The 4 types of Campfire Grill Grates, Explained!

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A campfire grill is perfect for cooking during your camping trip. Without it, you’ll be relying on spearing a stick through a sausage! And the reality is, it’s hard to do that with a large group. You end up just knocking each other’s meals into the fire! Not to mention the fact that the sausages end up getting burned and chared.

So, your alternative is to get a campfire grill grate. With these, you can cook larger and more complex meals. You can also place a pot on many grills to boil some water.

If you’re looking for a campfire grill, here’s what you need to know.

Types of Campfire Grills

There are four main types of campfire grills. The best in our opinion is a swivel stake grill which is held up by a stake in the ground. There are also flat bed grills that sit over the fire on legs, a bit like a table on a hospital bed. Thirdly there are tripod grills which stand on a tripod and hang over the fire. Lastly – if you’re a hike-in hike-out ‘leave no trace’ camper – you might like a lightweight portable fire pit with a built-in cooking grill grate.

There are pros and cons of each.

Tripod Grills

Tripod grills are the largest types of portable campfire grills. This makes them hard to pack down for storage and transportation. In fact, if you’re a back-country camper, these ones are just about ruled out and you’ll need to go for a smaller model – in particular, the flat bed grills.

These types of grills stand over a fire with each leg being at equal distances from one another for stability. At the top where the tripod legs meet, a chain hangs down to hold a ‘swinging grate’ above the fire. The grate can usually be lowered and raised by manipulating the chain holding the grill grate.

I personally find these grills to be the hardest ones to cook on. The grill swings at a touch, making it hard to manipulate the food, flip a stake, and so forth. It’s also a little annoying that the legs impede access to the fire itself, making shuffling the embers around to be a little harder, but not too much.

The one nice thing is that they are usually easy to lower or raise to get the perfect height above the fire. They also often have quite large diameters for cooking a lot of food.

Overall, we tend to give this type a miss.

*Click the image to view the product on Amazon.

Swivel Stake Grills

Swivel stake grills are one of our favorite types and we use them regularly. These stand on just one stake that you hammer into the ground beside the fire with a mallet. Then, you slip the grill grate over the stake and ‘swivel’ it so that it’s held over the fire.

The really nice thing about these ones is you can adjust the height of the grill much more than on a flat bed grill (discussed below). This alone is one of the main reasons I prefer a swivel stake grill. The other big drawing point of these ones is the swivel option. Once your food is cooked, you can swivel the grill away from the fire to let it sit, cool, or be plated up further from the fire.

But the one big downside is that swivel stake grates can collapse in poor soil. So if you’re camping somewhere muddy or overly rocky, you can find yourself in a bit of trouble. On top of this, you often need to carry around a mallet in your kit which adds to the overall weight – which isn’t great for back country campers.

*Click the image to view the product on Amazon.

Flat Bed Grills

Flat bed grills are the most common type. They simply sit over a fire with legs on either side. They look a lot like a portable hospital table for people to eat in their hospital bed.

While they’re nice, we’ve had a few bad experiences with them that turn me away from them. First is the fact you need to find a stable place for them to stand. Small differences or mounds either side of the fire leads to an unstable grilling surface. You always end up hunting around for rocks to prop up your tray. The next thing that I struggle with is getting the height of the grill grate right. The flat bed grills are usually not height adjustable, and more often than not sit too low to a fire.

But there are some upsides. One is that they usually fold nice and flat for easy storage and portability. This is a huge upside for hike-in, hike-out camping trips. They’re also usable on terrain that swivel stake models are not, and of course you don’t need to lug around a mallet. So this is a good choice for back country campers.

*Click the image to view the product on Amazon.

Portable Fire Pits with Grills

Last is the self-standing and self-contained portable fire pit. You can get some great ones that have grills on top, such as the UCO flat pack (see image – clicking the image will take you to Amazon to find out more).

These ones are great for pack-in and pack-out campers. You can cook and even have a fire while adhering to leave no trace principles. This UCO flat pack model is also specifically designed for carrying in a backpack. It’s incredibly light.

But for casual campers, this will probably be a little underwhelming. You really need to let the fire burn down to coals before cooking as the grate cannot be raised and lowered. The fire is also not very big inside the fire pit.

Further Considerations

The Weight

If you’re going to be carrying a campfire grill grate to and from your camping spot – and particularly if you’re a hiker – you’re going to want a very lightweight option. If you’re going to do drive-in, drive-out camping, you might not need to worry about the weight nearly as much.

Wash and Burn off Resin before Use

You might like to place the grill grate over your fire pit a few times before actually cooking over it. Depending on the product, the first time you use it, there may be some burning paint or resin that lets off a bad smell. You don’t really want to cook over metals that are letting of resins. This is likely to be surface resin, so let it burn off before cooking. It’s also a good idea to give the grill grate a thorough wash first.


There are four different types of campfire grill grates. And each has its pros and cons. But on balance, we’re big fans of the swivel stake models for their versatility and features.