Lawn chairs sitting on a beach next to a cooler while a dog relaxes under an umbrella.

Outdoor Living Buying Guide

A father and son warm their hands around a fire pit.

The temperatures have warmed up, and it’s time to start focusing on your outdoor living gear. Whether you’re packing for a camping trip, hiking, outfitting your patio, or just looking for a new hydration option selecting a new outdoor item can be overwhelming. There are hundreds of varieties from several different brands of grills, coolers, chairs, fire pits, tumblers, and many other items.

You probably have tons of questions. What features should I be focused on? Do I need gas or charcoal? Is a soft or hard cooler better? A good rule to follow when purchasing anything with many varieties is to pick the one that best fits your needs. This outdoor living buying guide will walk through some helpful tips for choosing the best grill, cooler, chair, fire pit, or tumbler

Choosing the Best Grill

Fish is flipped on a grill.

There are several grill types that all have their own specific function. Many of them are able to do the same things that others can, but often not as well, so it’s important to focus on the type of cooking you want to do and select the grill that best fits your needs.

  • A charcoal grill is great if you like to have a good sear on your steak because they generate far more heat than other grills. The main drawback is the charcoal ash you need to clean out of the grill after each use. 
  • A gas grill, on the other hand, heats very quickly and offers much more control over the temperature of your grill. That speedy cook comes with a sacrifice, though, as you won’t get that traditional smoky barbecue flavor found in a charcoal grill.
  • Pellet grills are similar to a traditional smoker but capable of cooking like a gas or charcoal grill. Because of how they operate with indirect heat, pellet grills don’t get as hot as a charcoal grill, so you won’t get as much of a sear on your meat. 
  • An electric grill looks like a cross between a charcoal grill and a griddle. They offer a healthier, safer option by draining a lot of the fat away from the meat and not requiring a flame. Electic grills heat up the quickest of any type of grill. Electric grills don’t create any of the smoky flavor found in charcoal grills and, to an extent, gas grills.

Choosing the Best Cooler

Drinks sitting in a cooler full of ice.

When selecting a cooler, it’s all about picking one that best suits how you’ll use it. For example, if you’re going to the beach with a couple of people, a smaller, soft cooler might be best. Now, if you’re hosting a large barbecue of over a dozen people, a larger hard cooler or ice chest would be best to accommodate enough food and drinks for everyone. It’s usually a good idea to own multiple coolers as they aren’t one size fits all type items.

The two main categories are soft and hard coolers, with a third niche category of powered coolers. All three styles offer their own pros that set them apart from other options. Soft coolers are lighter and usually easier to carry with double handles, shoulder straps, or sometimes backpack straps. The main issue with them is; that generally, they’re smaller, so if you need to carry a large amount of food or drinks, they aren’t the best option. Hard coolers, on the other hand, often come in larger sizes with bigger storage capacity. On the flip side, they can become tougher to carry with just one person because of their size.

Other things to consider when choosing a cooler are:

  • Portability – You want to be able to transport it easily.
  • Construction – You want a cooler that will last and not send you back to the store each year to buy a new one.
  • Features – Many coolers have additional features, so you don’t have to haul extra gear with you, such as a ruler built into the lid for sizing fish or cupholders in the lid for storing your drinks.

Choosing the Best Camp Chair

Camp chairs at a picnic table by a riverside.

Whether you call it a lawn chair, beach chair, or camp chair, you need somewhere to sit while sitting around the fire on the campsite or while watching your child’s baseball game. A poor-quality chair can turn a good time to bad really quickly, so find one that you like. The main thing to focus on when deciding on a chair is comfort; all the other things like portability, extras, and features are secondary.

When deciding on comfort, the main three areas to focus on are size and height, design preference, and material. Bigger is usually better when it comes to the size of the chair, but depending on how far you plan on transporting the chair, smaller may be preferable. Low chairs are better for concerts as they give you a more relaxed feel. High chairs are easier to get in and out of if you plan to do plenty of walking around. 

There are many different designs of camp chairs out there, including classic, three-legged, camp stools, reclining, rocker, and so many more. Part of what goes into your design preference is first the size and secondly how you prefer to sit, as each style has its own level of comfortability. A good example is a camp stool, it’s going to be light and take up less space, but you’ll sacrifice some comfort as they don’t offer any back support.

The final piece of the comfort puzzle is the material it’s made of. If choosing a chair for the summer months, find one with breathable material, and for winter months, select a chair with heavier material. Many camp chairs feature mesh panels to help air flow through them and keep you cooler. If you’re hiking, you might want a chair with lighter fabrics so your pack isn’t weighing you down.

Choosing the Best Fire Pit

Several chairs sit around a stone fire pit.

Outdoor spaces are an extension of the decor preferences inside your home, and a fire pit is a great way to create a focal point that matches a homeowner’s tastes. A few things to consider when crafting your outdoor space are your fire pit’s style, fuel sources, and material.

The various styles of fire pits include bowls, tables, tabletop, rings, and columns. You want to choose a pit that best fits the overall theme of your patio to help tie everything together. Fire pit tables are usually more decorative and feature a ledge around them for setting food or drinks on, so they work great for smaller gatherings. If you’re going for a more rustic aesthetic in your space, a fire pit ring is a good option as its design will provide more of that campfire feel.

Depending on the feeling you’re going for around your fire pit could determine the fuel source you choose. Wood-burning pits offer a more traditional campfire style but carry some extra work with them. You have to tend to the fire more often, and you have to clean them after use. Propane fire pits provide a more modern look and are less work, but your tank will need to be replenished at your local store regularly. Lastly, natural gas fire pits are a permanent option that can’t be moved but offer a constant fuel feed from the natural gas line of your home.

The material that makes up your fire pit says something about your style and carries benefits with it. 

  • Copper creates a different, warm atmosphere, but in order to keep its shiny look, it must be cleaned often, or it will begin to turn a green color. 
  • Steel and cast iron are durable options and create a backcountry feel on your patio. Cast iron is heavier, so moving it around your space can be tough. 
  • Stone materials are often found on fire pit tabletops and can get very heavy, depending on their size. They can be easier to clean than their metal and copper counterparts as you don’t have to worry about rust. 

Choosing the Best Insulated Tumbler

Insulated tumblers sitting on a wood workbench.

Everywhere you look, people are carrying their favorite branded tumbler around to keep their drink hot or cold. If you haven’t jumped on the trend yet and are looking to get in, there are a handful of things to consider. Size, lid, base diameter, and construction will all influence which tumbler will work best for you.

A lot of what dictates size is how much you typically drink in a day, whether it’s coffee, water, or any other beverage. A large size carries with it the benefit of less time spent refilling it, but the tumbler is also bigger, so it takes up more space during transport.

Related to size is the base diameter of the tumbler. It’s not something you would really think about at first, but a tumbler that doesn’t fit your cupholder can lead to frustration. Even larger tumblers usually have a tapered base to fit in most cupholders, but not all cupholders are the same size.

The overall design is what keeps your drink cold or hot. Be sure your tumbler has a double-walled exterior, which prevents heat from transferring away from the beverage inside. This design also makes the outside of the tumbler cool to the touch if even there is boiling hot coffee inside.

Part of the design of any quality tumbler is the lid. Some tumblers have a screw-on lid, and others feature a lid with a rubber gasket. Regardless of your preference, be sure the lid creates an airtight seal to keep the contents inside at the proper temperature. 

Shop outdoor living products from Broil King, Dragonfire, Traeger, Igloo, and more at Acme Tools.

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