Bonfires and campfires are both fall staples. While these words may sometimes be used interchangeably, they are actually different types of fire that serve different purposes.
What is a Campfire
A campfire is a small controlled fire. Campfires are often created in fire rings or fire pits to keep the fire contained. A campfire is built when camping for cooking, warmth, and to keep bugs at bay.
Many people enjoy using a campfire when they are at home as well. Just like when used for camping, they are used for warmth, cooking, and enjoyment.
A campfire can have a more luxurious feel when you add comfortable chairs, cozy blankets, and a glass of wine or your favorite fireside beverage.
What is a Bonfire?
At first glance, a bonfire may seem like a large campfire. It is much larger than a campfire, but there are other differences as well. Bonfires require a large open area because the flames can reach much higher into the air.
You can use a bonfire to dispose of debris or brush. It can also be used as part of a celebration or ceremony. It's too large to be used for cooking. Instead, it's used for warmth, light, or as a means of disposal.
The size of the fire makes the heat much more intense, so you can't get near the fire. Instead, a group of people will often gather around the outer perimeter.
In addition to celebrations, bonfires can be used for ceremonies. Since ancient times, they have been used in religious ceremonies and are still used in many cultures. In fact, the word bonfire originates from old English and means bone fire.
Campfire vs. Bonfire Regulations
The regulations for campfires and bonfires differ primarily due to their size. Generally, campfires must be 10 feet from property lines and 25 feet from buildings. Some areas require a permit for a campfire, but many allow small campfires without a permit.
Bonfires must be farther away from buildings and property lines, typically 50-100 feet. Most areas require a permit for a bonfire.
Which One is Right For You?
Whether you should build a campfire or bonfire will depend on several factors.
The first factor is purpose. If you plan to use the fire to cook, you will need a campfire. If your goal is lighting, security, or warmth, both fires will meet your needs. The next thing to consider is size and atmosphere.
A campfire is optimal if you want an intimate gathering with a few close friends. If you are planning a large gathering, a bonfire will accommodate all your guests. A bonfire extends light and warmth further than a campfire, making a larger area around the fire warm and comfortable.
Next, you'll want to consider practicality and safety. Can you build a bonfire in the area safely? Can you find enough firewood? Do you have the proper extinguishing equipment for a large fire?
Any fire must be built and tended with care to ensure it doesn't get out of control. However, bonfires are certainly the riskier of the two. You'll need a large open area to avoid catching tree limbs on fire as the fire climbs. You'll also need to avoid tall, dry grass or other tinder around the fire.
You should always have water or a fire extinguisher available when you build a fire. A campfire can be quickly extinguished with a large bucket of water or a snuffer lid. A bonfire, however, is often more challenging to put out quickly without a fire extinguisher or a hose.
Building the Perfect Campfire
We offer fire pit options that make building a campfire fun and easy. If you have an existing brick fire pit, our Legacy series insert provides everything you need for a warm campfire anytime. It includes a snuffer lid and ash basket.
If you are looking for a more straightforward option, you can't go wrong with the heavy-duty fire pit ring. When you place the ring on dirt or other nonflammable surfaces, it contains the fire. You won't have to create a rock ring around your fire pit or worry about escaping embers. Add a fire pit grate for airflow, providing a better, cleaner burn.
Types of Wood for Your Fire
There are two types of wood that you can choose for your fire. Hardwoods will burn long and hot. Softwoods are easier to light, but they will burn faster. This means that you will need more wood because the wood will burn quicker.
When choosing a wood for your fire, consider how long you want the fire to burn. Consider the fire size as well, because a bonfire requires more fuel; softwood will burn very quickly.