Outdoor entertaining has blossomed in popularity during the pandemic, as coronavirus concerns have put an emphasis on fresh air, open spaces and the ability to socialize safely. The wood-burning firepit has become an essential tool to enable such gatherings, especially during the winter months.
“There are a lot more people who are looking to be outside in the winter now who maybe weren’t doing that before the pandemic,” says Emma Glubiak, a spokesperson for home design site The Spruce. “The firepit is an affordable alternative to some of the other outdoor heating options.”
While an inexpensive DIY firepit may consist of little more than a ring of stones or a metal basin, the viral Solo Stove — sleek, stainless steel and virtually smoke-free — has become the firepit of choice for many during the pandemic. Just how popular? Solo Stove sales, which totaled $133 million in 2020, soared a projected 170% to $361 million last year.
It should come as no surprise, then, that a Solo Stove isn’t cheap. The list price of the smallest model, the 15-inch-wide Ranger, starts at $270, while the 19.5-inch Bonfire begins at $350. The largest model, the 27-inch Yukon, runs $600. Look for periodic flash sales, $10-off coupons and other markdowns on solostove.com that can lower the list price.
Then, of course, there are the accessories. Solo Stove sells everything from lids ($75 and up) and shelters ($50 and up) to roasting sticks ($100 and up) and cast iron cooktops ($95 and up). A Solo Stove with lots of bells and whistles can quickly top $1,000.
There are lots of options, some more affordable than others, if you’re in the market for a new firepit to help turn your backyard into a s’mores-friendly gathering spot. Here are three, all wood-burning like a Solo Stove, recommended by experts.
The Breeo X19
(starting at $349 — Breeo.co, OnthePatio.com, Amazon)
Breeo fire pits are comparable to the Solo: sleek, cylindrical, brimming with accessories and boasting airflow technology that makes them nearly smokeless. They are also comparable in price. You won’t save money opting for the Breeo, but you may appreciate the subtle differences.
Measuring just 19 inches across, similar to the Solo Stove Bonfire model, the X19 firepit is a great option for those with a smaller space or who aren’t hosting large gatherings. Mac Goldman, founder and chief operating officer of product review site MoonlightReviews.com, likes the Breeo X-Series because it’s built with a thicker gauge of steel than its competitors, and you can purchase cooking accessories like a grill grate or kettle hook to cook over the fire. The base model is made of corten steel, which develops a rust-colored patina over time; stainless steel costs extra.
“It’s literally the perfect firepit for anyone that enjoys outdoor cooking,” Goldman says. “When you consider the first-of-its-kind smokeless technology, plus the ability to cook, it’s hard to argue there is any better firepit.”
($300 — Bioliteenergy.com, REI, L.L. Bean)
Launched in 2021, the BioLite Firepit+ is rectangular in shape and has a mesh body that allows a full view of the fire as it burns. What also sets it apart from a Solo is the ability to control the size of the flames via a Bluetooth app. How? The Firepit+ has a fan attached that controls airflow. Turn the fan up for a roaring fire or down for a slow burn.
“The battery [that powers the fan] lasts an impressively long time, and it does a great job of keeping smoke out of your eyes,” says Gizmodo executive editor Andrew Couts. “It might not produce as much heat as some of the other firepits out there when the fan is on the higher setting, but in my experience it works overall great.”
Couts also loves the portability of this firepit, which weighs in at less than 20 pounds, and the ease with which you can start a fire in it. As a bonus, it burns either wood or charcoal, and a grill grate that comes included with the Firepit+ can convert it into a hibachi-style grill for cooking. Other accessories are sold separately.
Sunnydaze Décor Black Crossweave
($183-$199 — Sunnydavedecor.com, Lowe’s, Amazon)
At 36 inches, it’s nearly twice as wide as many other circular firepits on the market. “That gives you a little more surface area of fire, which is great for roasting marshmallows or entertaining with a large group,” The Spruce’s Glubiak says.
While it lacks the contemporary design of a Solo Stove, as well as the smokeless technology, the more traditional Sunnydaze basin-shaped firepit is significantly more economical. In addition to a much lower list price, the budget-friendly Black Crossweave model comes with a spark screen, grate, poker and weather-resistant cover included at no extra charge.
Beth Braverman is a contributing writer who has covered shopping and personal finance for more than a decade. Her work has appeared in Consumer Reports, CNNMoney.com, CNBC.com and dozens of other publications.