We’re still talking Gift Ideas at A Self Sufficient Life, not that we’ve actually bought any yet, but the ‘Chrimbo Converstation’ continues. What started out as Gifts for Gardeners as quickly become ‘Oooh one of those would be nice…’. It’s due to a gift amnesty which has been in place for a few years I think. Maybe, just maybe this year will be the one where we buy each other something – from a shop! Not very self sufficient but quite exciting. My inner consumer is definitely coming out!
Anyway, on with the task at hand… Outdoor Fire Pits. The reason we started looking at these is because living in the middle of a Mediterranean Pine Forest puts a number of restrictions on fires.
NB All the links below are for US Fire Pits, for those in sunny old Blighty, there is a wide range of Fire Pits UK here.
Wood Burning Fire Pits
This year has seen some of the worst forest fires in Spanish memory and more than a few have been within sniffing distance of Dirty Boots HQ. In a bid to beat the summer bonfire & BBQ ban, we (MrDB) built an Outside Pizza Oven from free stuff we had hanging around (rubble and rocks mostly). Fantastic though it is (I swear the best pizza in the world comes from an authentic wood burning pizza oven), it does not give a cosy ‘sitting round a camp fire’ kind of twist to an evening. After all, the whole point of the exercise is to hide the fire and stop it being able to burn any pine trees.
We have had outdoor fire pits in the past, real hollows dug into the ground, and they’re fab for sitting round and toasting wild asparagus on. But during the summer months they are strictly illegal here. But perhaps Outside Fire Pit Tables would be permitted? After all, they’re raised off the ground so there is no chance of burning pine tree roots. And, most importantly they are available with stainless steel spark screens so should not set light to any pine trees either.
I believe something like this fire pit or rather fire ball could be the answer to our need to sit around a camp fire and keep the Parc Natural Authorities happy. They may be a great gift idea for gardeners you know too. Anyone who enjoys making the most of their outside space can extend the use of their patio or deck by having a way to keep warm outside. A wood burning fire pit has to be a more atmospheric and enjoyable item than a conventional patio heater. It might even keep you motivated to get around to pruning the fruit trees, hedges and whatever else you have so you can then cure and burn all that extra wood!
Outdoor Fire Pits
Outdoor fire pits come in many shapes and sizes. Most popular is the round fire pit table which really does look just like a piece of patio furniture when not in use. But, you can get outdoor fire places not dissimilar to those you would see indoors.
The circular fire pit ring is my firm favorite because it is the most like sitting around a ‘proper’ camp fire. These are the ones for toasting marshmallows and watching the flames dance. Most come as fully functioning entities but some are camp fire rings to be put around a predug fire pit.
You can get far more designer led products, some of which I adore, but just don’t seem to offer the same rustic charm which is the main reason to buy a fire pit in the first place. These are primarily camp fires for those who don’t want to mess up the yard after all.
Some of the cheapest models are really little more than a camp fire ring. But, all the same they offer a degree of protection against the flames, particularly with children running about. Marking out the boundary of your camp fire is the simplest way to keep it under control and safe. We all know that from making our ring of pebbles before lighting a camp fire on the beach, something else I miss a little since beach fires are illegal here too.
The camp fire box above is basically exactly that, a campfire in a box. More suitable for trips maybe, but an easy way to enjoy a camp-fire without collecting rocks or digging a fire pit.
Cut out designs on these camp fire rings will either be loved or hated as a fire pit design feature. But there is no denying they allow the fire to be seen by all, and more importantly allow air to get to the heart of the camp fire. This will keep smoke down and heat up. And, of course if you like the idea of dancing moons and stars, mouse or horses flickering against the flames you get that too. Those dancing flames are why Sojoe Fire Pits are so popular – well that and the deep size making them sturdy and good for long burning camp fires.
Patio Fire Pits
These outdoor fire pits are most at home on a deck or patio. Of course you can put them anywhere (flat that is), but they’re smart pieces of outdoor garden furniture. They raise the fire up off the ground, keeping you warm when sitting on furniture rather than on the ground. They can be quite varied in design, so you can go for sleek stainless steel fire pits, rustic cast iron fire pits, clay, granite, copper and stone.
With any outdoor fire pits, size matters. The deeper the bed for your logs the easier the fire will be to manage. You can load it up with bigger logs less often and will not need the same degree of constant ‘fiddling’ as a smaller model. But, then again part of the lure of a camp fire is being able to fiddle and move the logs around, so perhaps that won’t be of concern to you.
If installing on a deck, fire pits need to be placed over something non-flammable. Patio slabs will work or you can buy heat proof pads designed for the job.
Fire Pit Table
The fire pit table can be a relaxed coffee table height affair. With guards, BBQ grills and best of all footrests to keep your toes toasty. Or they can be formal dining table height affairs, with drinks cabinets and iceboxes thrown in! I know which one I would go for. But don’t let my camp fire snobbery sway you!
Table fire pits usually come with spark screens, and a few come with food grills too. If yours doesn’t I really would advise buying a one. Those of you in the US tend to BBQ over gas, but trust me, nothing tastes better than food cooked over wood. No need to buy in extra nougats of wood to create that ‘authentic’ smokey flavour. Plus, its fun, it makes BBQ less like cooking indoors and more of a special event, a little bit different. Plus of course you get to let out your inner caveman into the bargain!
Backyard Fire Pit Accessories
If you are going to buy, or build a fire pit, there are one or two accessories worth mentioning.
Fire Pit Covers
Normally, I’m all for doing things on the cheap and forgetting the optional extras but after reading way too many fire pit reviews, one of the things which keeps coming up is Fire Pit Covers. It’s obvious really. The last thing you want to deal with is a fire bowl full of soggy ash. And, since wet wood tends not to be quite so happy to burn, you can stock your fire pit table up with wood then cover it up, ready for your next evening in the garden. Remove the cover et voila – dry wood ready to burn.
Fire Pit Screens
Now, it depends where you live, and how flammable your clothes are. But if you a) live in the middle of a highly flammable pine forest, or b) are a fan of polyester, do get the fire pit screen to prevent sparks. We will, even if the fire pit ends up being home built rather than bought, the spark screen will be authentic store bought.
I believe I may have already mentioned my bemusement with cooking on gas outside. Cooking over wooden coals is much much nicer, try it! And anyway, even if you still love your gas BBQ, adding the option to make some toasted whatever, whilst keeping warm with your patio fire pit might just keeping you using the fire pit more often, and that means spending more time outside chatting and less time indoors watching TV.
Tongs & Pokers
Anyone with an indoor wood burning stove knows you need several methods of log placement. Outdoor fire pits are no different. Tongs, pokers and a good pair of oven gloves for when things really heat up!
Best Outdoor Fire Pit
This one, a copper fire pit, is the one I would have, should I be buying such gifts for myself.
- It is sturdy and looks solid (I am not a fan of burning logs in something which looks too delicate and easy to topple over – being of a somewhat clumsy nature).
- It’s one of few unfussy copper fire pits (I have a thing about copper and also about sleek, unfussy design).
- It’s properly portable. All fire pit tables are portable, but some are pretty hefty. This would be ideal for us as we tend to use different areas around the house at different times of year, and this copper fire pit could come with us easily.
- It is an extra deep fire pit table. No worries about MrDB not cutting up the fire wood small enough, no worries about me knocking the logs out, and easier to make a large satisfying camp fire that lasts.
- It comes with a waterproof fire pit cover and a spark screen so all I need to organise is the grill.
Sadly this is not the cheapest fire table at $290, but then again it is far from being the most expensive, and it is a gift idea, and sometimes we just do have to spoil our loved ones, and ourselves – don’t we?
So if you are looking for gift ideas for gardeners why not consider outside fire pits. They extend the season of sitting around outside, adding warmth and more importantly atmosphere to any patio, deck or plain old backyard. And, of course they are really simple to make yourself, if you’re feeling as frugal as us. Just buy a decent screen to keep it safe. Best of all, this is giving the gift of laziness. You’re not inspiring your gardening loved one to get outside and do some digging by buying them a nice shiny new spade. You’re saying ‘enjoy the garden’, ‘sit down, relax and have a marshmallow’!
For a more self sufficient future