Fire Pit
Our testing was thorough and our findings can help those considering a fire pit purchase identify some of the best fire pits on the market. Potential buyers can select the best fire pit for their needs by considering factors like type, fuel, material, where they plan to place the fire pit, and use restrictions in the area.
Photo: Debbie Wolfe for Bob Vila
Types of Fire Pits
Fire pits are generally categorized by the types of fuel they burn: firewood, propane, wood pellets, and a few alternative fuels. Each of these types can be a great choice depending on your needs and perspective.
Wood-burning fire pits take us back to where our flame affinity started. Whether it’s the smell of wood smoke, the dance of the flames, the sound of the crackling embers, or the perfection of red hot coals for outdoor cooking, there’s a lot to love about a wood-burning fire pit.
The downside of wood, however, is the management and the labor involved. It takes planning and storage space to ensure an ample supply of firewood will be there when needed. And that requires keeping firewood dry, cut to length, or split to the ideal dimensions. Wood doesn’t last forever—bugs, moisture, and fungi will eventually find their way into an unused firewood supply and degrade the quality. If you like the idea of a fire but not all the work that comes with wood, consider other options.
Gas fire pits burn propane. Propane comes from liquid components that are recovered from natural gas processing, and it burns quite cleanly. These fire pits produce zero smoke and lots of heat and require very little maintenance other than filling the tank and the occasional check for leaks. For low-maintenance and emissions, it is almost impossible to beat a propane fire pit.
But the experience of sitting between a propane tank and a hissing burner doesn’t give off the same vibe as an old fashioned campfire. Plus, it requires hauling a heavy propane tank wherever you want to have a fire, which can become impractical, to say the least. Also, propane fire pits have hoses, valves, and regulators that require maintenance and, eventually, replacement. Not so with other fire pits.
Some fire pits burn alternative fuels, including wood pellets, gel fuel, alcohol, and others. The most common of these is wood pellets. Pellet fuel is made from lumber industry waste and processed in a way that maximizes heat output and minimizes smoke. But not every wood-burning fire pit can use this fuel. Specially designed pellet fire pits provide consistent airflow through the fuel to produce a quality flame, but not so much as to burn up the pellets too quickly.
One drawback to wood pellet fire pits, as well as the other alternative fuel options, is that the fuels are not always readily available. Although wood pellets are more common, it’s still a lot easier to find firewood or propane at stores, campgrounds, and parks.
The two most common fire pit construction materials are budget-friendly alloy steel and more expensive stainless steel. The difference is that stainless steel offers weather and corrosion resistance, even after repeated exposure to high heat, but alloy steel does not. For that reason, alloy steel comes with some kind of coating, usually high-temperature paint or powder coating. But the coatings wear or burn off over time with repeated exposure to super-hot temperatures.
With proper care—mainly keeping it clean and dry—an alloy-steel fire pit might last a decade or more before rust degrades its usefulness. Expect a well-built stainless steel fire pit to last at least twice as long.
The main factors that affect portability are size, shape, and weight of both the fire pit and its fuel, and all of those factors are relative. Frequency of travel makes a difference as well. A strong young adult with a big truck and trailer might not think twice about hauling the 62-pound Breeo X24 from backyard to campground for a weekend. But someone of average strength with a compact SUV will prefer something lighter that takes up less space, especially for frequent trips every couple of weeks.
In areas where fire bans are in place, it’s important to check with the local authorities before starting any fire, including in a fire pit. There might be allowances or limitations on certain fuel types or no-burn nights in place. The same goes for neighborhood or association rules. When in doubt, check the community standards before buying or using any fire pit where it could cause conflict with neighbors.
The Advantages of Owning a Fire Pit
There is a reason fire pits are popular. Among the advantages of owning a well-designed fire pit are:
- A fire pit intuitively becomes a gathering place when groups of family, friends, or strangers come together.
- Because it adds light and warmth, a fire pit can extend gathering time past daylight hours.
- The fire pit enhances the group mood with an infusion of serenity, calm, and romance.
Now that you’ve learned about some of the best fire pits around, take a few moments to check out these tips and tricks that will help you stay safe and get the most out of your newest addition.
Q. How far away from the house should a fire pit be?
Fire pits should be placed 10 to 25 feet away from flammable vertical surfaces like buildings, trees, cars, and fences. They also need at least 20 feet of overhead tree or structure clearance.
Q. When should you not use a fire pit?
It is important to use good judgment based on environmental conditions. Although burn bans may exempt the use of fire pits, windy conditions would be a good reason to forego the fire.
Q. Is it safe to have a fire pit under a covered patio?
It is never safe to operate a fire pit in an enclosed structure. Allow 10 to 25 feet between structures and the fire pit, and at least 20 feet of overhead clearance.
Q. Should I put anything in the bottom of my fire pit?
Never obstruct the vents in the base of a smokeless firewood or pellet-burning fire pit. In wood burners with solid bottoms, a 1-inch layer of silica sand or fire brick in the bottom can help to protect alloy steel from damaging heat. Gas fire pits require a diffuser, such as lava rock, ceramic logs, or fire glass stones, around the burner.
Why Trust Bob Vila
Bob Vila has been America’s Handyman since 1979. As the host of beloved and groundbreaking TV series including “This Old House” and “Bob Vila’s Home Again,” he popularized and became synonymous with “do-it-yourself” home improvement.
Over the course of his decades-long career, Bob Vila has helped millions of people build, renovate, repair, and live better each day—a tradition that continues today with expert yet accessible home advice. The Bob Vila team distills need-to-know information into project tutorials, maintenance guides, tool 101s, and more. These home and garden experts then thoroughly research, vet, and recommend products that support homeowners, renters, DIYers, and professionals in their to-do lists.
Meet the Tester
Mark Wolfe is a writer and product tester with an extensive background in the nursery and landscaping industry. For more than 20 years, he mowed, edged, planted, pruned, cultivated, irrigated, and renovated beautiful landscapes. Now he tests and writes reviews about the latest outdoor power equipment, hand tools, lawn-care products, and other outdoor living goods.