Best firepits for 2020: Solo Stove, Tiki, BioLite and more – CNET

Times are stressful, that’s for sure. But there are tangible things you can do to blow off steam, some surprising. Taking daily walks is one way. Another is to unwind in front of a crackling campfire. 

You don’t need to hike into the woods to enjoy this cozy orange glow. Nor do you need to build a permanent firepit from heavy materials like stone or brick. Instead, get a firepit that’s portable. These products are sold by lots of retailers, including Lowe’s, Amazon and Home Depot. Plus, many firepit manufacturers sell their wares directly.

These transportable fireplaces range widely in price, size and weight. There are inexpensive $60 models and high-performance pits that’ll set you back as much as $350. You can even spend $1,500 or more on fancy propane-burning firepits. 

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In the market for a firepit? We’re taking a bunch of portable pits for a spin to find out which one is best.

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In this roundup, we focus on genuine, wood-fueled firepits. You can use them for heat, and also for cooking food, including by grilling. Most importantly, they’re a great way to roast marshmallows for tasty s’mores. The models on this list are either bestsellers, highly ranked or worthy challengers from established outdoor brands. We tested them to determine their strengths and weaknesses. If you need help choosing a firepit that matches your needs, you’ve come to the right place. I’ll update this list periodically.

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Some firepits, like the Solo Stove Yukon shown here, are large — great for gathering around to roast marshmallows.

Brian Bennett/CNET

Brian Bennett/CNET

Our favorite firepit on this list is made by Tiki, a company that began with the familiar Tiki bamboo torch over 60 years ago. Now, Tiki offers a firepit that’s large, sturdy, and attractive. Priced almost $300 more than its budget rivals, its performance, ease of use and superior style make this pit worth the investment.

The steel and stained-wood pit doesn’t just look good. The Tiki Brand Fire Pit has a clever airflow system that recycles hot smoke back into the fire chamber. During our testing, it was easy to ignite, firing up in about 5 minutes and fully burning in 15. 

It also generated far less smoke than the other firepits we tested, especially after its logs caught fully, usually at about the 15-minute mark. Only the Solo Stove Ranger burned wood with less smoke emission, its fuel burning fiercely in 5 minutes. The Tiki Fire Pit’s logs burned efficiently as well, lasting for hours.

Because of its large (16 inches in diameter) mouth, it’s easier to share the fire with multiple people. The Solo Stove Ranger is smaller by comparison, its metal fire ring is 10 inches in diameter. Kids gathering around to roast s’mores need to be careful, though: All surfaces of the Tiki firepit, including its metal lip, are scalding hot after the fire is lit. It also takes time to cool after the flames die down. 

We do appreciate the Tiki Brand pit’s removable ash tray. It makes for easy cleanup. The pit puts out a generous amount of heat; while that’s perhaps not ideal for hot summer nights, it’s excellent when the temperature dips during the fall and winter. Finally, tpping the scales at 45 pounds, this firepit is heavy. Think twice before you position it, and get help when you do.

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Solo Stove firepits have gained an avid following in recent years, and the company’s newest product, the Solo Stove Yukon, is its biggest and best yet. With a top side that measures 27 inches across, and a mouth 23 inches in diameter, the Yukon is large enough to accept full-size firewood logs. Despite the Yukon’s wide footprint, its stainless-steel body gives it a sleek appearance. 

The Yukon shares the same sophisticated airflow system you’ll find on other Solo Stove products. According to Solo Stove, these vents help drive a continuous supply of oxygen to its fire. In our experience, the Yukon delivers performance just as good as its smaller cousin, the Solo Stove Ranger, but on a larger scale. 

The Yukon’s fire starts fast: Its logs fully caught in just 5 minutes. Once they caught, they burned for hours. This pit was efficient too, consistently consuming all of our test firewood logs. At the end of the night, there was little solid debris to speak of, merely a few bits of charcoal and ash. It produces a lot less smoke than the other firepits we’ve tested here, save the Solo Pit Ranger.

You can also order the Yukon with a rain cover ($53) and a metal stand ($68) for extra cash or as part of a bundle. Because the pit weighs 38 pounds, we don’t recommend moving it often. Also, as with other high-performance firepits, kids (and adults) need to be careful around the Yukon. In addition to the intense heat from the fire itself, the Yukon’s steel surface heats to burning temperatures fast.

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The $250 FirePit, made by Brooklyn, New York-based BioLite, weighs under 20 pounds and is built for portability. Measuring 27 by 13 by 15.8 inches, it’s relatively long and narrow. However, it holds a little more wood than you’d think, with room for up to four cordwood logs. You can either use it as a standard firepit or as a backyard grill.

In firepit mode, you lower the fuel rack to the bottom of the pit. To grill over hot wood coals, or charcoal briquettes if you prefer, raise the rack to its highest position. BioLite offers a bundle with a grill grate, which sits over everything. The grill lit up fast, in less than 5 minutes, and was fully burning in less than 10.

The FirePit has a couple of signature features, one being patented airflow technology. A motorized fan drives air to the fire box. You can also control it using via an iOS or Android app on a phone using Bluetooth. A mesh body lets you see flames through the FirePit from any angle. 

Battery life for the fan is good, with up to 24 hours at the low setting, 10 hours on medium and 5 hours on high. The airflow technology also helps create an almost smoke-free fire. The FirePit’s legs fold up when you want to take the grill on the go, plus the pit comes with a handy rain cover. A removable ash tray makes cleaning up easy. 

All in all, this is a compelling little firepit for someone who doesn’t want (or can’t have) a permanent pit always eating up patio space. 

Brian Bennett/CNET

This firepit from Garden Treasures proves you don’t need to spend big bucks to enjoy a backyard campfire. Despite its low price, this pit is nice and wide (29.5 inches in diameter). It also comes with a mesh lid to keep sparks at bay.

It lacks an advanced airflow system, however, so fires in this pit generate a lot of smoke. And its steel frame isn’t stainless, so leaving the pit out in the elements will invite rust. That said, we were able to get a self-sustaining fire lit in about 5 minutes. Its ignition time is comparable to those of premium firepits such as the Solo Stove Ranger and Tiki Brand Fire Pit. 

Those products burn their fuel more efficiently, leaving less unconsumed firewood and ash to clean up in the morning. Still, the Garden Treasures pit does get the job done on a tight budget.

Others we tested

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The Pop-Up Fire Pit is very portable but makes a lot of smoke.

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Pop-Up Fire Pit

The most portable firepit in this roundup is the Pop-Up Pit. Its collapsible design lets you assemble it and break it down quickly. It also uses a heat shield so it won’t scorch the ground below. The pit offers a large (2-foot-square) burning surface for your fire, too. Since its frame is constructed from stainless steel, the Pop-Up Pit is rust-resistant. However, because the pit is so large and has low walls, it creates a lot of smoke. 

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Solo Stove Ranger

Squat, cylindrical, compact and made from stainless steel, the Solo Stove Ranger appears simple at first glance. Tucked away inside this pit, though, is the same sophisticated airflow system that its larger sibling, the Solo Stove Yukon, has. The system is designed to enable fire in the pit to burn hotter and consume more of its wood fuel.

We can confirm that the Ranger delivers on these promises. It starts fast, with its logs aflame in just 5 minutes, and it burns for hours. The fires we started in the Ranger also burned with incredible ferocity. The flames inside the pit focused into an impressive rolling vortex. Despite the conflagration, the Ranger emitted very little smoke.

The Ranger does have a few drawbacks. Its compact size means it can’t accept standard 15-inch firewood logs. It’s also not the best for large groups or families. More than two people roasting marshmallows at once quickly becomes a crowd.

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The Kingso 22-inch firepit is small and has poor airflow.

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Kingso Outdoor Fire Pit (22-inch)

Though it’s a bestseller on Amazon, we don’t recommend purchasing the Kingso Outdoor Fire Pit. Its small size (22 inches in diameter) feels cramped. And since airflow throughout the unit is poor, we consistently had difficulty both starting fires and keeping them lit inside this pit. It doesn’t come with a protective cover, either.

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The Hampton Bay Windgate 40-inch Dia Fire Pit is massive and built from heavy steel. Unfortunately, it suffers from poor airflow so its flames often die out.

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Hampton Bay Windgate 40-in. diameter round steel wood-burning firepit

The Hampton Bay Windgate is by far the largest firepit in this group. It has a massive 40-inch-diameter bowl, roomy enough for big groups to gather around. As the pit weighs in at a substantial 60 pounds and is constructed from heavy-duty steel, it takes a lot of effort to set up the pit where you want it. Unfortunately, the Windgate suffers from poor ventilation. As a result, fires we started in the pit consistently died out in 15 to 20 minutes. That makes it difficult to recommend this model. 

A good firepit will ignite in minutes and stay lit for hours.

Brian Bennett/CNET

How we evaluated them

To test each firepit, we used the same fuel, Simple Simon Premium Hardwood sourced from a local Lowe’s hardware store. For a consistent amount, we selected three split log lengths roughly 15 inches long. We then stacked the logs together so at least some portion of each was touching the others.

Diamond Strike a Fire

I used Diamond Strike-A-Fire fires starters to ignite these pits.

Brian Bennett/CNET

To ignite each pit, we used Diamond Strike-a-Fire fire starters that were available at our neighborhood Kroger supermarket. One of these starter matches should be all that’s required to get a firepit’s fire burning. We then logged how long it took to establish a fully sustained fire. 

A well-performing firepit will fully ignite in 5 to 10 minutes. A pit with poor airflow and design will take a lot longer, or even flame out after 15 minutes no matter how well you’ve stacked your wood. Additionally, we made note of how much smoke escaped each pit. Ideally, a firepit will generate a lot of flame and little smoke. A quality firepit will also burn fuel efficiently, leaving little solid material remaining once its fire burns out naturally.

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