Portable fire pit; the ultimate guide

Kicking back around a camp fire in the bush somewhere is one of life’s simple pleasures, and there’s a heap of ways you can do it today.

However, a lot of places are now mandating the use of a portable fire pit, and in this post, we look at all of the different options, what you need to consider and leave you with some suggestions that should suit your requirements.

Fire pits at Paradise Valley
There’s lots of different portable fire pits on the market; what do you need to look at?

What to look for in a portable fire pit

Weight and packing size

Its hard enough to pack everything you want in without being overweight already, let alone getting a fire pit that weighs 30kg, and doesn’t fold at all. One of the first things I look at is the weight of the fire pit, and the size that it packs down to. The flat pack options generally become quite compact, but are very heavy.

I heard recently from some fellow travellers that they are carrying a laser cut fire pit that weighs a whopping 45kg! That is absolutely insane, and we’d never consider taking something so heavy, but clearly people do! The folding units are compact enough, but are still heavy as.

The real light weight ones are brilliant in terms of packing size and weight, but have other issues, which we go into below

Portable fire pit
Folding fire pits pack up to be pretty compact

Material type

The original folding fire pit seems to have been the Japanese snow peak, and everyone else has come out and copied their design.

If you ask what grade metal is used in the fire pit fabrication and don’t get an answer quickly, walk away. There’s a heap of companies selling the same design folding fire pit but with substandard specifications, and I’ve seen photos of some of them cracking and falling apart.

Can you cook on it?

For us, one of the primary reasons for getting a fire pit was so we could cook on it, using an in built grill. There’s a heap of fire pits out there, but if that is all they are, its no good for us.

We wanted to be able to cook a steak, or fish, or vegetables on top, and the unit we’ve got allows for this, although its not super easy to use!

The light weight mesh versions don’t allow you to cook on them, and whilst their weight and packing size is attractive they were ruled out immediately due to the inability to cook your food on it.

Cooking on our fire pit
Food cooked on the fire is the ultimate way to go about it

Assembly time

If you have to spend 15 minutes putting your fire pit together, its probably going to drive you up the wall. Most can be put together in a matter of minutes and this is exactly how it should be.

Does it need parts to be replaced regularly?

There’s some pretty neat, really light weight portable fire pits on the market that use a fine mesh. Much like the old toasters for cooking on gas, this mesh deteriorates over time, and needs replacing, which is an ongoing cost, and something you have to physically replace from time to time.

Is it sized correctly for you?

We bought a 450mm x 450mm fire pit, which is the largest folding one that we could find (there is a much bigger one now, but its super heavy and massive).

I honestly have no idea how you’d be happy using anything any smaller. Its already hard enough to cut timber to size to fit in this one, let along anything much smaller.

The timber size is just part of the problem though; if it’s a tiny fire, then its going to be hard to cram a few people around it and maintain any form of warmth!

Camping with kids
The smaller the fire pit, the smaller the timber has to be

Is it fairly priced?

Snow Peak were the original folding fire pit manufacturers, and then there’s been a huge number of ‘copies’ since.

Almost every folding fire pit you see is identical in terms of design. There are variances in quality, materials used and what you get with it, but you can pay a huge amount of money for something that might not be any better quality.

Does it come with a bag?

You absolutely, without a doubt need a bag for a fire pit, unless you find a dedicated storage hatch or box for your unit. We keep ours in the back of our Reconn R2, and especially after you’ve cooked on it, the whole thing is filthy. 

There’s no way I’d keep it in there if it wasn’t kept in a decent fabric bag, which is handy for moving it around in too.

Making your own fire pit

There’s a heap of different ways in which you can make your own fire pits. The most simple setup is an old washing machine drum with some legs welded on it.

Alternatively, you can get plate laser cut so it all slots together very easily at your local laser cutting shop, or I’ve seen people use old gas bottles that have been cut in half (don’t do this unless you know exactly how to do it safely; they can be deadly) or whatever you can get your hands on.

If it suits your requirements, then making your own fire pit might be the best way forward.

Do you really need one?

We left Perth 18 months ago, and we took our Darche 450 Portable Fire Pit with us. I can tell you that we have used it a handful of times, and that’s it. We could have easily left it at home.

We’ve had fires almost as often as we’ve been able to, but in almost every situation there’s been a fire pit ready to use, and if I don’t have to pull the portable fire pit out I don’t.

They are certainly not light weight, and they take up a fair bit of space, so you need to really think about how often its going to get used. We did pull it out at Wee Jasper Camping and had a few fires in it, but in general you can get away without one.

I will say that they’re nice in terms of being able to have a fire close to camp, and in a way that is movable and that leaves no trace, so for some people that’s enough to take one around Australia.

Fire pit at Grannys Flat
In 6 months, we’ve not used our portable fire pit a single time; there’s always something around

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