I Love Green

Come on baby, light my (eco friendly) fire!


More from Outdoor Living Newsletter February Outdoor Living Newsletter
 
Woman starting a campfire
Woman starting a campfire

Imagine you're in the following situation: You return to your campsite from a day of hiking as the daylight is dwindling, everybody is hungry and tired, and the temperature is dropping as night approaches. Being the wise outdoorsman (or woman) that you are, you know priority number one is to get a fire going. Here's how to build a roaring campfire that's perfect for cooking, and is a friend to the environment too.

First things first. You need a clear space for your campfire. A five-by-five swath of ground with no overhanging foliage should be sufficient. Dig a small pit if you can and set up a ring of large stones to contain your fire. Fetch a bucket of water and keep it handy in case of an emergency. You won't want to have to bother about this after you accidentally light your eyebrows on fire.

Seeing as there are plenty of trees around; wood is certainly not in short supply, right? Wrong. Not just any wood will do. Green leaves and branches from live trees contain too much moisture, which means you'll get white smoke in your face while you're heating up the beanie-weenies, and you'll smell all night. Collect dry, dead wood off the ground. Alternatively, if you are at an RV park or campground, buy a bundle of firewood, perfect for crispy dry burning. By doing this, you're preserving the campsite for future campers. Furthermore, by using local wood, you will not risk introducing strange insects into a fragile, foreign ecosystem.

You'll need tinder, kindling, and fuel. Tinder can be crispy, brown leaves, paper-thin strips of bark, wood shavings, brittle twigs or even lint from your pocket. The idea is to get materials that will light easily. Loosely pile a large handful of tinder in the center of your fire pit.

Next you need small sticks, to prop up over the tinder like a teepee. Gather as much as you can carry in both hands. Quality kindling is generally no thicker than a pencil or your thumb, and it will snap cleanly when you bend it. If it doesn't, set it aside.

Finally, pile up fuel of varying thicknesses. Fallen branches and dry logs in your firewood bundle are sufficient. Again, these should break easily under your feet or across your knee. Grow your fire with small, wrist-thick branches that will burn easily without snuffing out your flame. As the fire heats up, you can use larger pieces of wood, but exercise some patience until the blaze is really roaring.

Sure there's more to building a warm, long-burning fire than you might expect. A well-built, eco-friendly fire requires planning, focus, and persistence. But a campfire is comfort. Without it your dinner will be raw, your clothes wet, and your body cold. Resist the urge to take shortcuts when igniting your campfire. When possible, eat and cook with light-weight, reusable dishes. This will cut down on waste and the temptation to burn your trash. Though they are flammable, items such as plastic ware, Styrofoam products, and chemicals release toxins into the environment and may contaminate any food you plan to cook. We suggest you go au naturale.

When you are ready to leave make sure your fire has died out. Pour water over the ashes and smother them with dirt. Soak the ring of stones if you had one. Finally leave any unused wood behind spreading it out to leave the area as near as you found it.

Top eco friendly campfire tips:

  1. Use local wood - collect or buy locally, never transport wood.
  2. Prepare your space - contain the fire, check for low hanging branches.
  3. Avoid white smoke - stick to dry wood, not fresh greenery.
  4. Don't burn plastics - resist the temptation to burn your trash, including paper with plastic coating.
  5. Make sure your fire is out - when you are finished pour water over your ashes.

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