Fire pits’ popularity has spawned a huge variety of choices — built-in masonry, fire columns, prefabricated bowls, fire tables with seating, tabletop models and pieces with globes, cubes or other shapes that double as outdoor sculpture.
But the most basic choice to make is what type of fuel you want to use.
This most traditional choice takes everyone back to marshmallows and ghost stories by the campfire, and this choice has many practical advantages as well.
Wood is the least costly option and easiest to set up; firewood is easily accessible. Wood allows for an intimate blaze for one or two as well as a bonfire drawing people from miles around.
It does present some safety concerns, so make sure embers are as well-controlled as possible and keep a hose or bucket of sand nearby for emergencies.
Propane burns cleanly while generating considerable heat, so it doesn’t fuel the air quality concerns that wood does.
It can be used underneath gazebos, patios or any other outdoor structure, so neither rain nor snow needs to douse the fun. It’s a safer way to cook and chill by the fire, even if it doesn’t have exactly the same warmth as a wood fire.
The cost of buying propane tanks does add up over time.
Most gel fuels are made with isopropyl alcohol, which doesn’t release any fumes, smoke or soot, making it a perfect choice for indoor as well as outdoor use.
It’s sold in 13-ounce cans that are easy to light and can last for several hours.
The biggest drawback it has is that it doesn’t get as hot as the other choices, so it may not be the best choice for keeping the frost at bay during late fall and winter evenings.
Going this route requires hooking your device into your home’s natural gas line, a logistical issue that can sometimes be hard to surmount. But once that’s done you have an endless supply — no running to the store for logs or tanks.