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

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Old 04-19-2014, 12:35 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, 12:39 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, 01:13 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, 02:17 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, 02:30 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, 02:44 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, 02:49 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, 02:51 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, 02:55 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, 02:58 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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Old 04-19-2014, 04:43 PM   #11
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Another option we use is a Smokey Joe grill. It's small and sits at our feet. Take a bunch of charcoal and load up the grill. Once it is going good it puts off a lot of heat for two people and it's kind of fun watching the red embers. For extra fun we pick up a bunch of small sticks around the campground and toss them on a few at the time and watch them burn.
It cost less than fire wood from the camp host, it's easy to start and when done just put the Smokey Joe lid on. Not much smoke or smell either. Of course a glass of wine helps the experience.
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Old 04-19-2014, 07:04 PM   #12
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Hi: All...No matter the size or style of your campfire... which ever side you're on... is the smokiest side Alf
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Old 04-20-2014, 06:04 PM   #13
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Okay, I must confess, fires like the one I showed there only happen about once a year at our land. It is all the wood not bucked up for firewood (branches, brush, whatever). It is also in a gravel pit we excavated for use building roads and pads. Always great fun to set afire though.

On cold nights we do go through a pile of split wood, but not a big deal as we have no shortage. And once you get a hot fire going, with a good be of coals, all the smoke tends to go straight up due to the chimney effect created.
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Old 04-20-2014, 08:34 PM   #14
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Last summer I attended a party thrown by a friend that lives on the shore of Lake Ontario. He built a fire the size of Jim's on the rocks along the shore. Great to look at, then it started popping. We first blamed wet wood, but before to long it was obvious the the rocks were exploding. Coals & logs were flying 20' into the air, and shards of rock whizzing by us. We headed for the hills.

Lesson learned - don't build a hot fire on wet rocks!
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Old 04-20-2014, 08:40 PM   #15
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I can also advise that making soup the traditional native way by placing hot rocks in water with veg and no salt results in raw, warm, gritty veg in water.
Learned that at the outdoor school where I was one of the adult supervisors.
Obviously, the instructors still had something to learn.
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Old 04-20-2014, 08:51 PM   #16
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I enjoy a good campfire, to set and while away the time mesmerized by the flames. I camp mostly in state parks in NC, SC, & VA and while most advertise against outside wood enforcement is lacking. The use of volunteer labor for camp host and litter training means you really have to get out of hand before anyone even speaks to you.

The amount of wood commercially moved from area to area far out weighs camping use.20140418_192301.jpg
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Old 04-20-2014, 09:11 PM   #17
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Quote:
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Lesson learned - don't build a hot fire on wet rocks!
I have used wet sandstone rocks to build a fire ring, and they too cracked and broke up bad.
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Old 04-21-2014, 09:45 AM   #18
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While we sometimes still like a campfire, there are more and more places with restrictions. For Christmas we gave ourselves a 'campfire in a can'. Campfire In A Can - Portable Propane Fire Pit for Backyard & Camping We have the propane quick connect and converted the campfire so it's easy to hook up and when we're ready for bed, just turn it off. (Did the same for the Weber) Great company. I know c Camco makes 2 versions now - the little red campfire I think in 2 sizes.

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