News & Updates

Leave No Trace Skills: Using a Fire Pan

Guest - March 8, 2017

Brevard, NC: The winter winds are still afloat, even with a warm summer’s breeze meandering aloft in the Pisgah high country. The mountains are beautiful here; rivers with tumbling waterfalls, cascading over rock ledges. Pines and rhododendrons are filling in the underbrush. The granite dome of Looking Glass towers above the valley floor. As we camp along a ridgeline we ask ourselves, “should we even have a campfire here”?

Campfires while on an overnight trip are so important, to so many people. When rules and regulations allow it and the fire danger is low, having a campfire is a great way to experience the outdoor world. In the backcountry, we may not always find designated fire rings at our disposal. In this case, the fire pan is an excellent tool to have a Leave No Trace campfire.

“So, how does it work?”

Unfold or build your fire pan. Then, gather some rock cobbles to place underneath the fire pan. These cobbles will act as insulation from the fire. Build your campfire well inside the edge of the pan and enjoy the warm glow. If others are camping near-by consider inviting them over. Having one communal campfire instead of multiple reduces the overall impact created by fires in the area.

For best results while creating your Leave No Trace campfire, gather wood using the Four D’s.

  • Dead: Wood that has been dead long enough to be dry.
  • Down: Physically separated and down from living trees.
  • Dinky: Smaller in girth, than one’s wrist or forearm. Easy to break and to burn completely through.
  • Distant: Wood should be collected 200 feet from camp to avoid firewood mining and the effects of site creep.


Enjoy your campfire while monitoring it closely. Each fire has potential to do a lot of damage. Please utilize and keep near a collapsing bucket, water container or sand in the event the fire needs to be extinguished quickly.

Burn wood completely through, until the ashes are physically cool to the touch. Use water to completely extinguish any remaining embers. Then, carry the ashes 200’ into the woods and dispose of, using the dispersal method.

Campfires have a huge potential to do more harm than good in backcountry environments. We see fire impacts all across the country which include fire scaring, tree damage, and even wildfires. However, using this skill and by taking the proper precautions, we can minimize the impacts we leave behind from campfires. Enjoy the gorgeous places you visit and use this skill to help maintain the beauty of the area. After all, it’s up to every visitor to protect the places we all love.

Enjoy your world & Leave No Trace,


Steph and Andy – Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainer Team East

Leave No Trace’s Steph Whatton and Andy Mossey are part of the 2017 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, Fjall Raven, ENO, Deuter, Thule, and SmartWool.

Let’s protect and enjoy our natural world together

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