Humans have enjoyed the warmth of outdoor fires for centuries, and while we’ve moved indoors, many of us still go outside for fires in the fall. When you truly want to get in touch with nature, a wood burning fire pit is the only way to go, and you might be surprised at the designs behind the best fire pits today compared to the models of old.
- The Best Fire Pits of 2020
- How to Find the Best Fire Pit for Your Backyard
- Final Thoughts
- Outdoor Fire Pit FAQ
The Best Fire Pits of 2020
Ohio Flame Liberty Fire Pit
- Material: Unfinished Steel
- Fuel Source: Wood
- Dimensions: 24” to 48”
- Weight: Varies
- Warranty: Lifetime
Esschert Design FF1012
- Material: Unfinished Steel
- Fuel Source: Wood
- Dimensions: 31.5” x 36”H
- Weight: 75 lbs.
- Warranty: 3 months
Fire Sense Roman 60857
- Material: Steel
- Fuel Source: Wood
- Dimensions: 35”W x 20”H
- Weight: 17 lbs.
- Warranty: 1-year
Fireside Outdoor Pop-Up Pit
- Material: Steel & Aluminum
- Fuel Source: Wood
- Dimensions: 24”W x 15”H
- Weight: 7.2 lbs.
- Warranty: Lifetime/1-year
- Material: Steel
- Fuel Source: Wood/Charcoal
- Dimensions: 27”L x 13”W x 15.8”H
- Weight: 20 lbs.
- Warranty: 1-year
- Material: Stainless Steel
- Fuel Source: Wood
- Dimensions: 19.5”W x 14”H
- Weight: 20 lbs.
- Warranty: Lifetime Defects
- Material: Steel
- Fuel Source: Wood
- Dimensions: 32”W x 25”H
- Weight: 27 lbs.
- Warranty: Unknown
There are a number of ways you can enjoy an outdoor area or deck during the colder months, from electric patio heaters to propane fire tables. Fire pits are the best option for homeowners that want to burn wood or grill food around a campfire-like setting, and we’ve compiled a list featuring seven of the top wood-burning fireplaces around.
#1 Ohio Flame Liberty Fire Pit
The Best Outdoor Fire Pit
While every fire pit is designed for outdoor use, some will naturally hold up better than others. The Liberty American Fire Pit from Ohio Flame has a distinctly different design from the other picks on our list, and it is guaranteed to be the last fire pit you ever buy.
The Liberty is a maintenance-free fire pit that’s engineered to sit outdoors all year long. That’s partly due to the material this pit is made from. It has a raw steel finish, which will develop a gorgeous patina over time through weathering. The thick carbon steel was sourced locally from Ohio steel mills as well for this American-made fire pit.
There aren’t any features to speak of on this fire pit aside from a Rain Drain. That’s critical given the design of this fire pit, so you will never have to tip it over to drain it. Given the fact the 27” pit weighs 47 pounds, you’ll be thankful for that. The bowl is welded to the frame on this wood burning fire pit, but there are a variety of options when it comes to the base.
Ohio Flame has three types of bases for this handcrafted fire pit, so you can choose from an angular, curved or hollow base along with the standard base. The hollow base is cheaper, but the rest have the same price point. The bowl also comes in five sizes from 24” to 48” in diameter in 6” increments depending on your needs and budget.
Unless you aren’t a fan of the Liberty’s design, you really can’t go wrong with this fire pit. It will still be in your backyard or patio long after other fire pits have gone to the trash heap. As a bonus, each of these wood burning fire pits are individually numbered; something you won’t find on a fire pit made from thin sheet metal.
#2 Esschert Design Wildlife Fire Sphere
The Best Fire Sphere
The hardest choice for many homeowners when choosing an outdoor fire pit is finding something that holds up well under constant assault from the elements. While there are a variety of steel pits that are built to last, none are as unique or stylish as the Wildlife Fire Sphere from Esschert Design.
The term fire pit encompasses plenty of models that are above the ground, including newer styles called fire spheres. The FF1012 Wildlife Fire Sphere has a stunning design featuring a family of deer surrounded by trees in a forest. The design has been laser cut from thick 3mm steel, so the fire pit has plenty of weight and a rather rustic design.
Esschert designed this fire pit in two pieces. This allows you to remove the top for easy cleaning or to load up timber. Some of the spaces are small enough to stick smaller wood through, although the top definitely needs removed to start a larger fire. The base on this fire pit is nice and stable, but you will need to sit this fire pit on a level surface.
The exterior of this fire pit has a rustic vibe because of the natural steel used. It’s pre-weathered in a sense and available in two different sizes and styles. The FF1012 Wildlife edition is 36” tall and 31.5” wide, while the FF1011 is 28” tall, 24” in diameter, and considerably cheaper. If you prefer a different pattern with a large space to feed firewood, their Blowing Leaf fire pit is an option as well.
Esschert Design is the go-to brand when you want an attractive steel fire pit, and they knocked it out of the park with their Wildlife series. At 75 pounds, it isn’t something you’ll want to move very often, but you won’t have to as it drains well and is naturally patinaed for the outdoors. The only drawback to the Wildlife Fire Sphere is the price and the short guarantee that comes along with it.
#3 Fire Sense Brushed Bronze Roman Fire Pit
The Best Budget-Friendly Fire Pit
Fire Sense has a number of well-rated fire pits that could be locks for our list, but the 60857 quickly caught our eye. This steel fire pit has a stylish design that will look great anywhere and several nice features considering the price.
This fire pit has a shallow fire bowl and is resembles a UFO when the top is attached. The body attaches to a set of four legs, with a series of braces beneath the base for strength. It has a Roman-inspired design with an antique bronze finish. The edge around the base has been hammered, and the steel legs are brushed to match the rest of the fire pit.
The Fire Sense 60857 is listed at 35” wide, although that includes the hammered edge, so the firebox is a bit smaller. It’s of average height at 20” and tips the scales at 17 pounds. The lid is comprised of a one-piece fire screen set in a frame with a hook at the top. While it will get toasty, the company has included a screen lifting tool to go along with a wood grate.
It’s hard to find a solid fire pit for under a Benjamin, especially one with a lid. The Fire Sense 60857 fits that bill as the company managed to produce a dependable wood burning fire pit with a reasonable price tag. The steel is thin due to the price, so you’ll want to invest in a cover if you plan on using this fire pit for more than 3-4 years.
#4 Fireside Outdoor Pop-Up Fire Pit
The Best Portable Fire Pit
One of the cool things about an outdoor fire pit is the fact you can find a style suitable for anyone. That includes homeowners that don’t have space for a permanent solution or want something portable like this pop-up fire pit from Fireside Outdoor.
The engineers behind the patented design of this fire pit designed it with ease of use in mind. It can be set up in under a minute with no tools required and dissembled down to a packable size. When fully assembled, this portable fire pit is 15” tall and 24” wide. While it only weighs 7.2 pounds, it can hold up to 125 pounds of firewood.
Cross-braces beneath the fire pit provide plenty of strength, and the stainless steel mesh fire bed is weatherproof. This is a premium model, so it comes with 3.5” side panels and a heat shield. The shield will keep the ground beneath this fire pit cool, and the elevated design ensures it's safe to use in the wilds or your backyard.
If you’ve longed to have a fire pit but don’t have the space for something permanent, this portable fire pit is an excellent choice. The same goes for homeowners that want something simple and safe for backyard gatherings that they can put away afterward. The parts of this outdoor fire pit come with a lifetime guarantee, but the fire screen is only rated for 50 fires or 1-year. Heavy wood can also stretch or decrease its lifespan.
#5 BioLite Outdoor FirePit and Grill
The Best Hybrid Outdoor Fire Pit
It’s safe to say fire pits are the type of outdoor accessory that doesn’t come with many bells & whistles. There are a few exceptions to that rule, however. If you want a high-tech fire pit with a price lower than traditional models, you’ll want to consider the BioLite FirePit and Grill.
This is another fire pit with a “smokeless” design, but a quick glance lets you know it’s in an entirely different class. BioLite designed this fire pit to heat up in less than a minute while keeping the smoke down. There are 51 jets inside that help improve combustion, along with X-Ray Mesh that wraps around this fire pit.
If that weren’t enough, this BioLite FirePit has the distinction of being the only connected fire pit on our list. It has a 10,000mAH rechargeable battery pack attached to the front. This allows you to power up a mobile device but also controls a small fan. The fan has four speeds and can be controlled directly from the power pack or your favorite mobile device through the BioLite Energy app.
With a weight of around 20 pounds, this fire pit is easy to transport or store when not in use. It’s also small enough to be used on an apartment patio as well as large backyards or on a camping trip. Fully assembled, it measures 15.8”H x 13”W x 27”L. The legs fold up, and a carrying handle makes transport a breeze. The company has a full line of accessories for this hybrid fire pit as well, including a solar carry cover that can recharge the power bank.
We’re big fans of BioLite’s catalog of outdoor gear and were excited when they initially released this 2-in-1 fire pit. It has lived up to the hype in most homeowner’s eyes and provides an excellent value for the price given what it can do. It’s not the best choice if you want to enjoy a big blazing fire, but it is a unique high-tech alternative. It can be hard to find depending on the time of year but can usually be found through the company’s official website.
#6 Solo Stove Bonfire Fire Pit
The Best Smokeless Fire Pit
As nice as it is to enjoy a cozy fire pit with your friends and family outdoors, smoke and winds can quickly ruin a good time. While we can’t help you with Mother Nature, the Solo Stove Bonfire Pit can keep the smoke in check and has a very interesting design.
Smokeless fire pits are nothing new, although not many companies have managed to pull off the tricky successfully. Solo Stove did just that with this shiny beauty and its double-walled design. That design serves two purposes as it optimizes the airflow with a series of vents and tampers down the smoke. You won’t have to deal with half-burned logs or smoky clothes from sitting too close to the fire.
While the design may not be for everyone, this fire pit is among the well-built and engineered for the outdoors. It’s made from 304 stainless steel, a material known for its ability to withstand the elements. That also keeps the weight down and makes this fire pit portable with a weight of 20 pounds. You can transport this fire pit with the included carrying case.
This is one of the smaller fire pits on our list as it's 19.5” in diameter and only 14” tall. It’s just the right height for seated heat, however, and easy to clean up. A removable ash pan will help you clear up residue from the fire, while a brushed stainless steel stand elevates the fire pit 2.75” above the ground. The base is vented as well, which helps keep the ground beneath the fire pit cool.
Solo Stove put a lot of thought into the design of this fire pit, and it shows through thousands of positive reviews across the board. We like the raised base and the double-walled nature of this system, although the design will definitely be a turn off for some. That said, these systems can be used inside of a stone fire pit as long as there’s 4 to 6 inches of clearance for ventilation.
#7 Bali Outdoors Wood Burning Backyard Fire Pit
An Affordable Fire Pit for Cooking
Fire pits and marshmallows go hand in hand, but not every backyard fire pit is suitable to cook on. If you’re interested in a large fire pit that will keep you warm while keeping your belly full, look no further than wood-burning fire pit from Bali Outdoors.
This fire pit is made from steel and has tubular lets with a circular ring for increased stability. It’s a simple design, but effective although the draw of this fire pit is several inches above its surface. There is a small steel grate for cooking, which can swivel 360 degrees. You can also adjust that grate up, down, or remove it completely when not in use.
The swiveling grate may be the highlight of this fire pit, but we’re also fans of the ledge surrounding the outside. It’s a great place to warm your feet or sit a cocktail, provided the flames aren’t too large. The steel body makes this fire pit light enough to move at 27 pounds, and it’s of average size at 32”W x 25”H.
Some assembly is required for this outdoor fire pit, although most consumers were able to put it together with a minimal amount of effort. It’s not powder-coated but covered with fireproof paint, so you will want to purchase a cover if you intend to leave it outdoors. It comes with a poker that you can use for the firewood or to move the adjustable grate while it’s hot and a log rack that goes inside the pit.
This fire pit is one of the more affordable options at this size, and the swiveling cooking grate is a nice touch that homeowners seem to enjoy. The price and lightweight design are a bonus as well, even if the build quality is a bit subpar compared to powder-coated fire pits made from thicker steel.
How to Find the Best Fire Pit for Your Backyard
While you can find fire pits with budget-friendly price tags, if you want a model that’s built to last, you generally need to pay a premium. That makes choosing the right fire pit all the more important, and that’s something we’re going to help you do in this guide.
Pros and Cons of Backyard Fire Pits
When you’re shopping for a backyard fire pit, there are two main options to consider with gas-powered and wood-burning fire pits. While we won’t put these two styles head to head as we only chose traditional fire pits for this guide, we’re going to talk about the advantages and disadvantages of this type of outdoor accessory.
The biggest draw of a wood burning fire pit is the ambiance and warmth it provides. Propane pits pale in comparison in both regards, and nothing else even comes close. You can hear the roar of the fire and feel the heat on the coldest of days, but you can also use a wood-burning fire pit for cooking. Depending on the model, you can do far more than roast marshmallows.
The variety of styles are another advantage. You can find fire pits that look like they belong in Roman villas alongside fire tips with a modern or contemporary design. While you can certainly find wood burning fire pits that are in the premium class, most are more quite a bit more affordable than natural gas or propane fire pits.
With the sweet comes the sour, so you’ll need to think about whether you want to relax by a fire for hours or tend to it. A well-designed fire pit and some forethought can go help you spend more time off your feet, but any fire that uses wood as a fuel source will need to be tended and fed. With propane, you simply need to hook up another tank.
Smoke can be a problem, and even with the smokeless fire pits, you still have to worry about the heat. Wood-burning fire pits can’t be placed under two-story decks or on a covered patio for those reasons. They can scorch the ground beneath them without a heat shield in place, and the elements can do a poorly constructed model in quickly.
- Provides warmth and ambiance outdoors
- Wide variety of styles from rustic to modern
- A price point for anyone’s budget
- Ideal for outdoor cooking
- Clean up can be messy
- Fires need to be tended
- Not suitable for decks or covered patios
Consider the Location
It’s easy to become enamored dreaming of a large fire sphere or decorative pit in your backyard. Well, it would be a major mistake to overlook placement. While most wood-burning fire pits are of a certain size, you have to consider the area around the fire pit as well.
Wood-burning fire pits get extremely hot, which means you need to clean any vegetation in the immediate area that may catch ablaze. Unless you are buying a fire pit with a mesh top, you have to think about hot embers flying through the air. Embers and sparks can cause more problems than you think, and the ground beneath the fire pit can become scorched as well.
Are you going to have seating around your fire pit? You’ll need to think about that ahead of time, especially considering they can produce up to 800 °F of heat or more. Depending on the size of the fire, you may need to move your seating back further than you initially planned. Radiant heat is an advantage of fire pits but can also melt chairs and scorch composites.
Wind can put a quick damper on your evening and send your guests running when an area becomes smoked out. You can only control that to a degree with placement but can make tending the fire easier. That’s something you may have to do frequently with this type of fire pit, but the distance between your woodpile and pit makes a huge difference.
Materials used in Fire Pit Construction
As you can’t use a fire pit that burns wood on a covered porch, it has to be built to withstand outdoor conditions to a degree. A good fire pit cover will save you from a lot of headaches, but you should still pay attention to what the fire pit is made from when durability is a concern.
Steel – Over 90% of the fire pits available on the market today are made from steel. Steel isn’t the best option for the outdoors unless it’s coated to prevent rust or corrosion. Powder coating will last longer than flame-resistant paint, but thick uncoated, natural steel fire pits with a patina and rust are an option as well.
Stainless Steel – Whereas regular or even coated steel can struggle outdoors; stainless steel is made for it. They are better options if you plan to leave your fire pit in a fixed location yearly but will still see some damage unless covered and maintained. Many portable fire pits use stainless steel parts combined with aluminum to keep the weight down.
Synthetic Materials – A fire pit will have a firebox made from metal, but the exterior can be comprised of a variety of materials. Concrete is a popular option, although heavy and generally used in gas-based systems. GFRC is a unique weather-resistant alternative to traditional concrete along with materials like Cor-Ten.
Fire Pit Features
There aren’t too many fire pit features to keep an eye out for as wood-burning systems are rather low-tech by design. Hybrid systems like the fire pit from Bio Lite are an exception, but for the most part, there are only a few things to look for.
The handiest feature for a wood burning fire pit is a simple one, but something that’s hit or miss on most models. Log grates are a must-have accessory for wood-burning fireplaces, and they will greatly extend the life of an outdoor fire pit as well. Burning wood directly on the bottom of a thin fire pit will do it in quickly.
Are you concerned about embers landing on chair cushions and clothing? If so, a fire pit with a screened lid is what you’ll want. Ember guards are important on indoor fireplaces and can be just as useful outside. For any bowl-style fire pit, you’ll want to ensure it has a large enough hole for drainage. You can add one yourself but shouldn’t have to if it’s well-designed.
Fire Pit Warranties
When you buy something that will spend most of its time outdoors, you shouldn’t expect an amazing warranty unless it’s made from plastic or comes with a premium price tag. You can expect most manufacturers to provide a 1-year guarantee for wood-burning models, although some companies exceed that mark.
The best fire pit that will last a decade or more is one made from thick, heavy-duty steel. Using a grate in the fire pit will also help, along with using a proper cover. You shouldn’t have to spend much time on upkeep with any wood burning fire pit, but unless you plan to store it, you do need to consider the weather in your area during all four seasons – not just the cooler months.
Adding a fire pit to your backyard is a great way to bring friends and family together during the colder months. Just remember to always keep safety in mind whether your fire pit is covered, made of thick steel, or a portable model. If you are interested in revamping your indoor fireplace, be sure to check out our fireplace insert guide.
Outdoor Fire Pit FAQ
Q: Is it safe to cook on a fire pit?
A: In most cases, yes. While you should make sure you are cooking on a safe surface, it’s no different than roasting marshmallows or cooking hot dogs on a campfire.
Q: Best type of wood to use in a fire pit?
A: Dry hardwoods. Wood that isn’t completely dry will smoke, not burn. Hardwoods that are dried out will burn hotter as well.
Q: What’s the best height for a fire pit?
A: In our experience, most homeowners prefer wood burning fire pits that are between 23” to 30” tall. That’s around chair or table height, which helps distribute warmth evenly and makes the fire easier to tend while seated.
Q: Can I burn charcoal in a wood-burning fire pit?
A: In most styles, that shouldn’t be a problem, but you need to make sure you’re using a charcoal grate inside it.
Q: When should I clean my fire pit?
A: After every fire, once it’s cool to the touch. That may be the next morning, but keeping these fire pits clean after use will save you a lot of headaches down the line.
Q: How can I keep the ground beneath a raised fire pit from getting too hot?
A: On grass, the easiest thing to do is purchase a heat shield larger than your fire pit. This will keep heat from damaging the grass, but you can also sit these pits on pavers.
Q: Is it safe to use a fire starter log or other types of manufactured wood in a fire pit?
A: You will want to check with the manufacturer or the wood or fire pit beforehand. It’s possible that chemicals from these logs could damage your fire pit over time or break down the finish prematurely. In our opinion, you should only use natural wood in a wood-burning fire pit.