Leave No Trace: Principle 5 -  Minimize Campfire Impacts

Leave No Trace: Principle 5 - Minimize Campfire Impacts

Author: Tina Eckerlin

If you have been following our blog the last few weeks, you know that we decided to start 2023 with purpose! We decided to celebrate the New Year with a 7 week focused blog series on the 7 Leave No Trace Principles.

You probably already know that we are passionate about Leave No Trace (LNT). So much, that we partnered with Leave No Trace Canada to help promote, educate and advocate for good land stewardship.


If you are new to LNT, there are 7 Principles. These are principles and not rules. They are guidelines, advice, and a methodology to lessen our impact on the natural world. With some practice, they can become second nature and a way of life.

Even if you are well versed in the 7 Principles, there is always room for improvement. Here at Terrain UL, we are trying to bring our LNT practices to the next level. We can always do better!

This week we will be exploring Principle 5. If you missed our last blogpost, you should check out Principle 4- Leave What You Find!

Leave No Trace

Principle 5 - Minimize Campfire Impacts

Did you know that according to the Canadian National Fire Database (CNFDB), 'over 8000 fires occur each year, and burn an average of over 2.1 million hectares' here in Canada. It is estimated that half of this amount is due to lightening strikes, and the remaining half is due to human behaviour.

Everyone loves a good campfire! Whether you are sitting around roasting marshmallows or cooking, singing songs or are just trying to warm up, there are are some basic practices that need to be adhered to.


  • Campfires can cause lasting impacts: opt for cooking on a portable stove 
  • When choosing a portable stove, make sure to check with land managers what fuel sources are permitted. For instance, alcohol stoves and portable fire boxes are often not allowed during a fire ban
  • Place barbecues, fire boxes and portable stoves on durable surfaces, such as: rocks, concrete, bricks, gravel or sand to avoid burning the ground

Portable camp stoves are a great alternative to cooking on a fire. Most are lightweight and can be extinguished quickly. They also work in most weather conditions. They have a low impact on the immediate environment.

 Open Fires

  • Protect soil and roots from burning
  • If open fires are allowed, use designated locations. Keeping fires small
  • Follow the rules. Check if fires are allowed. You can be fined for a campfire during a fire ban. Even worse, you could be responsible for a forest fire
  • If campfires are allowed, use your judgement!
    • Is there a designated fire area?
    • Are there high winds?
    • Extreme drought?
    • Do you have the time and resources to invest in extinguishing a fire properly?
    • Do you really need to make a fire?
  • If wood collection is allowed, burn only dead wood that is collected from the ground and can be broken up by hand
  • Can you collect dead wood without disturbing the area around you?
  • Never burn garbage 
  • Do not move wood from site to site

Always consider the impact your fire will have. Perhaps a fire box, fire pan or wood stove could serve your purposes. Campfire evidence can last for years, especially scorched rocks.

Extinguishing Your Fire

  • Allow pieces of wood and embers to reduce to ash
  • Drown fire with water and stir
  • Drown again and stir, breaking up any larger parts with gloved hands
  • Feel coals, embers or remaining wood. Don't forget to soak the fire ring! If anything still feels hot, drown and stir again.
  • Check area for any stray sparks or embers
  • If any parts of your fire still feel hot, it is too hot to leave the area
  • Are you required to pack out your campfire ashes

Before heading out, it is your responsibility to learn the guidelines in the area. Talk to the park land managers about fire bans, rules and wood transportation. 

Too many of our backcountry wildfires could easily be avoided with good Leave No Trace practices. Don't be the cause!

Follow us on Instagram for Leave No Trace Thursday's for weekly tips and tricks!

7 Principles of Leave No Trace

Let us know in the comments below!






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Thanks @Mark E. Geres! Will definitely check it out!

Terrain UL

Adding to the conversation.

Tread Lightly Dot-org is a noteworthy resource too.

Mark E. Geres

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