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Fulltimers and campfires


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Apparently Chuck Woodbury's editorial in a recent RV Travel Newsletter suggesting "no campfire" areas in today's more crowded campgrounds has caused a bit of a stir in the camping world. Back when we did camping vacations we often had a campfire, but not every night because we also like to star gaze and the fire ruins night vision. Since we've been fulltime and travel a lot, we've found that more and more areas don't allow "foreign" wood, making having a campfire more expensive and somewhat unhandy. Our solution has been a portable, propane-fueled fire. It's not as nice as a wood fire, but it works pretty good.

 

However, the main purpose of this post is to ask fellow fulltimers how often, if ever, they have a wood fire. I may be wrong (and it may be somewhat regional) but I don't think I see that many campfires in places where the majority of campers are fulltime. It seems to me that its mainly a weekender's thing.

 

What is your practice and what have you seen so far as fulltimers and campfires?

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I agree that campfires are for vacationers and weekenders. We hate the stinky smell of smoldering campfires when we have the windows open at night. I have seen a family set up next to us on an 80+ degree afternoon, start a wood fire, then they all go to the pool. We were left with the smoke. We have never had a campfire, many of the campgrounds do not have fire pits anymore, no loss.

Greg

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Personally, I love having a campfire. But I also agree that with the new restrictions on moving wood, it adds to the cost if one must purchase wood in each location, and leave behind what's leftover.

 

But--at this time, I am not yet a full-timer, so I wonder myself if my habit of campfires at day's end will change....time will tell.

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We do like a fire when it's a nice evening & sometimes invite our neighbors to stop by to sit with us. It's a fun way to meet people. You're right, the powers that be don't want "foreign" wood due to possible insect issues. And cutting wood is absolutely not allowed. A guy at our campground here at Navajo Lake SP in NM cut down a live tree the other night. The ranger was livid & those folks are on the black list for ever. We're keeping our fires small and using mostly found wood. It's sort of a serendipitous method. Sometimes there's wood left in the campsite when we arrive or the folks leaving next campsite over don't want to take wood home or we pick up pieces left behind when we go on our walks. Monday mornings are a good time for that. I always just keep an eye out for stray pieces. Or sometimes we just splurge on a bundle from a local source. Anyway, it is so good to enjoy a campfire fire & a glass of wine at the end of the day.

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We love the camp fire and have built and sat around many! However, we are now Winter Texans and own a site in an RV resort in South Texas that is surrounded by dead, dry vegetation from the prolonged drought. So when we built our site we put in a propane fire place instead of a regular wood burning one. What we discovered is that it is much more convenient to use and doesn't put out the flying embers like a real fire and when we are ready to go in we just turn it off and there is no smoldering fire to worry about. We still occasionally enjoy having a real camp fire when the circumstances are right. Best Wishes, Jay

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I'm not fulltiming yet but we do long weekend trips and vacations. We used to love a good campfire. But now a days unless you have an avenue for cheaper wood bundles usually run 5 or 6 dollars for about 6 small pieces. We could burn $12-$24 a night on camp fires. When the grand kids are with us we use the propane pit for smores. Works great.

 

James

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We use our propane fire pit when the desire hits.

 

Just curious ... which one do you use ... and where do you store it for transport? Do you fuel it from the typical 20lb propane tank? How many hours of burn time do you typically get from a tank full?

 

My wife loves campfires ... however, while I enjoy sitting around one for a bit, I can't get past the fact that these days it's like putting a match to $$$$ bills. I'd love to find a solution that keeps everybody happy!

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It depends for us, Ron will sit by a fire for hours and I do enjoy the comrade as people will often join us. We are more apt to do it if we are in a state park, corp park etc. Commercial campground sitestend to be to close together

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Just curious ... which one do you use ... and where do you store it for transport? Do you fuel it from the typical 20lb propane tank? How many hours of burn time do you typically get from a tank full?

 

My wife loves campfires ... however, while I enjoy sitting around one for a bit, I can't get past the fact that these days it's like putting a match to $$$$ bills. I'd love to find a solution that keeps everybody happy!

 

Ours is the "Little Red Campfire" and we use a 20lb BBQ tank. Carry both in the bay. We also use the tank for our grill - and end up filling it about once a year.

 

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In over five years of full-time RV'ing (and 10+ years part-timing before that) we have lit exactly zero campfires. The state park we are volunteering in has just implemented a campfire ban due to drought, and we couldn't be happier. Prior to the ban, every evening a hundred or more campfires were lit, creating a smokey haze that just couldn't be escaped. Even on our volunteer lane, away from the campgrounds I could count on one of the other volunteers to light a smokey fire, "enjoy" it for 30 minutes or so, and then head off to town, leaving the smoke for us to enjoy the rest of the evening.

 

My biggest problem with campfires is that everyone is exposed to the smoke, whether they want to be or not. It is frustrating on a pleasant evening to have to close up the trailer to prevent drawing in a bunch of smoke. This is one reason that we more commonly volunteer at National Wildlife Refuges where public camping is not allowed and campfires among the RV volunteers is uncommon.

 

That being said, I have found that for a great many visitors at our park, Camping = Campfires. Folks are truly distressed with the fire ban because they cannot imagine camping without a fire. And from the park standpoint, firewood sales are an important part of revenue, so the fire ban is hitting their bottom line as well.

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Campfires are also high up there with safety concerns. A couple years ago we were in a national forest campground Memorial weekend in New Mexico around Bandelier Nat'l Mon. On the last day when most everyone cleared out one camper did not douse his campfire thoroughly. Winds picked up and embers blew onto the dry pine needles and very quickly traveled the forest floor. We were around the corner and saw the fire moving fast. I ran to where the smoke began and saw that it started in the firepit. We made the 911 call and very quickly packed up. The fire trucks were coming in as we were leaving. We followed the news report that night and following weeks. That fire closed the campground for the rest of the summer. It destroyed many acres of surrounding forest. It just amazed us how fast it traveled in ten minutes time.

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We built a permanent fire place and installed a Peterson stainless steel outdoor fire log set which has a ten year guarantee. We have two 30 # propane tanks hidden behind our storage building with an underground line to the burner. The two tanks will burn two or three two hour fires per week for three to four weeks. The whole set up wasn't cheap but we have enjoyed sitting by the fire in the evenings during our winters in Texas for the past four years. Best Wishes, Jay

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We are "half timers" and winter in AZ (your basic snow bird). Most people in the park are snow birds like us. We have campfires all the time......I would guess at least 50% of the nights. We buy firewood by the pickup load and usually make it through the winter on 1 truck load. Everyone takes turns having a fire at their place. We all love to set around the campfire at night.

 

If you build a nice hot fire with dry wood, smoke is not an issue. Everything goes straight up. My neighbor has bad COPD, but can handle sitting around a hot fire with the smoke going up.

 

 

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We are "half timers" and winter in AZ (your basic snow bird). Most people in the park are snow birds like us. We have campfires all the time......I would guess at least 50% of the nights. We buy firewood by the pickup load and usually make it through the winter on 1 truck load. Everyone takes turns having a fire at their place. We all love to set around the campfire at night.

 

If you build a nice hot fire with dry wood, smoke is not an issue. Everything goes straight up. My neighbor has bad COPD, but can handle sitting around a hot fire with the smoke going up.

 

 

 

I like it! I think having communal fires rather than lots of small, often smoky, ones makes a lot of sense and would be a lot of fun.

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Just curious ... which one do you use ... and where do you store it for transport? Do you fuel it from the typical 20lb propane tank? How many hours of burn time do you typically get from a tank full?

 

My wife loves campfires ... however, while I enjoy sitting around one for a bit, I can't get past the fact that these days it's like putting a match to $$$$ bills. I'd love to find a solution that keeps everybody happy!

We have a Campchef brand that we picked up at Costco a few years ago. Cranked on high, we can get about 10 hours out of a 20# tank (September in West Glacier, trying for some heat also for a group). Turned down a bit, lasts much longer.

 

We carry the fire pit in it's soft case under the hard cover in the bed of the pickup.

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To each their own but we love nothing better than sitting around a big campfire communally with someone playing an instrument or two and others singing, dancing and foot stomping. For us we love the whole ambience of real fires, whether in our homes over the years or when out camping at one with nature, I can stare for a very long time into the flames, enjoy the sweet smell of burning certain woods, and the family love roasting and toasting foods in it. We are very conscious of dampening a wide area around our fire with water beforehand to combat sparks and keeping a couple of buckets to hand "just in case".

 

Having been down in Lake Tahoe camping on the beach when they evacuated all out of the south campgrounds up to ours which was bursting at the seams, watching dead birds falling out of the sky at our feet, and then being caught returning home in the fire jumping the Hwy 15 (alas it's happening again!) a few years back long being detoured hours further east, as well at another time coming through BC and the Crowsnest pass when fires were raging out of control, as we are evidencing again this year, we are personally very very fire safety conscious.

 

Up here in Alberta future son in law gets a special permit/license to cut enough logs for our personal uses and some. Even as a child, parents had open fires no central heating, and I used to lay on the mat in front after my bath for an hour or two just staring into the flames = so relaxing and soothing before bedtime. Youngest daughter feels the same now she's in her mid twenties as well. Guess it's what you get used to.

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I really enjoy having a campfire! I really hate it when many OTHER people do because they are too(dumb, uneducated, lazy, moronic (insert your own word)) that they throw plastic, and other really stinky stuff in the fire because they (can't)(won't) get off their duff and throw it in the garbage instead.

 

I am sorry, but this is such a huge pet peeve of mine! You walk outside and the carcinogenic stink or burning plastic kills you lungs!

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When we first started fulltiming and were camp hosts we had a campfire every Friday and Saturday night as a welcome for the weekend campers. We have not had one in 5 years other than when the DD's and SIL's come to camp with us. A couple times there have been group campfires we have attended. On the volunteer gig we just finished there were 45,000 acres burning within 16 miles and a total burn ban state wide and more smoke than we wanted.

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Scott, you really brought up a great subject! Thanks for starting it. We were long time campfire folks all of the years that our boys were growing up as well as for many years with the Boy Scouts. I often taught building of a proper campfire and how to start one. In the Scouts when I was active the good fire builder was one who needed only two matches, but my troop used to bring me only one match just to see if I could do it. There is an art to the building of a really good, low smoke fire and it is a skill that is becoming less common. Sadly, times do change and other things must change with the times. We mostly cooked over the campfire when we camped with our sons and Pam loved it as she didn't cook but the boys and I did it all. But we lived & camped in places where one could legally gather wood most locations and the cost was low if we did need to buy some. Today there are far too many people visiting most public campgrounds for them to allow the collection of fire wood and too many folks who don't understand that cutting down a live tree only kills the tree as the wood is green and will not burn. Today, even the Boy Scouts teach camping without campfires in most locations and teach not to gather wood where they camp.

 

What is your practice and what have you seen so far as fulltimers and campfires?

We very seldom have a campfire today even though we both enjoy them as Pam has some issues with smoke and the cost of wood as well as consideration for other campers. Last summer we were campground hosts in SD where we even sold firewood as a part of the job, yet we probably only had a fire once a month or so. I did find myself teaching fire building again a few times to those who wanted help, but also found that some don't want help, even when they need it. We have found that many state and federal parks still have permanently installed fire rings and do allow fires but you must use locally purchased wood and you can't legally collect wood around the campground. Most of these parks have sites that are more widely spaced than do commercial parks and we see very few commercial parks that allow fires and because of our hosting experiences, we understand some of the reasons why.

 

Far too many campers seem to consider the fire a good place to throw empty cans and bottles which are left for someone else to clean up. They also burn scrap wood that leaves behind nails and screws which must be disposed of. Public parks usually have a volunteer host who does that job but the commercial parks must pay someone to do the work and then pay for removal of the waste that fires make. That means they must charge more and visitors don't like that. It also means complaints from customers about smoke and an entire host of problems which come with campfires. I think that if I were to operate a campground, I'd install one central fire ring and gathering area for fires to be shared and not allow them at each site.

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Far too many people are bound and determined to have a fire no matter what. It doesn't matter if the wood is green or wet. I've seen some spraying the fires with charcoal starter to keep them going and all that does is really stink the place up. We've been in a few places it was impossible to either sit outside, or to have open windows on a beautiful day. And as mentioned previously, I don't understand the one's who want to light off a fire when it's close to 90 degrees, and then they all head off to the pool, or some other place, leaving the smoke for us.

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We do not do campfires. While we may sit around one that someone else has started...if I can sit away from the direction the smoke is blowing (I don't want to breathe the smoke and I don't like the way my clothes smell after sitting in the smoke)...we do not start them ourselves. We don't have the room to carry wood and most places we travel are drought-stricken, so campfires are usually not permitted, anyway. The only time we ever started a campfire was in our younger days when we used to do backpacking, but not since we started traveling in an RV.

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