Being able to make a smokeless fire is something that all survivalists and outdoor enthusiasts should know how to do.
Making a smokeless fire can be done by using properly seasoned firewood and building the fire in a way that allows for as much oxygen as possible while the wood is burning. Smokeless fires are only achieved by maximizing airflow and using the driest possible wood.
The use of proper firewood and the way the fire itself is built are the two main things you should focus on to reduce the amount of smoke your fire produces. Although not always possible, using firewood that has been properly dried over several months will make a huge difference. Moisture is often the biggest culprit in overly-smoky fires as it causes particulates to be released into the air as the wood burns.
There are plenty of expensive options available to create a smokeless fire such as investing in a propane fireplace that doesn’t require wood at all. However, by following a few basic steps and understanding what causes excessive smoke, achieving a smokeless fire can be done at a minimal cost.
Is it Possible to Make a Smokeless Fire?
Yes, it’s possible to create a smokeless fire. Knowing how to make a smokeless fire is a skill every outdoor enthusiast should know how to do. However, building a smokeless fire isn’t the easiest task and if you only have limited access to certain materials it can be very difficult to achieve.
One of the biggest obstacles that many people will have when it comes to building a smokeless fire is the wood itself. Although most people know that building a fire with dry wood is always better than wet wood, having wood that hasn’t been exposed to rain or water is not the only thing to consider. The type of wood is also very important here as certain types of trees such as pine will contain lots of sap which will result in an extremely smoky fire. The best wood to use is what’s known as “hardwood,” such as oak, hickory, and cedar.
The fire pit itself can also be a major factor that could be beyond your control, similar to only having certain kinds of wood at your disposal. If a firepit does not allow for adequate airflow, the fire will never be able to reach its potential to burn all the wood fully thus causing particles to be released into the air as smoke.
DIY Smokeless Fire Pit
Assuming you have all the proper materials at your disposal, building a smokeless fire pit is fairly easy. The first step involves preparing the fire pit itself before any kind of fuel is even introduced.
A simple smokeless fire pit that works almost as well as expensive fire pits purchased at the store is known as the “cabin,” method. This can be done by laying two pieces of wood parallel to each other and then stacking two more on top to create a square, and continuing to stack wood in this fashion. This raised design allows for air to flow beneath the firewood and fuel your fire from the bottom, resulting in a fire that burns hotter, more steadily and free of smoke. This can also be achieved using the common “teepee” campfire method but can become difficult if rocks or a metal campfire ring make airflow difficult.
When it comes to building the fire, ensuring that your fire has enough airflow is one of the most important aspects. However, no matter how good the airflow is on your fire, wet wood will still cause enough smoke to make the experience unpleasant for anybody sitting too close.
Do Smokeless Fire Pits Radiate Heat?
Smokeless fire pits should technically radiate more heat than a smoky fire. This is because to achieve a smokeless fire, you will need to achieve the hottest fire possible by giving the fire as much oxygen as you can.
The increased heat is not the only benefit of a smokeless fire. Although many people think that avoiding the annoyance of smoke and perhaps creating a fire that is slightly less visible are the main benefits, this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many reasons to try and build a smokeless fire, even if they require slightly more effort than pouring diesel fuel on a pile of branches.
Some of the best reasons to build a smokeless fire pit include:
- Reducing air pollution by limiting the number of uncombusted particles in the air.
- Better efficiency by creating a hotter fire with less wood.
- Health benefits from not inhaling smoke.
- Less smoke smell on clothing
- Easier cleanup. With a fire that burns properly, only fine ash will remain when the fire burns out instead of half-burned logs.
How Does a Smokeless Fire Pit Work?
To understand how a smokeless fire pit works, you first need to understand what causes smoke. Although seen as a minor annoyance, smoke is also an indicator that your fire is not reaching its full potential.
Smoke is made up of a mixture of unburned particles (pieces of firewood in most cases) and hot gas (ideally water vapor but often Carbon Dioxide). To create a smokeless fire, the goal should be to burn the fuel source completely and evenly. For the most part, the fuel source will be firewood, so the idea is to create a fire that burns an entire piece of firewood at the same rate to eliminate unburned particles and stop them from turning into thick smoke. This requires plenty of oxygen to fuel the fire, and dry wood to allow the wood to burn evenly without moisture slowing down the combustion process.
The way smokeless fire pits work, whether store-bought or homemade, is to create as much airflow as possible. Fire naturally wants to suck in all the surrounding oxygen to fuel itself so creating an environment that allows for maximum airflow is all it takes in terms of design to create a smokeless fire.
Smokeless Firepit Designs
Building a firepit with proper airflow will be the foundation of any smokeless fire and there are a few different ways to approach this besides traditional campfire methods. Keep in mind that the best designs will require extra prep work before the first match is struck.
A style that is growing in popularity is the stainless steel fire pit which can be purchased from many outdoor stores or created at home using a few basic materials. The firepit is essentially a stainless steel cylinder with small holes drilled into the bottom ring, these holes suck air into the bottom of the fire and force it through the cylinder and out the top. This airflow creates the ideal oxygen situation by giving the fire a steady source of air to fuel it which is normally not possible when building a fire directly on the ground.
Ultimately, these stainless steel fire pits will work very similarly to the cabin method. By creating a fire that is slightly raised off the ground, it makes it easier for air to fuel the fire from the bottom. This vacuum created by the fire pulling in oxygen through the bottom allows for maximum airflow that will heat all of the firewood evenly, rather than leaving some pieces untouched.
Is a Smokeless Fire Pit Worth it?
There are numerous benefits to creating a smokeless fire and with a little know-how, you can avoid spending tons of money on a pre-made smokeless fire pit from the store.
Knowing how to build a smokeless fire pit can save you money in the long run. This is especially true for those who like to have fires frequently in their backyard or while in the backcountry. When it comes to camping, it means carrying less wood and having a steady source of heat to cook with and keep you warm. Even with a purchased smokeless fire pit, the amount of wood required is so much less that (with frequent enough) it’ll eventually pay for itself.
Even if the cost and the burden of bringing tons of firewood with you everywhere isn’t enough, the wonderful feeling of sitting by a fire without having to move because smoke is blowing in your face should be enough. Smokeless fires are the kind of luxury that is hard to do away with once you’ve grown accustomed to them.
The benefits of creating a smokeless fire are not just ones of convenience either but can also come in handy if your backpacking trip becomes unexpectedly extended. The ability to create a proper fire that burns evenly with minimal wood to keep you warm in survival situations can quite literally be a matter of life and death. Even when dry wood or the ideal setup isn’t available, applying as many smokeless fire principles as possible will make a huge difference in the quality of the fire and how long it burns.