Best Portable Campfires

Updated May 2021
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Pros
Cons
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

30 Models Considered
28 Hours Researched
2 Experts Interviewed
70 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for Best portable campfires

When it comes to ending your day right, it’s hard to beat the warm embrace of a campfire. Not only is a campfire relaxing, comforting, and aesthetically pleasing, it also allows you to cook food to a perfect char that tastes like summer. Portable campfires bring that once seasonal luxury to every season and environment, turning each outing into a rustic yet soothing memory.

Portable campfires come in several sizes and designs and generally use wood, charcoal, or propane gas as fuel. Some are more ornamental, while others produce serious enough heat to warm a large group. Fancier units include a cooking grill and other features to enhance your experience, no matter if it’s at a campsite or in your backyard.

While a permanent fire pit can seamlessly integrate with your home and décor, our favorite portable campfires offer unmatched convenience with little compromise.

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Most portable campfires use gas, wood, or charcoal, but there are gasless, single-use models out there. These are commonly made from materials like soy wax and produce few embers, little soot, and almost no smell. They’re small, but many have enough fuel for 3 to 5 hours.

Key considerations

Size and weight

Portable campfires are by nature small and relatively easy to transport, but you still want to note their dimensions. Circular portable campfires usually range from 15 to 25 inches in diameter, but some have unique shapes and dimensions.

A larger portable campfire allows for more seating and cooking around it, which comes in handy if you have a big family or often host events. Large models are heavier, though, which could be a concern if you’re uncomfortable transporting hefty appliances or you want to take yours on camping trips. In addition, if you choose a gas portable campfire, remember to factor in the weight of the propane tank.

Materials

Typically, portable campfires are made of stainless steel, copper, or another metal. Stationary fire pits are usually crafted from stone or tile, but this obviously comes with a big weight penalty.

We recommend purchasing a powder-coated metal unit because it offers the best compromise between durability, low weight, and rust resistance. If you’re looking for a portable campfire with a hinged lid, keep an eye out for thick, sturdy hinges, because this is often the first thing to wear out.

Fuel

The most common fuels for portable campfires are wood, charcoal, and gas. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Wood: When it comes to rustic ambiance and genuine camping cuisine, it’s hard to beat a wood fire. Wood cooks more slowly, creates smoke and ash, and requires more attention in terms of positioning and airflow than the alternatives, but it’s the go-to for a reason.

Charcoal: This is a fantastic fuel for cooking. It has many of the same advantages as wood but is significantly easier to work with. Charcoal comes from burned wood, providing great flavor, but it burns hotter and lights more quickly compared to cooking with wood.

Gas: If you’re concerned about harsh, irritating smoke, propane and natural gas portable campfires are your best bet. When maintained appropriately, these products have well-controlled airflow and temperatures, they’re easy to use, and the gas generally burns quite cleanly. They also have outstanding heat output, but they don’t provide the best results in terms of taste.

Heat

If you’ve decided on a gas portable campfire, you’ll want to note how much warmth it provides and how well it can cook, if you want to use it for that. Heat output is measured in British thermal units (Btu), and portable campfires typically fall in the 30,000 to 70,000 Btu range.

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Did You Know?
Chimeneas have some similarities to portable campfires, but they’re distinctly different. Instead of resembling flat trays or bowls, chimeneas are front-loaded and consist of a bulbous body and vertical smoke vent, traditionally fashioned from clay. They generally use wood as fuel.
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Features

Cover

Portable campfires are meant to be, well, portable, so you can easily move yours to a protected area if the weather gets bad. If we’re honest, though, they’re left out in the rain more often than not, which makes a waterproof cover a very valuable accessory. Some portable campfires include a vinyl or composite cover to keep off the elements, and if you live in a rainy area, this feature could pay for itself.

Cooking tools

Who doesn’t love a good s’more or hot dog cooked over a campfire? Many portable campfires come with skewers, pokers, and other accessories to enhance the deliciousness of your outdoor escapades. For more cooking utility, some equip built-in grills and grates for burgers, pizza, and any other creation you can think of. 

A charcoal chimney greatly enhances the charcoal-cooking experience. It allows you to fully light your lumps or briquettes before placing them in the grill, providing a more even heat source. Additionally, a charcoal chimney negates the need for lighter fluid.

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Portable campfire prices

Inexpensive: Permanent fire pits can cost hundreds of dollars, but portable campfires go for as little as $40 to $50. You won’t find quality gas units at this price, but if you want a simple, contained spot for a wood fire, you might not need anything else.

Mid-range: At $100 to $200, you’ll encounter larger, sturdier wood and charcoal units as well as gas campfires. The additional convenience of gas can’t be overstated. These models often come with a carrying case and lid.

Expensive: At the top of the range, be prepared to spend $250 and more for a large, durable, and feature-packed portable campfire with powered fans, integrated cooking utilities, and even mobile app functionality.

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Did You Know?
Bioethanol may seem like a suitable campfire fuel source due to its long-lasting flames and biodegradable nature. However, the heat output is quite low, ranging from 4,000 to 9,000 Btu, which isn’t really suitable for anything other than aesthetics.
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Tips

  • Set up your portable campfire in a safe location. The safest place to install it is over hard stone, smooth cement, or tile. These materials are nice and level for stability, and they’re fireproof. Never place a portable campfire too close to a wall or under a roof, overhang, or branches, and use extreme caution on wooden decks. Also, scrape away any grass, pine needles, and other flammable debris before lighting the campfire.
  • Check the rules before using a portable campfire. With a portable campfire, you don’t need a designated campfire area to keep warm or cook. That said, always check your area’s Bureau of Land Management website for relevant fire restrictions, burn bans, and other risk assessments beforehand.
  • Keep water nearby. Even with small, controlled campfires, it’s always recommended that you have water nearby in case you need to extinguish it quickly. Even the smallest gust of wind can carry embers from a wood or charcoal campfire to nearby vegetation, It’s best to be prepared.
  • Treat the grate with vegetable oil. After you clean the grate of your portable campfire, rub some vegetable oil on it. This helps prevent the buildup of food residue and rust.
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App-controlled campfires are rare and expensive, but they can bring your outdoor experience into the 21st century. Their apps use Bluetooth to communicate with rechargeable fans inside the campfire, allowing you to adjust the size of the flames from the comfort of your chair.

FAQ

Q. What’s the best way to clean a portable campfire?

A. Portable campfires tend to build up ash, dirt, and other gunk over time. And while you don’t necessarily need to return your unit to factory-level cleanliness after each use, there are a few ways to keep your campfire burning cleaner longer.

Portable gas campfires are the cleanest by far because the gas doesn’t produce embers or ash. You may need to scrub off errant food drippings or scorch marks from time to time, however, which can be done with a damp cloth, dish soap, or grill cleaner. For buildup around burners and gas ports, use a long-handled stiff wire brush.

Wood and charcoal portable campfires are significantly messier, but many people agree that the flavor payoff is worth it. To clean, confirm that the unit is cool and brush out any remaining charcoal or ash from the bottom. If yours has an ash catcher, funnel the waste into it and empty into the trash. Then clean the grate with a brush and beautify the inside with mild dish soap or a designated detergent.

Q. Can I cook with my portable campfire?

A. Absolutely! Nearly every portable campfire can be used for cooking, but we generally prefer wood or charcoal for preparing food. Gas units can work — and they don’t produce ash, in fairness — but there is a higher risk of clogging the burners with food drippings this way. Also, wood and charcoal units typically produce tastier results.

If you’re cooking with wood, we recommend a dry, seasoned hardwood like oak, hickory, or maple. Avoid softer, green woods like pine because the resin inside can produce black, sooty smoke that affects the taste of the food. Pine is a great fire starter, though.

Charcoal is another great option because it lights quickly, burns hot, and can be combined with wood chunks for truly mouth-watering flavors. The charcoal itself is derived from firewood, of course, and the taste of charcoal-grilled food is hard to beat. You can even get flavored hardwood charcoal, with mesquite, cherrywood, pecan, and applewood variants to pair with your recipes.

Q. How long will a standard 20-pound propane tank last on a portable fire pit?

A. With so many tank sizes and burner outputs available, it can be hard to determine just how long your propane tank will last. Here’s a helpful rule of thumb: a standard, 20-pound tank of propane holds approximately 430,000 Btu/hours’ worth of gas. That means a 60,000 Btu fire can burn for approximately 7 hours on a full-size tank. Plugin the heat rating of your chosen portable campfire for an approximation. For smaller tanks, remember that 1 pound (not gallon) of propane stores approximately 21,600 Btu/hours of heat output. Your results may vary depending on how high you crank the heat and the weather conditions, but it’s a start.

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