How Hot Does an Average Campfire Get?

Have you ever wondered what the average temperature of an average campfire is? It's a lot hotter than you think! Let's put a marshmallow on a stick and chat about it!

How hot does a campfire get? Is that a question you’ve ever asked yourself while sitting next to the campfire? Just glazing into the fire wondering how hot it truly is. While this probably isn’t going to come as a surprise to anyone, the temperature of a campfire is going to vary and is going to depend on a few different factors.

Regardless, fire is fire and even the coolest of campfires is going to be scorching hot. Still, this seems to be a hot, no pun intended, topic of choice so we wanted to dive into it to uncover the goods. So, let’s not waste another second, and let’s talk about this.

How hot does a campfire get?

a campfire up close with sparks flying around
Image credits: Almos Bechtold

As just mentioned, the temperature of a campfire is going to vary. It’s not impossible, though, for a bonfire to get as hot as 2.012 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s not going to be the average temperature that you’ll see for most bonfires, however, but a well-stacked fire can reach an internal temperature of 900 degrees Fahrenheit (and even a lot hotter than that).

The actual cooking temperature, the temperature above the flames can get up to 600 degrees Fahrenheit. Obviously, the further away you get from the flames, the cooler the temperature will be. Regardless, the average campfire is going to get pretty darn hot.

Honestly, what’s more interesting than that question is looking at the variables that affect how hot a campfire can burn.

Three variables will make the difference

a campfire on the beach at night
Image credits: Jason Leung

How hot does a campfire get? Well, it mostly comes down to three different variables.

  1. The size and structure of the fire
  2. The oxygen flow that’s present
  3. The type of fuel (wood) being used

Let’s take a closer look at each of the variables, shall we?

1. The size and structure of the fire

Do you ever ask yourself why your friend spends countless minutes attempting to build the perfect fire? It’s because both the size and overall structure of the fire will make a difference. A well-built bonfire can reach insanely hot temperatures, and the amount of wood that you use can help to get it even hotter.

Now, while the art of building a bonfire can’t be mastered overnight, there are three key elements that will need to be accounted for.

Tinder: Think of this stuff as the fire starter. Speaking of which, some people will make homemade fire starters to help them start fires and that’s, of course, a great choice. Still, dry leaves, small twigs, and small items of this nature can be used as tinder to help the fire begin.

Kindling: Not as small as twigs and leaves but not as large as your main fuel source, kindling can be thicker twigs, smaller branches, and stuff of this nature.

Main fuel: While we’re going to get into the best wood you can use in a campfire a little bit later, here we’ll just briefly mention that your larger hardwood will also be essential for an ideal campfire.

2. The oxygen flow that’s present

One of the essential factors for a bonfire to be successful is oxygen. Have you ever stopped and wondered why people attempt to blow on a fire to make it burn better? It’s due to the fact that wood needs a certain percentage (16 percent) of oxygen to burn.

This is also why a fire contained in a metal firepit won’t get quite as hot as a fire with a consistent supply of oxygen. Additionally, wind has to be a factor that you can’t forget about. Wind is going to add more oxygen to the fire and will also reduce the moisture that’s on the surface of the wood.

Clearly, though, strong winds can be very dangerous when it comes to campfires. It can change without warning, create sparks, and be a real threat overall.

3. The type of fuel (wood) being used

Both the dryness of the wood and its type are going to be significant factors when it comes to burning. How hot does a campfire get, in fact, can be answered, in large part, to the type of wood being added into it. So, due to that, let’s take a look at some of the absolute best woods to burn in a campfire.

Hickory: One of the best woods for burning period, hickory is, in general, very popular for cooking. In addition to being dense, it also holds little moisture. It burns hotter than maple, oak, and various other popular hardwoods.

Oak: One could say oak is arguably the most popular wood for camping due to many reasons. For one, it burns slow and steady when it’s dry but also creates fantastic heat. What also helps is the fact that the wood is readily available and not too tricky to find.

Cedar: Some campers love to make huge, roaring fires. If that’s the goal, cedar’s probably not the wood of choice. The flames it produces aren’t as large as some of the others here, but the heat it emits is truly remarkable. Oh, and as many people know about cedar, it gives off an aroma that many people truly love. It can be rather subtle, but it can still create a pleasant atmosphere.

Ash: Also known as Fraxinus, ash wood is known as being one of the best in the world when it comes to firewood. Past the fact that the wood type burns easily and retains very little moisture, it also doesn’t produce a whole lot of smoke. That last one’s a big deal as, for a lot of campers, smoke in a bonfire is the worst part.

Final thoughts

So, how hot does a campfire get? It can literally range from 600 to 2.012 degrees Fahrenheit, but the more important thing to take away from this post is the elements that affect the temperature of your bonfire.

Again, it’s going to come down to how you construct the fire, the oxygen flow, and also the main wood type that you decide to burn. Or, how about this? How hot does a campfire get? Hot enough to burn you badly pretty much anytime, anywhere.

So, on this topic, we also want to make mention of something you may be interested in. Do you need a new campfire grill, or have you been itching to try one out? If so, we encourage you to check out our list of the best and longest-lasting campfire grills on the market. We’ve picked out some really good ones… trust us!

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Tyler Jones

Tyler is much like a swiss knife. Even though he has a degree in Computer Science, he knows almost everything there is to know about camping. He has been writing for HeadlessNomad since 2021 and has contributed with over 100 articles. If you have an outdoor-related question, then Tyler much likely knows the answer.