Mound Fires & Leave No Trace

“In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not.”

– Albert Einstein


Mound Fire (photo courtesy of “Leave No Trace: Centre for Outdoor Ethics”)

Idealistically speaking, ‘Leave No Trace’ is a philosophy that most outdoor enthusiasts embrace.

Unfortunately, when it comes to the environment, ideals and realities are not always one in the same.

Case in point – camp fires.

Over the years I have come across countless fire rings whilst out in the wilderness. People leave behind these unsightly scars, apparently oblivious to the the fact that not only are they an eyesore, but also that campfires sterilize the soil upon which they have been built, thus impeding the regrowth of vegetation for what can be years to come.


If camping in established sites, use existing fire rings whenever possible.

When venturing off the beaten path, the most low impact option available is a Mound Fire.

How to Build a Mound Fire?

  • Find a sheltered spot removed from standing trees. Clear away any dried grass, twigs or leaves until you are left with a surface approximately 1.5 metres in diameter. Place a ground sheet/fire blanket on the cleared site.
  • Fill a stuff-sack with mineral soil, which ideally should be gathered from an already impacted surface such as a dry riverbed.
  • Pour the bag’s contents onto the ground sheet/fire blanket and create a flat-topped mound that measures approximately 60 cm in diameter and 15 cm in height. The depth is important, as this is what insulates the ground below from the damaging effects of the fire. Ensure that the circumference of the mound is bigger than the proposed fire.
  • Tuck the edges of the ground sheet/fire blanket underneath the mound to prevent embers from possibly damaging the material.

Leave No Trace

You have started, maintained and hopefully enjoyed your campfire……….now it’s time to clean up. “How do I go about ‘leaving no trace’?”

  • Once the wood has burned down to a fine white ash, ensure that the fire is extinguished by pouring water on the embers until steam ceases to rise.
  • Once it has cooled sufficiently (check it with the back of your hand; if it is too hot to touch, you need to keep dousing), spread the ashes over a large area away from the fire site.
  • Using your ground sheet/fire blanket, pick up the mineral soil which constituted your mound and return it from whence it came.



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