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How to host the best campfire party

2 friends sitting round a campfire drinking wine
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Gather your guests round a log fire and make some memories

Is there anything more companionable than a group of friends sitting round an autumnal campfire or fire pit? Whether you’re hosting fireworks night or just making the most of this autumns mild temperatures, sitting outside in your own back garden, as a bonding experience there is nothing better than a campfire party.

Do you need permission to have a bonfire or campfire?

You should be fine lighting a fire in your own garden – but it’s polite to check with the neighbours first. But if you’re on someone else’s land, or in a campsite, do ask first, even if you fully intend to make good your fire site before you leave. Many public areas such as parks and commons do not allow fires – check the by-laws to learn more.

Setting up a campfire site

Pick your campfire spot while it’s still daylight. Look for a dry, flat fairly sheltered place that is well away from overhanging trees and bushes. Clear the ground back to bare earth if you can. Some people like to cut the turf and stack it in the shade so they can replace it once they’ve finished with their fire.

Think about where you and your friends will sit round the campfire. The ground can be cold and hard, so you may want to provide log seating, or benches or ask your guests to bring their own chairs.

The fire should keep you and your friends warm, but it’s cosy to snuggle in a blanket as the night goes on, so have a few available. Remember that it’s likely they’ll get a few pop-holes from flying embers, so old blankets are best.

Lighting for your firepit area

While the fire is burning hot and bright, it should provide plenty of light; but once it dies down to embers, you’ll be in the dark! Battery fairy lights and lanterns or candles in hurricane lanterns all add a little magic to your campfire site, and will be useful at the end of the evening.

A quick word about safety – have a plan for what you will do if things go wrong. A large container of water or quick access to running water is handy to have near a campfire.

The best fuel for a campfire

Did you know that you can forage for campfire tinder? Almost any dry, loose material is good for getting a fire pit going, for example dry grass, birch bark or the wild clematis seeds known as old man’s beard. You can also use a cotton wool or shreds of paper. Once you’ve got your tinder alight, build a few dry twigs and sticks over it as kindling. Commercial kindling is available, too – look for sticks of softwood kindling, which have shorter fibres that catch light easily. Once the kindling is alight, build some logs around it.

For the best campfire experience be sure to use good quality firewood. Seasoned hardwood logs last longest, and will burn hot with a low-smoke flame. Green or damp wood will be hard to light and your guests will get smoke in their faces.

Always ask before gathering firewood – a landowner may have plans for their wood and will prefer that you bring your own logs to the site. Bringing seasoned or kiln-dried logs from a reputable firewood merchant is the best way to guarantee a good campfire evening.

Put your campfire to bed before leaving

Before you leave the campfire, extinguish the flames with water and make sure the pit is cool before you go. Consider returning to the site in the morning for a quick clear-up – there’s always some litter or lost property that got missed in the dark.


Question and Answer


What is seasoned wood?

Seasoned logs have been dried until they have a 20% moisture content. Logs with a 20% moisture content burn efficiently, emitting minimal smoke and very low levels of particulate. Seasoned logs often have cracks or splits in the ends and they have a dark or grey colour. The bark should strip off easily.