When I invite the entire neighborhood over to check out a new gadget, you know it’s something exciting. Or, perhaps entrancing in the case of the Ukiah Tailgater II, a propane-powered fire pit with flames that dance to music.
Legends say my neighbors are still hypnotized from s’mores night around the Tailgater II. It’s true — the smart fire pit doubles as a Bluetooth speaker and features a Beat to Music mode, which makes the flames pulse in mesmerizing rhythm to whatever song is playing. But it’s more than just a light show. For $599, the Ukiah Tailgater II also has practical uses, like generating some warmth and grilling food with a cooktop accessory.
As the name suggests, the Tailgater II makes a great centerpiece for parking lot parties. The sound is battery-powered, with about 30 hours of music per full charge. While the unit alone is surprisingly portable, you are forced to tote around a 20-pound propane to fuel the fire, which is the only snag (and a small one at that) I found in this Ukiah Tailgater II fire pit review.
Ukiah Tailgater II fire pit review: Price and availability
The Ukiah Tailgater II fire pit is available now (Amazon (opens in new tab), Ukiah) and costs $599 and comes in two color options, black and olive green. For $349, Ukiah offers a first-gen Tailgater fire pit, which is similar in appearance to the Tailgater II but sports a lesser-quality sound system and lacks the Beat to Music feature.
Ukiah also sells a $69 cast-iron cooktop accessory that turns the fire pit into a camp stove. At the time of conducting this review, I didn’t have the accessory, though it seems like a worthwhile purchase for when/if I take the Tailgater II to an actual tailgate. But for making smores in my backyard, it wasn’t necessary.
Ukiah Tailgater II fire pit review: Design and set up
Setting up the Ukiah Tailgater II is no hassle. It’s just a handful of parts: the 17 x 14 x 14-inch unit, a box of lava rocks, the combine propane tank adapter and hose, speaker charger and magnetic lid. It even comes with a Ukiah-branded cover for the connected propane tank and a rechargeable AA battery for the ignition. Getting the battery inside the unit was probably the trickiest part.
After I charged it up and hooked up my propane tank, I had both music and fire going in minutes. One side of the speaker has buttons and a volume dial for music control, though sound can also be controlled directly from the Bluetooth source, which in this case was my smartphone.
The opposite side features the starter and fire intensity knob, while the other two sides of the cube-shaped pit house the speakers and cut-outs for carrying.
Weighing 34 pounds, the Tailgater II is substantial yet easy enough to tote around a deck, or from the backyard to a car trunk. As much as I would like to bring it down to the beach, that would mean also carrying a propane tank across the sand. Though, it’s the same situation for any propane camp grill.
Ukiah Tailgater II fire pit review: Performance
To get the s'mores shindig started, I turned my propane tank on, pressed down on the starter knob and turned it to ‘High’. Once the flame trickled out through the X-shaped path, I could adjust the flame intensity as I pleased.
The levels span a small, barely-there blue flame to a roaring amber fire that’s plenty hot to cook over. For roasting marshmallows, I kept the flame at about 75% intensity.
For the ‘Beat to Music’ mode, turned the starter knob to Beat to Music and I pressed the music note button on the music control side of the unit. When I started up my next song from my iPhone, which I paired to the fire pit via Bluetooth, the flames began moving to the beat. “Listen to the Music” by the Doobie Brothers (an apt choice for testing, don’t you think) had everyone staring at the Tailgater II with smiles of amazement. Sure enough, the flames bounced in perfect rhythm. The one thing I’ll say is that Beat to Music is strictly for entertainment — it’s not the mode to cook food over.
As for audio quality, the speaker sounded surprisingly strong. It features a 2.1, 100-watt sound system with two 3.5-inch speakers and a subwoofer. The audio performance isn’t quite as sophisticated as the Sonos Move, the dedicated wireless speaker I normally use for backyard gatherings, but it’s more than ample. The romance driving Elton John’s “Your Song” carried through in precise piano work and clear vocals. It had everyone singing along, which is exactly what you want from this kind of device.
Ukiah Tailgater II fire pit review: Verdict
Priced at $599, the Ukiah Tailgater II isn’t a must-have gadget, but it’s certainly a fun one to have. Whether you host outdoors, frequent tailgates or go camping, the Tailgater II brings the music, cooktop and entertainment. Just remember, you’ll need to bring a propane tank along for the party.
It’s safe to say the Ukiah Tailgater II fire pit and its Beat to Music feature are the talk of my neighborhood. Though rest assured, the Tailgater II has also offered a cozy experience for quiet nights alone. The best part? I can have a fire blazing for just a few minutes if that’s all I want. Getting the fire and music going takes little more than pressing a couple buttons. Talk about convenience.