Stoves vs. Campfires: And The Winner Is...
When camping in the non-summer months, it gets dark pretty early. Campfires are a nice way to extend the hours of the day and it is always fun to tell stories, make s'mores and sing songs around them. While this is certainly a blow to the stoves, campfires can pose some serious problems.
First, many parks prohibit fires during the summer and when the ground is very dry, for obvious reasons. Even where permitted, fires setup and burned improperly and lead to forest fires, burns and can damage any gear in their vicinity.
Second, if a campfire is your only source of cooking heat, you will be in bad shape if it rains and soaks available kindling (a problem in alpine or sparsely forested areas) or fires are prohibited where you end up camping for the night.
Third, campfires are unfriendly to your gear. While some strange people like the smell of campfire smoke, most backpackers don't relish the idea of smoke permeating all their expensive clothing and gear. Even worse, sparks from the fire can instantly burn holes in synthetic clothing.
Finally, campfires make 'leave-no-trace' backpacking virtually impossible. While you can certainly cover much of the campfire's evidence, you are still leaving your mark on nature.
Backpacking stoves come in a variety of shapes and sizes and are well worth having on all of your trips. If you must burn a campfire, consider bringing along an ultralight backpacking stove as well. They are more efficient than a campfire for cooking and, at a minimum, will give usually still work in the wind and rain.
In addition, you can often still use a stove in areas where campfires are prohibited. For the expedition backpacker, stoves are much more reliable than campfires as they can be used in areas with no available wood, boil water very quickly, and work in rain, snow, sleet ... or just about any weather.
Stoves have almost no environmental impact, unless you knock them over when lit, and are considerably safer to use than campfires. Best of all, you don't have to spend half of every night wandering around the forest looking for firewood.
While you are certainly entitled to use and enjoy campfires, don't overlook the benefits of having a backpacking stove with you on your next trip.
All pages on this topic:
Stoves | Backpacking Stove Reviews and Comparison - The Top 5 Best | Backpacking Stove Safety and Maintenance | Homemade Backpacking Stoves: The What, Why and How | Stoves vs. Campfires: And The Winner Is...