If you’ve ever tried to build a campfire, you know that it can often be challenging to get the fire going and keep it burning without producing too much smoke. Fortunately, there is a way to make a smokeless campfire! With the proper techniques, materials, and tools, you can create a beautiful, smokeless campfire that will keep your campsite smelling fresh and your spirits high.
Fuel is the main factor in creating a smokeless campfire. Using wood with a very low moisture content helps to create less smoke since wet wood is less efficient at burning and produces more smoke. For your fuel, try using dry, seasoned hardwoods such as hickory, maple, or oak.
Additionally, starting with plenty of dry kindling will help get the fire going without producing a lot of smoke. Some ideal kindling options include newspaper, dry grass, or dry pine needles.
“The size of the fuel is very important and goes hand in hand with moisture content. The bigger it is, the more heat it absorbs before igniting. I.e. big fuel smolders and makes smoke. Size is relative to the size of your fire. My main rule is to split wood to 1/2 size of what I think I need, and to prepare 2x what I think I will use.” – microagressed, Reddit.
As you can see, adding larger than needed pieces of wood can cause your fire to start smoldering, which creates smoke. Make sure to break your fuel down into smaller pieces to ignite more quickly and evenly.
Another factor in creating a smokeless campfire is airflow. Ensuring there is enough air getting to the fire helps it burn at higher temperatures. This will also result in less smoke and more heat.
Creating an efficient airflow setup is key for a successful smokeless campfire. This means ensuring that the air intake and outtake are open and that any obstacles, such as other logs or rocks, do not block the airflow.
The air intake needs to provide sufficient oxygen to the fire. Also, the outtake should be open enough to provide a vent for smoke and ash. The air outtake should also be pointed away from you so that the smoke doesn’t blow directly into your face. The best thing about a smokeless campfire is you don’t have to worry about how to get rid of the campfire smell from your hair.
The actual construction of your campfire is closely connected to the previous two points. There are several different types of campfire constructions, each with its own smokeless benefits.
Build Your Campfire Upside-Down
Building your fire upside down can help create an airflow that carries the smoke up and away from the campfire. This type of construction is excellent if you’re not keen on digging a pit or spending too much time building a structure.
Start by laying a foundation for larger logs, and then add smaller ones. Follow that up with kindling pieces arranged above the logs. Complete your fire-building masterpiece with some crumpled-up paper placed at the top of your structure; this will act as an igniter when you set it alight. Then add some additional twigs or branches on top of the paper to weigh it down.
As soon as you light the newspaper, watch how quickly the flames flicker down through each layer to reach the base layers of wood. The flame might give off some smoke in its early stages, but don’t worry – once everything is properly burning away, those fumes should vanish almost entirely.
Build a Dakota Fire Pit
If you don’t know, a Dakota fire hole is a type of campfire that has been used for centuries by the Sioux tribes in North America. It is an efficient and smokeless way to build a campfire, as it creates its own airflow. You should be aware that the Dakota fire pit is great for cooking food but to keep you warm. That’s because most of the heat travels straight up “the chimney” and away from you.
You want to dig two holes—one central hole and one secondary hole. Start with the main hole by digging 6–12 inches wide and about 1 foot deep. As you dig, widen the circumference of the hole the deeper you go. Next, you’ll need to line the edges of the hole with stones or bricks to contain the heat and to have a place where you can place your pot or pan.
Now it’s time to move 10 inches away from your original hole and start on your second, 8-inch-wide hole. Dig the second hole at an angle until this second pit meets the base of your primary pit. Make sure this second pit is on the side of the fire, facing the direction from where the wind is coming. This will ensure that the primary hole receives enough oxygen, creating a more efficient and smokeless fire.
Finally, add some bigger pieces of hardwood at the bottom of the primary hole and then layer in some small twigs, kindling, and tinder. Now you can light your fire; the air will be drawn into the second hole and up through the primary hole, which helps keep smoke out of your eyes.
You can read our guide on how much firewood you really need for fuel.
Use a Fire Pit Grate
If you don’t have the time or resources to build a Dakota fire pit, use a fire pit grate instead. Fire pit grates are perfect for keeping your logs in place and allowing for better airflow. Their primary role is to keep your flame elevated from the ground, and this type of construction is beneficial if you’re planning on cooking food over the campfire.
Place your grate in the center of your pit and secure it with some rocks or bricks; this will help keep the structure stable when adding logs to it. When stacking logs on top of the steel grate, make sure to leave large enough gaps between the logs for the air to flow through. Now add some kindling and tinder between your logs, light it up, sit back, and enjoy the smokeless fire.
Use a DIY Fire Pit
You can make your own smokeless fire pit with a few simple materials.
For example, you can get a metal or ceramic bowl that’s large enough to contain your fire and line it with sand. Now take some bricks and build two walls around the bowl; make sure they are at least 7–8 inches high to ensure air circulation. Place your logs in the center of the pit and light them up; the smoke will be drawn up through the sides of the wall, creating an incredibly efficient and smokeless campfire.
You can also get a steel barrel and cut a third of the barrel off, then turn it upside down and place it in the center of your firepit. Using bricks, create a wall around the barrel and light your fire. As the heat rises, it will be drawn up in the barrel creating an efficient smokeless campfire.
Maintaining Your Fire
Once your campfire is burning well, continue adding wood as needed to keep it going. Make sure you only add small pieces at a time and never overcrowd the firepit. Otherwise, you may end up with more smoke than desired. You can also use bellows to help increase airflow and create an even cleaner burn.
As your fire burns, be sure to move any burning embers away from the main campfire so they don’t contribute to additional smoke. It’s also essential to avoid adding wet wood – this will not only create smoke but can also lead to dangerous situations, such as sparks or flames shooting out of the fire pit, since wet wood is more prone to flare up.
Creating a smokeless campfire is relatively easy and requires minimal materials. With the right approach, you can create a fire that will keep your campground smelling (and looking) great without having to fill it with billowing clouds of smoke. So don’t let the fear of smoke stop you from enjoying a cozy night around the campfire.