How Hot is a Campfire?

It might surprise you learn the answer to how hot is a campfire - let's dive into it.

If you’ve ever been camping, you’ve probably wondered how hot a campfire gets.

The average temperature of a campfire is 930 degrees Fahrenheit (498 degrees celsius)

However, there’s more to it than that and it can not only help you stay warmer but also build better campfires!

Factors that affect the campfire temperature

Size matters

While the above temperature is accurate for smaller campfires, a medium-sized one can even reach temperatures up to 1,110 degrees Fahrenheit (593°C).

If you count the largest man-made fires, like bonfires, the temperatures can reach up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit (1204°C)

Besides being an interesting factoid, this is important to remember when it comes to cooking as well as not damaging your campfire accessories. Here are the melting points of some common metals:

  • Aluminum: 1220°F (660°C )
  • Stainless Steel:  2500-2785°F (1375 – 1530°C)
  • Brass: 1710°F (930°C)
  • Copper: 1983°F (1084°C)
  • Cast Iron: 2200°F (1204°C)

While it’s pretty unlikely that your campfire would reach these temperatures, it’s still cool to see how hot that is. Also, some camping materials may not be able to withstand the hotter temperatures so that’s something to keep in mind.

Construction

Most of us grew up seeing people build triangular teepee shape campfires, but never really knew why. There are a couple of reasons for this:

  1. The shape gives the campfire structural integrity to not fall over (if done right!)
  2. It leaves plenty of room for air to course through the fire

Triangles are the strongest shape and make the fire capable of withstanding pretty much anything. Depending on your firewood, sometimes this can be a challenge to get right though.

Secondly, the airflow benefits allow the fire to burn hotter and keep it alive longer than if it had less. Restrictive campfires can smother themselves with sloppy construction (or over-engineered designs.)

Wood type

Even the type of wood you’re burning matters because they all have different properties. Here are some of my preferred types of wood for campfires:

  • Cedar
  • Hickory
  • Oak

All of those will make for a great campfire. However, you’ll want to avoid using vines / flowering plants as kindling as they can put off toxic fumes. Not to mention they make for poor fuel sources anyway. Some common plants that you should avoid burning are Oleander, Rhododendron, and Poison Ivy.

Teepee campfires like this one are the strongest shape by far.

How to build a campfire

So while we covered the optimal shape for a campfire, there’s a little bit more to it. You’ll need to have your kindling and tinder ready to go! The tinder is the smaller material that you’ll use to start the fire, like leaves, paper, and small chunks of wood.

Your kindling will be your slightly bigger pieces of wood that you can build the initial teepee structure with. You can start by building your kindling around the tinder, then using your fire starter, light the tinder.

As the fire grows, the kindling will begin to catch. This is where you can start to put your actual fuel around the kindling in another teepee shape. These are the bigger logs/wood chunks that will burn for hours.

Don’t feel as though you have to rush this process. Sometimes there are unforeseen challenges with starting campfires such as wet wood, malfunctioning fire starters, strong wind, etc. Workaround them as they arise and you’ll be on your way to a solid fire. It wouldn’t be camping if everything went right!

Also, while I’ll be covering safety in the next section, I wanted to mention this here as it applies. Do NOT use materials like gasoline to make starting your fire easier. It’s very easy to use too much and soak the wood, or even fumes can build up leading to an explosion. Even worse, a potential fire that can’t be easily contained.

Campfire safety measures you should follow

It’s very important to not only follow the rules of where you’re camping but also following general fire safety. Campfires are a very large cause of wildfires in states like California that have caused billions in damage.

Here are some actionable tips to make sure you never have an issue:

  1. Pick a spot away from dry brush and other materials that could catch fire.
  2. Always keep the fire contained (rocks or fire pits work well.)
  3. Always have water and a fire extinguisher ready.
  4. Extinguish the fire with water before leaving the campsite.

When picking a spot for your campfire, consider the area around it within ten to twenty feet. Wind can carry embers onto places you thought you were far away enough from!

Additionally, keeping the fire contained will prevent an accidental spread. A small fire can become a large one in a matter of seconds that can’t be as easily contained. This is why being able to extinguish the fire at a moment’s notice is so key.

Lastly, always truly extinguish the fire when you’re done. While some folks think that covering a used fire up with soil does the job, that’s not always the case. A fire can smolder under soil for hours, making it hazardous. Not just to the environment, but other campers too.

Everyone enjoys a good campfire!

Conclusion

Now that you know the answer to the age-old question “how hot does a campfire get?” – but also how to build a better one. Campfires have been an essential part of camping and life since before written history. There’s something so satisfying about building one and enjoying the fruits of your labor.

A good campfire makes for the perfect place to cook some food, share some warmth (and stories), and keep bugs away. It’s a skill that will benefit all of your outings that will be appreciated.

As mentioned above, don’t neglect to follow basic safety when you’re making a fire too. It really doesn’t take anything extra and can make a world of difference! Let’s do our best to keep nature the way it was before us and safe for future generations to enjoy as well.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to share! I’d love to hear any stories or tips you may have about campfires.

Sources

https://www.metalsupermarkets.com/melting-points-of-metals

https://science.howstuffworks.com/engineering/structural/geodesic-dome2.htm

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