I never considered packing a fire pit for a road trip adventure. Why would I need to take one with me when most campsites have fire rings and charcoal grills? It was just one of those things that seemed too silly to pack.
Then I tested the BioLite FirePit+.
When I was offered a chance to get my hands on one of BioLite’s supposedly smokeless fire pits, I immediately wondered if this could be a road trip-worthy item to pack. But I know I would have to find a very good reason to carve out a niche in my SUV for packing it.
After waiting weeks for the right opportunity, I finally had a chance to test it. Setting it up was effortless. Building a roaring fire was easy. And cooking dinner on it was interesting. The following day, I cooked breakfast on the cast iron griddle, and I knew I needed to carve out a niche so I could pack this fire pit.
But I can’t classify the FirePit+ as a road trip essential item to pack because I’ll never use this while staying at hotels, inns, or B&Bs. But if you enjoy spending nights at campgrounds during a road trip, you need to read the rest of this review.
Table of Contents
What is the BioLite FirePit+?
In 2012, Jonathan Cedar and Alec Drummond debuted the CampStove, a smokeless stove with thermoelectric generators for converting excess heat from burning biomass into energy. The novel concept was perfect for off-grid use in countries without stable electricity or during the aftermath of natural disasters. But the CampStove gained an enthusiastic following from backpackers eager to keep their smartphones charged on the trail.
In 2017, the intrepid inventors launched a Kickstarter campaign to develop a smokeless wood-burning fire pit. After raising an impressive $2.5 million, the company debuted the BioLite FirePit. In 2021, they unveiled the FirePit+ with modest improvements.
The BioLite FirePit+ is a portable fire pit with a hibachi-style grill grate, adjustable fuel rack for burning wood or charcoal, and a 12,800 mAh rechargeable lithium-ion battery that powers a fan for the forced air system. Air is pushed through 51 jets surrounding the burn chamber, adding extra oxygen to the fire and creating greater heat that burns off most of the smoke.
Surprisingly, the FirePit+ does not feature BioLite’s innovative thermoelectric generators. The lithium-ion battery cannot charge itself. The designers pointed out that the purpose of a fire pit was to radiant heat outward, making any thermoelectric generators useless. But don’t worry – the battery can last all night and charges in just two hours.
READ MORE: 10 Best Coolers for Road Trips in 2022
It’s a Portable Fire Pit
My favorite feature of the BioLite FirePit+ is the portability. The fire pit features folding legs that effortlessly lock into place when you’re ready to light a fire. Folded and stored in the optional carrying bag, the FirePit+ measures just 27” long, 13” wide, and 17” tall with the optional lid – smaller than most rolling suitcases.
The only downside to portability is the weight. The FirePit+ weighs just 20 pounds, but after adding the cast iron griddle and lid, the weight jumps to 33 pounds. Fortunately, if you’re car camping, you won’t have to carry the fire pit very far.
The FirePit Carry Bag is the key to portability – but you’ll have to pay extra to get it. The durable, water-resistant canvas bag features thick carry straps and a padded handle. The bag is adjustable for carrying just the fire pit or the option lid attached. Cinch straps secure the fire pit inside the bag, making it easy to load and unload.
It’s a (Mostly) Smokeless Fire Pit
Smokeless fire pits are having a moment. After decades of smoke-tinged clothing from a night around a campfire, we finally have a solution. The concept behind smokeless fire pits is simple enough: build an air recirculation system that allows the fire to burn hotter and burn off the smoke.
But creating a smokeless fire is as much about building a fire as it is about the fire pit. Green firewood produces a tremendous amount of smoke as the excess water is evaporated from the wood as it burns. Similarly, damp, seasoned firewood will also create a lot of smoke. But a lack of air is the most significant culprit in a smoky fire.
The BioLite FirePit+ uses an innovative system of 51 air jets to inject oxygen into the fire. The system is powered by a 12,800 mAh lithium-ion battery with a built-in fan pushing air through the pipes. The system improves combustion and burns off most of the smoke.
The fan features four control settings, but the maximum fan speed is not always better. The lowest setting is good for keeping embers alive just a little longer. The highest setting is only good for providing a brief burst of oxygen to reignite a fading fire. The middle settings are where you want to keep the fan most of the time – just enough airflow to keep the fire roaring and most of the smoke burned away.
How to Use the Wood Burning Fire Pit
At some point, a “standard” firewood length was developed – about 16 inches long. And the BioLite FirePit+ has the capacity for that size of wood.
The FirePit+ features a fuel rack – a wire metal rack with an adjustable height. When burning firewood, the rack adjusts to the lowest position at the bottom of the fire pit. This provides enough room for about a 12” diameter log – but of course, you don’t use a full log in a fire pit!
Pro Tip You should never pack firewood at home and carry it into a campground. Insects can travel on the firewood and may lead to an environmental problem when introduced to a new location. Instead, always buy firewood locally at the camp store or hardware store in town.
The best fires in fire pits start small with a few pieces of kindling – pack a hatchet to break down some firewood – and a fire starter. One of my favorites while traveling is Superior Trading Co.’s All Natural Fire Starters. Once the fire catches on, you can add additional firewood.
But the key to the smokeless fire pit is not to add too much firewood at once. It might be tempting to stack the wood as high as the sides of the fire pit, but that will result in more smoke. For the best results with a smokeless fire pit, keep the wood below the air jets.
And that is how my favorite feature of the FirePit+ works against it. It’s portable and easy to travel with, but the small size also means it can hold very little firewood. Loaded with as much firewood as possible produced only a moderate amount of heat that I could feel about two feet away. If camping on a chilly night, you might want to bring a Rumpl blanket.
The X-ray mesh sides are one of the most fascinating features of the updated FirePit+ . The perforated sides allow a pleasing glimpse into the heart of the pulsing fire – a unique view and my second favorite FirePit+ feature.
Cooking Over Charcoal in the Fire Pit
Fire pits doing double duty as cooking surfaces are not new, but the BioLite FirePit+ does it better than any others. With an adjustable fuel rack, you can cook over the embers of a wood fire or raise the rack to cook over charcoal. When locked into the upper position, the fuel rack is just a few inches below the grill grate – the perfect distance for a good charcoal dinner.
In this configuration, the FirePit+ performs just like any tabletop charcoal grill. The grill grate has two tabs that slide into a channel along the length of the fire pit. While this prevents the grill from accidentally falling off, it is possible to accidentally slide it off the end.
The grill grate is included with the FirePit+, but the additional FirePit Griddle will change how you cook on a fire. The seasoned, non-stick griddle is perfect for cooking eggs, pancakes, and roasted vegetables – all those things you can’t do on a grill.
The optional lid is a must-have for cooking on the FirePit+. The lid is made from the same materials as the fire pit and features a rubberized handle and vent. The lid sits on the rim of the fire pit and snugly around the carry handles – it’s not going anywhere.
Cleaning the Fire Pit
Cleaning a campsite is one of the most tedious tasks after a thrilling weekend getaway. Fortunately, cleaning the BioLite FirePit+ is super easy – a consolation after cleaning everything else.
The fuel rack is removable, although it must be tilted sideways, so you’ll have to pick up any large debris left from the fire. A sliding trap door on the bottom of the FirePit+ makes it easy to dump ash into a bucket for disposal. A small brush is useful for getting all of the ash out of the fire pit.
Final Verdict: Should You Buy the BioLite FirePit+?
It’s not just a fire pit. And it’s not just a charcoal grill. The BioLite FirePit+ is a portable fire pit with a hibachi-style grill, an adjustable fuel rack that can burn wood or charcoal, and a battery-powered fan for a mostly smokeless experience.
But it becomes more with a few additional items. The lid improves the cooking experience. The cast iron griddle opens the door to more meals cooked over charcoal. And the durable canvas carry bag makes it easy to pack and keep everything together.
The BioLite FirePit+ is the perfect road trip fire pit. But with the optional lid, griddle, and bag, it’s the only fire pit you’ll ever need on a road trip. It will be a conversation starter and the centerpiece for long nights of fellowship around a crackling fire.
Pros Portable, durable carry bag, easy to clean, option to burn wood or charcoal, (mostly) smokeless, and battery is removable for easy recharging
Cons Heavy, expensive, low heat output, grill can accidentally detach, and the battery uses a micro-USB cable (included) for recharging instead of the more common USB-C