Campfires: Wood, propane, or none? - Escape Trailer Owners Community

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Old 04-19-2014, 01:35 PM   #1
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Campfires: Wood, propane, or none?

My wife and I backpacked and kayak camped in wilderness areas when we were younger, and have not spent time in car-accessible campgrounds except for the occasional overnight with a tent 20+ years ago.

At that time the air in some campgrounds was badly polluted because of campers attempting to burn green firewood, and keeping their smoky fires going all day long, whether any of their party were near it or not. For us, that defeated two of the main purposes of camping: breathing fresh air, and enjoying the natural smells of the forest, meadow, beach, or desert.

What's the situation now? Do some campgrounds supply properly seasoned firewood? Have others banned wood fires altogether? Do some prohibit open fires during forest fire season? Have a lot of campers switched to propane "campfires" like the Camp Chef line, etc.?

We don't plan to use wood campfires at all, possibly since we heat our home with wood (fuel seasoned at least three years, highly efficient woodstove), and would welcome a break from fire-starting and tending. We are thinking of getting a propane fire ring to use sparingly so we can eat and visit outside when temperatures are low in spring and fall.

Thanks for your thoughts on campground air quality, and perhaps for a recommendation of a fire ring that has worked well for you.
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Old 04-19-2014, 01:39 PM   #2
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Can't speak for everywhere, but because of parasite problems with trees, a lot of campgrounds are banning wood brought in from elsewhere for campfires. On the rare occasions we build fire, we purchase from the camp host if available.
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Old 04-19-2014, 02:13 PM   #3
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Loved it when Yosemite banned fires years ago. Also, breathing that stuff is pretty unhealthy. Going to bed smoky smelling...yuk. Check this out:
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Old 04-19-2014, 03:17 PM   #4
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If you have no choice, then a propane firepit could be the answer, but call me a traditionalist, as I just can't get into the propane firepits. I have sat around a couple, and they just don't have the same psychological effect (personality) that the coals and flames of a wood fire do. They also don't throw off near the heat either, and on chillier nights we often stoke the fire up good, as there can be up to 20 people around it. I will also take the smoke issues associated with a wood fire over the burned gas smell of a propane one.

It is actually quite new to me to camp in places that don't allow fires, having hit a couple in BC at the Escape Rallies. Most campgrounds around here have firepits.

As much of our camping is with friends and family at our rec land surrounded by forestry, we have no shortage of wood at all. Just last year we had 3-4 person crews working a hydraulic splitter steady for a total of four days, probably a 10 year supply at hand.

Redneck fire, Bennett style.



Guessing it might be hard to capture images like these by a propane flame.



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Old 04-19-2014, 03:30 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Bennett View Post
If you have no choice, then a propane firepit could be the answer, but call me a traditionalist, as I just can't get into the propane firepits. I have sat around a couple, and they just don't have the same psychological effect (personality) that the coals and flames of a wood fire do. They also don't throw off near the heat either, and on chillier nights we often stoke the fire up good, as there can be up to 20 people around it. I will also take the smoke issues associated with a wood fire over the burned gas smell of a propane one.

It is actually quite new to me to camp in places that don't allow fires, having hit a couple in BC at the Escape Rallies. Most campgrounds around here have firepits.

As much of our camping is with friends and family at our rec land surrounded by forestry, we have no shortage of wood at all. Just last year we had 3-4 person crews working a hydraulic splitter steady for a total of four days, probably a 10 year supply at hand.

Redneck fire, Bennett style.



Guessing it might be hard to capture images like these by a propane flame.



That is one big twig fire. You are a rebel Jim. I also like a nice hot wood fire on those late nights with the gang. Lately we have gotten quite a lot of use out of our propane fire pit. Is quite easy to use, comfortable, instant on or off, and no wood smoke smell on your clothes or skin when you go to bed. Also saves a lot of money sometimes as the campground firewood can get quite costly.
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Old 04-19-2014, 03:44 PM   #6
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More and more CG's sell packaged fire wood due to the borers so it's good and dry. At least around here.

Some CG's ban wood fire, some ban propane ones too, more for dry conditions though.

No, a lot of campers have not switched to gas. I could probably count the ones I've seen on 1 finger. Wood still means camping to most.

I picked up one of the Camp Chef propane fire rings last spring. No smoke to chase me around the fire, no smelling like smoke, instant off.

Works very well when you don't have time or inclination to use wood. I frequently use it when returning from evening fishing, it's nice in that it's instant on and off. I turn it on for maybe an hour while grilling and eating a late dinner before crashing. Looks pretty good, not as good as Jim's little cook fire there, but pretty good. It does have to be dark to see the flames. Heat is also just okay. I suppose you could get a bigger, hotter one if you wanted, I opted for small collapsible. This is my only use for the external gas connection.

Keep in mind they use a lot of gas, mine is about as small as you can get, size wise, and it still uses 60k btu an hour on high (1 gallon of propane is 91k btu). I rarely use it on high.
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Old 04-19-2014, 03:49 PM   #7
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Well, can't really see anyone gathering too close around that "campfire". I don't think you would get away with trying to burn something like that in a campground.
Many private campgrounds will not allow open fires. During fire bans, propane campfires provide an alternative but in the more extreme fire danger periods, even those are now being banned. In Alberta, many of the good old "rednecks" choose to ignore the fire bans and light up after dark after they think the rangers have gone home, and then often leave them burning when they go home even when there is water near by. Not sure of the mentality, sort of a social statement that "I can screw anything up for anyone, government be damned", I guess.
The positives that the propane campfires bring would be that you can regulate the flame height easily, cleaner burning so no smoke smell, many but not all places accept them, and when you turn the propane off, it's out.
Negatives are that during extreme fire danger periods, they may be banned, a few places won't allow them, they are one more thing to pack around, and some models use a lot of propane.
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Old 04-19-2014, 03:51 PM   #8
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WOW Jim, camping with you must be exciting. I've just started carrying a propane fire pit. It has some advantages: It takes up much less room in the bed of my truck, when I want to go to bed I just turn off the gas, when I want to take a walk in the morning, I again just turn off the gas, and when I enter the trailer I don't smell like smoke. It also has some disadvantages: gas fire dances, but not like a wood fire with it's coals, I don't stay up as long (wood fires keep me awake dodging the smoke), the radiant heat given off from a wood fire is much greater, I miss the smell of wood burning, and last, there's just nothing to poke with a gas fire! Guys like to poke you know.
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Old 04-19-2014, 03:55 PM   #9
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I recall sitting around a camp fire on a dark moonless night. A fellow camper started to philosophize on the mesmerizing effect of a fire, how people could sit and look at it for hours.
Another piped up, "well, there's nothing else to look at".
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Old 04-19-2014, 03:58 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Bennett View Post
If you have no choice, then a propane firepit could be the answer, but call me a traditionalist, as I just can't get into the propane firepits. I have sat around a couple, and they just don't have the same psychological effect (personality) that the coals and flames of a wood fire do. They also don't throw off near the heat either, and on chillier nights we often stoke the fire up good, as there can be up to 20 people around it. I will also take the smoke issues associated with a wood fire over the burned gas smell of a propane one.

It is actually quite new to me to camp in places that don't allow fires, having hit a couple in BC at the Escape Rallies. Most campgrounds around here have firepits.

As much of our camping is with friends and family at our rec land surrounded by forestry, we have no shortage of wood at all. Just last year we had 3-4 person crews working a hydraulic splitter steady for a total of four days, probably a 10 year supply at hand.

Redneck fire, Bennett style.



Guessing it might be hard to capture images like these by a propane flame.



Wow ...... is that why our summer nights were so hot last year ?
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