In my heart, I want to hate BioLite’s FirePit+, but I’d be damned if it wasn’t my favorite tool I’ve used this year.
You see, I am a person who appreciates simplicity, and nothing gets simpler than fire. You can basically start one anywhere (not recommended), without the need for fancy equipment. So when it comes to fire pits, my reaction is to favor the “It’s a fire pit” variety because there’s a circle of rocks on the ground. Even expensive junk-steel stoves – the circular kind you can buy pretty much anywhere – feel better than anything fancier. God forbid bringing rechargeable batteries into the equation.
Then I tried FirePit+.
At $250, it cost me exactly $250 more than I spent putting rocks in a circle in my backyard, but having used it for several months now, I can easily say it’s worth that amount or more. No other tool I’ve used in recent memory has been so satisfying to use that I haven’t inspired my friends and family to rush out and spend some cash.
Solid, compact and portable structure
BioLite FirePit+ (the company’s second generation Firepit) is more than just roasted marshmallows and something to help you tell ghost stories better. At its core is a small 12800mAh battery-powered fan, which can be easily installed on and off at one end of the fire pit, and is intended to make it easier to start a fire and – most importantly – keep smoke out of your eyes. The fan box also includes two ports, one for charging the battery with a micro-USB cable and a standard USB port for charging your phone or something else.
Altogether, the FirePit+ cooler is about the size of a mid-size cooler and weighs about 20 pounds—huge, but small and light enough to pack in the trunk for an overnight camping trip or in the parking lot at the ski slopes. Measuring about 17.5 inches long and about 7 inches wide (on the inside of the lip), the fire groove (the actual pit part of the FirePit+) easily allows for standard-size (16-inch) logs, there’s no stopping you from crawling some longer in there if you don’t mind away from the top.
The long sides are made of attractive black metal mesh, so you can still see the flames inside, and it has handles on both ends for easy portability. It also has four foldable legs, a wooden grill on the bottom to allow air around the burning wood or charcoal, and a removable grill on top for grilling whatever you want.
Not quite ‘smokeless’ – but very close to dang
The fan, which has four speeds, promises to eliminate the worst part of a fire pit: all that awful smoke blowing in your face, no matter where you sit around. It is already working! No, it doesn’t create a “smoke free” fire – but it’s pretty close.
Here’s how the fan works: Levels 3 and 4, the highest fan speed settings, blow enough air into the fire cavity to give the flame enough oxygen to start. Honestly, this feature is a bit like magic: the fire starts so easily that it makes you look like a damned Boy Scout. Even when the sticks and wood were a little damp, the fire was going well and healthy within minutes. Levels 2 and 3 will keep the fire burning while eliminating almost all of the smoke. And level 1 lets the fire burn out easily, but you’ll probably get a little bit of smoke circulating around and making fun of you.
Now, if you make a fire like me (using crumpled newspaper), the FirePit+ isn’t powerful enough to get rid of all the smoke during startup – the paper smokes a lot, even with a level 4 fan buzzing. The lack of smoke that circulates around to annoy me and my guests.
Battery life for days
Thankfully, FirePit+ doesn’t tamper with companion apps or anything annoying like that. Instead, it sticks to tried-and-true buttons—or rather, a button. There is only one. Tap it once to start the fan, then tap it again until you get the fan speed you want. Press and hold to turn it off. This is.
In terms of battery life, BioLite promises 30 hours on the lowest setting and 7 hours on the highest. When I tried to do my tests, I basically failed – the first time, I fell asleep before the fan shut down at level 4. The second time, I gave up after more than 7 hours had passed and needed to go to sleep. So, I don’t have any specific battery life numbers to give you. But based on real usage, I can say that the battery hasn’t run out of charge in the past six months while enjoying some backyard flames. (Side note: Absolutely no one should use this thing that’s set exclusively to level 4 – you’ll just burn a whole bunch of logs because it works like a weird incinerator when the fan is set to that height). It was set to level 2, which gave me enough juice for outdoor meetings for several hours.
In addition to the basic FirePit+, BioLite also sells some accessories, including a cast iron tray that extends above the fire cavity, grill cover, and a set of cookware (knife, tongs, and spoon), all of which were included by the company in the review kit I received (sale Retail: $400, including FirePit+). You don’t need any of these to enjoy FirePit+, but I will say it all came in handy during a camping trip this summer when I wanted to cook some scrambled eggs and sausage for me and my friends in the morning.
Less smoke = less heat
There are only three things I don’t like about FirePit+. First, the downside to getting rid of smoke is that it also reduces the amount of heat the fire emits on the sides. I admit I’m not 100% sure about the physics behind the smoke reduction fan, but there’s noticeably less warmth than the FirePit+ when the fan is set to anything above level 2. It doesn’t matter if you just have to shoot the atmosphere. But during the winter months when we’re all hanging out exclusively outdoors due to the never-ending epidemic, heat becomes even more important — which means you might want to stick to Level 1 and carry a little more smoke.
Second, I have to take care of this thing, which is annoying. I have two more pits, one of which is some rock in a circle, and the other is one of those aforementioned circular compacted pit pits that are everywhere now. I don’t have to bother with them – I don’t bring them into the garage to ensure they don’t rain, and I don’t worry when they show a little wear and tear. FirePit + is different – it’s Nice. And even though I’ve left it in the rain a few times with no consequences, it’s still a piece of equipment that I feel the need to take care of, and that bothers someone like me who doesn’t want the things I have to dictate my brain space.
Third, it is a little small. This is positive and negative at the same time. Positive because it’s just the right size to make it portable while not too small to make it your main fire pit, especially if you have limited outdoor space. Negative because, sometimes, you just want to make a big fire — a real raging inferno — and this thing just isn’t going to cut it. But that’s also not what it was made for, so I can’t really dock the thing because it’s not about the size of a small car, which I almost like my firefight being big from time to time.
FirePit + is almost too beautiful – almost
Like I said, I don’t want to like FirePit+. But I really do, in spite of myself. It’s portable, powerful and works better than I expected. It may not be 100% “smokeless” – but it’s much closer to no smoke than even BioLite promises. It has been holding up well for several months despite my random patronage. In fact, it works so well and looks so good, both my friends and my brother got one for themselves after using it in my house. I’ve taken it on camping trips and set it up in my yard and on the deck. And while I can sense heat loss or the fact that I have to put it in the garage or roof to protect it from the weather, sometimes that’s the price we have to pay to get nice things.