A campfire, besides being a literal lifesaver at times, is often a huge morale booster at the end of a long day of hiking. There is no better way to start a day of outdoor activity, especially when the weather is chilly, than with coffee and a hot breakfast. For generations of outdoorsmen, it simply wasn’t camping unless there was a campfire involved.
But fairly recently naturalists have begun recognizing some problems with the practice of building a fire every time you camp
- Wildfires often begin as campfires.
- Fire can sterilize the ground under and around it, creating a scar on the land that can last for years.
- Burning dead fallen wood can reduce habitat and nutrients.
- If you transport your own wood, you can spread insects and diseases.
Any one of these potential drawbacks may be negligible, especially when there are only a few people carefully building responsible campfires in a large area. But as the number of people who are interested in outdoor adventure increases and the wild places on the planet diminish, these concerns can become substantial.
Tips to minimize campfire impacts
- Whenever possible, cook using a lightweight stove or a backpacking stove.
- Consider sitting around a candle lantern to tell stories at night.
- Always check with the
landownderor their representatives (Rangers) to make sure that campfires are allowed and that there are no burn bans in effect.
- If fire-building is allowed, use established fire rings – better yet, when possible build your fire on a fire pan or a mound of sand.
- Only use dead, downed wood for fires and only use sticks that are small enough to break by hand.
- Keep your fires small, using only as much fuel as you need.
- Keep several gallons of water nearby and always tend your fire. Don’t ever leave your fire burning or even
- Never burn trash in a campfire.
- Always burn all fuel completely to ash and put all fires out dead cold – cold enough that you could lie down on that spot.