A nation that destroys its soils destroys itself. Forests are the lungs of our
land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people.|
Franklin Delano Roosevelt
What is camping without a fire?
A fire means heat, light, and life. To many people, a campsite with no fire is just not camping. A campfire means self-sufficiency, survival, and comfort. Our view of campfires is built on centuries of tradition and historic need. Fortunately, there are many places to camp where a fire is completely appropriate, safe, and welcome. You might even want to learn how to build a fire pit in your own backyard.
The ability to enjoy an outdoor adventure with alternate heat and light sources greatly expands your opportunities and allows a more self-sufficient experience. The development of lightweight, very efficient camp stoves has eliminated the real need for a fire in most circumstances so it is now a choice to use a fire or a stove.
Why Have a Fire?
On any outdoor adventure, a source of heat for emergencies is required. You should always be prepared to start a fire in a survival situation. But, a backpacking stove is a great alternate source of heat from the campfire. Stoves have many benefits over fires:
Choosing Fire or Stove
Before heading out on a wilderness adventure, it is a good idea to decide whether campfires or stoves will be used for each day of the trip. It may be decided to have campfires some days and stoves on others. Some things to consider when making the decision include:
Leave No Trace Campfires
Once the decision is made to have a fire, the expertise of minimizing its impact comes into play. There will be an impact to the area from any fire, but there are many ways to reduce and disguise the impact.
Fires built on the ground overheat the organic soil and kill the creepy crawlies living in it. It may take a very long time for anything to grow in the spot where a fire was built. An established fire ring is a sacrificed spot in which fires are accepted to prevent destruction of other areas.
In the absence of fire rings, rather than creating a fire directly on the ground, it is better to insulate the organic soil from the heat of your fire by using a camp stove, fire pan, or mound fire.
A collapsible fire pan is a good way to have a campfire and greatly reduce its impact. A metal pan with 3-inch sides perched on 4 or 5 stones allows a fire without scorching the soil underneath. Follow all Leave No Trace campfire guidelines listed above.
Another way to insulte soil is to cover it with a few inches of mineral soil and build a fire on that. Mineral soil is found underneath the top layer of rich, darker, organic soil. Mineral soil, sand, or gravel do not have the thriving life in them that organic soil has so a fire on that material is ok.
To create a mound fire, follow these steps:
For more campfire information, please visit Campfire Dude.
Tips on Minimizing Campfire Impact
Minimizing Campfire Impact is Important because:
Examples To Consider
|After cooking breakfast over a fire, cleaning the dishes, and picking up camp, it was time for a morning hike. The fire had completely burned out over an hour ago so no one thought to douse the fire ring with water. While the group was away, the wind picked up.|
|The group that camped here gathered huge rocks for a fire ring, left lots of unburned wood, and did not disperse the waste or return the rocks to their original locations. Others have noticed the ring and even laid tinder in it but from the surrounding fragile vegetation, it looks like this spot is not highly used. A smaller fire and better clean up may have helped prevent future campers from congregating here.|
|A group began a 6-day backpacking trip during a dry spell but there was no fire ban. Two days into their trip, they met a ranger patrolling the wilderness and he informed them that a fire ban had been instituted that morning.|
They are either stuck with eating cold food, building illegal fires, or using a back-up stove they brought just in case.
Debate the Principle
There may be reasons to make different choices when considering this Leave No Trace principle. Here are a few to think about:
Teaching Minimize Campfire Impacts