The Case for Killing the Campfire

9:40 a.m. on December 9, 2016 (EST)
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campfire-endangered_h.jpg?itok=f4nSFFUT

The Case for Killing the Campfire

Outdoor tradition or dangerous, polluting, wasteful relic of the past?

By: Wes Siler Oct 19, 2016

From Outside at Facebook...

Early on the morning of August 17, 2013, Keith Matthew Emerald found himself cold and hungry following a hunt in a remote section of the Sierra Nevada, near Yosemite National Park. So he did what countless generations of outdoorsmen before him have done—he started a campfire. Nine weeks later, the wildfire that resulted would finally be extinguished at a cost of $127 million. Scorching a total of 400 square miles, the Rim Fire was the third-largest wildfire in California’s history.

Read more at: http://www.outsideonline.com/2127296/case-killing-campfire?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=facebookpost 

12:59 p.m. on December 9, 2016 (EST)
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Build a fire and you have a responsibility to put it dead out. 

Carry a fire arm and you have a responsibility to be safe with it.

The issue is responsibility, not whether fires are appropriate or not. 

It is the same with driving a vehicle, using alcohol, having children. 

Act like adults please.

12:59 p.m. on December 9, 2016 (EST)
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Build a fire and you have a responsibility to put it dead out. 

Carry a fire arm and you have a responsibility to be safe with it.

The issue is responsibility, not whether fires are appropriate or not. 

It is the same with driving a vehicle, using alcohol, having children. 

Act like adults please.

4:33 p.m. on December 9, 2016 (EST)
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Ppine is correct in his post.  Properly built and maintained campfires do not erupt into massive conflagrations.

On the other hand, I and many others have been moving away from campfires steadily over the last several years.  Cooking with a petrochemical stove is much safer, quicker, and hotter and can be done well above timberline and in just about all conditions.

In my youth, we regularly built  and used campfires, and, frankly, I was pretty good at lighting one reliably with one match.  I am still pretty good with one match with the isobutane, propane, or alcohol rigs I now use, but I am sure lighting a wood fire with found tinder in adverse conditions would be very challenging for me now.  That is a small price to pay for the environmental rewards.

Wait!  As an archaeologist, i can assure everyone that campfires leave an easily recognizable mark for future scholars - not so with my Pocket Rocket - let's not carry this LNT stuff too far!!!

4:48 p.m. on December 9, 2016 (EST)
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I never have a fire when conditions are dangerous as they were for that mensa reject in California.

I don't use a fire in high traffic areas and expect the same of everyone else. When solo I often forgoe a fire. I favor the remotest wilderness of the 48 states. Fires are usually a good way to keep grizzlies out of camp. 

8:02 p.m. on December 9, 2016 (EST)
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+1 for all 3 of the previous posts

fire is what separates man from the animals. I like everyone else have an opinion as to what we should and shouldn't be doing however the fact remains if they(fire) are not caused by man, nature will do it for us. This debate is similar to the gun debates in that metropolitan civilization has no tolerance for the needs of rural civilizaction and its needs. And while they have a fire dept, grocery store, police dept, hospital ext all on every block. The rest of us have an absolute and undeniable need for such things.

History has shown and the future will also that disasters happen. And the needs of the many do not out weigh the needs of the few. Since it is the few that are out there using these resources to provide for these larger populations.

what they could do is quit the politics and the waste on excessive creature comforts and prepare a little better instead of wallowing in their arrogance by telling everyone else what they need and don't need.

some things that I believe would help are the job core, peace core CCC (I wish these things had been around when I came up however I'm to young but I've listen to the old heads and these type programs were a good thing to each of them and society at large)these things brought people together for the common good. Then we wouldn't have so many arenists shootings and such. You would have people working together to protect what we've built with practical reason.

Fire is not a commodity of society or the government but the God given right of humans for warmth,protection and production.

Lets stop  looking for some one to blame and start asking questions when we don't know and start putting away the arsenist and such as refuse to comply with the common good

8:02 p.m. on December 9, 2016 (EST)
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I agree,  I think we've had a fire twice in the last ten years and 1,000 miles of backpacking. 

I've always been disappointed in the surveys that various people have done of backpackers.  It turns out that they usually don't completely put out a fire.  They let the coals die down at night, and then may or may not do anything more in the morning. 

And they don't seem to mind not "being adults."

I seem to be leaning ever more towards no fires and no fire rings, simply because the rings are such ugly scars on a nice campsite...and hikers consistently fail to be adults.

10:29 p.m. on December 9, 2016 (EST)
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I like my stove for cooking cause it doesn't blacken my cook pot, I can use it almost anywhere and I don't always have a campfire unless its winter (not necessarily with snow, just cold) and I am want something to do while sitting late at night waiting to get sleepy. Many parks no longer allow fires in the back country (i.e.Grand Canyon, Denali,Teton).

1:41 a.m. on December 10, 2016 (EST)
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GaryPalmer said:

 The Case for Killing the Campfire

Outdoor tradition or dangerous, polluting, wasteful relic of the past?

Ha!

Ah yes man's bane and most significant contribution to civilization, fire.  I suppose if he were writing for Car and Driver Magazine he'd posit outlawing the wheel would make the roads safer.

Extending Outdoor Magazine's logic, that eliminating the source eliminates the problem, they stopped short of the comprehensive solution: outlawing access to the outdoors will assuredly eliminate run away camp fires!  What morons!  But they will not go out on that limb; it'd be tantamount to cutting off one's nose to spite their face, given outdoor enthusiasts are OM's target demographic.  Outdoor Magazine could have used the ink to teach prudent campfire management, but I am guessing Mr Siler is one of those writers whose knowledge of campfires is limited to the natural gas simulated fire place in his condo, and his total outdoor experience consists of the "expedition picnicking" he does at KOA facilities. 

Ed

7:49 a.m. on December 10, 2016 (EST)
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Wow Ed, somebody's fire(d) up!

;)

9:08 a.m. on December 10, 2016 (EST)
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I've only had one fire in the last 6 years and I didn't build it another hiker  did.It was small in a fire ring..I tend to have a fire when I car camp in the National Forest and not the morning I am leaving..We practice wood cooking and just relax by the fire when we car camp...But backpacking it's way to much work for me...

9:53 a.m. on December 10, 2016 (EST)
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To have stoves, we need mines to extract metal ores, and petroleum for making plastic. Then we need to extract petrolelum for fuel, make containers and transport all of it with more oil. Then we have to dispose of the empty containers.  The case that stoves are environmentally responsible is a weak argument.

10:08 a.m. on December 10, 2016 (EST)
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Has anyone run rivers that are part of the Wild and Scenic River System?  They have requirements for the use of fire pans for fires.  There are no rock campfire rings. There are no ashes and blackened branches around. The pan encourages smaller fires. It is a good idea to use one for car camping in areas without campfire rings.

They also require the use of portable toilets.  It adds another layer of positive aesthetics, and keeps camp sites clean.

I have learned a lot about fires by using fire pans.  The minimum requirements can be met with a metal oil pan like those found at a car parts store for changing oil. 

2:25 p.m. on December 10, 2016 (EST)
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I met a guy in Denali that used a home made fire pan that folded down flat, the sides had hinges and wires on the upper edge to hold the sides together. 

I always make my fires in a pit at least one foot deep then after putting it out burying it with the soil I took out and used as a fire ring. I tamp it down after burial then sprinkle leaves, and things on top to make it look like it was never there.

I use fire rings if they are already there but still dig and bury the ashes

5:33 p.m. on December 10, 2016 (EST)
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Yea, use existing pits whenever possible.

I remove the ashes from the pit and scatter them over a wide area beyond camp.

Ed 

7:16 p.m. on December 10, 2016 (EST)
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Fire etiquette is what we should be talking about. I am happy you guys have some.

I like to breakdown fire rings, and by now it is a habit.

10:04 a.m. on December 12, 2016 (EST)
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There is a time and place for campfires, which may indeed be lifesaving, and there are times and places where you shouldn't even consider the possibility.  A few years ago I was hiking with my dog in a California coastal range and I was amazed at how dry everything was. Indeed, I considered it an unsafe situation.  About 48 hours later, some target shooters accidentally ignited a fire, probably set off by a ricochet spark,that blazed through 7,000 acres.  The red fire retardant dropped during suppression gave nice color to the tan sandstone, however.

Ppine's comment about the environmental costs of producing stoves and their fuel is probably correct to some degree, but if all such activity were to cease, I doubt that it would even be detectable in terms of mining and petrochemical extraction.  how many wildfires have not been caused because some hiker used a stove properly?

The fact is that most of our outdoor excursions are supported massively by current technology.  Where would we be without nylon and aluminum (those classic Kelty frames, for instance).  Some of us, me included, are notorious producers of methane, to say nothing of Co2, and warm the planet just by typing this post.......

 

11:44 a.m. on December 12, 2016 (EST)
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ppine said:

To have stoves, we need mines to extract metal ores, and petroleum for making plastic. Then we need to extract petrolelum for fuel, make containers and transport all of it with more oil. Then we have to dispose of the empty containers.  The case that stoves are environmentally responsible is a weak argument.

 Containers can be recycled...As fo on overall view you  get one planet and we can do better than we have...

12:02 p.m. on December 12, 2016 (EST)
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Most people use a stove because it is convenient. When there is high fire danger or high elevation fires are not allowed.  People get in the habit of not building fires. That does not mean that fires are bad.  If you hike in the off-season, or in places that are wet and cold even in summer fires are important.  If you build a fire once every ten years, you are going to have trouble building a fire in tough conditions when you can really use one.

3:51 p.m. on December 12, 2016 (EST)
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ppine said:

Most people use a stove because it is convenient. When there is high fire danger or high elevation fires are not allowed.  People get in the habit of not building fires. That does not mean that fires are bad.  If you hike in the off-season, or in places that are wet and cold even in summer fires are important.  If you build a fire once every ten years, you are going to have trouble building a fire in tough conditions when you can really use one.

 When  I started hiking, i fairly soon became a "one match wonder" and prided myself on being able to ignite on the first strike, using available tinder and fuels. There were several times when that ability was tested, and I and my companions survived. Now I rarely start fires, but the need for one can always occur.  I keep goodies like esbit cubes, bic lighters,decent supplies of tinder,etc. in my kit because you never know and I am sure my ability to kindle a blaze has declined from that of my youth.  There are still situations where I would never think of starting a fire,even under good conditions.

Fire is neither inherently good or bad.  It is just a rapid chemical process.  How we employ it, or abuse it, is a different story.

My one match story.  In the old days (1959) we used to give evening campfire talks, with actual campfires.  I always showed up early to get the fire lit without an audience.  I was never successful. One evening I arrived, not quite early enough, laid my fire, struck my match and achieved ignition. 

While doing that, I observed (careful observer that I was then) that there was a young lady in the audience, obviously in need of rangerly advice and guidance, so, being dutiful, I left the fire and started conversing.  I was all too soon noticing the chuckles and laughter from the gathering crowd.  Glancing back at my fire, it was just a feeble column of smoke and not the cheery fire I thought I had built.

I returned to work.  Striking a second match would be disastrous and I was sure to lose my audience.  Who could trust a ranger who needed a second match?  So I fumed and fiddled, blowing carefully.  When I at last got the fire going, the audience actually applauded!  Such are the tribulations of a young ranger.....

12:00 a.m. on December 13, 2016 (EST)
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ppine said:

Most people use a stove because it is convenient. When there is high fire danger or high elevation fires are not allowed.  People get in the habit of not building fires. That does not mean that fires are bad.  If you hike in the off-season, or in places that are wet and cold even in summer fires are important.  If you build a fire once every ten years, you are going to have trouble building a fire in tough conditions when you can really use one.

 Unless, of course, you heat your cabin with wood and practice there...

It's not that hard to build a fire and light it with one match.  You just need lots of small kindling and a willingness to have the fire start small and then grow.

If you want to build a bonfire in twenty minutes, use accelerant.

6:31 a.m. on December 13, 2016 (EST)
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I don't do campfires much any more but start a lot of fires in my wood stove...several times a day.  I use the alcohol option when I don't have enough water to put the fire out in its entirety. I was planning on a lot of campfires this fall to test out firestarters for the Review Corps. However with the wildfire issue and drought in our area I had to rely on my Caldera Ti Tri.

Firepaste_Caldera2.jpgAs long as Rangers give it the OK, which most have done, I cook with the wood burning option and enjoy practicing my firestarting technique a couple or more times a day. That and an outdoor firepit that we use regularly keep me fresh on getting a fire going. There are so many good options for really light firestarters that even if you skills slip, you will have some help in adverse weather to get a life saving fire going, but some basic skills and patience are still good to practice.

11:04 a.m. on December 13, 2016 (EST)
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Anyone can build a fire with one match in the Sierra in the summer.  Hiking in the Cascades or the Northern Rockies is a different story much of the time. The more you need a fire, the harder it is to start one and keep it going.  It takes some skill and it is a good idea to practice.

I can remember camping in the Cascades one summer in a rain storm. We were next to a lake for several days but never saw it because of the fog.  My youngest brother and I started a fire and worked on it for 4 hours but it never got much bigger than my fist. It was the day I decided to leave WA.

1:24 p.m. on December 13, 2016 (EST)
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At some level much of our conversation on this thread is doctrinarian in nature.  The reality is we deplete non-renewable resources and toss bucket loads of carbon into the air on the drive to/from the trailhead.  I calculate my drive to/from favorite destinies in the Eastern Sierra generates a 120 - 150 pound carbon footprint.  In this context fretting over campfires that are managed prudently is mere squabbling over the deck chairs, meanwhile steaming full speed ahead into the iceberg field.  The carbon footprint of a campfire is minimal, and arguing for bans in this context lack intellectual integrity.  But there is one point I am sure all Trailspacers will concur: certain areas do not generate enough deadwood to qualify use even minimal campfire activity as a sustainable practice.  Examples include tree line (and above) and various desert regions. 

That said there is an additional environmental consideration for restrictions: highly localized areas where campfire use proximal at popular camp locations is intensive enough to strip the locality of deadwood, regardless the productivity of the forest, and effectively alter the local environment.  The Mt San Jacinto region near Palm Springs, and the headwaters of the San Gabriel River (Crystal Lake area) above Los Angeles are two such examples.  Areas that fall under this distinction are figuratively being loved to death.

As for campfire bans in wildfire zones, I am sure many of us have the chops to build fires in a powder shack without consequence.  But there are many folks out there that are not savvy enough to control the fire beast under less than idea circumstances, or lack prudence to know when no level of expertise is sufficient to attempt fire building at a given location.  Since we do not have our capabilities tattoed on our foreheads, rangers are inclined to assume we are all unskilled and impose restrictions on all entering at risk regions. 

I have misgivings over fire restrictions driven by fire safety issues, in general, and especially camping bans based on this issue.  Borrowing the logic of Second Amendment advocates: the only people who are apt to abide by regulations are individuals least likely to spark up a wildfire.  The vast majority of campfire spawned wildfires arise from flouting prudence, or ignorance on the topic altogether. 

Lastly - and perhaps most salient - are the assumptions behind generations of forest management policy that contribute to the intensity of wildfires, namely aggressive fire management that allowed unnaturally fuel load of combustibles to accumulate, which is much to blame for ferocity and devastation of wildfires.  The practice today is tending toward letting the burn run its course, intent on reducing the fuel load in fire country, but try convincing vacation property owners and mountain residents that this is a good thing, regardless such practice increases (in the short term) the likelihood their property will go up in smoke.

Ed

2:58 p.m. on December 13, 2016 (EST)
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Good discussion and many folks are talking about it here in East Tennessee due to the wildfire that killed 14 people and burned a great deal of Gatlinburg. Latest news story says two teenage boys started the Chimney Tops fire; apparently they were seen lighting matches and tossing them to either side of the trail. A hiker unwittingly captured them in photos. That fire grew to several thousand acres and 90mph winds spread the fire 10 miles into town.

The week prior to that (and under full fire ban), I encountered a group of three good ole boys at Marks Cove in the Smokies and sure enough they had a raging campfire....during the worst area drought in my lifetime.  There were three of them and one of me and I did not confront them out of fear of a butt whooping (or worse since they could have been armed). I now regret that I gave into the fear didn't at least attempt to talk them out of it.

4:09 p.m. on December 13, 2016 (EST)
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I have nothing but respect for the people responding on this thread.

We are all of the age, where we have been taught by Smokey the Bear to equate (out of control) campfires with wild fires.  I agree with Ed that they are really separate issues.

Our problems with wild fire management are a result of over 100 years of fire suppression and greatly reduced harvesting in the last 25 years.  

There are obviously times when a campfire is not a good idea, but there are lots or other times when they can save your life, or at least seem like they are.

9:25 p.m. on December 13, 2016 (EST)
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Well said Ed

6:29 a.m. on December 14, 2016 (EST)
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Ed I was looking for a little humor but your post hit it all so well...

3:43 p.m. on December 14, 2016 (EST)
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denis daly said:

Ed I was looking for a little humor but your post hit it all so well...

 Ok, you got it!

Back in the day I was camping in Joshua Tree National Monument (Josh later was designated as a national park).  FYI: Josh is a very dry desert and we were there at the end of the dry season.  I was with a friend who has two nick names: Flubs and Foggy.  This story affirms both nick names.  Flubs was attempting to prime an Optimus 123 white gas stove.  (This is one of those stoves where you pour a little gas onto the burner head, and use the heat generated to build fuel pressure to get the stove operating).  Flubs botched the prime operation and had to make a second attempt - some of you I am sure already know where this story is headed.  So he takes the bulk fuel storage tank a pours a little fuel into the stove's spirit cup.  Now Foggy is especially foggy in the morning before his am fix of caffeine.  In his malaise Foggy didn't confirm the priming flame was out, so when he poured the fuel it flashed, in turn spreading to the bulk storage vessel he was holding.  I hear Foggy blurt out an expletive and turn to see him eyes bugging out, juggling the flaming vessel between hands.  In in a panic he chucks the container off into the desert scrub fifty feet away!  It was a scene straight out of a MR Bean movie, capped by the image of this cylinder arcing through space with a large impressive fiery rooster tail trailing behind.  The cylinder landed on a creosote bush which immediately went up in a fire ball.  Several other plants were also ignited by flaming gas that fell to the ground along the cylinder's flight path.  Flubs stood there paralyzed with confusion.  I glared at him, commenting "Real nice, dude!"  It was another 90 seconds before Foggy came to his wits and joined me extinguishing the fires.  It took ten minutes to put out the spot fires; fortunately there was no breeze and the tract adjacent to our camp had relatively sparse and spaced out flora; otherwise, the outcome could have been very different.  Yet one more reason I insist on personally doing the kitchen chores on my outings. 

Ed

7:39 p.m. on December 14, 2016 (EST)
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That reminds me of tom Stienstra's old story about the guy who was skydiving over the Sierra.  He jumped out of the plane, pulled his rip cord, and nothing happened. 

He pulled the cord for his emergency chute, and that didn't open either. 

Just then he sees a guy flying upwards towards him from the ground, and calls out:

"Hey, do you know anything about parachutes?" 

"Nope," the guy answers.  "Do you know anything about camping stoves?"

7:10 a.m. on December 15, 2016 (EST)
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Ed have to admit can picture the whole thing they way you described it...Was funny...My guess is stove companies presently want to make them easy as 123...LOL Balzaccom I am going to remember that one for conversations with hiking friends...Ed's story as well.

9:20 a.m. on December 15, 2016 (EST)
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I worked with a lady once that had a Svea 123 blow up on her in the Sawtooths of Idaho. She was helicoptered out and had surgery. I have seen people burn their hands around a campfire, but never seriously.

9:30 a.m. on December 15, 2016 (EST)
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Reading over this thread, one realizes that you not only must possess the gadgets and the goodies, you must also have the knowledge and skills to know when and how to employ them properly.  True for most of life, as a matter of fact.....

6:36 p.m. on December 17, 2016 (EST)
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as a mostly solo backpacker, I've begun to enjoy going without a fire - for a few reasons. first, it simply doesn't get that cold in the pacific northwest in the spring and summer when I do most of my trips and I started feeling silly about making them. its also nice to not be spending the time and energy gathering wood. fires are also not permitted at all at Mt Rainier NP or above 3500ft, I believe, so you need to eventually get over the "need" for one around here at some point. 

there is something soothing about staring into the campfire after a long day, so I do still make one on occasion.

11:12 a.m. on December 18, 2016 (EST)
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Going solo is when I appreciate a fire the most.  Staying out of NPs is easy.

12:52 p.m. on December 18, 2016 (EST)
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Staying out of NPs is actually rather hard if you work for the NPS. While doing so, I usually sought out trips in nearby wilderness areas, usually administered by the USFS - much more informal, less crowded, and just as interesting. Still didn't build many fires, at least not lately....

10:32 a.m. on December 19, 2016 (EST)
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Hiking in the PNW in the spring would be the perfect time for a fire, and much of the time they are appreciated in summer as well.

6:13 p.m. on December 19, 2016 (EST)
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There are many right ways to do thing in the outdoors. Consider the resources and other people and you can't go wrong. Plenty of people can make a case for killing the campfire.  I will just not agree with them and hike my own hike.

1:55 p.m. on December 22, 2016 (EST)
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Man has always been fascinated by fire. And there are more reasons to have a fire than warmth or cooking. This was my take on it twenty+ years ago, but the feeling is still the same -- http://overmywaders.com/index.php?friendlyfire

7:30 p.m. on December 22, 2016 (EST)
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overmywaders

man hat was pure poetry well said

8:03 p.m. on December 22, 2016 (EST)
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whomeworry said:

Borrowing the logic of Second Amendment advocates: the only people who are apt to abide by regulations are individuals least likely to spark up a wildfire.  

 Similar situation with banning humans from caves because of White Nose Syndrome in bats. After years of cave "closures," they are discovering massive damage/destruction in caves, because the people who work hardest to protect them have been kept out of them. The idiots who have no respect for the outdoors, have no respect for the laws meant to protect the outdoors. 

As for fires, I only build them in established fire pits and only then very rarely. But when I'm hiking with someone who wants one, I'm fine with it.

10:28 a.m. on December 23, 2016 (EST)
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This thread presumes to be about "the case" for no campfire but seems to have centered almost exclusively on the risk of wildfires and the need to act responsibly. IMO these miss the main points in favor of not having a campfire. There actually are many reasons:

  • Gathering firewood is a chore. After a hard day on the trail the last thing I want to do is scrounge around for 45 minutes looking for wood.
  • A campfire strips the environment of important nutrients and habitats.
  • A campfire becomes a responsibility. You need to watch it, tend to it, put it out completely. After dinner you want to go explore that ridge? Sorry, you've nailed one foot to the floor with a campfire. And in the morning you want to hit the trail early? Sorry again, you have to totally, completely put the embers out.
  • There are quicker, lighter, more efficient cooking options – including options that use different materials that could not be used in the heat of a campfire.
  • A campfire leaves an ugly scar. Even an established fire ring wasn’t always there and isn’t part of the natural environment. And as hikermor attests, it can leave rocks charred for millenia.
  • A campfire closes you off from the natural surroundings – you are inside a ball of light and everything outside of it is pitch black. You can’t see the stars clearly. The sounds of the fire drown out the sounds of the wilderness. Aren't you out there to experience these things, not to close yourself off from them?
  • The smell of smoke can permeate and ruin your clothes and gear, and can stink you up pretty good as well.
  • A campfire intrudes on anyone camping near you, and even not so near you. Hearing someone from a nearby campsite can be annoying to your ears; the light from a fire can be the same to your eyes.
  • A campfire introduces the risk of embers burning your clothes, puffy coat, pack, shelter, bug net, rain gear, and a whole lot of other things you don’t want holes in.
  • As Jerome Kern wrote and The Platters sang, smoke gets in your eyes. And that's never fun.
  • Having a campfire can limit campsite selection. You will need to be near downed wood but not so close that you pose a hazard of starting a forest fire. You need enough space for your shelter and the fire, eliminating a lot of choice spots. You don't want to be too far from water in order to put it fully out.
  • It’s true LNT. Having a campfire, even with lots of experience and skill and responsibility and sensitivity and within laws and regulations blah blah -- sorry, but it’s still not LNT.
11:32 a.m. on December 23, 2016 (EST)
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Gathering wood takes 5 minutes for a small cook fire. None of the other "issues" matter at all.  It is true that some people are lazy and like the convenience of a stove.

When live trees are logged, 90 % of the nutrients are in the foliage. Dead and downed wood has almost zero nutrients. It presents a fire hazard.

12:37 p.m. on December 23, 2016 (EST)
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Yeah, that's the problem. I'm just lazy.

7:50 p.m. on December 23, 2016 (EST)
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ppine said:

There are many right ways to do thing in the outdoors. Consider the resources and other people and you can't go wrong. Plenty of people can make a case for killing the campfire.  I will just not agree with them and hike my own hike.

 Agreed. As long as we are camping responsibly, there is no "wrong" or "right" way to do it.

1:48 a.m. on December 24, 2016 (EST)
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In a remote area I like to camp where others don't.  There is no need for a rock ring unless you want to pretend you are in a movie. Dig a hole with the heel of your boot. Build a small fire. Use up your wood. Bury the hole. What fire ring? It can be helpful to use 3 small rocks to support a pot. Scatter then when you are done.

2:40 a.m. on December 24, 2016 (EST)
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The lnt.org web site discourages fires, but also offers ways to minimize impacts when using fire, so it's not a complete no-go in their book. 

When I did the JMT in '81 I didn't carry a stove. I cooked over brief, hot thumbwood fires. Collecting enough wood to boil a little water only takes a few minutes, and with dry wood it also takes little time to get a boil. One technique was to excavate a shallow pit in sandy soil, pull back any pine needles etc., arrange three stones close together to support my pot and feed fuel between them. When done, douse the fire completely, close the pit over the ashes and dust over with pine needles. Disperse the stones black side down or throw them in the river. The impacts are minimal and invisible -- LNT. This worked well in the Sierra at that time, where there was plenty of small dry wood and generally sandy soils. In contrast, in '14, our big JMT group used fire exactly once, in a well-established fire pit at low elevation, after a wet afternoon -- for all the right reasons there is now no fire allowed over 10,000 feet.

In Quetico last summer we used fire a lot more than the stove -- our friends were traditional wilderness canoe trippers and that was their custom. They had a little wood-fueled stove, but we also used the firepits that are found in established campsites at choice sites along every lake. I can't say I was completely comfortable with that -- the dead and down fuel was pretty well picked over so we had to range pretty far to find enough. But it was the local custom, despite Quetico being a wilderness area. If it was just my wife and I and/or a group of like-minded people; i would have gone with the stove.

In the right place and time a modest fire can also be a comfort, especially when camping with kids and or on cold evenings/mornings. I'm guessing that everyone in this thread would agree that we need to park the idea that a campfire is an obligatory element of "camping out", but it seems many of us would also agree that modest fires may be permissible and even welcome in many situtations.

10:18 a.m. on December 24, 2016 (EST)
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I happen to agree with JR on his points...I may build a fire when camping in a designated fore ring...But not when I backpack..If someone builds one I make sure their watching it and it gets putout before I leave an area...

11:39 a.m. on December 24, 2016 (EST)
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A little fire to cook fish or toast a marshmallow for my daughter makes sense. Fire to keep warm or to entertain seems unnecessary. I bring the proper gear for conditions to stay warm and prefer to explore my thoughts rather than stare at flickering flames for entertainment. Being there is something to experience, not endure. Campfires are called hiker TV for a reason and it isn't a compliment as far as I'm concerned.

I consider the time I'm not lugging my pack up and down mountains rare and precious so try to spend it wisely, putting as much of it as I can into just being in the spot I am. Some folks need to keep occupied so they can't hear themselves think. Pretty sure that is where the time wasting effort of collecting wood, building a fire and maintaining it come in. Sort of like the two hour dinner process that some folks seem to go through, it fills the time. I consider doing nothing other than appreciating where I am to be a better use of that time.

Besides you can see the stars so much better if you aren't night blind. If I want to space out on flickering I look up :)

12:01 p.m. on December 25, 2016 (EST)
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"Fire to keep warm...seems unnecessary."

Depends on where you travel.

December 8, 2019
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