Here Is Why Campfire Smoke Always Seems To Follow You

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Picture this: you and a couple of your friends are seated around a campfire enjoying the crackling of the burning firewood and the warmth it provides. The weather is perfect and the sky is clear. You stoke the firewood, sit back, and relax. Just as you are about to take in a long breath of the cool, fresh summer’s night air, a waft of smoke hits you smack in the face. And at that moment, you wonder why smoke always seems to follow you no matter where you sit.

If this is something that happens to you a lot, then continue reading to learn why campfire smoke tends to follow people and what you can do to keep this from ever happening again.

Why Does Smoke Follow People?

Well, there are two main reasons: the first one is the direction the wind is blowing and the second is how often it changes direction. While there are still a few more factors at play here, like your movements around the campfire, it all boils down to wind direction and frequency. At this point, you must be wondering how! Here is a breakdown of all the factors that affect how smoke moves, especially when it comes to campfires.

Wind Speed and Direction

The wind is the number one culprit for causing this infuriating spectacle, and factors like how often it changes direction and the speed it’s moving play a major role. Smoke will always follow the direction of least resistance – it will always go where the wind is blowing. So, if you have set your fire in a spot where the wind changes direction often, chances are the wind will continually blow smoke your way, creating the perception that it is following you around.

The solution to this is to set up your campfire at a spot that’s less windy or where the wind consistently blows in a specific direction. This way, provided you aren’t seated downwind, smoke will, for the better part, blow away from you.

But what if you are camping in an area that’s quite windy?

If you are in an area where the wind is constantly changing direction and the smoke always seems to be headed your way, your best bet would be to find somewhere else around the fire to sit – away from the direction the wind seems to blow the most. Right? Well, not quite!

While you could always move to another spot around the fire, the problem with doing this is that you end up disrupting wind flow. And when the wind is disrupted, it creates something known as a tailwind, which makes the smoke look like it’s gravitating towards you, irrespective of where you sit.

Still, wondering why smoke seems to always be following you? Well, it is all because of physics.

Since you did not come here for a complicated lesson in science, here is a quick, five-step guide to the role physics plays in all this.

  • When a fire is lit, it heats the surrounding air, causing it to rise. As hot air rises, it creates a pressure system that draws cooler air around the campfire into it.
  • And since you and your buddies are near the fire, your bodies act as barriers that disrupt/block the movement of air as it heads towards the fire; this, in turn, leads to low air pressure.
  • And since you - and your buddies - haven’t surrounded the fire, that means that air is still flowing freely towards it through the gaps between you. This, in turn, creates something known as an atmospheric imbalance.
  • The atmospheric imbalance created then causes air to move around, creating wind.
  • The wind created then heads towards those who are seated in its way, carrying smoke from the fire with it.

How Do You Solve the Problem?

There are several options that you can use to lessen the possibility of smoke from a campfire following you. Here is a look at some that have proven to work.

First, try and light your fire when it’s still. If you try lighting a fire when it is windy, chances are the smoke will blow towards you. As such, choosing a time when the wind is still to light your campfire could help solve your problem.

But what do you do if you are in a generally windy location? Well, the other option would be to try and light your fire in a spot that does not have too many obstructions (like trees, bushes, vehicles, or buildings) around. Since large objects hamper air movement, they generally affect the frequency in which wind changes direction. To avoid this, consider going for a spot where there are fewer obstructions.

Another way to enjoy a relatively smokeless campfire is by using dry firewood – dry wood is less smoky than greenwood. At the same time, make sure items like leaves and grass don’t get into your fire as they could create smoke.

Consider sitting a bit further back from the campfire. Since the main reason for setting up a campfire is for you to enjoy its warmth, do not sit too far back that you can’t enjoy the fire. For the best experience, consider sitting about five feet from the fire. That way, you are less likely to disturb the flow of air with your presence, lowering the chances of smoke moving towards you.

Always make sure that there aren’t any large objects between you and the fire to allow air to move freely.

Once you have settled in around the campfire, try and avoid getting up and moving around the fire too much. As such, consider keeping your drinks, snacks, and whatever else you might need close by, or behind where you are seated, to avoid unnecessary movement that could potentially lead to a plume of smoke drifting towards you.

Conclusion

Many people who love to go camping have always wondered why smoke loves to follow them and have tried all sorts of things, like saying “white rabbit” every time smoke comes towards them in the hopes that it will go away, to accepting their fate and comforting themselves by saying “at least smoke is attracted to beauty.”

Hopefully, this post contains enough info in it to persuade you that there are more reliable ways of dealing with smoke and ensuring it never follows you again. The next time you go camping, try and implement some of the suggestions given here for a chance to have a great time by the fire minus the smoke.

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