Why Does Campfire Smoke Follow You?

Campfire smoke follows people around a campfire because we create low-pressure areas to flow because we disrupt the vacuum around the fire automatically. Your clothing will also start to absorb heat, causing the hot air from the fire to bring smoke towards you.


These are just the most straightforward explanations of why campfire smoke will follow you; it does not explain how to stop the smoke from following you. Many people have their solutions, with even more people avoiding the problem altogether because of tricks they learned from others.



Campfire smoke infographic

What Affects the Direction of Smoke from A Campfire?

To properly stop yourself from getting smoked out of your campsite, you need to understand all the things that will affect the smoke from the fire. You need to consider several things when trying to control the direction of the smoke, especially if you are making a fire on the ground.

Each of these will have different effects on how the smoke travels and how the heat permeates throughout your campfire. We recommend that you ensure that everything is considered when you first choose the location of your campfire, as your tent might be the victim of the smoke.


Air Temperature

The colder the surrounding air is, the less likely it is that the smoke will be attracted to you, like the heat from the fire rises more rapidly. However, if it is relatively warm, the heat spreads out more, taking the smoke with it; this is why it’s recommended to have a smaller, hotter fire in summer.

When it is cold, the heat from the fire rises almost straight into the air, causing a stronger vacuum to be formed around it, naturally taking all smoke with it. During winter, it’s always best to consider this, as the fire will keep you warm and smoke will be less of a problem thanks to this effect.


Air Pressure

The air pressure of the altitude you are camping at and the air pressure around the fire will need to be considered when you create the fire. If you are low-pressure, the rising heat is more likely to settle down, while higher pressure areas will have hot air rising to low-pressure areas.

Your tent, chair, other people, and equipment around the fire also affect the fire’s total air pressure levels. You must ensure that the pressure stays the same, which is usually why smoke travels towards the person that has just joined the fire circle.


What You Wear

The chances are that if you are wearing an oversized jacket when you start the fire, this jacket absorbs the heat from the fire, attracting the smoke. This is why people who only have a t-shirt and shorts attract the smoke less often than those who are wearing more clothes.

You should be wearing a jacket, even when sitting next to a campfire, which is why it’s better to sit when you are next to a campfire. This lowers your total mass and means that you are absorbing heat from the side of the fire, away from the direction that the smoke is most likely traveling.

How Close You Are

This is most often the cause of smoke suddenly overtaking you, as you want to be closer to absorb as much heat from the fire as possible. However, this creates a fluctuation in air pressure and the heat to be absorbed, attracting the smoke towards you all at once.

Moving away, either standing a bit further away or moving your chair backward, will naturally allow the smoke to move away from you. As the pressure changes and the heat is not absorbed, the fire will correct itself, and the air will take all the smoke into the air.


What Can You Do To Reduce Campfire Smoke?

Now that you know what can cause it, you need to be aware of how you can force the smoke from happening. This is the trick that many veteran campers use when they create their fires, as a good campfire should not have any smoke to deal with at all.

Learning how to prevent smoke from ever becoming a problem properly is an easy way to ensure that you won’t have to face the headache of dealing with them.



The wood you are using will heavily determine how much smoke you have from your campfire, with a large number of people thinking that wet wood will dry out in the fire. However, if you are using wood that is still a bit wet, there will be constant smoke, even with the hottest fire.

To ensure that you are not getting constant smoke, you must use the driest wood you can find, ignite instantly instead of smoldering. Wet wood smolders for quite a while before actually burning, taking away heat from your fire and making large plumes of smoke.


This is how many veterans ensure that they never have the problem of smoke, fire all the time, adding wood at the perfect time. When you add wood, as the fire is at its hottest, there is no chance for the wood to smoke or have trouble burning, creating a cozy fire.

If you want your fire to be perfect, you need to ensure that you build a fire that burns hot the whole time, adding wood to confirm this. You can keep a small fire scorching by just adding smaller pieces of wood, ensuring that there is always something new to burn.


Force Airflow

This is the way that few people think about having their smoke controller and their fire burning hot. Building a funnel out of rocks around the fire and ensuring that it is not an entirely closed circle; the fire will move the air and smoke away from you.

Having fresh airflow over the fire will ensure that it does not respond poorly to new people joining the fire circle. Further, the smoke moves in how the air is flowing; if there is a constant flow of air away from people, the smoke will follow this.


Best types of wood for minimal smoke production in campfires.

  1. Hardwoods

Hardwoods, such as oak, maple, hickory, and ash, are excellent choices for campfires. They burn longer and produce less smoke than softwoods, making them a popular choice for campers.

  1. Fruitwoods

Fruitwoods, such as apple, cherry, and peach, are another great option for campfires. They have a sweet smell and burn cleanly, with very little smoke production.

  1. Nutwoods

Nutwoods, such as pecan and almond, also burn cleanly and produce very little smoke. They are a great choice for campfires if you can find them.

  1. Cedar

Cedar is a popular choice for outdoor fires, as it has a pleasant aroma and burns cleanly. However, it should be used sparingly, as it can produce a lot of smoke if burned in large quantities.

  1. Pinion Pine

Pinion Pine is a great choice for campfires, as it produces very little smoke and has a pleasant aroma. It is commonly found in the western United States.

  1. Beech

Beech is another hardwood that is a good choice for campfires. It burns hot and produces very little smoke, making it a great option for cooking over an open fire.

  1. Ash

Ash is a hardwood that produces very little smoke and burns hot. It is also easy to split and is a popular choice for firewood.

  1. Birch

Birch is a hardwood that produces very little smoke and burns hot. It is also easy to split and is a popular choice for kindling.

  1. Maple

Maple is a hardwood that burns hot and produces very little smoke. It is also a popular choice for cooking over an open fire.

  1. Oak

Oak is a hardwood that burns hot and produces very little smoke. It is a popular choice for firewood, as it is easy to split and burns for a long time.

How Do You Avoid the Smoke from A Campfire?

Moving a few steps away from the fire will cause the vacuum around the fire to work correctly, pulling the smoke in the direction of the wind. A constant draft of wind sitting or standing away from it will cause the smoke to follow that draft and not get near anyone.

A standard solution found with permanent campfire locations is to raise the campfire slightly higher simply. Doing so means that you are sitting equal with the fire, with most chair legs coming up to the bottom of the fire, creating a natural way for the smoke to rise above you.

I have noticed firelogs give off more smoke than firewood.

The most simple rule of thumb is that the smoke will never travel down; it will always rise, even when it is going sideways first. If the fire is too hot or is on an equal level when sitting, the smoke will always travel away from you as you are not disrupting airflow.

You’re all done setting up the tents, the coffee is being made, and the sun is starting to set; the only thing left to do is start the fire. With the right starter, twigs, and logs, you’ll soon start enjoying the hot flames dancing in the night; however, no matter where you go, the smoke follows you.


Smoke from your campfire may seem daunting when you get the first face full of them; however, this changes quickly as you learn how to control the fire. The smoke becomes much less of an issue when your fire is burning hot, and you are all sitting comfortably around it.


Alternatives to campfires:

  1. Propane or gas stoves: These are popular among campers who prefer a flameless heat source.
  2. Solar-powered lights: These are a great option for those who want to create a cozy atmosphere without the heat of a fire.
  3. Battery-powered heaters: These heaters are ideal for camping in colder months.
  4. Natural materials: You can also use natural materials such as leaves, branches, and pine cones to create a small fire without producing a lot of smoke.
  5. Cook stoves: A cook stove can be used to prepare meals while camping. They are portable, easy to use, and come in various sizes and styles.
  6. Charcoal grills: Charcoal grills are another option for campers who want to cook food without the use of a campfire. They are portable and easy to use, making them perfect for camping trips.


Environmental Concerns

  1. Air quality: The smoke from campfires contributes to air pollution, particularly in popular camping areas where multiple fires may be burning simultaneously.
  2. Greenhouse gas emissions: Burning wood releases carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. Although wood is considered a carbon-neutral fuel source, burning it inefficiently can still release excessive amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
  3. Wildlife disturbance: Smoke from campfires can disrupt local wildlife by displacing animals from their natural habitats and affecting their behavior.

What it is made of:

  1. Carbon monoxide
  2. Carbon dioxide
  3. Methane
  4. Nitrogen oxides
  5. Sulfur dioxide
  6. Formaldehyde
  7. Benzene
  8. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
  9. Fine particulate matter (PM2.5)
  10. Volatile organic compounds
  11. Ammonia
  12. Hydrogen chloride
  13. Hydrogen sulfide

Minimizing the Impact of Campfire Smoke

  1. Burn only dry, seasoned wood: Burning well-seasoned wood produces less smoke and burns more efficiently than wet or green wood.
  2. Use a fire ring or fire pan: These containment devices help reduce the environmental impact of campfires and ensure that fires are built in designated areas.
  3. Maintain a small fire: Keeping your campfire small and manageable reduces the amount of smoke produced and the risk of the fire getting out of control.
  4. Consider alternatives: If you’re concerned about the impact of campfire smoke, consider using a portable gas stove or a fireless cooking method for your outdoor cooking needs.
  5. Extinguish fires properly: Make sure to fully extinguish your campfire before leaving the area to minimize the risk of wildfires and reduce air pollution.


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