Curl up around the fire without breaking the bank.

A round gravel patio, wrapped in pittosporum “Silver Sheen,” is a private nook off the master bedroom.
Thomas J. Story
A round gravel patio, wrapped in pittosporum “Silver Sheen,” is a private nook off the master bedroom.

Cozy and nostalgic, warm and romantic, nothing adds atmosphere to an outdoor gathering like a backyard fire. While concerns around stray sparks and the cost of building a permanent outdoor pit may feel like they’re extinguishing your campfire dreams, there are safe, affordable, and portable ways to take the chill out of a winter night.

Taking a few small precautions can make a big difference. Check your local air quality regulations, like for the San Francisco area, to avoid no-burn days. Keep the flames small and a minimum of 10 feet away from any structure. Build your fire in an uncovered area on a flame-resistant surface like bricks, pavers, or a grill mat. Put out the fire completely with sand or water and dispose of ashes and embers, which could stay active for up to two days, in a metal container. And always use a spark screen to play it safe.

Now that you’ve got your safety tips in, here is a brief list of our favorite small footprint fire pits to use at home or on the road.

Pyro Camp Fire Portable Fire Pit Kit

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Proud Pyr

 Designed and built from perforated stainless steel in Kansas City, this small but mighty model is just big enough (18” long and 14” wide) to hold a small bundle of standard wood logs. A removable metal base makes clean up and disposal of ashes a cinch. An optional grill top transforms it into a cooking surface.

Pyro Fire Pit, $265

Concrete Wood Burning Fire Pit

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At 21” in diameter, this fire bowl is large enough to warm a group but small enough for snug city yards, or to pop in the back of a car. The matte gray finish and rounded shape work with any style, from rustic to modern. While the built-in handles mean that it’s easy to transport, at a little over 30 pounds, it might be happier staying put.

Peaktop Concrete Fire Pit, $87

Voyager Portable Fire Pit

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Camping Wo

Where wood fires are banned, or just inconvenient, this retro table-top option in glossy red evokes the airstream heyday of the 1960s. It folds up to the size of a briefcase and transports easily, and an 8’ hose attaches it discreetly to a propane tank.

Voyager Portable Fire Pit, $157

Novogratz Ceramic Fire Pit

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This tomato red number lends a shot of kitschy color, a Novogratz signature, to your camp site or patio. 

Novogratz Ceramic Fire Pit, $228

Cartagena Chiminea Silver Black Hammered Iron Fire Pit

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English E

Like a modern day pot belly stove, with an unfinished hammered steel exterior, this is the rare chiminea with a hinged screen to contain sparks and embers without impeding heat flow.

Cartagena Hammered Fire Pit $198

Sunnydaze Northland Outdoor Fire Pit

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The hibachi-grill-meets-fireplace is basic in the best possible way. It’s sturdy, no-fuss, and at 36” long, big enough to accommodate a crowd. The spark screen has a hinged door to make adding logs easier. 

Sunnydaze Outdoor Fire Pit, $169

Budde Outdoor Cast Iron Wood Burning Fire Pit

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With its vintage cottage charm and worn iron finish, this rustic fire pit alternative looks right at home at a log cabin in the mountains or a beach campground.

Budde Outdoor Fire Pit, $143

Solo Ranger Stove and Shield

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Solo fire pits and camp stoves are popular for a reason. They’re sleek, low-smoke, and lightweight. And while none of them come equipped with a safety shield, they’re available as an a la carte “accessory.” We think the peace of mind is worth the splurge.

Solo Ranger Stove, $239

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