Dave Helgeson’s knowledge about RVing earned him the title of “The foremost expert on boondocking,” bestowed by RV industry icon, the late Gary Bunzer (The RV Doctor). He and his wife Cheri owned an RV dealership in the Pacific Northwest and spent 29 years overseeing regional RV shows. Dave has also served as advisor to many industry trade organizations. When he’s not out boondocking, you’ll find Dave in the spotlight at RV shows across the country, giving seminars about all things RVing. He and Cheri currently own their fifth travel trailer, with Dave doing all the service, repair and modifications to his own unit.
What are campfire alternatives, and why should you consider one? After all, campfires have been part of RV camping ever since our “wheeled” forefathers traveled west in their covered wagons. But nowadays it is not always possible to have a campfire where you camp.
Common Situations When a Typical Campfire is Not a Good Idea
There are a host of reasons why you are unable to have a campfire, including:
- There could be a burn ban restricting wood burning fires.
- Someone in your group may be asthmatic and unable to tolerate wood smoke.
- You may not be able to afford the cost of campfire wood.
- Some RV parks don’t allow wood campfires (spaces are often too close together).
- There may not be a campfire ring in your campsite (and groundfires are prohibited).
- You don’t want your clothes to smell like smoke.
- It might be too windy to risk lighting a wood fire.
In cases like these, you may want to employ a campfire alternative. The good news is that with a portable firepit, you don’t have to go without the comforting warmth of sitting by a fire.
5 Campfire Alternatives for RV Camping
These non-wood burning campfire options are great for RVers.
Portable Wood Burning Firepits
These are a great campfire alternative when there is not a traditional fire ring at your campsite. Sometimes the location of the existing fire ring is less than ideal. Portable wood burning firepits like those made by Firebrand offer many advantages for campers:
- You can locate them downwind from your RV so the wood smoke blows away from your camp.
- They come in all sizes from small foldable ones that are easy to store to quite large.
- Allow cooking a complete meal over a wood fire away from the RV.
- Provide ample amount of heat to keep everyone warm in cold weather wherever you choose to locate it.
- They are a great way to roast a hot dog or toast a marshmallow.
- Many include a cooking grate and screened spark cover,
A Chimenea is another campfire alternative for consideration.
Although not exactly portable, a chimnea works well for certain camping situations. Here are some things to consider about this type of campfire setup.
- Chimneas burn wood, which are easy to get started burning with these DIY campfire starters.
- Flames and smoke are directed up and out of the chimney. This allows those gathering around the fire to enjoy the evening, rather than worry about wind blown flames and smoke.
- A chimnea is not very portable, however. It’s best suited for a seasonal campsite.
- Traditional chimeneas are made of fired clay, which is heavy and prone to breakage. But buyers may also choose from lighter sheet metal, stainless steel and other durable metals.
Propane burning firepits.
A portable propane firepit is another great campfire alternative when there is not a traditional fire ring at your campsite. Or when the location of the existing fire ring is less than ideal. Portable propane firepits come in handy when there is a ban on wood campfires, too.
Here are the primary advantages of camping with a propane firepit.
- They come in all sizes. You’ll find them in small and easy to store “campfire in a can” sizes, to large portable pits that allow the whole clan to circle around.
- The best propane firepits provide heat nearly instantly.
- At the end of the night, you turn off the gas and the fire is out. No need to quench or worry about floating embers sparking unintentional fires.
- Propane firepits are typically allowed when wood and charcoal fires are banned.
- There’s no wood smoke to stink up your clothes, blow into your RV (or your neighbors RV!).
- No campfire wood is required. You won’t worry about transporting bug-infested wood. And no more paying for overpriced firewood at the campground.
- Propane firepits are just safer. There is no need to worry about sparks jumping into your lap. The laps of children sitting around the fire are safe, too!
- Unlike a portable wood burning firepit, there is no need to dispose of ash or charred wood when you break camp.
These are another campfire alternative to the conventional firepit found in campgrounds. Here’s why they’re so good for camping.
- Flying embers from charcoal don’t pose the risk of spreading fire as a wood campfire would.
- Charcoal grills and fires are often permitted when wood burning fires are banned.
- A charcoal fire is much more controllable than a wood campfire, making it easier to cook over. Bring on the hot dogs and s’mores!
Other reasons to consider carrying a campfire alternative
- Campfire alternatives are often visually appealing. They add ambiance to any campsite.
- Since they are elevated, they are unlikely to ignite dry leaves and twigs on the ground.
- Campfire alternatives are typically allowed where campfires on the ground are prohibited.
- Plus, these camping accessories are socially appealing. Everyone likes to gather around a campfire.
- It’s worth repeating: you can locate them where you want to take advantage of a view, seating, RV placement, privacy from other campsites, out of the wind, etc. You are no longer restricted to having your fire at the existing, often poorly placed, campfire ring at your site.
- Campfire alternatives are versatile. You can also use a portable firepit at home or at a friend’s house.
With portable firepits, there’s less mess left behind! You might end up with a little soot on the fake logs or lava rock. Once cool, the ashes from a portable wood burning firepit can be dumped in the provided charcoal disposal container found at many campgrounds or placed in an ash bucket and taken home.
An electric fireplace works too.
If none of the campfire alternatives listed above meet your needs or environmental conditions, you can always retreat into the RV to enjoy an evening in front of an electric fireplace.
If your RV doesn’t have one, you could always add one. One big plus of enjoying a “campfire””” in the RV is it is always out of the rain and there are no mosquitoes to bother those around the fire.
There you have it, 5 campfire alternatives to consider that will allow you to enjoy a campfire almost anywhere you camp, regardless of park rules or burn bans.