News & Updates

Campfire Alternatives

Susy Alkaitis - March 19, 2018

Amboy, CA: We are about to blow your outdoors-loving world.


You can have fun camping WITHOUT A CAMPFIRE.

Yes, we mean it. And, for the record, Leave No Trace is not anti-campfire. We, too, grew up roasting s’mores and hot dogs over campfires; that is, if by roasting, you mean burning into oblivion. We’ve strummed guitars and had deep (okay,“deep”) discussions by flickering flames.

So we’re not anti-campfire. What we are is pro-responsible campfire and, sometimes, that means choosing to go fire-free. Maybe there’s not enough fuel to make a fire without destroying vital habitat or food sources for wildlife. Or maybe we don’t have enough water to make “campfire soup” to totally extinguish our fire.

Or maybe there’s a fire ban because the risk of wildfire is high or the local ecology is too sensitive to sustain what can end up being thousands of campfires.

“But how will I cook and stay warm? And see? And have any fun at all? AND scare away big, bad  campfire-averse animals?” We know, you’ve got questions. Check out this video for answers!

How will I cook?

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Lightweight, portable camp stoves keep getting, well, even lighter and more portable. Our Primus Light+ boils water faster than you can say “one-match fire.” Okay, maybe it’s not that fast, but it’s pretty speedy, compact, and turns on and off with a quick turn of a knob. When we’re hungry – and who ISN’T after spending a day outside – you can’t beat making a meal in minutes. And, for the record, you CAN (carefully) roast marshmallows over a camp stove.

How will I stay warm?

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Make like a cake and layer up! Long underwear and a lightweight puffy jacket can go a long way in cutting the cold. And don’t forget, sleeping bags aren’t just for sleeping! Nothing keeps us toastier than wrapping up in a big, warm sleeping bag cocoon while we’re looking at the stars. (Bonus points+extra warmth if you snuggle.)

And speaking of stars…

How will I have fun?


Watching dancing flames is fun, but when your eyes are locked on the “ranger tv,” your night vision is compromised and you’re less tuned in with the natural world around you. Sit quietly and listen for wildlife. Look up at the sky and watch for shooting stars. Bust out a deck of cards or board game.

How will I see?


We know night brings a special kind of darkness when you’re out in the wild. While that can be a good thing (again, stars), we get not wanting to trip over your tent line for the 19th time. This is why we have a quiver of portable, packable light options. Headlamps are great for hands-free illumination, inflatable solar lanterns are light (pun intended) and packable, and a candle lantern can provide just the right amount of ambiance.

How will I scare away animals?

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Campfires haven’t been shown to deter wildlife. In fact, studies have shown that fire rings are often the first place that animals visit in a campsite because of campers’ attempts to burn food and trash. What is more likely to keep your site critter-free is proper food and “smellable” storage, so check with land managers for recommendations on how to store these items.

What’s your favorite campfire alternative? Comment below to add to our list!

Enjoy Your World. Leave No Trace.

Jessie and Matt

Leave No Trace's Jessie Johnson and Matt Schneider are part of the 2018 Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainer Program that provides free, mobile education to communities across the country. Proud partners of this program include Subaru of America, REI, Eagles Nest Outfitters, Deuter, Thule, and Klean Kanteen.



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