Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
No evening spent outside is complete without a roaring fire, be it for ambiance in the summer or warmth in the winter. Setting a bonfire in the patio sounds tricky—unless you have a fire pit! Even better if it is a free-standing wood fire pit, as you can move it around as will. Ready to know more?
One Can Never Go Wrong With The Classics
Wood is a fairly efficient fuel: set the logs ablaze, and they’ll keep burning for hours on end! Unlike gas, it’s also renewable, and not hard to stockpile and cart around (but more on that later). Not to mention the applications when it comes to food—s’mores, hot dogs, meat on a stick, it’s a world of possibilities. No one will tell you that you can’t cook over a wood fire pit! (Can’t say the same for propane fire pits, sorry.)
When it comes to installation, a wood fire pit is hard to beat: plunk it down, and you’re done! No wires, no pipes, no tanks to hook up.
Prepping Your Fuel
It pays to be mindful when acquiring and storing your wood, especially if you intend to burn frequently. Here are a few pointers:
I. Make Your Selection
Whereas smokers and indoors fireplaces require a specific sort of wood, fire pits come with more freedom of choice. When opting for a certain type, you may be swayed by a variety of factors: birch, for example, burns quickly, hickory is great for smoking, oak produces little smoke and sparks, pine is more likely to build up creosote—which can become a fire hazard—, and so on. There are many resources (including charts) available online, to help you decide; however, the type you go for may ultimately come down to what’s available in your area, and how easy it is to procure.
II. Seasoning Counts
No, this does not involve sprinkling spices on top. Seasoning in this context refers to ‘season’, a nod to the procedure used for generations (and which is still done today) to prepare firewood:
1. Stack it in the Spring.
2. Let it dry for the rest of Spring, and all of Summer.
3. Begin to use it in the Fall, as temperatures dip.
By the time you tap into your firewood stockpile, it’s been roughly 6 months, i.e. a season. And why is this necessary? Because, in order to burn properly, firewood’s internal moisture should be under 20%. Wood with moisture content at 60% or higher, also known as ‘green’, won’t burn as efficiently—which means, less heat for you—, and it can also create creosote. When in doubt, a moisture meter can be of great help.
III. Storage Space
If you need it dry, then you need to place it where the water won’t get to it. A rack with cover is a pretty good choice: plenty of space and the occasional rain won’t be a problem. A caddy (which can also come with a cover) will help you cart your logs around with little effort.
This is fire we’re talking about; and as such, there are some things you can do to ensure that you and yours remain unharmed as you go about enjoying your cozy fire. One accessory that is often recommended is a spark screen. Remember also to never leave the fire unsupervised, and to keep close watch on animals and children at all times.
When You’re Done
Regular maintenance is a must if we want our fire pit to operate efficiently. For this, you will need a pair of protective gloves, an ash scoop, and a metal bucket for safe disposal. Sets like this one will provide you with everything you require—except for the gloves.
The procedure is rather simple: wait however long it takes (could be a day or even two) before the ashes are completely cool. Then, put on your gloves, and take out every bit of wood that remains inside. With your scoop, shovel the ash into the metal bucket. Do not pour ash into anything plastic or cardboard: even when ashes seem completely dead, there may still be a small ember somewhere among the pile which may cause a fire—this does happen, and more often than it should.
Bonus tip: you can get rid of creosote buildup with a mallet and a putty knife.
Ash Disposal Done Right
Before sending it out with your usual trash, it’s a good idea to check with your local waste management office, in case they want it packed in a specific way. It can also be dumped on the ground, but mind the location: a snow bank in the winter, or a moist area away from grass or anything that could catch fire. You can also put it to good use: add it to your compost, apply it where it will repel pests—even making soap is possible.
The Ones Free-Standing Fire Pits That Stand Out
The following is a selection of fire pits we believe you might find adequate, depending on your particular taste and needs.
1. TIKI Brand Stainless Steel Low Smoke Fire Pit
There’s hardly any question as to how solid it is, as it’s made in 16-gauge stainless steel—one of the thickest available—, and comes with a powder-coated exterior that adds durability and weather resistance. Their proprietary airflow system enables a more efficient burning, with better flame, lower smoke and less ash. It brings some added value as well, as it includes a quick-start guide, a cover, and even an ash pan so you don’t have to get your own come cleaning time.
Worth noting that the manufacturer offers its own line of wood, which promises a faster start to your fire and a burn time of 30 minutes—conventional seasoned wood should be added to keep the fire going once it’s begun. One package is included with this fire pit, and more can be purchased separately.
- Fairly good package—decent amount of bonuses.
- Twice as expensive as the average wood fire pit.
2. Yaheetech Fire Pit Table
It does what is supposed to, and it does it well. It’s lightweight, you can use it with wood or charcoal, and the included cover helps it withstand the elements; it can also work as a table for small items, a the sides do not get hot. However, that is about the extent of its function: there is nowhere to pour ice in for cooling drinks but the (potentially sooty) interior, and, although the advertising materials imply otherwise—and heavily at that—no cooking grill for the top is included.
- Space on the sides for setting small items down.
- Per manufacturer, paint peeling off is normal ‘after several uses’.
3. Campfire Defender Pop-Up Fire Pit
This freestanding fire pit is designed with functionality in mind: at 8lbs, it’s three to five times lighter than most other fire pits, and when folded in it is compact enough to be easily carried around—it even comes with its own bag for this purpose. To prepare it for use, all it takes is to expand the frame, set the fire mesh at the bottom of the tray, and string up the heat shield at about half of the legs’ height. Thanks to its design (sufficient burn area, elevated base and tall enough sides), it complies with Forest Service regulations. This is the one you want if you are heading out camping or RV’ing.
- Unbeatable portability
- Optimized for use in camping grounds.
- Not very aesthetic.
- Fire mesh only guaranteed to last for 50 fires or 1 year.
4. Pleasant Hearth Martin Extra Deep Wood Burning Fire Pit
This one is a full foot deep, and designed for better fires, due to its proprietary Circulair system: the bottom features slits to manage airflow, and the walls feature gaps covered with mesh, which helps with ventilation. The package comes with a grate for the top which allows cooking, a spark cover and a tool to lift the cover or poke the logs around. It can be purchased with cover included, or on its own. For the latter case, a cover can be purchased separately straight from the manufacturer. Worth noting that the bottom sits quite close to the ground, which limits the surfaces it can be used on. We recommend you pair this free-standing fire pit with a fire mat.
- Deeper than most other fire pits.
- Fully visible fire thanks to the gaps on the walls.
- Prone to rusting if not covered or exposed to water.
- Can only be used on non-flammable surfaces such as rock, stone or concrete.
5. BALI OUTDOORS Wood Burning Patio Fire Pit
This is a good one if you’re looking to cook on top: it comes with a built-in cooking grate which can be swiveled a full 360°, and set at the height you desire for optimal heat. The grate may not look like much but, if consumer experiences are to be believed, it has been successfully used even to grill burgers. A poker comes in the package, as well as a triangular log rack to help in setting the logs crisscross and thus improve ventilation.
- Decent for cooking.
- No cover included.
- Reportedly not the most solid: metal thinner than with many other similar products, and paint is known to come off after a few uses.
Burning The Brightest: TIKI Brand Stainless Steel Low Smoke Fire Pit
There is no question it is priced more highly than a great many other fire pits, but it does make up for it: it’s solid, both in construction and finish, it makes for a remarkably efficient, low-smoke burn (as long as the wood is kept below the rim) and it comes with nice bonuses, such as the quick-start guide, the cover and the fire iron. It even comes with proprietary wood for starting the fire which reportedly burns so hot, it may be hard to sit near the fire until some of it has been consumed. A cover is included too, which further enhances durability; all in all, you might decide it’s a worthy investment.
Overall Recap for the Best Free-Standing Wood Fire Pit
Overall, we still like the TIKI Brand Stainless. It’s a good value, durable and tried and true.