Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth fitness, nutrition, and adventure courses and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+ Sign up for Outside+ today.
Portable smokeless fire pits were already popular with car campers and at ski resort parking lots for their smoke- and fire-hazard mitigation. But the mini bonfire truly exploded during the pandemic, when backyard blazes kept family and friends going in lockdown.
But are these portable fire pits really “smokeless”? (Spoiler alert: Not really. But they do a pretty good job.) Can they truly be used on your apartment porch without scorching your deck? And with so many on the market, which one is right for me? To get some answers, we put three of the most popular smokeless fire pits to the test. We cozied up around the BioLite FirePit+, the Solo Stove Bonfire 2.0, and the Breeo Y-Series Portable on our tiny apartment porches, spacious backyards, and busy trailheads to evaluate true smokelessness, portability, features, and ease of use.
Solo Stove Bonfire 2.0
$400; 23 lbs
Smoke Mitigation: 5
Ease of use: 5
Sleek, simple, and easy to light, curling up on the porch around the Bonfire 2.0 has been a serious highlight of our fall. At just 19.5 inches in diameter and 14 inches tall, it’s a low-profile addition to our deck, and a fire pit that’s easy to set up and clean up, even for self-proclaimed fire novices.
Solo Stove’s approach to creating a low-smoke fire pit (we’ve concluded that true smokelessness is a futile fight against nature) features what they call 360° Airflow Design. Strategically placed holes in the perforated bottom feed the heated oxygen back to the top through an external chamber that runs around the entire stove. After a half a dozen fires burning everything from freshly chopped logs to store-bought wood (and even a questionable mangled pallet) the lack of smoke is remarkable. The extra airflow also made it easy to ignite fires in a snap, which we felt was noticeably quicker than the BioLite FirePit+.
Heat output was comparable to the FirePit+, although you need to be sitting slightly higher to fully benefit from the flames (a tall camp chair works better than, say, a Crazy Creek). On a 35°F evening in the Tetons, all five campers huddled around the Bonfire 2.0 commented on the impressive warmth that radiated from this stainless steel cylinder, shedding coats and gloves even when the fire settled down.
The major new update for the new Bonfire model is the removable ash pan, which stood out against the competition for its ease of clean up. It’s simple to pull out and dump, so you don’t have to clean it from the top or worry about getting your deck dirty. (The others don’t leave a mess on your deck, but they do take a little more effort to scrape out from the top after a fire.) If you plan to use it on a wooden deck, you’ll want to add a stand, which the brand sells for another $70 (you can get a $40 heat mat for the FirePit+), while the Breeo has a built-in heat shield for deck use. It doesn’t have handles like the FirePit+ or Breeo, but it’s easy to pick up from the sides when cool. A nylon shelter ($49) keeps it protected on porches and in transport, and it slid neatly into my pickup truck, but could definitely fit into a hatchback trunk as well.
Buy the Bonfire 2.0 if you:
- Want easy cleanup for your porch or deck
- Appreciate a simple, sleek design
- Have low tolerance for smoke
$300, 19.8 lbs.
Smoke Mitigation: 3.5
Ease of use: 3
An adventure-ready fire pit, the FirePit+ is chock full of features, with a unique battery-powered fan that lets you dial your fire up or down via an app. There’s a little more to it than the Bonfire 2.0’s sleek and streamlined design, but we found the extra effort involved in managing a blaze was worth the functionality.
A rechargeable battery pack plugs into the side of the FirePit+ to power the fan with low, medium, and high modes, which keep the fire going at the level you want it. You can control it by pressing buttons on the battery pack, or via Bluetooth with your smartphone. While finishing up dinner inside, one tester cranked up the heat with a few taps of her phone before heading outside to set the table. You can also use the 12,800 mAh battery powerpack to charge a phone, headlamp, or any other device via USB, which we found especially useful in a car-camping setting.
Along with the fan, perforated walls keep the fire aerated and seem to block light wind. The airy walls also allow heat to radiate out the sides a bit more than the Bonfire 2.0 or Breeo: You can sit lower to the ground and still feel the warmth, which we appreciated for chilly trailhead barbecues. Smoke was minimal, but we did notice a bit more (especially within the first 10 minutes of lighting) than the Bonfire 2.0. One annoyance? The whirring sound that the fan makes, which one tester remarked “took away from the ambiance.”
Slightly lighter than the Bonfire 2.0, at just shy of 20 pounds, the FirePit+ proved to be easier for travel. Screw-in carry handles on either side make it easy to relocate, with folding legs that allow the whole unit to slide neatly into its carrying case.
Testers placed the included grill grate on top of the FirePit+ to roast sausages and veggies after an evening mountain bike ride in Jackson, Wyoming. You can burn both wood and charcoal in the FirePit+ (another differentiation from the wood-only Solo Stove), but we found the heat distribution using wood to be adequate for brats and vegetables, plus we dig the flavor more than charcoal. (You can add a grill grate to the Bonfire 2.0, but the setup costs a whopping $325 extra.) All in all, we found the FirePit+ accessory game (both included accessories and endless add-ons) to be much stronger than the Bonfire 2.0.
Buy the FirePit+ if you:
- Want maximal warmth
- Have a gadget-heavy car camping setup
- Plan to use it off-grid
Breeo Y-Series Portable Smokeless Fire Pit
$495; 31 lbs.
Smoke Mitigation: 4
Ease of use: 4
The American-made Breeo Y-Series was the most expensive and heaviest pit in our test, but it’s solidly made and ranks well in terms of smokelessness. It works much like the Bonfire 2.0 (which is slightly smaller and lighter) with a double-walled exterior that recirculates the air around the fire. The Breeo also has a Y-shaped set of vents at the bottom to draw oxygen through the flames, even as ash builds up, which we found to effectively burn through wood while keeping smoke to a minimum. You do get radiant heat from the side of the walls themselves as with the Bonfire 2.0, but you don’t get as good a view of the flames as you do with the Firepit+.
The Y-Series also features three legs that allow you to adjust the height of your fire. The lowest height is just for transportation, and the other two are for burning and cooking use. A built-in stainless steel plate on the bottom keeps your deck from getting damaged by the fire. It has a solid single handle for carrying, which we found effective as long as you were careful of the legs as you hauled it (they stick out a bit, even when set all the way in). The handle also helps to dump out ashes when you’re done—there’s no removable tray here, so it’s a little harder to clean. On the flipside, the deep pit means it’s hard to spill ashes if you’re moving it around.
Like the Firepit+, the Y-Series burns wood and charcoal, but it also burns pellets, which means you can choose whatever cooking fuel you like best. Speaking of cooking, the Y-Series excels at open-flame cooking thanks to its adjustability. For the full experience, you have to get the Basics Bundle ($299), which includes a grill, the post it attaches to, and a carrying case. With that setup, one tester seared the best steaks he’s ever made and finds himself volunteering for more meals than normal just so he can cook on the Y-Series.
Testers loved the look of the Breeo too, which develops a patina the more you use it, but we’ve been mostly testing it in the Southwest, so rust might be a long-term issue in wetter climates. Overall, this pit is extremely well made and will look great in any backyard.
Buy the Breeo Y-Series if:
- You’re serious about cooking over fire
- You need a slightly bigger fire, but still need it to be portable
- You’re not on a budget