To many campers, the campfire is a beloved and indispensable outdoor tradition—a kinetic, luminous, dreamlike force of nature that for generations has served as the centerpiece of backwoods gatherings.
Campfires remain a cherished institution among visitors to drive-in campgrounds. In backcountry settings, though, their use has diminished greatly for a number of compelling reasons. Read on for REI's advice about fire etiquette in either setting.
Some high-elevation wilderness destinations prohibit campfires. Why? The reasons include:
Campfires, though, can be lifesavers in emergency situations. If you are wet, cold, without a working stove and unable to find shelter, a fire can help you fight off hypothermia. Follow these guidelines when building a fire in the backcountry.
Campfires are 1) fun in campgrounds, 2) many times restricted in high-elevation wilderness settings and 3) often vital in emergencies. If you build a fire, it is your responsibility to know how to build it, maintain it, extinguish it, then minimize any impact it creates. Happy camping, and please be safe.
For related information, visit the Leave No Trace project homepage.
Editor's note: A previous version of this story stated that "at high-elevation wilderness destinations (typically those above 4,000 feet), campfires are rarely permitted." This assertion was based on guidance from land-management agencies such as the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, which prohibits fires in the Adirondack Mountains above 4,000 feet on a year-round basis (see final bullet point in the agency's list of rules). Elevation prohibitions, however, vary by park and agency. In Yosemite National Park, for example, 2012 regulations mandate that no backcountry wildfires be burned above 9,600 feet or near certain lakes. It's smart to inquire locally in advance for fire regulations at your destination.
By T.D. Wood
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Last updated: Tue Aug 14 15:23:25 PDT 2012
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