April 04, 2022
By Lynn Burkhead
When you’re ready to entertain, play or wind down in the backyard or on the back deck, all of it is made better with a crackling fire.
From a permanent fireplace, to a simple firepit, to something portable enough to carry to a campsite, there are a variety of ways to get into the backyard firewood burning game.
Such backyard fireplace, grilling and cooking possibilities—which should always be governed by local rules, regulations, and ordinances where you live—can be amazingly simple and cheap, or extraordinarily complex and expensive, something tailor-made to fit your family’s lifestyle and budget.
On the complex and permanent side of things, some backyards feature a fireplace built into a gazebo setting or covered space of some sort. These are big, bold, beautiful, and likely quite expensive, requiring some construction expertise on your own or the hiring of a contractor specializing in such projects. If that’s what you desire for your backyard ready fireplace possibilities, the sky is the limit, governed only by your dreams and bank account!
There’s also some ready-made and stunning backyard fireplace possibilities, including some that are commercially made and ready for purchase. Such products include the Courtyard outdoor gas fireplaces made by Majestic, which can make a back patio feel like an outdoor den.
While these units can be put under some type of backyard patio structure or sit by themselves in stand-alone fashion on a backyard deck or stone patio, they create the opportunity for homeowners to give their guests the warmth of a fire, the cozy look of curling flames, and a burst of stunning creativity and good looks that will create a focal point for an evening of fun, good food, and great drink.
You Could Make Your Own Firepit
On the other end of the backyard-fireplace spectrum is a less expensive, hand-made firepit, a topic we’ve covered in previous Backyard Ready installments in this space.
To start, you’ll want to pick out a safe spot at least 10 feet away from your home or other manmade structures in the backyard. You’ll need to create an adequate gathering space to enjoy the warmth of a fire, lining that area with some sort of stone or other flame-proof material should an errant spark or ember spit and wander out of the flames.
The firepit itself can be created from simple stack stones or paver stones, or even bricks, cinder blocks, or big rocks. Either way, it doesn’t take much time or money—just a little elbow grease, for the most part—to create a do-it-yourself firepit in your version of the Back 40.
If your budget needs something even less costly in these inflationary times, there’s a simpler and cheaper option to consider. And that’s one that I’ve seen used by the DIY crowd—including my lovely wife, back when money was really tight and our kids were very young—the repurposing of an old washing machine drum.
This is a simple project, the kind that do-it-yourself pros like the lovely Mrs. B can knock out in a couple of hours of time on a cool Friday evening. You simply remove the drum from an old washing machine, clean it up and paint it with a high-temperature paint, and let it all dry.
After that, all that’s left to do is to put it on some sort of fireproof flat-stone or rock bed and let the backyard good times start burning as your dinner guests begin to arrive. This project is simple, cost effective, and provides the desired effect even for a young family where money is really tight.
Portability is Hot
If you’re not into the do-it-yourself lifestyle, there are numerous other options available for you, too, including a much higher-grade firepit option than repurposed washing-machine drum.
Solo Stove makes several crowd-pleasers that are portable and easy enough to use in a variety of cityscape, camping sites, and backwoods locations where such fires are allowed.
The Solo Ranger model ($199.99) is perfect for a couple of folks out on a small back deck, the Bonfire ($249.99) is designed for a small handful of folks needing a bigger fire, and the big Yukon ($489.99) is designed for a half-dozen folks chilling out obnoxious the deck or patio.
Regardless of which Solo Stove model you choose, they are made from durable 304 stainless steel, which serves several purposes as well as being really cool-looking when you have dinner guests coming over. These excellent stainless steel firepits feature 360 Airflow Design, something that makes fire startup easy, leaves smoke production at a minimum, and results in a fine wood ash at the end that’s easy to clean up.
Also, UCO Gear makes the Flatpack ($49.99), a portable grill and firepit that you can use nearly anywhere (backyard, campsites, shoreline lunches). Made of stainless steel, it’s also packable for easy transport. It takes 30 seconds to unfold and set up, and can be used as a leave-no-trace firepit.
Even more portable are Radiate Portable Campfires, which are canned, reusable and can be used for roasting hot dogs or making s’mores. The 8-inch version ($29.99) gives you a small campfire to enjoy where space is limited, such as picnic tables, small patios or decks. Snuff out the fire with a lid (let it cool down!) to use again. Each has 3 to 5 hours of burn time.
A cool option for portable cooking is Camp Chef’s Outdoor Oven ($329.99), which allows you to take a home oven and range with you to tailgate parties, outdoor get-togethers and camping trips. The oven can reach 400 degrees and can hold the temperature to 350 degrees for up to 7 hours with a 1-pound propane tank. Can accommodate a 9x13 pan.
How About a Chiminea
And finally, there’s also the chiminea firepit option, something popular to the backyard lifestyles found in Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Arizona, and other parts of the southwest.
So popular is this backyard fireplace option that my longtime Orvis-endorsed fly fishing guide friend Rob Woodruff and his wife Jenny made sure that they had a chiminea on their backyard patio after moving to the trout and smallmouth fishing riches of northern Arkansas last year. I’m not sure what I’m more envious of these days, the different boats at their disposal, the abundant lakes and rivers out their backdoor, or the backdoor view from their home overlooking the Norfork River as a pinion wood fire crackles in the background.
While there are cast iron and steel versions of chimineas available at Home Depot, Lowe’s, and other similar home building supply stores across the nation, my favorite version is the colorful clay pot versions found at a number of Lone Star State grocery stores like Albertson’s, Tom Thumb, and H-E-B locations.
Costing around $100-150, depending on the size, these are as simple to use and simple to obtain. Find one at a local store, load it into the back of a pickup truck, carry the chiminea home, put it out back, load up some wood, start a fire, and sit back to enjoy the warmth and crackling glow of a backyard fire on a cool springtime evening.
If there’s a better way to enjoy such an evening—particularly if you’ve got a freshly grilled venison burger in one hand and your favorite cold beverage in the other—please let me know.
Because there are few options more tailor-made for enjoying your backyard space, not to mention keeping family and guests coming back for more in the Backyard Ready lifestyle.