Tag Archives: Conservation

Campfire or Stove?

Should you ever burn firewood? Is it OK to use firewood for a cooking fire? How do you maximize the weight savings by using a wood fire? How should you establish your fire to minimize the amount of firewood needed? When can I use a campfire? What should I do to minimize the risk of a bushfire?

The last time I used a campfire for cooking was about 20 years ago. Since then I have used a succession of stoves such a Bluet gas, Trangia, and MSR Whisperlite, so it was not without some deep thought that I used a wood fire again, this time in the Vulkathunha-Gammons NP.

Why make the change back to a bygone era?

Well the main reason was the weight saving (0.8 -1.0 kg) by not needing a stove and fuel bottle, the remoteness of the campsites and the ready availability of firewood which made it forgivable in my mind. The Gammons is an arid region and as such tree growth is very slow, but creek beds abound with firewood deposited in the last flood and while some may argue that this debris is the home of many animals, I doubt that our group’s impact was significant. That is not to say that in some more accessible locations, such as Mambray Creek in the lower Flinders Ranges our actions would be an environmental crime.

Is it ever OK to burn firewood?

Well what are the alternatives? Shellite (white gas), methylated spirits, butane/propane gas. Are these fuels any better than using firewood? Are they fossil fuels? Do they pollute the atmosphere? How much CO2 was released in the mining process to produce the metal needed to make the stove and fuel bottle? What about the energy requirement of extracting, refining and transporting the fuel? Do they use scarce food resources to make fuel? Isn’t wood renewable? Are we depriving animals of their homes when we burn firewood? The decision is not clear cut and ultimately must depend on your personal perspective. Certainly there is a level of camaraderie around a campfire that can never be achieved sitting around a Trangia.

Minimising the use of wood.

If you are going to have a campfire keep its fuel consumption to a minimum, burning only enough wood for essential cooking and to provide optimal light and heat. Judge how much wood you will need until bedtime and don’t build up the fire late in the evening, so that there are flames after you have gone to bed. Try to suspend cooking utensils above the flames to minimise cooking times and don’t heat more water than you will need. Use rocks to shield the fire from the wind and start the fire in a pit so the coals can safely be buried before retiring.

Reducing the risk of starting a bushfire

Use a moderate size fire so sparks don’t blow on to tents or into the bush. Put out your fire with water before retiring and then bury the extinguished coals. Leave your fire pit so that it is not obvious there has been a recent campfire. Don’t have a breakfast fire, instead storing a hot drink in your Thermos overnight, to reduce the need for fuel and save time. Only light a fire outside the bushfire season and as advised by NPWS.

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Bushwalking in the Vulkathunha – Gammon Ranges, South Australia | Pt 2 A Key to Learning About the Gammons

This page provides a key to access the content of a wide range of natural history books available which provide bushwalkers with information about the Vulkathunha – Gammon Ranges National Park in northern South Australia.

Flinders Ranges and Vulkathunha-Gammons Ranges National Parks (RAA)

 I have divided the content which could be of interest to bushwalkers into the the following categories for convenience and listed the relevant books, listed below, by letter.

Gammon Ranges, South Australia, Australia (1999  Dr MR Snow)

The relevant books I have on my library shelf  include

    A.   C. Warren Bonython. Walking the Flinders Ranges. Adelaide: Royal Geographical Society of South Australia, 2000. [ISABN 0 85179 286 3]
    B.   Adrian Heard. A Walking Guide to the Northern Flinders Ranges. State Publishing South Australia, 1990. [ISBN 0 7243 6574 5]
    C.   John Chapman  Bushwalking In Australia, 4th edition 2003
    D.   Barker, Susan and McCaskill, Murray (Eds) Explore The Flinders Ranges RGSSA Adelaide 2005 [ISBN 0 9596627 6 6 ]
    E.   Osterstock, Alan Time: in the Flinders Ranges. Austaprint,1970 [ISBN 0 85872 160 0]
    F.   Osterstock, Alan The Flinders in Flower. Austaprint,1975
    G.   Corbett, David A Field Guide to the Flinders Ranges Rigby, 1980 [ISBN 0 85872 144 9]
    H.   Pedler, Rosemary Plant Identikit: Wildflowers of the Northern Flinders Ranges  Rosemary Pedler1994 [ISBN 0 646 18801 1]
    I.   M. Davies,  C.R. Twidale, M. J Tyler Natural History of the Flinders Ranges Royal Society of South Australia Inc 1996
    J.  Thomas, Tyrone 50 walks in South Australia Hill of Content, 1992
    K.   Morrison, RGB  A Field guide to the Tracks and Traces of Australian Mammals Rigby 1981[ISBN 0 7270 1489 7]
    L.   Bonney, Neville & Annie Reid Plant Identikit Common Plants of the Flinders Ranges Neville Bonney1993 [ISBN 0 646 15406 0]

    I am sure there are others and would welcome any suggested additions.

    Articles in this series about the Vulkathunha – Gammon Ranges

    Related Articles

    Bushwalking in the Vulkathunha – Gammon Ranges, South Australia | Pt 1 Trip Planning Resources

      Creative Commons License This article by Bush Walker is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

    How much fuel do I need?

    Going on a long walk soon?

    Want to save some weight?

    Which stove are you going to choose?

    Over the years I have changed from predominantly using a campfire, to gas canisters, to a Trangia and then to a MSR Whisperlite. I  did this initially in response to Park regulations which changed to ban wood fires in the 90’s.

    I found that for overnight walks or even extended walks up to a few days that gas stoves were great, but then I started walking in Tasmania and realised that gas stoves sometimes don’t work well in very cold conditions. Over 10 days, the  volume of the gas canisters became a significant factor and my conservation principles made the throw-away canisters unacceptable.

    Trangia’s are great, low cost, low noise, environmentally friendly but they are a little bulky and the fuel being less efficient than Shellite (white spirits) requires much more to be carried for the same heat output.They are relatively slow to heat large volumes of water as required when melting snow. They have the advantage that they simmer well, so if you like preparing complex meals they are great. I don’t.

    So I changed to an MSR Whisperlite, which has the advantage of being compact, fuel efficient and very quick to boil water. You can share one with a tent mate and if you adapt your menu so that boiling water is their main task they are ideal. Of course you will get a ribbing from your friends as they sound like a jet taking off and the pre-ignition flames are always sure to bring a gasp. At times they block due to soot or contaminated fuel but it only takes a few minutes to unblock them and if you remember to shake regularly, the built in “pricker” should keep the fuel flowing freely. Another advantage for overseas travel is that they are multi-fueled and will run on kero, diesel etc providing you use the correct jet (supplied).

    Here are some factors you need to consider:

    • cost
    • weight and size of stove
    • efficiency of the fuel
    • effectiveness in cold windy conditions
    • time to get started and difficulty of priming
    • time to boil water
    • availability of fuel
    Seems complicated, well it is. Check out this FAQ link
    Want to save both time and fuel?
    • Boil enough additional water to fill an insulated (thermos) flask the night before and keep it in your sleeping bag overnight. In the morning it will still be hot enough to make a cup of tea and you will save the additional fuel needed to prime your stove.
    • Always use a wind shield, which can be bought cheaply at the local hardware shop, where it masquerades as aluminium flashing for rooves.

    Want to know more?

    Check out this video.


    Fuel Efficiency
    Zen Backpacking Stoves

        Creative Commons License
        This article by Bush Walker is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.