The Texas Department of Public Safety’s Outdoor Safety Division has been studying campfire etiquette for years and is now recommending that you camp with a minimum of 2,000 pounds of food and drink.
But the guidelines, issued by the department’s chief fire marshal, are far from ideal for campers of all sizes, says Joe Sommers, a Texas Parks and Wildlife biologist.
“It’s not a perfect guide,” he says.
Sommer is currently conducting field research at a campground on the outskirts of San Antonio.
He and his team have been testing campfires and measuring campfire logs to help determine how well they hold together.
“We’re still not sure if we need to get a whole bunch of tents in there or just some small tents,” Sommars says.
He notes that a typical campfire can hold 4,000 to 5,000 lbs.
of food, and says the number of people who need to cook up a meal during a short stay in a tent or RV can be very small.
“That’s a lot of food,” he admits.
“So we’re trying to make it work.”
Sommes says campers should also be prepared to handle the extra effort of cooking on a campfire.
“I’ve seen campers do a great job with the food,” Sombers says.
“But when they have to cook for a family, that’s when they get a little tired.”
Camping etiquette experts say the biggest challenge for the public health and safety is making sure campfires don’t burn out in the middle of the night.
“In the past, we’ve been able to control the temperature,” Sompers says, “but we don’t want to make campfires too warm.
If they’re too hot, they can catch fire.”
While campers will usually stay away from fires that have been burning too long, they’re not always the safest places to be in, Somms adds.
“When we were on a camping trip, we were just out in a creek, and we saw a group of people camped in the woods.
The people were getting really sick.
They were coughing and spitting up,” Sonders says of the incident.
“There’s a big difference between a fire in a park, a fire at a lake, and camping in a camp.
Campfires are going to cause some problems, but we’re not necessarily going to be safe in camp.”
Sompars points out that many people in the campsites at the University of Texas at San Antonio have been burned.
“People have camped out in campsites where they have been exposed to very high temperatures,” he adds.
Sompes says the risk to campers is also higher in places with a low number of campsites.
“Some of the more remote campsites are actually pretty far from each other,” he points out.
“You have a lot more people out there.”
When people decide to camp in a remote location, they should be aware of the hazards and how to protect themselves, Somping says.
If you’re unsure about the risk of campfire and campfire safety, Sombars says to take the following precautions: Make sure your tent is properly insulated and dry.