Portable Fire Pits for Every Season

I learned to explore the outdoors when I was quite young, and one of my early mentors-in-adventure was a scoutmaster who was exceptionally cautious about when and where he built a campfire. “Every campfire needs the right campsite, but not every campsite needs a fire,” he would say. These are wise words to live by. While a campfire can have practical uses as well as aesthetic ones, it presents some real drawbacks. Fire can wreak havoc on both small and large scales. At the campsite, timber stands stripped of kindling and downfall, branches unthinkingly hacked from living trees, unburned trash left in ungainly fire pits, ash heaps, and burn scars all mar the experience—potentially even for decades, especially in desert environments.

The specter of wildfire has even more impactful and tragic consequences. Too often have I encountered abandoned campfires in the backcountry that were still warm to the touch. An errant ember, a stiff breeze, and, in mere moments, entire landscapes can go up in smoke. Forests, homes, lives, and even whole communities are put at risk. This has been especially evident recently in the North American West, most of which is still suffering under an unprecedented drought, and wildfire season now extends around the calendar in some places. Burn bans and fire restrictions on many public lands are more and more common and are lasting longer. Increasingly, the best campfire is no fire at all.

With these sobering thoughts in mind, we can also agree that there is nothing quite like a campfire for setting the good vibes on an adventure. I love waking in the morning smelling of wood smoke after an evening gathered around the hearth with old friends or inviting new ones to the fold, to say nothing about our species’ deep and ancient relationship to fire—the element that in many ways made us fully human. It represents warmth, camaraderie, and bodily and spiritual nourishment, as well as the spark of civilization in the midst of wild nature.

It is in that spirit that we gathered up some of the best fire pits we could get our hands on for this review. Whether propane- or wood-fired, a portable fire pit significantly decreases the risk of wildfire and greatly reduces impacts on campsites. Fire pits burn more efficiently and produce less waste than traditional campfires, and they encourage you to keep your fire as hot and compact as possible. Some fire pits can cook your dinner, making them useful multi-taskers, in addition to giving you that warm, fuzzy feeling. Always practice good fire safety and etiquette. Clear your fire pit’s space of flammables as well as you can, burn dry wood (preferably which you have packed in), and pack out cold ashes and partially burned logs. My scoutmaster would be proud. (SE)

Propane Fire Pits

Camp Chef Redwood | 31.5 pounds | 18 x 16.5 inches

Like moths to the flame, everyone will want to gather around the Redwood.

Circular fire pits are by far the most inviting. Truly egalitarian, everyone who plops their chair down next to the dancing flames with a cold beverage and a story to tell gets an equal share of the heat and light. Be prepared to make new friends with the Camp Chef Redwood, as it has the most welcoming presence among the fire pits in our review. Your neighbors from the campsites next door will find it irresistible—so you better make sure that the cooler is fully stocked. It pumps out a searing 64,000 propane-powered BTUs per hour.

The Redwood clocks in at a hefty 31.5 pounds, including the distinctive heat-dispersing lava rocks. Those stones are essential to the fire pit’s cozy aesthetic, as well as creating an evenly distributed heat signature. You can run it without the lava rocks as well, but the effect is not nearly as special. The large flame control knob has fine and easily manipulated controls, and in my experience, the Redwood sipped fuel—impressive for such a large device. The stand of the fire pit stays cool, so it’s easy to grab and shift its position. Included in the purchase price is a sturdy storage lid to keep out the elements and the 6-foot propane tank hose and adapter. Optional accessories from Camp Chef include a nylon carrying case, which I definitely recommend to keep everything neat and tidy for transport, and some fancy roasting sticks. Wieners and marshmallows are about the only foods you’ll be cooking with the Redwood; it’s not a grill by any stretch of the imagination.

Also a stretch is the Redwood’s efficiency as a fire pit for overland travel. The circular shape (a foot and a half in diameter and 16.5 inches high) that makes it so inviting and homey also makes it a challenge for packing in your rig, and its porky avoirdupois puts a dent in your gross vehicle weight (GVW). Additionally, the lava rocks that give the Redwood’s fire its signature look are messy—they scatter fine, red dust and grit everywhere—and the glorified plastic sandwich bag they ship in won’t last much more than a long weekend on the trail. You’ll need additional storage to keep them contained.

The Redwood’s build quality feels robust, and it shrugged off bumps and bruises from rattling around in the back of my Land Rover. It’s an exceptional value, and it looks good enough to double as a backyard fire pit when you’re not on the road. Just be ready for company. (SE)

$200 | campchef.com

Pros

  • Inviting flames from the lava pit
  • Excellent value
  • Impressive thermal output

Cons

  • Round design makes transport a challenge
  • Lava rocks need separate storage
  • Heavy for a single-tasker

Howl Campfires R4 | 34 pounds | 22 x 16 x 12 inches

This unique fire pit doesn’t smoke, but your credit card might.

If your travels have you at a tipping point where a fire pit seems like necessary kit rather than just a luxury, it’s worth taking a hard look at the Howl R4. At a hair’s breadth from $1,300, it’s not for everyone, but no other artificial fire does what the R4 does. Born from one of those “build a better mousetrap” moments, Howl Campfires set out to address the primary shortcoming of most propane fire pits: creating functional radiant warmth. Flames look great, but whether baking a pizza or trying to defrost your toes, they don’t do much on the pure heat front. The R4 features flames—of course—that sprout from its billiard-table-flat top, but the real star of the show is the Barcoal. At full tilt, the large-diameter Venturi tubes built into the heart of the R4 reach a searing 1,200˚F (and max 61,800 BTUs per hour). That’s a temperature commonly found in the coal beds of wood fires, not in propane fire pits, which is precisely the point.

At those incandescent temps, the Barcoal glows red and pumps out immense amounts of infrared light, which warms your flesh like no other fire pit in this category. Remarkably, even with the flames leaping out of the top of the open-deck design and the roaring Barcoal underneath, the R4 is UL-listed and Stage 1 and Stage 2 fire ban-compliant. I will admit that upfront, I was in equal measure skeptical and intimidated about the astronomic temperature claims. The hose linking the R4 to my propane tank looked awfully short, but the clever heat shielding around the fully enclosed air intake and the bottom of the fire pit not only kept things safe but also still trucking along even in extremely high winds. It lights the first time, every time with a gentle woosh, and even though it seems fearsome, the heat the R4 produces, while indeed intense, is welcoming.

Manufactured in Colorado from aluminum, stainless steel, and brass fittings, the R4 weighs 34 pounds, which feels chunky for its relatively compact dimensions. It has no moving parts and fires up with a standard long BBQ-style lighter. Howl claims it will light and operate at all altitudes and weather conditions, including rain and snowstorms. It stows cleverly in tandem with a recommended 20-pound propane tank using an included cam strap and plenty of tie-down points. That propane tank? The R4 will drain it in as little as 6.5 hours if you’ve got it cranked up, so beware if you’re using the Howl a lot but still need gas for making meals. On that note, can you cook with the R4? Not especially—this is a true single-tasker, but an extremely well-engineered one. (SE)

$1,299 | howlcampfires.com

Pros

  • Unrivaled warmth outside of a bonfire
  • Rugged construction
  • Secures your propane tank in storage
  • Everyone will gravitate to your campsite

Cons

  • Single-task tool
  • Atmospheric price point
  • Relatively heavy, especially with the recommended 20-pound propane tank

Ignik Firecan Line | 10.1-13.2 pounds | 12 x 6 x 7.5 inches [Value Award]

These efficient powerhouses are lightweight and pack a big punch.

Ignik’s propane-powered Firecan portable fire pit has been on the market for a few years. Its compact ammo-can dimensions, quick-release gas hose connector, and flaming-hot performance have made it a favorite among adventurers of all stripes. More recently, Ignik has expanded the line of Firecans from the original to increase versatility and portability. The Firecan Deluxe adds a removable flame tray and cooking grate for meal prep, and the Firecan Elite drops the weight with partial anodized aluminum construction. The Firecans run the BTUs-per-hour meter to 38,000 for the Deluxe and the original and over 50,000 for the Elite. That is serious heat for such a small appliance, especially compared to the much larger Howl H4 and Camp Fire Redwood.

The dual-purpose Deluxe has two quick-disconnect hose attachments—one on either end of the body of the fire pit— that determine the use. Plug your propane into one side using the 5-foot hose with its integrated adjustment knob, and you get high, leaping flames for fire pit mode (which can be enhanced with Ignik’s Fire Rocks kit for an even more natural look). Swap it over to the other side, and the grilling mode offers a different flame pattern for even cooking through the removable diffuser across the surface of the grill grate. A small grease catcher that slides under the pit’s body keeps the kitchen tidy by corralling fats and stray drips, and the chef can handle the flame tray and grate when hot with the included tongs. The sturdy fold-out legs keep the whole operation off the ground and provide enough height to use the Firecan atop a wooden picnic table without fear of setting it on fire.

With its partial aluminum components, the Elite has a lighter-weight lid. It achieves CSA safety certification for Europe and Canada (unique among the Firecans), and the flame control is just as accurate as the Deluxe and the original Firecan. It includes a 5-psi regulator and a tank stand for handling any propane source. It won’t cook your supper like the Deluxe, so it’s up to you to decide whether the 3-pound advantage the Elite has over the Deluxe is enough to warrant the diminished usability. The cooking surface on the Deluxe is not huge at 72 inches, but it’s enough to get grilled meals for two going in a hurry. Grab Ignik’s refillable lighter and their 5-pound Gas Growler propane bottle to complete the outfit, and you’ll be cooking with gas. (SE)

$180-$300 | ignik.com

Pros

  • Efficient fuel use
  • Components fit into a small, lightweight package for easy transport
  • Raging heat output for such a small device

Cons

  • Limited cooking real estate on the Deluxe
  • Fire pit-only mode for the original model and the Elite

Skotti Grill | 6.6 pounds | 13.2 x 8.3 x 6.9 inches

Compact and tenacious, just like a Scottie dog.

The Skotti Grill is built from 304 stainless steel, weighs just over 6.5 pounds, and stored, it packs flat like something you might pick up at a big Swedish department store. But Skotti builds the grill in Germany, and its clever packaging has garnered several design awards. In contrast to the rest of the products in this review, the Skotti is, first and foremost, a grill, and its primary raison d’etre is cooking. That said, the feisty little firebox (barely over a foot long and 8 inches wide) makes for a cheerful companion as a fire pit for one or two people.

At just 8,530 BTUs per hour, the Skotti has the lowest output among all of our fire pits by a large margin; this reflects its cooking-focused role rather than as a general-use heat source. Still, the Skotti Grill is the only fire pit here that is a true multi-fuel device. With its removable fuel bar, the Skotti will run on backpacking-style butane canisters, green-bottle propane, charcoal, or even wood. I found airflow management to be a bit of a challenge with firewood due to the tight tolerances of the grill’s construction and tiny vents that make it difficult to supply oxygen to the fire when you want to really get things crackling. Using butane, the Skotti fires up immediately with a long-handled lighter and heats up fast. The manual recommends pouring water into the drip tray when running on gas—no particular reason is provided—but I found that it helped to regulate the temperature when cooking delicate meals (like trout), as well as making cleanup after greasy dinners (like that trout) nearly effortless.

On its own, the Skotti is impressive enough, but pairing the grill with the optional Skotti Cap ($129, or $378 for the cap/grill bundle) boosts its functionality. The Skotti cap is made from the same 304 stainless as the grill and is equipped with collapsible bamboo tongs. It is a modular multi-function accessory that can act as a three-sided wind shield, as well as a lid that covers the grill entirely or propped up solidly at two different angles. With the cap on tight and the gas cranking, the Skotti produces pleasant, radiant heat for warming cold fingers and toes.

The Skotti Gill comes with a waterproof and tear-resistant carrying case in a shocking shade of emergency orange—the material feels like it might be from a rubber life raft. It does keep things clean, however, and with the grill stored within, at a mere 1.4 inches thick, it will even slide into a motorcycle pannier without taking up much room. It might be the only fire pit in this review that will appeal to ADV riders. (SE)

$249 | skotti-grill.com

Pros

  • Compact, flat-pack efficiency
  • Versatile multi-fuel capability
  • Clever range of accessories for grilling up a storm

Cons

  • Not primarily a fire pit
  • Small cooking surface
  • Meager heat output

Wood and Charcoal Fire Pits

BioLite FirePit+ | 19.8 pounds | 27 x 13 x 15.8 inches [Editor’s Choice]

Tech abounds in this battery-powered wood and charcoal fire pit.

BioLite prides itself on mixing old tech with new in its diverse range of products. This is particularly true for the FirePit+, which integrates one of humankind’s most primordial technologies—fire—with one of its most modern: the smartphone app. While this may seem a bit hackneyed on the surface (honestly, who actually needs an app to get a campfire going?), the conceit is that the FirePit+ and its space-age tech actually work and work well. The key to building the perfect campfire, whether for ambiance or cooking, is oxygen management; the BioLite’s unique Bluetooth-controlled fan dials up the airflow with precision and all but eliminates smoke.

I’ll have more to say about the operation of the fan and the app below, but first, let’s consider the physical specifications of the FirePit+. At 19.8 pounds, it’s no featherweight, but that’s evidence of its solid construction and adds stability to the device. The foldable legs help with storage and lock securely in place in their extended position. Standard-size firewood fits in the generous firebox with room to spare (charcoal is another fuel option), and the X-Ray Mesh sides allow for flame-gazing that is truly mesmerizing. It’s a slick, postmodern design that looks purposeful, and is—the included stainless steel cooking grate and optional griddle make the FirePit+ a useful double-tasker.

On one end of the FirePit+ is the detachable app-connected fan. No more kneeling down with your lips inches from the hearth, inhaling soot as you try to blow life into your fading campfire—BioLite’s “clean combustion technology” fan keeps the air moving for up to 30 hours with a 12,800 mAh rechargeable battery pack. The 51 separate air jets and four fan settings swirl oxygen through the pit in a specific way that creates a “smoke-eating” effect. Essentially, smoke is drawn back into the combustion cycle in the firebox, where it is consumed again, significantly reducing smoke and ember output, as well as creating a hotter and more efficient burn (meaning fewer ashes). It’s a neat trick, and the BioLite app (iOS and Android) works as advertised, not only for operating fan speed but also for monitoring battery life and output. The fan unit features a USB A port for charging up a phone or a headlamp.

The smartphone aspects of the FirePit+ can feel gimmicky, but LEDs and rubberized buttons on the battery pack allow you to control the fan without the app, and the fan’s operation is genuinely effective. Campfires in the BioLite burn hot and clean, with almost no smoke signature, and managing the fire’s temperature with amazing accuracy is just a swipe away. (SE)

$300 | bioliteenergy.com

Pros

  • Trick fan tech is genuinely useful
  • Excellent build quality and eye-catching design
  • A useful size—not too big, not too small

Cons

  • Slightly difficult to clean
  • Do you really need an app?

Front Runner BBQ/Fire Pit Wolf Pack Pro Kit | 17.4 pounds | 17.2 x 17.2 x 12.2 inches

A classic all-rounder for heat and cooking, all wrapped up in a convenient storage solution.

Front Runner is one of the more ubiquitous brands in the overland world. Since the South African company was acquired by Dometic in 2021, it has been rolling out an impressive lineup of new and innovative gizmos and doodads for adventure travel. There are a handful of legacy products that remain instantly recognizable as Front Runner—their Slimline series of modular roof racks, the classic Wolf Pack storage box, and their collapsible wood fire pit, known simply as the BBQ/fire pit. The version of the BBQ/fire pit we tested for this review arrived as part of a package with the latest updated version of the Wolf Pack box, known as the Wolf Pack Pro.

At $335, the price point for the bundle feels steep, especially considering the simplicity of the fire pit itself. Alone, the Wolf Pack Pro retails for $80, and the BBQ/fire pit for $259, so there’s not much of a discount with the package. However, the fire pit is unwieldy in its deconstructed state, but it is designed to drop precisely into the bottom of Wolf Pack Pro, making storage and transport easy. Having a dedicated case contains any campfire-related messes like soot and ashes and offers some extra room for fire starters and even a little bit of kindling or firewood. The Wolf Pack Pro nests together with other Wolf Pack Pros, and it slots in logically with the rest of the Front Runner storage ecosystem, like attachments for the Slimline roof rack and drawer systems. The Pro version features upgraded hasps and a rubber seal that makes it dust- and water-resistant.

The origami process of constructing the BBQ/Fire Pit takes some practice to nail down, but once you’re familiar with it, it goes quickly. All the pieces slot together with tight tolerances, lending the fire pit a feeling of security and sturdiness. The heavily vented design perfectly accommodates standard 16-inch firewood cuts as well as charcoal and makes lighting the fire and managing airflow and heat for cooking painless. A heavy-gauge base pan keeps embers and ashes off the ground, and lifting tools for the cooking grate are included. The 3CR12 steel is not stainless, so you can expect some surface corrosion to emerge if you keep the fire pit out in the elements. It packs down to a mere 1.9 inches in height, which means finding a home for it in your vehicle will be straightforward, even outside the Wolf Pack Pro. (SE)

$335 | frontrunneroutfitters.com

Pros:

  • Wolf Pack Pro bundle makes storage and transport a snap
  • Folding design takes up minimal space
  • Excellent flame control with thoroughly vented construction
  • Elevated structure keeps the fire off the ground

Cons

  • Expensive for a simple device
  • High-strength steel is not 100 percent corrosion-resistant

Solo Stove Bonfire + Stand 2.0 | 25.1 pounds | 19.5 x 14 inches

“Built for the backyard and beyond”

Solo Stove was started by the Jan brothers in 2010, self-described tinkerers who built an ultralight stove in their garage intended for backpackers. They sold the company in 2019, and the product line expanded, becoming known for smokeless fire pits. The concept was anything but new, and some sources credit the Dakota people for inventing the first one in the 1600s. Two connecting holes were dug in the ground: one for firewood and one for air passage, and the steady source of oxygen allowed for nearly 100 percent combustion. The principal idea used today by manufacturers is the same.

I love a campfire as much as Stephan; however, I am not a fan of eau d’overlander, the smoky remains on my person and belongings when the flames are long gone, and the notion of a smokeless firepit had me immediately hooked. And the Bonfire does work, but it is not entirely smokeless—that’s marketing for you. When you first start the fire, the experience is pretty traditional, complete with smoke in the face. As the fire begins to burn hot, the smoke diminishes to being nearly nonexistent. And when the fire dwindles, the smoke factor ratchets back up, resulting in me strategically planning when to gather ’round the fire while not tending it.

The Bonfire 2.0 + stand bundle ($345) includes a removable base plate, ashcan, and a carry case for easier toting around. I also have the cast-iron grill ($90), a useful but heavy accessory at 16 pounds, and the case for the grill ($50), which keeps it and nearby gear clean during storage or transport. The included Bonfire carrying case is just that and does not protect the product from the elements (rain seeps right through); the Shelter cover ($50) is recommended if your fire pit spends much time outside.

The size of Solo’s Bonfire is manageable for one person, though cumbersome, and it doesn’t often make my cut for necessary gear—the Bonfire spends most of its time in the backyard for use when fire restrictions are not in place. The base plate is intended to protect surfaces underneath the fire pit, and while the company recommends that it not be left unattended when placed over combustible materials, there is not enough heat generated to start an unintentional fire—theoretically. While a plain old dirt base in the backcountry is no cause for concern, I prefer a cement slab to grass in my backyard since wildfire is so prevalent in Arizona.

Because the Solo Stove burns so efficiently, plan to go through more firewood and have smaller logs at the ready, say 22 inches or less, and have a grabber on hand (see Pit Command Talons sidebar). Solo now has several colorways available, thanks to a high-heat ceramic coating. Multiple sizes are available, including the mini Mesa, perfect for tabletop ambience. Additional accessories include a cast-iron wok and griddle, standalone pizza oven, and various utensils, but the dollars add up fast. (TO)

$345 | solostove.com

Pros

  • Nearly smokeless (for most of the time)
  • Easy to accessorize for multi-function use
  • Relatively low maintenance

Cons

  • Griddle has a tendency to slide
  • Requires more wood
  • Size and weight limit portability
  • Needs to completely cool before packing up

Conclusions

One of the great benefits of vehicle-based adventure travel is the added capacity to bring along gear that may seem a little bit like an indulgence. Fire pits can fall into this category—after all, you can always build a campfire in a fire ring or simply go without. But the current generation of portable fire pits (many of which double as stoves or grills) can add that special extra quality to your journeys, making them more memorable and more joyful. Not to mention, they are also safer, cleaner, and more efficient.

While we were incredibly impressed by the design, versatility, and portability of the Skotti Grill, its size and power output limit its usefulness, so it barely missed out on winning our Editor’s Choice recognition. That award goes to the BioLite FirePit+. It’s not-too-big, not-too-small form factor stows efficiently and the technology actually works. Use it with charcoal to cook dinner and then transition to wood for gathering around the flames with friends and family. The Ignik FireCan (particularly the multitalented Deluxe model) takes home our Value Award. Its stoutly engineered construction should last a lifetime of adventures, and adding the optional FireCan rocks creates a pleasing atmosphere for long evenings around the campfire.

Sidebars

Whiteduck Tuff Series Log Carriers

Often, the best gear is the simplest. Whiteduck makes its affordable Tuff series log carriers from 21-ounce industrial waxed canvas. They come in four distinct styles, each available in four different muted earth tones. Log carriers are great for keeping dirty, splintery firewood corralled in the back of your vehicle and for moving wood around the campsite, of course. But they have plenty of other uses as well, from gathering up birds from a dawn hunt to offering a dry place to sit or kneel when working on your rig. Whiteduck even recommends them as bearers for small pets (your mileage may vary on that front).

The rectangle and diamond shapes are open-ended—they operate more like a wrap than a bag, which makes loading and unloading the carrier a simple operation, and laid flat, they cover 5 square feet. I did end up spilling logs out of the rectangle carrier more than once; it pays to keep the load balanced. The boat and tote shapes have closed ends, so whatever you’re carrying stays somewhat more secure with these models. The canvas material is easy to keep clean, and the webbed nylon straps feature handles with a hook-and-loop closure. Folded down, they’ll tuck away into a small corner of your camper when not in use. Starting at just $30, you might as well pick up two. (SE)

$30-$35 | whiteduckoutdoors.com

Pit Command Talons

Pit Command makes two different fire tools, the Talons and Commander. While the Commander is more suitable for fire pits around 3 feet in diameter—its three-in-one talents include a smasher, serrated hook, and poker—the Talons grabber was explicitly designed with smokeless fire pits and the smaller logs they require in mind.

Smokeless fire pits usually have compact, heat-centric designs with a narrower opening, making placement and adjustment of logs slightly challenging, and the Talons seemed the perfect implement to counter the issue. Made of carbon steel (Pit Command recently updated to stainless steel with an extra corrosive-resistant finish to further deter rust) with heat-resistant grips for capable manipulation, they keep me out of the line of flame and fire. I’m no Amazon (as in Wonder Woman), but no lightweight either, and I did find the squeezing movement of the sturdy Talons to be somewhat unwieldy, requiring a bit more hand strength than I was prepared for. I adapted to a two-hand technique and usually have no trouble getting the logs where I need them. The current product weighs 2 pounds (the tested product is slightly lighter) and is available in multiple colors. The initial price of $179 has evolved to a more wallet-friendly $129, making the Talons well worth a look. (TO)

$129 | pitcommand.com

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in Overland Journal’s Summer 2024 Issue.

Read more: The Best Camp Stoves for Overlanding

Our No Compromise Clause: We do not accept advertorial content or allow advertising to influence our coverage, and our contributors are guaranteed editorial independence. Overland International may earn a small commission from affiliate links included in this article. We appreciate your support.

Stephan Edwards is the Associate Editor of Expedition Portal and Overland Journal. He and his wife, Julie, once bought an old Land Rover sight unseen from strangers on the internet in a country they'd never been to and drove it through half of Africa. After living in Botswana for two years, Stephan now makes camp at the foot of a round mountain in Missoula, Montana. He still drives that Land Rover every day. An anthropologist in his former life and a lover of all things automotive, Stephan is a staunch advocate for public lands and his writing and photography have appeared in Road & Track, Overland Journal, and Adventure Journal. Contact him at edwards@overlandinternational.com and @venturesomeoverland on Instagram.