The first decision you must make when choosing the best patio fire pit is whether you want a permanent structure built, or if you want a portable patio fire pit unit that you can move around or store in another place during the off-season. A permanent structure is a much larger investment, but it will be a beautiful and solid addition to the patio. A portable patio fire pit unit will not be nearly as attractive as a permanent structure, but it will be significantly lower in cost and much more versatile.
Permanent structures can be made from a variety of materials; the most important consideration for a patio fire pit, whether it is a permanent structure or portable, is choosing inflammable materials. Bricks specifically designed for fire pits are available, and they are non-combustible, retain heat well, and look great as a building material. Concrete is another good choice since it is not combustible, though concrete is often not as attractive as brick or stone. Working with brick can be difficult, however, and may require the services of a professional brick layer. This will ensure the structure gets built properly, but it will also drive up the cost of the project significantly.
Another decision you will need to make when choosing a patio fire pit is how you will produce the fire. Some fire pits are wood burning pits, while others are gas burning. Wood burning fire pits are easy to operate and will produce a good sized flame, though burning wood will produce a fair amount of ash and embers that will need to be cleaned periodically. The smoke from such fires can also stain the patio fire pit structure, and it can send embers and sparks into the yard or into the trees above. Gas burning fire pits require some specialized equipment and a supply of gas such as propane, but it produces far less mess and smoke. Gas burning pits will not produce as brilliant and beautiful a flame as wood will, and lighting the gas flame can be somewhat dangerous if done improperly.
Portable fire pits are usually made from stainless steel or other types of metals. They are fairly lightweight and often feature mesh grills that contain the burning wood wile allowing air to pass through to the fire. They come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes, and designs, and you should choose the one that fits your budget and space requirements best.