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  1. #1
    cougarmeat's Avatar
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    Are flying ashes from a camp fire really a problem?

    In the RoundTable sub-forum someone asked how one spends the time during the longer winter nights; i.e. it gets dark at 6 pm, etc. Someone mentioned tending the campfire and that triggered one of my phobias - of course I consider it wisdom. Other people I camp with are just keen about having a campfire. And for go-to-grounders, usually, in a "formal" camp site, the fire ring is located some distance from the intended flat tent areas. But with hammocks, sometimes the trees used (no alternatives) bring us a bit closer. I worry every time I see any ash/spark rise up from the fire. I just know it has some laser guidance system that will route it to my tarp (or tent rainfly).

    Yet people camp with a fire all the time. So maybe this instance of burning hole in your tarp from something floating up from the fire is much rarer than I imagine. But "rarer" is not zero. Given how easy/quick it is to deploy a hammock setup once the length of suspension is set, if I kept the tarp in skins, and took down the hammock (keeping suspension set so I just have to rewrap around the tree) I wouldn't worry - about my gear.

    One of my camping partners is so worried about Cascadia (the earthquake that will shake the PNW coast line) that she hesitates to go kayaking in the San Juans or around Vancouver Island. Cascadia might happen while she is on the water. My take is, it could - but probably (by a large margin) won't. So I'm wondering if my worry about campfires messing with the tarp is the same as her concern about Cascadia.

    Of course one could move their setup further and further away. But I'm taking about usual camp distances. Like if you were 10 or 15 feet from the campfire - and kept it on the smallish side - would you be concerned?

    People seem to really like campfires and I'd hate to be the wet blanket that puts the fire out if it is really not an issue.
    In order to see what few have seen, you must go where few have gone. And DO what few have done.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Cabmanhang's Avatar
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    Monitor the wind and keep a reasonable distance. Burn a clean burning fire that doesn't produce big sooty ash which can burn longer in the air. Be selective about which wood you use, as some will pop and flicker like crazy. Rhodo comes to mind.

    In swirling winds, you may want to dig a dakota pit to minimize flame hazard and the potential to burn your gear.

    The awareness should be taken seriously. I've had many of my pieces of gear rendered useless. Usually, after going to bed, my buddies got carried away and you wake up seeing light coming through birdshot holes all in your equipment.

    Back in my tent days, my buddies did this and it stormed around 5am. We all woke up in puddles of water. Upon later inspection, they had effectively destroyed every single one of our tents with their drunken mega fire. So, yeah it can happen. Just use caution and common sense and you should be good.

  3. #3
    Senior Member
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    I'm curious, I guess, but I'll almost always have a social and/or cooking fire regardless. It seems where I build a fire is always a considerable distance from my hammock, mostly because where I set up to sleep isn't next to where other people hang out. If I did more solo camping is probably have to be more deliberate about where I set up. Unless it's pouring or there's some other extenuating circumstances, though, I like a fire.

  4. #4
    OneClick's Avatar
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    My first thought is the smell. I hate pumping smoke into $500 worth of nice quilts, that suck to wash I may add.

    I never had damage or stinky gear because I always play the wind as much as possible. Then I keep the fire a good distance.

    I didn't have many fires on last week's trip, but when I did it was skanky pine. That stuff was popping all over...in the wind. If it hadn't rained the morning of, I would have worried watching those smoldering embers sit in the pine duff.

    At one point I was camped on a tiny rocky peninsula and didn't want to go for firewood. I was amazed how comforting a tiny stick fire could be. Just something to watch and enjoy; no more than a dozen "pencils" slowly burning.

  5. #5
    Senior Member
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    At one point in my life (for many years) worried about sparks and embers. Then we almost started a fire, we thought the fire was out, dumped water on it and separated the ashes...Well what we did not think of was the fire continuing underground. Some fancy footwork and a lot of trips to the stream we had the whole area saturated and no more smoldering. Lesson learned the hard way.

    Now days my heart and lungs need TLC, no more fire. I miss it but I still get out and enjoy myself and that is what counts. My measly three night Hang trips are about all I am able to comfortably do without heated food.

    Years ago I did an experiment to see if I could live without money. Well I needed some $ but not much and with more planning I could have lived well on very little cash. We (two young children and a dog) found a cabin on the side of Larch Mountain in the Columbia River Gorge, it had a wood stove, creek nearby, the creek was cold and from a Spring, I put our milk in the creek to keep it cold. We had everything we needed, we went to bed at sunset, rose with the light, the food cooked on the wood stove was most excellent. We lived on the side of the mountain for 10 months, it was great and I saved a lot of $. No cost for housing, no utility bills, no vehicle life becomes very simple and basic. I love the smell of food cooking over a wood stove or fire, my heart and lungs say no way. Bah

  6. #6
    TrailSlug's Avatar
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    Only if they are hot

  7. #7
    michigandave's Avatar
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    Ashes to ashes, dust to dust....

    I was always leery about hanging too near to the campfire and usually camp with fellow hammock hangers. Because we're all in the same boat everyone is aware of the unfortunate results of stray embers and watch out for each other. When we have a winter hang and our group is rockin' a 12 foot long by 5 foot fire pit, it's burn baby burn. Most everyone is a fair distance away and if someone hung close, that's on them.

    Since I got into the hot tent 2 seasons ago, I'm used to having that stove fired up and sharing a 10 by 12 foot space with my hammock. Yes, my gear and everything sharing the same space will have a smokey funk, but it's a good funk. You have to be aware of creating sparks when adding wood, plus remain in alert when the stove door is cracked open.

    So far so good and no spark holes in the sil tent or my gear.
    Last edited by michigandave; 09-19-2019 at 16:22.
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  8. #8
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    IMG_20190829_174809950.jpgIMG_20190830_200318649.jpgIMG_20190831_061458326.jpg

    I went kayak camping over Labor day weekend and the set up my hammock about 15 feet or so from the fire ring. I wasn't too concerned, but had a general idea of what I would do if I saw a towering cloud of sparks rise up. as it happened.... nothing happened, fire got ...warm, and I briefly worried that the Costco UQ might melt, but it didn't. so now, i'm not nearly as concerned.

  9. #9
    SilvrSurfr's Avatar
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    I just don't hang near a campfire. I also never pitched a tent near a campfire. When winds are 20 mph an ember can travel quite a distance.
    "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." Ralph Waldo Emerson

  10. #10
    cougarmeat's Avatar
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    I suppose I should be glad this concern isn't a figment of my imagination. Of course I won't sleep tonight after reading cabmanhang's post

    These folks like the smell of a camp fire - that's not the problem. The problem is, they have never spent the night in a torrential downpour when the only thing keeping you dry was the integrity of your gear.

    If I'm solo, of course there is no problem. I either don't have a fire or can move as far away as I like. It's the interaction with other people that's the challenge. Finding that compromise to "be one of the group" yet not a lemming.
    Last edited by cougarmeat; 09-20-2019 at 01:03.
    In order to see what few have seen, you must go where few have gone. And DO what few have done.

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