Portable Backyard/Camping Firepit and Grill
$300, 20 lbs./9kg
Many of us learned a lot about what we liked during the pandemic and many of those newly discovered or rediscovered likes have stayed with us—like sitting out in the back yard to eat and socialize. We realized (or were reminded): Hey, it’s nice sitting out here! That included evenings when cool temperatures might have previously driven us indoors. So we sought ways to heat our domestic outdoor spaces. Enter the BioLite Firepit+, a more civilized and controllable evolution of the old stone-ringed (sometimes smoky and not very heat-efficient), backyard fire pit.
The Firepit+ is a sturdy but relatively light and portable, metal fire chamber with—and most critically, a removable airflow pack containing a rechargeable battery that powers 51 air jets inside the fire chamber, with four fan speeds controlled by a button on the pack or with a free Bluetooth app (Android and iOS versions). Those air jets transform the chore of building a campfire into a much faster, more efficient, and far less smoky task.
Measuring 27.5 ins./70cm long, 16 ins./41cm deep, 12 ins./30cm wide at the top and 11ins./28cm wide at the base, with two handles, a lid, and folding legs that reduce the unit’s height to 10.5 ins./26.7cm when folded, and weighing about 20 pounds/9kg, the Firepit+ is compact and portable enough for camping and storing in a garage or shed when not in use. The BioLite Firepit Carry Bag ($60) can be purchased separately.
Setup is a snap once you’ve fully charged the airflow pack’s battery before the first use. The Firepit+ assembles quickly by screwing the two handles into place at either end, extending the folding legs (which lock into place and fold up for transport using a release button), attaching the rechargeable airflow pack to one side (which requires no tools), and inserting the fuel rack.
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Key to significantly minimizing smoke and building a roaring, warm fire is basically just adhering to the rules of building a proper campfire: Start with small pieces of dry wood and ideally a firestarter and add more small pieces gradually, always offsetting the wood pieces to permit airflow through the pile—otherwise, you’ll get smoke. As when building a campfire, you may need to poke and move some burning pieces of wood around slightly at times to enhance air flow. Only add large sticks or logs after a bed of coals has developed. Avoid letting wood block the air jets or extend above the top of the burn chamber.
In reality, though, the 51 air jets eliminate much of the usual maintenance needed with a campfire. Keep the jets on the lowest or second setting until the fire has grown; then you can dial them up to speed up the burning and building of coals. The air jets get the fire burning strongly within minutes—imagine 51 very tiny people sitting around the fire constantly blowing on it without having to inhale.
Smoke results when areas of any fire aren’t getting enough oxygen and flames start to diminish and the air jets also minimize smoke by keeping the flames burning efficiently—in other words, they perform the chore of constantly stoking the fire that we usually don’t want to perform non-stop when building a fire.
Once you’ve built up a strong fire and hot coals, you can turn down the jets to maintain minimal air flow and burn wood more slowly. The fine mesh walls of the fire chamber prevent embers from escaping and radiate heat outward—and you can see the flames, which is, of course, one of the pleasures of sitting around a campfire. Friends and I have sat around it comfortably on winter evenings in the 30s Fahrenheit. In temps that cold, the Firepit+ throws enough heat to warm people sitting within three or four feet of it; and the minimal smoke enables you to sit that close. On spring evenings, it also helps keep mosquitoes away.
The chamber burns wood up to 16 ins./40cm long—firewood bought at stores usually fits—or charcoal and converts to a hibachi-style grill by simply raising the fuel rack to the upper level, tossing in charcoal, and sliding the included grill grate into place. (When not using it, the grill grate can be removed and set aside or slid nearly off but left attached while just making a fire.) Charcoal provides a more consistent heat source for grilling meat, kabobs, corn on the cob and other foods on the uncovered grill; a wood fire requires too much maintenance for grilling.
If after grilling with charcoal you want to start a wood fire, use metal tongs to drop one side of the fuel rack at a time to the rack’s lower level and then lay small pieces of wood atop the hot coals, which will act as a firestarter, augmented by the air jets.
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To put the fire out, just let it burn down. Stop adding wood a while before you want to put the fire out and you’ll burn up all or most of the wood in it. Use the air jets to speed up the fuel burning or turn them off and the flames will die out quickly—and it may then get smoky while it’s smoldering. Placing the lid on the chamber will obviously reduce oxygen to the fire and smother it more quickly. Never throw water on the fire; that can damage the chamber and electronics.
The ash door on the chamber’s bottom allows you to dump out cold coals and ashes. (Once the ashes are cold and dead, I scatter them in my garden). With the fire out, the Firepit’s body will cool within about 10 minutes.
The included pre-seasoned, non-stick, cast-iron griddle (8.8 lbs./3.98kg, 19.3×9.5×2 ins./49x24x5cm, cooking surface area 130 sq. ins./330 sq. cm) sits atop the grill grate to fry, sear, or sauté food. A moderate fire (not large) on a low fan setting provides plenty of heat for cooking on the griddle; BioLite cautions against overheating the griddle with a large fire.
BioLite’s Firepit Cooking Kit (sold separately, $50, 1 lb. 10.5 oz/750g) includes a sharp, Santoku cutting and chopping knife and a spatula and tongs, made of stainless steel with silicone rubber on the extra-long handles for safety around the fire, plus a roll-up storage mat. The tongs are large and sturdy enough to place relatively small pieces of split logs
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The Firepit+ is made with a high-temp enamel coating for durability and easy cleaning. Use Firepit+ only on surfaces like packed dirt, gravel, sand, concrete, or flat rocks, not on a lawn or decks, which could be damaged by the heat. Use only dry wood or charcoal, nothing else: no pellets or wet wood. BioLite recommends drying the fire pit after use and storing it in a dry place when not using it (rather than leaving it out in your yard).
Naturally, the Firepit+ is not as quick and convenient as having a gas grill in your yard—but a gas grill isn’t portable for camping and you’re not going to sit around a gas grill and make s’mores or sip whiskey. In the same vein, electric space heaters on posts produce more heat than the Firepit+ and radiate it downward at people seated anywhere around their perimeter. But they lack the ambience of a campfire and aren’t so good for grilling.
The airflow system’s fan runs for up to 30 hours with the fan on low, 14 hours on medium, and seven hours on high on a single charge. The 12,800 mAh 47Wh battery, recharged via micro USB, also functions as a battery for charging other devices. Charge batteryvia micro USB fully at least once every six months for longer life.
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Functioning as an all-in-one fire pit with crackling flames, grill, and griddle, with better control over flames and much less smoke than a traditional campfire, the BioLite Firepit+ combines the benefits of backyard heaters, a fire pit, and a grill in one unit that’s also light enough and portable for camping. Living in your back yard just got better.
You can support my work on this blog, at no cost to you, by clicking any of these affiliate links to purchase the BioLite Firepit+ at moosejaw.com, backcountry.com, or bioliteenergy.com; the BioLite Firepit Cooking Kit at backcountry.com, moosejaw.com, or bioliteenergy.com; and the BioLite Firepit Carry Bag at moosejaw.com, backcountry.com, or bioliteenergy.com.
NOTE: I tested gear for Backpacker magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See The Big Outside’s Gear Reviews page for categorized menus of all gear reviews and expert buying tips.