Episode 5: Campfire 101

We can all pretty much agree that no camping trip is complete without the addition of a campfire to gather around. Whether you’re using it for cooking a meal, making divine chocolate s’mores, warming up, or smoke signaling the International Space Station of your whereabouts down on earth, fires have the ability to bring us together and turn around even the most miserable day on the trails. Here at Torro we’re all about a good time, but want to take a moment to talk about necessary precautions to take when playing with fire, so we brought in experienced overlander and career Firefighter/EMT Brendan Lyons to lend some insight with his top campfire safety tips.

Firefighter & Overland - Brendan Lyons

Brendan & his 2012 Wrangler Overland Rig

Brendan's Tips: "Safety & Nature First"

  • If your campsite has an existing fire ring in a safe spot, use it! This not only helps minimize the impact on the land, but also in many cases will give you a safe established place for your fire to take place.
  • Stay away from overhanging trees, old stumps, fallen leaves, and dry grass. These can sometimes catch fire inadvertently and quickly become uncontrollable, leading to wildfires and immeasurable destruction in worst case scenarios. A dirt perimeter of at least 6 feet is recommended around your fire ring to minimize this risk.
  • Never use gas, oil, or any other accelerants to "help" the fire.
  • Have water nearby for extinguishing the fire if it gets out of hand. A shovel might also be useful as throwing dirt on a fire can help put it out. Make SURE the fire bed is completely cold before calling it quits.
  • Never leave a campfire unattended: the fire should always be extinguished before the last person goes to bed for the night, and morning fires should be put out before you leave the campsite for the day.
  • Many places have laws about transporting firewood from other states. This is due to bacteria and infectious bugs that can wipe out entire landscapes. Please be sure to follow these laws to avoid the risk of profoundly impacting nature for fellow adventurers.
  • Never cut down living trees or branches for firewood, only use fallen limbs and logs.
  • Things like plastics and oils do not belong in campfires. Not only can they burn out of control, they are also horrible for your lungs, terrible for the environment, and can severely damage the ecosystem not only around a campsite but also in the atmosphere.
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Lighting A Fire

When it comes time to light a fire, there are steps you can take to ensure you get a successful burn without too many attempts. As with many things in life, a good foundation can pave the way for a great blaze at your campsite.

  • Start by piling dry twigs and small sticks (called tinder) loosely together in your fire pit. Laying them tightly on top of each other lessens the amount of oxygen capable of reaching the flame. The light density of these materials is best for catching fire quickly to get you started, but sometimes adding crumpled newspaper, cotton balls, or lightweight cardboard can help too!
  • Pile larger sticks and small branches (known as kindling) in a teepee formation overtop of the tinder. These materials are denser and will take longer to catch fire, but will also burn longer and establish a good base fire before heavier logs are added.
  • Use a match or lighter to set fire to the tinder. Extension lighters are often helpful in getting the flame to the base of your sticks, and allow for safer use by keeping you further away from the flame. As the flames grow, the kindling will catch fire too. You can blow gently on the tinder and kindling to add oxygen and help get it going.
  • Once the kindling is ablaze and doesn’t need assistance burning, feed it with more branches before eventually adding real firewood. Firewood can be fallen logs around your campsite, or chopped wood you safely carried with you. Once your firewood is lit and burning, you can add new wood as old pieces start to turn to ash, keeping an eye out for not overloading the firepit.

When it’s time to extinguish your fire, dump lots of water on it. Stir the ash and remaining embers with a shovel, and then add more water to the fire pit. It is YOUR responsibility to make sure the fire is completely out and the fire pit is cold before you leave the campsite or go to sleep.

Campfire in the remote wilderness

Campfires can be some of the most memorable parts of camping trips. From songs sun around them to burnt hot dogs and delicious melted s’mores, they’re a focal point for any campsite evening. Knowing how to light and manage a fire can be a lifesaving device as much as it can make you the most popular person at camp for getting it going. When it’s time to bring the fire to life, be sure to practice these safe techniques to have the best fire around.

We'll see you down the trail!

            - Torro Offroad


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