Caravan World — 16 June 2012

I JUST LOVE a campfire, don’t you?

There’s something about the sweetly scented smoke and theyellow, flickering flames that makes it very easy to relax and unwind.
Who wouldn't enjoy a night spent in good company around an open campfire, mesmerised and mellowed by the hypnotic, dancing flames.
A communal campfire makes for the ultimate happy hour and is bound to draw fellow travellers from all around.

Even just the smell of burning driftwood takes me back to my childhood and winter nights spent snuggled around a roaring fire while fishing from the local beach.
And the memories of the same simple pleasures enjoyed with my own children are still fresh in my mind and heart.
As a family, those evenings around the campfire were a special time – a time free of television and computer games, when the kids would talk and we would listen and the worries of the work-a-day world were forgotten.

Depending on the time of year and where you’re camping, a campfire can produce even more than mellowed moods and treasured memories. Even a small fire will cook your food, provide light and warmth in winter and help keep the sandflies and mosquitoes at bay in summer.


Unfortunately, these days it’s becoming more and more difficult to enjoy these simple pleasures. Many national parks, caravan parks, campgrounds and rest areas now ban open fires – and
often for good reason.
Even in a bush camp, it may be inadvisable to strike a match when conditions are dry, and there is often a blanket ban on any sort of fire.

Even if you do find a site where you can have a fire, collecting firewood can be a problem. In popular spots the surrounding area may be picked clean of good timber, while in national parks even branches lying on the ground are protected as they are a part of the natural environment.

In these cases, you simply have to pack your own.
Half a sack bag of chopped timber should be enough to cook the snags and have a cosy campfire afterwards.
When choosing firewood, remember that hardwood will burn longest and hottest and make the best coals (ideal for cooking), while softwoods, such as pine, are ideal for starting the fire.

It goes without saying that you must take great care with an open fire.
If fireplaces are provided, use them where possible.
Clear the area around your campfire of dry, flammable vegetation and ensure any fuels are stored well away from the flames. Remember that some clothes are highly flammable, and always keep children at a safe distance from the flames.


It’s preferable to extinguish your fire before retiring for the night and it’s best to douse it well with water, rather than just cover it with soil or sand.

Findings from the Royal Children’s Hospital Burns Research Group and the Queensland Fire and Rescue Service showed that even an average-sized campfire can reach more than 500°C after burning for three hours.
Extinguish the campfire by covering it with sand or soil, and there can still be 100°C of heat left 8 hours later.

Compare that to the fact that just one second of contact with material heated to only 70° can result in a full-thickness (third-degree) burn.
Imagine the gruesome damage to tender feet, whether young or old, from stepping into such a camouflaged ember pit.

A campfire extinguished with a 10L bucket of water would retain little or no heat 10 minutes later.

With a bit of care, a night around the campfire will produce happy memories to last a lifetime.

Share your campfire tips below.

Written exclusively for Caravan World online


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