Fire Restrictions Shouldn’t Extinguish Camping Trip

Summer is almost here. In southern California, that means fire restrictions take effect soon.

While these restrictions seem to put a crimp on your camping, it’s really just a minor inconvenience. You still get to enjoy the outdoors. It’s just a different style of camping.

During these periods, campfires and charcoal grilling are banned except in designated areas.

I anticipate the restrictions will take effect around June 29. Even though it’s an annual occurrence, many campers forget. They get all the way to the camping grounds only to find the area is under a fire restriction.

Consider yourself warned: Fire restrictions for California are coming. By the way, those restrictions aren’t limited to California. They are in effect year-round in various national parks and wilderness areas, as well as at higher altitudes. In some places, campfires are restricted to maintain the natural beauty and features of the area. Always check for the latest information on the public lands you will be visiting.

Liquid fuel provides the answer

The solution lies in liquid fuel. Most people use propane, but camp fuel (often called white gas) is also an option.

In lieu of a charcoal grill, you’ll use a gas fired camp stove or grill. The Dutch oven is replaced with sauce pans and, for some dishes, a pressure cooker. You can cook just about anything you normally would.

I take a Char-Broil Gas Tabletop Grill (model 465133010) to use for grilling steaks, hamburgers, and hotdogs. These are so cheap at Target that you might be tempted to buy a new one someday instead of cleaning it! I removed the side handles for more compact packing.

Accessories for the stove broaden your cooking possibilities. I have the nifty Coleman Camping Oven. A metal box that sits on the gas stove, it’s great for baking a few potatoes, heating up appetizers, and baking Cinnabons. The box folds up when not in use, and therefore takes up almost no space.

Don’t forget to get a camp fire permit. It’s free and available at most ranger stations. They just want to review safe & permitted fire operations with you. A permit is required for liquid fuel fires too.

Camp Fires

The biggest challenge you’ll notice during a fire restriction involves the campfire. Or lack thereof. (Assuming you’re not at a designated campsite.) Thankfully, there are propane options available to you. That’s right: a campfire fueled by propane.

I have a propane campfire pit made by Camp Chef (model GClOG), and I really like it. At 16” wide, it sports a sturdy base and comes with a supply of lava rocks. They produce a very natural-looking fire. Once in the carrying case provided, it is about 6” high. The best part is the lack of smoke. No matter which way the wind blows, there are no stinging eyes or noses. At the right setting, you can enjoy a soft fire just perfect for a camping night.

Turn it up for more heat, but realize that you’ll burn through your propane quickly. An 11 lb. (2.5 gallon) tank might get you through a weekend, but a 20 pounder (5 gallons) is better. Pack an extra tank for insurance.

My fire pit uses about 1 gallon of fuel each night running a low to medium flame. After one weekend you’ll have a pretty good idea of how much fuel you burn. That’ll help you decide how much to bring each time.

What if you don’t have a propane unit? Place a lantern in the campfire pit and crank up the light. I know that sounds kitschy, but at least you and the gang have somewhere to congregate and chat. Those campfire bull sessions are so valuable.

My feeling is that if you have a group, you have to have a campfire. Even if it isn’t a true campfire.

Packing for fire restrictions

When fire restrictions are in place, it is time to switch gear. You won’t be taking the Dutch oven, charcoal grill, briquettes, and firewood. Instead you’ll pack the gas fire pit, camp stove, propane BBQ grill, other liquid fuel appliances, and the necessary fuel.

Propane tanks can be carried inside or outside the vehicle. I bolt an 11 pounder onto the tire carrier. I found a quality bracket from Power Tank (https://powertank.com/) to mount the 11 lb. tank.

Due to the dry conditions, you should have a fire extinguisher, shovel, and water. But you should anyway. Those are basic 4WD supplies and gear.

Fire restrictions are common, in California and elsewhere. The right gear and mindset will allow you to enjoy a fun camping trip regardless.

 

 

 

 

 

 


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73 KI6FHA
I hope to see you on the trails!
Tom Severin, President Badlands Off Road Adventures, Inc.
4-Wheel Drive School
310-613-5473
www.4x4training.com
Make it Fun. Keep it Safe.

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