How Hot is a Campfire?

How hot is a campfire

Do you want to know how hot a campfire really gets?

Knowing how hot is a campfire is crucial when you want to stay safe in the wilderness. But knowing the exact temperature of a campfire is challenging. A fire will have different temperatures at different stages, and it’ll also change depending on the weather.

Don’t worry, we’ll go through all you need to know about campfires and their heat. We’ll also go through the best types of wood for burning, as well as tips for making a long-lasting campfire with minimal smoke. 

How Hot is a Campfire?

  • Most campfires burn between 550 and 1 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • You can tell how hot a campfire is by the color.
  • The hottest part of the campfire is right under the top.
  • Cooking over flames is about 600 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Coals burn hotter than wood.
  • To leave the fire safely, put out any glowing embers.
How hot is a campfire Infographic

How Hot Does a Campfire Get?

The temperature of a campfire can be anything between 550 and 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit, or more. Fuel wood generally starts burning at 550 degrees and gets hotter over time. The charcoal on your campfire can get more heated, up to 1,100 degrees and over, depending on the size and other factors. 

How high the campfire temperature gets also depends on where you’re measuring, given that different spots of the campfire will have different temperatures.

What Affects the Temperature of a Campfire?

How hot does a campfire get depends on a number of things:

  • Amount of wood.
  • Moisture of the wood.
  • Weather.

Amount of Wood

The amount of firewood, as well as other fuels, affects the temperature of the campfire. A bigger fire will burn hotter than a small one, which is why for safety measures you’re usually not allowed to have a bonfire in the forest. 

Remember that if you put a lot of fuel wood in your campfire at once, you’ll get a higher temperature and the fire will burn out more quickly. It can also get too hot enough to melt your cooking equipment or be more difficult to control in the wild, so be careful.

Moisture

If the wood is damp, it can also affect the temperature of the campfire. Wet wood won’t burn with as high a heat as a dry piece of wood. The water will evaporate and lower the overall temperature of the campfire. It will also be more difficult to get fired up at first.

A green tone inside the wood means it’s too moist to use for firewood. Look for wood that’s white on the inside, if available.

At home, the ideal situation is to let the wood sit for at least six to nine months before using it for a fire. Otherwise, you’ll have more smoke and a colder flame. In survival situations, waiting is often not a possibility, but always try to find the driest piece of wood possible.

Weather 

The temperature of your surroundings will affect the temperature of your main fuel, and consequently the temperature of the campfire. This is why it’s usually easier to get a hot campfire going in the afternoon when the sun is high, and it’s the warmest time of day. 

If you’re camping in the winter on a windy day, your campfire will not get as hot as in the summer. In these situations, you’ll benefit from making your campfire in a spot that doesn’t have as much wind, especially if you’re making the fire to keep yourself warm.

If you need a little more warmth when camping, consider building a fire reflector out of a reflective tarp, car windshield cover or emergency blanket.

Also Read: Best Portable Propane Fire Pit For Camping

What’s the Hottest Part of a Campfire?

In the common teepee-style campfire, the hottest part is right beneath the top. It’s in the area that’s under the spot where the wood pieces meet, but above ground. 

Wood charcoal gets hotter as the fire progresses, so close to the charcoal is generally the hottest spot.

What Color Fire Is the Hottest? 

The color of the flame is a good indicator of the heat level. White flames are usually the hottest, while orange flames are cooler. Blue flames can be hotter than white, but you likely won’t see them in a campfire. Deep red is the coolest.

campfire cooking

How Hot Is a Campfire for Cooking?

A campfire for cooking usually has an average temperature of 600 degrees Fahrenheit or 315 degrees Celsius, if you cook on the flames. The number depends on your fuel and the location. 

Remember that moving your cooking equipment closer or farther away from the fire will help you regulate the heat. If you cook right over or next to the flames, the temperature is likely close to 600 degrees.

This temperature is enough to warm up your food, but not hot enough to melt your equipment. Right on the charcoal, the temperature can rise to 1100 degrees. If you don’t want to burn your food, you’ll do better keeping it at a safe distance. About 5 to 10 inches away should be fine, but the right distance depends on how strong the fire is.

Also remember that a large bonfire isn’t the best place to cook, because the fire temperature will rise when it has more volume.

Also Read: Best Portable Gas Grill

Is a Campfire Cool Enough To Leave Unwatched?

Never leave a fire unwatched until it’s gone out. If you can touch the charcoal with your hands, it’s cool enough to leave or go to sleep. Even if you can’t see flames, the embers can still ignite again, and if the wind catches them, you’ll start a forest fire. 

To put out the fire, grab some water and pour it on the embers. If you’re low on water supplies and don’t want to waste a drop, you can also use some sand. Separate the embers from the fire and stir them with dirt until they cool down.

Just make sure you don’t throw any flammable grass or leaves on the fire, or simply leave the coals covered with sand. This can actually keep them hot for longer, causing a potential risk. 

In the United States, human actions cause 9 out of 10 wildfires. Make sure you’re not guilty of this and remember your obligation to keep others safe by putting out the fire and following safety measures.

Campfire wood

Best Types of Woods To Use for a Campfire

In the wild, you’re always limited by the wood in the area, and in an emergency, you’ll have to use whatever is at hand. However, if you do have the option, these are some of the best types of woods you can use for your campfire.

Oak

Oak is a dense hardwood that doesn’t have a lot of resin, so it won’t produce a lot of smoke or sparks. This wood also gives out a high heat, so it’s considered an excellent option for heating. It can be difficult to ignite, but when you get the fire going, it’s reliable.

Hickory

Another hardwood that’s a favorite for heating, hickory has a high heating value because of its density compared to its weight. Hickory is moderately difficult to ignite, but it gives you a nice, even and long-lasting heat without much smoke.

Ash

Ash is an excellent option for a clean-burning campfire that doesn’t generate a lot of smoke or sparks. It does have a slight fragrance when burned, so if you’re bothered by smells, it might not be your favorite. Ash is also a dense, heavy hardwood with excellent heating properties and a long-lasting burn.

Cedar

Cedarwood has a pleasant smell when you use it in a campfire. It ignites easily and burns hot, which makes it a nice option for burning in a campfire. However, cedar does smoke and spark a bit, and the resins can cause buildup in your fireplace. This is why we don’t recommend it for indoor use.

Tip: If you have trouble igniting a fire outdoors and all the wood is damp, pick a resinous wood like pine or birch. These types of wood won’t burn as long as hardwood but will be easier to start a fire with. 

Especially if you’re making a fire with sticks and need the wood to get heated fast, start out with resinous wood. The resin gives you some more sparks and smoke, but it’ll also give you a quick flame. Then, you can move on to hardwood if you have access to it.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is the temperature of campfire coals?

The charcoal on a campfire can burn at a temperature of 1100 degrees Fahrenheit, or 600 degrees Celsius, or over. However, the temperature will depend on the exact spot on the campfire, as well as the weather conditions and other factors.

What burns hotter wood or coal?

Coal has a higher heating temperature than wood. It ignites at 790 degrees Fahrenheit, while wood ignites at 550 degrees Fahrenheit, so it’ll be harder to make it catch fire. Coal will also give you a more even and longer burn than wood because it’s denser.

What wood burns with least smoke?

Resinous types of wood produce a lot of smoke and sparks, so avoid resin if possible. Hardwood species and deciduous trees that shed their leaves every year are better than conifers if you want a low-smoking fire. Oak and maple are good examples of wood that’s low on smoke.

What wood burns longest?

The longest-burning type of wood is heavy and dense hardwood, like oak, maple or ash. These are often more expensive than lighter, softer wood, but you’ll get heat for longer from them. We do recommend getting quality wood for burning because it’s both cheaper in the end and produces less smoke. 


The Takeaway

Are you still not sure how hot is a campfire? Let’s recap. 

Campfire temperature is usually between 550 and 1100 degrees Fahrenheit, but it can be hotter. Some spots are hotter than others, and the campfire temperature also depends on external things, such as the weather. 

The time of day, wind or cool weather, as well as having damp wood, can make the fire burn cooler. Coal also burns hotter than wood, so if you want a hot fire you should pick coal for your fuel.

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Ash James

Ash James

Ash has always loved camping, fishing, and being outdoors. His idea of a perfect day is finding new trails to explore, driving to a remote location, and camping off the beach with Karyn and their two kids. He's pleased to share the knowledge and skills he's learned over the years. You can find out more about Ash here.

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