Bonfire Vs. Campfire – What’s the Difference? [10 Pictures]

Bonfires are large fires, while campfires are smaller fires built mainly for cooking and providing warmth. A bonfire is used in large ceremonies or to burn trees and give off a lot of heat while a campfire is comfortable for people to sit around. A campfire picture is below, bonfire is above.

Campfire vs. Bonfire: Key Differences

  1. Size: Campfires are generally smaller, with a diameter of around 3 feet, while bonfires can be much larger, sometimes exceeding 10 feet in diameter. The smaller size of campfires makes them more manageable and suitable for cooking or providing warmth in a camping setting.
  2. Purpose: Campfires are typically used for cooking, warmth, and socializing during camping trips or other outdoor activities. Bonfires, on the other hand, are often built for larger gatherings, celebrations, or as part of cultural or religious events.
  3. Fuel: Campfires usually burn small logs, branches, and kindling, while bonfires can involve larger logs, pallets, or even whole trees. The fuel source for bonfires may also include items like furniture or yard waste, depending on the purpose of the event.

Campfire Facts and Stats

  1. According to the U.S. Forest Service, there are approximately 34 million campfires in the United States each year.
  2. Campfires are the leading cause of wildfires in national parks, with human negligence being a significant contributing factor.
  3. Approximately 70% of campfire-related wildfires are caused by campfires that were not fully extinguished before being abandoned.

Bonfire Facts and Stats

  1. Bonfires have a long history in various cultures, with some of the earliest recorded bonfires dating back to ancient Celtic festivals like Samhain and Beltane.
  2. In the United States, bonfires are often associated with celebrations like homecoming, Fourth of July, and Halloween.
  3. While bonfires can be a source of enjoyment and camaraderie, they also come with risks. According to the National Fire Protection Association, an average of 5,700 grass and brush fires occur annually on the Fourth of July in the United States, with many of these caused by bonfires.

What is a Campfire?

A campfire is a fire built at a campsite that offers light and warmth and provides cooking heat. The campers can then gather around to get warm and share a meal. It can also help keep away predators and insects while acting as a beacon for the campsite.

Some established camping grounds usually provide their campers with a steel or stone fire ring as a safety measure. Campfires are directly connected to camping.

Campfires are generally designed to be small enough to provide adequate warmth and heat for cooking for a small group of campers. The most widely known type of campfire is the teepee.

It involves placing sticks leaning up against each other and ignited by lighting some kindling and tinder. Since they a relatively small, campfires are suited to sit near and keep cozy, and the smoke will keep bees away.

Here are example pictures:


What is a bonfire?

A bonfire is a big controlled outdoor fire used as a part of an event or disposed of burnable waste materials. Bonfires are tied to several rituals, including those related to religion.

They are built outdoors in an open space such as fields meadows away from shrubs and trees. Bonfire may spread and therefore need to be controlled and never left unattended.

Bonfires require a lot of fuel, usually in large sizes like large logs, wooden pallets, or wood tables. For example, one may turn a stump into a bonfire instead of seeking stamp removal services.

It also serves as some focal point that people enjoy in a celebration from a distance. Bonfire emits a lot of heat; thus, people cannot sit or stand close to it. Here are some example photos:

Campfire Tips

  1. Build your campfire in a designated fire ring or fire pan to help prevent the spread of fire and reduce environmental impact.
  2. Keep your campfire small and manageable to reduce the risk of it getting out of control.
  3. Never leave a campfire unattended, and always fully extinguish it with water before leaving the area.
  4. Avoid burning trash or materials that can release toxic fumes or cause excessive smoke.

Bonfire Tips

  1. Always obtain any necessary permits and follow local regulations regarding bonfires.
  2. Choose a safe location for your bonfire, away from structures, overhanging branches, and flammable materials.
  3. Have a fire extinguisher, bucket of water, or garden hose nearby in case of emergencies.
  4. Never use gasoline or other accelerants to start a bonfire, as this can lead to dangerous, uncontrollable fires.



They are built differently

Campfires are ideally built in a fire ring or fire pit away from trees, brush, and tents. Although they are small, it is still vital to uphold safety. One can build the safety ring by using gathered rocks around the campsite or use a prebuilt one if available. It is also to dig a pit for the fire of about six inches deep. A minimum diameter of 3 feet is most suitable for a primary campfire. Finally, one should clear the surrounding area of the fire of any flammable material or debris.

Once the safety ring or fire pit is ready, the next involves building a fire itself. It would be wiser to carry your kindling in case the campsite is damp. A wet campground would make it very difficult to find dry kindling to start the fire.

There are three types of fuel one needs to build a campfire. They include kindling, tinder, and wood. Kindling maintains the size of the fire and keeps it going. Besides the teepee fire build type, there are other ways of setting a bonfire, including the log cabin, hybrid, cross-fire, lean-to, Swedish torch, and star fire.

It is essential to extinguish the fire completely when one heads to sleep. One must put out the fire to the last smoldering pile. If left unchecked, it may lead to a dangerous wildfire. The best way to do this is to down the campfire entirely with water. The whole firepit should be left cool before leaving the campfire.


How to build a bonfire

  1. Choose the right location: Select a flat, level surface that is clear of any overhanging branches, dry grass, or flammable materials. Be sure to pick a location that is safe and legal to have a bonfire, adhering to local regulations and guidelines. If available, use a designated fire pit or fire ring.
  2. Prepare the fire pit: Dig a shallow pit approximately 2-3 feet in diameter, and surround it with a circle of rocks or bricks. This barrier will help contain the fire and prevent it from spreading. Clear away any leaves or debris in the surrounding area to minimize the risk of fire spreading beyond the fire pit.
  3. Gather materials: To build a successful bonfire, you’ll need three types of materials: tinder, kindling, and fuelwood. Tinder consists of small, easily ignitable materials such as dry leaves, grass, or paper. Kindling includes small twigs and branches, while fuelwood refers to larger logs and branches that will sustain the fire once it’s established.
  4. Create a tinder nest: Place a small pile of tinder in the center of the fire pit. This will serve as the initial source of ignition for your bonfire.
  5. Build a kindling structure: There are several methods for arranging kindling around your tinder nest, such as the teepee, log cabin, or lean-to method.
  • Teepee: Stand the kindling pieces upright around the tinder nest, leaning them against one another in the shape of a teepee.
  • Log cabin: Stack kindling pieces in a square or rectangular shape around the tinder nest, creating a “log cabin” structure with alternating layers.
  • Lean-to: Place a larger piece of kindling next to the tinder nest, and lean smaller kindling pieces against it, creating a sloping structure.
  1. Add fuelwood: Once your kindling structure is in place, carefully stack larger logs around it. Be sure not to stack the logs too tightly, as this may restrict airflow and make it difficult for the fire to breathe. You can use the teepee or log cabin method to create a larger structure with your fuelwood, or simply lay the logs around the kindling in a crisscross pattern.
  2. Ignite the bonfire: Using a long match or lighter, carefully ignite the tinder nest. The flames will gradually spread to the kindling and eventually the fuelwood. Be patient, as it may take a few minutes for the fire to catch and grow.
  3. Maintain the fire: As your bonfire burns, you may need to add more fuelwood to keep it going. Be cautious when adding logs, as you don’t want to smother the fire or cause it to collapse. Use a fire poker or long stick to rearrange logs as needed, ensuring proper airflow and an even burn.
  4. Extinguish the fire: When you’re ready to put out the bonfire, allow the fire to burn down and use water or sand to fully extinguish any remaining embers. Stir the ashes to ensure there are no hidden hot spots and make sure the area is completely cool before leaving.

The large size of bonfires gives them their identity. Bonfires need almost the same process to build one. Initially, one should make a bonfire in an open space like a field or beach away from any brush, trees, or flammable substances. Usually, people with large properties can use bonfires to burn trash.

One should mark out the area occupied by the bonfire, for example, using rocks or nonflammable materials. Tinder and kindling help start the fire, while more considerable material can be used as fuel. It is also essential to dig a pit outside the bonfire to contain it. As with campfires, one should never leave a bonfire unattended.

Originally, bonfires have been used from time immemorial for religious ceremonies and cultural rituals. People would dance around them and offer sacrifices and burnt animal bones that were believed to be sacred to the gods. The word bonfire originated from the words bone and fire and believed to have started from the ceremonies held by Celts. During their festivals and rituals, they use to throw piles of bones into the fire.

Campfires are designed small to serve essential functions of warming, lighting, and cooking food. Also, one can build campfires in a range of designs formed by the arrangement of fuel. Bonfires are, therefore, different from campfires in that they are larger and serve another function.


Related articles:

Campfire Smoke
fire pit
Rick of Wood
Firewood Burn
Bundle of Firewood
Warmth Fire
Types of Campfires