How Hot is a Campfire and How To Avoid Fatal Mistakes

how hot is a campfire cover image

Camping is one of the most relaxing and enjoyable experience one could get. Connecting with nature, under the starry sky, and amid trees and echoes of animals is a much-needed experience. But one must know the basics of camping before setting out for the adventure. One question this article will answer is how hot is a campfire and everything related to it. 

I have been camping for 10 years and I am well aware of the do’s and don’ts of camping. Campfire is a necessity while camping. It is literally and figuratively the central portion of your camp. This article will talk about the temperature, color, and type of fire, what type of wood is best for cooking, etc. 

The temperature of the campfire 

The temperature of the campfire depends on the size of it. Smaller campfires have low temperatures whereas large campfires have a higher temperature, enough to melt metals like aluminum. On average, a campfire has a temperature of 930º F or 500º C. This temperature is hot enough to keep you warm on a cold night and cook food. 

A slightly larger campfire with a diameter of about 2 feet can reach temperatures as high as 1200 ºF or 650º C. With the increase in the size of the campfire, the effective heating range increases. So increase your tent’s distance from the campfire as you increase the size of the campfire.

A large campfire (also called a bonfire) can reach incredible temperatures. These bonfires are almost never used in camping (and should not be used). You can see these bonfires in some events in open spaces. The size of these bonfires ranges from a diameter of 4-5 feet all the way to 8-10 feet! As for the temperature, these bonfires can burn at 2192º F or 1200º C. 

This is such a high temperature that it can melt many metals. The temperature this high can melt gold, aluminum, brass, copper, zinc, silver, and even cast iron! So always maintain a safe distance from such a dangerous fire. 

Different parts of the fire 

The temperature of the flame in a campfire is not consistent. Different parts of the flame have different temperatures. A flame has different colors and these colors indicate different temperatures.

Taking the average campfire with 930ºF or 500ºC, this is the temperature of the middle part of the flame. This part is the yellow-colored. The topmost part of the flame which is orange in color has around 400ºC or 750ºF. The hottest part of the flame is in the middle which is usually colored blue or white. The temperature here can reach as high as 800ºC or 1472ºF. 

The best temperature for cooking and heating liquids is around 300-350ºC or around 570-660ºF. Since the topmost part of the flame around 750ºF, placing the cooking lid above the fire will do the job. A distance of about 3-4 inches above the flame is the best position for cooking for a medium-sized campfire. 

illustration of a campfire

Factors affecting the fire

The campfire is affected by three major factors;

  • Fuel type (wood)
  • Fuel amount
  • Oxygen (air supply)

The quality and heat of the campfire vary with the type of fuel used. This means that different types of woods have different combustion properties. We’ll look at four types of wood and their combustion quality to see which one is the best for your camping needs. 

Here are the four wood types and their qualities which make them great for campfire fuel;

Oakwood: Oak wood is very easy to find and is found in abundance, so there is no fear of running out of fuel. It also burns slowly and at a steady rate so you get heat for a long period. 

Hickory wood: Hickory wood is great if you want a quick and very hot fire. Hickory wood burns very fast and produces a lot of heat. 

Cedarwood: Similar to oakwood with slow and steady combustion and constant, steady heat.

Ashwood: I personally love ashwood. The reason for that is it burns quickly but the flame lasts longer and there is very little smoke coming from the campfire. And from personal experience, I think food cooked in ashwood tastes much better than food cooked on any other wood. 

I also buy a packet of cherry wood chunks which is readily available in the market. These chunks help a lot in starting and sustaining the fire (which is one of the most difficult things for new campers). 

There are different sized woods which serve a different purpose. These are named accordingly; tinder, kindling, and firewood. Here’s what their purpose is;

Tinder – Small, thin, dry woods that are used to start a fire. They burn quickly and easily but for a short time.

Kindling – Small sticks and twigs that start a fire with decent flames and are great for burning the larger fuel woods.

Firewoods – timber or thick wood logs that are the most difficult to burn but they burn the longest. So the order should be tinder>kindling>firewood. 

Illustrations of wood logs

A few don’ts 

Now that I have mentioned how to get a great campfire, there are a few things you must avoid to ensure a safe and healthy campfire. Make sure you follow the steps mention before and avoid these steps mention here. 

Avoid using anything green or wet in a campfire. While this may seem like a no-brainer, the reason for using something green or wet is not just because it will dampen the fire but some plants such as poison ivy or other toxic plants can produce harmful fumes. 

Always maintain a good distance from the campfire. Tents must always be placed 5-6 feet away from the campfire and if the campfire is larger, camps should be placed further away. 

Make sure the fire does not produce too much smoke. Don’t burn anything you have to spare such as plastic or paper. Lesser the fumes, the safer the campfire. 

Always place the camp and campfire in an open space with sufficient air. The fire produces not only carbon dioxide but also carbon monoxide. And it is known that even smaller amounts of carbon monoxide can be deadly. Read more about carbon monoxide poisoning here to know more. 

Keep the size of the campfire medium to small but never too large. The flame licks of a large campfire can become very dangerous very quickly. 

And finally, always extinguish the fire properly and make sure you don’t leave anything dry around the fireplace. I usually pour water all-over and around the campfire. A single spark can start a wildfire and we can see now how devastating these wildfires are. 

This was all about the temperature of a campfire and everything related to it. Hope it was helpful for the readers. If you want, you can read more articles:

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