The best portable, camping, fire pit in the UK?

The Uco flatpack grill and firepit

It all started when we bought a camper, and I went looking for a folding fire pit and barbecue that would fit in the van.

My research turned up a lot of rubbish that seemed like it wouldn’t last 5 minutes. Then I stumbled across the UCO brand of fire pits, which looked ideal.

I ordered the small version of the flatpack grill and fire pit – as we have very little space. But it packed up so small, that I ordered a medium one too. They both live in the van now, and are in regular use.

Let me explain why, after 3 years of use, I think these are the best portable, folding fire pit grills you can buy in the UK.

What is a portable camping fire pit?

First let’s define what a portable fire pit and grill is.

I think of it as a leave no trace camp fire you can cook on. It works as a campfire and a barbecue. The real point is that it folds flat and takes up next to no space.

Can you cook on a portable fire pit?

If you buy the right fire pit, you can easily cook on it. The UCO grill and fire pit works well for cooking, which is the main reason I recommend it as a fire pit.

I use mine for grilling meat and also putting a Zebra billy pot on. Space is limited on the mini, so that just gets used for sausages and burgers for 2, or a full meal for 1.

The medium is plenty big enough to cook for 2 people.

The combination of having a fire pit that doubles up as a barbecue is fantastic. And means that we keep the fire going after the cooking is done. Great for cooler evenings.

What about for backpacking?

I read in a review somewhere that you could use the UCO grills for backpacking, and I was skeptical. However, I regularly throw the small one in my rucksack if I am wild camping. It’s such a treat to have a small and safe fire that doesn’t risk damaging the ground or setting the woods on fire. The biggest risk with a campfire in the woods is underground roots that can burn. Raising your fire off the ground removes the risk. It’s a leave no trace fire pit.

At less than a kilo, the mini is great for carrying in a rucksack.

Is it allowed on a campsite?

It’s a fine line between what’s a fire pit and what’s a barbecue, regarding use on a campsite. The UCO grills ride this line, and I view it as a barbecue that I put a bit of wood on to make a small raised fire.

I always ask if it’s OK to but a few sticks on the barbecue in a campsite, and no one has ever said no.

Many campsites allow a fire pit, so it is obviously fine in that situation.

Which is the best size?

The mini is perfect for a couple of burgers, but any more than that and it struggles for space and air. The burgers take up most of the grill, and any more would smother the fire. Chuck on a couple of good size pork chops and the fire will go out through lack of air.

The best portable, camping, fire pit in the UK? 1

As a fire pit, the mini works well, but it’s a pain to cut wood small enough.

For solo backpacking and wild camping, I take the mini.

The best portable, camping, fire pit in the UK? 3

The medium fire pit and grill is the perfect size for grilling 2 people’s meat and will take decent sized bits of wood to keep you warm.

You can easily cook 2 people’s meat on the medium and it is a great size for a campfire.

If I could only have one, it would be the medium for both cooking and as a fire pit. But I wouldn’t take it backpacking.

What can you burn on the fire pit?

Charcoal is my fuel of choice for cooking as it is so convenient. It is easy to light too. After the cooking is done, I will switch to wood for the campfire. The secret is to use smaller wood, up to an inch in diameter. This burns best and is easy to process with the folding saw and knife I normally have with me.

It will burn anything you like as long as it is not too thick.

How well made is it?

The whole fire pit is made from stainless except for the cooking grill, which is plated steel.

Everything is holding up well after a few years of heavy use. It doesn’t look shiny anymore, just well used. I can’t see any signs of corrosion beyond the surfaces.

All the moving parts and hinges still work perfectly.

From the first use, it warped, and this is to be expected. This doesn’t affect the folding or use at all. It is the nature of the design and is very satisfactory. The fire pit warps a little differently with each use depending on heat distribution, I guess. It always folds flat for storage.

Weight and packsize

Make no mistake when they say flat pack they mean flat. The medium is 3.75cm thick in the bag and the mini is 2.8cm.

The small grill is definitely back-packable and I often use it on a wild camping trip.

Medium

  • Weight: 1500 grams (3.3 lbs)
  • Packsize: 34.3cm x 25cm x 2.8cm (13.5″ x 10″ x 1.1″)
  • Size unfolded: 34.3cm x 25cm x 28cm (13.5″x 10″ x 11″ )
  • Grilling area: 33cm x 25cm (13″ x 10″)

Mini

  • Weight: 1701,6 grams (2 lbs)
  • Packsize: 3cm x 27cm x 34.5 cm (1.5″ x 9.5″ x 8″)
  • Size unfolded:
  • Grilling area: 23cm x 17cm (9″x 6.75″)

The canvas bag

The storage bag is too small, only by a few millimetres, but that’s enough to make it difficult to get the grill in. It fits, but it’s tight. A real shame, as it irritates me every time. Get this sorted and it would be 100% perfect.

Made from heavy canvas, the bag is spark proof, which makes sense. It’s very well constructed and heavy duty. I’m sure it will last as long as the stove, and I expect that to be a good few years.

Setting the fire pit up

The fire pit is so easy to assemble. Take it out of the bag and unfold it. Just make sure that you cross the legs over. That’s it.

If you want to cook on the fire, just slip the grill on top. The grill slides over those sticky up heart shaped bits, which keep it very secure.

There is a tool that comes with the grill for doing this, but it doesn’t work well. I use a knife or barbecue spatula.

Simplicity itself.

Moving it around when lit

When lit, the legs don’t get too hot to handle, and with a bit of care, you can move the fire pit around to change the draught going through it. I wouldn’t do it on a flammable surface as there is a tiny risk of getting it wrong, but with the cooking grill in place, it is unlikely to be an issue.

I often move my grill when it’s lit and I have never had a problem.

After use and clean up

The fire pit cools down quickly when the fire is out, as the metal is thin. I generally pick it up and empty the hot coals out as opposed to waiting for the fire to go out. 10 minutes later, it is safe to put in the bag. If you use this method, take care not to collapse the grill while emptying it.

Being stainless, it is relatively easy to keep clean and responds well to scrubbing with an abrasive cloth.

The cooking grill cleans up well in the normal washing up.

After the first use, it will never look new again. The metal will discolour.

Conclusions

This article has been a review of the UCO flatpack fire pit and grill. And that is for a good reason. It’s the only horse in the race to my mind.

If you are looking for a leave-no-trace fire pit that packs small and doesn’t weigh a ton, you can’t beat it.

Perfect for camping on a campsite, or wild camping. Its ability to cook well and make a great campfire is a winning combo.

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