I have a love-hate relationship with fire. There's nothing better than sitting by a campfire when you're out in the wild, the light from the flames is a nice comfort, and a grilled steak is the perfect dinner after a day hiking. But for reasons unknown to me, the smoke from the flames always seems to follow me. It's like a curse. Wherever I go I get trapped in a smoky haze, with stinging eyes and the smell that lingers for days on my clothes. This also presents a danger for survival. If you build a smoky campfire this is like a beacon. White fluffy smoke can be seen for miles and is a dead giveaway there are people in the area. If there's anyone out there will ill-intent, a full plume of smoke from your fire could be the magnet that draws them right to you. The good news is that making a smokeless campfire isn't rocket science. You just need to get a few things right, and you can enjoy the warmth from the flames without choking on the smoke or giving away your position to anyone who is looking.
Understanding how fire worksBurning wood in a fire is a combustion reaction. You're using the heat from the flames to turn wood back into light and warmth. Smoke is a byproduct. And the less efficient your fire is, the more smoke is generated. Smoke is created when there isn't enough oxygen to burn the wood you've placed into the flames. Of course, when you're using firewood there's also carbon and other organic compounds being burnt, and these will always smoke a little, but you can greatly reduce this by creating an efficient fire. Oh, and never stick wet wood into a fire. It will smoke and smolder like crazy, as the water and dampness counteract the ability of the wood to burn. But you knew that, right?
Starting an efficient fireThe trick here is to remember that oxygen is key. If you want to build a fire that doesn't smoke, you need two things.
- Dry wood.