How to Make a Smokeless Fire in 6 Ways

how to make smokeless fire

A campfire is a staple of the classic camping trip, and having it smokeless will make it better for your enjoyment as well as your health. Nobody likes a billowing smoke cloud chasing them around all night.

You can make a smokeless fire by using smokeless fuels such as charcoal and paper. Dry wood is also a good smoke-free fuel source. Lay your smokeless fuel source on a bed of dry grass and needles, and make sure to feed your smokeless fire in small doses.

There are lots of methods to help you achieve your smokeless fire, so I’m going to explain them below. I’ll also help you figure out why campfires smoke; that’ll help you know what to avoid when building yours.

#1. Use Charcoal and Paper- Make Smokeless Fire

Charcoal and paper don’t create smoke, as they’re dry and fuss-free materials. It’s easy to ignite paper, and charcoal/coal burns easily when added to a fire.

Coal is also fantastic to use in your fire as it produces a lot of heat, which is great for cooking and staying warm on particularly chilly nights

So, you’ll want to start by creating a firepit or utilizing the one on your campsite, then lay down some paper. Old newspapers work well.

Add some dry, brittle kindling on top of this. The brittler the better—it’ll definitely be dry if it’s brittle. Form a triangle shape with this tinder, and create another triangle shape on top of it, but upside down.

Place some paper in the hole of this star shape, using it as kindling, and light this.

From there, use coal to fuel your fire. You can also burn the rest of your brittle wood if you wish, as long as it’s bone dry.

#2. Create Your Fire Upside Down- Make Smokeless Fire

Creating your fire upside down helps reduce smoke, as the smoke-making gases are created at the very bottom of your campfire. These gases then travel through the flames and burn up, so there’s no smoke left to release into the air.

Create a base of logs, and add smaller logs on top. Place your kindling on top of all that. Then you can add a piece of paper on top, scrunched into a ball. This will be your firelighter.

The paper will ignite, and the fire will spread down through the kindling, right to the logs. Your fire will smoke for a few minutes as it grows, but once it’s fully formed, the smoke will vanish.

#3. Make Your Fire With Twigs- Make Smokeless Fire

Making your fire with twigs is great if you want to be stealthy, and it’s something that backpackers in particular will find useful when needing an hour or two of warmth in the evenings.

Find as many dry, pencil-sized twigs as you can. Ideally, source these from the ground. 

Place your twigs on top of dried grass and leaves, or use paper if you have it. Then you can light the paper/kindling, and the twigs will serve as fuel.

The fire will smoke when you first light it, but after a minute or two the smoke will dissipate. Feed your fire using these tiny twigs, only adding one or two at a time, and the fire will remain smokeless.

#4. Create A Dakota Firepit- Make Smokeless Fire

A Dakota firepit is a great project for someone who wants to get creative with their campfire building.

You dig a hole 6–12 inches wide, ensuring it’s about a foot deep. Widen it as you go. Then return to the surface and move 10 inches away from your original hole. 

Dig another hole 8 inches wide, digging at an angle until your second hole’s base meets the first hole’s base. Ensure this second hole is placed on the side of the fire hole that the wind is coming from.

You’ll have created a little tunnel system like this:

Build your fire at the bottom of the larger hole, and use very dry wood as your tinder. 

This isn’t a great campfire for heat, but it’s perfect for cooking. You can place your cookware atop the fire hole. It’s also perfect for a stealthy fire that won’t bother the neighbors. 

#5. Using A Pre-Existing Firepit (And Follow My Tips)- Make Smokeless Fire 

Sometimes you’ll get out to the campsite and realize you didn’t bring any gear to help you create a smokeless fire. All you have is some regular old wood logs and a pre-existing firepit on the site.

That’s alright. There are some ways you can reduce smoke from a campfire, and you can also prevent smoke from following you if there’s still some smoke produced.

My article on why campfire smoke follows you will teach you to prevent smoke from following you, and it’ll give you tips on how to reduce campfire smoke as much as possible.

Here’s a quick rundown of the tips:

  • Use dry firewood
  • Leave space for airflow
  • Remove debris from the campfire area
  • Don’t use wood you harvest at your campsite

#6. Use A Campfire Alternative- Make Smokeless Fire 

Finally, there’s no surer way to have a smokeless fire than to avoid using a campfire entirely.

Sometimes you just don’t have the resources to go smokeless, or perhaps you’ll discover your campsite doesn’t allow fires anyway. There are several great alternatives to campfire you can try, including: 

There are lots of ways to heat your tent, and many bright campsite and tent lighting ideas you can try. Campfires are never mandatory!

Make Smokeless Fire

Conclusion- Make Smokeless Fire

Smokeless fires are better for your health, the environment, your enjoyment, your wallet, and your food. They also won’t attract any unwanted attention.

It’s surprisingly easy to create a smokeless fire, and I recommend using a combination of the first two methods. Build your fire upside down, use paper as kindling, and feed it with charcoal. That way, you’re sure to produce a long-lasting hot fire that produces no smoke.

Make Smokeless Fire- FAQ & Tips

What Actually Causes Smoke?- Make Smokeless Fire

The methods above are perfect for creating a smokeless fire—so, why do they work?

Well, you need to understand why fires produce smoke to understand why the above methods don’t

Fires with complete combustion create water and carbon dioxide. If you want complete combustion, then you can use extremely dry fuels like coal, paper, and twigs. This article will tell you more.

However, incomplete combustion leads to the production of hydrogen and carbon. This creates ash and char, and that comes out in the form of smoke.

The methods also work by ensuring any smoke that is created won’t escape the fire’s flames. 

The upside down fire makes sure the flames burn the smoke before it escapes. The Dakota fire pit lets wind blow down the second hole, directing the smoke to hit the flames rather than escape through the primary hole. That burns up any potential smoke, too.

Basically, smokeless fuel + smart redirection = smokeless fire. So, if the methods above aren’t for you, perhaps you could use this knowledge to find a way to create a smokeless fire that does work for you.

What Is The Best Fuel/Kindling For A Smokeless Fire?

The best fuels for your smokeless fire are:

  • Anthracite
  • Coke (derived from coal)
  • Coal
  • Dry grass
  • Animal droppings

The best types of kindling to use include:

  • Paper
  • Cotton balls
  • Dried leaves and needles
  • Dry grass
  • Potato chips

Why Is It Best To Create a Smokeless Fire?

Creating a smokeless fire may seem like it takes a lot of effort for little reward, but that’s not true. Once you get the method down it’s easy to do, and there are plenty of reasons to desire a smokeless fire. I’ll elaborate below. 

Create a Smokeless Fire For The Environment

The less smoke in the atmosphere, the better—but having smoke in the atmosphere isn’t the only way a fire can disturb the environment.

Your smoke may disturb insects, birds, and other local wildlife. If you’re environmentally conscious, then this isn’t something you’ll want to do.

Create a Smokeless Fire For Your Health

Smoke isn’t good for your health, either. You’re inhaling toxic elements when you breathe in smoke, so the less smoke you breathe, the better.

Create a Smokeless Fire For Stealth

If you want to keep quiet and avoid drawing other campers’ attention, then creating a smoky campfire isn’t ideal. A smokeless campfire will let you camp undetected in the wilderness, and on campsites, it’ll ensure you don’t bother fellow campers.

Create a Smokeless Fire For Efficiency

Smokeless fires burn hotter and for longer. You’ll save time, labor, and money by creating smokeless flames.

You’ll need to top up your fuel less often, and you can enjoy the heat your fire produces for longer after the fire goes out.

Create a Smokeless Fire For Cooking

A small amount of smoky flavor is okay, but sometimes you just don’t want that smoky tang that cooking over an open flame produces. If you cook over a smoKeless Fire, Then You Won’t Have That Smoky Taste.

What should I do if the only fire materials are wet when trying to make a smokeless fire?

If the only fire materials you have are wet, making a smokeless fire can be challenging, but it is still possible. Here are some steps you can take to make a smokeless fire with wet materials:

  1. Find dry materials: Start by looking for dry materials that you can use to help start the fire. Look for dry leaves, twigs, or other kindling that may be available in the surrounding area.
  2. Create a fire pit: Create a fire pit by digging a shallow hole in the ground and surrounding it with rocks or other non-flammable material. This can help to contain the fire and prevent it from spreading.
  3. Build a base: Build a base for the fire using dry kindling and tinder. This can help to create a dry area for the wet materials to rest on, which can help to dry them out and make them easier to ignite.
  4. Create a teepee: Build a teepee-style fire by leaning the wet materials against each other in a pyramid shape, with the driest materials on the inside. This can help to increase airflow and help the fire to ignite.
  5. Use fire starters: Use fire starters, such as a commercial fire starter or dryer lint, to help ignite the fire. These can help to ignite the wet materials and get the fire started.
  6. Be patient: It may take longer for the fire to start with wet materials, so be patient and continue to add dry kindling and tinder as needed to keep the fire going.

Remember, it’s always important to follow fire safety guidelines and be aware of any fire restrictions in the area. Make sure to never leave the fire unattended and always fully extinguish the fire before leaving the area.

Should you say something if a neighbor if their campfire is too smokey?

If your neighbor’s campfire is producing excessive smoke and causing a nuisance, it may be appropriate to say something to them. Here are some tips for addressing the issue:

  1. Be respectful: When addressing your neighbor, be respectful and polite. Avoid being confrontational or aggressive, as this may make the situation worse.
  2. Explain the problem: Explain to your neighbor that their campfire is producing excessive smoke and causing a nuisance for you and others in the area. Let them know that you are concerned about the health effects of the smoke and that it is making it difficult to enjoy your camping experience.
  3. Offer a solution: Offer a solution to the problem, such as using dry firewood, spacing out the logs, or using a fire ring or fire pit. Let them know that you are willing to help if they need assistance.
  4. Follow campground rules: If the campground has rules regarding campfires and smoke, make sure to refer to these rules when addressing the issue with your neighbor. This can help to ensure that everyone is following the same guidelines and can help to prevent future issues.
  5. Seek help from campground staff: If the issue persists or if you are uncomfortable addressing the issue with your neighbor directly, seek help from the campground staff or park rangers. They can help to address the issue and enforce any rules or regulations that are in place.

Remember, it’s important to be respectful and considerate of your neighbors when camping. Addressing issues such as excessive smoke from a campfire can be challenging, but by approaching the situation with respect and a willingness to find a solution, you can help to ensure a pleasant camping experience for everyone involved.

When should you consider going without a fire if a smokeless fire isn’t possible?

If a smokeless fire isn’t possible and the conditions are not appropriate for a traditional campfire, it may be necessary to consider going without a fire. Here are some situations where it may be appropriate to forgo a fire:

  1. Fire restrictions: If there are fire restrictions in place due to drought, high winds, or other factors, it is important to follow these guidelines and avoid starting a fire. This can help to prevent wildfires and keep everyone safe.
  2. Environmental concerns: In some areas, fires may not be permitted due to environmental concerns or the impact they may have on the ecosystem. If this is the case, it is important to respect the rules and avoid starting a fire.
  3. Lack of firewood: If there is a shortage of firewood or the available firewood is wet or unsuitable for burning, it may be difficult to start a fire. In this case, it may be necessary to forgo a fire and consider alternative methods for cooking and staying warm.
  4. Safety concerns: If the conditions are not safe for starting a fire, such as in high winds or dry conditions, it is important to prioritize safety and avoid starting a fire. This can help to prevent accidents and keep everyone safe.

Remember, while a campfire can be enjoyable and provide warmth and light, it is important to prioritize safety and respect the environment. If a smokeless fire is not possible, it may be necessary to forgo a fire and consider alternative methods for cooking and staying warm, such as using a camping stove or dressing in warm layers.

Ben Wann- Tent Camping Expert

My name is Ben Wann, and I’m a lifelong tent camper and backpacker who jumps on every opportunity to get out and enjoy nature! I created this site to inspire others to get outside and to make the process easier for you.