Mar 19, 2023 at 12:16 pm #3776308ZacharyBPL Member
@tropicalzachLocale: Pacific Northwest
Companion forum thread to: Backpacking Pyromania
One of my favorite activities in the backpacking experience is building a campfire; I look forward to it on nearly every trip I take…May 27, 2023 at 6:40 am #3781916tkkn cBPL Member
@tkkncLocale: Desert Rat in the Southwest
Nice vid. Fire making is a perishable skill, you need to practice the skill, even if you are not a fire person. As a lightweight backpacker, fire making allows you to carry less. You can and rely on the fire making skill to supplement your kit for low temp corner cases.May 27, 2023 at 8:57 am #3781920Paul WagnerBPL Member
@balzaccomLocale: Wine Country
As someone who lives in the West and bnackpacks primarily in the Sierra Nevada, I’ve come to realize that building a fire is an obvious violation of the principles of Leave No Trace. No, I’m not talking about the danger of massive wildfires ravaging whole forests, counties, and even states. I’m talking about the impact of the fire ring and the burning of organic material that is crucial for the ecosystem.
In the Sierra, campfires are banned above 9400 feet (10,000 feet south of the San Joaquin River) and in Desolation Wilderness all year long. They are also banned during major parts of the summer most years for fear of starting a catastrophic conflagration.
Finally, I’ve given up making campfires not only for the reasons above, but also because they are a complete PITA to put out effectively. Show me someone who has built a “responsible” fire, and 90% of the time, I will show you someone who allows it to slowly burn out after dark–leaving coals in the ashes that continue to be hot enough to start another fire the next morning.
Heck, I don’t even make a campfire in a fire ring in a developed campground these days, for exactlyl the reasons above.
I remember all too well camping in a campground in Yosemite during a major fire season, smoke so thick in the air that you could barely see Half Dome from the Valley floor. In the campgrounds, every single site had a fire prepped and ready to light as soon as the 5 p.m. curfew arrived. Yep–they all wanted more fire!May 27, 2023 at 10:18 am #3781925Bruce TolleyBPL Member
@btolleyLocale: San Francisco Bay Area
Zachary, Nice video. I personally would not want to use one of my folding knives to baton wood. There seemed to be a lot of flammable material close to the fires in your inset videos.
But I have to agree with Paul, in reference to the Sierra Nevada, I have come across too many fires left burning (or not put out successfully) to continue to embracine the making of campfires in the Sierra backcountry.
I do whole -heartily endorse everyone learning how to make a survival fire, and practicing in their backyards, or local parks, or while snow camping in winter.May 27, 2023 at 1:11 pm #3781932
A candle held up by a stick in a candle lantern puts out a surprising amount of light. And it’s much easier to star gaze this way. No smoke chasing you around and getting breathed in. It puts out a warm, companionable glow.May 27, 2023 at 11:27 pm #3781972AK GranolaBPL Member
You can use your red headlamp lights to pretend you have a campfire! Telling stories by the glow of the headlamp.
I never make a fire when backpacking, only when car camping or boating on a river. There just isn’t enough water most places to be able to put it out completely where I go. If it does get out of control, how do you summon help without cell service and off roads? How fast can help get there? And on tundra, no way; that burn scar will be there for a decade.
I’m curious where you go backpacking that a fire is needed/safe/legal? I live in Alaska and backpack here and in the West, places where wildfires are so damaging that having a fire without access to plenty of water to extinguish just isn’t very responsible.
I’m always amazed by people wanting a campfire in midsummer, anyway. It’s too warm! During the shoulder months or the winter, I get it, for both warmth and cooking. Or for an emergency where you need to warm someone up you might have to build a fire, although a change of clothes and warm sleeping bag might be quicker and more effective. I enjoy fires, but we heat our home with wood all winter, so there isn’t much romance in building one. (My husband is cutting firewood as I write; crap ton of work.) You say it’s one of the things you like best about backpacking, two things I don’t even connect together. I’m also a lightweight backpacker; I don’t want to carry hatches and saws backpacking.
As far as fire- building tools, we used to make our own fire starter with denim and wax, “waxy cloth.” Stuff around the house. And pulling apart an old stump will often give you enough dry wood to get something going; no tools necessary. We also have birch bark and old man’s beard lichen, great for quick starts. There might be regional equivalents elsewhere.
It would be good if you update your video at some point to talk about safety. Where you should/shouldn’t build a fire, how to ensure that it is 100% out, the LNT goal of not leaving new fire rings on unspoiled land, etc. What tools are in your pack to extinguish the fire? Do you have a shovel, good boots to stamp it out, something to put gallons of water into to have on hand? How big should you make your fire? etc. Most people don’t have a clue and really should learn from someone first-hand. Here are some safety tips from CalFire; this video is part of their permit system.May 27, 2023 at 11:45 pm #3781974
On Scouting trips, we’d always have campfires – how else do you get ashes and cinders setting into your Kruteaz just-add-water pancakes?
I haven’t done campfires on backpacking since the early 1980s and then only on large, slow, group trips.
But for road- or boat-based trips? Great White Hunter sort of trips? We’ll have a fire, but I’ll downsize it by using a charcoal-lighting chimney. $15-20 at Home Depot or Walmart, they burn much cleaner than an open fire, use far less wood, and put out a huge amount of heat if you put a grate or a V of rebar between it and a pot. 3-4 people on campchairs can sit down and be warmed by it on a cool Fall trip.May 28, 2023 at 1:53 am #3781975Terran TerranBPL Member
I find being outdoors entertaining on its own. I need a fire like I need a tv. Not legal in many places, it isn’t a lightweight option when you still need a stove if you’re going to cook and be legal. If carrying fire supply for emergency use, you should be better prepared.May 28, 2023 at 6:13 am #3781976tkkn cBPL Member
@tkkncLocale: Desert Rat in the Southwest
“I’m curious where you go backpacking that a fire is needed/safe/legal? “. In the winter, in the snow is one example.May 28, 2023 at 8:02 am #3781979Kevin BabioneBPL Member
Most of my backpacking is in Pennsylvania in the shoulder seasons and we often have a small fire in the already-established fire ring. As I become less young, I found that I particularly enjoy a really good meal the first night we’re out:
The blanched green beans with roasted pine nuts is in another foil pack…
A couple of caveats:
- In PA, almost all established campsites are next to streams, so having unlimited water nearby is easy. The sound of running water also tends to drown out any snoring – another bonus. The downside (or another upside depending on your point of view) is that you don’t hear critters walking around your campsite until they are very close.
- Before we retire for the night we dump several liters of water on the fire ring and stir it up to make sure it’s out, adding more water if necessary (there’s usually not much left in the ring when we call it an evening).
- In the morning we do a hand check looking for warm spots in the fire ring, again stirring things up and checking again.
We’re not building these for warmth so it can be a small fire. Smaller stuff also makes it much easier to cook on the Vargo Ti Grill shown in the photo above. We just like the ambiance of a small fire at the end of the day as we sit around enjoying our dinner and post-meal adult beverages.
Fire gear? I carry a small folding saw (thanks Jan Rezac) for trail maintenance anyway, but we rarely use it for prepping firewood. We’re mostly burning 1-2″ diameter stuff that breaks easily and burns down to coals quickly so we can get those steaks on…May 28, 2023 at 8:32 am #3781980Paul WagnerBPL Member
@balzaccomLocale: Wine Country
Note that the first fire image in the video is on a bed of sticks and leaves…enough said.May 28, 2023 at 9:46 am #3782001
In early spring when I hike solo and it gets dark early. I do enjoy having a small fire in an established ring. Tending it gives me something to do and the flames are somewhat hypnotic. It’s calming and meditative watching a fire go through its phases. And warming! Otherwise, I’ve come to dislike the smoke chasing me around. Also, since there aren’t many hikers around early season, a fire signals my location to bears for miles around. Not that that’s ever been a problem.May 28, 2023 at 11:47 am #3782013
We used to only use wood fires for cooking in the’60s and ‘70s and did heat our house for 38 years with a wood stove so the only fire I want is a little canister stove. We have learned to keep warm and dry without fire though a steaming mug of tea or hot cocoa is still sublime from a canister stove.
Way too many wildfires in the southwest and they recently announced some stage 1 fire bans nearby. Stage 2 is right around the corner. We have not made a wood fire in probably 10 years in the wild. A study showed the longer someone does the backpacking/hiking thing the less interested they are in a campfire. I know that doesn’t apply to everyone.
However in case of some unforeseen meteorological occurrence there is a small kit to make fire in my pack. I already carry the small knife for food prep, the mini Bic to fire up the Gigapower and that tiny Nalgene of Lemon Eucalyptus Repel (oil that burns like crazy) for the blasted summer gnats so the only real addition is the tiny stick of fatwood. 35 years ago I did make fire in some horrible conditions while everything was soaking wet with a folder and a Bic.May 28, 2023 at 12:33 pm #3782014AK GranolaBPL Member
Those steaks and potatoes look great Kevin! However, as I become less young, I can’t imagine carrying those backpacking. Maybe I need younger companions willing to heft those out into the boonies.May 28, 2023 at 1:13 pm #3782018
A couple of times I’ve managed to ingratiate myself with horse packers leading small groups on foot, or trail crews (I used to work trail crew, which has invariably led to a dinner invitation) and been invited to share meals. Those horse packers eat well! One had brought a liquor cabinet. Hard alchohol at altitude is a bad idea! I suffered through the entire next day of hiking.May 28, 2023 at 1:31 pm #3782022Bill BudneyBPL Member
@billbLocale: Central NYS
I can’t help thinking that David Thomas is on to something with his fire contained inside a chimney. Are small twig stoves or folding grills a reasonable compromise? Allows a real fire, big enough to cook, but small enough to douse with a water bottle. Place it on a rock or in an established fire ring or pack a square of welder’s blanket to protect the ground.
Obviously don’t do it where and when it isn’t safe.May 28, 2023 at 2:20 pm #3782025
Bill: The UL version of the chimney would something like a Caldera Cone in titanium (roll it up inside a pot) but with more air holes at the bottom and maybe a more serrated top to accomodate a pot on top.
With the radiant heat reflected back at the contents, more stuff burns well – somewhat wetter wood, pinecones, etc.May 28, 2023 at 2:45 pm #3782026
“Are small twig stoves or folding grills a reasonable compromise? Allows a real fire, big enough to cook, but small enough to douse with a water bottle. Place it on a rock or in an established fire ring”
Yes, very much so. Twig stoves are fast and efficient, burning very little fuel for heating water. They really don’t leave a lasting effect on the landscape, just some very fine, white ash that disintegrates. Still the fires give off noxious fumes and soot. There are some areas we go that require a fire pan. Yes it should be placed on a rock or several rocks up above the ground or that ground can be singed very deeply. Cedar Mesa did require a pan. Grand Canyon does I believe. Rules change year to year so check first. The National Parks we frequent don’t allow any wood fires at all. In the other vast wilderness areas fires are allowed here but often not as fire bans are more and more in effect. I’ve only seen one time when lp and lpg stoves and people too were also banned for a period during Stage 3 fire bans. It’s the southwest and wildfires have always been an issue but in recent decades they have become worse.
Craig Childs uses a small fire pan and tiny twig fires.May 28, 2023 at 6:54 pm #3782055Kevin BabioneBPL Member
@AK Granola – We divide the first night dinner up over everyone on the hike, so the weight is not so bad on any one person. It’s really a treat to eat like that the first night out. Going from a 16 to an 18 pound pack, knowing the payoff, is barely noticeable. The other “first night” advantage we have is that we can look at the weather and if it’s likely to be pouring the steaks go in the freezer when I leave the house in the morning.May 29, 2023 at 1:17 pm #3782110
On maybe my first backpacking trip I took along a sealed meal that was meant to be boiled in water to cook. It included steak and gravy and potatoes. After cooking I popped the seal and the wonderful aroma of meat wafted up. 20 seconds later a bear emerged from the woods and made a bee line for me. A very large bear. I was camped with others and managed to ward her off.
I’ve always thought that one of the advantages of freeze dried meals is the limited odor they put out. Add water and cover. No open flames and smoke filled with the scent of beef slowly cooking over time.
Of course, I’d love to have one of Kevin’s meals if I were there, and guess they’re a highlight his friends all recall.May 29, 2023 at 1:47 pm #3782112
Glen: For private rafting trips on the Colorado through the GCNP, in winter, you’re allowed to have campfire but ti must be done in a pan and you must bring the wood with you. For certain haul-in-the-wood activities like that, I snag the occasional pallet that I notice with oak decking or a few old chairs from the garbage transfer station and cut them up to fit in carboard boxes for transport.May 29, 2023 at 3:44 pm #3782129
David yes good info. Mojave Preserve and other places are like that too. Any wood for firewood must be brought in. The web of life needs the natural wood sources. Joshua Tree doesn’t allow fires at all and the natural dead wood here and there looks like beautiful sculptures.May 29, 2023 at 4:48 pm #3782135DanBPL Member
Respectfully, I find the title and the tone of the video, especially the beginning, to be a bit disturbing. Hey boys and girls, it’s fun to make fires!
Also, what the heck is going on at 0:24 in that video?
Full disclosure, I don’t feel the need to build fires in the wilderness anymore. And honestly, except for emergencies, I hope that those days are mostly behind us. Even if it’s legal, it doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. Obviously, it is counter to LNT principles, and it’s never really completely safe.
As various people noted above, there are some good alternatives available to us, and maybe it’s just time to find new ways to do things.May 29, 2023 at 5:17 pm #3782136DAN-Y/FANCEE FEESTBPL Member
Long ago, an aluminum Kelly Kettle was designed by bpl light member? Who was it? Very efficient water boiler and with a pot support on top you can cook on it. How easy we forget :)May 29, 2023 at 5:26 pm #3782137Jerry AdamsBPL Member
@retiredjerryLocale: Oregon and Washington
“The first kettle dates back to the 1890’s to a small farm on the shores of Lough Conn, County Mayo, Ireland, when a young Patrick Kelly (Great grand-father of the current Co. Directors), a small farmer and fisherman, developed his first kettle from Tin after a cold winter of tinkering and experimenting in a shed. ”
Patricks son, Jim (Grandfather of the current Directors of the company) became a famous angler & boatman/ghillie on Lough Conn. Renowned for his speed at boiling water in the kettle, Jim always had a kettle with him when fishing. The Kelly Kettle was now becoming popular with fishermen in the west of Ireland where the speedy kettle produced boiling water for hot drinks on wet & windy days. At this time, the business was still only a ‘hobby’ during the winter and there was only one size kettle (what would now be the 1.6 ltr ‘Base Camp’ Aluminum Kettle) available and these were only ever made to order.”
I got one from backpackgeartest.org, now suspended. It worked pretty good but a bit heavy for backpacking. Great if you’re carrying it in a boat or car…
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