Campfire Safety - How to choose a spot for a campfire

Where to build a campfire - tips on choosing the right campfire location

When you go camping, for many, a campfire is a must!   It completes the whole outdoor experience, and in winter, provides a source of warmth and comfort on those chilly nights.

If your campsite has a firepit already created, then you are in luck.   You can build a fire without too much thought.    But what if there is no firepit already in place, and you need to make your own?

What are some things you need to think about?   

We list what you need to do to get that campfire created, and created safely.

how to choose a spot to build a campfire

Number one rule to remember:

Check that fires are even allowed or there is not a fireban in place before proceeding to the next steps.    Only when you are 100% sure you can have a fire, then think about where to have the firepit.

In windy and dry conditions,  do not light a campfire.

Choosing your campfire location:

  • Find a clearing that has no grass (or minimal grass).    

  • Look up.    Check that there are no overhanging branches.

  • Make sure there is not fuel for your fire close by   eg.  sticks, old decaying leaves, scrub.  You want a clear area.   Your camping gear needs to be away from the campfire by at least 15 foot/4.5 meters.

  • Choose a spot that is protected (if possible) from high winds and downwind from your camping shelter.

  • Look for large stones/rocks to surround the fire, and create an enclosed firepit.

  • If there are no large stones around, you can dig a small trench (eg. about 30cm deep) to build the fire in.  This will keep the fire in an enclosed area and minimise embers flying out.

how to choose a campfire location

And then you are ready to make the campfire itself.

When you leave your campsite, leave that ring of rocks for the next campers, so they can benefit from your excellent preparation of a campfire, and to indicate that is where they should have their campfire (and not to create another one).

To find out how to put out a campfire safely, read our story.

Do you know how to put out a campfire properly? 6 tips

do you know how to put out a campfire the right way?

Do you know how to put out a campfire properly? 

We in Australia have all seen the devastation caused by bushfires, and we can never be complacent about a fire.

In summer, the need to extinguish a camp fire in its entirety is more important than ever.   With so much dry vegetation, all it needs is a spark, and property and lives are placed at risk.

Many fires are banned from November through to April, but that doesn’t stop people having them sometimes, especially when they feel safe, like next to a river.

Regardless of the time of the year – you still need to do it properly and safely.     Before you make a campfire, make sure you know how to choose the best location for a campfire (full details here).

how to put out a campfire


So here is a refresher for anyone who camps on how to put out a campfire.

1.   Allow the fire to burn down to ash if possible. 

That might take a bit of “thinking ahead” – don’t throw on that extra log if you are planning on calling it a night a short time afterward or planning on leaving the campsite.

With a stick or shovel, separate the wood from the charcoal to help slow the fire down.

2.   Slowly sprinkle water on the fire, including embers.  Do this carefully as pockets of air could cause the fire to hiss and spit and you.  If there is a lot of smoke – just wait a little, and try again.

3.  Keep adding water until the hissing stops.  You want everything in the firepit wet.

campfire safety 6 tips

4.  With a shovel, stir the embers and ash so everything in the fire is damp/wet.

5.   If you do not have enough water for points 2-4, you need to use dirt or sand.       You are trying to suffocate the embers, depriving them of oxygen.         Water is the best method though. 

Do NOT bury the fire with the dirt, but move the dirt/sand through the embers.   A buried fire can smoulder, and then re-ignite.     A buried fire with sand/dirt, can retain heat at 100 degrees, eight hours after being covered with sand (source here)

6.   Final check to see if that fire is really out.   If it's cool to touch, then it's safe to leave. Now obviously, you are not going to stick your hand in the ash and see if it burns your hand, because that would be dangerous and not clever.   If you can feel heat resonating from it as you have your hand lowered over the ash  - but not touching it -  then it's still warm. 

Poke a stick in the embers and see if you see any bright spots when you stir the ash.     If it's warm or there are embers, add more water/dirt to cool it right down.

Too hot to touch?
Too hot to leave.

campfire safety 6 tips

Sitting around a campfire is definitely a highlight of camping.

But it’s important for you, me and everyone, to know how to safely put out a fire, so the parks and forests remain bushfire free.

Further reading:    How to choose a spot to make a campfire

This story was first published in 2014, and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

Christmas Gifts for those who love Camping! Last minute gift ideas

Camping Gift Ideas - Perfect for last minute gifts

With Christmas just around the corner, some of you might be wondering what to get someone who loves the outdoors? 

Time is precious, and online shopping is definitely the way to go and beat the queues, the carparking dramas and all those people.

To make life a bit easier for you, we collated some of our fave items from our affiliate, Wild Earth which should appeal to anyone who goes camping! 

And quite a few of these, we think can do double-duty:    home and away.

Need more ideas? Check out this story CLICK HERE

Solar Powered Candle Lantern

We love the Luci lantern, and we have reviewed it here.     But this is the Luci Candle Lantern, for that softer (and yes, romantic) glow. 

Why we like it?     Solar powered, safer than a candle, and perfect for home use

Gifts for Christmas campers

Buy it here

Stocking Stuffer

Looking for something small and useful to go in a stocking?  Then the Light My Fire Firesteel is incredibly handy.      This is for any camper, whether you be a lightweight hiking sort of camper, or full luxuries-a-must camper.    Don't rely on matches, when this works.   And you look quite rugged as well.

Why we like it?    It's practical, small and reliable.

Gifts for Christmas campers

Buy it here

Light My Fire Grandpa's Fire Fork

Cook sausages and marshmallows and more when you attach your Light My Fire Grandpa's Fork to any stick.   And voila!   Cooking over a campfire just got a little less tricky.

You can read about what foods you can cook over a campfire using a stick to give you some inspiration.

Why we like it?     Because sometimes food does fall off the stick because the end of the stick just wasn't designed to hold a sausage!

Gifts for Christmas campers

Buy it here

GSI Commuter Coffee Java Press

For the coffee lover in your life.    You don't need to be camping to have a desire for caffeine, and this gives you the French Press taste, without the plunger mess. 

Why we like it?    Caffeine hit, anytime, anywhere.  Not just camping.

Gifts for Christmas campers

Buy it here

Klymit Inertia O Zone

If you have someone needing ultralight gear, and wanting them to sleep well on their treks, this bizarre looking sleeping mat with built-in pillow, could be the gift that you get a lot of thanks for.
Put inside or outside of your sleeping bag.

Why we like it?     Because it's so cool looking, and a built in pillow means one less thing we have to remember.
Gifts for Christmas campers

Buy it here

Collapsible Gear

For the space saving campers, get ready to collapse lots of items.

Why we like these items?    Space is always an issue for us.   Anything that saves us a bit of room is always appreciated and  needed.

The water bottle - Hydrapak 750ml Stash Bottle

Gifts for Christmas campers

Buy it here

The kettle - Sea to Summit X-Kettle

Gifts for Christmas campers

Buy it here

The complete cooking set - Sea to Summit X-Set 31

Gifts for Christmas campers

Buy it here

The mug - Sea to Summit X Mug

Gifts for Christmas campers

Buy it here

Biolite Charge 10 USB Powerbank

Don't let your phone run out of power, anywhere, anytime.     Give the gift that allows your loved one to stay connected.

Why we like it?    Small, light and waterproof.    Perfect for city use as well, so you can pop one in your handbag or pocket for day's of heavy use of your phone.

Gifts for Christmas campers

Buy it here


Headlamps are a must for camping  (you can read on how to choose a headlamp here).    So if you don't have one on your list of gear, then check out the range (and prices vary greatly).

Why we like it?   We think headlamps are mandatory part of camping.    Hands free cooking, hiking, and around camp.  What's not to love?   Huge range on offer as well.
Gifts for Christmas campers

Buy them here

Thermarest Stretcher Cot Bug Shelter

Sleep under the stars, but comfortably on a Thermarest cot, with a bug shelter above you.      Fine weather camping only.       FYI:  Shelter only, cot sold separately.

Why we like it:     Comfort and style in the outdoors.   For the glampers not the hard core campers!

Gift ideas for campers

Buy it here

Swift Fold Hammock

Got room in your car to experience hammock camping without the need for trees?  Or for your backyard (perfect for days when you want to laze at home)?     Try a fold up hammock stand.

Why we like it?    Hammock in the backyard is a great way to spend your days off this summer.

Gift ideas for campers

Buy it here

So there are just a few ideas, all of which we think most campers could definitely put to use at the campsite or at home.

If you miss out before Christmas, there's always next year.

Happy and safe Christmas.

PS.  Still stuck for ideas?   Then see these 15 not so dull gift ideas.