10 Campfire Safety Tips | CleverHiker

Average 7.5 million Every year, hectares of forest are ravaged by wildfires. And almost 85% of wildfires are caused by humans.

These statistics may seem pretty grim, but the good news is that they mean that most of the fire damage caused to our forests each year can be prevented. With a little more preparation, attention and care, we can all have a big impact on the future of our natural spaces. In this article we explain how you can safely enjoy an outdoor fire.

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10 tips for fire protection

Don’t light a fire

The best way to reduce the impact of campfires on our natural spaces is to simply avoid them. Sure, fire is fun. But it’s even more fun to have beautiful places that we can all enjoy for years to come. Below in this list of tips, we’ll share our favorite ways to get cozy in camp without a fire.

Make sure you know the current fire danger level in the area

Always check with the agency that manages the land you are on for the most up-to-date information about fire danger. To find this information, consult your county website or call or visit the Bureau of Land Management, the National Forest Service, state and local parks and other agencies.

Find out about fire safety regulations before your trip

Similar to the above, you should also check whether fire regulations apply to the exact area you are going to. This information is more specific than the general fire danger for an area and may include restrictions such as: E.g., no fires above a certain elevation, no fires at a certain distance from a natural feature, no fires on certain days, etc.

Specific information about fire regulations in a wilderness area can usually be found at the top right of the governing body’s website. In emergency situations, a notice is often displayed at the top

Use established fire rings

Established fire pits are the safest places to start a fire. They can be found in most established campgrounds and sometimes even in the wild. Be sure to clear away and unpack any trash found in the ring and eliminate natural fuel sources before starting your fire. For campsites without a fire pit, choose a location that is free of dry organic material and build a small ring of rocks to contain your fire. Before you leave, make sure your fire is completely out and scatter the rocks you used to maintain the wild look of the area. In the foreground there are fire pans (e.g. one Oil change pan) or portable fire pits are safe ways to contain fires.

Portable fire pits like this Solo Stove campfire stove (above) or the larger one Solo oven campfireare safe ways to contain your flames when a fire ring is not available
Remove dead leaves and other organic matter from your fire pit and store excess wood at a safe distance

Remove dead/dry debris from your fire ring

Before starting your fire, quickly sweep around the perimeter to remove dead leaves, twigs, and other natural fuel sources from your fire. Cal Fire recommends clearing a 10-foot diameter area for your fire.

Keep your fire small

Everyone loves the appeal of a roaring fire, but it is neither necessary nor worth the risk to the land. Smaller fires still produce a nice amount of heat and light, and they’re much easier to burn to ash and completely extinguish when you’re done.

Small fires are much safer and will still keep you warm and comfortable
Keep an eye on your fire and have water nearby to completely extinguish it before bed

Do not leave your fire unattended

It can be tempting to leave a fire smoldering while you retreat for a few hours of hiking so that you can relight it more easily when you return. But you should never leave your fire unattended. The wind can change quickly and carry small pieces of embers over long distances.

Extinguish fires completely with water

Make sure you always completely extinguish your fire with water before going to sleep or leaving your location. We use a large water jug in the frontcountry or a lightweight water bag in the hinterland to put out fires. Using sand or dirt is not nearly as effective at completely extinguishing a fire, so it is not advisable to use sand or dirt to extinguish your flame. The Leave no trace The organization says that one should “burn all wood to white ash, grind small coals to ash, soak them thoroughly with water, and spread the remains over a large area outside the camp. The ashes may need to be dumped in river corridors.”

Platypus water bag are a good way to store water for putting out fires

Have extra water nearby in case BURNING residue comes out of your fire

It sometimes happens: your wood bursts and sparks appear, or a strong gust of wind carries away burning ash. Pay close attention to what your fire is doing at all times and have extra water on hand to extinguish anything that comes out of your fire ring. Even tiny pockets of embers can cause devastating fires. We usually keep one large water jug with us in the frontcountry and a

Have water nearby to put out the embers that come out of your fire
It is safer to use your stove away from dried grass, leaves and other flammable materials

Be careful with your gas stoves/lanterns

The risk of starting a fire Gas lantern or stove is pretty low, but it’s still good to be careful with these items as they are a source of flame. Special precautions must be taken with alcohol stoves as they burn quickly and hot and produce invisible flames. We generally recommend avoiding alcohol stoves as we believe the weight savings are not worth the risk involved.

More fire tips


The type and size of wood you choose is just as important as its origin. Below are some tips to keep in mind.

  • Never bring wood from home – Only light fires with wood purchased or collected in the area where you plan to enjoy your fire. Wood from elsewhere can introduce pests or invasive plants to an area.
  • Size – When collecting wood, only collect branches and twigs that are about the size of an adult’s wrist in diameter. Wood of this size burns faster, so you won’t have to deal with half-burnt, smoldering logs. If you bring purchased logs, start with a few pieces and add more when they are almost completely burned.
  • Leave dead wood Do not pull branches or twigs from standing dead wood. Dead trees provide shelter and nesting places for animals, and sensitive plants can grow there.
  • Do not cut down live treesor branches – Only collect fallen twigs and branches from the ground. Cutting down living trees and branches can disrupt wildlife habitats and affect the wild appearance of natural spaces. Green wood doesn’t burn well anyway, is difficult to split and produces more smoke.
  • Scatter unused wood – It’s a nice idea to leave unused wood you’ve collected for the next person, but it’s much better for nature if you scatter what you didn’t burn. This preserves the natural appearance of the room and reduces disruption to wildlife.
Branches that are about the diameter of a wrist are easier but completely removed

Fire and smoke cards

If you are planning new construction in an area that may be affected by active fires, contact a Fire and smoke map to assess whether this is safe. Be prepared to switch to a different adventure plan if the air quality is unhealthy or there is a risk of a fire spreading to the area you planned to visit.

Learn Leave no trace PRINCIPLES is the best way to ensure you minimize the impact on a natural space

Leave no trace

Many of the tips we outline in this article come from study and practice “Leave no trace” principles. We encourage everyone to familiarize themselves with all of these guidelines before heading out into the wilderness.

Using one Storage blanketHow Therm-A-Rest Junois a safe and effective way to get comfortable at camp

Alternatives to fires

It can be disappointing to find out that the place you want to camp doesn’t allow fires. But there are many other things you can do to stay warm or create a nice atmosphere. Here are some popular ways to create a cozy camp without a fire:

We love Backpacking quilts that open completely because we can use them like a blanket in camp

Start fires in harsh conditions

Fire is one of the most important tools for safety. If you get caught in a storm without proper protective gear, this can keep you out of harm’s way. It’s difficult to start a fire in wet conditions, but not impossible. We put together this video to show you how to start a fire when it’s wet and we also review some fire safety tips.

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