Activity Plan for Minimize Campfire Impacts

Exploring Fires and Stoves

This activity should take about 65 minutes.

What Your Group Will Learn

After participating in this activity plan, which is designed to help participants learn about various options for fires, participants will be able to

Participants will compare how fast they can heat water on a camp stove, campfire, and a mound fire. They will then assess the value of each cooking method.

Materials and Preparation



Grabbing Your Group's Attention (20 minutes)

Explain to the group that there are three types of prepared food for camp meals: precooked cold meals, meals cooked over fires, and meals cooked on a camp stove. Group members will compare the value of stoves and fires when making hot chocolate. But first, they will help the leader demonstrate how to build a true Leave No Trace fire.

Demonstrate how to build a mound fire. Follow the directions for building a mound fire found in the Background on the Principles of Leave No Trace. Use group members to help gather soil, firewood, and clean up afterward. Help participants understand how a properly built mound fire leaves almost no trace of the fire. The entire process of building the mound fire, extinguishing the fire, and cleaning up should take about 30 minutes.

Steps for Teaching the Activity (30 minutes)

The Heat Is On

Participants will compare how fast they can heat water on a camp stove, a fire built using a fire pan, and a traditional campfire. After heating the water and making the hot chocolate, group members will attempt to remove all evidence of the fire (e.g., traces of ash, dirt, firewood, etc.). This process will help participants think about the advantages of stoves, mound fires, or fire pans over traditional campfires.

Explain to group members that they will conduct an experiment to demonstrate the pros and cons of fire use. Divide the participants into three groups. Each will:

1. Prepare a fire source.

2. Boil water and make hot chocolate.

3. Clean up the site so no one can tell they have been there.

Ask one group to use a stove, one a fire pan, and one a new rock-ring fire. Have each group keep track of how long it takes to prepare the hot chocolate and clean up the site.

Note: It will be necessary to supervise the groups as they light the stove and construct the campfires from the materials provided. Read the Background on the Principles of Leave No Trace and instruct the fire-pan group on the proper way to build a pan fire.

Leave No Trace does not simply mean putting out the fire and cleaning up the trash. There should be no evidence that the fire ever existed. Here are points to remember when supervising and discussing the activity:

Ask participants: Which method of boiling water was fastest? The stove will most likely be the fastest method of boiling water. Fires require more preparation time, especially if proper care is taken to Leave No Trace.

Ask participants the following: Which method would group members prefer if they were very hungry, if it were raining, or if they were camped on rocky terrain where a fire was impractical or they had no wood source?

Ask them: What problems arose during cleanup? How successful were the fire builders at leaving no sign whatsoever of their fire? A true Leave No Trace fire should leave virtually no sign of its existence. Did the fire builders meet this standard? Ease of cleanup generally will follow this order:

Wrapping Up the Activity (15 minutes)

Your group has had the opportunity to experience and discuss the benefits and procedures for building different types of fires. How well have group members learned to minimize their impact with fires?

Summarize the advantages and disadvantages of campfires and backpacking stoves.

Congratulations on conducting a well-prepared meeting for your group!

Teaching Leave No Trace