There’s nothing like sitting around a campfire to make you appreciate the great outdoors, and with the Biolite FirePit ($199.95), you can capture that feeling just about anywhere. Ideal for camping, tailgating, or just sitting around in your backyard, this smart home device uses unique airflow technology, Bluetooth connectivity, and a mobile app to help you build and maintain the perfect wood or charcoal fire. It’s small enough to throw in the trunk of your car, and comes with a grill that lets it double as a charcoal-fired hibachi. The FirePit works well and the app is simple and easy to use, but when turned all the way up, the fan noise can be annoying.
Design and Features
The Biolite FirePit is made of a lightweight metal and weighs just 19.8 pounds. It measures 15.8 by 27.0 by 13.0 inches (HWD) with its four legs unfolded (10.5 inches high with the legs folded), and has a matte black finish with metal mesh screening on three sides. The burn chamber has a removable fuel rack that can handle up to four logs no bigger than 16 inches in length. When using charcoal, the fuel rack can be raised using built-in hooks to bring the coals closer to the slide-on grill top. At the bottom of the burn chamber is a small panel that slides open for removing spent ash.
Inside the chamber are three tubes with a total of 51 air jet holes that feed oxygen to the fire. The oxygen is provided by a variable-speed fan that’s powered by a removable 10,400mAh power pack that attaches to one end of the FirePit. It has a rechargeable battery that provides approximately 24 hours of battery power when the fan is set to Low, 10 hours when set to Medium, and around 5 hours when set to Max. Adjusting the fan speed to Low provides a high flame with reduced radiant heat, while the highest setting provides more radiant heat with a smaller flame.
The power pack is charged by connecting it to any USB source using the included charging cable and has a full-size USB port that you can use to charge your phone and other peripherals. You can also charge the power pack using an optional solar-powered carry case ($59.95). There’s a button that is used to turn the power on and off, change fans speeds, initialize the Bluetooth radio for first-time pairing, and activate the USB charging port. It also contains battery level and fan speed indicators and circuitry that will drop the fan to Low mode and prevent USB charging when the battery level is low, and it has a sensor that will put the fan in Low mode to allow it to cool off if it gets too hot. You can also use the mobile app (available for Android and iOS) to change fan speeds and to pair the FirePit to your phone.
There’s not much to the app other than Off, Low, Med, High, and Max fan settings, troubleshooting tips, and a link to an online user manual, but that’s really all you need to control the fire using your phone.
Installation and Performance
There’s not much to do to make the FirePit ready for its first use. Simply attach the handles using the included screws, snap the power pack into place, unfold the legs, and place the fuel rack into the chamber. You can download the app before you start a fire, but it’s not necessary. I downloaded the app, turned on the power pack, and selected FirePit from the list (the app also controls other Biolite devices including the BaseLantern XL). The app immediately found the FirePit and it was paired within seconds.
I decided to use wood for my first fire, with newspaper and twigs as a starter. I lit the paper and when the twigs began catching fire I added some larger kindling and turned the fan on low. The fire immediately took hold and I began adding larger pieces of wood. Once the larger pieces caught fire I turned the fan to High to create more radiant heat, and it worked perfectly.
I was also impressed with the FirePit’s prowess as a hibachi grill. I raised the fuel rack, lined it with charcoal, and used a fire-starter stick to light the coals. Once they caught I turned the fan on to the Low setting to accelerate the burn and waited around 10 minutes for the coals to turn red. I slid the grill into place, loaded it up with assorted veggies and a marinated flank steak, and prepared a perfectly cooked hibachi mixed grill. Having the ability to adjust the heat by turning up the fan made it easy to put the perfect char on the vegetables. Cleaning out the chamber is fairly easy, but a larger ash door panel would make things even easier, as would a cleaning brush to remove fine ash particles.
My only real gripe has to do with fan noise: When you turn the fan up to the Max setting it sounds like plane accelerating down a runway, only not nearly as loud. Still, it’s loud enough to be distracting if you’re enjoying a quiet night by the fire. I recommend keeping the fan on Low unless you really need the warmth. I used the app to switch the fan to Low and was immediately rewarded with a nice high flame.
With the Biolite FirePit, you can build the perfect campfire just about anywhere (as long as you’re outdoors) and control it using your phone. It’s small and light enough to take on the road, and has a power pack equipped with a rechargeable battery, a Bluetooth radio, and a four-speed fan that lets you generate more heat when it’s chilly outside or provide a high flame for ambiance. It’ll even charge your phone. The mesh enclosure lets everybody enjoy the fire from any angle, and the slide-on grill top is ideal for wood or charcoal-fired cooking. The fan can be a bit noisy at its highest setting, and a larger ash door panel would be nice, but if you enjoy the look and feel of a real wood fire, the Biolite FirePit delivers and is an excellent choice for any outdoor enthusiast.