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Campfire or stove

Many people would argue that campfires are a traditional part of camping, but modern, compact and lightweight camping stoves offer a far more efficient and reliable way of cooking your meals.

And against the undeniable romance of sitting around a campfire is the reality of the environmental damage, especially in commonly used or vulnerable areas. Fires can scorch the ground and damage grass, heather and trees, sometimes leading to wildfires that burn woods and hillsides, especially in dry weather.

Even where a fire is kept under control and properly extinguished, the growing number of people who are taking up camping means that gathering deadwood in popular areas can have a significant environmental impact. Dead wood is an essential habitat and resource for animals, fungi and even plants.

The lighting of a fire is allowed as part of the exercise of access rights, if it is done responsibly. However there are a number of important exceptions:

  • Never light an open fire during prolonged dry periods or in areas such as forests, woods, farmland or on peaty ground. Peaty soils can retain the heat undetected and flare up again later.
  • If a camp fire is appropriate then keep it small and under control and pick a spot on a hard ground like rocks or sand that won’t leave scorch marks.  Lighting and managing a campfire responsibly is a skill and takes some expertise.
  • Bring your own fuel if intending to have a campfire – deadwood may be in short supply if camping away from woodlands.  Avoid using up all the deadwood as it is important for woodland wildlife to have deadwood to rot down.
  • Make sure a campfire is properly extinguished and remove all traces of an open fire before you leave. 

You can find guidance on the legalities of campfires here

In most circumstances it is wiser to use a cooker than to light a campfire, certainly if you intend to follow the 'Leave no trace' mantra.

There's an excellent article by Ben Dolphin, Countryside Ranger and former President of Ramblers Scotland, which explains the harm and dangers of campfires - while admitting the attraction. 

Read Ben's article here.

Remnants of a campfire: charred embers and a blackened circle on the ground. It's unsightly and harmful to the environment - especially when many people have the same idea.

A charred hillside in the aftermath of a wildfire caused by a campfire which had smouldered underground for three days before re-igniting.

A campfire on a beach or shingle bank has little chance of spreading, but will still have to be properly cleared up afterwards.

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