Last Updated On September 3, 2020
How Hot Is A Campfire?
This is a story about an empty can of baked beans. How it rolled into a discussion on how hot is a campfire and melting temp of bonfires.
It also led me to become the office guru on campfires. This is how it unfolded. After a tumultuous hot windy night at the New South Wales Picnic Point camping trip site.
I arose early at about 5 am to start the cleanup and ready our gear for departure. Coming across our campfire, what I picked up was what looked like a metal plate. What was unusual, was that it looked to be the full remains of a Heinz Can. The label was still visible, charred, it still smelled like warm baked beans.
It must have rolled into the fire. The temperature of a campfire was high enough to melt. Until then the thought never came across my mind about bonfire temperatures?
After a quick google search, I found out that to melt aluminum the temperature needs to be at 1218 Degrees°F (659°C). I needed more answers.
A campfire can get to these temperatures
A well stacked camp fire will reach temperatures of about 900 Degrees Fahrenheit (42.9 Degrees Celsius), and this is dependent on wind conditions and wood material.
Average to Large camp fires will reach a boiling 1,000 Degrees Fahrenheit (537 Degrees Cultists), and industrial large fires at outdoor music festival bon fires will reach temperatures of over 2000 Degrees Fahrenheit or over 1,093 Degree Celsius.
Importance of a hot campfire.
Some argue that being able to create fire is the greatest human invention of all time. I agree with its need wholeheartedly, as I hold a cup of campfire Brewed Coffee.
Coffee needs an average temperature between 195 – 205 Degrees°F (96°C) for that perfect cup. If you make the water any hotter than you will ruin it, that would be a crime.
But fire does more than that, especially when at the camping site. Campfire heat keeps us warm, it brings us together. Marshmallows anyone? It allows us to cook our meals and heat liquids and even signal for an emergency.
Unbeknownst to myself, the temperature of a campfire plays a major role in each of these activities. Ever try cooking meat on a lame, poorly constructed campfire? The hotter the fire, the higher the chances of eradicating bacteria in the meat. Hotter is often better.
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Average campfire temperature.
Wood burns at what temperature?
Do not underestimate campfire temperatures. They can reach very high warmth and cause a lot of damage with even the most basic bonfires temperatures high enough to melt.
To even get a fire started, the average bonfire temperature will need to be around 600 Degrees°F (315°C). This is the optimal wood fire burning point for your campfire and will be when most wood will start to accelerate.
This will release gases that will burn and bring the average temperature up to over 1100 Degrees Fahrenheit (593 Degrees Celsius). Once you have burned all the vapors, you will only have ashes and charcoal left. This burns at temperatures over 2012°F (1100 Degrees Celsius).
When you consider that aluminum melts at temperatures of around 1215 Degrees Fahrenheit (657 Degrees Celsius), you can see how hot enough this is.
How hot is the hottest part of a flame.
The hottest Part of a Flame is not the red part. We tend to associate red with hot. In truth, the hottest part of the flame will be the blue or white parts, which can reach 1670 Degrees Fahrenheit (910°C) more than enough heat to melt!
How hot is the coolest part of a flame.
The coolest flames are when the fuel and the oxygen are barely reacting. In these cool flames, there is not enough heat put out.
So how do you tell roughly how high the temperature and how hot can a campfire get? Well, it seems you can see from the flame color.
If your campfire is a deep red color, then it is at temperatures of around 1112 Degrees Fahrenheit (600°C). If the color of the flame gets to Orange/Yellow, then the highest temperature has risen to 2012 Degrees Fahrenheit (1100°C).
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Wind and why you need to watch it closely
Wind will change the melting point and color of your fire. It adds more oxygen to the catch fire, reduces any moisture that is sitting on the surface of the wood.
This makes it more flammable and it will be at a temperature to melt. Beware that wind direction can change without warning and catch people by surprise. Wind can also cause sparks, and this can pose a threat.
A basic guide for optimal heat.
To make sure you build a camp fire burning that you can be proud of, you are going to need three things:
Selecting the right size of wood.
When making a fire, you need to ensure you have kindling, wood no bigger in diameter than your finger. Once the fire is hot enough, you can gradually add more significant wood pieces to increase its temperatures.
Once you get past wood the size of your arm, it becomes hard to cut with just a hatchet. But if you have brought prepared wood with you or purchased it on the way, then a few logs can make the fire last longer.
The best fuel wood to use.
- Cedar wood.
What are fuel woods you should NEVER use?
- Rhododendron – Toxic smoke or fumes
- Oleander – Toxic smoke or fumes
- Poison Ivy – Can cause lung damage.
For a good baseline temperature of a campfire, the tinder kindling wood (the fuel) needs around 16% Oxygen to burn.
Since air has 21%, we are on a winner, as long as the oxygen reaches the wood.
If that happens and we introduce enough heat, then the tinder kindling should burn thus creating an environment for boiling/melting point.
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Setup is key to how hot a fire gets.
There are many ways to construct a fire triangle which will directly affect how hot your bonfire can reach. The skill is making sure that the air can get to the type of wood, and you do this by stacking the wood in the right way.
- Start with your type of wood and place it in the center of where you are going to set your campfire pit.
- A tip here (and I am not joking) – If you cannot find any Tinder, Doritos or other chips burn well.
- Form a teepee shape with the kindling above the tinder. As you form, this gradually increases the diameter of the wood and will retain the inner campfire temperature.
- Use smaller wood you have collected, develop another teepee over the top.
- Once the fire ring is lit, the larger teepee will eventually collapse.
- You can then add more massive logs of wood to the fire which will allow for soaring campfire temperature that will be hot enough to melt.
- Keep on eye out for flame color and oxygen flow as these measures will indicate how hot can a campfire get
Sometimes there are more important and sensitive issues than just answering How Hot Is A Campfire.
As I write this, there have been massive wildfires in the USA and Australia. These fires produce enormous damage and cost huge figures in addition to causing anxiety to wildlife and families.
The cost of the 2019 California wildfires is expected to be around $20 billion. Australia, which has also been plagued with bush fires, has a bill of $75 million so far. You should think twice about lighting a campfire during periods of dry weather, especially if there is wind.
Changes of wind direction, a fire setting a tent alight, and falling into a fire are also dangers. When planning a campfire, safety should be at the top of your priority list.
It is important not to mount campfires that are larger than you need for cooking. You should keep the fire small if you can so that if anything goes wrong, you can put it out quickly.
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Don’t forget about extinguishing
When extinguishing the temperature of a campfire, make sure do it with water. I know some people use soil, but the truth is that fire can keep smoldering under soil for up to 8 hours.
Wow, I had not imagined my love for Baked Beans would have taken me down a rabbit hole to investigate the burning question that is how hot is a campfire. I have learned a lot from the exercise and hope that you have picked up some useful facts as well.
Curious to find out about How Long Does a Propane Tank Last? Click here to read our article.
So know you know How Hot is a Campfire, and so If you find yourself a bit of a master chef and you want to bring out those cooking utensils you got for Fathers or Mothers Day. You should check out our article on some of the tastiest Campfire meals cooked in foil here.
This article shows you that all you need is foil, a few ingredients and a decent camp fire to put together a wholesome camping meal for the whole family.