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Last Updated on October 12, 2021
Picking up a fire pit can really up your game when entertaining, whether it’s there to warm your patio or provide a nice crackling flame to cook around or just make a little cozy light and warmth in the dark, cold days of the winter months.
However, it might be difficult to figure out which kind of fire pit you should get, starting with the most basic of choices: wood fire or gas powered?
This is a fundamental choice that significantly changes pretty much everything about your fire pit, and shouldn’t be taken lightly; the two types are used for almost entirely different purposes.
So, to help you pick, let’s break down what each type brings to the table.
1. Why Choose a Wood Fire Pit?
Wood fire pits are certainly a bit more versatile in terms of how you can use them, since at the end of the day a wood fire is a wood fire, no matter where you build it.
That means that not only does a wood fire pit provide light and heat, it provides a proper flame you can use to cook.
Wood fire pits make for a great gathering point in both large and small backyards, providing a cozy crackling flame that can be used to roast marshmallows or make a small barbeque while sitting around it (though many fire pits will need a bit of modification to be turned into impromptu grills, it’s quite easy to do yourself), and when you’re done you can pop a dome over it to keep things safe and just enjoy the fire.
Of course, wood fire pits do have a major drawback: they can only be used outdoors. While this is a general rule for even gas fire pits, it’s a very hard one for wood fire pits. You can only use them outdoors and more importantly not on a patio or porch, they need to be in a proper yard.
This is a bit of an issue if you don’t have one, though not necessarily a dealbreaker; they do make portable wood fire pits that you can take with you on camping trips, which is also a great choice. A portable fire pit makes for an excellent safety measure when camping, and aids with cleanup and leaving no trace once you leave.
Still, if you find yourself without any kind of yard to work with, and don’t go camping very often, a wood fire pit might not be a great choice. Leaving you asking the question.
2. Why Choose a Gas Fire Pit?
Gas fire pits don’t quite do as much as wood fire pits; it’s not recommended to cook over one (in general; there are exceptions), for instance, since it’s not good to let oils sputter into the burner; that can cause accidents, and overall just ruin your gas fire pit.
But in terms of WHERE you can use your fire pit, a gas fire pit is immensely more versatile like product from Outland than a wood fire pit. You can use them on patios and porches without much issue, or even balconies (such as in apartment buildings and suites). Some kinds of gas fire pit can even be used indoors, though you need to make sure you’re buying or building one that is specifically made to work indoors, to ensure you’re not creating a dangerous situation for yourself.
This makes them perfect for entertaining in any circumstance, both indoors and outdoors. The wider variety of shapes helps with that as well. While most gas fire pits are your standard fire pit shapes (round, or set up as tables), they can look like pretty much anything, being perfectly usable as a coffee table or foot rest when not in use for some options, or shaped like braziers or tiki torches or any number of other more esoteric shapes to act as decorative pieces in your garden or around your pool.
Gas fire pits are also easy to clean up after; in large part because in general there’s not any cleanup that needs to be done. You might need to scrub the burner and table top down every once in a while, but overall there’s no soot or ash that needs cleaning up, because there’s no smoke.
Gas flames also don’t produce sparks, nor do they sputter a bunch leading to one of the final unique benefits: safety in extremely dry climates. Many portable gas fire pits are rated to be safe to use when camping or traveling even when extreme fire warnings are in place, making them great choices to camp when fire season is around in California or similar places.
Both have their distinct advantages and disadvantages, so it’s hard to say one is better than the other in any grand way.
However, it must be said that gas fire pits will likely be better for more people. Much of the world lives in situations where a wood fire pit is simply not going to be feasible; if you don’t have at least a little space outdoors to put a wood fire pit and wood rack or storage it’s simply not a safe option.
As a result, regardless of which is “better” by any objective performance metric (which would be hard to nail down in the first place) a gas fire pit is not only going to be the best option for many people…it’s going to be the ONLY option.
Given that, you could say that gas fire pits are the better choice. They’re safer, more convenient, usable in a wider variety of circumstances (both indoors and for outdoor uses), and even look better in a lot of cases, with a huge number of aesthetic styles to choose from.
On the other hand, it must certainly be said that wood fire pits have their own unique advantages. Personally, I prefer them, though that’s in part because I have more than enough outdoor space to set one up in a safe and comfortable spot and use it however I need to.
Wood fire pits are great for cooking with, and there’s just an immutably comfortable quality to a real wood fire; the combination of smell, looks, and feeling that just brings back pleasant memories, beyond any extra utility the crackling of a real fire might bring.
For my money, while I think gas fire pits are likely to be the most PRACTICAL option for most people…wood fire pits are simply better, doing everything a gas fire pit can do (save if you want to use one on a patio specifically) and more besides.