With the promise of warmer weather right around the corner, many outdoor adventurers are dreaming up plans for summer campouts. For many, nights spent around the campfire are the highlight of their camping experience. Humanity’s ancestors relied on fire for food, safety, and warmth in a world far removed from modern technology. Today, campfires are the perfect way to call back to the comfort and safety of those early humans by spending time with loved ones and enabling us to enjoy nature in security.
Although commonly used for cooking dinner, campfires have more benefits than you realize. If you’re dreaming of the snap, sizzle, and pop of an outdoor fire but aren’t sure whether you’ll light one or not, check out these six benefits of lighting a campfire.
You can enjoy a fresh-cooked meal
When it comes to an old-fashioned campout, camping food is the star of the show. Typically consisting of fresh meat and vegetables, campout cooking is flavorful and hearty.
Before starting the campfire, ensure that you have everything needed to prepare the meal, including serving dishes, utensils, and stainless steel pots and pans. Without them, you won’t be able to reap the full benefits of your sizzling, smoky feast.
Aside from delicious s’mores and other on-a-stick campfire delicacies, there are a few beginner-friendly recipes you might want to try. For example, you can wrap shrimp, zucchini, eggplant, corn, and other vegetables in a foil packet and set it right on the coals to cook until the shrimp turn pink and the vegetables are soft. This recipe is perfect for anyone who hates to wash dishes because the entire thing cooks right in the foil. More adventurous campfire chefs might try skillet-fried steak or classic eggs and bacon.
Last but certainly not least, campfire cooking can extend to drinking water as well. If you’re on a longer camp or even a hike and you find yourself running out of bottled water, you can use a stainless steel container to collect rainwater or snow and a campfire to melt it down and kill bacteria. Just like your boil advisory back home makes water safe to drink, so too does a crackling fire in the middle of the woods.
You’ll notice a decrease in anxiety
Most people find sitting around a campfire and enjoying the company of loved ones to be a relaxing experience, and science agrees. Recent studies show that the sound of a crackling fire induces relaxation and lowers blood pressure and anxiety levels. After all, evidence even supports that campfire activities played an essential role in the evolutionary development of the human social brain.
Perhaps the most exciting piece of the findings mentions that blood pressure continuously reduces with more prolonged stimuli. In short, the more time you spend around the logs, the greater the blood pressure, relaxation, and mental health benefits will be.
The fire keeps predators away
Most larger mammals are smart enough to keep their distance from small fires because they associate them with humans. Creatures like mountain lions, bears, and deer can pose a safety threat to campers, but a visible fire will help keep them at bay. The last thing you want is a curious bear wandering into your campsite drawn by the scent of fresh food, so be sure to keep healthy fire lit and to carry other precautionary measures, such as bear spray.
Campfires’ positive blood pressure and relaxation effects on humans promote prosocial behavior. As such, gathering around a campfire fosters social bonding and relationship building.
While our early human ancestors gathered around a fire in the evening, the concept of using this time to share stories is a relatively recent development. Campfire storytelling began around the time of westward expansion. Travelers used storytelling as a tool to help them stay awake for overnight lookouts, but it is still a celebrated tradition today. Today’s travelers love to break out their favorite funny anecdotes or spooky ghost stories. The particularly talented storytellers can even use a campfire’s light to stage a shadow puppet theatre on the side of a tent or tree.
Flames serve as a safety beacon
A campfire can serve as a safety beacon to display your location to rescue teams or helicopters in times of distress or injury. People in need of assistance in the wilderness can use the plume of a campfire to signal S.O.S to summon help. Fires are unique in that they usually signify a human presence, so if you’re ever in a bind or lost in the woods, lighting a small fire with a lot of black smoke can be a life-saver.
The fire is a source of heat and light on cool nights
The woods can get dark and chilly at night, even in the heat of summer. Starting a campfire helps keep the campsite safe by allowing you to see items in your path and potential predators. Moreover, the fire provides a warm location for everyone to gather and shelter from the cold safely. If you plan to camp in cold conditions, you should bring the proper sleepwear and sleeping bags to keep your extremities warm and out of the reach of frostbite, but a fire goes a long way in making your cold-weather camping trip more comfortable for everyone involved.
There is no shortage of reasons why a family might want to sit around the campfire. It’s an excellent opportunity to bond, trade stories, eat flavorful food, enjoy the comforting crackling of the fire, and keep warm on a cold night. Regardless of what your favorite part of sitting around the fire is, you can’t deny that it’s one of humanity’s oldest pastimes.
When it comes to the quality of your camping trip, don’t play with fire. From promoting safety and positive social interactions to offering warmth and freshly cooked meals, enjoying a campfire will certainly light a spark under your outdoor adventure.