Campfire Basics

To many campers, the campfire is a beloved and indispensable outdoor tradition—a kinetic, luminous, dreamlike force of nature that for generations has served as the centerpiece of backwoods gatherings.

Campfires remain a cherished institution among visitors to drive-in campgrounds. In backcountry settings, though, their use has diminished greatly for a number of compelling reasons. Read on for REI's advice about fire etiquette in either setting.

REI Campfire image

Campfires at Campgrounds

Campfires in the Backcountry

At high-elevation wilderness destinations (typically those above 4,000 feet), campfires are rarely permitted. Why? The reasons include:

Campfires, though, can be lifesavers in emergency situations. If you are wet, cold, without a working stove and unable to find shelter, a fire can help you fight off hypothermia. Follow these guidelines when building a fire in the backcountry.

Starting and Extinguishing a Fire


Campfires are 1) Fun in campgrounds, 2) Rarely allowed in high-elevation wilderness settings and 3) Sometimes vital in emergencies. If you build a fire, it is your responsibility to know how to build it, maintain it, extinguish it, then minimize any impact it creates. Happy camping, and, please, be safe.

Expert advice provided by REI. To find more expert advice visit REI's Family Expert Advice section