How Hot is a Campfire? (Everything You Need to Know)


Campfires are a staple on any camping trip. They’re incredibly useful for all sorts of survival aspects such as for warmth, cooking food, preparing safe drinking water and they can even ward off dangerous animals. But just how hot is a campfire?

Campfires can come in varying sizes and temperatures depending on the materials used, but before we get into all that, let’s address our main question – how hot is a campfire?

How Hot is a Campfire?

Campfires can come in varying sizes and temperatures depending on the materials used, but before we get into all that, let’s address our main question – how hot is a campfire?

There is no one correct answer due to the nature of every campfire being different in size and materials used – however, an average-sized campfire will burn internally at around 900°F (482°C). 

Certain regions of a campfire will register at different temperatures. Let’s look at the three regions of a flame;

  • Continuous Flame Region: A typical campfire can reach an internal temperature of 1652°F (900°C) which is measured slightly above the base of the campfire. This area of the campfire is the internal temperature and where you will find the hottest part of any campfire.
  • Intermittent Flame Region: As you move up from the solid flame region, you’ll find the intermittent flame region. Temperatures here will decrease as you move up the plume. Visible flame tips are where you’ll expect a temperature of around 600°F (320°C).
  • Thermal Plume Region: The 3rd region of a campfire is found beyond the flame tips and is known as the thermal plume region. This is where no more flames are visible and the campfire temperature will continually drop the higher you go. If you are planning on cooking using your campfire, this is the region you’ll be using most of the time.

Larger fires (such as bonfires) can create even more heat if properly built (around 2000°F or 1100°C). Bonfires are not used for cooking due to their size and are usually built for the disposal of burnable waste material or used as part of a celebration.

Flame Temperature Color

What is the hottest color of fire you might ask?

The dominant color of the flame will change depending on the temperature it’s at. These colors can change quite dramatically in varying heat – but you shouldn’t worry as your campfire should only reach up to 1652°F (900°C). But for those who are curious, we’ve created a guide to help you understand the heat of your hue.

What a Fire Needs: The Fire Triangle

There are three things that a fire needs to burn and these elements make up the combustion reaction: oxygen, fuel, and heat. These three things combined form the fire triangle.

Removing any one of these three elements will cause the fire to go out. For example, smothering a roaring fire with a fire blanket will block the oxygen to it causing it to be extinguished.

The more oxygen is provided to the fire, the faster and hotter the fire will burn.

Three Important Aspects of Any Campfire

So we understand how hot a campfire is and what a fire needs so let’s discuss the three ingredients needed to build the perfect campfire.

  1. Tinder: Tinder is the smallest of these three materials and will be used to initially start the campfire. The main attributes of this particular ingredient you want are that it is extremely flammable and dry. Tinder is used to create a short-lived flame that will help the kindling produce a thriving campfire. Small twigs, dry leaves, and even paper can be used to help start your fire.
  2. Kindling: This second stage is your fire. Kindling consists of larger twigs and small branches upon which your main fuel will sit. The kindling will start generating your coals which will provide a good foundation for your campfire to help it last longer.
  3. Firewood: Your chosen firewood is the fuel of your campfire. This firewood is laid upon your tinder and kindling and will need enough of a fire already to help it burn and produce a lot of heat. Your firewood will initially create a large fire and it will need to burn down to a more manageable level before you can start cooking.

Best Types of Wood For a Campfire

As a general rule, hardwood trees will burn hotter than softwood trees. That’s because hardwood is more densely packed which will help your campfire last longer and generate more heat – perfect for cooking and keeping you warm.

Here are some different wood recommendations for your campfire:

  • HickoryHickory firewood is easy to light and generates a hot, long-lasting campfire. Hickory won’t give off any harmful emissions and is great for cooking. Not only this, hickory will produce a great aroma for your campfire and will create the classic firewood crackling which is a personal favorite attribute of this wood.
  • AshAsh firewood is very lightweight and can be found in many environments. Ash will burn easily and won’t emit too much smoke making your campfire more manageable. Ash wood also holds minimal amounts of moisture which is why it’s easy to light. If you’re splitting your wood out in the field, you’ll find it very easy to do so.
  • Oak – A slow-burning hardwood that will generate a tremendous amount of heat but very little in the way of sparks. Oakwood could be ideal for those camping trips with children. For those wanting to prepare meals with longer than average cooking times like stews, for example, oakwood may be the way to go.
  • CedarCedar is another slow-burning wood that doesn’t create a huge amount of flames but it will still emit a generous amount of heat to keep you and your fellow campers warm and cozy throughout the evening.

How To Structure a Campfire

One of the easiest and most common methods of building a campfire is to create a teepee-style structure.

Think of it as a downward-facing cone made of smaller twigs and sticks.

Once the initial layer is built, you can then apply your larger pieces of wood which will help your campfire burn hotter and last longer.

The inside of the cone will require dry kindling which will be the initial starting point of your fire. It’s important to have enough kindling on your campfire without blocking airflow, as we established earlier, oxygen is a vital element to the fire triangle.

This teepee-style structure is a great basis for any campfire and it promotes a healthy flow of oxygen to the fire.

Melting Points by Metal Cooking Utensils

If you’re planning on using your campfire to cook, it’s wise to understand metal melting points to help you determine what cooking utensils will be best for you while you’re out camping.

You wouldn’t want your brand-new set of utensils to melt while you’re out in the wilderness.

To help put your mind at ease, we’ve listed a range of common metals used for cooking utensils.

  • Aluminum: 660°C (1220°F)
  • Brass: 930°C (1710°F)
  • Copper: 1084°C (1983°F)
  • Cast Iron: 1204°C (2200°F)
  • Stainless Steel*: 1375 – 1530°C (2500-2785°F)
  • Titanium: 1670°C (3038°F)

*It’s important to understand that stainless steel is an alloy of iron, chromium, and in some cases, nickel and other metals. Be sure to identify the proportion of elements within your stainless steel utensils as this could affect their melting points.

Stainless steel and titanium cooking utensils are recommended because of their high melting points. You shouldn’t need to worry about these materials while you’re out cooking on a campfire.

Mitch Taylor
With over 20 years experience with camping and hiking, I've taken it upon myself to share my insights. From common camping and hiking questions to gear recommendations, your adventure starts here.

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