Activity Plan for Minimize Campfire Impacts
Exploring Fires and Stoves
This activity should take about 65 minutes.
What Your Group Will Learn
After participating in this activity plan, which is designed to help
participants learn about various options for fires, participants will be able to
- Determine if a campfire is a necessary component of camping.
- Assess what areas can ecologically or aesthetically
withstand another campfire with minimal impact.
- Build minimum-impact fires in both high-use and remote
Participants will compare how fast they can heat water on a camp stove,
campfire, and a mound fire. They will then assess the value of each cooking
- A backpack stove, fueled and ready
- Three small pans for heating water
- Water jug
- Firewood—small to large sizes
- Mineral soil for a mound fire
- Ground cloth or plastic garbage bag to gather soil
- Enough unscarred rocks to build
- A traditional campfire ring
- A base for the fire pan
- Fire pan (metal garbage can lid, oil pan, or other fire pan substitute)
- Hot chocolate mix and cups for drinking
- Locate an area that will permit the group to safely and
responsibly build fires.
- Read the entire lesson plan and the Background on the
Principles of Leave No Trace thoroughly. It is necessary for group members
to know how to use a fire pan and how to build a mound fire before beginning
- Practice building a mound fire prior to the meeting so you
are familiar with the process.
- Scatter the unscarred rocks and firewood over the
- Place the soil for the mound fire nearby.
Grabbing Your Group's Attention (20 minutes)
Explain to the group that there are three types of prepared food for camp
meals: precooked cold meals, meals cooked over fires, and meals cooked on a camp
stove. Group members will compare the value of stoves and fires when making hot
chocolate. But first, they will help the leader demonstrate how to build a true
Leave No Trace fire.
Demonstrate how to build a mound fire. Follow the directions for building a
mound fire found in the Background on the Principles of Leave No Trace. Use
group members to help gather soil, firewood, and clean up afterward. Help
participants understand how a properly built mound fire leaves almost no trace
of the fire. The entire process of building the mound fire, extinguishing the
fire, and cleaning up should take about 30 minutes.
Steps for Teaching the Activity (30 minutes)
The Heat Is On
Participants will compare how fast they can heat water on a camp stove, a
fire built using a fire pan, and a traditional campfire. After heating the water
and making the hot chocolate, group members will attempt to remove all evidence
of the fire (e.g., traces of ash, dirt, firewood, etc.). This process will help
participants think about the advantages of stoves, mound fires, or fire pans
over traditional campfires.
Explain to group members that they will conduct an experiment to demonstrate
the pros and cons of fire use. Divide the participants into three groups. Each
1. Prepare a fire source.
2. Boil water and make hot chocolate.
3. Clean up the site so no one
can tell they have been there.
Ask one group to use a stove, one a fire pan, and
one a new rock-ring fire. Have each group keep track of how long it takes to
prepare the hot chocolate and clean up the site.
|Note: It will be necessary to
supervise the groups as they light the stove and construct the campfires
from the materials provided. Read the Background on the Principles of
Leave No Trace and instruct the fire-pan group on the proper way to build
a pan fire.
Leave No Trace does not simply
mean putting out the fire and cleaning up the trash. There should be no evidence
that the fire ever existed. Here are points to remember when supervising and
discussing the activity:
- Make it a special challenge to Leave No Trace.
- Is the
ground scarred or scorched?
- Is there evidence of charred wood? All campfires
require crushing coals to ash, soaking with water to eliminate fire danger, and
disposing of the ash. (Even fires built in existing and properly located fire
rings should be cleaned.)
- Are there scarred rocks?
- Is soil noticeably disturbed
in and around the cooking site?
Ask participants: Which method of boiling water
was fastest? The stove will most likely be the fastest method of boiling water.
Fires require more preparation time, especially if proper care is taken to Leave
Ask participants the following: Which method would group members
prefer if they were very hungry, if it were raining, or if they were camped on
rocky terrain where a fire was impractical or they had no wood source?
What problems arose during cleanup? How successful were the fire builders at
leaving no sign whatsoever of their fire? A true Leave No Trace fire should
leave virtually no sign of its existence. Did the fire builders meet this
standard? Ease of cleanup generally will follow this order:
- EASIEST: stove.
Stoves require virtually no cleanup when used properly.
- MORE DIFFICULT: fire
pan. The fire pan, set on rocks or some other suitable surface, will not damage
the land but still will require disposal of ash.
- MOST DIFFICULT: traditional
rock-ring fire. Traditional fires will scar the surface upon which they were
built, requiring rehabilitation of the fire site. These fires are usually built
with rocks that become permanently scarred. Did the group take the time to wash
soot off the rocks?
Wrapping Up the Activity (15 minutes)
Your group has had the opportunity to experience and discuss the benefits and
procedures for building different types of fires. How well have group members
learned to minimize their impact with fires?
Summarize the advantages and disadvantages of campfires and backpacking
- Can the group describe the preferred techniques for building a fire in
high-use areas? (Use a stove or an existing fire site.)
- What are some of the
no-trace fire building practices in pristine areas? (Build a mound or pan fire.)
- What are some reasons why a night without a campfire might be more enjoyable?
(Stars are more noticeable; small animal sounds are easier to hear; the darkness
- Discuss the impacts of gathering wood—social trails,
loss of nutrients for plant life, etc.
Congratulations on conducting a well-prepared meeting for your group!