Why Does Campfire Smoke Follow You? And Top Tips to Prevent It!

We can all picture the scene. There you are, sitting enjoying the warmth of the campfire with your friends. Then suddenly you have a faceful of smoke to contend with. You scuttle to the other side of the fire for some respite.

So why is the smoke following you? How is this even possible? Don’t worry, you aren’t going mad, it does follow people! We are excited to explore this topic with you now!

The reason campfire smoke follows you comes down to physics. To keep it simple, a vacuum is created from the fire. The airflow is interrupted when bodies sit near the fire which creates a low-pressure area. The smoke is drawn to the low-pressure area so it, in turn, follows you.

What Does it Mean When Smoke From a Fire Follows You?

To fully answer this question, it is necessary to delve into the fascinating world of science. We all know hot air rises and this is the first step in the process. So, the hot air from the fire rises upwards. The reason the hot air rises is down to a vacuum that is created by the fire. At the same time as the hot air rises, cooler air gets pulled into the fire.

When you are standing near a fire, you are disturbing the airflow to the fire. Let’s pretend for a minute that we are talking about a hoover. You are busy vacuuming the floors and then the hoover stops picking up the dirt. You empty the filter, and then you realize the airflow has been interrupted as the brush has been clogged. It is the same scenario for a fire with you standing or sitting in front of it.

The low pressure created by human contact pulls the smoke in that direction instead. It is this part of the phenomena which gives the illusion that the smoke is following us. It’s also important to factor in our clothing here. Our clothes essentially absorb the heat from the campfire – another good reason to sit further back.

Watch this short YouTube video which explains the process clearly:

How to Prevent Campfire Smoke from Following You

We have now established why the smoke follows us but this understanding perhaps doesn’t make it any less annoying. So for this next section, we are going to share all our tips on preventing the campfire smoke from following you around.

Put Some Distance Between You and the Fire

This is perhaps the most obvious way of staying smoke-free. How far you should be from the fire depends on many factors though. You will probably need to experiment yourself and take into consideration things like the size of the fire. Once you find the distance required to avoid the vacuum you have nailed it.

Establish Which Direction the Wind is Blowing From

Most of the time there is a little wind blowing. Fires only need a small amount of wind to encourage the smoke to blow in a certain direction. Once you have figured out the direction it is blowing, you can sit down next to the campfire accordingly. Of course, the wind does change direction so you may need to adjust the seating arrangements again.

Keep as Still as You Can

The more you move around, the more low pressure is being created which attracts the smoke. You are creating a tailwind with every movement you make which encourages the smoke to get into your personal space.

Why not Have a Low Smoke Campfire?

Nope, we aren’t joking! There are ways to make your campfire as smoke-free as possible.

  • Try to avoid damp firewood. The more moisture, the more smoke. Aim to use as dry firewood.
  • Be careful when positioning the firewood. You want to be stacking them in a way that still lets the airflow through, otherwise, you end up with a heap of smoke.
  • Try to avoid putting leaves and grass and other tinder into the fire if possible. These things will produce more smoke.
  • How many times have you and your buddies chopped the wood fresh for the campfire? It’s all part of the campfire experience surely? However, fresh wood is not dry and will cause large amounts of smoke.

Create a Windbreak Or Use a TeePee

You can make a windbreak for your fire, be sure not to use anything flammable though. This will reduce the wind that reaches the fire which in turn stops the smoke from moving around.

Build a Teepee!

Ah, the stuff of childhood, right? Building dens, making tents, and begging our parents to let us sleep in them. Why not relive your childhood and build a makeshift teepee? This practice goes back to Native Americans. They effectively act as a funnel for the smoke, ensuring it moves upwards. Failing this, build a teepee-shaped fire with the dry wood, which will have the same effect, albeit not as effective.

Bring a Fan Along

A battery-powered fan will be your best friend and will kill two birds with one stone. It will offer you a great way of cooling down on those hot and humid evenings. More importantly, you can use it to guide the smoke in a particular direction – genius. If you forget to bring one then you can use something makeshift instead, a newspaper or food packaging.

Avoid Burning Your Trash

You might think you are doing a good deed by burning your trash but actually, you are creating smoke that isn’t necessary. On top of this, many types of packaging release harmful toxins into the air once they are burned.

Related Questions

Why Does Smoke Hurt Your Eyes?

Smoke hurts your eyes because it acts as an irritant. With the smoke are many tiny particles that can get in your eyes. We tend to then rub our eyes, which worsens the irritation.

What Do You Say When Campfire Smoke Blows in Your Face?

Folk tradition tells us that people used to say ‘I hate/love gray/white rabbits’ in a bid to steer the smoke away from themselves. It is believed to be blended in with the tradition of saying ‘rabbit rabbit’ on the first of the month. It is thought that this was to encourage good luck when uttered first before any other words.