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Principle 5: Minimize Campfire Impacts

If you have come to the Vail area and plan on camping, there are some critical things you should know to ensure your safety and the safety of the surrounding wilderness.

First, think about the necessity of a campfire versus a stove.  The use of campfires, once a necessity for cooking and warmth, is steeped in history and tradition. Some people would not think of camping without a campfire. Yet, the natural appearance of many areas has been degraded by the overuse of fires and an increasing demand for firewood. The development of lightweight efficient camp stoves has encouraged a shift away from the traditional fire for cooking. Stoves have become essential equipment for minimum-impact camping. They are fast, flexible and eliminate firewood availability as a concern in campsite selection. Stoves operate in almost any weather condition—and they Leave No Trace.

Other considerations should be evaluated before opting to build a fire.  The most important is the potential damage to the area. Educate yourself and know the fire danger level for the location.  The current fire danger level is communicated by the local White River National Forest Service.  If a fire restriction is in place, by law, you must adhere to those rules.  Other considerations are whether or not there is sufficient wood, so any removal will not be noticeable and if wood is removed, is regeneration possible.  This can be avoided by bringing your own wood supply.  Finally, before building a fire, it is important to assess whether or not the group members possess the skills to build and extinguish a campfire that will Leave No Trace.    A true Leave No Trace fire shows no evidence of having been constructed.

Tips For Minimizing Campfire Impacts:

  • Avoid building a campfire all together and use a camp stove instead.
  • Camp in areas where wood is abundant or better yet, bring your own wood. If camping in areas where little wood is available, choose not to have a fire.
  • Avoid building a fire next to rock outcrops, where black fire scars will remain for years.
  • Use existing fire ring in a well-placed campfire.
  • Keep the fire burning low and only for the time it is being used, allowing wood to burn completely to ash.
  • Put fires out with water, not dirt and never leave a fire unattended. Be sure that all hot embers are completely out before leaving.

© 1999 by the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics: www.LNT.org

LEAVE NO TRACE PRINCIPLE 5