Terracotta Fire Pits
Terracotta fire pits are made from clay---terracotta literally meaning "baked earth." These are designed to be waterproof and can withstand high temperatures without losing their structural integrity (see reference 1). The most popular type of terracotta fire pit is called a terracotta chimney, typically sold at most home improvement and garden stores. These are ideal for warmth, since the terracotta emanates high amounts of radiant heat. Many terracotta chimneys are large enough to cook over or in, but they are not typically designed for such purposes. Other terracotta fire pits exist, but they are usually modifications of a chimney design. Terracotta chimneys make excellent patio fire pits, but they are not appropriate for camping due to their heavy weight.
Metal Fire Pits
Metal fire pits are typically manufactured into bowl or platter shaped configurations, and they may be constructed out of copper, steel or cast iron. These typically last longer than terracotta fire pits because they will not crack if you drop or bump into them. The most popular metal fire pit designs are Sojoes and fire pit tables. Sojoes are cauldron-shaped and deep, making them excellent for both warmth and cooking (see reference 2). Fire pit tables are shallower and more elevated. They are ideal for cooking and grilling, but lose excessive amounts of heat because the fire is built on a platter. Metal fire pits can also be designed to be portable for camping and picnicking, and typically follow the table design. Depending on whether you get a portable or patio design, metal fire pits can be appropriate for both camping and backyard cooking.
Natural Fire Pits
Natural fire pits, unlike fire rings, are designed to contain flames safely in a pit rather than on open and exposed ground. You can use natural fire pits for camping, hiking or backpacking because they are made from supplies you find in the woods. A natural fire pit is constructed by digging 18 to 24 inches deep and 36 inches wide to create a bowl or pot shaped hole. Dry rocks are then set inside the bowl to completely line it --- this reflects more heat, making it better for cooking. Large rocks, 12 inches in diameter are then placed around the lip of the fire pit to keep popping coals from escaping the depression in the ground. A grill or cooking tripod can then be placed over the pit to aid in preparing food.
Article Written By Justin Chen
Justin Chen is a freelance writer and photographer with 6 years of professional experience in outdoor activities, extreme sports, travel and marketing topics. His professional work experience includes publication with KOMO 4 News Seattle, Fisher Interactive Network, and Demand Studios. He is a current Pre-Med student at Walla Walla University.