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What is the Hottest Part of a Campfire?

What is the Hottest Part of a Campfire?

What exactly is the hottest part of a campfire? Knowing the answer to this will help you to make the most informed and safe decisions when building and maintaining your fires.


What Is the Hottest Part of a Campfire?


The hottest part of a traditional teepee-shaped fire is in the middle, where air rises quickly to meet the top of the logs. Temperatures in this area of the fire can range from 1300 to 2000 degrees Fahrenheit or 704 to 1094 degrees Celsius.

This temperature quickly decreases to 200 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit (93 to 260 degrees Celsius) at the top of the wood and a couple of inches above the fire.

The base of a campfire is surprisingly the coolest part, which is likely due to the fact that this is where the air is pulled into the base of the fire to feed it. Temperatures here range from 100 to 300 degrees Fahrenheit (38-149 degrees Celsius).


How Can I Measure the Temperature of My Campfire?


You can find out the temperature of your campfire by using an infrared thermometer. These are not expensive, they’re easy to use and most have a laser pointer that will allow you to quickly measure heat spots without disturbing or getting too close to the fire.

Keep in mind that your campfire may get so hot that it maxes out your infrared thermometer, so you may not be able to get a reading for the highest temperature at the hottest point. Take good care of your thermometer by keeping it at least 12 inches away from the fire to prevent damage to your device.


What Determines the Heat of My Fire?


A fire’s temperature is not always the same and depends on other external elements. Here are some of the most common influencers:

The Type of Wood

The type of wood that is being burned will determine the heat output. Generally, a hardwood fire burns hotter than a softwood fire. This is because hardwood contains more energy than softwood, so there is more fuel for the fire to burn. Softwoods are made of resinous sap and low-lignin content, which makes them less dense.

The Amount of Airflow

A campfire’s heat output will depend on how much air you allow into it. If you want a warm fire, put a few logs in the fire pit and then cover it with ash or soil to trap heat. If you want more of an intense fire where you can cook over your flames, leave some air space between the wood so that oxygen can flow freely through the spaces.

Fire Size & Location

The size of your campfire also determines its heat output. A larger fire will burn through more fuel, which in turn creates more heat. The best place to build a campfire is at the base of a cliff or hill with airflow across it. This way you can maximize an upward draft and get your flames going strong

The Amount of Moisture in the Wood

The amount of moisture in the wood will affect how hot your fire is. Dry, seasoned wood burns hotter than green or wet wood does. This is because green or wet wood has more moisture in it. As the water evaporates, heat energy is used to boil off the liquid rather than aiding the combustion of a fire.

The Amount and Size of Wood Used

The amount of wood that you put into your fire will determine its heat output. Even if the same type of wood is used, a small log compared to a large log creates more intense flames. A larger piece of wood takes longer to ignite and therefore produces less intense flames.

Surface area also plays a large role in the heat of a fire and cutting your logs will allow you to stack them in a way where they don’t touch. This will give you the most amount of surface area for maximum combustion.

The Weather

The temperature, humidity, and precipitation will also determine the heat output of your fire. Generally speaking, a dry day with clear skies has more potential for an intense campfire than one that is cloudy, rainy, or humid does. Cold temperatures also have a trickle-down effect on the fire. A cold day will likely require more fuel to keep your campfire going strong, so plan accordingly and bring plenty of long-burning logs.


How Can I Make My Campfire Hotter?


Although many external factors affect the heat of your fire, there are things you can do to make it hotter and control your campfire experience. Here are a few ideas for increasing your campfire’s temperature:

Build Your Fire the Right Way

The way you build your fire will determine how hot it is. For a hotter blaze, create more of an open-hearth style where air can flow freely all around the wood and through both sides of the logs. This type of structure lets in lots of oxygen to fuel combustion.

Build It in a Windy Area

If you want an inferno-like campfire, build it on the side of a hill with lots of airflow or in a location exposed to the wind. The blast of air will help fan your flames and make them hotter than they would be otherwise. Some other ways to give your fire oxygen include fanning your fire, using a bellow, or even just blowing on the flames.

Make Sure You’re Using Cured or Seasoned Wood

Cured wood is wood that has been dried for at least six months. Many woods require at least a year to fully cure. Seasoned wood is cured for this length of time and then further dried by exposure to the elements until it reaches 20 percent moisture content or lower. When wood is well cured, it is a lot easier to light and burns much longer and hotter.

You can cure or season wood even faster by leaving it out in sunny, dry areas or laying your wood next to a hot fire. If you’re looking for an intense fire, this is the best way to get it!


What Temperature Can You Start a Fire?


In order to have your wood catch fire, it will need to reach a temperature of at least 350 degrees Fahrenheit or 176.67 degrees Celsius. At this point, wood will begin to shrink, darken in colour, crack, and smoulder. This process is called pyrolysis, which is the chemical decomposition of organic material by heat.

During the next phase of this process, the wood begins to decompose more rapidly and the flames increase in size due to the energy of the wood rapidly releasing. At this point, the fire is between 500 to 800 degrees Fahrenheit or 260 to 427 degrees Celsius.

In the final phase of pyrolysis, the wood in the fire is completely ignited and the only remains are the coals that were created. At this phase, the fire will be anywhere from 1300 degrees Fahrenheit or 704 degrees Celsius or higher.


What Do the Different Colours of Fire Mean?


The colors of your fire give you insight into what is happening inside. Here is a quick guide to what they mean:

  • Red Flames: These are some of the coolest areas of the fire and the darker they are, the cooler they are. Red flames range between 900 and 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit (900 to 982 degrees Celsius)
  • Orange Flames: When flames are a traditional orange colour, they are at about 1,800 to 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit (982 to 1,149 Celsius)
  • Yellow Flames: Warm and bright yellow flames are approximately 2,100 to 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit (1,149 to 1,371 degrees Celsius)
  • White Flames: White flames are very bright and hot, ranging from 2,500 to 2,900 degrees Fahrenheit (1,371 to 1,594 degrees Celsius)
  • Blue Flames: Blue flames usually can’t be seen in a campfire. However, this colour indicates that the fire is as hot as possible. Its temperature is 2,900 degrees and above (1,594 and above Celsius)

A typical campfire will burn anywhere between 500 and 2000 degrees Fahrenheit, so the flames will mostly be red, orange, and yellow. Hotter larger bonfires will certainly reach white tones and can really brighten up a campsite since they are releasing massive amounts of energy.


Final Thoughts


Since the hottest part of a campfire is in the centre, you won’t be interacting with this area too much when cooking or warming your hands by the flames. You can use tools to measure the heat if you need to know its specific temperature and you can also gauge the range of temperatures by assessing the flame colours.

Being able to identify the hottest part of your fire will help you to feel safe, in control, and knowledgeable. It will also help you to have a better understanding of how your fire is burning so that you can make the appropriate adjustments. Your fellow campers will be impressed with your knowledge and skills, too!