Why Does a Campfire Pop? [7 Ways To Prevent It]

I'm sure it's happened to you. You're sitting around the campfire, enjoying the heat and company, when suddenly...POP! A piece of wood pops and sends a spray of sparks your way. It's not a huge deal, but it isn't enjoyable.

Sometimes it can even be scary if the sparks are big enough. But why does a campfire pop? And even more importantly, how can you prevent it from happening in the first place?

This article will answer those questions for you. We'll discuss the reasons why a campfire pops and seven ways that you can prevent it. So next time you're enjoying a campfire, you can be confident that your wood will behave.


campfire while hiking

Reason Why a Campfire Pops

Before getting into the exact reason a campfire pops, it's essential to understand how a fire works. A fire needs three things to start and continue burning: heat, fuel, and oxygen. The heat is provided by an ignition source, like a match or lighter; the fuel can be anything that will burn, like wood or paper; and finally, the oxygen is provided by the air around us.

When you light a fire, the heat from the ignition source starts to break down the molecules in the fuel. This process is called combustion. As the molecules break down, they combine with the oxygen in the air to create new carbon dioxide and water vapor molecules.

These new molecules are less stable than the original fuel, so they release energy in the form of heat and light.

The heat and light that we see and feel coming from a fire are the energy being released by breaking down the fuel molecules. This process happens very quickly, which makes a fire so hot.

Now that we understand how a fire works, we can talk about why does a campfire pop. When a piece of wood pops in a fire, it's because the heat from the fire has caused the water inside the wood to turn into steam.

As the water in the wood turns to steam, it expands. This expansion causes the wood to split and break apart due to the pressure. When the wood cracks, it releases the moisture inside it. This steam is very hot, and it can cause the wood to pop and throw sparks.

In some cases, the piece of wood may not just pop, but it can explode. This is more likely to happen with larger pieces of wood, like logs. When a log explodes, it can throw large pieces of wood and hot coals a long distance. This can be very dangerous, so it's essential to be careful when handling logs near a fire.

Now that we know why a campfire pops let's talk about how to prevent it.

7 Ways To Prevent a Campfire from Popping

There are a few things that you can do to prevent your campfire from popping. You can enjoy your fire without worrying about being hit by a stray spark by following these tips.

Use Dry Wood

One of the best ways to prevent your campfire from popping is to use dry wood. When wood is first cut, it contains a lot of water. This water can turn into steam when it's heated, which can cause the wood to pop.

To prevent this from happening, use only dry wood in your fire. You can tell if the wood is dry by looking for signs of decay, like cracks or mushrooms. You can also try to split the wood with an ax. If the wood splits easily, it's probably dry. If it's hard to split, it probably contains a lot of water.

Another way to tell if the wood is dry is by weight. Dry wood is much lighter than wet wood. So, if you don't know if the wood is dry by looking at it, try picking it up. If it's light, it's probably dry.

Finally, you can use a moisture meter, which is a tool that measures the moisture content of the wood. If you have one of these, you can ensure that the wood you're using is dry.

Build Your Fire on Dry Ground

Another way to prevent your campfire from popping is to build it on dry ground. If the ground is wet, it can cause the fire to steam, leading to popping.

To keep your fire from popping, make sure to build your fire on dry ground. If the soil is wet, you can try to build a platform out of dry wood or rocks. This will help keep the fire off the damp ground and prevent it from steaming. You could also try to use a fire pit. This will help contain the fire and prevent it from steaming up the ground.

Use a Teepee Design

When building your campfire, you should use the right design. One of the best designs for a campfire is the teepee. To build a teepee, start by placing a large log in the center of your fire pit. Then, stack smaller logs around the center log, leaning them towards the center.

As you build the teepee, make sure that the logs touch each other. Doing so will help the fire spread evenly and prevent it from popping.

Once you've built the teepee, you can light the fire at the base of the center log. The fire will then spread up the logs, providing a nice, even burn. A teepee design is also meant to limit contact between the wood and potentially wet ground so that your wood will stay dry.

Use Smaller Pieces of Wood

If you're using small pieces of wood, they're less likely to pop than larger pieces. The reason is small pieces of wood have less water in them, so they're less likely to steam when they're heated.

In addition, small pieces of wood will burn more evenly than larger pieces. Therefore, there will be less chance of the fire popping and throwing sparks by doing this. So, if you're concerned about your campfire popping, try using smaller pieces of wood.

Stay Away from Freshly Cut Wood if Possible

As we mentioned before, freshly cut wood contains a lot of water. When this water turns to steam, it can cause the wood to pop. Therefore, newly cut wood, also called greenwood, is best avoided if you're worried about your campfire popping.

Try to stay away from freshly cut wood so that this doesn't happen. If you can't find any dry wood, you can try to cut the wood yourself and allow it to dry for a few days before using it. One way to do this is to split the wood with an ax and let it sit in the sun for a few days.

Another way is to use an existing fire to dry out the moist wood. Do this by taking all of your pieces of wood and placing them around the fire, standing on their ends. The fire's heat will help dry out the wood and make it less likely to pop when you finally use it for firewood.

Don’t Overload Your Fire

If you overload your fire, it's more likely to pop because there's too much wood in the fire, which can cause it to build up steam and eventually pop.

To keep the steam minimal, make sure to build your fire with just enough wood. You should be able to see through the fire, and there should be space between the logs. If you're unsure how much wood to use, it's better to use less than more.

You can always add more wood to the fire if it starts to die down. But if you add too much wood, you'll have to deal with a popping fire which could be dangerous, especially if you're not careful.

Watch Out for “Sappy” Wood

Sappy wood is any wood that's high in sap. Sap is a sticky substance that's found in many trees. When this sap is heated, it can cause the wood to pop, just like water does.

To avoid this, try to avoid using sappy wood. If you're not sure if the wood is sappy, you can try to smell it. Sappy wood usually has a strong, sweet smell. You can also try to look for sap on the outside of the wood. Again, if you see any, it's best to avoid using that piece of wood.

Not only will you avoid the popping, but you'll also save your hands from getting sticky!


Now you know why does a campfire pop. While a popping campfire can be fun to watch, it's not always safe. Campfires should be built with care to prevent them from popping and throwing sparks. This can be easily done by following the tips above.

With a little bit of knowledge and care, you can build a safe and enjoyable campfire that won't pop and bother you or your fellow campers and provide you with a great experience.

Andrew Mullen

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