Creative Campfire Alternatives

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Did you know? Nearly 9 out of 10 wildfires nationwide are caused by humans.

It’s hard to imagine a camping trip without the ambience, convenience, and comfort of a campfire. Yet, when fire restrictions are implemented during the hot, dry summer months, or on particularly dry, windy days, it is necessary to find alternatives to a campfire to decrease the potential for accidentally igniting a wildfire. Even when fire restrictions are in effect, there are plenty of ways to cook, stay warm, and have fun during your camping trip. Check out our recommendations below and get creative with the resources available to you.

Always research fire restrictions before heading out on your trip – remember, conditions can change daily. Only you can prevent wildfires!

Make your next camping trip shine with these fun campfire alternatives

Create Your Own Ambience

Three reusable plastic water bottles arranged on an unlit campsite grill glow with light from headla

There are now many modern, portable, alternative light sources available. Pick up some solar powered lanterns and let them charge during the day so they will be ready for your nighttime adventures. You can even look for inflatable lights to save space when packing your gear. Stuff an extra water bottle with your headlamp or battery-powered string lights for a do-it-yourself lantern. Or grab some glow sticks for the kids and have a glow-in-the-dark party (this will help you keep an eye on them, too!).

Instead of looking down at a campfire, look up! How many stars can you see at night? Is there a bright moon illuminating your campsite? Listen for the sounds you might miss when all you hear is the crackling of a campfire.

Gather ’round your lantern or picnic table to play games, tell stories, or have a sing-a-long. When it’s cold outside, wrap up in blankets, use your camp stove to warm up your beverage of choice, and snuggle up to your tentmates for an evening you’ll never forget!

Expand Your Horizons

An elevated wooden boardwalk meanders down towards the shore of Lake Michigan under a blue-green nig

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (Mike Mercer, Share the Experience)

Mary Rose Kulczak experienced another world on an overnight camping trip in Michigan, which she captured in a Share Your Story submission:

There is something special about this very dark and secluded spot that brings on a sense of reverence. People whisper in hushed tones, as if they were attending a symphonic performance.

I began to feel as if I was actually under the domed ceiling of an observatory. The expanse of night sky curved above me as the stars made their appearance. I could sense a divine maestro conductor cueing the constellations, pointing the baton at Ursa Major and Ursa Minor. Soon, the creamy spread of the Milky Way joined the refrain. Finally, the star of the show appeared: the Perseids meteor shower!

 At every shooting star, the congregants gathered on the lawn would let out a collective gasp, followed by a chorus of “Ooohs!” and “Aaahs!” At times, children would clap their hands in delighted applause. We knew we were witnessing something special."

Pro Tip: Cook with a Camp Stove

A young woman bends over a green propane camp stove set on a picnic table and flips bacon in a fryin

Yellowstone National Park (Neal Herbert, National Park Service)

In most cases, gas or propane camp stoves may be used when Stage I and II fire restrictions are in effect. This is because these fuel sources can be quickly turned on and off. Only use your camp stove in an area that is barren or cleared of all overhead and surrounding flammable materials within 3 feet of the device. As always, plan ahead, check local restrictions before arriving at your destination, and be prepared to make adjustments to your plans.

Bonus: you can still cook all of your favorite camping recipes without having to obtain firewood!

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