Outdoor Fire Pit Buyer's Guide
Whether you live far in the country, out in the suburbs, or the middle of a city, nothing pairs with an evening better than an outdoor fire pit. The smell of wood smoke (or propane if that's your preference), the sound of crackling embers, and the warm glow of dancing flames makes an excellent addition to any affair. But what kind of outdoor fire pit do you need? Which one will fit perfectly outside your home, apartment, or campsite? Which fire pit gives you the most bang for your buck? Stick around and I'll help you figure out which product is the best outdoor fire pit for you.
What To Look For In An Outdoor Fire Pit
If this is your first time in the market of outdoor fire pits, you may have some questions. That’s good! It’s important not to jump into any purchase without first exploring the available options. And the truth is, the best outdoor fire pit for me may not even be the best pit for you. Everyone has different tastes. More importantly, everyone has different circumstances.
Before purchasing anything, ask yourself these questions:
- How much space do I have to work with?
- Do I have steady access to wood to burn?
- Am I allergic to wood smoke?
- How much am I looking to spend?
The answers to those questions will lead you to find the top fire pit for you.
Adapting To Your Space
Fire pits are great for patios, decks, back yards, and camping trips. But the space you’re using will ultimately decide the size of fire pit you’ll want to get. If it will be used on a roof top in Manhattan, getting the biggest wood burner may not be practical or economical. On the other hand, a stationary fire pit in your back yard can usually be as big as you want. I would urge caution when placing the fire pit around other structures / items, as they will get very hot.
A good rule of thumb is to measure the space you’re going to be using. The smaller the space, the more precise you’ll have to be with your measurements. Be sure to allow at least a 6 foot radius around the fire pit where no other flammable objects or structures are placed.
There are many types of fuel you can use to provide the flame for your outdoor fire pit. Determining which one to use isn’t difficult and usually boils down to personal preference and availability. Not everyone has a steady supply of wood to burn. For those people, I would recommend looking into getting a propane or butane fire pit. If you already know what your fuel source will be, why not check out our companion guides:
If you don’t know what kind of fuel you’re going to burn, you should consider the pros and cons of each.
Fire Pit Material Types
Outdoor fire pits are made from a variety of materials and come in a vast array of shapes and sizes. Each have their own pros and cons and you shouldn’t pick a fire pit without reading through your many options. We’ve worked diligently to compare the different kinds and are working on a great write-up. In the mean time, these are the main construction materials you’ll find on the market:
- Cast Iron Fire Pits
- Copper Fire Pits
- Steel Fire Pits
- Stone Fire Pits
If you live in an area where droughts are commonplace, fire pits become even more important. A simple campfire can spin out of control when mixed with dry brush and high winds. Most fire pits provide great protection from escaping embers, but you’ll still need to double check that the one you buy has a comprehensive cover.
You can avoid this worry by exclusively buying gas fire pits.
I recommend everyone to get a basic first aid kit and learn how to treat burns. It’s less important with sober adults, but mixing alcohol with open flame or having young children around can be a recipe for injuries. Be sure you can recognize the different severities of burns and treat each one according to the recommendation.
I always hesitate to call anything “cheap”, but these fire pits are definitely less expensive than many higher end models. Luckily, you don’t have to sacrifice much quality to save some cash. But there are some things to note when you start to go cheaper:
- Cheaper fire pits are generally smaller than their more expensive cousins
- If you’re not careful, you might buy one made from inferior steel or other materials
- They may require more care than higher quality fire pits
Keeping those things in mind, I think I’ve picked the best fire pit you can buy with less than two Benjamin Franklins:
First off, this is a wood burning fire pit. If you’re looking for a gas burning fire pit, you should follow the previous link. This Sunnydaze model sports a 3 foot diameter and can hold many small logs or one good-sized “all-nighter”. Many have reported that the materials feel flimsy, but once you fill the fire pit with wood it becomes much more sturdy.
The spark screen prevents any accidental flames from occurring during dry weather and also protects small children and pets from getting too close to the open flame. The edges can still be hot though, so I wouldn’t take any chances!
Spending a little more money can increase the quality of your fire pit by an order of magnitude. Although the previous fire pits were great, the next models really kick it up a notch. They might not get you any warmer than their less expensive cousins, but you can’t argue with their style and visual appeal. Additionally, if you’re averse to the cleanup and maintenance that wood fire pits bring, raising your budget a bit will allow you to find a great entry-level gas fire pit.
When you start to get into the $250+ territory, a few doors open up for you:
- The build quality of the fire pits increase
- You start to see pits made out of aluminum or copper in addition to regular steel
- As stated before, you start to see some good quality gas fire pits become available
- The fire pits can be larger
Taking those points into account, this is what Best Outdoor Fire Pits chooses as the best mid-range choice available:
Editor’s Note: This is a propane fire pit — if you’re like me and think that nothing can substitute the glow of logs or the smell of woodsmoke, check out our complete list of wood burning outdoor fire pits.
Although technically a fire bowl (not a pit), this is the model you want to buy if you can afford the extra money. Not only will you keep your party guests warm with the ample 40,000 BTUs of heat, but the gorgeous multi-colored slate and marble tile looks good in almost any setting. The included lava rocks and faux logs provide a nice backdrop to the dancing flames. The propane tank sits below, out of sight and out of mind.
Weighing in at 162 pounds, this option is a lot sturdier than the Sunnydaze model above. This is important, as it will surely be a permanent fixture on your outdoor deck or patio. Even when you’re not using it, you can still use the tabletop to hold drinks or even play cards.
Another thing the Endless Summer model gives you is choice. There are variable settings to either dictate a temperature or a mood. Good luck doing that with a wood fire pit!
So you’re a high roller, huh? Not content with an entry-level or mid-range fire pit, you want to see exactly how much pit you can get for your money. I don’t blame you — if you have the means it makes sense to find the perfect fire pit for your backyard, deck, or patio. But it’s not enough to buy something just because it’s expensive. You have to make sure it’s the best fire pit for you.
You’ll not find many wood burning outdoor fire pits above $400. That’s not to say you can’t spend that much on one (many DIY fire pits easily exceed $400). However, most consumer options opt for propane and butane at this price point. Additionally, there are fewer differences in build quality at this level. You’re either paying for a brand name or an ornate design. And while taste is subjective, we definitely have an opinion on what the best outdoor fire pit money can buy is.
Without further ado:
This fire pit table is tremendous! BCP’s superior build quality makes the final product sturdy, stable, and ready for use. Made out of aluminum (not steel like many other fit pits), it weighs in at a mere 80 pounds. Because of the aluminum, it resists weathering. A nice dark brown paint has been applied to the exterior to give it visual appeal.
Additionally, this fire pit table includes a lid that goes over the flame. When down, it can stealthily become a gorgeous center table. Pumping out a generous 42,000 BTUs, it can be used in any season to warm your weary bones.
Overall, the unit is beautiful and is unparalleled in build quality and aesthetics. It would make a fine addition to any outdoor patio, deck, or yard.