There are a couple of ways to make a campfire that doesn’t permanently scar the ground. The first is to use a campfire pan and the second is making a mound fire.
For geographical reasons I prefer using a campfire pan. Using a fire pan is a bit similar to using an existing fire ring, except you’re providing your own ring.
A campfire pan can be used from various items, for example: An aluminum foil oval turkey pan, an old grill, a stainless steel roasting pan or even some pieces of corrugated sheet metal.
Some friends of mine use a baby moon semi-truck hubcap. That works great too!
With the use of any one of these items it is important to elevate the pan from the ground. The pan still gets so hot that it can deeply burn any grasses on the ground. It’s best to set the campfire pan on some rocks.
Minimize environmental damage by making a mound fire or using a campfire pan.
Putting a layer of dirt in the bottom of the pan helps absorb some of the heat. Sometimes the coals can get so hot they will eventually burn a hole in the bottom of the pan.
Keep I mind that when making a mound fire or using a campfire pan, it is best to use smaller pieces of wood and keep the campfire small.
For many years I used an old style grill to use as a campfire pan. It was 24 inches across and the sides were about 4 inches tall. I could prop it perfectly between rooks. On the top I was able to use a grilling grate when I needed to do some campfire cooking. Unfortunately after years of use the bottom finally rusted out.
The stainless steel turkey roasting pans are probably best. They are pricey if you buy a new one but, they are nice because they have durable handles. Imagine being able to move an entire campfire if needed!
Using corrugated sheet metal pieces work great but only if you use at least 3 layers stacked up in a crossing pattern, 90 degrees from one another. This method raises the fire high enough from the ground to prevent the ground from scarring by the intense heat.
The beauty of using a campfire pan is that once the campfire is out, the leftover ash can be safely disposed of, into a hole or another safe place.
How to make a mound fire.
Personally I’ve only used this method while camping in Europe. The fire mound method is more difficult to use in the Rocky Mountain region!
This area tends to have a lot of wind too, so having the fire up above the ground can get hazardous because the campfire is open and not contained.
Also, the ground is much too hard and rocky here. To get enough dirt together for a campfire mound, one would need a jackhammer and a backhoe! And, I generally don’t take those items camping!
In most of Europe and in other parts of the US the ground is wet and lush with lots of soft dirt where the top layers consist of peat.
To build a fire mound, take a tough piece of thick plastic, tarp or thin sheet metal 3 to 4 feet square and place it on the ground where the campfire mound is to be made.
Remove the top layer of peat/organic soil for the fire mound when digging the hole, set it off to the side for later. Dig a deep hole below the layer of peat/organic soil and shovel dirt on to the tarp.
Make a pile of dirt on the tarp. Pat down the pile of dirt
to make a flat area on which your fire can be made to approximately 2 feet
across and 6 inches high. If using a tarp, roll in the extra material on the
sides to the mound to avoid burning holes in it from flying embers.
All you need to do now put together your campfire wood and light the mound fire.
After you're done with the mound fire: Once the fire has burned out and has been extinguished, the entire fire mound can be picked up by holding the tarp, and then poured in to the hole where the dirt came from.
It’s a bit heavy so you’ll need a friend to help you.
Next, take the peat/organic soil that was saved off to the side, spread it around evenly on the top of the hole. Having that top layer of organic soil will provide a great environment for new grass to quickly regrow.
An advantage of making a mound fire is that all you really need is a shovel.
No one will ever know you were there!
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