Yes, that’s right – after finding out the FirePit was a think when I reviewed the BioLite Camp Stove (seen here), and then writing about new FirePit accessories (here), I’ve finally gotten to do what I wanted to since I first saw it – got to kick back and relax next to the Biolite Firepit in my own backyard.
Now, you might be asking yourself – why would you want to spend $249 for a fire pit, when you can head down to your local hardware store and pick up one for under seventy bucks? Well, nothing against those shallow bowl fire pits (disclaimer: I’ve had one of those in the backyard for a decade now), because they do get the job done for the smell of a campfire and cooking some marshmallows.
The Biolite FirePit starts from that same idea – a container to hold fuel for a fire – and then takes it in some interesting directions. First off, let’s talk airflow. All around the elongated sides of the pit you’ve got a fine mesh, that allows plenty of oxygen in. Then, you also notice that there are three tubes running through the chamber – one down the middle at the bottom, and two on either side at the top. What are those for? Well, the fact that they’re filled with holes gives you a clue.
That’s where the fan/power pack delivers the supplemental air to get your fire started, keep it going, or even ramp things up if you’re adding new wood (or just want some extra heat). Frankly, that’s where the Biolite FirePit shines. No longer are you getting down on hands and knees trying to blow on some embers to get things going. Via the buttons on the side of the yellow brick – or via the bluetooth-connected app on your phone – you can control the fan speed, and get the flames going where you want them, while controlling the smoke to an extent.
If you remember, the Camp Stove also had a battery powered fan, and could generate it’s own electrons from the fuel you were burning. On the Biolite FirePit, that self-generation capability has been removed. While it would have been quite clever, it would have really increased the price of the package, so they eliminated it. And frankly, at a 24-hour run rate (with the fan on low) the battery should last you a campfire or two. And if not, they do also have a cover with solar panels in it to let it charge up while it sits outside. Or, you know, you can detach the brick and bring it in to charge.
The Biolite FirePit is more than just a spot to get your backyard s’mores production going. You can also use it as a charcoal grill (taking advantage of the fan to get things going, of course). They cleverly put some hooks on the inside that allow you to raise the inner grate to bring the charcoal close to the top (cooking) grate. Then, when you’re done, you can lower it with tongs (or welding gloves) and use the coals to start up a wood-burning fire (which is what I did).
Whatever you’re burning, you may find the need to adjust the airflow as the night goes on. There are controls on the side of the yellow brick you can use, of course, but then you’re getting close to the fire, and down low to the ground. While at first I thought the app was a gimmick, I realized it was actually quite handy. Not only does it allow you to control the fan speed (or shut it off), it tells you how much more run time you’ve got left based on your selected fan speed. In other words, I do recommend having this app on your phone if you have the Biolite FirePit.
The designers also did a really nice job with the top grate on the Biolite FirePit. While you can remove it completely, it’s got some small tabs that allow you to slide it out of the way (with tongs or welding gloves) to load more fuel in, without needing to worry where you’re going to set the hot grate. So, that was quite nice. On the other hand, it’s not much in the way of a spark or ember arrester. While the mesh on the sides would be nice for the top, that would be a pain to clean. I’m thinking I may try to make one out of some steel hardware cloth to fit into the grate when we’re just doing a fire (and not cooking).
Once you’re all done, the Biolite FirePit is going to need some cleanout. Even with a more complete combustion, you’ve still got ash and such to deal with. You could take the grate and battery pack off it you wanted to. Or, you can slide a small cleanout door open on the bottom (opposite side from the battery pack) to let the ash out. Once things are cleaned and cooled, you can pop the included weatherproof cover on it. And, if you want to put it on the shelf in the garage, you can even collapse the legs back in, to minimize the space that’s taken up.
So, at the end of the day, you have to ask yourself if you feel the $249 pricetag on the Biolite FirePit is worth it. I think if you’re looking into some of the higher-end ones out there (like the stuff from Solo) then it’s not that much of an ask. For me, I do like the flexibility that the rechargeable fan pack brings to the table, as well as the ability to cook with charcoal as well as burn wood on it. The accessories they’ve released also help extend the capabilities and value proposition of the Biolite FirePit. Aside from my hopes that they’ll release a spark-arrestor grate insert, I do think I’ll be quite pleased to have the Biolite FirePit taking up residence in the backyard. bioliteenergy.com