Campfire vs Bonfire 

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Have you ever wondered what the difference was between a campfire vs bonfire?  

Are they built differently?  Is one bigger than the other?

When we use the term campfire or bonfire, most people use the term loosely and think of them as one in the same.  

It's not uncommon to hear someone say "We had a bonfire last night and it was a lot of fun" or "We had a few people over for a campfire since it was so nice out."

While they may be similar in nature, a bonfire is actually different than a campfire.

The main difference between a campfire and a bonfire involves two distinct factors......size and intended purpose.  

To learn more lets look closely at each individual fire. 

Building A Campfire

A campfire is basically a small fire which is lit for an intended purpose like heating, cooking, to deter insects, or to provide light and a sense of security.

A campfire is usually constructed at a campground or picnic area where they are contained in a fire ring or fire pit.  

They're enjoyable to sit around and use small sticks or small logs as fuel.

Campfires have a very relaxing feel to them, where people surround them with laughter, good conversation or maybe even a good book.


The most common type of campfire is the teepee fire.  

To build one simply construct a pile of small tinder and kindling surrounded by larger sticks propped up against each other in the shape of a teepee. 

Another popular fire to build around the campsite is the log cabin fire.

The log cabin fire is pretty basic.

Picture a "pound sign" like you would see above the 3 on a keyboard or in more modern times.....a #hashtag.  

The log cabin fire is built the same way with 2-3 parallel pieces of wood criss crossing each other as you build it up.  

This fire works great for building a quick coal bed for your campfire, allowing you to cook a great meal in a short amount of time.

Since they're not very big, you can sit close to a campfire and still feel comfortable. There's enough heat to keep you warm but it's not intense.  

A campfire is also a great way to cook a small meal, roast hotdogs or make S'mores.

As the fire burns down it leaves behind a small bed of hot coals.

These coals provide an excellent source of even heat for cooking a variety of different things.

Building A Bonfire

When comparing a campfire vs bonfire, a bonfire is much bigger.

They're typically built for a celebration, large outdoor event, or used as a signaling device.  

While a bonfire is a controlled fire, the overall size makes the fire more hazardous than the smaller campfire.  

Bonfires are built in open areas like fields or meadows and away from nearby trees or brush. 


It's fueled by larger items like wooden pallets, large logs, brush and sometimes even chairs and tables.

A bonfire is used as a focal point to a celebration where people enjoy it from a distance.

The intense heat makes it difficult to sit by a bonfire which is why many people stand back and don't get very close.

Bonfires usually accompany large parties, loud music and a lot of people compared to a more peaceful setting of a campfire.  

Due to the large size of the fire and the fact that most are not built inside a fire pit or fire ring, a bonfire started near a dry field can quickly become out of hand.

So, before you start a bonfire you should dig a shallow pit and remove all nearby flammable material like grass and twigs.

The intense heat of a large fire will easily ignite nearby tinder.  

Add in some strong winds and before you know it, you have an out of control fire.

No matter which fire you decide to burn you should always properly extinguish a fire before you go to bed to make sure no hot embers escape.

It's easy to do and it could potentially stop a forest fire.

How To Start A Fire - Campfire vs Bonfire

When comparing a campfire vs bonfire they're both built using the same fire starting method which is small kindling and dry wood.

Start off with small amounts of dry kindling.  

Cedar kindling works great if you have access to it, or small twigs and branches will work just fine as long as they're dry.

Next, add some larger dry wood to the fire followed by even larger logs.

Remember, wet wood just doesn't burn.  Any type of wood you put on a fire should be dry.

Wet wood will cause a slow burning, smokey fire which no one will enjoy.

Overall- Campfire vs Bonfire

No matter what, when comparing a campfire vs bonfire, a simple fire (large or small) can bring entertainment to almost any outdoor event.

From graduation parties and reunions to small family gatherings or delicious meals, a fire creates warmth and a place that everyone is sure to enjoy.


About the Author

Nick Greenway

Obsessed with firewood, Nick is behind over 350+ of Firewood For Life's articles, as well as countless reviews, guides and YouTube videos to help readers like you reduce heating costs and create the perfect fire.