Best fire pit 2021: Marshmallows optional | ZDNet

With summer over and fall rushing in, nights are getting colder and longer. What better way to extend your backyard’s use than buying a fire pit? The best fire pit beckons family and friends to gather around, roast marshmallows or hot dogs and tell stories late into the night as the flames disappear into the dark sky.

Finding the best fire pit can be overwhelming with so many designs, features, and price points available. Many of the top-rated best fire pits are affordable, with sleek designs that also provide function and safety. You can’t beat a wood-burning fire pit, and we’ve selected some of the best fire pits you can use for a bonfire, to cook dinner or even take with you on the road.


Best overall fire pit


Amazon

The Ohio Flame Liberty Fire Pit is our best overall fire pit for a few reasons. First, you can choose from a bowl diameter of 24, 30 or 26-inches. You can also choose your base, which is angular, curved, hollow or a standard shape. Ohio Flame fire pits are made in the USA using thick gauge American steel. The fire pits are sturdy, coming in between 43-110lbs depending on the diameter of the bowl. Ohio Flame fire pits are welded together, and there is no assembly or maintenance required.

The best part of Ohio Flame fire pits is they come with a lifetime warranty. The fire bowl is guaranteed not to rot, rust through or warp in the owner’s lifetime. With use, the surface will darken and develop a patina, which is a protective finish that happens through oxidation. The company expects its fire pits to last for generations. With an initial price tag of $427 (more or less depending on bowl diameter and base style), the only future cost you should expect when buying an Ohio Flame fire pit is the cost of wood or pellets for fuel. The company also sells accessories, including a fire tools package, cook grate, spark screen and fire starters.

If you like the idea of a lifetime fire pit but don’t want to spend over $400, the 24 inch Patriot fire pit is also a good choice. Coming in at $325, this Ohio Flame fire pit has the same lifetime warranty but with a smaller footprint and price tag to match. Regardless of which Ohio Flame fire pit you choose, you can expect a lifetime of fond memories around the fire with your loved ones.


Pros:

Cons:

  • Higher price point

  • Not portable



Best portable fire pit


solo-stove-bonfire.jpg

Amazon

The Solo Stove Bonfire is the perfect solution for travelers who want to take a fire pit with them, but it can also be used in the backyard to roast marshmallows with your kids. The Bonfire is 19.5-inches in diameter, 14-inches tall and weighs just 20lbs. The Solo Stove Bonfire is made from 304 stainless steel and is resistant to rust, though it will oxidize if water gets inside. Even though it’s small, you can still use logs up to 16-inches long to keep the fire going all night.

The 360-degree design around the inner rim allows constant airflow, which pulls air from the bottom into the top. This results in a secondary burn that is hot, long-lasting and virtually smokeless. The Solo Stove Bonfire’s small size allows you to take it anywhere, and the optional bonfire stand means it can be used on heat-sensitive surfaces.

You can buy the Solo Stove Bonfire on Amazon for $348, which includes a carrying case. But if you buy the Solo Stove Bonfire directly from the manufacturer this fall, you can save $100 and get free shipping and returns! If you’re looking for something smaller to travel with you, consider the Solo Stove Ranger. This smokeless fire pit goes for $230 and is 15-inches in diameter, 12.5-inches tall and weighs just 15lbs. While Solo Stove offers a lifetime warranty, it’s only for manufacturer defects.


Pros:

  • Portable fire pit

  • Rust resistant

  • No assembly required

  • Smokeless and burns hot

Cons:

  • Heat is concentrated at the top

  • Warranty only for manufacturer defects

  • Stand not included

  • No handles for easy ash dumping



Best fire pit for cooking


sunnydaze-northland-outdoor-fire-pit.jpg

Amazon

The Sunnydaze Northland Outdoor fire pit is a great option for someone looking for a backyard fire pit that doubles as a cooktop. The Northland Outdoor fire pit is 36-inches long, 27-inches wide and 25-inches high, weighing in at 30lbs. It costs just $159 on Amazon and includes a grill grate for cooking, spark screen, fireplace poker and waterproof cover to protect it while not in use.

This fire pit is made from alloy steel and is coated in a rust-resistant, high heat black paint to keep it from rusting. To maintain the black finish and limit rust, consider spraying with high heat paint as needed. The spark screen is hinged, making adding logs and cooking on the included grill grate easy. The tall screen allows for large fires, keeping sparks contained as your family and friends gather for an evening of stories and stargazing. 

Some assembly is required, but reviewers state it’s quick and easy to do. Be sure to use the included cover to keep water out and extend the life of your Sunnydaze Northland Outdoor fire pit. With over 1,300 positive reviews, this fire pit suitable for cooking is versatile and the perfect fit for backyard barbecuing or roasting marshmallows.


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Best budget smokeless fire pit


inno-stage-smokeless-fire-bowl-pit.jpg

Amazon

The Inno Stage Smokeless Fire Bowl Pit is currently selling for $105.95 on Amazon. Based on reviews and price, this is the best smokeless fire pit for shoppers on a budget. The fire pit is 7-inches long, 15-inches wide and 12.5-inches tall, weighing in at just 16lbs. You can use wood pellets for this smokeless fire pit or cut regular-size wood logs into smaller pieces to fuel the fire. It comes with a carrying bag, so you can take the Inno Stage smokeless fire pit anywhere you want, even to the beach.

The two-tier design separates the ash from the pellets or wood. Simply lift the upper plate to discard the ash from the lower tray. The upper tray includes convenient handles to make emptying and transporting quick and easy. The double-wall design increases airflow, with vented bottom holes to provide oxygen to the fire for long-burning sessions and minimal smoke. This product is a great choice for those who have little room at home for a fire pit or hate having their clothes smell like a campfire long after the fire has burned out.

There is no assembly required, and the Inno Stage Smokeless fire pit is ready for use right out of the box. It requires light maintenance to extend the life of this budget fire pit. Make sure the inside is clean and dry after each use to prevent rust. Eventually, after extensive use, the high heat paint will come off, but you can simply brush on fresh paint or get a spray-on version to seal the metal and prevent rusting. You can get the Inno Stage in stainless steel for a few dollars less (currently $95.98 on Amazon), but using high-heat paint is still recommended if you want to limit oxidation and rust.


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Cons



Best multipurpose fire pit


goognice-fire-pit-outdoor-fire-pit.jpg

Amazon

The GOOGNICE tabletop fire pit is one of the best fire pits for those who also want a grill and cooler in one. This tabletop fire pit is made of iron with a steel frame and spark screen cover that has an anti-rust coating already applied. The fire pit also comes with a fire poker. Though you can grill on this tabletop fire pit, you’ll have to buy the grill grate separately. It also does not come with a cover.

This tabletop fire pit is 31.5-inches long and wide and 17.72-inches tall. It weighs 24.5lbs, and some assembly is required. While some reviewers state setup is easy, others have had trouble getting all the screws placed in the predrilled holes. With the tabletop design, you can also use this fire pit as a cooler to store drinks when you’re not using it for cooking or sitting by the fire. To add to its versatility, you can use firewood, pellets or charcoal to get the fire burning nice and hot.

The GOOGNICE tabletop fire pit is a great choice for someone who wants a beautifully designed, multipurpose piece for their patio, backyard or deck — just be sure to set it on a heat resistant surface before building a fire. 


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How did we choose these products?

When choosing the best fire pits, we compared several features to find the top products, including:

  • Price

  • Accessories

  • Material 

  • Weight

  • Size

  • Assembly required

  • Customer reviews

  • Warranty

  • Burn vs smoke

We compared a few different fire pits that fell in each category, and using the above-mentioned features, picked a winner per category.

Which is the right one for you?

Now that you’ve had the time to review some of the best fire pits you can buy, it’s time for you to decide which is the right one for you. First, you should consider what you want the fire pit for. Whether it’s for warmth, a place to gather with family to make s’mores and memories, or somewhere to cook meals as you travel the country, knowing what you expect the fire pit to achieve for you is the first step.

Consider the size, shape and weight of a fire pit. Larger fire pits made of heavy materials like cast iron aren’t meant to be easily moved around the yard to different areas. If you want something that’s easy to travel with, a smaller fire pit that can be taken apart and placed in a carrying case may be ideal.

Cost is also a consideration, not only for the fire pit itself but also accessories and fuel source. A wood or pellet fire pit may be cheaper to buy, but the cost of wood and pellets may make the overall cost more than a natural gas or propane fire pit. Propane is more expensive than natural gas but burns much hotter for longer, so you may end up using less propane than natural gas. 

Fire pit FAQ

What is the best type of fire pit to buy?

The best type of fire pit to buy depends on your wants and needs in a fire pit. The size, shape, weight, material and burn area you want can help you narrow down the many choices available. Some fire pits burn strictly wood, while others also burn charcoal or pellets. 

Considering your budget is another way to help you decide which is the best type of fire pit to buy.

Which is better: steel or cast iron fire pit?

When comparing steel or cast iron fire pits, cast iron wins for durability, retaining heat and heating faster than steel. It also is less resistant to rust than steel fire pits, though steel fire pits are more lightweight than cast iron fire pits. 

Are there fire pits that don’t rust?

If you are looking for fire pits that don’t rust, a copper fire pit might be a good choice. Copper will not rust and actually develops a patina after longtime use. Though copper fire pits are more costly than other materials, they usually last longer, so they are worth the higher initial upfront cost. 

Thick gauge steel fire pits like the ones made by Ohio Flame and linked above are also guaranteed not to rust through, though it will oxidize on the surface, creating a patina finish that improves the fire pits durability.

Should I oil my fire pit?

Whether you should oil your fire pit depends on the material it’s made of. If you buy a steel fire pit, you can put a thin coating of vegetable oil on the surface to protect it from the elements. 

This will also prevent rust from occurring but may not eliminate it completely.

Are there alternatives worth considering?

As with most products, there are alternatives worth considering. When choosing the best fire pits, these fire pits were top contenders but didn’t meet the criteria to fall into the “best of” categories:


  • Ohio Flame Patriot 36-inch Fire Bowl Pit

     This Ohio Flame fire pit is the largest the company offers and the most expensive. Coming in at just under $845, this fire-bowl pit is made from 3/16-inch heavy gauge steel that is weatherproof. Wood and liquified petroleum gas are acceptable fuel sources for this fire pit.


  • Pop-up Fire Pit

     The pop-up fire pit is $99.95 and weighs just eight pounds, making it an easy fire pit to take with you on adventures. It didn’t make the cut because it has a limited lifespan and doesn’t come with a heat shield to protect the ground underneath. Reviewers also note sharp edges that could be dangerous and a large amount of smoke when using the fire pit.


  • Sunnydaze Crossweave Outdoor Fire Pit

     The Sunnydaze Crossweave is a 36-inch fire pit that comes with a poker, spark screen and storage cover. Like the Sunnydaze Northland featured, the Crossweave is made of painted alloy steel that will require some maintenance to extend its life. It’s also more expensive than the Northland, coming in at $199 on Amazon, and is missing the grill grate to make this a multi-function fire pit. The large fire bowl can hold a decent amount of logs, allowing you to spend hours outside on chilly nights with the warmth of the fire to keep you cozy.



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