How Hot Can The Average Campfire Get? The Facts

campfire burning

The average temperature of a campfire is around 1170°F. Of course, this can be much hotter in the center of a blazing fire and cooler the further you get from it's flames.

The temperature inside a campfire is around 1650°F. The flames will reach this hot temperature, but only in the center of the fire where there are no visible flames. If you're cooking over one, expect about 600°F cooking temperatures. And if you're lucky, you might even get to experience a lower 500 degree area that's usually found right next to the wood.

In reality, every campfire is different, so don't worry if your average campfire isn't as hot as ours. Don't let this discourage your love for camping.

Type of metal Average melting point
Aluminum 1220°F (660°C)
Stainless Steel 2750°F (1510°C)
Cast Iron 2060°F (1127°C)
Aluminum Alloy 865-1240°F (463-671°C)

What affects a Campfire Temperature?

campfire temperature

There are three main things that affects how hot a campfire will get. We will be going over these three things in more detail below.

  • Size of the fire - The size of the fire is largely determined by the size of the fire pit. If you have a large pit, you'll have a larger fire. This will cause your average temperature to rise significantly.
  • Number of logs - The number of logs added to the campfire is very important in determining how hot it will be. If you add more logs, then your average temperature will rise even more! These two variables are important because they are both within our range of control as campers. We can regulate them easily, so it's really simple to change how hot our fires are.
  • Strength of airflow - Airflow is not something that we usually think about when building a campfire . Generally speaking, strong winds = stronger airflow (duh). Stronger airflow means that you will have more oxygen that can feed the flames, so your average temperature will rise.

The final factor is completely beyond our control and might be just common sense. Once a campfire has been lit, the only thing you can do to change its temperature is to leave it alone or put it out. This part of the equation is discussed in this article about how long does it take for a campfire to burn out.

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How long does it take for a campfire to burn out?

The time it takes for a campfire to burn out will usually depend on a certain amount of different factors just like how the temperature of said fire will depend on a certain amount of factors also. These factorts are all listed below.

First are the basic factors, what are they?
  • The first factor is the most obvious of them all, fuel. The more wood there is, the longer it will take to burn out because there is more combustible material for heat to transfer into.
  • Next is fuel type and/or density which has a similar effect as the amount of fuel present, if the pieces of wood are bigger it will take longer since there's less surface area for heat to transfer to.
  • Another factor worth mentioning now is wind exposure since this can have an effect on how long it takes for your campfire to burn out, but not too great of an effect even though some people might think so. And finally comes oxygen exposure which also isn't as big of a deal as wind exposure when it comes to how long it will take your fire to burn out.

A good fire needs three good ingriedients

To have a good fire there are usually three things that you need. These three things are:

  • Good Fuel - Good fuel will determine how hot your fire will burn and how much heat you'll get from it. You can always tell a good fuel because it is dry, cut into small pieces that are about the same size, has no bark on the wood, and will catch fire easily. If your trees have leaves on them all year around - these are not good fuels as they wont catch fire very well as they won't be dry enough.
  • Good Air Supply - The second thing a good fire needs is a good air supply/oxygen source to feed it. Your fire can only burn as fast as you provide it with oxygen so if you have a fire that can burn at 2,000°F and you only provide the fire with enough oxygen to burn at 1,400°F (760°C), your fire will only be able to get as hot as 1,400°F (760°C).
  • Good tinder - Good tinder will make or break a campfire. Good tinder is dry and has the ability to catch on fire in a single spark without much fuss. Some good examples of tinder include: dry leaves (lighter and better if they're in bunches), paper, pine needles, tree bark, cotton balls soaked with petroleum jelly or wax, or sawdust from untreated wood sources.

Other things like what kind of wood your using as fuel will make a difference in how hot your fire gets (lighter woods burn hotter than heavier woods). How big/thick you make the fire also makes a difference too; the larger the campfire, the more heat it can produce [because there's more fuel]. The size of all this stuff matters because air temperature, wind speed and a bunch of other stuff all play a role in how hot a fire gets.

How important is a hot campfire

A campfire that isn't hot will keep you from being able to cook your food. So, the answer is, VERY important. It is extra important when you are camping in cold weather.

What temperature does wood burn at?

Unlike metals, wood does not burn at a single temperature. Wood is constantly burning, so it will burn at all temperatures between the beginning of ignition to full combustion. For example, starting from just before the moment wood ignites to when fully-combusted wood rises in temperature, it goes through a series of chemical reactions that create water and carbon dioxide as by-products. However, these chemicals don't actually dissociate until after combustion has taken place.

Play close attention to the wind

The wind will play a major role in determining how hot a fire burns. The hotter the fire, the greater the wind speed needed to stoke it and keep it burning.

How to select the right size of wood

The size of wood you choose will determine the burn time, heat output, and amount of smoke that will be produced. Smaller pieces of wood will burn hotter and produce more heat, while larger pieces will burn longer and provide less warmth.

Keep a bucket of water nearby in case you need to put the fire out fast.

Best type of wood to use for a campfire

You will have the option of usimng many different types of wood for your campfire. The best types of wood to use are those that will burn hot and fast such as:

  • Oak - Oak is a popular choice for its high heat content and ability to burn well even when it's green. You could use this information while you are at the campfire. You might not be able to have a good time while you are collecting wood because it is too cold outside, other people can help with that chore so you can enjoy yourself.
  • Birch - This type of wood has a bright flame and also burns quickly.
  • Spruce - This type of wood is extremely flammable and dries out easily, great for kindling or campfires.
  • Pine - Pine produces an abundance of fast burning softwood that is full of sap which makes it easy to light but difficult to keep burning.
  • Cedar Wood - This type of wood burns slowly, has a good scent and produces very little flame.
  • Hickory Wood - Hickory wood burns hot and gives off great flavor during cooking, lasting several hours in the flames without the need of tending to it constantly like softer woods.

Which types of wood should never be used?

Some types of wood are dangerous to use around your fire pit. Wooden furniture, construction materials or other items that are treated with chemicals should never be burned, as the hazardous smoke may cause breathing problems for you and can irritate your eyes. Below will be a list of some of these toxic woods.

  • Oleander - This type of wood toxic fumes and smoke that will irritate the eyes, skin, nose, and throat.
  • Mexican buckeye - The smoke from burning Mexican buckeye is toxic.Thin pieces of bark are especially dangerous when burned because they easily fall into the fire, releasing thick clouds of extremely poisonous smoke. People exposed to the smoke have reported numbness in their hands and feet, headaches, blurred vision, nausea and vomiting.
  • African Blackwood - The african blackwood is known to cause bad effects on your senses and will irritate your eyes if it gets in contact with them. The smoke also causes the throat to feel itchy and scratchy, as well as swelling of the larynx or voice box which can make even breathing difficult for some people.<
  • Albizia - Albizia can cause pink eye, irritant, giddiness, vomiting, diarrhoea and abdominal pain.
  • Amur Cork Tree - Any contact with the Amur Cork Tree can cause severe dermatitis causing redness, itching, swelling and burning.
  • Beechwood - Beechwood has been known to be mildly toxic in that it will produce skin irritations in some people if they are exposed for a long period of time.
  • Bosse - This one causes asthma, headaches, flu-like symptoms, dermatitis and even nausea.
  • Cocobolo - The cocobola will not be a good wood for anyone with allergies to natural latex.
  • Dahoma - The Dahoma tree can cause dermatitis, lung problems and even death.
  • Iroko - Iroko will irritate the eyes, mucus membranes and the respiratory tract.
  • Jarrah - Jarrah has been known to irritate anyone who is allergic to natural latex according.
  • Kingwood - Kingwood has been known to irritate the skin, eyes and respiratory system.
  • Mahogany (African) - This type of mahogany is toxic; it will irritate eyes, respiratory system and mucus membranes.

Campfire Safety

The safety factor should always be taken into account when building any fire, as some woods will irritate breathing and ocular systems if they are inhaled. A fire extinguisher will come in handy if your campfire gets out of control.

The area around your campfire should be clear of any combustible material such as dry grass and leaves.

Water or dirt can be used to put out a campfire, especially when the fire is still in its flaming stage. If you must wet it down coax it with water until there are no more flames and then cover with dirt to ensure that it doesn't reignite.

The most important safety tip is leave your campsite clean and clear of any materials that may have been affected by the fire! Wipe away all ash and embers before leaving.

Conclusion

To conclude, campfires can become very hot, reaching internal temperatures of around 1650°F (900°C). And when cooking over the fire it can be around 600°F (320°C). Be sure to follow all safety guidelines and leave nothing behind when you're done.

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