Bonfire vs Campfire

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Some of you may already know that there are a few key differences between bonfire vs. campfire. On the other hand, you may not be aware of that. 

Matter of fact, many of us use these two words interchangeably. But the truth is that these two words refer to two different kinds of things. 

In this post, we will be covering the difference between a campfire and a bonfire.

The Main Difference between Bonfire and Campfire

In short, you can easily differentiate between a bonfire and a campfire in terms of their purpose and size. Typically, a campfire would be a small fire contained in a small fire pit or something like that. 

On the contrary, a bonfire would usually be a much larger yet controlled outdoor fire. Let’s learn more about this down below.

What is A Campfire?

Simply put, a campfire is a small controlled outdoor fire that offers warmth, light, heat for cooking primarily. In addition, it can also provide safety and light in the wild, repel insects/bugs/mosquitoes, protect people against animals, used as a beacon, and so on. 

campfire vs bonfire

Another important function of a campfire is to create a charming environment outdoors. Usually, campfires are used as focal points for sitting around, talking, cooking, chit-chatting, singing, and telling stories at a campsite.

History of Campfire

If you think that campfire is a very new tradition used by campers all around the world, then you are very wrong. Matter of fact, archeologists have found evidence of campfire from roughly more than 1.6 million years ago. 

A more interesting fact is that archeologists believe that humans have been using campfires to cook their prey even before that about 1.9 million years ago. You may say humans have been making campfires since the time we could control fire.

Making a Campfire and Safety Measures

Nowadays, we usually make campfires while we are camping. Typically, modern campsites already offer a steel or stone fire ring to make campfires in the safest way possible. 

Of course, making a small fire in your backyard for entertainment purposes could also be referred to as a campfire.

To make a campfire, you must find a safe place. Also, you should make a fire ring for the kindling fire. If you already don’t have a firepit, you can make a temporary fire ring using rock or cutting the ground around the fire. 

You can easily make a campfire by putting together a stack of fire kindling sticks, tinder, and some bigger ones. You may collect firewood from around your campsite as well.

But you should follow all the safety measures you can take to avoid any accidents. If you are doing it in the wild, then you should be more aware of camping fires. Because it is well known that campfires can initiate wildfire.

Attributes of Campfire

Campfire is one of the main features of modern-day camping. As the size of a campfire is small, it doesn’t produce much heat. 

So, people usually sit very close to the center and may still be comfortable fire camping. In the meantime, campfires are used for cooking or roasting foods as well.

What is A Bonfire?

Contrary to a campfire, a bonfire would be a very large fire. Of course, it would be a controlled fire after all. But because of the larger size, it is more dangerous compared to a campfire. 

campfire vs bonfire

Normally, a bonfire is made in the event of a celebration, festival, or as a signaling medium. In addition, people also use bonfires to dispose of or for burning waste material in high heat.

History of Bonfire

As you know that bonfire is technically a larger form of a campfire. But, the bonfire has been a symbol of various traditions in many parts of the world. 

In most cases, people use bonfires as a vital feature of a big traditional event. In fact, you can see that a bonfire is more symbolic and less practical compared to a campfire. As you don’t usually cook on a bonfire.

Making a Bonfire and Safety Measures

A bonfire tends to be a lot bigger in size compared to a campfire. Thus, it requires more fuel to burn as well. Normally, bonfires are made in large areas like an open field or a meadow. 

You will need to burn large logs, wood pallets, fuel-wood, etc. to fuel a fire that big. Similar to campfires, you have to be very careful while putting together a bonfire.

You should always be far away from any trees, wood, bushes, or flammable materials. You don’t need a fire ring in this case. 

Because there is no way one can contain such a big fire in a fire pit. Although bonfire is a controlled event, the bigger size makes it more dangerous and hard to control.

Attributes of Bonfire

The main criteria for a bonfire would be the bigger size. higher heat and light. Also, a bonfire is related to many rituals, cultural and religious events all around the world. 

People usually construct a bonfire as a part of a big celebration party. The bonfire would be the center of attention in those festivals.

But participants wouldn’t be able to enjoy the fire from a closer distance. Because of the high heat, they would enjoy it from a safe distance. 

Also, usually bonfires are not used for cooking food. Simply put, bonfires are made by people mostly as a symbolic focal point of a large celebration or ritual.

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Why do they call it a bonfire?

Reports say that the term bonfire actually originated from the two words ‘Bone’ and ‘Fire’. It is believed that the term ‘Bonfire’ came from the Celts. 

Among many of their rituals, one was to burn piles of bones to fend off evil spirits. And that is why they call it a bonfire.

What is considered a bonfire?

In short, a bonfire is a controlled outdoor fire that is very large in size. Compared to campfires bonfires have a huge difference in size. 

You wouldn’t use a fire pit to create or contain a bonfire. Rather, you would have to find a large open space that is far from any fire hazards or flammable materials.

Usually, you would use a bonfire for burning waste materials or as an integral part of rituals or celebrations. Bonfires would require more wood to burn as fuel and they would produce more light than a campfire.

What do you call a small bonfire?

You can still call it a bonfire. But technically, you may also call a small bonfire a ‘campfire’. Because campfires have a size difference compared to bonfires. 

But remember, you don’t usually contain a bonfire in a fire pit. If your bonfire is so tiny in size that you can contain it in a fire ring, then you can call it a campfire.

We hope you have learned a few things about the difference between a bonfire and a campfire from this article. Remember, safety is always first when it comes to fire. 

You should always put out the fire. Whether it is a bonfire or a smaller campfire, don’t leave the fire unattended.

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Ferenc Elekes has been a devout Overlanding enthusiast for many years. During that time, Ferenc has explored 75 countries on six continents, with overland travel involved in 40 countries on three continents. From his trusty 2006 Toyota Land Cruiser Prado with a roof-top tent, he’s blogged about experiences that can only be found in the remotest regions on Earth. Along the way, he's gained in-depth knowledge of the novel challenges overlanders encounter and practical ways to meet them. On his website, he shares informed opinions about everything from the best overland gear to how to get a vehicle unstuck. Ferenc has also written for Ih8mud, the Expedition Portal, the Overland Journal, and he is often invited as a guest to outdoors-related podcasts.
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