There’s nothing quite like the warmth and ambiance of a campfire. Whether camping, backpacking, or just having a night out with friends and family, an all-night campfire can complete the evening. But if you’ve ever tried to keep a campfire going all night long, you know that it can be more complex than it looks. Here are some tips on keeping your campfire burning all night long so you can enjoy its light and warmth into the wee hours of the morning.
Use the Right Type of Wood
Some types of wood are better for sustaining a fire. Hardwoods like oak, hickory, birch, and ash burn longer than softwoods because they produce more embers with less smoke. Avoid using pine or other resinous woods, as they can quickly extinguish your fire due to all the sap and resin released during burning.
Thicker logs are better than thinner ones because they provide more material and burn steadily. While damper wood might burn for longer, it won’t be as hot and will put out more smoke.
Be Aware of the Half-Inch Rule
Remember the half-inch rule when determining how much fuel you will need for a fire: it takes approximately an hour to burn through every half-inch of wood. However, this formula shifts to one inch per hour when wood surpasses six inches in thickness. Keep these calculations in mind while prepping your firewood.
While this rule may come in handy for estimating, there is no guarantee that it will be accurate every time. I don’t like to rely on it since a campfire can be affected by various factors. Some of the factors include wind, temperature, or the wetness of the wood. We have also written a guide on how much firewood you need.
Position the Fire Properly
Take time to place your fire for maximum results carefully. Dig out an indentation in the ground just big enough for your fire to have something to rest on. This helps to ensure your flames don’t spread or die too quickly due to a lack of oxygen. Have some extra rocks handy that you can add around the perimeter of your fire for further insulation — those rocks will also provide heat when you’re finished with the fire.
The fire should be placed behind a windbreak, such as a pile of logs or stones. This will protect the fire from the elements and help keep it burning longer. The last thing you want is for a stronger gust of wind to put out your fire when the night is just getting started.
Ensure that the fire is positioned away from flammable materials like trees, branches, and other vegetation types. Additionally, keep the fire away from any structures to prevent them from catching on fire.
Frequently Feed the Fire
It’s important to keep feeding the fire, especially if you want it to last all night. The best way to do that is by using a technique called “banking” or “layering,” which involves ensuring there are always embers on top of the wood so they can continue burning. This can be done by adding large logs in a layered pattern.
For example, you can use the crisscross technique, which involves placing logs in a crisscross pattern on top of the fire. This way, when one log burns down and falls off, another is there to take its place.
Know the Weather Forecast
It’s essential to know the weather forecast when attempting to keep a campfire going all night long. If rain or high winds are expected, it may be best to opt against building an all-night bonfire. Additionally, if you start one, make sure that you have plenty of fuel and wood around so you can quickly stoke up the fire if needed.
Placing a large tarp over the fire can help to protect it from inclement weather. However, ensure that the tarp is high enough off the ground, so it doesn’t catch fire. You can use a few long but sturdy branches or sticks to hold the tarp in place, and further protect your fire.
Using a burn barrel during rainy days is also an option, as it provides more protection from the elements and is easier to feed. While the barrel won’t protect the fire from above, it will certainly protect it from the sides and bottom. Ensure that your barrel has plenty of airflow so the fire can get enough oxygen.
It is also recommended to use tents specifically made for heavy rain, but it’s okay if you don’t have one.
Add Rocks to the Campfire
You probably already know where this is going. Yes, rocks! Rocks can help keep a campfire going for longer. Not only will they radiate heat and hold fire in place, but they’ll also absorb some of the flames’ heat so they can be reused later on in the night.
The best types of rocks to use are sandstone or quartz — these tend to retain heat better than other stones because they have higher thermal inertia. So even if the campfire goes out, these rocks will still be providing warmth.
Check the stones for cracks, fractures, or holes before adding them to the fire — if they have any of these features, they can explode when exposed to high temperatures! Lastly, be careful not to place too many rocks in your fire — this can cause it to go out due to lack of air.
Build a Self-feeding Fire
The best type of fire to keep burning all night long is one that’s self-feeding. This means stacking the logs so that a new log below takes its place as each piece burns.
To do so, you will have to do some preparation beforehand, as you’ll need to construct two ramps facing each other and meeting in the middle. You will also need relatively round pieces of logs that are the same size and can fit snugly together.
Finally, create a pyramid-shaped structure that connects the ramps. This will be the self-feeding fire you can leave alone as it burns through the night. Just make sure to check on it every once in a while in case the logs need adjusting.
Here is a video breakdown of the whole process:
Cover the Logs With Ash
A neat little trick to keep your fire going all night is to cover the logs with ash. This will help insulate the wood and slow down oxidation, allowing your campfire to burn for longer.
The logs will turn into coal, which under the ash will keep producing heat for a considerable amount of time. The ash will also help keep the fire from getting too hot, which can be beneficial if you want to conserve fuel and wood.
To cover the logs with ash, add a good amount over the logs with a shovel. Make sure that the ashes aren’t completely over logs since they will still require oxygen to burn.
Hopefully, this guide has helped you figure out how to keep a campfire going all night long. With the right preparation and fuel, your bonfire should last for hours. Remember to stay safe when building or stoking your fire, and enjoy the warmth!
Good luck and happy camping!