An outdoor fire pit can breathe new life into backyard living, giving friends and family an excuse to gather around and cook s'mores. But a fire isn’t always as easy to manage as you’d think. Wood-burning fires can be hard to start, and open fires lead to smoke-tinged clothes long after the fire goes out.
Thankfully, there’s a class of fire pits that promises the benefits of a fire without the drawbacks. Most of these products are light enough to be portable, too. The only question is which type of fire pit is best for you: a wood or propane gas fire pit? After extensively testing, we recommend the wood-burning Tiki Patio Fire Pit (available at Amazon for $395.00) as the best overall firepit. Wood-burning fire pits burn hotter than propane, and this one is large enough to seat a crowd around, making it a perfect fit in your backyard.
The recommendations in this guide are based on thorough product and market research by our team of expert product reviewers. The picks are based on examining user reviews, product specifications, and, in some limited cases, our experience with the specific products named.
Tiki Patio Fire Pit
Dimensions: 24.75 x 24.75 x 18.75 inches
Weight: 45 pounds
Fuel Type: Wood
The Tiki Patio Firepit had several features that set it apart from the other wood-burning models we tested. For starters, this unit makes a gorgeous centerpiece in any patio or backyard setup. This stainless steel fire pit has a sleek, black powder-coated finish. It's quite large, too, easily fitting eight people around its exterior and heating approximately three feet away from the unit.
We tested the Tiki in two ways: first using the included wood pack filled with pellets and also using the traditional fire starter and kindling method. If you’re looking for a quick-and-easy way to start a fire, the wood pack is the way to go. It lit in five minutes and lasted a full 40 minutes, producing gorgeous flames the entire time.
The traditional method took about 15 minutes to get started, but the fire pit was large enough to fit three full-sized logs at once and burned for a full hour before having to add more wood. Both methods produced less smoke than most of the products we tested, although the pellets produced the least amount of smoke.
The Tiki was also the easiest wood-burning fire pit to clean. Once the unit cools down, simply remove the center cone and brush the ash into the removable ashtray. Then, pull out the ash pan and discard any ash inside.
It’s worth noting that the Tiki was the second heaviest wood-burning model we tested. That doesn’t exactly make it portable (we had to use two people to carry it). The stainless steel isn’t completely rust-resistant, either, so you’ll want to use the included weather-resistant cover after every use.
The Ukiah Tailgater X immediately stood out because of its cube-shaped design, distinguishing it from the sea of short, round propane fire pits we tested for this guide. From there, its features distinguished it from most of the other models in the test group: a battery-powered ignition so you don’t have to remember a stick lighter, a lightweight construction paired with built-in handles for easy transportation, and adjustable feet to make sure it always stands level.
The lava rocks that come with this unit are much smaller than most propane models, but it comes with more than enough of them to create vibrant flames with a beautiful pattern.
While the unit isn’t very large, the dial ranges from low to high and produces plenty of heat when set to high.
This fire pit also features several bonus features, like a magnetic lid that protects the lava rocks from the elements when not in use. The propane hook-up is also hidden around the back, so it’s not visible when you’re sitting in front of the fire pit. We also appreciated that this model uses a quick-connect propane coupling, which makes the fire pit easier to hook up and break down.
Put it all together, and the Ukiah Tailgater X was a no-brainer for our pick as Best Propane Fire Pit. The only negative we could find with this fire pit is that it’s a little on the small side for a crowd. We estimate it would sit four people comfortably and, maybe six if you squeezed in.
Solo Stove is probably the most recognizable name in the wood-burning firepit market. So, of course, we had to include their Bonfire model in our tests. The Bonfire is Solo Stove’s mid-sized fire pit, and its 19.5-inch diameter was large enough to use full-sized logs. It’s ready to use out of the box and it was light enough to carry.
Compared to the other products we tested, we appreciated that the Bonfire started more quickly. It was ready to add full-sized logs in 10 minutes compared to the 15 to 20 minutes of the other fire pits. The Bonfire also produced less smoke than the other fire pits, a feature we certainly appreciated. That said, it also burned through firewood more quickly, so you’ll want to be prepared with plenty of wood.
If you’re looking for a fire pit that has a multitude of accessories, Solo Stove has 'em. From fire pit tools like fire pokers and log grabbers to lids, screens, handles, and sticks for hot dogs and marshmallows. They also sell fire pit cooking systems to turn the fire pit into a grill.
We loved the BioLite FirePit Cooking Kit when we tested portable grills, so we were excited to test the BioLite FirePit+ (the same model, just without the added grilling accessories). So the first major plus of this fire pit is it’s easy to cook over!
It’s also one of the most portable wood-burning fire pits we tested, and it features handles on each side to make it easy to carry. Want to make it easier to transport? Pick up optional accessories like the BioLite FirePit Carry Bag.
The feature we appreciate most about this fire pit is its built-in battery-powered fan. The battery is rechargeable and controls a fan with four power settings. The fan not only stoked the coals, helping it start more quickly, but it also kept smoke from billowing up in our faces.
On the flip side, the small profile of the BioLite also means it’s not great for building a large fire. It’s really only sized for about two people. We weren’t able to fit regular-sized logs in the unit, either, and we could only add two short logs to the fire pit at once.
We’re always on the lookout for products made in the U.S., so we were thrilled to test the Breeo X-Series 19. The X19 is Breeo’s smallest fire pit, but we found it plenty large enough for most backyard gatherings of about eight people.
This is the heaviest fire pit we tested, weighing more than double some of the other models we reviewed, so it’s not exactly portable. It took two people to move the fire pit, as there are no handles to make it easier to grip. That said, the lack of handles gives this fire pit a streamlined, industrial-chic appearance that looks great in an outdoor space.
Breeo sells a variety of grilling accessories, like a spark screen or cooking grate, so this might be a good option for anyone looking to cook over their fire pit.
What didn’t we like about it? There was no ash pan, so removing ashes was difficult, and it didn’t get started as quickly as some of the other wood-burning stoves. It produced a little more smoke than our top pick, too.
If the ranking was based on minimalist wood-burning fire pits, the Fireside Outdoor Pop-Up Fire Pit would win. This lightweight fire pit is decently sized when it’s set up, but it breaks down to a series of parts small enough to fit into a hiking pack.
To set it up, simply expand the legs and pop on the mesh bottom that keeps the fire elevated from the ground. These features make it perfect for a camping trip when you’re short on space.
Unfortunately, the Fireside fire pit couldn’t compete with the other wood-burning fire pits when it came to smoke management. It was open to the elements, so there was no way to control the airflow. That not only means it produced more smoke than the other fire pits, but it also was slower to start. You’ll want to treat this fire pit like a traditional fire and start with plenty of small wood pieces until you have an established coal bed that’s ready for regular-sized wood.
If our top propane pick is out of stock, or if you’re specifically looking for a round fire pit, the Outland Living Fire Bowl 893 is a great choice. It was the only fire pit we tested that came with an extra bag of lava rocks, and adding it with the other bags created tall flames that produced plenty of heat.
The heat dial moved smoothly from the high and low setting, allowing you to control the flame height. It doesn’t have an electric ignition, so you will need to use a stick lighter to get it started.
This fire pit was large enough to comfortably seat up to six people around it. It’s also heavy enough to stay in place but light enough to move to your desired fire pit location, especially with the help of the included carrying strap.
If you’re looking for a portable propane fire pit with a gorgeous design, the Bond 67380-D Fire Pit is the way to go. We loved the bronzed appearance and perforated edging, allowing you to see the glowing lava rocks through the side of the unit.
It was one of the few fire pits we tested with an electric ignition, too, so you don’t have to have a stick lighter handy to use it. This fire pit is light enough to carry and comes with a locking lid and handle that makes transportation a breeze.
Unfortunately, the lava rocks that came with the unit are very small, and there were barely enough of them to create an even flame pattern. We suggest picking up an extra bag of rocks to create a more robust fire pit experience.
The Costway OP3902 Firebowl might be near the bottom of our ranking, but its overall score wasn’t far off from our top choice. The unit produced plenty of heat, although we wished it came with more lava rocks to create a more even flame pattern. The dial allows you to adjust the flames from low to high, but you do have to use a stick lighter to get it started.
The fire pit is light enough to carry, and it comes with a lid and a strap to carry it. The set-up is pretty minimalistic, though, so we wish the company sold a more robust carrying case.
Hi, I’m Lindsay Mattison, a trained professional chef and a barbecue weekend warrior. You’ll find me outside almost every weekend, cooking in my backyard patio setup. In the cooler months, I always have a fire going in the fire pit to keep me warm while cooking on my Traeger pellet grill or Big Green Egg.
There are an overwhelming number of options when it comes to fire pits, but we stuck to the models that are portable and don’t have to be built into your backyard setup. After selecting several popular wood-burning and propane models available from online or brick-and-mortar retailers like Home Depot and Lowes, we set about building and testing each model.
For the wood-burning fire pits, the first step was to build a fire. It’s important to start with plenty of small kindling, which helps the fire to keep going while the bigger logs begin to ignite. We nestled the kindling around a starter cube (our fire starter of choice for wood fires and charcoal grills because they burn longer than other tinder-like newspaper or bark).
From there, we waited for the kindling to turn into an ember bed, adding small pieces until the fire was established enough to handle larger pieces of firewood. For most of the fire pits we tested, this took about 15 minutes, although some were ready to go in 10 minutes.
Then, we added as many large, 16-inch pieces of dry firewood as it could hold and then, timed how long it took for the fire to burn out. After the fire was extinguished, we measured how long it took for the fire pit to cool down and how easy it was to clean out the ashes.
For propane-burning fire pits, we hooked up the propane and tested the line, making sure there were no gas leaks. Then we ignited the fire pit (noting whether it had a built-in ignition or required a stick lighter) and turned it on high for 10 minutes. We weighed the propane tank before and after the test to see how much propane it consumed.
Additionally, regardless of the fuel type, we scored each fire pit on its aesthetics and ease of use. We assessed how easy it was to move and store the fire pit, and added those scores to an overall safety rating and a price-to-value determination before ranking and rating each fire pit.
What to Consider Before Buying a Fire Pit
Types of Fire Pits
There are several classes of fire pits, each with a different set of features and price points.
Fire Tables: These fire pits serve a dual purpose—in addition to keeping people warm, they have tabletop space. Some come with lids that convert the units into full tables when the fire pit is not in use. They can come in many shapes and sizes, and prices can reach thousands of dollars. Often, they are fueled by propane, natural gas, or electricity. Instead of lava rocks, some will use fire glass, which can add style to any backyard party.
Fire Bowls: Like fire tables, fire bowls come in a variety of shapes and sizes. However, they are often more portable than tables. You can find some made of concrete and stone, but many are made of metal. In addition to propane and natural gas, these types may use wood as the fire fuel.
Tabletop Fire Tables or Bowls: Smaller than other types of fire pits, these models can add flair to your patio tabletop. They may not give off enough heat to keep a crowd warm, but they are very portable.
Fire Columns: Like the name suggests, fire columns are taller than traditional fire pits. With a smaller footprint, they can be a good alternative for people who have smaller patios or decks.
Chimineas: These fire features have come a long way since terracotta, and they can now be found in metal. Essentially, these are frontloading outdoor chimneys. Because they have chimneys, smoke is directed away from people sitting around them. However, they are not like some other fire features.
There is a fire pit for any budget. Prices can range from $40 to thousands of dollars. Many budget fire pits are portable while the more expensive models are permanent fixtures to your backyard setup.
By their nature, fires are hot. The same is true about fire pits. Parents should take care that children don't get too close. Also, fire pits should be monitored while they are in use. Before setting up a fire pit,check your local safety regulations. Some communities have requirements on how far pits should be away from structures to maintain a safe distance. Others may have restrictions on the type of fuel that can be used.
How to Choose Between a Wood-Burning or Propane Fire Pit
Trying to decide between a wood-burning or a propane gas fire pit? There are a few considerations to keep in mind before you make your purchase. For starters, many areas have fire restrictions that prohibit wood-burning fires, so you may want to pick up a propane fire pit if you’re using it for camping in these areas.
A propane model is easy to ignite and easier to extinguish; simply turn the knob on and off to control the flames. They tend to cool down more quickly and they are smokeless, but they also don’t get as hot, so they won’t put off as much heat. They rely on lava rocks to cover the heating element, which also affects the flame pattern and helps with heat radiation.
Of course, you’ll also need to have a propane tank to use one. Most of the propane fire pits we tested used about three pounds of propane an hour, so we estimate a propane fire pit will burn from three to six hours per tank, depending on the BTUs and the heat settings.
Wood-burning pits take a little longer to get started, but they produce more heat and better quality flames. They also tend to be larger than propane fire pits, allowing you to seat more people around the fire. Of course, that extra warmth means you’ll want to have a pair of heat-resistant gloves around to protect your hands.
On the flip side, wood-burning fire pits require a steady supply of dry firewood. Wet wood doesn’t burn well, and it produces significantly more smoke. Seasoned wood bundles are available at most camping or hardware stores, but it burns quickly, making it more expensive than filling up a propane tank.
You’ll want to make sure you have a small hatchet for creating kindling, too. Dry wood can also produce smoke, so you’ll want to look for a smokeless fire pit that is created with an airflow design that minimizes smoke.
Our team is here for one purpose: to help you buy the best stuff and love what you own. Our writers, editors, and lab technicians obsess over the products we cover to make sure you're confident and satisfied. Have a different opinion about something we recommend? Email us and we'll compare notes.