It’s been a long hot summer here in Brooklyn and a firepit didn’t sound like much fun in the depths of August. Now that the weather has turned, however, I had the chance to fire up the Biolite FirePit +, a $249 electrified firepit that burns wood or charcoal and lets you sit by a toasty, smokeless fire and even grill some weenies over the open flame.

The system uses a battery-powered fan and exhaust system to feed the fire and recirculate smoke to reduce it to nearly nothing. In practice, this thing works great on a patio or back yard but because of the vagaries of the system, you probably won’t want to use this as your only fire when camping. Here’s how we tried it.

The Good

First, the Biolite FirePit + is not a fool-proof firepit. You still need to know how to build a fire, from adding the big pieces, the paper, and the kindling. You can feasibly douse the whole thing in lighter fluid (which the company adamantly requests that you don’t do) and call it a night but you’re probably going to want to be a little more careful.

When I set it up in my backyard I was able to get a nice little fire going. We don’t have much firewood in Brooklyn but using a few twigs and some paper we had a nice little fire going and, thanks to the exhaust system, it was nearly smokeless. Perfect!

We then hauled the thing out to a campsite where it was a bit harder to use. We didn’t have very much kindling and when we tried to light paper in the pit it would go out before it could catch the wood. Turning up the blower didn’t help until we had a good fire going so we were stuck. Obviously, your results will vary and if you’re a solid Scout you should be able to get something going in this without trouble. But, as I noted before, this is not a foolproof system, just a better system.

The blower has a built-in battery that lasts hours on a single charge and it even has a little outlet for charging your phone, should you wish to connect a delicate piece of electronics to your firepit batter (when it’s not on fire, obviously). Finally, it has an app that lets you control the fan speed and measure the temperature remotely.

I’m really pleased with this product. For $249 you get a real wood firepit that can sit on the driveway or tailgate tarmac and turn a chilly night into a cozy evening. There are a few cheaper propane-based solutions but if you love the smell of woodsmoke this is the pit for you. The best part? The sides are punched full of tiny holes so you can see the flames rise and fall through the side of the grill. I know this will be lovely for Thanksgiving when we like to gather outside for a bit of a tipple while the turkey cooks.

The Bad

Again, we had trouble lighting this guy in the wild. That’s on us. That said, it does take a little skill and finesse to get the fire going properly, skills that you’ll definitely develop over time. I consider this product a massive step up from, say, a simple fire ring in the ground, and one or two steps up from your traditional propane firepit. Basically, you get the best of a nice wood fire with some of the benefits of a smokeless and circulating air system.

At 27″ x 13″ x 15.8″ this thing is definitely on the smaller side if you’re thinking of using it as a grill. It’s about as big as a traditional hibachi and can hold a few burgers or a pack of dogs. If you’re only feeding a few folks you can use it all night long. If you’re grilling for a crew then you’re gonna need a bigger boat (grill).

I’d like to see how this unit performs over time. Getting thin metal hot is a dangerous proposition and this thing can get really hot but The FirePit+ has upgraded this from the original version to include high-temp enamel coating for durability so it should be fine. Also remember you can’t use it on a wooden deck without a mat and it should never be used in an enclosed space.

The Bottom Line

I like Biolite products and I really liked this grill. It’s a cool little piece of tech that improves the firepit experience immensely. It’s not for everyone and it’s especially not for those with little fire-starting skill but if you know your way around a log and can gather kindling, you’re golden.

By John Biggs

John Biggs is an entrepreneur, consultant, writer, and maker. He spent fifteen years as an editor for Gizmodo, CrunchGear, and TechCrunch and has a deep background in hardware startups, 3D printing, and blockchain. His work has appeared in Men’s Health, Wired, and the New York Times.

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