How close is too close?

9:10 a.m. on April 21, 2013 (EDT)
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So I posted the pic below on FB of a guy who looks as though he is doing a break dancing move in a campfire that was accompanied by "camping, you're doing it wrong(even though "your" is missing the "e.")

camping.jpg

At which point another member here(not naming names) pointed out that the tent was too close to the campfire.

(I would think the cooler is too, who likes warm beer?)

So this kinda got me thinking...

How close is close enough/or too close to have your shelter to a campfire(no wind/calm weather?)

I know there are those of you out there that cringe at the thought of having a campfire when hunkered down for the night but there are those out there that just love the glow produced by a dancing flame or the sound of popping wood. 

At the same time there are trails out there that have fire rings at the sites(as seen below:)

image.jpg

So TS, what do you deem as being an acceptable distance for your home away from home to be while lounging by the good ol' campfire?

Thoughts?

10:07 a.m. on April 21, 2013 (EDT)
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This is an interesting topic Rick.

I don't always have a fire, but when I do it's usually because I have a friend along.

I love to sit around a small fire and talk at the end of an exciting day of hiking, exploring, or whatever.

I like to have a separate area for cooking, hanging out, or just enjoying a fire away from the tent area. In other words I don't generally "hang out" at my tent.

I think the safe distance between a fire and your tent is going to be very subjective depending on a lot of factors, but certainly we should be able to find a consensus on a minimum safe distance with little or no wind  - maybe 25 feet or 8 meters ?

My own rule of thumb is 50 to 75 feet downwind of my sleep area, this keeps my tent, sleeping bag, and other gear from absorbing food odors which can attract all sorts of critters to where I sleep.

In bear country I prefer 100 yards for fires, cooking, & eating.

Mike G.

 

10:41 a.m. on April 21, 2013 (EDT)
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Why was this moved to "Camp Kitchen?" I am not talking about cooking or meal prep unless one is cooking their tent then eating it. ;)

Come to think of it anyone have hot sauce?

12:01 p.m. on April 21, 2013 (EDT)
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make it a good 50 -100 yards downwind. this should be in backcountry.

12:17 p.m. on April 21, 2013 (EDT)
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Rick-Pittsburgh said:

Why was this moved to "Camp Kitchen?" I am not talking about cooking or meal prep unless one is cooking their tent then eating it. ;)

Come to think of it anyone have hot sauce?

 Wasn't me, when I first saw the thread it was in Camp Kitchen.

Seems to me that the Backcountry forum would be appropriate.

12:23 p.m. on April 21, 2013 (EDT)
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Maybe my misguided fingers placed it in CK but I could have sworn I put this in BC...

I am moving it now.

3:01 p.m. on April 21, 2013 (EDT)
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looks like a big 'ole cooler in the background.

Car campers.

 

I don't like being around car campers

4:37 p.m. on April 21, 2013 (EDT)
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My circumstances differ, I guess, but I can't remember the last time I had a fire right at my campsite at all.

For one thing, I don't very often camp at campgrounds or even at designated sites. I'm a stealth-camping solo female, I'm trying to avoid attracting attention (slim chance, I know, most places I go, but nevertheless), and trying hard to leave no sign. Also, I often go to sleep early, as soon as I eat the quickest supper I can.

Then I wake early. Crazy early, like 3 am (hence the headlamp thread). I'm usually not far from the water, and so any fires I build are driftwood fires on the shore, below the high tide mark, and in the darkness before dawn, rather than at night.

6:50 p.m. on April 21, 2013 (EDT)
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I like a fire right in front of a tarp to reflect the heat.  It is best to keep fires away from tents unless you have a stove, then the fire goes inside.

11:30 p.m. on April 21, 2013 (EDT)
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I haven't had a burn hole in my tent in years...since I quit making fires. 

And I will admit.  A little bit of the fun is missing, even though I don't have wire-baled black pots and hands and clothes.  There is an intimacy of having friends around a fire that is hard to duplicate any other way.

Unless it is another round of beer NOT paid by me.

12:38 a.m. on April 22, 2013 (EDT)
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It does depend on a lot of variables. While Trailjester suggested 50 to 100 yards, that is often practical where I camp. On gravel bars, that may work. It also depends on my tent. If it is my cotton Baker, I may have the fire(only for heating, not cooking) 10-15 feet away from the front of the tent. Putting rocks on the side away from the tent helps reflect heat. So distance is quite variable. And I don't build large fires ever. Small fires with a good bed of coals to keep heat through the night.

10:12 a.m. on April 22, 2013 (EDT)
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I do a fire sometimes.  Where, when, and why is the subject for another thread, though.  When I do, I place my tent upwind and a short distance away - say 30-50 feet.  I don't build big fires and that distance seems to be sufficient for flying embers to burn themselves out.

12:51 p.m. on April 22, 2013 (EDT)
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I am concerned about flying embers and nylon tents. some embers can fly quite a distance if the wind is right. 100 yards may not be doable, but just keep it as far from your nylon tent as possible.

1:17 p.m. on April 22, 2013 (EDT)
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I rarely have a campfire.

Like Islandess, I make supper on my stove then go to bed, usually pretty early. Same when getting up. It's faster to boil some water for breakfast while packing up the tent and other gear than it is to build a fire, cook some food, then lug water to thoroughly douse the campfire. 

Not really worth the fuss to me, but part of the experience for some, I guess. 

2:53 p.m. on April 22, 2013 (EDT)
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The distance of my fire to my shelter is directly proportional to the value of the shelter.:)

 I occasional make fires but I agree with others that it can be a chore at times. I go pretty often and it’s usually not worth the hassle when I’m alone. On those rare and wonderful occasions when my wife can join me, I try to pick locations that I know are more suitable for having a fire as she really likes them.

2:58 p.m. on April 22, 2013 (EDT)
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We rarely make a fire.  Sometimes it's because we're above the elevation limit in the Sierra, but other times it's just because it isn't worth the hassle.  And we do take putting out the fire very seriously---which adds to the hassle factor.

My wife once got a new pair of hiking boots by resting her feet on the iron rim of a campfire ring.  Once the fire got good and hot, it melted pretty much right through the sole of her boot...

Luckily, I noticed it before she leapt up, screaming from the fire.  But it did get her attention

5:54 p.m. on April 22, 2013 (EDT)
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I've witnessed the burning of boots before - left beside an accelerating fire to dry out while the boot owner took a nap. We had to remake the toe of the boot with duct tape for the 8 mile hike out. 

One of my pet peeves is a group member who insists on building a fire then turns in early leaving others to tend the fire.

I can certainly see the benefit of having a fire close to where you sleep with a canvass shelter (or rock, snow shelter, etc.) as others have mentioned, I've done it to stay warm, but of course not with a nylon tent.

I got lost in my younger years and spent a night curled beside a fire to wake up with a scorched face and knees. Fortunately I was wearing cotton blue jeans - haha.

Mike G.

5:54 p.m. on April 22, 2013 (EDT)
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In another life on a cold rainy night I slept under a lean-to made of branches to reflect the heat onto me, just like in all those books.  I was too close to the fire and a hot ember popped from the fire and landed on me.  It hurt like only a burn can. 

Lesson learned

1:50 p.m. on April 23, 2013 (EDT)
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we normally don't have a fire unless were car camping. too much of a hassle otherwise.

2:14 p.m. on April 23, 2013 (EDT)
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trouthunter said:

...

One of my pet peeves is a group member who insists on building a fire then turns in early leaving others to tend the fire.

...

Mike G.

 Oh yeah!~  major anger over that one.  Especially when they build it nice and big, then toss on a log or two before going to bed.  Grrrr.

5:20 p.m. on April 23, 2013 (EDT)
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Last winter I was "too close" for several nights in a row.  I was out in the field all day in snowy wet weather.  When I would get back to camp I would gather the driest wood I could find and get a little fire going.  Only way I could dry myself off and thaw out was to get very close to the fire.  The wood I burned was popping and cracking a lot and sending burning embers all over the place,  many of which burnt holes in my Prana pants and my Mountain Hardwear jacket.  Bums me out to ruin good gear like that but drying out was a matter of survival.  

My shelter was not near the fire though. 

10:06 a.m. on April 24, 2013 (EDT)
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I really enjoy a fire, though by no means do I always build one. I am sure If I was able to get out on trail every weekend, building a fire would be a relatively a rare occurrence. I can usually get a fire going quite easily and quickly, a trait that seems to run in my family :) Friends of on of my brothers call him Tiki Man, ha!

The distance between a fire and my tent varies according to a number of factors: what type of shelter, how much I value the tent I am using, how large the fire is, space and geography limitations of the location, and behavior of the wind. 

With a "meltable" tent, it is at least no closer than 35 feet, and that is really pushing it. 

3:34 p.m. on April 24, 2013 (EDT)
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I visit a brother in the Chicago area.  His neighbor likes to put one of those fire pit carts on the sidewalk in front of their house, and a bunch of people pile around it in lawnchairs.  That's the closest I've been to anything resembling a campfire in maybe 20 years.  I miss the smells, but I don't miss anything else about them.  They're a good way to mask the eventual musk of a backpacking trip.  Nature's cologne.  If someone else wants to hassle with one, I'm cool with it.  I'm certainly not going to slave to a fire when one of my goals is to escape slaving to everything.

So, I have no memory of how close is too close.  It's been a pleasant while.

7:59 p.m. on April 24, 2013 (EDT)
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I like to hide my tent far away from fires for a number of reasons. The drunk idiots stay around the fire all night making noise and trampling everything in their path. When I do have a fire I usually am cooking by it and I like to keep the place I sleep far away from where I cook. 

I also sleep in a hammock and most camp spots that are not in bona fide wilderness do not have a tree within 20-30, just lots of chain sawed stumps.  

If none of the above were a factor; the closest I would put a tent to the fire is maybe 20. I have seen wind blow embers a good distance.

8:28 p.m. on April 24, 2013 (EDT)
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For me it totally depends on the type of tent and the type of camp.

Modern nylon and single wall tents will be up wind what ever distance it takes so no sparks land close. No Where close.......

If i set up a canvass tarp the fire might be just barely out from under the canvass and the fire may have it's own canvass tent as a part of a reflector.

Or the fire may be a smudge to drive off biting insects. And or it may be a smudge fire under canvass completely to make jerky.

If the tent is 2 tarps and that has 2 end canvasses then the fire may be outside in fair weather,  or inside anywhere where in the center line.

If there is a sledding party and you get cold hands it just means you needed better mittens. Mine are no longer for loan. I made elk hide mittens covered in badger fur and these go to my elbows. These are big and roomy and lined with wool blanket.

The individual I loaned them to didn't have brain enough to NOT Hold these to the fire, and I was a tad hasty and maybe not too polite getting them back, after i saw the fur get singed.

Think $250.00 shells made out of gore tex... only hand made elk and fur.

In black fly season here and being camped out may mean running an air cooled outboard oh a tree limb.. In that case the engine makes less noise than the bugs do..

10:17 a.m. on April 25, 2013 (EDT)
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I'm a little late to the party, but I'll toss in my 2 pennies anyway....

For the last several years (decades?) I haven't made campfires when I backpack - the synthetic materials my gear is made from are easily subject to burning/melting holes from sparks and popping embers.

 

If I did make a fire when backpacking, I'd make sure my tent was 20-30 yards or more away from the fire and upwind - especially if I cooked at or around the fire. 

 

When we're car camping, I'm less concerned about my tent and so I keep the tent as far as possible from the fire. However, we're usually in a park with campsites so its not possible to have the tent as far from the fire as I'd prefer. So far, my car-camping is hole-free. 

 

However, on cool-weather day-hikes, I will usually make a small fire and/or use my Kelly Kettle to brew up something warm to drink.

4:33 p.m. on April 25, 2013 (EDT)
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Great Topic! 

I live in the Ash Borer zone..so even Illinois state parks are discouraging campfires! They don't want you bringing in an type of firewood...too many people don't know ash from oak.  And if you do get a chance to have one the woods are clean of anything that could burn. Bummer...I loved to watch the weekend warriors go camping with coolers full of liquid courage. Now that's entertainment!  In that case it becomes where do I put my tent where it is out of range of loud noises and safety lights.  :-)

When I am in the back-country and there isn't a designated fire ring I think the opposite.  I decide where I should put my tent first and then where does my fire (if I have one) go.   My shelter is more important.  If there is room and I am able to cut out a fire pit (using Leave No Trace camping) then I try to following these guidelines:

  1. Wind conditions and overall fire danger.  Yep...sometimes it is a judgement call.  I always side on caution...help is a long way off.
  2. The availability of the right amount and type of firewood.
  3. Administrative restrictions.

If you typically depend on fires for cooking, consider using a stove instead, and build a social fire just one or two nights of your trip. A lightweight candle lantern or small gas lantern makes a pleasant alternative light source.

11:27 a.m. on April 26, 2013 (EDT)
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firepit_swing.jpg
I don't always build a fire, but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis!

11:38 a.m. on April 26, 2013 (EDT)
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A feeble attempt at humor there, really, I almost never build a fire.

7:21 p.m. on April 27, 2013 (EDT)
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soleful2001 said:


firepit_swing.jpg
I don't always build a fire, but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis!

 Is Dos Equis a new kind of fire starter?

(now that's even more feeble!)

7:52 p.m. on April 27, 2013 (EDT)
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trouthunter said:

 Is Dos Equis a new kind of fire starter?

(now that's even more feeble!)

 
dos-equis-chuck-norris.jpg

8:13 p.m. on April 27, 2013 (EDT)
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LOL I'ld like to see that Rick.

1:19 p.m. on April 28, 2013 (EDT)
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I LOVE IT!!


dos-equis-chuck-norris.jpg

 

1:36 p.m. on April 28, 2013 (EDT)
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putting dos equis on the fire instead of logs...a new craft brewing technique?

December 27, 2014
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