How To Rock A Camping Trip Without A Campfire

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Every year millions of people go camping. A campfire would seem like a mandatory requirement for a fun camping trip. However, experienced campers will tell you that a campfire is always optional. We do not need a campfire to cook our meals or heat our water. We do not need a campfire to stay warm. The primary purpose of a campfire is for entertainment with a group on a camping trip. In this article, we will take a deeper dive into what a campfire is, why you might not always build a campfire, and finally campfire alternatives during burn-bans.

Why You Don’t Want A Campfire On A Camping Trip

While most campers do enjoy having a campfire on a camping trip, it’s not always possible to have one.

The most common reason why people avoid building a campfire is due to burn bans. A burn ban is a local rule that is enforced during the dry season. While burn bans are more frequent during the summer, they can happen any time of the year. Burn bans are necessary to avoid sparking forest fires that can do enormous amounts of property and human damage.

While most people who have campfires are able to build a campfire safely, not all campers follow the proper precautions. And there’s always the possibility of an accident such as a gust of wind throwing an ember from the fire into dry grass that then goes up like a candle.

Another reason why people don’t like having campfires on a camping trip is that it’s too darn hot. This is a common reason when camping in the south. During the summer, even night-time temperatures can remain in the high eighties with high humidity. Not to mention that during the day it’s in the upper nineties or even hundreds. The last thing you want to do is sit next to a blazing hot fire that just makes you sweat even more.

When you light a campfire, you will get smoke. Lots of smoke. While the smell of campfire smoke evokes strong nostalgia of the time spent around a campfire, it’s not fun when your being deluged with the smoke of an active campfire. The smoke burns your eyes and causes you to cough. And as many campers can attest, smoke seems to follow you when you try to move. Thus, many people just want to avoid the misery of campfire smoke by not lighting up a campfire.

Finally, building a campfire is a lot of work. In particular, since at most campgrounds, we cannot use found wood. Instead, we are buying wood either at the camp store or from a local shop. Never bring wood from home unless you live within a couple of miles of the campsite. This is to avoid introducing parasites and insects into the local forest. The wood you buy for a campfire at the campsite is too big and is rarely seasoned. Thus it can take a lot of time and energy in getting the fire lit to begin with. If you know you’re going to want a campfire using the wood at the campground, I’d invest in a propane torch. It’s not bushcraft and feels like cheating but as someone who once spent two hours with an entire box of Duraflame starters to get a fire going, I don’t want to waste that much time with building a fire anymore.

What Is The Purpose Of A Campfire

When humans were first living in caves, a campfire was important. Fire provided warmth from the cold, a way to cook your meals, and discourage wildlife from visiting your camp. But with modern life, we don’t need a campfire to enjoy a camping trip.

The purpose of a campfire on a camping trip is not for warmth or cooking. It becomes a form of entertainment and community building. Everyone will enjoy sitting around the campfire sharing stories and perhaps singing songs. It’s also fun to bring along marshmallows and make S’Mores. Here’s a tip on making S’Mores - use Keebler Fudge Stripe Cookies instead of graham crackers and chocolate squares. You get the same great taste but it’s a lot less messy.

How To Stay Warm Without A Campfire

Yes, a campfire can help keep you warm once it’s fully lit. But as we have stated earlier, this is not the only way for you to stay warm while camping. Burn bans and the hassle of building a campfire can prevent you from building a campfire.

But it is still possible to stay warm while camping even without a campfire.

It starts with dressing properly and in layers. You will want to have a synthetic base layer. The most important feature of this layer is that must allow you to sweat and wick away the moisture from your body. You do not want your sweat to be trapped against your body. Otherwise, you can develop hypothermia even if you’re sweating.

I wear athletic t-shirts and pants like Under Armor for my base layer. Since I primarily camp in Texas, normal athletic wear is good enough for me. But there are layers that come with fleece or extra-thick to make you more comfortable in colder temperatures.

Your next layer, the mid-layer should be fleece or wool. The mid-layer is your insulation layer. The great thing about wool is that not only does it keep you warm with less weight, it retains much of its warmth even if it gets wet. However, people often find wool to be itchy. I wear a wool flannel shirt that is wool on the outside but the interior is fleece. Thus it’s much softer to my skin.

Over your mid-layer is your winter coat. Many campers, in particular backpackers, will prefer to use down puffy coats as the winter coat. Down is made from the interior feathers of geese or ducks. It’s incredibly insulating with a very lightweight. They also can be packed down to a very small size. However, down becomes useless if it gets wet.

Which is your final layer, is a rain suit or poncho if you’re expecting rain or snow. The best suits are designed to be 100% waterproof and frankly don’t breathe well. But will keep you dry.

Beyond your clothing, your sleeping bag and sleeping pad will help keep you warm. The sleeping bag traps your body heat next to you. However, their insulation only works with the top half of your body. The part of the body next to the ground, you need a sleeping pad for insulation. Unfortunately, the primary purpose of a sleeping pad is to keep you alive against the cold ground, not comfort. Thus if you invest in a cheap sleeping pad, you likely will survive the night but it’s not going to be a comfortable night’s sleep. However, premium sleeping pads like the Big Agnes I use not only will keep you warm but they are quite comfortable to sleep on as well.

You can also choose to invest in electric blankets (if your campsite has electricity) or a tent heater. Tent heaters are designed to be run in a camping tent. They come with sensors that will turn them off if they get knocked over as well as low oxygen sensors. You can also invest in a portable carbon monoxide detector for added safety.

How To Cook And Heat Water Without A Campfire

You do not need a campfire to cook or heat water on a camping trip. There many great portable gas stoves on the market. Many people who are car camping will invest in a large gas stove like this one from Coleman. Or you can be like me and use a backpacking stove like a Jetboil. I use a Jetboil when I’m camping by myself. On a group trip, several of my friends own Coleman stoves so we use their larger stove.

Coleman Triton 2 Burner Propane Portable Tabletop Camping Stove Cooking GrillColeman Triton 2 Burner Propane Portable Tabletop Camping Stove Cooking GrillColeman Triton 2 Burner Propane Portable Tabletop Camping Stove Cooking GrillJetboil MiniMo Camping and Backpacking Stove Cooking System, Camo BrownJetboil MiniMo Camping and Backpacking Stove Cooking System, Camo BrownJetboil MiniMo Camping and Backpacking Stove Cooking System, Camo Brown


The Best Campfire Alternative

If you want the enjoyment of a campfire but without the smoke, hassle, avoid the firewood gathering and can usually be used during a burn ban, then check out the Radiant portable campfire.

The Radiate campfires are made from recycled soy candle wax with paper briquettes. They are quick to light and once lit will make you feel like your sitting next to a campfire. They are self-contained in a metal tin with a metal lid. So once you are ready to put out the campfire, all you have to do is put the lid over the top and the fire instantly goes out.

My wife got me one of these for my birthday a couple of years ago and I love it. It truly provides the enjoyment of a campfire without the hassle of a traditional campfire. The Radiate campfires are unscented so you can roast marshmallows or hot dogs without worrying about getting a chemical flavor.

Radiate Portable Campfire 1 Pack (Made in The USA)Radiate Portable Campfire 1 Pack (Made in The USA)Radiate Portable Campfire 1 Pack (Made in The USA)


Camping is a fun hobby. While it is enjoyable to roast marshmallows by a campfire, we can’t always make a campfire on our camping trips. Thus as you have seen from this article it’s possible to enjoy a camping trip including staying warm and cook your meals without needing to lite up a fire.

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