In the previous blog I discussed in general terms some of the campfire protocols for our guided Yellowstone Backpacking trips. On our Wyoming backpacking trips or our New Mexico or Montana backpacking adventures in national forest Wilderness areas, the government rules are a bit looser, but we at Big Wild Adventures are still firmly committed to “leave no trace” backpacking and that includes specific techniques that we use with regard to campfires. We will cover these specifics in a future blog. For now, though, here are a few words about collecting firewood.
I’ve already mentioned that while backpacking in Yellowstone, it is illegal to break dead branches off standing trees. That’s probably a good rule for most anywhere, unless you’re in a situation in which that is the only option for dry wood. Usually, though, you can find plenty of good dry downed dead wood on the ground, or better yet, connected to a dead down tree but up off the ground a bit, with air circulating around it (which sucks out the moisture). Wood without bark is best, and try to minimize wood that has a lot of rot, because rotten wood burns dirty and has way less Btu’s than solid wood. The biggest mistake made by novices, though, is to collect chunks of firewood that are too large. Think small! Big logs make big fires and that can be dangerous. They are messy, too, and tough to douse. They also make it difficult to reclaim a campsite. Moreover, the cook (your guide) cannot generally use chunks of wood that are bigger than about 2-3″ in diameter. That’s because he/she needs to regulate the flame and you can’t do that if the fire is too big! Sure, a few somewhat larger chunks are great for after dinner on a cool evening, but please don’t get carried away. Remember the old saying: “White man build big fire, sit far away; Indian build small fire, sit close“. While backpacking in Wyoming or Montana — or just about anywhere for that matter — when it comes to campfires, think like and Indian!